Russia’s embassies are acting more than ever as the Kremlin’s mouthpiece of propaganda and occasional hatred.

Unlike RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik News agency, which the EU banned in the early days of the full-scale invasion, diplomatic services have proved difficult to close, enabling the Kremlin to use them to communicate with its audience abroad.

For example, a tweet by the Russian embassy in the United Kingdom on July 29 read “Azov militants deserve execution, but death not by firing squad but by hanging, because they’re not real soldiers. They deserve a humiliating death. A married couple from Mariupol tells how they were shelled by forces from Azovstal. #StopNaziUkraine.”

Although Twitter designate it as inappropriate content, it still gained considerable traction, both from those who succumb to Russia’s narrative of Nazi Ukraine and those who replied by asking “When you say #StopNaziUkraine, you do mean the Russians in Ukraine, right?”

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Many Russian embassies, as well as their ministry of foreign affairs, use Twitter or other social media platforms – Facebook included – to reach out to their potential followers. The posts mostly include statements by Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and the ministry’s idiosyncratic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, known for her unusual utterances.

One of the latest tweets by their UK embassy is devoted to the Global Values festival in Sevastopil, an event that Belgium’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib attended in 2021, subsequently promoting Russian narratives in her homeland.

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Trouble in Stockholm

Russia’s embassy in Sweden, headed by envoy Viktor Tatarintsev, is another example of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine abroad.

Although not a big household name, Tatarintsev made headlines in February after giving a not-so-diplomatic interview to the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet.

His comments featured threats, condescending talk, and numerous instructions on what Sweden is allowed to do in the foreign policy domain, culminated by a line that read precisely: “We don’t give a shit about sanctions.”

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Ironically, despite his dire warnings and Tatarintsev’s offer not to talk about NATO as “Sweden shows no signs of wanting to join it,” Stockholm did exactly the opposite just several months later.

Russian embassy continued another set of propagandistic narratives with mixed results in a Facebook post on July 25 concerning the death of the former Swedish mercenary Edvard Selander Patrignani. According to its authors, the deceased “undoubtedly got what he deserved and is “a criminal according to international law”.

While on one hand the Russian embassy managed to garner a lot of attention and the Swedish minister of foreign affairs summoned him for a private dialogue, on the other, Stockholm reminded him that it decries Russia’s invasion into Ukraine and criticized the post.

“Do you respect me?”

In the U.S, where “Lonely Anatoly” – a nickname coined by Politico for the Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov – is described as the least popular man in Washington due to his country’s war in Ukraine, he was nonetheless spotted in conversation at Café Milano in Georgetown with the former U.S. envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Dimitri Simes, president and CEO of the Center for the National Interest.

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During this exchange, he appeared slightly more reserved than Tatarintsev or his Russian colleagues in charge of Twitter in Britain. Still, he insisted that Ukraine is run by a neo-Nazi asking the question “Why are they [Jewish guys in the United States] so tolerant of what’s happening in Kyiv?”

He brought up the subject of “respect” for Russia, that it simply does not get from the U.S.

That Russian ambassadors can have these kinds of meetings shows that they are still on the radar and, perhaps, even have high-profile adherents, their influence appears to be limited, as indicated by the continuing and enhanced military aid provided by the U.S. to Ukraine.

But also, the posts and tweets made by the Russian diplomatic services largely end up in their echo chamber: No major or well-respected media outlet re-tweets or shares their posts as a source of valid info or point of reference

The Russians may claim western media bias, yet the explanation differs: It is because Moscow lies, sometimes bluntly, as was the case with the Kremlin’s claims that it destroyed six HIMARS missile system launchers in Ukraine, which was declared “patently false” by the Pentagon.

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Or Moscow simply twists half-truths and demands that the other party prove otherwise, while also occasionally getting lost in their own falsities.

Regardless of the non-successes, the Russian diplomatic services are nowhere close to giving up their mission as the Kremlin’s propaganda mouthpieces in Europe and beyond, with individuals like Alexander Makogonov, the spokesman for Russia’s embassy in France, occasionally making it to the television channels to discuss “genocide in Donbas.”

Russia’s chief propagandist, so described by the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, Sergey Lavrov, who recently returned from his African tour of garnering “respect” for Russia, would simply not let them do otherwise.

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