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“Fascist devil” Zelensky closed Medvedchuk’s channels. Disinformation monitor #67

From now on, you can also read in the monitoring topics how they were reacted to in Ukrainian Telegram channels. We are resuming our monitoring of Russian disinfo and we will issue weekly reviews this year. Subscribe to our newsletter here

  • The closure of Medvedchuk's channels was imposed by "colonizers"
  • Ukraine the “colony” refuses the world-recognized Russian vaccine
  • SSU “closes” anonymous Telegram channels to fight for “the market of political smear campaigns
  • Separate polls as a tool for political manipulations
  • Crimea: military base instead of potable water
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: February 1—7, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

The prohibition of Medvedchuk's TV channels

The biggest event of the week was the closure of TV channels related to Viktor Medvedchuk (112 Ukraine, NewsOne, Zik). More than a third of all materials on clickbait sites was related to this event. They wrote about the "losses" that the blocking would bring: "Deprivation of million-strong audiences of access to the Ukrainian media without trial, banning hundreds of journalists and media professionals from the right to a profession." And they argued that these channels did not broadcast disinformation and Russian narratives invented in Russian intelligence agencies, but presented an "alternative point of view."

Clickbaters and Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues wrote equally a lot about this event. But the former accused Zelensky of closing the channels as an attempt to save his rating after people were dissatisfied with utility tariffs, scandals with the Constitutional Court, and the vague results of the People's Servant party in the local elections. The latter unanimously wrote that the decision was imposed by Ukrainian "colonizers ... who consider Ukraine as a milking cow or as a donor, who rob her, pull out as much as they can" (disinformers mean Ukraine's western partners - Texty.org.ua).

In addition, Russian websites wrote about the impeachment with which Vadim Rabinovich threatened the President. The MP told Zelensky: "No pasaran! Fascism shall not pass, and you shall all perish, because thou art a fascist devil." According to the legal procedure, an impeachment requires an absolute majority of votes in the Rada (three quarters, i.e. 328 votes) and the support of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. There are very few decisions in the history of the Ukrainian parliament that received such a large number of votes. It is very difficult to remove any president under such a procedure.

Another important subtopic was the manipulation about the complete "collapse" of the Servant of the People party rating. Russian sites wrote, referring to a KIIS poll, that the next "elections to the Rada will be held exclusively by a proportional system (now Ukraine has a mixed system where one half of the parliament’s seats are distributed according to parties’ results while another half are personal representatives of districts - Texty.org.ua), and in in the new Rada the "Platform" (ie OPFL - Texty.org.ua) can get about 150 seats, while the "servants" will only get around ​​40 seats." However, the rate of support for political parties by the population is very dynamic, so to make such predictions based on the results of one sociological cross-section is a typical manipulation. Moreover, another KIIS survey shows the Servant in second place with a difference between it and OPFL within statistical margin of error. And in the latest KIIS poll, it is the European Solidarity party which is the first.

The closure of Medvedchuk's TV mouthpiece was reported on Telegram channels popular in Ukraine. Many of the materials were merely informative, but some asked, "Did the Americans" inspire this?" and they also wrote that the decision to close the channels was influenced by recent political ratings. "The main ideologue of the war with both the TV channels, and with Telegram channels, is Kirill Tymoshenko" (deputy head of President’s Office - Texty.org.ua)

Collapse of vaccination in Ukraine and (alleged) world recognition of Sputnik V

Despite the hype surrounding the closure of Medvedchuk's channels, PR for the Russian vaccine remains on the disinformation agenda. And the delay in vaccination in Ukraine and problems with the purchase of vaccines are a perfect reason to further pump up the reader: "Vaccination from covid-19 in Ukraine is failing: here’s how it is hindered by greed and stupidity of officials."

The propaganda of Russian sites about "Sputnik V" is based on three main theses. The first reads "the Russian Sputnik V vaccine has been recognized around the world," while "Foreign media have taken back their negative words about Sputnik V."

The second thesis is that Ukraine refuses the Russian vaccine solely for political reasons and under the influence of external curators. "Think about it: Russia forcibly imposes a vaccine on a prosperous Ukraine! (...) But the President of Ukraine cannot disobey the order of the US Embassy not to buy the Russian vaccine, so he twists and turns, endangering the lives and health of the citizens of his country." And they conclude that "post-Maidan Ukraine is not just a colony, but a colony humiliated and dishonored, a colony whose interest no one is going to take into consideration."

All this is supplemented by a third thesis criticizing all other vaccine manufacturers. Pfizer gets the most of the criticism. It is called "the worst of all vaccines, because it causes a lot of side effects and people die." The scale of this criticism goes far beyond the Ukrainian media field. The New York Times recently reported on Russia's information campaign against American coronavirus vaccines, aimed not only at Ukraine but also at Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Ukrainian manipulative sites also support Russian theses. At the same time, they quote political parties that call for "not dividing Ukrainians into sort based on access to vaccines", they produce clickbait headlines such as "Ukraine has become a Greedostan" and they quote Yuri Boyko who said that “there should be no political issues in the purchase of vaccines. influences. Scientists need to determine how much the vaccine is needed and how it will work”.

And while Russia has minimized the anti-vaccine narrative in its news by refocusing on the advertisement of its own vaccine, Telegram still has political channels that spread the version that "current coronavirus vaccines are dangerous biological weapons used against humans." However, they get fewer, since most of the channels, following pro-Russian news sites, complain about the lost opportunity to produce the Russian vaccine in Ukraine. Read about how disinformers are trying to turn Sputnik V into a "victory" for Russia in our article.

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SSU exposing anonymous Telegram channels is "a strategy to purge the market of political smear campaigns

Clickbait websites have written extensively that the SSU (Security Service of Ukraine) has exposed a network of anonymous Telegram channels administered by Russian agents. Read more about the event in this article. Manipulators justified the anonymous channels, claiming that they "remain one of the last mouthpieces of the inconvenient truth," and that "Anonymity allows them to be independent, unbiased, and generally allows them to expose the ruling elite." We have already written about how Russian narratives are distributed in Telegram and are then picked up by other media. Sometimes they even affect the work of parliament, the mechanism was described here.

Popular Telegram channels also criticized the event and invented conspiratorial explanations of the SSU's actions: "Our source in the security forces reports that all these "carousels" with Telegram channels are one big strategy to "purge" the market of political smear campaigns." Kirilll Tymoshenko, the first deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, is found guilty. He allegedly wants to close popular anonymous channels “in order to "shift the focus away from the corruption scandals of the Big Construction."

Also this week:

"Operation Navalny" in Russia

Regarding recent events in Russia and its international position, disinformers wrote that "The goal of Operation Navalny is to unleash a civil war in Russia," and the West is trying to divert Russia's attention from "events in the Donbas, which will allow the Ukrainian army to attack the DPR and the LPR." Russia's leading websites spread the BS that "Russia should become a home for those who consider themselves Russian, are the bearer of Russian culture and language, worldview and faith. There are only two options here, to push the borders of Russia and (or) return all the Russian people into Russia." In fact, all countries where Russians live were threatened with annexation of territories.

Telegram channels wrote that the Americans were "returning to the times of the Cold War" and quoted pro-Russian politicians from Germany saying, "The verdict against Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny should not hinder the construction of a new gas pipeline."

Dubinsky's "ostracism"

Disinformers defended Dubinsky, who had recently been expelled from the Servant of the People faction, and speculated about who the SP faction could ally with in the event of the "exodus" of deputies influenced by Dubinsky's patron, oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. Dubinsky was expelled on the basis of an anonymous vote of the faction, which was commented on popular Telegram channels as follows: “Dubinsky was ostracised anonymously. This is a solid fly in the ointment that spoils the whole barrel of honey of the jubilants. Be is Soroslings or the Office of President, anonymity doesn't allow them to talk about a full-fledged victory"

Polls and ratings. "Percents spell misfortune"

Every opinion poll on the support of various political forces in Ukraine provokes a wave of publications with undisguised joy due to the growth of the rating of pro-Russian OPFL. This is what happened this time as well, when Russian sites targeting Ukraine presented another poll like this: "The presidential election campaign has unofficially started in Ukraine." They seasoned this thesis with a quote from a pro-Russian politician that "The next president of Ukraine will be MP Yuriy Boyko." However, in the end they added that Boyko "is ready to become president, after which Ukraine will split in two." Although the latest sociology shows that it is too early to talk about Boyko's presidency, as his support is still lower than Zelensky's, and in the hypothetical second round he loses cleanly to Zelensky, Poroshenko, and Razumkov.

Meanwhile Telegram channels, complaining about the low rating of the Shariy party, inflamed distrust in the leading Ukrainian sociological centers and proposed: "Let's conduct an experiment and determine the real numbers." That is, they conducted their own completely unrepresentative and manipulative poll among their own subscribers.

Coal deficit in Ukraine

Disinformers rejoiced that Ukraine became once again dependent on Russia and was forced to import electricity from Russia. One of the reasons why imports are resumed is the shortage of coal at Ukrainian thermal power plants. We wrote about the reasons here, they are based on the inability of the current government to resist the appetites of the oligarchs and on the weak managerial abilities of the Cabinet of Ministers.

In addition, Russian sites targeting Ukraine wrote about the problems concerning Chinese investors of Motor Sich.

Zelensky is a "head of colonial administration"

This week, Zelensky was called "the head of colonial administration" and disinformers traditionally wrote that he "surpassed Petro Poroshenko." Disinformers described his immediate political future as follows: “The language! And after that, dressed in an embroidered shirt and a military uniform at the same time, embracing Avakov, he will write a video: "The Fatherland is in danger!"

Minsk talks: threatening with escalation

On the issue of the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine, disinformers have traditionally accused Ukraine of intransigence and criticized the law on the transitional status of the occupied territories. They wrote that "the current Ukrainian government does not want any consent, any settlement of the conflict in the country."

Crimea "reconstructed" into a military base

Regarding the situation in the occupied Crimea, disinformers adhere to the traditional narrative of how "difficult" the situation in the peninsula was under Ukraine's control and how much Russia spent on its "reconstruction." Russia has really poured a lot of money into Crimea to turn it into a huge military base. And Russian mismanagement has led to dehydration. We wrote about how the peninsula is losing water here.

Disinformers also wrote that the Russian government had invented a special administrative status for Crimea in the hope of circumventing Western sanctions. The issue of potable water is not disappearing, even disinformers cannot ignore the fact that there is ever less of it.

JFO: military action and occupation

Regarding the military confrontation in Donbass, disinformers accused the Ukrainian military of aggression and wrote: “And the population on both sides of the contact line

waits for nothing good from the approaching spring, as everyone is convinced that a new round of the great war is ahead."

Church: difinformers discredit the Orthodox Church of Ukraine

The topic of the independent Ukrainian church, although it is the topic of a small part of the materials of disinformers, remains one of the most stable. As always, disinformers focus most of their attention on discrediting the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. They wrote: "The "national church "of the Ukrainian nation has honestly warned that it is in favor of European tolerance and for all kinds of sexual perversions!"

Summary

This week, we resumed our monitoring and expanded it with posts from Telegram channels popular in Ukraine. We were lucky, because just at this time the SSU finally saw that some popular anonymous Telegram channels were working for the Russian intelligence, just as we had written long before. Another landmark event of the week was the closure of Viktor Medvedchuk's "news" channels which in fact became a mouthpiece for political propaganda and Russian narratives. Through the channels, disinformation was disseminated by a significant part of the sites we monitor.

MPs from the OPFL party who had used access to broadcasts on these channels now accused the Ukrainian authorities of "fascism" and being under the control of "the devil." And Russian disinformers wrote about "external management". But most often, the fall in the rating of Zelensky and his party was shown as the reason to close the TC channels. Manipulators used polls by leading Ukrainian sociological companies, deliberately distorting their results. Read here a detailed explanation of why the closed TV channels cannot be considered real media. Also note that broadcasts of these channels on youtube are gaining only a few thousand views.

Methodology

We searched for topics in 23154 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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