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Borscht for Ukrainian embassy in Yerevan. Disinformation monitor #46

  • The text of the Minsk agreements is being manipulated to justify shelling by militants
  • A martyr's image is being created for Yanukovych by criticism of Zelensky
  • American politicians are accused of "money laundering" in Ukraine
  • Confidence in the future coronavirus vaccine is being undermined
  • American foreign policy is being demonized
  • See how disinformation topics have changed throughout the year on interactive visualization

Period: July 13—19, 2020

Disinfo topics

% of news related to the topic among all mews from the group of sites

Manipulation of the week

To "transform post-Soviet republics (first of all, Ukraine) into states hostile to the Russian Federation... the largest amount of American diplomats was placed in Kyiv"

Hysterical fit of the week

"Representatives of the youth" came to the Ukrainian embassy in Yerevan and poured borscht on the wall saying "Eat it and shut up" after the Ukrainian embassy said it was "in favor of a political settlement" in Nagorno-Karabakh. And disinformers found a trace of Ukrainian nationalists: "UNA-UNSO in 1991 decided to fight on the side of Azerbaijan against Armenia." We did not find any evidence that UNA-UNSO took part in the conflict on the Azerbaijani side in an organized manner. A probable source of such statements is an old interview of UNA-UNSO member Mykola Karpiuk where he talks about the only instructor from Ukraine in Karabakh.

JFO and occupation: “punitive squads” vs “volunteers”

"As a result of adequate actions of the People’s Militia of DPR units from weapons not prohibited by the Minsk agreements, the enemy suffered losses". This is how Russian sites once again presented themselves as victims of unfulfilled Minsk agreements. However, the arrangements provided for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and a complete ceasefire; they did not mention any "non-prohibited weapons." Therefore, such a move is an outright manipulation, which, together with fakes about the shelling of civilians by the Armed Forces, which has been going on since 2014, since the start of the war with Russia.

These websites also mentioned the Ukrainian medic killed by militants on the line of contact. The medic died trying to evacuate another wounded soldier, despite security guarantees from the militants. Disinformers called the medic a "saboteur" who carried out "thoughtless instructions to mine the area." Read more here.

At the same time, manipulative sites called the Armed Forces "punitive squads", named their mercenaries "volunteers", and their own rhetorical question "Why do Ossetians with weapons in their hands stood up to defend Donbass" was answered by themselves by mentioning the "genocide" in South Ossetia and the Georgian “national radicals”. Read more about how Russia split Georgia under the guise of a "peace process" in our article. Do such theses find a response in Ukrainians? Mostly not. But they are bombarding the minds of our fellow citizens in the occupied territories. But let us recall that "external management", "IMF debt pit", "biolabs" traveled through sites created by the Russian administration in the occupied part of Donbass for years, and then - oops - also suddenly occupied Ukrainian news.

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“Zelensky is no rose and no president”

Ukrainian manipulators gave Zelensky characteristics such as: "he did not start stealing, and he did not defile himself." Kadyrov's appeal to Zelensky to apologize for his last year's interview with Gordon was also widely circulated. However, this demand was used more as an excuse to once again compare Zelensky with Poroshenko: "Honestly, could he throw in such a demand to Petro Poroshenko?", or to remind how “the current president continues to act on the instructions of overseas curators”.

And Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues added a "Be a man" demand to Kadyrov's apology demand to their headlines and also quoted Azarov who called Zelensky "no rose and no president" and nostalgically reflected on the past: "I told Yanukovych then that if more worthy people would have wanted to replace us, we could and should have left ourselves.

US politicians "laundered money" in Ukraine through foreign aid

This week, Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues wrote about money “laundering” by American politicians in Ukraine. The main source for such accusations was the film by Rudolph Giuliani. The manipulators claimed: "The money provided to Kyiv by the United States was laundered through dubious Ukrainian and American companies, including humanitarian programs."

In reality, American and European technical assistance programs for Ukraine are open and very public. They are regularly reported by the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine, and there is a separate state portal where you can find information about all projects.

In addition to the absurd allegations, the manipulators published a list of people who "laundered money": "millionaire George Soros, former US Vice Prime Minister (sic!) Joe Biden, US ambassadors to Ukraine Jeffrey Payette, Marie Jovanovich, and William Taylor" (the latter three persons testified against Trump at the impeachment hearing).

Russian disinformation shows Ukraine as an influential world power: in addition to "interference in the US elections", "Ukrainian trace" was seen by propagandists in the the escalation of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh: “The current attempts of Kiev to act as one of the parties to the conflict are dictated by the desire to remind about itself, to increase its geopolitical status in the eyes of the conflicting parties”. The accusation was prompted by a rather neutral statement by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry regarding the artillery shelling in Karabakh.

Also this week:

Preparing to discredit the coronavirus vaccine yet to be created

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues continue to spread conspiracy theories and play up to anti-vaxxers. This time, referring only to the words of an "officer of the press service of the People's Militia of the People's Republic of Luhansk", they disseminated an outright fake about the alleged testing of some American coronavirus vaccine on the Ukrainian military in Kharkiv region (without specifying the city or town). But they ended their stream of fantasy with a scare: “Emergency doctors could not help the sick. They did not know the composition of the vaccine shot. As a result, five people died." In this way, they remind of "external management" and prepare the ground for discrediting the (as yet uncreated) coronavirus vaccine.

About the "oppression" of Russian-speakers, again. Buzhansky onstage

Protests against Buzhansky's bill (which postpones the transition of Russian schools to Ukrainian language of instruction) expectedly provoked a wave of indignation from disinformers. Probably, the previous pumping up of the language issue was part of a campaign to support Buzhansky's bill. Russian manipulators competed among themselves in the skills of pumping up emotions on the already weathered topic of oppression of Russian-speakers in Ukraine. "In order to deprive the Ukrainian and Russian peoples of the possibility of a live, direct dialogue, the Kyiv regime strikes first of all at the point of unity of two cultures, the Russian-speaking Ukraine".

Crimea: water, possible military action, and "film pipes"

On the issue of Crimea, disinformers do not stop generating creative ideas on how to provide the peninsula with water. Proposals vary from the construction of "Pipes .... made of synthetic film" via which the occupiers will pump water from the Kuban, to the usual Russia’s method, threats. To justify the threats, the manipulators mention human rights, conventions on transboundary water bodies, and the history of Israel which bombed hostile Arab states.

Nord Stream 2 splits the West: Europe against US sanctions

Russian sites wrote that Nord Stream 2 is a profitable investment, not a purely political project. "There has never been a situation in the history of mankind where a profitable business in which different countries have invested billions would remain unfinished." And Europeans are afraid of Americans who want to "get into the pocket of every European taxpayer." They offer a simple solution for European Union citizens to "vote for forces in favor of a sensible economic partnership with Russia."

Minsk: opposing Russia is futile, Ukraine "obsessed"

Regarding the peace talks in Minsk, Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues promoted the idea of the futility of opposing Russia. They also accused Ukraine of "obsession." They name the source of this obsession: "the largest number of American diplomats placed in Kyiv." Even though Ukraine has not had a full-fledged US ambassador for about a year now. In May 2020, Donald Trump appointed Keith Dayton as the new ambassador but he has not yet been approved by the Senate.

Summary

In the last few weeks, disinformation has developed an emphasis on discussing a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. On the one hand, manipulators deny any such plans, and on the other hand, they threaten with weapons on every occasion. This fits into the Russian concept of warfare, when threats to use of weapons and information operations around it have the same weight as the direct use of armed forces.

They also tried to justify the recent murder of a Ukrainian medic on the line of contact, calling him a saboteur.

Another great narrative was American-Ukrainian relations. Manipulators continued to demonize the United States and accuse Ukraine of interfering in the US elections. In addition, they accused American politicians of embezzling the American aid to Ukraine.

Methodology

We searched for topics in 7016 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.

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.

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