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Hot topics of Russian disinfo: Playing the quarantine fatigue. Issue #34

  • "The community is tired of quarantine" and Ukraine is predicted to become the "main victim" of the pandemic.
  • On the anniversary of Zelensky's presidency he was criticized for being "Zelensky, not Poroshenko" and for being "Zelensky, a Poroshenko". And they were teaching him from Russia how to "end" the war in the East of Ukraine.
  • Disinformers wrote about the difficult relationship between the mayors of big cities with the central government and reiterated endless prophecies of "federalization" of Ukraine.
  • They “courted” Saakashvili for a government position and accused him of working for Soros, the oligarchs, and Avakov.
  • They sought ways to mock the medical reform, fought over a lost plant, and wrote about corruption at the Ministry of Health.

Period: April 20—26, 2020

Topics of disinformation, April 20—26, 2020
Topics of disinformation, April 20—26, 2020

Coronavirus: Coverup not to celebrate May 9th

The topic of the coronavirus is gradually subsiding in the disinformation space. Although the Ukrainian mainstream media still pay a lot of attention to it, manipulators emphasize: "the community is tired of quarantine." Therefore, they only pump up the thesis that “a major part of the people no longer know how to make ends meet” (not supporting such statements with any data) and they continue to see political reasons for quarantine until May 12th, assuming that “thus, the issue of celebrating the Victory Day is eliminated, the day which is a national holiday in Ukraine but which, over the past 6 years, has received some political color and has become one of the reasons for a heated domestic political situation in the country. "

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues believe without a basis that "Ukraine may become one of the main victims of the coronavirus pandemic in the world" and they state, as groundlessly, that "unlike all countries of the world, even including Russia, Ukraine has not allocated anything to support people and business." In fact, Ukraine has taken a number of anti-crisis measures, including tax breaks, financial support for entrepreneurs, a moratorium on tax audits, and more. In addition, the coronavirus count in Russia is 10 times higher than in Ukraine, 106500 to 10400.

Year of Zelensky: "Impossible to return to the Golden Age of Yanukovych"

Last week, almost everyone was summing up the first year of Zelensky's presidency. The focus was on the film “Year of President Zelensky”, It was discussed, along with mainstream media, by Ukrainian manipulative publications and Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics, who actively disseminated biting quotes of “experts”.

The most popular discourse among the manipulative media was to set off Zelensky against Poroshenko. The most widespread direction of criticisms of Zelensky was summed up at one of the clickbait sites: “Poroshenko voters are outraged that Zelensky is not Poroshenko. Zelensky's voters, in their turn, are outraged that Zelensky is a Poroshenko.” The second category includes the Russian media targeting Ukrainian topics, which criticized Zelensky for "a pro-NATO and pro-Western vector of a Poroshenko", which increased "confrontation with potential allies of Ukraine, such as Cuba, Belarus".

Zelensky was compared to Putin, and Ukraine to Russia: “in Ukraine, the state is being replaced with anarchy, and in Russia, with a Chekist corrupt regime. However, institutions do not work in either country, and in this sense we are really one people, as Vladimir Putin used to say.” It was suggested that the flow of disinformation against Zelensky was in fact aimed at consolidating his power, rather than discrediting him: “Zelensky is a weak president, and as such, is good for Moscow in all respects. That is why the Kremlin has been given a command to beat him, in order to consolidate the Ukrainians around its president.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues noted that, in the film, Zelensky "quoted his own children exclusively in Russian" and pretended that he was on close terms with Putin. But he was most criticized for the unresolved issue of peace in the Donbas; disinformers emphasized that Zelensky allegedly “has nothing that prevents him from not solving the Donbas issue at all (...) In fact, we were offered to wait another four years, exactly as long as remained until the end of the presidency of Zelensky”. Disinformers were nostalgic for the years before the Maidan: "It is no longer possible to return to the Golden Age of Yanukovych. But at least let there be peace." Mainstream Russian media were giving the Kremlin advice to Zelensky on how to end the war in the Donbas. "Both theoretically and practically, it is possible," Peskov said. According to him, "it is enough to fulfill the sequence of steps which has been fixed in the Minsk complex of measures for quite some time".

“Following the president’s indecision, popular discontent can follow, which can easily turn into another “maidan”. After this, Zelensky will have to save his life in the Russian Federation, but it is likely that Moscow will not accept another fugitive Ukrainian president”

"Feudalization" of the state and quarantine dissidents: mayors vs the Office of the President

Ukrainian quarantine at state level has brought to the fore a conflict between central and regional authorities in several regions. Manipulators note that "the feudalisation of the country continues," and Russian disinformers write as if "the central government under Volodymyr Zelensky is using quarantine conditions to put the provinces of Ukraine in much worse conditions than in the hated Russia."

The mayors of Odesa and Kharkiv were distinguished by their "peculiar quarantine ‘dissidence’ ". Kharkiv mayor Gennady Kernes, who refused to close the subway for lockdown and kept Kharkiv bazaars open for a long time, was not mentioned last week by both Ukrainian manipulators and Russian misinformers, which is suspicious. They only noted that "to resist the Kharkov mayor in his demesne, is only possible for the representatives of OPFL, ideologically close to Kernes; but so far, they do not conflict openly."

And the mayor of Odesa Gennady Trukhanov, who also long refused to close the Pryvoz market, provoked a wave of publications about the fight for the mayor's chair and phrases by Russian disinformers like "the main question of the day is whether Trukhanov will spit on the problems of his constituents, obeying the Office of the President and possibly losing a part of his rating, or whether he will openly confront Kyiv?" or reminding of the mayor’s abandoning pro-Russian politics, as he "double-crossed all his opposition allies, agreed with Poroshenko, surrounded himself with security recruited from the Maidan Nazis, dropped the struggle for city monuments and street names."

Another "favorite" who constantly appears in manipulative articles is the mayor of the Dnipro, Boris Filatov (or “Borya the Gravedigger” as he is nicknamed on clickbait sites). His video address, in which he supported the mayors of Kharkiv and Odesa, rhetorically asking whether "new criminal suspicions during lockdown, is it fair?" was actively used by the disinformers who took this quote to reinforce the subject of federalization of Ukraine. The phrase was used to explain a conspiracy with other mayors to "stand united against the Servants of the People and the Office of the President throughout the country." Filatov even inspired Russian sites to disseminate rather uncharacteristic quotes that "under Poroshenko’s rule it was better for local self-government than now".

While the mayors of Dnipro, Kharkiv and Odessa were fighting for the right to determine independently the scope of quarantine measures, Roman Martsinkiv (mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk) was investigated because of hate speech against the Roma, inadmissible for a public figure. Thus, Martsinkiv became a perfect villain (that is, a "Nazi") for Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics. They quoted a positive reaction to his words from Iryna Farion ("if the Ukrainian nationalists were in power, they would have long put all the ‘Muscovites’ in freight-cars and would have driven them to Russia") and they decided that the negative reaction from the law enforcers was solely a result of US influence: “It is noteworthy that when earlier in Ukraine there were calls to create reservations for the residents of Donbas [there were not any - TEXTY.org.ua], no one thought to initiate criminal proceedings against the authors of such initiatives. (...) This time, a criminal case was opened after criticism from the US Embassy in Kyiv”.

As a result of the epidemic, Russian disinformers are predicting a “sovereignty parade” starting with Bukovina, where the coronavirus outbreak is strongest. This is not the first time disinformers have written about such a “parade”; they used this wording earlier when they wrote about the Kharkiv mayor's conflict with the regional head of the state administration. It is one of the typical techniques of disinformers to use any news as an excuse to promote their theses.

Saakashvili: a "brawler" who serves the oligarchs

This week, manipulators used the assumption that Mikheil Saakashvili could be appointed vice-premier for reform. They sought an approach to different audiences: supporters of the ex-president of Georgia were assured that Saakashvili would not be appointed, or he would be binded. Those who do not like the Georgian politician with the Ukrainian passport were reminded of the previous scandals, a destructive future in Ukrainian politics was predicted.

Clickbaits sites expect violent scandals from Saakashvili: “Saakashvili, in case someone has not yet understood his psychotype and his sacred role, is a provocation of justified scandals. It is a designation of the superfluous and the cunning. " Russian websites targeting Ukraine are more critical of the ex-president of Georgia and take the opportunity to disseminate the fabrications of "foreign governance": "Saakashvili into power, in order to appease George Soros and the American Democrats." They are trying to prove that Saakashvili's post is compensation for "foreign governance" for the dismissal of the Honcharuk government, which was unexpectedly resigned earlier this year.

Saakashvili is also supposedly linked up with the oligarchs. Moreover, with several at the same time. He is at once "always in the channels of Rinat Akhmetov" (we noticed this tendency), and he should help Igor Kolomoisky to get PrivatBank into his hands.

Leading Russian media wrote that Saakashvili: "will accelerate the liquidation of the team of the acting Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and will please the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the country Arsen Avakov." Blaming someone for working for Ukrainian oligarchs, Western financiers, and Arsen Avakov is a typical disinformation technique. And we do not tire of paying attention to the fact that they all have very different interests. A person cannot be a “puppet” of everyone at the same time.

"Personnel shortage" in healthcare and corrupt schemes of the new Ministry of Health

The quarantine and the coronavirus epidemic have become a great pretext for disinformers to continue to criticize medical reform in Ukraine. They often accuse the medical reform of failing to effectively address the challenges of the epidemic. In reality, the reform of specialized hospitals (for example, infectious hospitals that treat coronavirus patients) only started on April 1st. Clickbait sites write about this beginning: "The second stage of reform has started to operate, and in fact the second stage of the destruction of people."

Both clickbait sites and Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics wrote about the bankrupt plant “Burevisnyk” where they used to produce artificial ventilation devices for lungs: “That is, having the ability to produce its own ventilators, Ukraine imports them and sells the state-owned enterprise that manufactures them." The plant has not been in operation for over 10 years, it has huge debts for utilities and lacks equipment.

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian topics also widely disseminated the words of the Minister of Health Stepanov about the "personnel shortage" in healthcare and other "sins" of medical reform. They were played along by the OPFL member of parliament Ilya Kiva and the disinformers themselves who wrote about hospitals that were "given up to the arbitrariness of local authorities". Stepanov himself was reminded of the scandalous purchase of costumes for doctors at an artificially high price, of which the minister “profiteered”.

Also this week

In addition to the topics mentioned above, disinformers this week were disseminating a fake about "American bio-labs" that allegedly developed "deadly viruses," and maybe even the coronavirus. According to them, "new types of biological weapons" were tested and developed in Ukraine. In fact, Ukrainian sanitation laboratories received donor assistance from the United States. The channels of Medvedchuk and Kolomoisky disseminated this fake.

The manipulators also wrote about threats to remove Artem Sytnyk from NABU ahead of schedule. His office is referred to as a "CIA mini-affiliate" and is habitually accused of "external governance" and "extremely large-scale corruption."

Finally, disinformers have not left without their attention the Ukrainian nationalists and those whom they consider to be such (that is, almost everyone - TEXTY.org.ua). "Nationalist and fascist views remain popular in Western Ukraine because it is a manifestation of Russophobia”.

Summary

This week, Russian disinformation seemed somewhat sluggish, without a sparkle or leaps of fantasy. Perhaps, this was due to Russia's coronavirus outbreak and severe quarantine measures. However, we see a continuation of the line to deepen the differences between local authorities and the central government. The long-standing attack on advances in medical reform continues. It is especially important for Russia to discredit Ukrainian healthcare system not only because it is a vital field, but also because it was reformed by a US-born Ukrainian, Ulyana Suprun. In tactical terms, the purpose of the information attack could be to disrupt the second phase of the medical reform, which began on April 1st and is happening under the very difficult conditions of the pandemic and political indecision of the current Ukrainian authorities.

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: everyone’s tired of the lockdown but scared of May 9th

Ukraine in the lockdown slipknot: what’s wrong and not wrong with the quarantine measures extended | lifedon.com.ua

Ukrainian lockdown will get more strict, believers are to blame | bbcccnn.com.ua

The doublethink lockdown | spektrnews.in.ua

Lockdown till May 12? Korolevska warns of poverty and hunger that Ukraine is in for | nahnews.org

Ukraine will become a major victim of the pandemic. Discouraging prediction of an economist | rusvesna.su

Herman: The last day of lockdown may be the first day to hasten the end of the current government | crisis.in.ua

Year of Zelensky: "Impossible to return to the Golden Age of Yanukovych"

April 21, the day of Ukrainian loser. Experts evaluate the first year of Zelensky | antifashist.com

Lyrical blockbuster “Year of President Zelensky” as another Neanderthal in the steppe of Ukrainian politics | naspravdi.info

Year of Zelensky: We wanted it better but we got the same as under Poroshenko’s rule | naspravdi.info

“Will there be a dick playing piano”? Ukrainians comment the “Year of President Zelensky” film trailer | from-ua.com

Poroshenko caused troubles, Zelensky adds on | akcenty.com.ua

Feudalization of the state and quarantine dissidents: mayors vs Office of President

Tactical retreat. How Trukhanov closed Pryvoz and what Kernes has to do with it | kordon.org.ua

Trukhanov bends to Zelensky? | front-novorossii.ru

Mayor of Odesa who had bended to Poroshenko now tries to pose as anti-Maidanite | politnavigator.net

Scandalous Filatov springs at Zelensky: taken right in the office!| proua.com.ua

The one who promised to “hang later” acknowledges that it’s better in Russia | politnavigator.net

“Pack and remove”. Ivano-Frankivsk mayor expels local gypsies out of the city | antifashist.com

“Bravo, Ruslan!”. Farion supports the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk and calls for forced removal of not only Gypsies in freight-сars | ukraina.ru

Saakashvili: "brawler" who serves the oligarchs

“Balance against Avakov”. But what will the Saakashvili appointment result in for Zelensky? | glavred.life

Karlsson is back. Why Saakashvili is dangerous for Zelensky | skelet-info.org

Azarov. “The hideous Georgian” will assure there’s a cruel conflict inside Zelensky’s government | antifashist.com

Karasev thinks Kolomoisky plans to return PrivatBank with the help of Saakashvili | slovodel.com

Yeast in outhouse. The multifunctional Georgian is back | antifashist.com

"Personnel deficit" in healthcare and corrupt schemes of the new Ministry of Health

“Ukroboronprom” prepared for liquidation, and “Burevisnyk” state plant producing ventilators is being sold | antifashist.com

The “doctor” profession becoming extinct | naspravdi.info

Collapse of Ukrainian healthcare system will lead to a parade of sovereignties | Bukovina is out of ventilators, the infected are left to God’s will | e-news.su

Porn show, export of masks, and doctor Mengele. Main scandals of hipster Nefedov dismissed from the Customs Office | ukrrudprom.ua

Too many cooks: government imitates the fight against coronavirus?

Also this week

“Work for the West”. Vadim Karasev explains why NABU gets into scandalous incidents | pravdanews.info

Ukraine officially turned into the US testing ground for bioweapons | politnavigator.net

Spring sowing in the US biocolony | pravdanews.info

“The paw remembers”. A video from Kalush shows a veteran of SS “Galicia” division giving the Nazi salute | front-novorossii.ru

Ukrainian education produces personnel for strawberry fields, lawyer says | politnavigator.net

Methodology

We searched for topics in 12517 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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