After a September Ukrainian counter-offensive that swept Russian forces out of Kharkiv's region, Russia shifted its strategy to stall the Ukrainian push. On 10 October, the Russian army launched a series of massive Russian missile and drone attacks on energy infrastructure. Similar to the previous stages of the war, the attacks created a great stir on social media, particularly on Twitter and Telegram.
The narrative of these attacks focused on two main themes: their use as a military measure and as a strategy to put psychological pressure on the Ukrainian population, creating instability in the country and undermining the position of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Given that Ukraine is a major energy exporter and a transport hub for EU countries, the Russian attacks on infrastructure also seek to undermine ally support.
However, our analysis shows that Russia's new strategy is having little success.
- In Ukraine, the most popular topics on Telegram are insults to Russians and praise for the Ukrainian armed forces. In Russia, the 'fight against Nazism' returns: Russian propagandists call for new attacks, 'revenge for the Donbas', deteriorating living conditions in Ukraine, and insults against Ukrainians.
- Opinion polls and data from officials on Telegram channels in Ukraine suggest that the vast majority of Ukrainians are ready to endure the inconvenience of the bombing of energy infrastructure. In Russia, polls conducted by independent institutions revealed weariness and apathy towards the war, while a significant percentage are in favour of negotiating a peace agreement.
- Although support for the government remains strong, some tensions exist between local governments and the central authorities on Ukrainian Telegram channels. In particular, the mayor of Dnipro, Boris Filatov, and the mayor of Kyiv, Vitaliy Klychko, expressed discontent with the level of cooperation with the central government.
- On Twitter and Telegram, the discourse extends to topics beyond attacks on energy infrastructure: a) whether Ukraine's allies will continue to support Ukraine, given rising energy prices, and b) the possibility of another influx of Ukrainian refugees into neighbouring and other EU countries.
- The discourse on Twitter and Telegram was neutral, pluralistic and diverse. Unlike nuclear blackmail, the analysis of the tweets did not reveal the existence of antagonistic camps on the energy issue and support for Ukraine. Negative sentiment related to the flow of refugees also decreased.
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.