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Two million dollars to “bring discredit” on Medvedchuk. Disinformation monitor #73

  • Predicting the split of Europe over the Russian vaccine and describing how the EU is gradually "offering herself to Russia"
  • Biden called Putin a killer, so now Putin "can stop holding back in the Donbas direction"
  • Manipulating Danilov's interview about Medvedchuk's channels
  • Writing that Ukraine is “compromising the peace process
  • Emotionally commenting on the increase in the wealth of Ukrainian billionaires
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: March 15—21, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new?

This week, disinformers supplemented the usual allegations about the “persecution” of Medvedchuk with the news that the Office of the President spends $2 million per day to bring discredit on the politician. They also argued that "Europe offers herself to the Russian Federation in terms of the vaccines", ie "prepares" to use the Russian vaccine. Disinformers are also speculating about the possibility of a coalition of the Servant of the People with the Batkivshchyna party and Tymoshenko at the post of the prime minister.

Pseudo experts

This week we checked the materials where pseudo experts from our database appear. We will conduct such reviews monthly in subsequent monitoring issues.

Since the beginning of this year, pseudo experts have written the most about the sanctions against Viktor Medvedchuk and his channels. They wrote that "the rating trust for Medvedchuk is growing." In the real world, Medvedchuk has a consistently low level of trust, according to most opinion polls. It has hardly changed in recent months. Pseudo experts assure that sanctions against Medvedchuk's channels "will strengthen dissatisfaction with external management."

Another common topic is the issue of "peace and understanding" with Russia, which is promoted by the Opposition Platform - For Life (OPFL) party. Here, disinformers and their "experts" portray Ukraine as a puppet whom Europe or the United States "will not allow to stop the war in the Donbas" and frighten it with a full-scale war against Russia.

Many publications are also related to vaccination in Ukraine. Pseudo experts sow doubts about Western vaccines, advertise the Russian product (Sputnik V). And they accuse the government of vaccination failures in Ukraine. The latter is true.

The bellicose Zelensky fight Medvedchuk not the oligarchs

Zelensky imitates a struggle against the oligarchs as their wealth is only increasing. And to hide this, he organizes repression against Medvedchuk. This picture is painted by Ukrainian manipulative media such as from-ua.com. Meanwhile, Russian sites writing about Ukraine (such as the site with the eloquent name novorossiia.ru) continue to discredit the Ukrainian president (and Ukrainian attempts to resolve the situation in the Donbas) using a militant image: “President and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Zelensky, who for his poorly controlled and often involuntary militancy has already received the nickname "Zelia the Unter-Napoleon", began to form "invasion troops'' for the Donbas".

Coronavirus vaccination: Ukrainian guinea pigs and Europe "offering herself for Russia"

Consequences of vaccination? Your own problems!” This is how Russian websites reacted to the registration in the Verkhovna Rada of a bill that proposes to relieve vaccine manufacturers of responsibility for adverse reactions in the people vaccinated against COVID-19. And although this bill is a requirement for all countries participating in the COVAX program, and does not provide for the removal of responsibility, only for its transfer to the state, it does not prevent disinformers to incite: "Remember, not so long ago President Zelensky proudly said that Ukrainians aro no guinea pigs and that is the only reason why Kyiv will not buy the Russian vaccine. But for the Western vaccine, Mr. President is ready to turn his citizens even into guinea pigs."

These manipulations are followed by some Telegram channels: "If you suddenly feel bad after the vaccination with an "untested" vaccine, know that you are yourself to blame. Now no one is responsible for this in our country, except for yourself."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian manipulative media continued to resent the low rate of vaccination (which is true), criticizing CoviShield vaccine and inciting bad emotions over the inability to choose which vaccine to vaccinate under the headlines "Citizens of Ukraine are deprived of the right to choose a drug for vaccination." And here is an open manipulation, because no inhabitant of the planet Earth has such a choice, there is a catastrophic shortage of vaccines and those who agree are inoculated with whatever there is.

All this was accompanied with quotes from OPFL about the lack of "systemic actions" and proposals to urgently "increase funding for medicine and organize the production of vaccines in Ukraine." This is a reference to another thesis, namely that the Kharkiv pharmaceutical company Biolik is ready to start producing the Russian Sputnik V. However, this company has a sad history, 10 babies in Ukraine died from its vaccines years ago (see details here).

At the same time, although there are real reasons to criticize the authorities in the field of counteracting the pandemic, clickbaits are limited to emotional expressions (such as "there is no bottom in Ukraine") and quotes from politicians and pseudo experts.

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues continue to accompany the topic of the coronavirus with a thesis about Ukraine's total dependence on Europe ("Ukraine always gets leftovers from the bar table and Europe can give Kyiv a dangerous drug with a wide gesture"). And they describe how “Europe offers herself to the Russian Federation in terms of the vaccines, to the detriment of Ukrainian problems." Disinformers cannot ignore the lack of pan-European approval of the Russian vaccine, which manipulation turns into “the EU is in for a threat of a split due to "Sputnik". Thus, disinformers continue their rhetoric about the "vaccine war" and constantly remind that "the country that covers certain territories with its vaccine will control them." It will be recalled that Russia does not have enough capacity to produce the vaccine en masse and to replace the lack of supply due to the delay in the supply of AstraZeneca.

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Danilov "confesses political reasons" for the blocking of Medvedchuk's channels

This week, clickbait sites wrote about an interview by the head of the National Security and Defense Council for Polish radio. Disinformers tried to accuse Danilov of inconsistency because he "forgot" the reason for the sanctions against Medvedchuk's channels (financing terrorism through trade in the occupied territories). "Danilov decided to limit himself to general phrases with some mysterious flair, completely inappropriate for an official representative of the state." In fact, he described the connection between Medvedchuk and the channels and the illegal trade in coal in the occupied territories. Read more about how and why the channels were blocked here, and you can read in this article about what Russian narratives they disseminated.

Russian websites targeting Ukraine were once again looking for a "candidate" for President of Ukraine. This time, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Danilov was discussed: "Danilov is planning to run for president, purging the oligarchs." As for the national security council itself, they write: "it has become an instrument of the Ukrainian government for the repression of opponents, as its members are not legally responsible."

The following decisions of the National Security and Defense Council, such as sanctions against Russian companies and the SBU's investigation into deputies who ratified the Kharkiv agreements and contributed to Russia's aggression, are what they call "repression": “The Ukrainian authorities simply obey, in the worst traditions of McCarthyism, arrange, in fact, a political reprisal against their opponents”.

The Telegram channels provided Danilov with another career development option. “In the event of a change in the head of the OP, a plan has already been prepared to push to the post our former fellow countryman Alexei Danilov, completely controlled by Yermak”.

Putin the killer, Biden's "dementia" and reminding of Russia's greatness

Joe Biden said "yes" in an interview when asked by a journalist whether he considered Putin a killer. As a result, Russia recalled its ambassador from Washington to Moscow, and our monitoring included dozens of texts on Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues, with quotes that can be used as a model of hate speech or outright Ukrainophobia.

In general, all reactions can be divided into three types. The first is aggressive ageism and hate speech against Biden himself. He was called "a stupid man who was confused by the pressure of a journalist", and those who avoided direct insults quoted reactions on social networks, as in an article entitled "The most shameful president: the British were outraged by Biden's insults to the Russian leader." .

"Joe Biden, apparently suffering from senile dementia, insulted the head of state capable of putting an end to the existence of the United States". So unobtrusively they moved on to the second type of reaction, which aimed to glorify Russia. Russian websites have suggested that hostility to Putin indicates fear of the Russian president. They also hinted that Biden "feels Putin's power and understands that he can't stop Putin's power."

And the third type of reaction, as expected, mixed in Ukraine and its place in the conflict between Biden and Putin. In headlines such as "Assassins give the order to assassinate: US drags Ukraine into a new war," disinformers advocated the idea that Biden had "launched a new level of relations between Moscow and Kyiv”, and now it was because if his words that "Putin can stop holding back in the Donbas direction". Although, let us remind you that Putin "did not hold back" long before Biden's presidency, he was only held back by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Also this week:

"Degradation" of Ukrainian economics and the fabulously rich oligarchs

According to Ukrainian manipulative publications, Ukraine is constantly undergoing total economic degradation. And last week, the usual theses about expensive gas and utilities were supplemented with emotional reflections on the updated rating of Ukrainian billionaires from Forbes: "Despite the difficult situation in the country, the financial crisis and the COVID-19 epidemic, the incomes of Ukrainian oligarchs have risen."

And although the original publication says that the rise in oil or steel prices and last year's stock market slump helped increase their wealth, not a "gain" on the pandemic and ordinary Ukrainians, Russian sites targeting Ukraine spread just such an idea. They pumped up their readers with the help of emotional phrases such as "fabulously rich" or "Ukraine's economy will go down in flames."

They generalized ("the ruin of fellow citizens has always been a basic condition for the enrichment of Ukrainian capitalists who have profited from general poverty since the 1990s") and drew meaningless parallels between the oligarchs' wealth and retail prices. Of course, Ukraine's economy needs demonopolization, but these texts are not aimed at solving the problem, but at the feeling of total despair, and they significantly lie about the real situation. After all, it is in the sector of manufacturing products that there is fierce competition and many medium and small producers.

And in some cases, they even managed to come up with their favorite theme of the events of 2014: "Suffice it to recall that the oligarchic caste were among the main beneficiaries of Euromaidan, more than regaining their investment in it, because it allowed them to maximize their influence on politics of the Ukrainian government, grabbing numerous privileges and preferences". This is complete nonsense, because after the Revolution of Dignity one of the most influential oligarchs Kolomoisky rapidly lost his influence and income and he was hiding abroad, and Kyiv even returned an illegally privatized thermal power plant from Rinat Akhmetov's possession.

Ukraine conducts "the water siege of the Crimean peninsula"

As for Crimea, disinformers wrote that Ukraine was conducting a "water seige of the peninsula" and threatened Ukraine with lawsuits on the occupied peninsula and fines of millions of dollars. They also speculated about the reasons why Ukraine does not want to supply water to Crimea: "They did it specifically to cause discontent on the peninsula, to show the people of Crimea what they lost in Ukraine."

We have previously written about water problems in the Crimea. One of the main reasons that provoked them is the growth of Russia's military contingent. It is obvious that Russian politicians and sites that disseminate their narratives hide the real reasons. Instead, they write fabrications about preserving the identity of the Crimean people: "For 7 years now, Ukraine and a group of Western countries have been pursuing an anti-human policy of punishing the Crimean people for preserving their language, culture and identity."

Kravchuk the "provocator" who "compromises the peace process"

Regarding the Minsk consultations, Russian sites targeting Ukraine continue to accuse Ukraine of aggression and blocking peace agreements that hinder the exchange of prisoners: “Until Kyiv procedurally clears our people who returned to the DPR in 2019, there can be no talk of a new exchange of prisoners”. They call Leonid Kravchuk, one of Ukrainian negotiators, "a provocator to compromise the peace process and bring it to absurdity."

Mainstream Russian websites advertise the "initiatives'' of the OPFL party: "Instead of implementing the peace plan developed by the OPFL and presented by Medvedchuk, which is perceived and recognized in Europe and the world, hostilities continue in the country… So it goes." In this regard, the initiatives of the OPFL party coincide with the official position of the Kremlin. The Kremlin wishes that Ukraine take over the financial maintenance of the occupied territories, while Russia retains real power over them.

Telegram channels write that “Kyiv is now focused on the policy of "soft power" in relation to the inhabitants of the LDPR, and in order to show "the advantages of the lifestyle in Ukraine, it is necessary to ensure their stable influx into this country, primarily due to the stable operation of the checkpoints.”

Conspiracy theories around the protest to support Sternenko

A protest rally in support of Sternenko near the President's Office, during which protesters smashed a window in the OP, painted a wall, and lit fireworks there, prompted Russian websites writing about Ukraine to promote conspiracy theories. They wrote mutually exclusive theses starting with "Poroshenko's supporters are to blame in the situation", followed with “the whole protest was supervised by security forces and went according to the pre-written script" and that it was organized so that "the radicals let off their steam, but the risk to power is zero." To these theses were added some alleged insides, references to "our source among the protesters" and other methods of simulating arguments: "even the most stupid people in the country have guessed that this was staged by the authorities themselves." But the main purpose of all messages is this: "artificial protests." Because real life, when thousands of people protest to defend activist Sternenko, who became a symbol of Odesa's resistance during the 2014 Russian Spring, destroys their picture of a world in which most Ukrainians consider themselves Russians.

Dubinsky "framed" by the Office of the President

Clickbait websites write about sanctions against the MP Dubinsky and his exclusion from the Servant of the People parliamentary faction: "everything happening around Dubinsky is logical, after all [this happens] after the introduction of the American sanctions against the people's deputy". They accuse Zelensky of playing up to Poroshenko and of exposing Dubinsky to sanctions: "it was the president's office that demanded that I participate in the press conference where Derkach published the relevant files."

Telegram channels write that “In fact, the "Servants" have no informational foundation left. Moreover, the party systematically rejects sane people: Razumkov, Kachura, and Buzhansky are in fact in internal opposition.

Traditionally, no changes

Ukrainian clickbait sites continue to glorify Medvedchuk and write that "the president's office has set a course to destroy the OPFL" and Zelensky himself is imitating a war with the oligarchs to avoid criticism for Medvedchuk's repression. They continue to claim that Russia will reach an agreement with Germany and the United States and complete Nord Stream 2, and write about everyday life in the occupied territories where "Ukrainian spies'' are caught, militants receive awards, and contemplate Russia's fate.

As for Ihor Kolomoisky, they continue the narrative that "US demands the blood" of the oligarch. And the nationalization of the Motor Sich is described as a "war" against China. They call the visit of Chinese businessmen to Crimea an answer in this war. It is already known that the "Chinese businessmen" are small entrepreneurs from Moscow's wholesale markets. The monitoring also praised the Russian Church in Ukraine.

Summary

Disinformers continue to write about the "militant" Zelensky who "betrayed" his constituents, cooperated with Poroshenko and, instead of the oligarchs, attacked Medvedchuk. Attention to the National Security and Defense Council has increased in recent weeks, as it is they who have implemented most of the sanctions against the pro-Russian politician. Clickbaits frighten their readers that the National Security and Defense Council has become an instrument of "extrajudicial repression", and "McCarthyism" is beginning in Ukraine (a phenomenon in the United States in the 1950s, the search for Soviet spies in politics and various spheres of life which was at times accompanied by baseless accusations).

The narrative of the "big war" that Ukraine is allegedly preparing under the influence of the United States has spread even further after Biden's words that Putin is a "killer." Russian sites focused on Ukrainian issues diagnosed the American president with "senile dementia" and threatened that "Putin may not hold himself back in the Donbas direction."

In general, we have recently seen a tendency to increase the amount of materials on the subject of war. At the same time, the number of shelling and casualties of Ukrainian military and civilians is increasing. Russia in its military doctrine indicates that it uses psychological operations to achieve its own goals. It is possible that this is exactly what is happening now.

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.

Methodology

We searched for topics in 23585 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.

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