QAnon supporters across the globe were quick to back Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and claim Russian President Vladimir Putin was working hand-in-hand with former President Donald Trump to unmask the “deep state” actors they believe are trying to control the world’s population.
But supporters of the conspiracy movement inside Russia viewed Putin’s war very differently.
A new investigation by Bellingcat has found that many Russian QAnon believers have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Dear God, save Russia and Ukraine,” wrote the admins of the biggest Russian QAnon channel on Telegram just hours after the invasion began on February 24. “We are blessing each other. Please forgive us for our sins.”
Then the QAnon Russia channel posted the following picture featuring the caption: “Why are they afraid.”
The account went on to urge Russian soldiers not to bomb Ukrainians, called for “peace and love” between the two countries, and even posted an anti-war poem to its 87,000 followers.
And not only did the channel condemn the war, it also warned followers about believing Kremlin propaganda about the invasion being spread by state-controlled media outlets.
“Important: the official source is not a guarantee of its truth,” the account wrote last month, adding: “Do not rush to conclusions without checking the information properly several times.”
While the response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has not been uniform within the Russian QAnon community, with some followers supporting the war, the largest channels have been conspicuous in opposing it, the Bellingcat investigation found.
The anti-war stance comes as a surprise given the QAnon channel’s avowed pro-Kremlin stance in the past. But like many Russians, the channel’s administrator appears to have been taken by surprise by the invasion.
“Nothing will happen,” the channel’s admin wrote a week before the invasion began. “There will definitely be no war. Ukraine and Russia are one and the same people.”
Until 2020 there was almost no QAnon community in Russia, but, supercharged by the pandemic and the flurry of conspiracy theories about COVID-19, mask mandates, and the vaccines, QAnon began to gain traction by the end of 2020.
A review of the QAnon Russia account shows that it is filled with COVID-19 conspiracies. “The vaccine does NOT protect against the disease,” the channel’s admins wrote in a post last September. The channel has also shared baseless claims that 5G was linked to the spread of COVID-19, promoted American anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and shared the antisemitic tract known as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
While Russian QAnon believers adhere to the over-arching conspiracy that an elite cabal of pedophiles is running a child sex trafficking ring, some have downplayed the role of Trump in the narrative, due to a wide-spread distrust of the U.S. government in Russia.
As the war raged in Ukraine, QAnon adherents were quick to dismiss the reality of the situation, preferring to believe that Putin was acting in collaboration with Trump to stop a deep state plot. Central to this claim was the idea that a network of U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine had been used to develop and weaponize COVID and the labs were the real targets of Putin’s troops.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.