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Hot topics of Russian disinfo: “One should want the coronavirus to result in the demise of Ukrainian state”. Issue #30

Coronavirus continues to dominate the media. It defines almost all topics, but often disinformers use it to promote their messages. Disinformers continue to sow panic and despair over the coronavirus pandemic, with some calling for an armed rebellion. Particularly emotionally, they describe the inequality of access to healthcare, exaggerate, and play on people's dislike for the "elite". Also this week, they wrote about the possibility of default, pro-Russian speeches in the parliament, Russia's "help" to Italy, IMF’s “cunning plans”, and they tried to pump up the topic of "separatism" in Ukrainian regions.

Period: March 23—29, 2020

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Topics of disinformation, 23—29 March 2020

Coronavirus count rises, economy plunges

The number of detected cases of coronavirus in Ukraine is increasing, and with it the, let’s say, degree of emotionality of texts about it increases. Last week, Ukrainian manipulative media once again repeated that "People are being tortured with closing the subway, limiting public transportation, they are being intimidated with the prospect of losing their jobs and being unable to feed their families." And although the economic crisis is gradually spreading all over the world, manipulators use this information as a scare: "people will not receive salaries in March or even April and this is just the beginning" and fantasize that "in the coming months, the most protected group of people will be pensioners and state employees, where money, although small, will be paid on time, even if the money will simply be printed".

Against this background, the manipulators along with Russian publications targeting Ukrainian topics propose to "buy up ammunition", they conclude that "a temporary dictatorship is practically inevitable" and call for "draining down the toilet all this state of noncomps and bastards." Russian disinformers supplement such calls with gossip “about the future famine” and that Kyiv, “cut off from supplies, can be left without food and medicines”.

“Can the epidemic and the following quarantine and financial and economic crisis cause revolutionary unrest that will lead to the demise of our state? Yes they can. Moreover, one should want this result”.

Coronavirus, VIP wards, fired doctors, and medical tourism

Ukrainian manipulators and Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics used almost the same set of theses to describe the state of medicine in Ukraine and unpreparedness for a rapid increase in the number of patients. Most emotionally, they wrote about inequality of access to medical services and about medical tourism of officials and deputies to Kyiv in search of better healthcare.

And although we also consider inequality of access to healthcare in Ukraine to be a serious problem (in big cities it is better than in small towns), nevertheless, manipulators played on emotions and distorted the problem by producing quotes such as "Even our raped and murdered healthcare system which works in its last breath, still only serves the elite” or “Koncha-Zaspa [the “elite” suburb of Kyiv] is doomed. It is doomed for the first time in many years to test state Ukrainian health care on its own skin." At the same time, propagandists urge readers to "rebel against the unheard-of reformers by making them, their wives, children, and lovers be treated in ordinary Ukrainian hospitals, not in VIP-wards." In fact, there are no separate expensive "infection hospitals" in Ukraine, all coronavirus patients, regardless of wealth and status, are referred to the same hospitals.

Clickbait sites manipulated with the information about individual cases of dismissal of medical staff ("Two of them got seriously ill themselves, two more have quit. In addition, one specialist of retirement age left precisely "for fear of the infection"). And Russian disinformers presented their theses with strong emotional expressions, mentioning the "Nazi patrols", the "ruling Junta" and even ridiculing the "idiotic initiative" to create masks by Ukrainian ateliers and within the Armed Forces. “And now the violent soldiers in detention, along with the drunkards of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have followed the example of aunts-embroiderers and are diligently making medical masks for their colleagues”.

Hospitals lack special equipment to help seriously ill patients, a number of healthcare supplies from Russia were stopped, in particular, vaccines for many serious diseases. Pharmacies are overflowing with imported medications of dubious quality, health workers are leaving the country en masse”.

IMF: "kneeling" and "uniting" with the oligarchs

Lately, disinformers have pumped up the topic of inevitable default as a way to get rid of “external governance”. It should be noted that public figures associated with oligarch Igor Kolomoisky do the same. This week is no exception, clickbait sites are tweeting: "The International Monetary Fund implements direct external management of Ukraine using its usual cynical methods." Instead, they propose that "the authorities should negotiate with the Russian Federation, China".

Russian websites targeting the Ukrainian audience also blame the IMF for everything and unexpectedly place the IMF in one team with the oligarchs: "President Zelensky nevertheless decided to put the country at the feet of the IMF, on Akhmetov-Pinchuk's advice." It should be noted that the oligarchs and the IMF have very different interests.

The main reason why the IMF is trying to "make Ukraine kneel” is, of course, the land: "The IMF has already stated directly that it will allocate money (as debt, at interest) only in exchange for Ukrainian black soils."

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics have also bowed to China: "NATO and European Union countries have forgotten about Ukraine. At the same time, communist China has not refused assistance to official Kyiv."

“A friendly hand”. Russia’s help to Italy

Clickbait sites were brief and exhaustive regarding Russia's behavior in the international arena: "It is Russia's fate to help humanity and to save it in times of misery." Here’s why the “Russian help” to Italy was a PR stunt.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian audiences tell about Russia’s "friendly hand" in Italy. And, along with Russia, they are actively promoting China: "Beijing - and Moscow to an extent - is acting swiftly and skillfully to capitalize on US mistakes, filling the emerging vacuum in order to take the position of global leaders in the fight against the pandemic."

In general, the focus of Russian sites on the topic is focused on China and the desire to sow conflicts among the Western countries. For example, “the Italians feel that Europe has left them in trouble. Germany including”. And all in all "both Washington and the European Union are hesitating and fail to coordinate their actions and to lead international efforts against the coronavirus." Disinformers are always trying to wreak havoc and disillusionment among Russia’s geopolitical opponents, glorifying Russia and its authoritarian allies.

Finally, Russian mainstream sites have paid a little attention to other European countries: "Same as Greeks and Bulgarians are forgetting about who freed them from the Ottoman yoke, the Poles are forgetting about who saved them from the Nazis."

Rada: a "union" of oligarchs and Soros; "defending" the Russian language

Almost the whole of last week, the Rada has been feverish, first because of the deputies who became ill with the coronavirus, and then because of the "anti-Kolomoisky" law (on the non-return of nationalized banks. Disinformers tried to promote the idea that this law would help “raiders”: “This law allows the National Bank to destroy any bank that it does not like. And no one, neither creditors, nor shareholders, nor depositors, has the right to challenge this procedure."

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues also wrote about the Verkhovna Rada. But they were more interested in two other topics: first, when Avakov would “make the coup”. "It is unclear how far Avakov's ambitions and planning horizon extends" but he may well be "the man who will have helped the fall of three presidents - Yanukovych, Poroshenko and ... Zelensky." Second, they reiterate the paranoid thesis of an alliance between Ukrainian oligarchs and Western financiers: "The oligarchy that Avakov represents includes outside players like George Soros, an American financier who has influence over Ukraine."

Disinformers supported the attempt to sneak the abolition of language quotas for TV channels into the coronavirus bill. They argue for this decision by supporting domestic channels: "These measures will allow the channels to save money in a time of crisis... and to broadcast Russian-language films and shows that have higher ratings."

And of course, there had to be comparisons with Hitler and Nazi atrocities. As for the petition for "free use of the Russian language" which was signed by 111 people in two weeks (as of 15:00 April 2), the Russian media wrote: "It is as if, in the 1940s, the "progressive German public" demanded from Hitler to guarantee free development of Jewish culture within Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and other places of compact settlement of the national minority". Here they are talking about online petitions to Zelensky about the law on school education that requires teaching in Ukrainian language.

"Feudal rally" in Ukraine

After Kernes quarreled with the Kharkiv governor last week, disinformers are again pumping up the theme of the "feudal rally". Clickbaiters write: "the new government has completely lost the fight to the old cadres, having in the meantime delivered the largest cities of the country to the control of the oligarchs."

This is about Zelensky's decision to instruct Ukrainian oligarchs to tackle the epidemic in various Ukrainian regions. With their own money, of course. The clickbaiters are convinced that there will be payments for this: "at the next local elections, the LIFT [a play of words on the name of the project of “social lifts" by the team of Volodymyr Zelensky - Texty.org.ua] will lift the right people."

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues readily use medieval metaphors: "Kyiv authorities give away 14 out of 24 regions of Ukraine (without Crimea), leaving ten as the royal domain." They paid particular attention to the confrontation between the mayor of Dnipro and the local head of the State Administration "If the sentiments in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions are so similar, then we should expect their rapid spread to other regional elites of Ukraine." The disintegration of Ukraine is an old thesis of Russian disinformation. It was particularly widespread in 2014 during the armed attack. It is not surprising, therefore, that any conflicts in the country's democratic political life are used to create the illusion of Ukraine's artificiality and its disintegration soon.

Russian leading sites are also trying diligently to find separatism in Ukraine: "forcing the president to do something, this is, of course, not de jure separatism, but de facto separatism," they comment on Kernes's conflict with the head of the Kharkiv regional State Administration. In addition to politics, they also write about people. To be more precise, about "rabble", "bastards", "tiers etat" The authorities are allegedly about to cancel the local elections in the fall of 2020 and to leave the old regional elites in power. Who will allegedly rule the rattle.

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 count rises, economy plunges

Pandemic, hunger, Nazis. The new reality of Ukraine under quarantine | naspravdi.info

Kyiv uses quarantine as a pretext not to celebrate the Victory anniversary | front-novorossii.ru

ZE authorities are a threat to the health of millions, we need to buy up more ammunition - Semenchenko | ua24ua.net

Klitchko closes markets illegally to serve the big chains | finoboz.net

The authorities themselves are creating a revolutionary situation. Ukraine needs a temporary dictatorship - Kochetkov | ua24ua.net

Avakov doesn’t rule out famine in Ukraine as a result of the coronavirus pandemic | nahnews.org

Coronavirus, VIP wards, fired doctors, and medical tourism

Medical tourism to Kyiv. The rich, officials, and their wives from all regions gather in Kyiv hospitals | antikor.com.ua

“Nazi muzzles” with national embroidery are being made in Ukraine because of coronavirus (PHOTO) | rusvesna.su

Ukrainians rebel against the Maidan leaders. New revolution kicks into high gear | akcenty.com.ua

Officials have been “constructed” and robbed Ukraine for years. Now they will have to feel state healthcare system with their own bare skins | antikor.com.ua

They know they are doomed. They will have to live and be treated in the Ukraine which they constructed for us - opinion of a Kyiv resident (PHOTO) | rusvesna.su

IMF: "kneeling" and "uniting" with the oligarchs

Western “partners” turn away from Ukraine amidst epidemic | politnavigator.net

“The country will be cut up along the Curzon line”. Political scientist makes a dark prediction for Ukraine related to coronavirus | antifashist.com

Savchenko calls the IMF tranche “a gulp of air before the death” of Ukrainians | riafan.ru

Ukraine’s discouraging forecast regarding the economic future of the country | riafan.ru

Medvedchuk believes one should negotiate with Russia and China, not the IMF | znaj.ua

Russia’s help; soldiers, crap, and cheap PR

Why the West looks for a catch in Russia’s help to infected Italy | e-news.su

Russia helps the country left to the coronavirus by IMF and the West | rusvesna.su

Poland: a political virus added to the coronavirus | naspravdi.info

Macron advises Italians “not to get drunk” on Russia’s and China’s help | life.ru

White House uses the pandemic against China | naspravdi.info

Rada: "union" of oligarchs and Soros, "defending" the Russian language

Coronavirus kills off the Verkhovna Rada. Third deputy infected | bbcccnn.com.ua

“Legalizing the National Bank’s and Find Deposit Guarantee’s raidering” - Dubinsky opens the eyes of of Ukrainians on the banking law | znaj.ua

Viatrovych finds an anti-Ukrainian conspiracy in the fight against coronavirus | politnavigator.net

Zelensky starts a war on the Russians of Ukraine | e-news.su

Ex deputy of Rada tells of panic within the parliament of Ukraine | regnum.ru

"Feudal rally" in Ukraine

Dnipro gambit. Filatov fighting against coronavirus also fights Pinchuk | expres.life

Tsarev describes how exactly the coronavirus will lead to a “creeping federalization” of Ukraine | pravdanews.info

Ukraine turns into a service for the oligarchs | politnavigator.net

Kernes checks on Zelensky’s efficiency | pravda.ru

Methodology

We searched for topics in 12 745 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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