Narrative Trends around Cryptocurrency and Ukraine: A Blessing or a Curse?

Photo by Michael Förtsch on Unsplash

Among the numerous facets of life upturned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, cryptocurrency’s value has experienced a roller coaster in stock price and public opinion. In this post, we’ll use Kudzu Narrative Intelligence Briefs to analyze the narrative surrounding cryptocurrency during this conflict, particularly its use as a donation avenue for Ukraine and its risk for sanctions against Russia.

Narrative Flows around Ukraine and Crypto

Across European media, U.S. media, and media focused on cryptocurrency, all three demonstrate similar flows in narratives surrounding cryptocurrency and Ukraine. The figure below compares each chart taken from their respective Kudzu briefs.

The Kudzu brief for European media shows an initial surge in narratives just before and after Russia began its invasion on February 24th (shown by the beginning of the blue box). Following that initial weekend, European media experienced three subsequent peaks near the beginning of each week and were broken up by valleys due to the weekend. Both the Kudzu brief for U.S. media and the Kudzu brief for cryptocurrency media sources reveal a similar pattern as European media.

Each subsequent peak at the beginning of a new week across all three Kudzu briefs demonstrates a notable decrease over the previous week, with the exception of the first and second weeks in European media. This gradual decline in media coverage of cryptocurrency and Ukraine suggests the novelty of this crisis and cryptocurrency’s use regarding Russia’s invasion is also slowly declining.

Donations to Ukraine via Crypto

Ukraine has received enormous amounts of donations via cryptocurrency during this crisis. Among the three Kudzu briefs, however, only the brief for cryptocurrency media had “crypto donations” as a top keyword. By March 2nd, Ukraine had received $20 million in crypto donations before a week had passed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, and that number had grown to $100 million a week later on March 9th. Kudzu’s keyword activity analysis on this brief for cryptocurrency media shows these sources continuing to cover crypto donations past the initial wave that coincided with the start of the invasion. The surge of narrative publications characterizing this aspect of crypto as positive suggests that crypto-focused media have recognized the invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity to illustrate the merits of cryptocurrency.

On the other hand, keywords related to cryptocurrency donations appeared only once in the top keywords of both the Kudzu brief for U.S. media and the brief for European media on February 27 (near the beginning of Russia’s invasion), as displayed in the figure below. This singular highlight at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suggests both U.S. and European media grew attentive to this positive development before other attention-grabbing headlines appeared and drew away their focus.

Fear of Russia Evading Sanctions via Crypto

Whereas crypto donations to Ukraine echoed positivity, the potential use of cryptocurrency by Russia to evade western sanctions has garnered fear. Top surfaced keywords in the Kudzu brief for cryptocurrency media sources include “evade sanctions” and “economic sanctions.” In comparison, European media has a total of five different variants of sanctions in its top surfaced keywords. U.S. media, however, does not show any variation of “sanctions” as a top keyword, but instead reveals two keywords for President Biden’s executive order regarding potential U.S. governmental regulation of cryptocurrency.

European Media and U.S Media reveal two different outlooks regarding Ukraine and cryptocurrency. European media tends to emphasize elements of economic warfare against Russia, whereas U.S. media is inclined to focus on the economic impact within the United States. Below is a figure in which the surfaced keywords from the Kudzu brief for European media are juxtaposed against those from the brief for U.S. media.

As previously mentioned, European media emphasize economic sanctions against Russia (yellow), but it also focuses on the effect on Russia’s economy and Russian oligarchs (green). On the other hand, U.S. media highlight the recent executive order (purple) and a concern for national security (pink). Furthermore, indicators of the U.S. economy (red) also have a heavy emphasis by U.S. sources. Most notably, however, is the difference between each brief’s keyword regarding oil (blue), where “oil prices” is fifteen positions higher in U.S. sources than “oil and gas” is in European media.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will continue to be a focal point of issues regarding cryptocurrency, but three key points have surfaced thus far:

  1. Among European, U.S., and cryptocurrency media, the narrative flows experienced similar effects as media coverage spiked at the beginning of the invasion and has slowly declined since then.
  2. Cryptocurrency media is emphasizing the positive aspects of crypto by highlighting the enormous amount of crypto donations to Ukraine.
  3. Regarding Russia’s potential evasion of sanctions via crypto, European media have focused on the elements of economic warfare, whereas U.S. media stress issues regarding the economic impact on the U.S.

Readers are encouraged to do more in-depth examinations of the Kudzu Narrative Intelligence Briefs linked throughout this article:

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