In early April, RIA Novosti, one of Russian largest state-owned news agencies, published an article, titled “What Russia Should Do to Ukraine”. Its author (Timofei Serheitsev, a Russian political technologist who once was a consultant for Ukraine’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych) finally revealed one of the main mysteries of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, i.e. what “denazification” means in practice:

Nazis who took arms should be destroyed on the battlefield to the greatest extent possible. But, aside from the leadership, a great majority of citizens who are passive Nazis or Nazi accomplices are also to blame. They supported and helped Nazi authorities.

Quite cynically, Serheitsev’s article appeared on April 3, one day after the world saw photos of the terrible massacre that the Russian army committed in a small Ukrainian town of Bucha. According to local residents, the occupants accused locals of supporting Nazis and interrogated them about where to find Nazis. When Ukrainians weren’t able to give answers, Russian soldiers killed them. It is likely that these atrocities in Bucha were the starting point of the so-called denazification of Ukraine.

Today, anyone in the world can see the events in Bucha through the lenses of Ukrainian TV channels. However, Russia still tries to attract as many as possible social media users from different countries. In this publication, we will have a look at how the Russian propaganda machine attempts to influence foreign citizens.

Russia’s take on the Bucha events

For starters, let’s look at what the Russian state institutions have to say about the massacre in Bucha. On April 3, the Ministry of Murder Defense (MoD) of Russia issued a statement with the following claims:

  • During the stay of Russian troops in Bucha, not a single civilian was hurt.
  • Local inhabitants were able to move around and leave the town freely and had access to cellular networks.
  • All Russian troops left the town on March 30, and Bucha mayor Anatolii Fedoruk confirmed this on March 31. The information about the atrocities in Bucha appeared only on the fourth day when the Security Service of Ukraine and Ukrainian TV channels visited the town.
  • All bodies of the people in the photos and videos published by the official Kyiv don’t exhibit postmortem rigidity or lividity, and the blood in their wounds is not clotted. This means that those corpses are in fact actors and their deaths are either a fabrication by the Ukrainian authorities or a result of the crimes of Ukrainian “Nazis”. On April 6, the MoD of Russia also claimed that the participants of this “performance” were paid 25,000 USD each.

We won’t debunk these fakes produced by Russian propaganda as our colleagues from Bellingcat and The New York Times have already done this. However, we should stress that Russia still tries to disseminate these lies actively: all fake stories described below were spotted in foreign media and social networks.

Russian disinformation on Facebook

To identify Russian propaganda, we used a social media tracking tool CrowdTangle and examined approximately 10,000 posts with keywords “Буча” and “Bucha” that were published on Facebook from April 2-4, 2022. Most of the posts were aligned with the Ukrainian version of the events. However, we also found 509 posts that promoted the Russian interpretation for audiences of different countries.

The Russian propaganda machine is most active in those countries where citizens speak Russian or are influenced by Russia. 446 out of 509 posts were written in Russian, Bulgarian, or other Slavic languages.

We have found a total of 72 foreign-language posts that promoted Russian disinformation about the Bucha massacre. Most of these posts were published in Bulgaria (210), Russia (74), Italy (24), Slovakia (12), and Ukraine (11) and were spread quite broadly in geographic terms.


In almost half of these posts, the message by the MoD of Russia was simply copied or reposted without any additional comments. If Russia’s MoD statement was the only post related to the Bucha massacre on the respective page, we counted such posts as a copycat of Russian disinformation. In other cases, only some or all parts of the Russian narrative were used in posts.

Contents of the posts supporting the Russian narrative

  • Repost/copy of the message of Russia’s MoD (49%)
  • “No one got hurt” (23%)
  • “Bodies are moving” (15%)
  • “The whole event is staged” (8%)
  • “Photos/videos appeared only on the fourth day after Russians withdrew” (1.8%)
  • Treason of the Ukrainian authorities (1.2%)
  • “This was done by Ukrainians” (1.2%)
  • All of the above messages (1.2%)

Facebook marked only a few of these posts as false or misleading.

Who spreads Russian disinformation?

Most of these posts were published in Facebook groups. We analyzed only Russian and Ukrainian language groups, while the situation with the spread of disinformation in foreign Facebook segments is likely worse. The official pages of the Russian diplomatic missions were the second most active source of disseminating false narratives. Media, news aggregators, public figures, and political parties also spread disinformation.

According to CrowdTangle data, Facebook users interacted - liked, commented, or shared -  with the pieces of Russian disinformation almost 25,000 times.


After Russia launched the full-blown invasion of Ukraine, Meta announced it would step up its measures to protect Ukrainian segments of Facebook and Instagram, including against the spread of Russian disinformation. Since the start of the aggression, the MoD of Russia has published more than 500 posts actively accusing Ukrainian of supporting Nazism, shelling their own cities, and killing their compatriots. None of these posts were marked as disinformation. Moreover, it remains unclear what the target audience of the MoD Facebook page is given that the Roskomnadzor has blocked access to Facebook in Russia. The latter, however, has not impacted the activity of Russia’s MoD (of course, using VPN is still legal in Russia).

Our analysis shows that the official pages of the Russian government agencies and diplomatic missions are leading the campaign of disinformation and whitewashing the war crimes in Ukraine. For some reason, Facebook rules do not apply to cases when false information is produced by the official government pages of the aggressor country. Russia maintains its channels for spreading propaganda open not only to its citizens (who use Facebook despite the legal ban) but also to international audiences and foreign Russian diaspora that keeps supporting Russia from abroad. Despite its official stance in support of Ukraine, Meta continues legitimizing the official position of Russia and allowing the promotion of Russian disinformation on its social networking services. Almost a month and a half into the war in Ukraine, while the civilized part of the world keeps on severing ties with Russia, Meta still can’t make up its mind about its attitude to the Russian state.