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Hot topics of Russian disinfo: Now it’s the oligarchs who rule Ukraine, instead of Soros. Issue #27

The resignation of the Honcharuk government became one of the most discussed topics of the past week. The new government was named the victory of the oligarchy and the new prime minister, “Mr X”. Disinfomers prophesied the "infamous fall" of Zelensky and the growing role of Avakov. The dismissal of the Attorney General was accompanied by paranoid texts about the "American factor", and the constant theme of resuming water supplies to Crimea was supplemented with fantasies of "privatization of water" by Ukrainian oligarchs. Disinformers did not forget to sow panic around the coronavirus and to add it to horror stories about nationalists, intimidating people that nationalists could "use the infection as a biological weapon against the Republics."

Period: 2 – 8 March 2020

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Topics of disinformation, 2 — 8 March 2020

Fighting coronavirus in Ukraine. Attempts to sow panic

Manipulators from Ukrainian “sewage” websites continue to sow panic around the coronavirus. Last week, they stressed that "the WHO had made a sad prognosis, the coronavirus would cover the whole country", they offered to prepare "strategic home reserve to survive the epidemic", and sought to include the coronavirus in new anti-government memes ("First of all, we must stop "the coronavirus in economy"). They wrote a lot about dismal economic forecasts. "As our economy is already weakened by its own problems, additional global calamities can put it into a spiral of collapse." The reason for the economic downturn was cited as follows: “foreigners, against the background of the coronavirus, have been exiting the risky emerging markets. That’s exactly what Ukrainian market is

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues have been working even more actively on spreading panic. They continued to discredit medical reform ("One promised high-quality medicine and one simply destroyed it. Hospitals are being closed, salaries are not paid. No masks, no drugs, no money, and people start living in fear") and in every way emphasized Ukraine's inability to withstand the coronavirus, comparing it to (allegedly more efficient) Russia. "As of today, the situation with the COVID-2019 virus which hit the world, can be characterized in Russia as not simply stable and controllable, but almost exemplary."

In addition, Russian sites cannot stop mentioning Novi Sanzhary. Last week, the thesis was disseminated that the events surrounding the evacuation were "a result of Ukrainian Nazism," and that a few angry comments on social networks allegedly indicate that Ukrainians might use the coronavirus as a "biological weapon” against occupied territories ("Remember those posts in Ukrainian social networks during the Novi Sanzhary madness where they called to "dump on Donbass'' the compatriots brought from Wuhan. Some especially ardent "patriots" may well try to use infection as a biological weapon against the Republics).

Government resignation is a victory of the oligarchy

The manipulative publications continued to criticize Honcharuk while at the same time rejoicing in the resignation of the “grant-eaters”. However, they expectedly became embroiled immediately in discrediting the new government, emphasizing that it is allegedly controlled by the oligarchs (one of the favorite topics of Russian information troops is that oligarchs allegedly run Ukraine). “In fact, the personnel policy of Volodymyr Zelensky was directed (and continues to be directed) not the largely mythologized George Soros (!!! highlighted by TEXTY, as it was all the pro-Russian media we monitor who had been “mythologizing” Soros), but the much closer figures such as Victor Pinchuk and Rinat Akhmetov." Now, disinformers are writing that the purpose of fueling the scandals surrounding Honcharuk "was to show the prime minister's incompetence so that subsequent personnel changes would be met with full public approval"

The new Prime Minister, Denys Shmygal, has been mentioned infrequently. He was mostly called "Mr. X" and his alleged ties to Akhmetov were emphasized. The new government was described as "a mighty occasion to once again congratulate the oligarchy on their clear victory over the common Ukrainian people", and they have already begun to try on new memes on the new government. We have noticed that in the publications on various sites, they frequently ironize describing the newly formed government of Schmygal as "strong managers". We expect that in the near future they will be looking for more convenient memes to ridicule the new government (as they had succeeded with "Soros children").

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues also disseminated the thesis about the victory of the oligarchy ("In Ukraine, at the request of Kolomoisky, the Prime Minister who tried to remove the oligarch from a state-owned company, is being resigned. This clearly shows who runs the show in the country"). However, this did not prevent them from continuing to develop the topic of external governance ("Soros's influence on Ukraine is not gone") and to criticize any action by the Ukrainian authorities. For example, they expectedly wrote a lot that "the ministerial posts were occupied by new incompetent people recruited from the streets."

The Ukrainian media space "turned into a garbage heap", and people stopped to adequately analyze events. All these are special information dumps of the media controlled by Soros

Both Russian and Ukrainian manipulative media started writing about “possible dissolution of the Rada very soon”. In future, we will monitor the dissemination of this thesis. It is advantageous for the pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, because their rating has somewhat increased against the background of constant scandals in the ruling “Servant of the People” party.

Zelensky dominated by the oligarchs, is in for "riot"

Zelensky's decision to change the Cabinet of Ministers and his speech in the Rada led to a wave of comments from manipulators. Clickbait sites write that the president is losing popularity and he will have to "extinguish people at protests" because "having shown a finger to the IMF, he will have to take money from Russia." In fact, Zelensky stressed the need to cooperate with the IMF and promised to fulfill the requirements of the fund.

In addition to the rating, clickbait sites write about the growing influence of Akhmetov on the president and government: "Akhmetov bought the prime minister and half of the government from Zelensky". The reason for the allegations is Prime Minister Denys Schmygal, who previously worked at Akhmetov’s DTEK company.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues make even more apocalyptic predictions for Zelensky: “Zelensky is inevitably in for an infamous fall. His new government is a gathering of conformists and oligarchs’ appointees, for whom Ze caved in. It is an impotent government that will only be able to give money to lobbyists and is most likely to bring the country to a default.

About the president's future plans, they write: “Zelensky is absolutely not going to carry out any reforms! It is already clear that for this he has no ideas, no will, no team, no desire, no courage.” And they continue to develop the topic of the dependence of Zelensky, who will not be able to overcome the difficulties of the presidency and the fall of the rating: "If unrest starts in the country, senior comrades can recommend to the president to resign, and he won’t possibly be able to deny them this request, because of his low rating." At the moment, the President's rating is about 49.4%

They also broach the subject of possible protests and write that the role of enforcement, especially Avakov, will grow. "Avakov, who will eventually have to be replaced, will be ready to challenge Zelensky with the most stable resource in the collapsing country - the police, the National Guard and the street gangs."

Russian mainstream sites have focused on Zelensky's statement that he will withdraw from the Normandy agreements if there is no progress in a year: “Honestly, it is absolutely unclear why Ukraine should leave the Normandy format. In case of its exit, the situation will become unpredictable, anything can happen.

Firing Riaboshapka: inefficiency or persecution of Poroshenko

In addition to the government resignation, the Verkhovna Rada decided to fire the Attorney General. The initiator was a pro-Russian deputy of the Servant of the People, Maxim Buzhansky. Clickbait sites disseminate his quote: “It's spring. And where are the spring plantings [of high criminals into prison, play on the verb]? There are none. As you remember, the whole country was expecting that in the spring there would be plantings... Everyone who did not accept 5 years of looting, 5 years of speculation on blood, on patriotism of our citizens, waited for it. 5 years when we were being lied to, in the eye, and our money was being stolen. Someone must pay for that."

The deputies who defended Riaboshapka were ridiculed on these websites: “Particularly zealous in the defense of Ryaboshapka was the so-called deputy of the “Voice” (“Holos”) party, someone named Yaroslav Yurchishin, who has become famous for eating his snot during a parliament session. He ought to be sitting on his behind silently but...

Some of the clickbait sites are promoting an openly paranoid version of Ukraine’s impact on the US election: "For several years now, the Attorney General's Office and the NABU have been stubbornly sabotaging Biden's scandalous case of international importance."

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian topics focused on the idea that Riaboshapka allegedly “protects Poroshenko”: “Indeed, Mr. Riaboshapka did nothing in terms of disclosing the crimes on the Maidan, the crimes of (ex-President of Ukraine), Mr. Poroshenko”.

Riaboshapka managed to sabotage all the criminal cases against the looter Poroshenko and his team in six months

Вони також розвивають параною про “американський фактор” звільнення генпрокурора: “поступали сигналы из Вашингтона, что за Рябошапку "вписываются" представители демократического истеблишмента”.

They also promote the paranoia about the "American factor" in the firing of the Attorney General: "signals have been received from Washington that representatives of the Democratic establishment are supporting Riaboshapka."

Leading Russian sites say that the dismissal of the Prosecutor General will deteriorate Zelensky's contacts with the West: "The West has lost confidence in Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky after the dismissal of Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka and will now seek his dismissal from the presidency."

Supplying Crimea with water

Pro-Russian and clickbait sites are trying to justify the supply of water to the Crimea with the needs of Kherson region. “Mr. Prime Minister should know that there is no water problem in Crimea. And there never was one. Including, after the North Crimean Canal was blocked. Instead, there are problems in Kherson region. " This view was first actively promoted by Russian sites. Ukraine blocked the North Crimean Canal just before the water entering Crimea, so the water flows freely to Ukrainian consumers in Kherson region.

Another version is that Russia has enough resources to deliver fresh water to Crimea, but: “The Russian authorities are greedy not to spend resources on this. Indeed, why spend if there is a "42-year-old not-loser" [Zelensky] who can be easily negotiated with."

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics fantasize about the "privatization of water" in Ukraine. Allegedly, after the land privatization, it is water that “the oligarchs” will fight for. “Water is a strategic direction. It is no coincidence that the Ukrainian authorities are trying to punish Crimea with a water blockade."

Russian leading editions report on new wells and water intakes in Crimea and promise: "the water need of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol is planned to be satiated completely by 2025 after the reconstruction of the waterpipe and the Intermountain reservoir."

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

Fighting coronavirus in Ukraine. Attempts to sow panic

Boyko explains who Honcharuk must be resigned to fight the coronavirus | strana.ua

They threaten Donbas with an attack, yet they fight virus with garlic | naspravdi.info

No one to fight the virus: Russia risks catching the COVID-19 from Ukraine | naspravdi.info

Coronavirus will sink the hryvnia: what will happen to the dollar exchange rate in Ukraine | kordon.org.ua

Coronavirus or Zelensky. Who will save Akhmetov from bankruptcy? | naspravdi.info

Government resignation. Victory of the oligarchy

Shmygal of national unity | spichka.news

The Cabinet of “Soros’s children” nailed at complete inaction. What will happen next | from-ua.com

Ze end: power went to the oligarchs in Ukraine. Completely | glavk.info

Zenliansky: Political “fire-cracker” with the government resignation will not work again | nahnews.org

Voloshin: Soros’s influence in Ukraine is not gone | ukraina.ru

Spiridonov: Akhmetov becomes chief oligarch of the house, instead of Kolomoisky | ukraina.ru

Zelensky dominated by the oligarchs, is in for "riot"

Zelensky’s speech in the Rada makes the internet laugh: “He turned the mattresses in the brothel the other way” | akcenty.com.ua

“Thank you that it’s spring and I’m still here”. Social networks discuss the handshake of Zelensky and Poroshenko in the Rada | strana.ua

Kulikov explains when Avakov will be ready to challenge Zelensky | ukraina.ru

“Bla-bla-president”. Political scientist esteems the quality of Zelensky’s work | regnum.ru

Ukrainian expert predicts a bloody riot against Zelensky after his rating falls to 30% | alternatio.org

Firing Riaboshapka: inefficiency or persecution of Poroshenko

Scapegoating won’t help: Zelensky’s serious problems are only starting | newsonline24.com.ua

Zelensky tries to disentangle himself from “the collective West” | from-ua.com

Political fooling, or pots and pans fun | e-news.su

Zelensky turns around over the Atlantic | naspravdi.info

Kilinkarov: we’re in for American election with a Ukrainian aftertaste | ukraina.ru

Supplying Crimea with water

Medvedchuk: there’s no water problem in Crimea, unlike in Kherson region | from-ua.com

Crimea suffered colossal loss because of its having been a part of Ukraine | nahnews.org

New Ukrainian PM fears returning water to Crimea “not to feed the Russian military bases” | nahnews.org

Oleinik: If they succeed with land in Ukraine, water and woods will follow | ukraina.ru

US compares the Crimean stance to not recognizing the Baltic states a part of the USSR | tass.ru

Methodology

We searched for topics in 6868 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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