How the Kremlin Exploits Its Diplomatic Missions in Vienna to Spread Russian Propaganda

More+ ♦ Published: April 6, 2022; 22:58 ♦ Updated: April 8; 15:46 ♦ (Vindobona)

Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has used its diplomatic missions in Vienna and around the world to help spread propaganda and disinformation about the war. Read about this propaganda effort and view some blatant examples of Russian propaganda from the diplomatic missions.

The Kremlin is using its diplomatic missions in Vienna to help spread propaganda regarding the war in Ukraine. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / [CC BY 3.0 (]

The spread of Russian disinformation and propaganda is not a new phenomenon. However, in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Russian diplomatic missions in Vienna have become increasingly important in Russia’s attempt to push propaganda and create a false narrative about the war. This can be seen in the missions’ constant attempts to paint Ukraine as the aggressor and, even more cynically, to blame the Ukrainians for the atrocities being committed by the Russian military. The primary method of choice for disseminating the propaganda is social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, but the missions also use articles and press statements posted on their official websites.

The Russian Embassy in Vienna, the Permanent Mission of Russia to the International Organizations in Vienna, the Permanent Mission of Russia to the OSCE, and the Delegation of Russia on Military Security and Arms Control to the OSCE are the main Russian institutions in Vienna that are consistently trying to shape the narrative around the war in Ukraine. These missions are headed by Ambassador Dmitry Lyubinskiy, Permanent Representative Mikhail Ulyanov, Permanent Representative Alexander Lukashevic, and Head of Delegation Konstantin Gavrilov, all of whom are experienced diplomats.

Traditionally, diplomats are associated with taking a more measured approach to situations than politicians and having a reasonable discussion to find a mutually acceptable solution to a conflict. However, since the war began, the Russian missions have abused this perception of credibility and flooded social media with propaganda, disinformation, and accusations of wrongdoing by Ukraine and the West.

The best way to fully understand Russia’s strategy of using the missions to spread propaganda about the war is to view some specific examples from each mission.

Permanent Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna

The Permanent Mission of Russia to the International Organizations in Vienna, led by Permanent Representative Mikhail Ulyanov, has frequently been spreading propaganda about the war on its social media accounts.

One recent example of this was a tweet by the mission responding to criticisms from the French Foreign Ministry. France accused Russia of violating the safety principles laid out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They specifically mentioned the need for unobstructed access for staff to civilian nuclear facilities and restraint from military action against the facilities. The mission responded to this by claiming that it was Ukraine that sent a “sabotage group” to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) and obstructed personnel rotation at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP).

Unsurprisingly, it was widely reported that Russia had carried out military operations and shelling near the ZNPP, which ultimately resulted in a fire in one of the power plant’s training buildings near the reactor. This was covered by many media outlets. Additionally, the Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, addressed this issue and called on Russia to end military operations near the power plant. Similarly, other media outlets reported that the personnel at the CNPP were being forced to work excessively long shifts at gunpoint by Russian soldiers that had taken control of the plant. The IAEA also acknowledged this and appealed to Russia to allow workers to carry out their normal duties unobstructed.

Permanent Mission to the OSCE

Notably, the Permanent Mission of Russia to the OSCE has pinned a tweet to the top of its feed which promotes its Telegram and Vkontakte accounts as a means of “conveying the truth” in the face of the “information war of the West against Russian sources.”

Recently, the Permanent Mission to the OSCE has spent much of its time sewing doubt and spreading propaganda about the alleged atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Bucha, Ukraine. One tweet not only claims nobody was hurt but also that the Russian military provided humanitarian aid to the residents of Bucha.

Quoting Permanent Representative Lukashevic, the tweet states, “During the time that Bucha was under the control of the Russian Armed Forces, not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions. On the contrary, over 452 tons of humanitarian aid were delivered to the settlements of the Kyiv region by the Russian military and issued to civilians.”

The tweet also includes a picture of what appears to be Russian soldiers handing out aid from the back of a truck.

While was unable to verify whether Russia provided any aid to the people of Bucha, the mass killings of innocent civilians have been covered by countless reputable sources. This includes articles with first-hand accounts, photographs, and videos by the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and many more. These atrocities were not only documented by news outlets but also watchdog organizations such as Human Rights Watch. The reporting by these sources clearly debunks Russia’s claim that “not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions” and makes the issue of whether they delivered humanitarian aid irrelevant.

Another example of the Russian Permanent Mission to the OSCE spreading disinformation was a press statement released by the mission on March 4, 2022. The statement was a response to criticisms from OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro, about the shrinking space for cross-border journalism and the assault on press freedom.

The statement from the permanent mission turned the criticism on Western countries for banning certain Russian media outlets, such as Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik. The Western countries had banned these Russian state-controlled media outlets, claiming that they were just disseminating Russian propaganda outside of Russia. previously reported on how the Kremlin uses these state-controlled outlets to spread disinformation abroad. Furthermore, numerous outlets and organizations, including the Freedom of the Press Foundation, have documented Russia’s recent assault on the free press. Russia has banned all independent media, forced out international media outlets, and blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Russian Embassy in Vienna

Like the Permanent Mission to the OSCE, the Russian Embassy in Vienna, under the leadership of Ambassador Dmitry Lyubinskiy, has recently been focused on spreading disinformation regarding the killings of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine.

In one post on Telegram, the Russian Embassy denies that the atrocities in the Kyiv suburb were committed by Russian soldiers. The ambassador instead claims that these brutal killings were staged by Ukrainian soldiers. He refers to the images and videos as “falsifications and gross manipulations” and accuses the Austrian media of helping to disseminate what he views as false information.

In another post on Facebook, the ambassador again denies Russian involvement in these horrific potential war crimes and calls it “a criminal provocation of the Ukrainian military” and “a bloody staging.” Ambassador Lyubinskiy also accuses the Western media of participating in “information warfare” and refers to it as an “escalation.”

As was mentioned above, the horrific murder of innocent civilians in Bucha was widely covered by numerous credible sources, including the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Human Rights Watch.

Russian Arms Control Delegation

The Delegation of Russia on Military Security and Arms Control to the OSCE is another source of frequent propaganda and disinformation about the war in Ukraine.

In a recent Twitter thread, the delegation accused Ukraine of hindering humanitarian operations and preventing the safe evacuation of Ukrainians through humanitarian corridors. The thread touts large numbers of Ukrainians that the Russian military supposedly helped evacuate and claims that Russia opens humanitarian corridors daily.

It is difficult to verify Russia’s claims about the number of evacuees because it is not clear who they are counting. For example, these figures might include the thousands of forced deportations of Ukrainians into Russia that were reported by various sources. Moreover, the Russian military has been repeatedly accused of targeting humanitarian corridors and refusing to allow Ukrainians to evacuate. Amnesty International has called for all parties to respect the humanitarian corridors, implored Russia to stop its indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and gathered testimonies from Ukrainians who said the Russian military would not allow them to evacuate.

Orwellian strategy

While these are all flagrant examples of Russia using its diplomatic missions in Vienna to spread disinformation regarding the war in Ukraine, they are only a small sample of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Orwellian attempt to get people to question what is truly happening in Ukraine. The Financial Times also reported on the difficulties that Big Tech has faced in dealing with numerous Russian Embassy accounts posting disinformation. While this strategy may seem ridiculous on its face because the claims are often blatantly false and easily refuted by multiple sources, in the current era of “fake news” and distrust of mainstream media, one should not underestimate the impact of an alternate narrative and conspiracy theories.

Russian Embassy Vienna

Permanent Mission of Russia to the International Organizations in Vienna

Permanent Mission of Russia to the OSCE