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Sweet little anti-neocolonial things. Disinformation monitor #60

  • The ruling by the Constitutional Court is “anti-neocolonial revolution” against the Western curators
  • The victory of local parties in the election is “collapse of unitarity” of Ukraine
  • OPFL keeps in fighting against high salaries in state enterprises
  • Zelensky’s to blame of gas getting more expensive
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: October 26 – November 1, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Duo of the week

Do you want to know who is interested in the unfolding of the constitutional crisis in Ukraine, the implementation of Zelensky's statements, and the subsequent constitutional coup? It turns out it is “beneficial only to two political forces - the OPFL and the ES, whatever they say, because given the long-standing acquaintance of Medvedchuk and Poroshenko, who have been partners all their lives (although they will not say this out loud), these two political forces interact, occupying extremely pro-European and extremely pro-Russian positions. They are the ones who benefit from undermining the situation in the country and trying to achieve their goals.” The lawsuit filed at Constitutional Court with a request to cancel the responsibility for illegal enrichment was made by deputies from the OPFL and the group "For the Future", and any involvement in the decision of the ES party is mentioned only in disinformation materials.

Antagonist of the week

This "nomination" last week was also facilitated by the scandalous decision of the Constitutional Court. However, according to disinformation, the "antagonist of the week" was not the chairman of the Constitutional Court, but... Zelensky. “What should Zelensky have done? Continue acting in the 95th Quarter [comedy company]. This would have been his most correct decision. All other decisions, from the moment of running for president until today, are erroneous, since a normal leader would never have allowed such a situation”.

The hero judges save Ukraine from "grant-sucking community"

The ruling of the Constitutional Court destroying the system of electronic declaration of officials did not protect the Constitution, but did protect the corrupt. However, Russian disinformers have a completely different opinion. In articles on Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues, they were using two main strategies to describe this conflict.

The first is to mention as vaguely and briefly as possible the situation (for example, "the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU) decided to repeal some anti-corruption norms in the country"), and then describe in detail the illegality of Zelensky's demands to dissolve the Constitutional Court. We also share the view that the situation with the arbitrariness of the Constitutional Court should not lead to unconstitutional decisions, but disinformers did not provide reasoned criticism or suggestions for legal ways to resolve the conflict, they only emotionally accused Zelensky of "high treason" and quoted any available (also emotional) criticism like “It's disgusting to read. Are you the guarantor of the Constitution? Then you are obliged to honor it and its law." The very “anti-constitutional adventure” of the president was called “the beginning of an end”, since “insider sources in the Constitutional Court of Ukraine report that the conflict could end with the resignation of Zelensky”.

The second strategy was to turn to the concept of external governance: “The rulings of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine on the destruction of the anti-corruption system, built on the orders of the United States after the Maidan, caused a real panic in the grant-eating circles and in the metropolis”. From the propagandists’ point of view, judges became defenders of the Constitution, opposed to the "grant-sucking community". It turns out that the so-called "anti-corruption vertical" was introduced by external curators solely for the purpose of "holding back and under threat of criminal prosecution" of judges and politicians, and this conflict is nothing more than “attempts by external curators and loyal internal Ukrainian compradors and collaborators to crush the “anti-neocolonial revolution” of all those who still resist the arbitrary external governance of the country”. Therefore, all those dissatisfied with the decision of the judges were represented exclusively as a group of "Biletsky's nationalist Bolsheviks and Shabunin's grant suckers." And any negative reaction or critical comment from Western partners quickly turned into proof that Zelensky was acting "on the orders of the United States" and that the Constitution was openly ignored because “Indeed, what could be above the interests of the US Embassy and representatives of the European G7 embassies, who expressed “deep concern over the destruction of the anti-corruption system”?

They also mentioned the role of the OPFL, at the request of which the Constitutional Court made this decision. In the eyes of disinformers, pro-Russian politicians have become the heroes who "dared to wage anti-neocolonial resistance," and "undermining the pro-American control system can be called a complete victory of the OPFL, which consolidates the election results." At the same time, they never mentioned the existence of a conflict of interest of some judges of the Constitutional Court and the stained reputations of most of the people's deputies who prepared this petition.

Although Russian mainstream media were less radical in their assessments, they did not forget to help discredit the authorities in Ukraine by publishing texts under headlines such as "The Ukrainian authorities justify their incompetence by 'Russian interference.'"

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Local elections: "unitarity collapsed"

The slow announcement of results and the constitutional crisis that has erupted in Ukraine have somewhat overshadowed discussions of the election results. But the main narrative of disinformers has not disappeared: "Servants lost the election" and this portends "federalization" of Ukraine.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues wrote: “the success of regional parties indicates the absence in the state of a political party of a state scale, and under these conditions, the “feudalization” of Ukraine will continue”. It is noticeable that they usually write about "federalization" as the process that is gradually taking place.

But states usually do not turn into federations, they are created as such. There is simply no such thing as "gradual" or "creeping federalization." The fact that different parties are winning in different regions of the country is presented as an argument in favor of Ukraine allegedly becoming a federation. It’s worth remembering that a single party winning in all regions of the country is a feature of authoritarian countries such as Russia or China. Ukraine is a democracy and various political forces are constantly fighting here, and only occasionally do some of them dominate the entire territory of the country.

The rather low support of the “Servant of the People” party in the local elections is a natural result of inflated expectations of the party and of its political miscalculations. And not

that "Ukraine has in fact returned to the old feudal order, when there’s one hetman on the left bank, and another hetman on the right bank”. Disinformers also used "federalization" as a pretext to intimidate Ukrainians with a "military dictatorship."

The only force that can keep Ukraine from tattering into feudal estates is the military in conjunction with Ukrainian nationalists

Also this week:

Wages too high for ordinary crooks

Russian disinformers rejoice: earlier they had to meticulously look for evidence of the Western governance of Ukraine, and now, as it turns out, “Dependence on foreign curators is gradually becoming defiant in Ukraine”. This is the conclusion they came to after the Cabinet lifted the salary limit for managers, members of executive bodies, and members of supervisory boards of state-owned enterprises, adopted in April this year. From now on, the salary is again determined according to the terms of the contracts. Following the logic of the statements of the OPFL, disinformers appeal to the fact that these positions are usually held by “ordinary crooks, stray Vikings from various grant funds, who were assigned to be fed at the expense of the native treasury. In addition, they are confident in their impunity before the Ukrainian laws, and can afford any corruption tricks knowing full well that in a year or two they will leave the country, falling off from it like ixodid ticks who had sucked enough blood”. However, in reality, the size of the salary often opens opportunities for attracting professionals with experience who are not interested in reproducing corruption schemes.

Utilities get more expensive again, Zelensky's to blame

With the beginning of the heating season, the attention of disinformers turns to the issue of tariffs. They write that “the main achievement of Volodymyr Zelensky over the past year was the most expensive utilities in the history of our country”. It will be recalled that the gas market has been operating in Ukraine since July 2020. This means that the government no longer sets the price of gas, and Naftogaz no longer accumulates debts by buying expensive gas abroad and selling it cheaper to residents. Instead, consumers have the opportunity to choose the suppliers with the best price, and the price is determined by supply and demand in the market. Why is this necessary? To prevent fraud and corruption due to the different price of gas for business and the public. And to stimulate energy efficiency. We have already written that Ukraine uses too much gas to heat buildings, so insulation will save significantly. And, of course, the president has no direct influence on these processes, he does not set tariffs. This is done by the government, and in the case of gas, by the market.

"Peace process" stopped due to Ukraine's stubbornness and military cooperation with NATO

Disinformers once again accuse the Ukrainian authorities of wanting to "betray" the Minsk agreements. They claim that the Ukrainian side "turned on the propaganda machine on the 2014-15 model" to convince Ukrainians "that they do not need territories where criminals and robbers live." The latest accusation concerns one of the members of the Ukrainian delegation to the TCG, Denys Kazansky. He wrote on social media that there are many toponyms associated with robbers in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. But the interpretation that "criminals and robbers" live in the occupied territories was invented by the disinformers themselves.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues also assessed Zelensky and his role in the "peace process": "Zelensky surpassed Poroshenko." Zelensky was given this assessment mainly through joint exercises of the Ukrainian army with NATO troops and recent agreements with Britain on the construction of missile boats and military bases for the Ukrainian navy.

Summary

This week, disinformers wrote a lot about the Constitutional Court's ruling that threatened Ukraine's anti-corruption infrastructure. It will be remembered that this decision was made after the filing of deputies of OPFL, the party which in every possible way enjoys support of Russia. Therefore, it can be considered that both the actions of the OPFL and the approval of their results are part of one plan to undermine Ukraine. Disinformers described it in two main ways. First, Zelensky's proposals to "restart" the court were emotionally criticized without dwelling on the court's decision. We wrote about the problems with this idea. In short, it is unconstitutional and can create more problems than it solves. The second narrative of disinformers concerns the details of the court's decision. Manipulators expose judges of the Constitutional Court as "defenders'' of the country from the "grant-sucking community", and the anti-corruption system itself as an element of "external governance". It is this thesis that comes out on top in popularity, bypassing "federalization" and "tariff genocide."

Methodology

We searched for topics in 11738 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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