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The country will break into shatters. Disinformation monitor #54

  • OPFL “fights” for the rights of voters of the East and lies about decentralization
  • Zelensky and his party to lose local elections while Poroshenko gains influence in Kyiv
  • Zelensky being frightened with resignation and a “coup”
  • Lukashenko “fights” against Western meddling via Russian meddling
  • Disinformers over exaggerate the deficit of the new budget
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: September 14–21, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Quote of the week

Thus, the Czech Republic has become a resource hub, Poland an incubator of media channels and a platform for alternative bodies in exile, Lithuania a "ram" of Belarusian-European relations, and Ukraine an outpost of political provocations.

Filth of the week

“Zelensky says “yeah, wench!” and provincial Iryna Vereshchuk will be the ruling party’s competitor for the chair of mayor of Kyiv”

OPFL "fights" for the rights of voters in the East and demands resuming economic ties with Russia

This week, Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues wrote a lot about the Opposition Platform. They used statements by the party's leaders to advance their theses on the "federalization and feudalization" of Ukraine, accusing the central government of "Kyiv increasingly acting as a neocolonial administration that serves the interests of external curators rather than Ukraine." What does this have to do with the regions? It is "lack of money caused by the scarcity of the state budget and the reduction of subsidies and preferences." In reality, the situation is just the opposite. After decentralization, communities received 60% more money and many new powers to solve local problems.

Disinformers promoted the issue of refusing local elections in some frontline communities. "OPFL is consistently fighting for the return of the right to vote for 500,000 residents of Donbas who were forcibly deprived of the opportunity to elect local authorities." The idea of canceling local elections in frontline communities raises many questions, but the manipulators are trying to present it as if they are directed exclusively against the Opposition Platform - For Life (OPFL) popular in the region. Read more about the situation here.

Servant of the People ready to lose local elections

Attention to the upcoming local elections in Ukraine is gradually growing. Disinformers comment on the future of the Servant of the People party most of all, and they predict its defeat at all levels. They accuse President Zelensky of failing to break the "cement" of feudalism, that is, of failing to impose his power on mayors and local councils in regions that do not belong to the presidential vertical.

They argue that Petro Poroshenko is trying to "limit Klitschko's influence with Kyiv only" and that’s the reason why Poroshenko declares the support of Klitshcko in the mayoral election. Disinformers write about Poroshenko and his wife who headed the list of European Solidarity (ES) in the Kyiv City Council: "the task of the Family is to strengthen the position of the ES party and gain political and financial control over the capital with its budget of 5 billion." In Ukraine, the wording "Family" is strongly linked to Viktor Yanukovych's entourage and is associated with brazen corruption and embezzlement. It was never before used regarding Poroshenko.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues wrote about the behind-the-scenes process on the eve of Iryna Vereshchuk's nomination for mayor of Kyiv from the Servant of the People party. “Zelensky says “yeah, wench!” and provincial Iryna Vereshchuk will be the ruling party’s competitor for the chair of mayor of Kyiv”

As for other cities, disinformers especially often mention Kharkiv, where the current mayor Gennady Kernes is down with coronavirus. Since he may withdraw from the campaign, they offered to "look closely at the nominee from OPFL, a well-known Kharkiv businessman and philanthropist Alexander Feldman." An almost conspiratorial theory has been drawn up about the country's West: "it is no coincidence that the most severe quarantine measures have been used in the areas most opposed to the Kyiv authorities." According to official data, until recently, the largest outbreaks of coronavirus happened in western Ukraine. And they were to be kept at bay with quarantine restrictions. Which does not refute the fact that quarantine in Ukraine works quite chaotically and causes a lot of dissatisfaction. However, stricter quarantine in the West is easy to explain. There are more sick people there.

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Zelensky: resignation and "coup"

Almost from the very beginning of Volodymyr Zelensky's presidency, disinformers have predicted his imminent resignation, or even a "coup." There is no real, confirmed conspiracy, however, the manipulators like the topic, perhaps using Zelensky's fears to set him up to prosecute Poroshenko, against whom many criminal proceedings have been started. Law enforcers are also accused of "preparing a coup": "there is a large group of people within government structures and law enforcement agencies in Ukraine who are dissatisfied with the current head of state and ready to join the coup." Behind whom, the figure of Poroshenko is "looming".

In addition to the president, Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues have paid a lot of attention to the head of his office, Andriy Yermak. "Yermak got scared of Poroshenko bots’ campaign unleashed on the topic of "betrayal" of the head of the president's office in the case of the Wagner mercenaries”. And they are disseminating unconfirmed rumors from anonymous Telegram channels that Yermak wants to get the position of "vice president" which does not exist in Ukraine. Allegedly, in this way Yermak wants to keep his place in politics when Zelensky would be "brought down".

Russia's mainstream sites cling to Andriy Bohdan's phrase in an interview with Gordon: "we sold him hard" against the Russian president. They presented it as if it were the Ukrainian government and the president who were to blame for the war in the East and the annexation of Crimea. And Russia was only a "peaceful" observer, who even suffered from the actions of Ukraine. In reality, the opposite is true. It was Russia that occupied Ukrainian territories, started the war, and continues to kill Ukrainian citizens. Russia and its leadership are responsible for what’s happening.

Also this week:

Hasidean Jews the "hostages of coronavirus", and "riots" against quarantine

Regarding the coronavirus epidemic, manipulative websites wrote that "laboratories have run out of test systems and reagents for detecting coronavirus." They also "sympathized" with the Hasidean pilgrims who got stuck on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. In addition, they wrote about demonstrations against the stricter quarantine in the cities of western Ukraine.

Belarus suffering from "democratic shellings"

Disinformers have reported that Belarus is suffering from "so-called democracy support funds" that prevent it from uniting with Russia. And it is not Russia that “desires” this union, but Belarus itself. It was written that such a "unification" would allow Belarus to defend itself against "color revolutions" and Western meddling. In reality, Russia is not defending not Belarus but its authoritarian ruler, Lukashenko, who is becoming increasingly dependent on Moscow. And what Russia protects him from is not external interference but Belaruian citizens.

Coronavirus money "buried into asphalt", the new impoverishment budget

As for economic policy and the budget for 2021, manipulators write that Ukraine is "in for a printing press" and pensions will be "eaten away" by inflation. The "Great Construction" funding from the coronavirus fund is also criticized. There is a line between criticism of misuse of the coronavirus fund and manipulation about impoverishment. Leading sites quoted Medvedchuk: "The draft budget of Ukraine for 2021 is two-thirds formed by borrowing, the country has almost stopped earning, if it can only provide 34% of its own costs." According to official data, the budget for 2021 has a deficit of 26.5%. The government will cover it by attracting loans. This is too big a deficit for Ukraine and such an economic policy is unstable. But this is not even close to the two thirds of the budget that Medvedchuk talks about.

Summary

Local elections are becoming the main topic for disinformation. They say the authorities have initiated harsh quarantine in western Ukraine as a "punishment" for their low support in the region. And in the east, where the CEC has canceled elections in some front-line communities, the government is "fighting" against its OPFL opponents.

The general narrative on the election concerns the inevitable defeat of the Servant of the People and a future regional fragmentation. As for the regions, manipulators lie that they are outraged by the lack of money or power as a result of decentralization. After decentralization, which began under Poroshenko and advanced significantly under Zelensky, communities gained more freedom of action and larger budgets. Much of the dissatisfaction with the authorities concerns the ineffective fight against the coronavirus, but disinformers are trying to present it as if the regions were seeking independence from the state and government.

Methodology

We searched for topics in 18744 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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