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Hot topics of Russian disinfo: Cabinet finished off, coronavirus is the new Chornobyl. Issue #26

Coronavirus is a pretext for discrediting the Ukrainian authorities. According to disinformers, Ukraine must even resume delivering water to Crimea in order to provide the population with a place to rest during the coronavirus epidemic and finally "bury" Honcharuk. By the way, the coordinated campaign against Honcharuk turned out to be a success and now Tihipko was being discussed as a substitute, being "simply Level: God, compared to "Soros pigs". They also continued to demonize the United States, to disseminate words of Surkov, a former advisor to Putin, to speak about neo-Nazis as Ukraine's main problem, and to remind that Russians "protected" Crimeans from the fate of the Donbas.

Period: February 24 — March 1, 2020

Topics of disinformation, 24 February — 1 March 2020
Topics of disinformation, 24 February — 1 March 2020

Crimean water cures coronavirus

Last week, clickbait sites continued to use the coronavirus in order to discredit the Ukrainian authorities and to sow panic. Our experience shows that any events in the world and in Ukraine are used by the Russian disinfo to discredit any Ukrainian government. The coronavirus was compared to Chornobyl, they discussed "coronavirus machinations of the presidential adviser" who allegedly sold masks to China ("And this despite the fact that in Ukraine masks are only available in one drugstore out of ten, they are already being sold off the book, or people sew the masks themselves, at home”), they once again reminded that “the healthcare system is absolutely unprepared for such challenges not only materially but also in all other aspects”, and they even cited the words of Russian deputies that Ukraine should reopen water supply to Crimea, because “the worldwide coronavirus epidemic will leave Ukrainians unable to get normal rest” and “occupied Crimea will remain the only place for normal rest for Ukrainians”

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics cannot stop discussing events surrounding the evacuation of Ukrainians to Novi Sanzhary and working on creating new anti-Ukrainian memes in order to "cover with noise" the anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity ("Coronavirus Day. Disgrace Day. Day of the Dead State") or to discredit the memory of the Revolution of Dignity itself ("Getting to Novi Sanzhary” is already a meme. Synonymous with hell on earth. The evacuation from Wuhan was the evacuation of the "dignity" of a nation that was lost six years ago on the Maidan”). And the fact of spreading panic sentiments by pro-Russian disinformation was tried to make fun of: "With the help of psychotropic drugs "Maidanite-I "and" Maidanite-1C ", developed in underground laboratories of the Russian special service and poured into local vodka, the residents of Novi Sanzhary were brought to the needed state. In our investigation, we found out that the panic in Novi Sanzhary was purposefully pumped up by bots in the local newly formed Viber group, where the same bots posted links to pro-Russian media in Ukraine.

Phrases by Dubinsky, so loved by disinformers, were featured again. This time, his quote “It seems to me that the Ukrainian government, and first of all Mr. Honcharuk, are actually waiting for an outbreak of the coronavirus here” was turned into the title “Demonic plan: “Children of Soros” ready to let coronavirus loose in Ukraine

“And right now, careless infected citizens don’t give a sneeze about (and do sneeze at!) other careless citizens being infected in crowded places. And the careless leaders chosen by the careless population do not notice any carelessness at all”

“It only took Kyiv one day to cross itself out of civilization and to commit a spectacular reputational suicide”

Crimea: asking to suck it up, saber-rattling

This week, Crimea was among the top manipulative topics. They commented on Zelensky's speech at the Age of Crimea Forum in Kyiv and his words on returning Crimea as a Ukrainian national idea. Some clickbait sites cited the words of Russian Senator Pushkov: "Fun fact is not a national idea."

The topic of water supply to Crimea, which has been discussed in recent weeks, has not disappeared. Clickbait sites wrote that such a decision would be "hanged" (forced) upon Honcharuk: "It is clear that no one pities Honcharuk anymore, and a package of "funeral" decisions is being prepared for him so that the prime minister is associated with everything that is considered negative." And they assured that Ukraine would make concessions on the status of the Crimea: "In general, Ukraine is slowly but surely laid down under the Kremlin." Probably, this pressure is related to the dry winters and likely forecasts of water problems in Crimea in summer. At least, Ukrainian governmental structures are predicting water shortages in mainland Ukraine this summer.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues speculate on the international status of Crimea and hope that Ukraine will reconcile with the illegal occupation: "One can only hope that Kyiv authorities, sooner or later, accept the decision made by Crimeans." At the same time, they scare people with "repression" to come if Crimea returns under the control of Ukraine.

They paid great attention to the exaltation of the "military might" of the Russian fleet: "Kyiv's dreams that they will be able to at least minimally counteract the Black Sea Fleet turn into mere fantasies."

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics wrote about the forum on Crimean occupation: “one discussed “human rights violations and respecting the rights of indigenous people, the Crimean Tatars”, “total Russian propaganda on the peninsula”, “security challenges in the Black Sea region”, in a word, all the favorite topics of professional Ukrainians and grant-eaters” (highlighted by TEXTY.org.ua)

The Russian media also threatened readers with the military power of their country, and they tried to convince one that the Russians "protected" the Crimeans from the fate of Donbas. “It is useless to prove anything to Kyiv. When one starts to explain and prove, everything happens the way it’s been happening in Donbas, for six years now”. Let’s remember that the military conflict in the East of Ukraine was initiated and supported by the Russian authorities. It involves military personnel and mercenaries from this country. It is Russia who supplies weapons and equipment to the militants.

Prophecies about the new PM. Prophesying Tihipko, final blows to Honcharuk

Since early 2020, there has been a coordinated campaign against Prime Minister Olexiy Honcharuk in manipulative media. As a result, his support rating was reduced to 6% and the Rada dismissed him. Last week, clickbait sites relished the approach of his dismissal ("The resignation of the Pinchuk-Soros-Honcharuk government is almost a fait accompli") and discussed a possible new prime minister.

Most of all, Honcharuk was criticized for difficulties in the economy and the fall of industrial production. "Replacing Olexiy Honcharuk with Serhiy Tihipko would be a good option, for, if Honcharuk is left, he would continue to "torture the economy."

Most often, Serhiy Tihipko was named as a likely candidate in the media. Some clickbait sites have commented favorably on him: "Tihipko is simply “Level: God” compared to the children of Soros." Others, on the contrary, reminded that he was a member of the Yanukovych government. But among the most serious obstacles to the appointment of Tihipko, according to manipulative sites, was that: "The return of Serhiy Tihipko to power will create competition between the government and the presidential power."

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics emphasized, on every possible occasion, that Serhiy Tihipko is "a politician of the Yanukovych times". Although the "young and promising" politician Tihipko was long ago a member of the Cabinet of Pavlo Lazarenko. It seems that the disinformers wish to get the fugitive ex-president into public discussion in any context.

Russia's leading media have relished on Honcharuk's words, torn out of their context, about expensive mortgages in Ukraine that can only be paid if you “trade in arms or drugs”. And they spoke about the “agonizing” Ukrainian economy, which cannot be saved by personnel decisions alone. By their logic, only the "help" of Russia can "save" the Ukrainian economy. Belarus, which Russia is now pushing for integration, is one example of such help.

Foreign policy: Russia's relations with Turkey, Belarus, and the US

When writing about Russian-Turkish relations, the clickbait websites disseminated the thesis that "Turkey, according to some sources, is beginning to seriously prepare for a possible war with Russia." They have not forgotten once again to criticize the Ukrainian authorities for an allegedly pro-Russian stance simply because “Kyiv is not going to synchronize its actions with Ankara. It will be difficult for Russia to fight on two fronts, and the current Ukrainian authorities are ready to lend their shoulder to Russia."

The oil and gas talks of Moscow and Minsk gave another reason for the disinformers to emphasize the tensions of Russian-Belarusian relations and that Lukashenko "has been complaining a lot lately that Russia is allegedly pressuring him."

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues continued to promote the idea that anti-Russian sanctions were not beneficial to anyone and that "the positions of supporters of pressure on Moscow have become markedly weakened in recent years." This time, they wrote about alleged criticism of anti-Russian sanctions by Macron and sought to prove that "extensive discussions on lifting or softening anti-Russian sanctions have been ongoing in Europe since at least 2016". As always, the US was demonized. Disinformers wrote that it is "US dollars that will determine "the culprit" in the MH17 tragedy", that reconciliation between Ukraine and Russia is absent because of "America's inaction in this matter."

Speculations on Donbas peace talks, Surkov's confessions

Ukrainian clickbait sites quoted the views of Surkov, ex-advisor to Putin: “A mess instead of the state. Borsch, Bandera, bandura are there. But there is no nation. There’s the "Independent Ukraine" leaflet but not Ukraine. The only question is, is Ukraine already gone, or not yet there?” They also wrote that in order to achieve "peace" Ukraine must heed the advice of Medvedchuk (the advice of this pro-Russian politician is generally reduced to the implementation of the Minsk agreements on Russian terms with the loss of real sovereignty of Ukraine).

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian topics wrote that Zelensky: "accepted the side of the "hawks" because he guaranteed priority funding for the military missile program. In general, the neutral attitude towards Zelensky in the first months of his presidency has long since changed. He is increasingly covered as a "Ukrainian nationalist" who does not want to make concessions to Russia".“The Mister Guarantor himself, with his own visits, supports ... neo-Nazi militants on the so-called demarcation lines, who are sleeping and dreaming about purging Donbas from “the Separs and Muscovites".

But at the same time, they leave him a chance to restore the "friendliness" of Moscow: "Zelensky's visit to the Victory Parade in Moscow will determine the vector of Russian policy and the direction of development of Ukraine."

Russian mainstream media actively commented on various statements by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council secretary Oleksiy Danylov: "The head of the NSDC of Ukraine, Alexei Danilov, who started talking about the 'breakup of Russia' cannot cope with his own people." They also offered their solution to the conflict in the East of Ukraine: "in order to resolve the conflict in the east of Ukraine, it is essential to "destroy" the manifestations of nationalism in the country."

Limitations of the study:

In this study, we only regarded the topics which are in line with Russian disinformation campaigns. Most of them are based on real events, as disinformation works more effectively this way. Topic names reflect manipulations used in the topic. Accordingly, news stories on Ukrainian mainstream sites on the same topic may have completely different content from that of manipulative materials.

We take the topics of Russian propaganda in Ukraine from the following groups of materials:

In the first and second groups of news, the materials were selected by the AI classifier of manipulative news.

Examples of headlines

Coronavirus

Mister president, save Ukrainians from incompetent Radutsky paramedics - journalists’ address | ua24ua.net

Radutsky, the “servant” deputy, sold the whole stock of Ukrainian masks to China | prioritet.org

Demonic plan: “Children of Soros” ready to let coronavirus loose in Ukraine | nk.org.ua

«Considered pigs and slaves»: guest arbeiters driven out of Poland because of shameful riots in Ukraine | nahnews.org

Wuhan verdict to Ukrainian “unity” | e-news.su

Crimea: asking to suck it up, saber-rattling

Igor Losev: Ukraine is slowly but surely laid down under the Kremlin | for-ua.life

«Mejlis» ringleaders threaten Crimea with repression when returned to Ukraine | newsland.com

Aksenov: Crimeans now sure and final that their ways are divorced with Ukraine forever | nation-news.ru

Ukrainian Navy Commander complains about the strength of the Russian fleet | kp.ru

Expert comments on the words of Ukrainian politician about “reclaiming” Crimea | russian.rt.com

Prophecies about the new PM. Prophesying Tihipko, final blows to Honcharuk

No dwelling. Reforming the construction market will paralyze the market. Details | ukrainianwall.com

Honcharuk takes at simple Ukrainians. He’ll punish them cruelly | newsmir.info

Crimean dirty laundry of Tihipko found | e-news.su

Honcharuk plans to torture Ukraine for ten years, he only sees Tihipko as a helper | alternatio.org

Foreign policy: Russia's relations with Turkey, Belarus, and the US

To lift or not to lift. Europe stuck at a crossroads on anti-Russian sanctions | naspravdi.info

Boeing-777 crash at the Donbas. US dollars will determine “the culprit” in the case of MH17 tragedy | nahnews.org

New US special prosecutor on Ukraine will deal with the “dark spots” of Kyiv “laundry” | naspravdi.info

Guardian: supporting Putin or insulting the veterans? Moscow Victory Day puzzles Western states | e-news.su

Speculations on Donbas peace talks, Surkov's confessions

Surkov: “Forced brotherhood is the only method that proved effective toward Ukraine” | w-n.com.ua

Agora Vox: Donbas peace impossible unless Zelensky listens to Medvedchuk | akcenty.com.ua

No forgiveness for Ukraine in Donbas ever | anna-news.info

Surkov: There’s no Ukraine, only Ukrainophrenia, a specific mental disturbance | e-news.su

Methodology

We searched for topics in 11483 materials in the Russian language from:

Manipulation in news was singled out by our improved AI classifier developed in the project We’ve got bad news. In the monitoring, we only regarded materials about social and political life which are about Ukraine.

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