Digital Democracy

Digitalization and the Public Sphere in Brazil

One Year of War in Ukraine

Actors and ideological articulation in the Brazilian debate on the conflict

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The study analyzes in a multiplatform perspective the evolution of the Brazilian public debate around the War in Ukraine, one year after its beginning. Based on the analysis of publications on Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram, between February and March 2023, the study identified the persistence of low public engagement and the preponderance of right-wing actors and groups, with emphasis on supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro. The segment that gives explicit support to Ukraine is played not by institutional political actors but by opinion makers who, in general, express enthusiasm for President Lula’s diplomatic and pacifist conduct. Extremist and conspiratorial speeches circulate with high visibility on the analyzed platforms, and are aligned with positions of the extreme right, with emphasis on the disapproval of Western culture broadly and intolerant speeches towards minorized audiences, more specifically.


War in Ukraine; Brazilian public debate; extreme right; intolerant discourse.


  • One year after the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, there is still little involvement of public opinion in the debate about the conflict. On Twitter, right-wing actors take center stage and inflate views favorable to Russia; Support fronts for Ukraine are led mainly by progressive opinion makers.
  • Publications favorable to Russian President Vladimir Putin stand out in engagement, with his speech exalted by criticism of the West and, in this perspective, LGBT phobic speeches gain visibility.
  • Actors across a broad ideological spectrum persist with negative assessments of the United States and NATO; criticisms of media treatment related to the War are also frequently evoked as biased in comparison to other geopolitical conflicts.
  • The rapprochement between President Lula and Volodymyr Zelensky, at the beginning of March, leveraged the debate, with positive repercussions for the movement of the Brazilian government by the national and international media. seen by the critics until then as “neutral” in relation to the conflict.
  • On Facebook, Lula was among the most cited names in the analyzed publications, the president was frequently pointed out as responsible for a supposed recovery of international credibility of Brazilian diplomacy.
  • The issue of fuels organized the base that allies itself with the conservative right, and the return of charging taxes on fuels in Brazil gave rise to criticism of the current administration of the federal government, placed in opposition to a supposed economic development in the previous administration, despite the War. Discussions on cybersecurity, China’s role in the conflict, and the moral panic incited by the Russian president were still among the most mobilized topics on the platform.
  • On Telegram, extremist speeches and the dissemination of conspiracy theories rise to prominence among the monitored groups, with prominent action by right-wing political groups.



1) Evolution of the debate on the War in Ukraine

Graph 1 - Evolution of the debate on the War in Ukraine on Twitter
Period: February 14 to March. 21, 2023 - 78,300 tweets

Source: Twitter | Elaboration: FGV ECMI

. Source: Twitter | Elaboration: FGV ECMI

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the war, on February 21, Putin’s speech addressed to the Russian nation, in which he disparages the West and suggests investing with nuclear weapons, widened the debate and marked the highest peak of mentions on the topic during the period. In a significant part of the messages, including those from traditional media vehicles, there was expressed fear regarding the possibility of nuclear weapons insertion in the war, with the possible imminence of a nuclear tragedy due to the consequences of the conflict and, in particular, to the statements of Putin on the subject.

On February 24, the day the conflict turned one year old, there was also a significant increase in mentions. Putin’s statements mobilized the discussion mainly due to the position that the United States would be the country’s real opponent and the announcement of the suspension of Russian participation in the nuclear arms control treaty with the country. Putin’s anti-Western argument to justify the war was also widely brought into discussion, especially in the progressive camp. According to the politician, the conflict would be a cultural opposition to the West, a place that he directly associated with Nazism, pedophilia, and same-sex marriage.

The announcement that Ukraine would have accepted peace proposals from Brazil at the UN had wide repercussions on February 18, after criticism that Latin American countries had adopted a neutral stance in relation to the conflict. After a gradual decrease in the debate after the one-year anniversary of the war, there was a growth in the discussion on the subject, from the beginning of March, followed by a later stability. This occurred due to the conversation between Lula and Zelensky, on March 2, summed up in a tweet in which the PT member stated that the war “is not good for anyone” and that “Brazil will participate in any effort in search of peace”. Between the 17th and the 21st of March, new increases in the debate were registered, associated, in turn, with the news that the president of China would visit Putin in Moscow, which occurred on the 20th of March and lit the alert regarding the consequences of a supposed military union between the two countries.


2) Public Debate

Graph 2 – Ukraine War debate on Twitter
Analysis period: February 14 to March 21, 2023

Source: Twitter | Elaboration: FGV ECMI

. Source: Twitter | Elaboration: FGV ECMI

Pro-Russia Right (Blue) – 31.5% of profiles | 39.1% of interactions

Right-wing users who, in general, favor Russia form the largest group in the debate. In more prominent positions, the network brings together influencers linked to the political field of the international and national right, located in the range of profiles that have between 50,000 and 100,000 followers and who are sometimes characterized by anonymity. This is the case with accounts like @verdadesenadama, @danvitorph, @vanliberdade and @misteriouspavao. In terms of content, publications favorable to Putin stand out and his speech on February 21 is praised for his criticism of the West and the behavior associated with this location, such as same-gender relationships. Another lauded political actor is former President Donald Trump. In addition, criticisms of Ukraine, NATO and the Biden government are frequent, accused, in general, of similar or worse behavior than those attributed to Russia by the “western” and “globalist” media. Laterally, demonstrations held in European countries and critics of NATO are also mentioned as examples of approval of Russia’s actions. The meeting between Putin and Xi Jinping circulated among the group through content that would prove the partnership between Ukraine, the United States and China in the laboratory production of the Covid-19 virus. The mention is made with a focus on criticism of the United States and without highlighting the relationship between Russia and China, a country that appears controversially in the group, that is, being criticized for its alleged participation in the creation of the Covid-19 virus but, at the same time, being exalted by the supposed seriousness with which it aligns itself with the East and not with the West. Secondarily in the formation of the network but highlighted by the popularity of the profiles and the lateral interactions of the pro-Russia accounts, the group brings together traditional actors from the field of “Bolsonarism”, such as congressman @bolsonarosp, influencers @adilsonesp e @alertatotal, and representatives of the right-wing media, such as @terrabrasilnot. In the rare instances in which the profiles comment on the conflict, they do so with a focus on criticizing the perspective that Lula would be able to end the war with a proposal for peace.

Figure 1 – Examples of tweets from the blue cluster

Source: Twitter

. Source: Twitter

Governing Group (Red) – 21.3% of profiles | 25.8% of interactions

Government profiles occupy a central position in the second largest group. The main theme of this set is Lula’s performance in relation to the war, positively evaluated by profiles such as congresswoman @mariadorosario and journalist @cesarcalejon1. It is in this group that institutional profiles are located and convey the president’s statements, such as @lulaoficial and @planalto. In a favorable tone, the proposal was highlighted in the media aligned to the left, following the example of @brasil247. In a less central position in the group, there is a subset of profiles linked to the extreme left — national and international —favorable to Russia and critical of NATO, such as @luizazenha23, @camaradamachado, @vermelhos_sim. They appear in the group for criticizing the president’s posture as “subservient” or “submissive”, classifying it as little aligned with national interests in the face of the international situation. Events related to the agreement proposed by Lula and the international reception of the issue were reported in a non-opinionated tone by vehicle profiles such as @metropoles, as well as by more systematic political follow-up profiles, such as @eixopolítico and @centralpolitcs.

Figure 2 – Examples of tweets from the red cluster

Source: Twitter

. Source: Twitter

Pro-Ukraine Opinion Leaders (Yellow) – 15.1% of profiles | 17.5% of interactions

Composed of independent military coverage profiles, newspapers and journalists from the traditional media, the group is characterized by updates and comments on the War in Ukraine. This specialized coverage, either from the bias of militarism or from the bias of journalism, is marked by a favorable perspective for Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, for the United States. Accounts such as @hoje_no, @diretofront and @noticiaeguerra mobilize the news niche of following military issues, reproducing news, audiovisual materials, and comments on the conflict, negatively emphasizing the actions attributed to Putin and Russia. Sometimes they highlight positive developments for Ukraine, the United States and NATO. Journalists such as @rodrigodasilva (Spotniks), @caioblinder (TV Cultura), @yanboechat (independent journalist) and @sampancher (Metrópoles) mobilize opinions in favor of Ukraine, with frontal criticism of Putin, described by them as an “aggressor” and “genocidal.” Support for Russia by progressive people is also criticized by users. Finally, newspaper profiles such as @metropoles, @globonews and @cnnbrasil publish news that, without a directly opinionated tone, also reflect news with a favorable effect on Ukraine, reporting accusations of rape by the Russian Army, the request for Putin’s arrest indicated by the Hague Court and other materials that point to aggression or reprehensible behavior by Russia in relation to Ukraine and Ukrainians. The group’s profile points to the possibility that support for Ukraine is coming not by political actors, but by opinion makers.

Figure 3 – Examples of tweets from the yellow cluster

Source: Twitter

. Source: Twitter

Progressives critical of the US (Green) – 6.2% of profiles | 3.9% of interactions

Bringing together opinion makers who do not take an active position in favor of either Russia or Ukraine, the group concentrates different profiles of opinion makers linked to a progressive perspective and/or focused on geopolitical analysis. In common, the contents and positions express negative evaluations about the United States and NATO, classified by these profiles as responsible for the Ukrainian suffering and objects of supposed international leniency in comparison to the treatment destined to Russia. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel are also mentioned in the approach to war based on alleged selective treatment. A related theme also involves the negative evaluation of the media, political and social treatment directed at the war in Ukraine compared to other conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian one. Historian @rianhez (Guia Rússia), @JornalismoWando (The Intercept Brasil) and the profile of the geopolitics podcast @copaalemdacopa criticize what they classify as “bias” in the outrage over human rights violations. Positioning in favor of Russia or Ukraine is not central in this group, although criticism of the United States sometimes turns into critical comments of Russia or Ukraine as well.

Figure 4 – Examples of tweets from the green cluster

Source: Twitter

. Source: Twitter

Entertainment Profiles (Purple) – 5.6% of profiles | 3.4% of interactions

Around the @choquei and, to a lesser extent, the @updatecharts, Brazilian users comment on Lula’s diplomatic proposal. The developments of this event are reported by the central profiles and announcements regarding the positive reception of the proposal are in evidence. In addition to this central core, there are side debates about the war in general, as well as tweets from @choquei and @updatecharts with varying updates on the conflict.

Figure 5 – Examples of tweets from the purple cluster

Source: Twitter

. Source: Twitter

3) Main discourses

This analysis examines the main themes related to the debate about the war in Ukraine on Facebook, considering the volume of interactions and the content of posts on the platform. To this end, a database with 18,241 posts was activated, which totaled 2,503,961 interactions, published between February 14 and March 21, 2023. The peak of publications occurred on March 24, the day the war completed its first year, with around 2,300 posts. Access to this content was conducted using the Crowd Tangle search tool, made available by Facebook/Meta to enable the tracking of publications from pages, profiles and/or public groups on the platform.

The analysis of prominent topics on Facebook was performed using a topic modeling technique based on linguistic models. This model represents text in a continuous low-dimensional semantic space and clusters documents to find prevalent themes. The representation of each topic is calculated using a ranking that considers the relevance of each term in the cluster to which it belongs. Considering this methodology, posts that have as themes the political actors associated with the war, China’s role in the conflict, cybersecurity, moral panic, and fuels.

Graph 3 – Political actors in the public debate on Facebook about the War in Ukraine
Analysis period: February 14 to March 21, 2023

Source: Facebook | Elaboration: FGV ECMI

. Source: Facebook | Elaboration: FGV ECMI

The group of terms focused on the role of political actors in topics related to war. Lula and Vladimir Putin were the most evoked names in the publications, being frequently associated with a possible ceasefire proposal and the role of nuclear weapons in the conflict, respectively. To a lesser extent, Volodymyr Zelensky was another relevant name in the publications, being especially associated with the conversation he had with Lula, on March 2nd. Excerpts from journalistic programs, from vehicles such as CNN Brasil, and the official position of the federal government regarding the conflict were predominant. On the other hand, Pope Francis also emerges as an important political actor, when he is shown, for example, leading a prayer while watching a documentary about the war.

Figure 6 – Lula and Zelensky as political actors in debate on Facebook

Source: Facebook

. Source: Facebook

Although in smaller numbers, videos by digital influencers also had a relevant insertion in the group, especially those who made a positive reading about the peace proposal attributed to Lula. In these videos, the president of Brazil was classified as an influential and pacifist political actor, who would have been responsible for a supposed recovery of international credibility of Brazilian diplomacy. Even to a lesser extent, the German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz was also a political figure mentioned, as a result of Lula’s refusal to provide ammunition that would be used against Russia by Ukraine. Information circulated that Germany, in retaliation for Lula, would have embargoed the export of Guarani armored vehicles, which have German parts.

In pages about wars in general, there is also a considerable number of publications that shed light on ordinary soldiers who were severely injured or even killed in the conflict. Engagement, however, is restricted compared to the other contents mentioned. In general, they are Ukrainians or Brazilians who joined the war. These posts aim to address the performance of soldiers in a heroic way and humanize their stories, thus making them political actors in the conflict by providing them with history and identity.


4) Mobile Media

Figure 11 – Debate on the War in Ukraine in Telegram groups
Analysis period: February 14 to March 14, 2023

Source: Telegram

. Source: Telegram

Through a snowball sampling, from a base with about 350 Telegram channels and public groups, we analyze a non-probabilistic corpus that, based on chains of references, starts from a useful methodology to enter environments that are difficult to access. From this fact, a strong presence of groups and channels more aligned to the right was noticed, with emphasis on supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro. Although it is also possible to verify the performance of groups and channels on the left, such as those dedicated to Lula, the predominance of the right leads us to analyses that concern the performance of this political field on Telegram.

In Telegram, a diversity of perspectives regarding the war in Ukraine was identified, disseminated mainly in political groups (especially on the right) and in groups of people fond of war in general and/or specifically in the conflict on Ukrainian soil.

Political groups that deliberately support Russia and identify themselves as “national revolutionaries” have been observed, such as the Voice of New Resistance and Rebel Alliance. Russia is said to be reacting preemptively to planned Ukrainian missile strikes. There was talk of the case of Donbass, in which chemical weapons would have been used by Ukraine. In these groups, a hostile position towards the UN was identified.

Other radical right-wing groups with significant reach were also identified, such as Geografia Planetária, which identifies itself as QAnon, a branch of the extreme right specializing in spreading conspiracy theories. The central argument in these spaces is that US involvement in Ukraine and NATO expansion to Russia’s border would have produced the aforementioned war.

In moderate right-wing groups, it is claimed that Brazil’s economic development during the Bolsonaro government was significant despite several factors that could have hindered this progress, the war in Ukraine being cited as one of them. Still in these groups, but laterally, news about the dialogue between Lula and Zelensky was shared. Although the news did not necessarily express a value judgment regarding the rapprochement between political leaders, the fact that they circulated in the group triggered mostly negative reactions to the content.
In groups of people fond of wars, the first year of the conflict was approached from a perspective of learning about wars in general. It highlighted, for example, the alleged failure of economic sanctions against Russia by Western countries that were against the war.

A series of groups that directly debate the conflict in Ukraine were also observed, such as “Ukraine invasion and Russia’s last war” and “Russia vs Ukraine war.” In the latter, specifically, the trend of a strongly critical position towards the actions of the Russian government was identified. Although they have, in general, a small number of participants, publications tend to obey a frequent regularity. In general, images of the conflict and information about attacks, weapons and ammunition are shared.


The study continues the agenda and monitoring of the Brazilian public debate around the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Thus, from February 14 to March 21, 2023, we sought to analyze the evolution of the debate on the War in Ukraine on Twitter – which totaled more than 78,300 tweets – and the main themes and discursive lines on Facebook, leading into account a corpus of 18,241 publications. In addition, in the period from February 14 to March 14, the conversations of around 576 groups and channels for discussion about politics in the Telegram mobile application were also monitored. The studies that looked into the topic within the scope of this project demonstrate that, in general terms, the public’s low engagement with the War in digital environments persists, however, it is possible to observe some peaks of interaction associated with macro political events. In addition, the wider involvement of the public was linked to signs of alignment of the then Brazilian heads of state with one of the sides in the dispute. Unlike the first survey, this research identifies that the theme was not anchored nor was it mainly guided by national political leaders, the centrality of President Lula, on the other hand, is observed in all analyzed networks, driven by his approximation with President Volodymyr Zelensky, at the beginning of March. The moment of greatest engagement in the debate, however, occurs at the end of February and was associated with statements by President Vladimir Putin in which he disparages the West, delivers an LGBT-phobic speech, and suggests investing in nuclear weapons. In a more transversal perspective, among the platforms analyzed, the predominant activity of right-wing groups is evident, with emphasis on supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro. This segment, reduced from a temporal perspective, remains cohesive and mobilized, leading the volume of engagement in the configuration of groups. Although the field that gathers in support of Ukraine is more numerous, with a representative presence of progressive opinion makers, there is still little evidence of a more energetic action by the progressive field. These gaps, on the one hand, open gaps for this dispute to receive harmful contours to the public debate, with the recurrent propagation of extremist, intolerant and conspiratorial discourses that circulate with high visibility, to the same extent that they distance the possibilities of organization and political movement stronger, who outline combat strategies and make the theme salient from their perspectives.


ERNST, Nicole et al. Extreme parties and populism: an analysis of Facebook and Twitter across six countries. Information, Communication & Society, v. 20, n. 9, p. 1347-1364, 2017.

RUEDIGER, Marco Aurelio; GRASSI, Amaro (Coord.). War in Ukraine: actors, advertisements, and online information flows. Policy paper. Rio de Janeiro: FGV ECMI, 2022.


Research Coordination
Marco Aurelio Ruediger
Amaro Grassi

Renato Contente
Sabrina Almeida
Laura Pereira
Lucas Roberto da silva
Mariana Carvalho
Thaís Rabello

Technical Copy Editor
Renata Tomaz

Graphic project
Daniel Almada
Luis Gomes


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