As the diplomatic blowup with Vladimir Putin's Russia unfolded -- 20-plus countries banding together to expel more than 130 alleged Russian intelligence officers -- the Russian Embassy in Washington dreamed up a Twitter poll asking which of three US Consulate locations in Russia should be closed.
It was a prime example of one of Russia's favorite techniques for responding to attacks from the West: snark. A bumptious brew of mockery, sarcasm, even juvenile humor, weaponized for propaganda purposes.
The reason for the diplomatic expulsions was the poisoning of a former Russian double agent living in the UK. Even as Sergei Skripal -- and his daughter, Yulia, who also was poisoned -- lay in the hospital, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mocked the UK's report to the House of Commons on the attack: "It's a circus show in the British Parliament," Zakharova snapped.
The Russian Embassy in London's official Facebook page sported a photo of a thermometer stuck in ice, with the mercury hitting below zero, along with a caption about plunging Russian-UK relations saying that "we are not afraid of cold weather."
View image on Twitter
With the UK spy poisoning, Russia added another layer of propaganda, launching a well-coordinated campaign of mockery and trolling.
When May announced it was "highly likely" Russia had carried out the attack, the Russian Foreign Ministry dreamed up the hashtag #HighlyLikelyRussia and tried to get it to trend. As documented by the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, it didn't go massively viral, but not for lack of trying.
The ministry posted a video of snow in the UK along with the cute title "#HighlyLikelyRussia casted snow on Britain."
Бриттам и их трансатлантическим холопам зело не нравится, что русские вместо "платить и каяться" начали публично смеяться над ними. Вздумали их троллить и задавать неудобные вопросы в юмористическом тоне. Бедненькие!