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In 2023 and early 2024, Central and Eastern Europe saw a series of strikes and protests by farmers against decisions related to the agricultural industry in the region’s countries. Farmers' protests in Europe have been ongoing over the last 15 years. Still, with the beginning of full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine, they intensified and gained a new meaning due to the decisions of EU institutions regarding benefits for Ukrainian agro-industry in trade on the EU market, such as the introduction of additional transit corridors for the circulation of Ukrainian agricultural products in May 2022 and the abolition of customs duties on the import of Ukrainian agricultural products in October 2022. After a temporary embargo imposed by the EU and lifted in September 2023, protests are again active in Poland, France, and Germany, even though some countries, including Poland, have decided to extend the embargo. News about the scattered Ukrainian grain on the Polish-Ukrainian border was published a few days ago. Right-wing radical movements support pickets and blocking of roads and checkpoints. Meanwhile, Russia, in every possible way, feeds them with propaganda and, with the help of favorable theses, strengthens Euroscepticism among these countries’ populations. Russian propaganda is spread mainly through anonymous Telegram channels, which use various EU languages, as well as Russian and Ukrainian. Their number of subscribers varies from four to several hundred thousand.


Protests of French farmers began in 2023 with the breaking of street signs. In particular, the participants of the rallies unwound and attached them back upside down, sometimes adding a French slogan that meant "We walk on our heads." According to the protesters, this symbolizes the extent to which the world of farmers has been turned upside down due to a series of bureaucratic restrictions and political issues affecting the agricultural sector in the country. Protesters have also conducted attacks on foreign trucks and threw goods on the ground, the same as farmers in Poland did with Ukrainian grain. For example, in 2022, French farmers dropped a load of apples in front of the local government building.

The situation escalated on January 23, 2024, when a car rammed a roadblock of protesters in Toulouse; a farmer and her daughter died as a result of the accident. Since then, farmers have vowed to "lock down Paris" and have begun to cover several public places with hay and waste. Protesters are citing rising prices for agricultural diesel fuel after the removal of subsidies for it in the face of renewed EU environmental requirements, additional tariffs for water use, bureaucratic confusion over what they are allowed to do and what not, bans on the use of pesticides and the prospect of the signing of an agreement between the EU and MERCOSUR (a Latin American association similar to the EU) on a free trade area, which could lead to a rapid increase in the share of agricultural products from Latin America in Europe. Despite the government's attempts to negotiate and make concessions on several issues, farmers say it has not resulted in any practical steps.

Even though French farmers do not connect their protests with Russia's war against Ukraine, Russian propaganda tries to claim the opposite. Moreover, the pro-Russian media openly support the protests, selectively covering them within their usual discourse about instability in Europe and how it should take care of its own issues instead of helping Ukraine. These theses are disseminated through a network of anonymous Telegram channels with grammatical and lexical errors in the EU languages, which may indicate authors [of the Telegram channels] using a translator or not operating this language natively.

Propaganda channels spread manipulative theses about Ukraine, using isolated reports from the French media, which claim that chicken from Ukraine may not meet EU standards because the EU does not control Ukrainian producers. When referring to such stories, Russian propagandists write about "evil French farmers complaining about unfair competition from foreign producers. In particular, Ukrainian chicken especially criticized". For the French, poultry dishes and the chicken itself are an essential element of the national culture, which was even emphasized by the French president, promising to protect the market from Ukrainian chicken. The Russians use such statements and play them around, spreading general Eurosceptic sentiments. Commenting on how French farmers are removing the EU flag, Russian propaganda stated, "This mafia organization called the EU must be liquidated; they are the cause of all the issues."

The protests ' open support and political coordination are provided by France's main right-wing radical political force, the "National Union," headed by Marine Le Pen until 2021. In particular, its current president, Jordan Bardella, accuses French President Macron of trying to "kill the country’s agro-industry". Le Pen's niece, the far-right politician Marion Maréchal, is backing the protests, such as the Yellow Vests, and has accused Europe and the New European Green Deal of creating a "tsunami of regulations" for farmers.

In late 2023, The Washington Post published an investigation about how Russia is fueling "political disunity" in France and trying to disrupt the country's aid to Ukraine by using politicians and social media. The investigation focuses on the Kremlin documents confirming the connection of the Russian "troll factories" with the French right-wing radical forces, in particular, the "National Assembly". According to journalists, Russian consultants advised French politicians to call sanctions against Russia and the supply of weapons to Ukraine "nonsense" and "harmful" to the French economy. Since the beginning of 2022, Marine Le Pen has said that sanctions against Russia "have no other effect than the suffering of Europeans", and instead of providing arms to Ukraine, Macron should allegedly focus on "holding a peace conference in Paris". Nevertheless, it is just one of many objections against the movement for cooperation with Russia after receiving funding from individuals affiliated with it. In particular, the "National Association" reimbursed the amount of this loan.


Protests in 2022-2024 in the Netherlands started in response to the government's proposal to halve the cattle population to reduce air pollution caused by emissions from industrial livestock farming. In addition, the protesters noted that they were also protesting due to the disrespect with which society, the media, and the country's politicians treated their profession. The protest eventually became much broader, with protesters demanding less government regulation of the agricultural sector, more media airtime for farmers' claims, and more legislative initiatives to punish Shell and Tata Steel corporations for their environmental impact. Protests against the government's attempts to implement several environmental initiatives continue today. Still, the demands of Dutch farmers are less related to the war in Ukraine than in other European countries.

Despite this, the media affiliated with Russia have not left them aside in their propaganda. For example, anonymous Telegram channels that spread pro-Russian rhetoric in various languages, including Polish, share the reposts of Western bloggers who support the protests, deliberately dramatize the situation, and try to mobilize people around this problem to destabilize the situation in the country and divert attention from increasing aid Ukraine. For example, in 2022, Telegram channels published: “This is madness! The Netherlands has announced that it will seize 3,000 farms to meet its 2030 climate goals. Farmers will be forced to sell the land they have owned for generations to the state. This is climate communism." They have also distributed videos with the captions "The Netherlands. Police take away tractors from protesters who arrived at the demonstration in Hague. It was done most likely to make the farmers plow the land with their bare hands after returning home." In July 2022, pro-Russian Telegram channels wrote: “For all those who think that the Netherlands is a small country that does not influence the general European situation, and Dutch farmers are irrelevant. Here's an interesting statistic: In 2020, the Netherlands was the largest exporter of meat in the entire European Union... But who cares? Dutch Prime Minister Rutte has more important things to do than keep an eye on the protests in his country. Exactly right now, he must go on a visit to Ukraine with a traditional excursion to Borodyanka and Bucha. These are the clowns in power."

As a result of Dutch farmers' protests in 2019, the far-right populist political "Citizen Farmers Movement" (BBB) emerged, led by Caroline van der Plas. The party was successful in the last parliamentary elections, particularly for the Senate of the Netherlands, where it won the largest number of seats among all participants. Although there is no direct evidence of Russian funding of this movement, van der Plas has repeatedly criticized Zelenskyy and the Netherlands' support for Ukraine. The Russian media positively quoted her words. In particular, she once opposed the visit of the President of Ukraine to The Hague on May 4, 2023, which fell on the Day of Remembrance of the Dutch victims of the Second World War. The politician said, "May 4, one day a year, we honor our war victims. One day. We should focus on this on May 4! Not on Zelenskyy... The fact that this visit is happening now is very inappropriate for me. That is why I informed the Chamber this week that I will not attend the meeting with Zelenskyy." Moreover, one of the party’s representatives recently offered to send all Ukrainian refugees out of the country to the "safe territories in the west."

Protests in the Netherlands were once supported by right-wing politicians from various Western countries, including Donald Trump, Marie Le Pen, and the then Minister of Agriculture of Poland Henryk Kowalczyk. In addition, media personalities spreading conspiracy theories, such as Tucker Carlson and Russell Brand, have also supported them. They encouraged the protesters while talking about the "Great Reset" theory, in which the world's elites implement environmental initiatives to change the world order and eliminate people who resist these changes. Moreover, the far-right European politician Patricia Chagnon has recently openly supported the BBB, calling it the critical force that led to Rutte's resignation and snap parliamentary elections at the end of 2023. She made this statement at an event organized in Brussels by an analytical center affiliated with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his party.


German farmers' protests began in 2023. Protesters cite the German government's decision to phase out fuel subsidies of 3,000 euros a year, introducing a new tax for agricultural vehicles, and general dissatisfaction with the EU's environmental policy as their main reasons. German eco-activists joined the protest. Both groups have a common goal —farmers and ecologists favor green agro-industry without GMOs. Still, they require additional subsidies or fair prices for German farmers’ agricultural products to stimulate it.

In this case, Russia is also trying in every possible way to tie these protests to Ukraine. For example, commenting on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's statement on doubling financial aid for Ukraine, anonymous Telegram channels spreading pro-Russian rhetoric in Poland wrote: "I wonder if the farmers already know about it?". At the same time, while describing the words of the Minister of Finance of Germany regarding the need for additional efforts of other EU countries in gathering financial assistance to Ukraine, Russian propaganda stated: "Shortly, the unfortunate victim of the financial pyramid is trying to draw into it as many friends as possible so that it won't feel alone. All of it is happening when the farmers have already reached Berlin." In addition to the fact that Russians explain these protests as a fight against the "New World Order" (a conspiracy theory), propagandists published posts as early as 2022 that "farmers, truckers, workers, and families in Germany are all against anti-Russian sanctions and rising prices on gas and energy".

In the meantime, German right-wing radical movements use protests as a political tool. In particular, small local groups such as Free Saxons, The Third Way, The Homeland, and the country's largest right-wing radical party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), expressed their support for the protests. According to Der Spiegel, AfD has direct connections with Russian politicians and receives funding from Russia. Representatives of this political force openly oppose Ukraine, its support, and sanctions against Russia in the framework of the latter's full-scale invasion. The party's former head, Alexander Gauland, discussed this in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda in 2019. AfD politicians often appeared as guests on the air of the Kremlin's RT Deutsch. Party representatives founded the Vadar e.V. organization to "prevent discrimination and exclusion of the Russian-speaking population of Germany." The organization shares its official financial account with another Russian organization, which has become the subject of an investigation by German authorities. A recent investigation by the German government showed that the assistant of one of the party's deputies, a Russian citizen Vladimir Sergienko, received funds from the Russian government in exchange for the pro-Russian activities conducted by the deputy for whom he worked. Spiegel journalists conducted an investigation claiming that Sergienko had close contacts with the FSB.


The Polish farmer's protests began in 2022 and became the most mentioned in the Ukrainian media. Farmers from Poland are dissatisfied with the EU's "condescension" regarding the imports of Ukrainian agricultural products. At the same time, the people who represent the protesters in the media indicate that they do not blame their Ukrainian colleagues for the issues but rather European and Polish politicians, who in the last two years did not make sufficient efforts to modernize the infrastructure, which could help withstand competition with cheaper Ukrainian products. Polish protesters also demanded the refusal to cancel subsidies for farmers. To achieve their goals, Polish protesters resorted to blocking border crossings. The protests led to several personnel changes in the Polish government and the introduction of an embargo on importing Ukrainian grain to Poland. However, farmers continue to protest across the country to make the European Union and the Polish government respect more of the protesters' demands, which align with those of their European counterparts.

The propagandists contributed to the increasing level of tension in Polish society and spun the spiral of hatred towards Ukraine, manipulating and adapting the protesters’ statements to their goals. For example, Russian claimed that, "Ukraine begins to have the same privileges as farmers in the EU while not being a member of the European Union. Apparently, making this war last as long as possible is important because there will be many opportunities to import goods to our market." In this way, propagandists provoke a decrease in the level of support for Ukrainians.

Polish-language anonymous Telegram channels, probably run by Russians and which we analyzed in one of the previous research pieces, resorted to hate speech against Ukrainians and the government of Ukraine. It is essential to understand that it is especially dangerous, considering the number of Ukrainian refugees in the country. One of them published a post at the end of January 2024: "... If the Polish government were truly Polish, and not Hanukkah-Polish-speaking, then imports from Ukraine, which cause harm to Polish farmers or any other social group in of Poland, would be prohibited, and the borders with "upadlina" would be closed (Upadlina is a derogatory name for Ukraine). We have to finance the bloody clown from Kyiv and the Ukrainian regime, which despises its people and goods, which are not subject to any regulations, while uncontrolled imports are destroying the Polish economy and agro-industry...". Propagandists also spread videos on YouTube claiming that Ukrainian grain is allegedly poisoned and, therefore, Polish farmers oppose its import to Poland.

The protests became a political tool during the election campaign for the Polish parliament in 2023. In particular, the then Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, recorded a video about how he would not allow Poland to be "flooded" with cheap Ukrainian grain "for the sake of Polish farmers". However, the most significant share of political support for Polish farmers was expressed by the right-wing radical party "Confederation". At the same time, its politician, Grzegorz Braun, coordinated the protests using his public organization. Braun is famous for extinguishing the menorah in the Polish Sejm and carrying a weapon with him during parliamentary meetings. Moreover, it became public that the politician had repeatedly traveled to Russia at the Kremlin's expense for events he organized, inviting political scientists and publicists closely related to Russia.


The Romanian farmers' protest goals and methods are very similar to the demonstrations of their Polish counterparts. They have also blocked the border with Ukraine. However, the Romanian version of the protests has specific differences. Agrarians in Romania expressed their 47 demands in a 20-page document, among which are a reduction in diesel taxes, a decrease in the cost of automobiles, and a reduction in the import of Ukrainian products and raw materials. In particular, farmers believe that the current working conditions of the agricultural sector are unacceptable. Because of this, five million Romanians have migrated from the country in the last three decades. Protesters also criticized the EU, in particular; among the slogans were theses like "We have become slaves of Europe! We cannot allow this!". Romanian farmers are using TikTok to share videos of their protests, with the most popular videos gaining at least 300,000 views.

Russian propagandists could not avoid the protests in Romania and tried to dramatize the situation, insisting these protests meant the end of Ukraine's European integration aspirations. "Romania wants an immediate ban on the import of Ukrainian sugar!... Taking into account the attitude of local farmers towards their Ukrainian counterparts, shortly, the Kyiv regime will not only not receive guarantees of its membership in the European Union, but, on the contrary, will be deprived of its perks and preferences," claimed one of the anonymous Telegram channels that spread pro-Russian rhetoric. In addition, by manipulating the protests’ topic, such channels are trying to strengthen Russian propaganda's assertion that Ukrainian grain intended for countries in Asia and Africa remains in Europe, claiming that Romanian farmers are protesting precisely against this. Moreover, in 2023, propagandists spread news about how Russia will "win" from bans on exports to Western markets because "farmers must be supported, both at home and abroad." Using this opposing statement, Russians tried to create the impression that Europe is allegedly suffering because of Ukraine, and Russia is strengthening.

Like the other countries, Romania's far-right movements also took advantage of the situation, publicly supporting the protests and helping farmers with official registration of the gatherings. However, unlike in Poland or Germany, Romanian farmers are trying in every way to separate the right-wing radicals from their protests. For example, when they found out that one of the gatherings was register with the help of the team of lawyers of the Romanian senator Diana Șoșoacă, the farmers refused to attend the event precisely because of the involvement of politicians in it. As a result, less than a hundred farmers and only one tractor were present. This reaction of farmers is not surprising because the senator is a regular guest of the Russian media. Propagandists quote her, and her statements contain theses of Russian agitational propaganda. She has also once called for the annexation of Ukrainian territories bordering Romania, scolded Zelenskyy during his visit to Bucharest, and predicted a quick victory for Russia and a decline of NATO. Șoșoacă is a representative of the right-wing radical political party S.O.S. Moreover, she spreads conspiracy theories, especially regarding anti-vaccination, in her public speeches. In March 2022, at the height of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, she, along with three other parliamentarians, held a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Romania to "discuss the Bucharest peace memorandum" and "the status of Romanian neutrality within the framework of this conflict" without the prior consent of the Romanian parliament.

Other countries of the region 

Protests have also spread to other European countries — Bulgaria, Hungary, Belgium, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, etc. The protester's demands in these countries are almost identical to those of their counterparts in the countries mentioned above. Russian propagandists are trying to highlight the spread of protests in the new countries as soon as possible. For example, they have commented on the protests in Italy in their anonymous Telegram channels: "Farmers are tired of the government’s destructive policies!". Propagandists also use humor and satire for such publications. The propagandists commented on the events in Belgium: "Belgian farmers who decided to join their colleagues from France and Germany wish you good morning. True European solidarity is manifested here and not in the expensively furnished offices in Brussels. We hope that they will last longer than the EU."

Moreover, propaganda channels try to use internal affairs in other countries with no current protests, artificially tying them to the exact "cause", such as, for example, in posts that "Moldova is losing money because of Ukrainian grain". According to Russians, due to Ukraine's export of agricultural products, Moldova "cannot conduct its agro-industry, which is the basis of its economy", and now the country is "on the verge of bankruptcy".

Image collage credits: Detector Media

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