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Kiva and Shariy invent a new “civil war”. Disinformation monitor #51

  • Mentioning nationalists; opposition is afraid and overestimates
  • Independence Day’s aftertaste. How much debt and impoverishment is there?
  • More about a new “conspiracy” against the President
  • How is the water shortage in Crimea being explained?
  • Disinformation about a powerful international alliance against Lukashenko
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: August 24—30, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Lie of the week

An OPFL deputy buried alive the members of the youth wing of his own party (in his statement). "A bus with the Patriots - for Life was blocked by bandits near Kharkiv and shot dead. Preliminarily: two were killed." Police denied, no one was killed. All for the sake of a sacrificial image of lone fighters for order and stability.

Protagonist of the week

The cucumber that both ordinary journalists and manipulators fell in love with, for being cut in half with a sword by a local candidate while on Zelensky's arm. Many important events did not receive the attention that the green vegetable received.

Number of the week

How, with budget expenditures of 1.6 trillion hryvnias, of which 146 billion hryvnias go to service loans, do you make “a third” of the sum being spent to repay debts? It is necessary either to overestimate debt payments, or to underestimate expenses, or to lie on both points: "More than 250 billion hryvnia (which makes a third of the budget) was spent on debt repayment".

National Corps and the Kiva shootoff

The minibus fired at in the Kharkiv region with members of the "Patriots - For Life" movement caused a great resonance among Ukrainian manipulators. They wrote "about the brutal massacre", which "literally shocked not only Ukrainians, but also the world community." The main excitement was around the publications of the leaders of OPFL and Shariy who wrote about two dead people and one abducted (the police refuted) and blamed the National Corps, organization of extreme right-wing views, which consists of veterans of the regiment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs "Azov" (who denied their involvement). Manipulative sites constantly mentioned the National Corps activists in their headlines, although there is no official confirmation of this. The only person who partially hinted at a possible involvement of right-wing radicals was Anton Gerashchenko, who noted that the conflict took place "between two groups of supporters of different political forces."

Note that although Kiva says that "the basis of criticism of the party leaders of the OPFL is that we profess a religion of peace, order, prosperity, the fight against chaos and madness," the movement "Patriots - For Life" which he created is actually a militarized group led by the former commander of a special purpose military division, and later organization "Eastern Corps" Oleg Shiryaev (under whose leadership the ex Azov unit "Eastern Corps" had started the conflict with the National Corps). Also, after the incident, Kiva promised in a not very peaceful way that "they will strengthen their ranks" and "those involved will be severely punished", so we shall expect new violent conflicts with the participation of the representatives of "order, prosperity, the fight against chaos and madness."

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues also unequivocally accused the National Corps of everything, traditionally frightened their readers with"aggressive nationalism", argued that these events “should be seen as a reflection of the processes taking place in the violent accompaniment of Ukrainian political processes” and produced headlines such as: “Will the future of Ukraine be decided in bloody street fights?", "Is civil war spreading across Ukraine?”" or “A new frontline. The war came to Ukraine from Donbass." The cause of the incident was named: Biletsky's alleged personal feud with Kiva due to the formation of a paramilitary wing of the OPFL: "The notorious monopoly for the street. For six years no one opposed them at all. Everyone knew who to turn to when it came to the street phase. This is both politics and business. And now, there are competitors who break into the "market". The reaction which followed was really in the style of the wild 90s."

Trying to prove there’s nothing to celebrate on the Independence Day

This week, disinformers continued to mock the celebration of Ukraine's Independence Day. They used this pretext to continue to advance their theses on "external governance." What features of "external management" did they see? "Ukraine will give away [this is about a memorandum on the EU loan - Texty.org.ua] supervisory boards at state-owned enterprises and will let foreigners into the commission for the selection of judges."

“Foreigners” on supervisory boards and commissions for the selection of judges of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court are needed to make the selection process independent of Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs. Foreigners are offered as independent professionals, as opposed to local lobbies. Read here why the accusations make no sense. In general, why are foreign experts needed in the state-owned companies and public councils? The point is not that they are smarter or less corrupt than Ukrainians. The point is that they have no local interests and are thus harder to manipulate, because they are backed by powerful international organizations.

In addition to manipulations about "external management", Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues voiced false figures for Ukraine's debts. For example, they quoted ex Prime Minister Azarov as saying that "more than UAH 250 billion (that is, a third of the budget) went to repay debts." In fact, in 2020, only 146 billion hryvnias are to be spent on debt repayment. And this comprises only 9% of the 2020 budget expenditures. It can be seen that the debt to GDP ratio rose sharply in 2014, when Ukraine suffered from the economic crisis provoked by the embezzlement of the Yanukovych regime (with the participation of Azarov himself), Russian military aggression, and an economic blockade.

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Ukraine “meddles” in Belarus’ domestic affairs while Russia offers “integration”

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues have one explanation for the protests in Belarus, namely "external intervention." They continue to accuse both Ukraine of allegedly wanting to create a "geopolitical bloc to confront Russia" and Poland together with Lithuania of “meddling”. But, of course, the "puppet masters" from the United States are behind all of these.

Disinformers often wrote about the protests in Ukraine in 2013-2014 as a horror story for Belarusians. Sometimes they reached the point of absurdity: "as a result of the Maidan in Ukraine, more than a thousand law enforcement officers were hospitalized, dozens died - from bullets, knives, various injuries." History does not know such facts, according to official data, about 400 security officers were injured, not all of them were hospitalized.

Disinformers also threatened that "we will never allow Belarus to be turned into what Ukraine has become today." After the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine became a democracy in which competitive elections were held twice and the government changed twice, not to mention important economic, anti-corruption, medical, educational, and security reforms. There has been no change of government in Belarus and Russia for more than 20 years. It seems that it is exactly a democracy that Russia will not allow Belarus to “be turned” into.

As for the reasons for the protests, leading Russian websites accused Lukashenko of splitting the Belarusian society “united in its desire for integration with Russia, supporting and spreading the ideology of "Lithuanianness" (meaning the desire for independence of Belarus - Texty.org.ua). In this united Belarusian society, there were 7.7% of residents who would like an "integration" with Russia.

In the end, disinformers were able to briefly describe the main credo of Russian foreign policy: "There are pro-Russian communists, liberals, conservatives, imperialists, and so on indefinitely." Ideology, origins and goals of political movements do not matter to them. The only thing that matters is the willingness to listen to Moscow.

Also this week:

Impoverishment all over the country

Disinformers developed the topic of constant impoverishment in Ukraine. Due to the bankruptcy of Arkada Bank, a "bank domino effect" was predicted, the economic crisis was linked to external governance (“all strategic decisions are made by the board of directors of the East Ukraine Company. The country is governed through supervisory boards, embassies and trained monkeys that have settled in large Soviet buildings on Grushevsky street and Bankova street”).

No water shortage in Crimea, water just get lost on its way

As for Crimea, Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues clung to Kravchuk's phrase: "If a humanitarian catastrophe happens that is related to water, we can give people water," but tried to present it as if the Ukrainian side were almost begging Russia for the right to supply water to Crimea.

Of course, in Ukraine they are dreaming about a global drought coming to Crimea, and they will give us water as master's mercy”.

Anti-presidential conspiracy theories

Ukrainian manipulative media promoted, under the guise of an inside, the thesis of the conspiracy of Poroshenko, Tymoshenko, and Kolomoisky with Medvedchuk in order to "remove President Volodymyr Zelensky from office." "The catalyst for Medvedchuk's adherence to Poroshenko-Kolomoisky's proposal" was Zelensky's flirtation with the radicals and ignoring the "attack on the opposition." However, in other versions, instead of Kolomoisky and Tymoshenko, Avakov was already added to the list of alleged conspirators. Disinformers proved their fantasies with phrases like "the unification of Poroshenko, Medvedchuk, and Avakov, though temporary, is not a phantasy."

Local election: the east and Kyiv

All-Ukrainian and regional websites write about the chances, teams, and campaigns of the main candidates. Negative materials with signs of being paid for (a disseminated publication which is clearly in the interests of another candidate) concerned Klitschko and the chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk regional council Oliynyk. Materials in favor of pro-Russian forces speculate about attempts to "prevent" the OPFL from running in the elections. According to their version, it would be thus more profitable for Zelensky and Poroshenko to "divide" the south and east of the country. Manipulative publications and Russian sites actively emphasize that the "Servant of the People" is rapidly losing its ratings and no longer counts on victories. The president is accused of "touring" in support of his party. On one of the Russian sites targeting Ukraine, there was a material headlined "Zelensky starts eating at McDonald’s for pre-election PR".

Summary

This monitoring is very similar to the previous issue: Belarus, "external governance", and political aggravation before the local elections. The theses of Russian disinformation that we have been observing for more than a year target the all-Ukrainian scale and foreign policy, perhaps that is why we do not yet see egregious cases of propaganda for local elections. "External governance" is presented as a general weakness of the government, which is predicted to fail in the polling stations this October.

Instead, pro-Russian forces are trying to arouse their constituents’ sympathy: they are being "killed" by terrible nationalists, the authorities are allegedly obstructing their campaigns; and this comes after a barrage of materials about "the only reasonable political alternative."

Methodology

We searched for topics in 16675 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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