World War Three a week before elections. Disinformation monitor #58

  • Indignation over Erdoğan’s imperialism getting more successful than Putin’s
  • Advertising the Russian “vaccine”, even smuggling it now
  • On the “repressions” against the Russian language in Ukraine
  • Trying to present Russia as a “peacemaker” and demonize Ukraine
  • Dragging Ukraine into foreign conflicts
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: October 12–18, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Zelensky plans "poll" and World War Three

As expected, last week Zelensky’s five questions, which the president announced in his video address and plans to ask the "people" on October 25, the day of the local elections, were often mentioned. We have already written why this "poll" is a bad idea. Ukrainian manipulative and Russian publications also criticized the presidential whim, armed with arguments about blatant agitation and adding their own emotional comments. And Russian disinformers unexpectedly quoted Mustafa Nayem saying that this poll could be "a great pretext to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada itself" if deputies refuse to implement the "will of the people" (that is, the results of this "poll").

However, the 5 questions announced by Zelensky did not interest very much the Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues. Unlike Erdogan's statement during Zelensky's official visit to Turkey. Erdogan said that Turkey has not recognized and does not recognize the occupation of the Crimean peninsula and is ready to join the project "Crimean Platform" (a tool for consolidating international partners to protect the rights of Crimean people and the deoccupation of the Ukrainian peninsula).

Almost all Russian media accused Turkey of imperial ambitions and a desire to expand its influence and territory. Disinformers saw Erdogan's motives as a historical injustice ("Turkey, deep inside, has not recognized Crimea as Russian since 1783"), so they concluded that Erdogan was “to ‘liberate’ Crimea from ‘Russian occupation’ not for his mentally underdeveloped friend Zelensky, but for himself”. They added that the case would not end with Crimea alone - "for him, Odessa is also Turkish land", and that, in general, “Erdogan rules not only in Turkey, but also in Ukraine, Adjara and Moldova, however, his plans extend further, right up to Siberia itself, because he plans to become "the ruler of all Turks". Khan of khans, emir of emirs, president of presidents”. That is, they actually accused Turkey of what Russia itself aspires to and even partially realized. They were even outraged by Turkey's violation of Russia's sovereignty: "Erdogan's insolent attacks on Russia are already becoming the norm, as is Turkey's interference in the internal affairs of our country". Interestingly, the change from love to hate the descriptions of Erdogan’s actions happens in the Russian media often, radically depending on the current relations between the two countries and their leaders, each of whom has dictatorial and imperial ambitions.

Even Russian mainstream media published manipulative and emotional texts under headlines such as "Crimea at the beginning of World War Three. How Erdogan and Zelensky agreed on war", which described “one Turkish president who imagined himself a sultan", called Crimea "the main strategic hub, the patrimony of Turkish interests and dreams", and the result of the meeting of the two presidents was believed to be that “the leaders decided the main thing, they chose the point of impact in the upcoming World War Three”.

Coronavirus and the Russian vaccine

We wrote in two previous issues (No. 56 and No. 57) of disinformation monitoring about how pro-Russian forces are promoting the Russian vaccine in Ukraine. Therefore, this time we’ll simply quote from Russian disinformers, demonstrating how much time, effort, and money are being used to pump up the topic. Here, for example, are good examples of discrediting the position of the Ukrainian (and with it, the international) medical community through ridicule:

“Immediately after their Sputnik is injected into the Anglo-Saxon blood of the bearers of European ideals, irreversible processes begin. In particular, Ternopil scientists have established that vaccination destroys Moscow antibodies, creates a false illusion of belonging to the Slavic brotherhood, and the faith in a sacred membership of the EU and NATO is being lost.”

“Don't you realize that the coronavirus was created by "Muscovites" solely for the purpose of carrying out chipping and forcibly returning you to the totalitarian "soviet" past?”

“Once again, these nasty Russians are humiliating the United States. How dare they create a fourth vaccine now, when the Citadel of Democracy has already spent $12 billion on vaccines, two of which give side effects, including spinal cord inflammation, the prognosis for which sounds akin to a death sentence”.

The latest quote may be the first drop in a torrent of disinformation aimed at undermining confidence in the vaccine which has been recognized as effective by relevant institutions in developed countries. It is worth preparing for this.

And below are some examples of promoting the message about the smuggling of Russian vaccines (or other drugs) to Ukraine:

“Instead of the "fake Kremlin vaccine", wait patiently for the "real vaccine" to appear in Europe or England. It doesn't matter when the drug appears. The main thing is that he will not be mentally associated with the “aggressor country”. True, the option of purchasing Russian vaccines with their subsequent sale in Ukraine under the guise of Israeli, French, or German vaccines is being considered. According to a similar scheme, we have been buying Russian gas for a long time.”

Professor for infectious diseases, Doctor of Science, Honored Doctor of Ukraine Olga Holubovska said that due to the refusal to buy antiviral drugs in Russia, there has been an acute shortage of such drugs in the country and they had to be smuggled from Russia

Here one can see the traditional trick of disinformers, the distortion of real statements. In fact, Holubovska told the Ukraine 24 channel that serum from botulism and tetanus was smuggled into Ukraine. In Russia, they are cheaper than in other countries (minute 23 on the video).

"Ethnocide daily", or the language issue again

The issue of non-existent discrimination against the Russian language in Ukraine never subsides. From time to time, it is fueled by certain events, such as the firing of a Russian-speaking teacher in Odesa for bullying a student who replied in Ukrainian during a drawing class, and quotes from prominent pro-Russian politicians and bloggers.

So last week, too Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues continued to pump the thesis of the oppression of Russian-speakers in Ukraine, reflecting on the lofty goal of the Russian language and its "mission to link and encourage such diversity." On the one hand, they nurtured the myth of the "Russian world" as a "geographical, economic, social, political, and cultural space spoken in Russian", on the other hand, they ridiculed the idea of a ​​different Ukrainian language and independence of Ukraine in general: "I understand the fears of Ukrainian politicians, officials, oligarchs. To "let" the Russian language into their locally cocooned and stupidity-mastered territory is like death to them. Then the myth of the otherness of their "civilization", subculture, archaic beliefs is dispelled. Then their very existence as "masters of the mountain" is questioned. Then a virus or a gene of hatred for everything Russian falls out of the melodic Ukrainian language. And without this gene, it is difficult to justify "independence" itself".

Russian disinformers once again called schooling in the state language discriminatory against Russian-speakers (forgetting that there is not a single Ukrainian school in Russia, despite a large Ukrainian community) and accompanied their theses on alleged rewriting of history in Ukrainian textbooks with quotes from Shariy commenting that “production of fanatical nationalists is put on conveyor belt by the Ukrainian state” and frightened their readers that because of education in the state language, Ukrainians will "attack" Russia: “This does not mean that tomorrow they will invade within the Moscow Ring Road, but they will be able to divert some of the not endless power resource of the Russian state to themselves.”

And Russian mainstream sites, supporting this narrative, quoted "experts" that "Ukraine has always been Russian - at least in half." Although, according to the 2001 census, Russian language was identified as a native language by 29.6% citizens of Ukraine. And a recent KIIS poll in May-June this year showed support for further implementation of the law on language in all areas among 66% of Ukraine's population (55% in the East). 29% of respondents mentioned Russian as their main language of communication at home, and 22% can call themselves Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Which does not correspond to the quote, according to which "Russian Ukrainians" were if not the majority, then half of the country's population."

By the way, the same "experts" define "Russian Ukrainians" as those "who consider themselves Russian, and also speak the language of the Russian Federation and have a Russian "cultural code". Although, according to the survey, only about 5% in Ukraine generally consider themselves Russians (or “Ukrainian and Russian”), and the term “cultural code” is generally pseudo-scientific, and is therefore actively used in such propagandist texts.

Also this week:

Putin the "peacemaker" while Ukrainians want violence in the East

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues wrote that to establish "peace" in eastern Ukraine "would be possible together with Putin, but the problem is that Putin is the "chief villain" for Western civilization." Since 2014, Russia has been trying to take on the role of a "peacemaker" and make the world community forget that it was Russia which twice attacked Ukraine and occupied part of its territory, and before that, Russia also attacked Moldova and Georgia. Military action in eastern Ukraine is taking place with Russia’s knowledge and under the control of the Russian military, so it is Russia who must stop it.

In addition to whitewashing Russia's role, they are demonizing Ukraine. They write that it demands: "to "hand over" the current leadership of the LPR and DPR, because it does not conceal the fact that, having gained control over the border, it will purge the territories of the people's republics." But they are frightening ther readers that Ukraine is allegedly "studying the experience of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans." In fact, the Russian-occupied territories are inhabited by Ukrainians like the rest of the country and even receive Ukrainian pensions, and school graduates can enter Ukrainian universities, so talking about some future ethnic cleansing is another manipulation.

Ukraine "occupied by the US" and "meddles" in foreign conflicts

Regarding international events, Russian sites targeting Ukraine continued to search for a "Ukrainian footprint" in Karabakh and Belarus. They disseminated the news from anonymous Telegrams channels that Ukraine "sent an anti-aircraft missile system S-125-2D1" to Azerbaijan. No evidence was found for that. It will be recalled that Azerbaijan officially buys weapons from Turkey and Israel.

Behind Ukraine, disinformers habitually see the United States. "In 2013-2014, as many Americans say, Ukraine was occupied by US intelligence, it's not a Maidan." That is, they claim that in 2014 the government in Ukraine changed not as a result of democratic protests and the removal of the previous president, but because of the "occupation" by the American secret services. Russian mainstream publications frightened Georgia with "Islamization" and predicted that it would become "Turkey's next victim in the Caucasus." It will be recalled that part of Georgia's territory is still occupied by Russia and local separatists.


This week, Russian disinformers laughed ridiculed Zelensky's "poll" a lot but discussed his meeting with Turkish President Erdogan even louder. They wrote a lot that Turkey sees Crimea as "Turkish land", and with it, also Odessa and almost all Black Sea coast. In general, they pump up emotions around Ukraine's rapprochement with Turkey and threaten with “World War Three”. At the same time, they are trying to present Russia almost as a "peacemaker" who is trying to "resolve" the conflicts of its neighbors. Although most of the conflicts in the post-Soviet space are the work of Russian military and diplomats.

Regarding the coronavirus epidemic, in the last three weeks a typical coverage by disinformers has emerged. They describe the "horrors" of the epidemic in Ukraine and argue that it can not cope without the Russian "vaccine". It will be recalled that the drug invented in Russia has not passed all clinical trials, so nothing can be said about its effectiveness or safety.

Finally, disinformers remembered about the Russian language again. The renunciation of its privileged status in Ukraine (compared to other minority languages and the state language) was called "discrimination against Russian speakers." At the same time, they ridiculed Ukrainian culture and promoted their grotesque myth of "Russian world" as opposed to "locally cocooned and stupidity-mastered territory" of Ukraine.


We searched for topics in 17504 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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