Digital democracy Ukraine

The Nuclear Blackmailing Narrative on Twitter and Telegram

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the concern of a nuclear escalation has been at the centre of the media, governments and experts' attention. The Russian government has repeatedly pressed the issue, subtly or otherwise.

Within the project aimed at understanding online public discourse and perceptions of conflict-related issues in social media debates in Ukraine, we analysed 505,430 Tweets related to the war in Ukraine containing the term 'nuclear'. We considered tweets in Ukrainian, Russian and English from 24 February to 31 October 2022; on Telegram, we focused on four main groups: 20 pro-Ukrainian channels in Ukraine, 11 pro-Russian channels in Ukraine, 4 pro-war channels in Russia and 4 independent channels in Russia

We based our report on thematic analysis and emotional reception, highlighting topics and developments that have shaped the nuclear discourse on Telegram and Twitter in Russia and Ukraine.

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Main findings

  1. The topic of 'nuclear war' has generated speculation, especially about the interaction between the US, NATO, and Russia. In particular, the focus has been on acquiring nuclear facilities as an energy threat and using atomic weapons.
  2. There was a noticeable difference in the discourse in the two countries: on Ukrainian channels, sarcasm and humour were largely present. In contrast, Russian Telegram channels had a sombre and conspiratorial - or simply propagandistic - tone.
  3. Russia uses nuclear threats as a means of pressure and intimidation to push Kyiv to the negotiating table under the conditions dictated by the Kremlin.
  4. "Nuclear war" is mainly mentioned in connection with the US-NATO-Russia interaction. In the Ukraine-Russia war context, the discourse is mostly oriented toward "tactical nuclear weapons" or small-scale "nuclear warheads".

Thanks to our social media monitoring of the war in Ukraine, we analyse online public discourse around the conflict in Ukraine, Russia, key EU member states and other relevant countries. We have looked at the online presence of politicians influencing Ukrainian public opinion, observed the perception of allies on Ukrainian social channels and much more.


The Nuclear Blackmailing Narrative on Twitter and Telegram Download