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Either good things or nothing about Kravchuk. Disinfo monitor #48

  • Discrediting Ukrainian troops with fake allegations of shelling
  • Assuring that the mercenaries did not come to carry out a coup in Belarus
  • Defending or neutrally commenting on the appointment of Kravchuk to the tripartite contact group
  • Threatening that Russia would supply weapons to militants (which it does anyway)
  • Accusing the US of undermining competition in Europe's energy market with sanctions
  • See how disinformation topics have changed throughout the year in our interactive visualization

Period: July 27 — August 2, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Provocations, fakes, manipulations about the cease-fire

The cease-fire established last week is accompanied by fakes and manipulations by Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues. They start with allegations that it was "Russia who forced Ukraine to establish a cease-fire in Donbas," and end with comments on violations of the cease-fire. Disinformers wrote mostly about "violations" by the Armed Forces, while the firing by the militants recorded on the first day of the cease-fire was called an "infoprovocation." However, manipulators argued this with words from "observers from the DPR representation at the Joint Monitoring and Coordination Center" (JMCC), that is, they did not prove it. But note that in 2017, the Russians officially left the JMCC, and since then the only legal representatives of the Center are exclusively representatives of the Armed Forces, while the militants actually created a "clone" of this organization, and under its cover they publish "their" information, which is also readily picked up and disseminated by Russian mainstream sites. Read more about the situation around the JMCC here (in Ukrainian).

In addition to accusations against the Armed Forces that the army was violating the ceasefire by "releasing more than 50 rounds of ammunition on the territory of the DPR" or "throwing several grenades at the People's Militia positions," Russian disinformers argued that the Ukrainian military were doing everything possible to prevent their violations being recorded by the OSCE. The accusation goes that either "the fire was conducted using silent firing devices, in order to prevent the OSCE SMM from recording the incident" or that "the shelling by the Armed Forces if Ukraine began immediately after the departure of the OSCE drone with which the mission controlled the cease-fire." In this way, they actually legitimize their own fakes, showing the OSCE as a neutral party which is deceived by the Ukrainian military, and thus explaining the lack of information about fake shelling in the OSCE reports. It will be added that fakes about the Ukrainian army have been disseminated since the beginning of the war in Donbas, especially during the times of negotiations and cease-fires.

And, in order to finally discredit the Armed Forces, the accusations of non-fulfilling the cease-fire were supplemented by vivid descriptions of how "Ukrainian criminals deliberately set fire to dry grass, with the intention of spreading the fire."

Wagner mercenaries were in Belarus by chance, Russia demonstrates its "friendliness" by threatening

Last week, 33 fighters of a Russian private military company were detained in Belarus. Some of them fought in eastern Ukraine and have Ukrainian citizenship. The detainees and Russian officials had different explanations for what the mercenaries were doing in Belarus. Some explained that they were supposed to "sunbathe ... to see St. Sophia Cathedral," others said they were supposed to guard facilities in one of Latin American countries. Belarus suspects that the mercenaries planned to interfere in the election of the President of Belarus.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues called the detention "a talentless and unconvincing show." And they were convinced that Russia "has never in its recent history tried to change government anywhere in its interests." Russia probably has a very short historical memory, because in October 2016, Russian intelligence tried to carry out a military coup in Montenegro.

Leading Russian sites contemplated a lot about how to maintain the "friendliness" of Belarus with the help of stories of Russia's economic success. But in the end they came to a time-tested formula for Russia's foreign policy, threats. They wrote that without Russia, "the Belarusian economy will be left in shreds" in a few months.

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Either good things or nothing about Kravchuk

Leonid Kravchuk, who headed the Ukrainian delegation to the Minsk Tripartite Contact Group (TCG) instead of Kuchma, was hardly ever criticized by Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues. Often, on the contrary, they defended him, describing how nationalists threatened him: "Together with Kravchuk, Korchinsky named a number of other persons who should become targets of nationalist revenge."

They also quoted a lot an excerpt from Kravchuk’s interview with RBC-Ukraine about "readiness for compromises in Donbas", summing up that the Minsk "negotiation process has turned into a conversation" and that is why Kravchuk fits in perfectly, because he is “known exactly for empty talking he learned long ago in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine." It is still unclear how the first president of Ukraine will influence the work of the TCG, but earlier we noted that Kravchuk had often played up to Russian disinformers, giving his "expert" comments even in Skabeeva's propaganda show. By the way, he has already given her a comment after the appointment.

Also this week:

“They aren’t there” but they can stop being ashamed

The comment of a deputy of the State Duma that Russia can now "stop being ashamed of supplying weapons to the DPR and LPR" due to military assistance to Ukraine from the United States was disseminated by Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues. It was presented as a great humanitarian gesture, reminding how "Moscow has repeatedly stated that it has nothing to do with the internal Ukrainian confrontation and called on Kyiv to cease hostilities." However, they forgot to add that Russian troops and Russian weapons have been actively part of the war on the territory of Ukraine from the very beginning. For example, in April 2018, InformNapalm's investigation revealed more than 2,600 Russian servicemen from 99 formations of the Russian Armed Forces and other Russian security forces, as well as 50 types of Russian weapons and equipment that were secretly supplied to Donbas.

"Economy of Ukraine is significantly inferior to that of Donbas"

While Ukrainian manipulative publications produced clickbaits such as "Dollar for 25 or 45 hryvnia: how much will the currency cost by the end of the year", Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues continued to pump up the narrative of Ukrainian alleged impoverishment, contemplating "Why Elon Musk does not build his factories in Ukraine” and assuring that "Ukraine's economy is significantly inferior to that of Donbas” and that “if Ukraine continues to decline, it will soon be possible to talk about its integration into Donbass, and not vice versa." One can only guess what was the source of such "extraordinary economic growth" of the occupied territories, given that the militants moved all equipment from a third of the region's industrial enterprises to Russia.

Donbas has no socio-economic future as part of Ukraine, because Ukraine itself is degrading

US "hampers competition" by its sanctions against Nord Stream 2

As for international relations, Russian sites targeting Ukrainian topics have traditionally demonized the United States. It was written that behind the "screen of openness and respectability" there is another "face" of the United States - "the second grinning face of the lying, obsessive, and plotting American government."

One of the main "accusations" against the United States is that it opposes Nord Stream 2 and "will destroy investment in the EU's energy infrastructure." Disinformers write that the US sanctions "destroy competition" and their goal is to cause gas shortages in Europe. But they forget to say that Europe already has gas pipelines running through Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland. These can transit all the gas that the EU imports from the east. But Russia is building an alternative pipeline in order to first make existing pipelines go bankrupt. And when Nord Stream has no alternative, Russia could impose its position on the European Union and Germany.

Ukraine "prepares provocations" in Crimea

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues continue to spread the message that "Ukraine is preparing a serious provocation against the peninsula (Crimea - Texty.org.ua)." They accuse Ukraine of concentrating troops on the administrative border with occupied Crimea. And on the territory of the peninsula, Ukraine prepares its "sleeping groupings", which should "rise" in case of exacerbation. This is a continuation of the theme of the possibility of Russia's armed intervention in southern Ukraine to control the supply of water to the Crimea. According to our estimates, the probability of intervention is low, but talk about it sows panic in the Kherson region.

Summary

This week, disinformers continued to manipulate the topic of cease-fire. Last week, they accused the Ukrainian military of leaving a loophole to keep firing. During the ceasefire, monitoring showed that the militants fired twice as often and used more than just small arms. Therefore, manipulative sites have already found completely conspiracy-theory explanations that the Ukrainian military use devices for "silent shooting".

Methodology

We searched for topics in 13323 матеріалах російською мовою з:

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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