Coup or federalization? Disinformation monitor #53

  • Inspection with representatives of the occupionists and its recall provoked waves of fakes in the occupied territories
  • Manipulations on water supply to the occupied Crimea continue
  • Zelensky became so similar to his predecessor that he is claimed to prepare a "coup d'etat"
  • But another "putsch" is also being prepared against Zelensky himself, so disinformers side with Yermak after Bohdan's interview
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: September 7—14, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Protagonists of the week

“200 militants” from Ukraine are “able to paralyze the whole of Belarus”. Such news citing the Security Council of Belarus were scavenged by disinformation media, although the topic was also covered on leading sites. The 200 militants are allegedly the 200 more Wagner mercenaries not detained in July.

Prediction of the week

“Biden’s victory would be disastrous because socialist thugs would come to power, who will plunge the country into the abyss of social populism and quickly finish off the country.”

Inspection in Shumy: fakes about shellings and unwillingness to have peace

This week, manipulative sites once again tried to convince that there are some ideological reasons for the war in eastern Ukraine, apart from Russia's non-recognition of Ukrainian independence: “For the leadership of Ukraine, no lines and borders exist, as evidenced by the terrorist attacks on civilians in Donbas, the prohibition of the Russian language, St. George ribbons, Russian and Soviet symbols, holidays, traditions, culture”. There is ample evidence that the fighting in eastern Ukraine has been initiated, controlled, and supported by Russia, and that the militants are under complete control of the Russian military. To learn more, see this report.

But the main topic of the week is the anticipated "inspection" of one of the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) near Horlivka. It was initiated after one of the formal "leaders" of the militants publicly threatened to fire on the position in defiance of the recent ceasefire. As one of the Ukrainian negotiators in Minsk later reported, the "inspection" was agreed to under pressure from Putin's aide at a meeting of the Tripartite Contact Group (TCG). But at the last moment, the "inspection" was called off, citing new unconstructive demands from Russia and shelling by militants (we assume the inspection was also called off because of a wave of condemnation among Ukrainians).

Disinformers took full advantage of the vacillation: "Ukraine has disrupted a joint inspection in the area of the village of Shumy." And they claim that the formal reason for canceling the "inspection" was that the Ukrainian side demanded that the militants "provide a negative coronavirus test, a Russian or Ukrainian passport, as well as remove the abbreviation "DPR” from military insignia and IDs."

The idea of ​​the inspection itself appeared due to the disinformation by the leader of the militants Pushilin, that the Armed Forces allegedly were conducting "illegal engineering work" at a position near Horlivka. The OSCE monitoring did not record them, the trenches at those positions had been dug before the ceasefire agreements. In any case, the militants responded to "imaginary" engineering work with very real threats of shelling, and later with shelling. That is, they directly violated the Minsk agreements and the terms of the armistice, which they used to justify the desire to conduct an inspection, and later raised new waves of fakes about its cancellation. Moreover, terrorists dig trenches themselves during the truce.

Finally, disinformers commented: "They keep shaking the mythical “red lines” under Zeensky, as they did under Poroshenko". Thus, they only confirm that the authorities in Ukraine cannot ignore the point of view of the society, which is unequivocally against any concessions of the aggressor.

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Russian disinformation distorts UN claim

Manipulative sites praised Putin for "being the manager in Crimea," and Zelensky instead was accused of "dragging his feet and declaring that we will soon return Crimea," but does nothing for the deoccupation. They suggest: "Let's already admit that we lost Crimea so stupidly, so ridiculously, and so shamefully." Thus, they are trying to reconcile public opinion with the occupation of Crimea. And if they succeed with this, they will begin to promote the "normalization" of relations with Russia, the resumption of water supplies to Crimea, the lifting of the blockade and of international pressure on the aggressor country.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues develop the topic of water supply. They cite the words of a UN official on human rights: "Kyiv has a duty to ensure the preservation of economic, social and cultural rights in the peninsula." Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Emine Japarova writes that she asked for a clarification from the Office of the UN High Commissioner and received an explanation of what was said at the UN: “The media received literally the following answer: the Russian Federation as the occupying power has the main responsibility for access to water».

However, disinformers distorted the words of UN officials attributing to them what they did not say. Water scarcity in Crimea is a completely Russian problem and a Russian responsibility. It would not have arisen if the Russian military had not annexed Crimea. And now Russia needs the water, in the first place, in order to maintain a huge military contingent (read more about this in our article).

The story of the water supply to Crimea is a typical manipulation of the Ukrainian integrity. "Our people are there!" Is Ukraine then responsible for them? International law says no. Fourth Geneva Convention (Articles 55, 56, abbreviated): The occupying power must, within its means, ensure access to food, medicine, education, public health, and hygiene. The Russians accuse Ukraine of failing to meet its "obligation" to supply water to the Crimean peninsula, but this is primarily Russian responsibility as occupiers.

Bohdan vs Yemak, new exposure of corruption at the Office of President

Disinformers from Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues advocated for Andriy Yermak, whom his predecessor, former head of the President's Office accused of colluding with Russia and of corruption: “the purpose of Bogdan's "stovepiping" is to discredit Zelensky's "chief negotiator" on the "Donbas case". They also saw a benefit for Poroshenko in the internal scandals of the ruling party and the President's Office: “as it allows, before the local elections, to switch attention from numerous criminal cases against the loved himself to the betrayal and incompetence of Zelensky”.

Poroshenko's team creates all the necessary conditions for the overthrow of Zelensky”. It will be recalled that disinformers wrote for half of 2019 about the "putsch" that Poroshenko was allegedly going to stage (sometimes, together with Avakov), and before that there were "plans" of coups d'etat not to hand over power to Zelensky, and even before that there were plans to cancel the presidential election... A year passed, and nothing happened. Volodymyr Zelensky was legally elected as president, power was then transferred i a democratic manner, and there were no coup attempts.

Local elections

Poroshenko disrupted the presidential election due to a low rating, and Zelensky is disrupting the local elections. That is, if you believe the statements of the deputies of the OPFL. The "servants" are predicted to be defeated. Much of these claims come from the pro-Russian opposition, which sees itself as the victor in the southeast. Sites from Medvedchuk's orbit and Shariy's website also wrote about new candidates for mayor of Kyiv: the "Rabbit brothers" duet, known for Russian humorous TV programs of the 90s and the 00s.

Disinformers accused the renowned sociological group "Rating" of overestimating the popularity of Zelensky and the Servant of the People (“Rating” is one of the few services that are trustworthy). "The group was given two tasks: to show the stabilization of the rating of Zelensky's party "Servant of the People" within 30-35 percent and to record a significant gap between the "servants" and their closest pursuers." Meanwhile, the latest poll by the “Rating” group shows that the "Servant of the People" would now receive 25% of the votes among the voters who have decided on their choice and will come to the polls.

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues are simultaneously writing about manuals for "Maidan-3" in case of defeat of the "servants". In their articles, the elections appear mainly on a national scale. Kyiv and Odesa are mentioned separately with negative assessments of the mayors. Do not forget about the "federalization": allegedly after the local elections, the country will be governed by "regional governments".

Also this week:

"200 radicals from Ukraine" protest in Belarus

Disinformers covered the topic of Belarus in the tones habitual by now. They emphasize that Lukashenko's government is only holding its ground because of Russian backing, and they continue to write nonsense about "two hundred militants" from Ukraine, each of whom is "capable of provoking riots in a separate place, and the Belarusian law enforcement may not be sufficient to protect the entire republic at the same time». Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are protesting against the self-proclaimed President Lukashenko.

Poisoning of Navalny is a dirty trick to stop Nord Stream 2

In the field of international news, disinformers wrote a lot about the poisoning of the Russian opposition figure Navalny. Last week he came out of a coma and remembered everything that happened to him. Disinformers accused Germany of "refusing to provide the Russian side with additional information about the Navalny investigation." And behind the poisoning, they traditionally saw the shadow of the United States: "It is possible that this was done by the enemy of the gas pipeline to Germany," even though the United States has no "Novichok".

“Main” problems of Ukrainian economy: "tariff genocide" and high salaries at state enterprises

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues attacked the current leadership of Ukroboronprom, which has traditionally been accused of high salaries: "The content of the management of Ukroboronprom, where the CEO has 11 deputies, is truly "golden". Manipulative sites have repeatedly raised the issue of salaries in state-owned companies and very often manipulate it. However, the only way to attract quality managers independent from the oligarchs is to pay them a competitive salary.

Russian websites continued to write on the topic of "tariff genocide." They wrote that the IMF would force Ukrainians to pay fines and that it would take away the last pennies for utility services debts.


Russian disinformation is gradually coming to a stable interpretation of local elections. In their view, this is, first, the failure of Zelensky and his future attempts to "seize power"; secondly, the victory of the "opposition" which the government is so afraid of; and, thirdly, the division of Ukraine into regional feuds through decentralization.

The topic of the week was the planned inspection of the positions of the Ukrainian army together with the representatives of the militants because of their own unfounded statements. It is difficult to imagine what is worse: to conduct that inspection, or to initiate and then cancel it. Russian sites and sites of the occupied territories have turned the cancellation due to militant shelling and new, more brazen demands from Russia, into another "Ukraine’s reluctance to make peace" and added the traditional fakes of alleged violating of the ceasefire by Ukraine. Any inconsistent or inconsistent position opens up opportunities for disinformers. It is probably better to overturn erroneous decisions, but it is even better not to make them.


We searched for topics in 18368 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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