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We analyze Russia’s communication strategies in the period leading up to and following the seizure (2014-2018) of the Crimean Peninsula in the Spanish editions of its digital platforms, Sputnik and Russia Times. Drawing from theories of political communication, we show how Russia used storytelling and framing to build an international image and political brand consistent with, and try to justify, its foreign policy actions. Specifically, Russian messages transmit no room for doubt about the legality of any of its strategies in Crimea. We argue that this communication strategy is consistent with the concept of ‘sharp power’ to describe Russian projection in the world. Cultural and emotional appeals designed to generate positive emotions about Russia, i.e., ‘soft power’, were far less common. In recent years, Russian projection of sharp power appears to have increased in the Spanish-speaking world, particularly in South America. In addition to helping explain Russian foreign policy, our findings contribute to broader debates about political branding and truth in a ‘post-truth’, multipolar world.
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