Hot topics of Russian disinfo: Coronavirus, Soros, IMF, and foreign governance. Issue #28

Panic over coronavirus, quarantine, and the inevitable economic crisis - these are the topics in all media. Disinformers are also holding their heart on the pulse of the events. They mixed the already bad news with their eternal themes that Ukraine has long been under foreign control, completely dependent on the tranches of the IMF, the US, and the Russian ruble. And many varieties of conspiracy theories were disseminated, where the coronavirus is the result of the bioterrorism of some country. In their world, deputies of Servant of the People who are “faithful to Soros” oppose peace in Donbas, while in the West an anti-Russian campaign is going on, and the creation of an "advisory board" in Minsk is at the same time associated with the refusal to make peace and the capitulation to Russia.

Period: March 9–15, 2020

Topics of disinformation, 9—15 March 2020
Topics of disinformation, 9—15 March 2020

Ukraine panics because of coronavirus and quarantine

Coronavirus expectedly continues to be the top manipulative news topic. Disinformers continue to sow panic, pull out of the context phrases of politicians for clickbait headlines ("All Ukrainian pensioners will die of coronavirus. The Ministry of Health warned"), they even make panic assumptions ("Kherson MP could bring coronavirus to Kherson?"). All this together with the emotional "In our country, the life of an ordinary human worker is completely devalued, a person is raised to the rank of biomass!".

The problems with communication by the authorities about the quarantine give rise to the spread of manipulations by Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues. On the one hand, they emphasize that "the introduction of quarantine since March 12 is unsystematic and unprepared," on the other, they spread the thesis that "there were no objective grounds for quarantine" or, on the contrary, that it was too late ("It’s already clear to everyone that we would not succeed to prevent the spread the coronavirus. But introducing quarantine is good for nothing now. It will achieve nothing." And once again coronavirus was used to criticize the medical reform ("the only thing that really needs to be done by the government right now is to stop the medical reform, not to declare the senseless quarantine").

The restrictions on mass gatherings and protests in Ukraine were explained solely for the benefit of "in the meantime, adopting the law on the sale of black soils to the West." They added their own conspiracy theories ("Viral outbreaks are Israeli bioterrorism" and the coronavirus is a tool "for redistributing assets and finances from one people to others").

“Even the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, realized that something wrong was happening, and he said that the city’s authorities were “ahead of the curve” (translated into Russian, they kindle panic among those people who are panicking yet)

Currency plummets, crisis, and default

The panic around the coronavirus heightens the discourse on the imminent economic crisis in Ukraine. Ukrainian manipulative media once again quoted Dubinsky and his forecasts of default, turning it into a blatant lie in the headlines: "The President’s team made an emergency statement:" There will be a default ... ". OPFL, in the best populist traditions, at the same time calls for the adoption of a social support package and the necessary measures to counteract the economic crisis. Manipulators do not forget to intimidate people with apocalyptic predictions about the fall of the hryvnia: "at best, the national currency will devalue twice this year, to the rate of about 50 UAH per dollar. In the worst case, up to 70-80 UAH per dollar." At the same time, they call for actions that can harm the banking system: "you need to go to the bank and urgently withdraw money, change it to foreign currency and put it under your mattress".

Both manipulators and Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics were writing a lot about the reasons for not receiving the IMF tranche. Mostly, it was thought that this would happen "in connection with the resignation of the government of Oleksi Honcharuk subordinate to George Soros." (In fact, one of the major demands of the IMF, regardless of the government, is to adopt a law that will prevent the return of PrivatBank to its former owners, including Igor Kolomoisky). Among other reasons, they mention National Bank’s actions and even fantasized that “we are very strongly connected to the Russian ruble ("It was the abrupt disappearance of Russia as a major importer of our products that led to the impoverishment of our population"). In fact, exports to Russia have fallen significantly since the start of its military aggression, from $15.1 bln in 2013 to $ 3.7 billion in 2018.

Russian mainstream publications have added to the causes of the Ukrainian economic crisis the inevitable disintegration of the EU which will lead to major problems for “eurointegrated” Ukraine”.

Ukraine, a puppet of the US and IMF

Again, Ukraine is just a puppet in the games of the US and IMF (and George Soros personally). This is the opinion of both Ukrainian manipulative publications and Russian websites targeting Ukrainian topics. To support this thesis, last week, Ukrainian manipulators disseminated a quote by Putin that "US authorities want to keep Ukraine under foreign governance, but so that Russia would pay for it." And Russian sites have continued to fantasize on the topic of "Ukraine's interference" in the US elections and to disseminate the thesis about the crisis in relations with the West because of the change of Ukraine’s government.

Let us recall how the thesis on the external governance of Ukraine evolved with the coming to power of Zelensky until the resignation of the Honcharuk government. Here's the perfect quote:

The team of Zelensky was formed by curators from the United States, and Kolomoisky also participated, putting his man at the head of the president’s office. Trump's team was busy with internal issues and basically did not interfere in the affairs of Ukraine. The formation of power structures under the new president involved the irreconcilable opponents of Trump, the Democrats, and his enemy in the economic field, Soros, who controls the IMF. Together, they placed their henchmen in key posts. The state was completely subordinated to the “Soros’s children” working not for Ukraine, but in the interests of the Democrats and Soros. One of their main tasks was preparing the introduction of the land market and selling the remaining assets of Ukraine into the hands of international corporations behind Soros”.

Riot against Yermak: "advisory board" and deputies' resistance to capitulation

One of the highlights of last week was the creation of an “advisory board” in Minsk. Representatives of the militant separatists may be a part of the board. Part of the clickbait sites convinces their readers that the latest news from Minsk is irrelevant and that "Zelensky prepares to refuse to implement the Minsk agreements". They criticize the Ukrainian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration: "It should be borne in mind that all Ukrainian career diplomats are deficient by default: their basic qualification is Russophobia," a pro-Russian clickbait site writes. Other clickbait sites, by contrast, state unequivocally that the latest arrangements are a complete capitulation to Russia.

Manipulators are stubbornly trying to get Ukraine back to discussing the Russian language in Ukraine. This was used even in discussions of the Minsk agreements: "By the way, in 2014, the uprising in Donbas and Crimea began after the Rada tried to repeal the law on languages." In 2014, the Rada abolished Yanukovych's controversial law, and it was abolished after the Russian military already began occupying Crimea. At the same time, the Rada Committee considered the amendments by the pro-Russian MP Maxim Buzhansky to the language legislation.

Clickbait sites also wrote about deputies "who swore allegiance to Soros" and who "opposed the latest feats on the peace process in Donbas." That is, deputies of the Servant of the People who protested against the controversial arrangements of the chairman of the President’s Office Yermak in Minsk.

It was the Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues who wrote most on the topic of negotiations with Russia and Russian-controlled militants. They focused on two narratives about Ukraine. The first is Zelensky's “ship riot”. The second is "The road to peace is blocked by radical nationalist gangs." Meanwhile, they write about the occupied territories: "The Donetsk People's Republic is developing at a rapid pace, despite the constant pressure from Ukraine."

In the first narrative, there was a lot of news about the clash with the National Security and Defense Council head’s advisor, Serhiy Syvokho, and protests by deputies of the Servant of the People, “the president has already been challenged from within his party. It is unclear how he will respond to it, though the incident with Syvokho indicates that there will be no particular reaction. He has nothing to respond with". In the second narrative, there were the news items stating that the “advisory board” in Minsk is irrelevant and is only a technical issue: “But a terrible fuss began on this issue. Viatrovych writes about state treason. Troubadours of the war party are writing angry posts."

Leading Russian media are pleased with the progress in Minsk and do not hide that they perceive the events as "legalization of the militants": "It is noted that within the powers of the new body there will also be a direct dialogue between Donbas and Ukraine." But they still doubt Zelensky's intentions to move on: "Zelensky repeats the path of his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, who came to the conclusion that it is better not to touch the Donbas theme at all, but to leave it in a frozen state."

Also this week

Nationalists allegedly stoned the Lviv - Moscow train (the Ukrainian Railways company says that such hooliganism happens periodically with different trains). A march of volunteer fighters took place in Kyiv, where "radical bards perform patriotic hymns extremely poorly" and prepare "pogroms" in Kyiv. In reality, a peaceful action of veterans took place. The first trial of terrorists who shot down the plane took place in the vicinity of Amsterdam. There, Russia continues to deny responsibility: "the court will be biased and will use as evidence audio and video materials of unknown origin, posts on social networks and testimony of unknown witnesses." The Russian media have argued their skepticism towards the Dutch court that an "anti-Russian campaign" is taking place in the West. Finally, the manipulators scoff at Vakarchuk who left the post of leader of the Holos party, and scoff at the party itself.

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

Ukraine panics because of coronavirus and quarantine

The main question: What can authorities offer to Ukrainians in the fight against the virus, besides the quarantine? | ua24ua.net

Ukraine sells masks for foreign currency, people will be left without means of protection. Details of the international scandal | politeka.net

Coronavirus in Ukraine: Zelensky and the “children of Soros” to pull very scary deals in Ukraine | politnavigator.net

«Not to let the pest through»: Zhirinovky calls to seal the Ukraine border hermetically | ukraina.ru

Currency plummets, crisis, and default

Trigger pulled: the National Bank can no longer save the hryvnia, currency exchange places close their doors | ukrainianwall.com

«Go to the bank and withdraw your money»: Businessman advises Ukrainians what to do with their deposits | nahnews.org

Ukraine: economic crisis, at the background of budget and utility crises | naspravdi.info

To redeem a part of the IMF debt: Ukrainian land sold, lot by lot | e-news.su

Coronavirus will deliver the fatal blow to dying Ukrainian economy | politnavigator.net

Ukraine, a puppet of the US and IMF

Putin bites at the US because of Ukraine blaming “They use Russian money to..." | politeka.net

Expert: US used Ukraine against Russia | newsmir.info

The West rings the alarm: Oligarchs strive for power in Ukraine again | nk.org.ua

Ukraine between the rock and hard place of US presidential election | naspravdi.info

Riot against Yermak: "advisory board" and deputies' resistance to capitulation

Zelensky’s team seek peace at any price (Opinion) | kordon.org.ua

Donetsk People’s Republic tells of its rapid economic growth under war and blockade | nahnews.org

Zelensky’s ship riot. Will there be consequences? | ukraina.ru

Russian side thinks that Ukraine de facto started to recognize the authorities of Donbas | nahnews.org

Zelensky puts aside the issue of Donbas, retracing the path of Poroshenko | riafan.ru

Also this week

“Prepare your stupid faces for answers!” Portnov publishes Vakarchuk’s dirty laundry | u-news.com.ua

The MH17 process reveals the Western media’s dirty anti-Russian campaign | politnavigator.net

Unknown pseudo patriots stone the Lviv - Moscow train | nahnews.org

Ukraine is ruled by the Servants but not of the People but of the oligarchs and Nazis | e-news.su

«Zelensky will not save anything»: they acknowledge in Kyiv that Ukraine has no future | naspravdi.info


We searched for topics in 7463 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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