Propaganda at the scene of death. Disinformation monitor #55

  • Joint military exercises with NATO troops in Ukraine were called "a real invasion"
  • The plane crash near Kharkiv became a source of joy because the cadets "would fly to bomb Donetsk and Luhansk tomorrow"
  • An even more pro-Russian alternative to Trukhanov in Odesa was being looked for
  • Mentions of Ukrainian autocephaly in school textbooks caused outrage
  • An incredible support for the pro-Russian OPFL party was alleged
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: September 21—27, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Colonial chauvinism of the week

Have you missed the quotes from the Russian world? There you go, a couple of fresh ones:

“Kyiv without Russia and separately from Russia is unthinkable in any case. Kyiv is one of the ancient capitals of the Russian land, the Kyiv region is a part of the Russian world. "Ukraine" and "Ukrainians" come from the word "outskirts", and these words appeared during the Polish occupation of the western and southern Russian lands”

“Ukrainization won only after the collapse of the USSR and the creation of an "independent" Ukraine. However, this does not negate the fact that Kyiv, Chernihiv, Poltava, Kharkiv, Odesa and Lviv are Russian cities, and Little Russia is part of the Russian world. And today's Ukrainians are Russians”.

Manipulation of the week

Russian disinfo claims that the coronavirus conspiracies and these which it itself disseminates are allegedly Ukrainian ones:

Disbelief in COVID-19 in Ukraine has a scale that is usually characteristic of an extremely underdeveloped civilization. Here, they prefer to rant about “common respiratory disease” and the insidious plans of the authorities to disrupt the October 25 elections. Some are promoting the idea of ​​a global conspiracy to increase sales of protective equipment, not at all embarrassed that the conspirators are acting to the detriment of the rest of the economy. The most "advanced" people prefer to look for the root of the problem, and to find out who invented the new type of coronavirus. The latter meanwhile continues to seize the territory where the population surrenders with particularly stupid compliance, and without encountering any serious resistance from the aborigines”.

Military exercises. “NATO invasion of Ukraine”

The Joint Effort 2020 military exercises and the flyover of American strategic bombers over Ukrainian cities were used by Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues as a confirmation of external rule over Ukraine.

Disinformers published articles headlined "NATO's invasion of Ukraine is in full swing" or "Navy exercises with the participation of Britain is a cowardly demonstration of figs to Moscow from around the corner." They also produced "expert" comments about "saturation of the territory of Ukraine with the NATO contingent", alleged that "NATO's actions on Russia's borders are provocations" and that "this is a real invasion… Let's be frank to each other: the aggressor is on the territory of Ukraine!" , forgetting to recall that these exercises are a coordinated response with the Ukrainian government to the real military aggression by Russia and the annexation of Crimea. Ukraine was even accused of being "the first to violate its international obligations, as it is a non-aligned, neutral and non-nuclear state" (countries themselves determine their neutrality and (non) bloc status, they can both initiate and abolish it).

There was also a description of Russia's reaction, which "is frightened by these exercises only in the fantasies of the 'patriots.'" At the same time, Russian disinformers once again intimidated their readers, describing the potential threat of these exercises to the people of Crimea. According to their texts, "Britain tried hard to neutralize the radars of Russia's anti-aircraft systems" in Crimea, "the Americans admitted that they had long been preparing and arming Ukrainian intelligence to wage a sabotage war against Russia in Crimea. In other words, they helped prepare terrorist attacks" (that is, fictitious reasons for the repression of Crimean Tatars), and "throughout September, US strategic bombers rehearsed nuclear strikes on Crimea."

For residents of Donbass, disinformers came up with the theory that "the Armed Forces are actively preparing to storm the cities of LDPR", arguing that the international military exercises Rapid Trident-2020 were held in urban areas in the Lviv region, and “The model city is also similar to numerous cities and towns of Donbass”.

Theses of Russian disinformers were picked up by the OPFL, they used Ukrainian manipulative publications to disseminate their comments on how "NATO and the US are cynically using Ukraine as a bargaining chip for their geopolitical interests" and that "NATO-Russian war is being planned on our Ukrainian territory in the medium term". (The last message is a very old thesis of Russian propaganda and its local mouthpieces, Natalia Vitrenko's "Progressive Socialist Party" even once made money on it).

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“If they wouldn’t have crashed today, they would fly to bomb Donetsk and Luhansk tomorrow”

Manipulators, in particular the OPFL, used the crash of the military plane near Kharkiv and the death of cadets. They saw in this tragedy a confirmation of the thesis of external governance: "The crash of the AN-26 in the Kharkiv region, unfortunately, once again confirmed that the United States and NATO are cynically using Ukraine in their geopolitical interests, and Zelensky's government continues to lead the country toward disaster." It was manipulated that "while illegal NATO exercises are being held in Ukraine, our army continues to use outdated equipment." It was not specified how to start using newer techniques and what the connection with the exercises was.

А російські сайти, орієнтовані на українську тематику, прикривали мову ненависті співчуттям: «Российские военные лётчики выразили соболезнования семьям погибших в катастрофе украинского АН-26. Жители Донбасса удивлены», а причиною трагедії називали те, що «Господь в будущем одних от смерти спас, а других к себе прибрал, чтобы они мразью не стали» бо «если бы не разбились сегодня, то завтра бы полетели бомбить Донецк и Луганск».

And Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues covered the language of hatred with sympathy: "Russian military pilots expressed condolences to the families of those killed in the crash of the Ukrainian AN-26. Residents of Donbass are surprised", and the cause of the tragedy was that "God saved some people from death in the future, and took others to himself so that they do not become scum” because "If they wouldn’t have crashed today, they would fly to bomb Donetsk and Luhansk tomorrow".

Election: federalization, fake polls, all against Trukhanov

While Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues continue to write that "Local elections in Ukraine will show a tendency to federalize the country," Ukrainian manipulative publications are delving into regional conflicts and disputes. As for Odesa, pro-Russian candidates are trying to shake Trukhanov's rating, for example, "Serhiy Kivalov is confidently coming out on top in the mayoral race." This was confirmed by the results of a "poll" according to which "the leader of the Ukrainian Maritime Party overtook the acting mayor" (25% for Kivalov against 24.3% for Trukhanov). However, two weeks earlier, an authoritative KIIS poll showed support for Trukhanov at 47% and for Kivalov at less than 5%. As no serious upheavals have taken place in Odesa during these two weeks, there is no reason to believe in such a radical change of preferences.

Similar methods were used by the OPFL who nominated the former governor of the Odesa Regional State Administration, people's deputy Mykola Skoryk, as the mayor of Odessa. They produced headlines such as "Skoryk is preparing for a battle with Trukhanov in two rounds", referring to some "sociology" of their own. “According to the sociology that our headquarters, both the central and the local in Odessa have, the chances of defeating Gennady Trukhanov are very high”. However, unlike the more optimistic Kivalov, they added that "this cannot be done in one round."

And Oleg Filimonov, the candidate from the Servant of the People Party, was “recognized by the majority of experts as a technical candidate”. It wasn’t specified who exactly were “the majority”.

Also this week:

Tomos in textbooks for 11th grade scandalizes the Russian Orthodox Church

Russian mainstream media were outraged that "Ukrainian schoolchildren of graduation classes now have to study the history of the state's struggle " for the Ukrainian autocephalous church." The inclusion in the history textbooks for the 11th grade of the section on receiving the Tomos was called "dumbing of schoolchildren" and disinformation saw in it "the leveling of the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the internal life of Ukrainians."

One can only regret that such historical falsifications, created to please a certain political conjuncture, made school education in Ukraine a weapon of political struggle and an instrument for dumbing more and more generations of Ukrainian schoolchildren, who, of course, do not deserve this.


Disinformers are always nervous about Ukraine's rapprochement with NATO. They called the recent Joint Effort 2020 exercise an "invasion." At the same time, they described the fighting in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea by Russian troops in a completely different way. The very fact of the exercises became a reason to once again accuse the United States of preparing "sabotage" in Crimea. These mythical acts of sabotage have long been a cover for political repression against Crimean Tatars.

Another important military issue was the crash of the plane with cadets on board which happened near Kharkiv. Disinformers rejoiced at the deaths of the military and claimed that future military pilots "would fly to bomb Donetsk and Luhansk tomorrow."

In general, the armed forces are a central target for propaganda. The main narratives about the Ukrainian army concern that it is "controlled" by foreign states who "try to use it" against Russia. Or, the level of its combat capability and its ability to resist the onslaught of the Russian military. It is the Ukrainian army which is the main obstacle to Russia's full-scale intervention in Ukrainian domestic policy, and at the same time it is the most trusted institution in the country. That is why propagandists are trying to undermine its credibility.


we searched for topics in 18845 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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