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Threats of the destruction of Ukraine, mocking vaccination, accusing the authorities of repression. Disinformation monitor #75

  • Telling how the US “push” Ukraine to war
  • Contemplating about the vaccine cocktail for Ukrainians and proposing to get vaccinated in Russia
  • Describing Zelensky as a sore dictator who flew to Qatar for a talk with Biden
  • Scaring Ukraine with a demographic crisis
  • Seeking justification for Russian aggression in fakes
  • See how disinformation topics have been changing over the year in our interactive visualization

Period: April 5—11, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

In the last several weeks, military escalation remains the absolute leader among disinformation topics. We have already written that it is growing synchronously with the increase in the number of Russian troops at the border and in the zones of occupation. The hysteria of the information campaign has only increased over the past week, but the main thesis has not changed, "Ukraine is preparing an escalation."

Manipulation of the week. Here’s how disinformers pull quotes out of context

Last week, a Russian website about Ukraine published an article titled "American analysts write that Ukraine failed vaccination by abandoning Medvedchuk's initiative to produce Sputnik V," citing an article of the Kennan Institute in which the author describes the course of events around vaccination in Ukraine, mentioning, inter alia, Medvedchuk. Russian disinformers liked these mentions. However, they did not quote the sentence about Medvedchuk's "pocket channels", nor about Medvedchuk's participation in the "poisoning of the public sphere" of Ukraine with disinformation.

The US push Ukraine to a "European war"

Ukrainian clickbait sites circulated statements by dubious experts about Ukraine's international status: "we are not a subject on the world chessboard, but an object, a country to which a plan is being drawn up that only agrees with certain points." The pretext was the Franco-German plan for a peaceful settlement of the occupation of part of the eastern regions, which was covered by some media. It is difficult to say how real and relevant this plan is given the military escalation initiated by Russia in recent weeks.

Another pretext for comments by clickbaiters was the statement of Oleksiy Reznikov, Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, that Ukraine should change Minsk to another place for talks: “Reznikov and provocateurs like him are doing everything to disrupt the negotiation process utterly destroying relations with one of Ukraine's major neighbors, Belarus." After last year's protests in Belarus, its self-proclaimed president, Alexander Lukashenko, has become completely dependent on Russia. That is why Minsk is no longer a neutral platform for Ukraine's talks with Russia.

Clikbaiters, together with Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues, are spreading numerous statements by Russian officials that the Ukrainian army is waiting for "its last battle," and that "fighting in the Donbas will be the beginning of the end" for Ukraine.

At the same time, it is Ukraine they are trying to show as "guilty" of the escalation, despite the fact that the statements of the Ukrainian political leadership are exclusively peaceful: "Ukraine and NATO countries to stop the hysterical Russophobic propaganda campaign."

We recently wrote about how disinformation has become one of the elements of Russia's military pressure campaign.

As Ukraine avoids the conflict, disinformers have to deploy a whole conspiracy theory in order to somehow hide Russia's pressure. They write that "Ukraine is only a provocateur of the first clash," and "the United States intends to start a European war." The goal of this war is "to defend its global hegemony, without which the United States without delay becomes a weak and poor regional state, internally unstable and prone to disintegration (worse than Russia in the 1990s)."

And of course the leading Russian sites did not do without fantasies about what new territories Russia may try to occupy: “I think that in the end Ukraine will lose the Kharkiv region, will lose Poltava, obviously, will lose Mariupol, and God forbid Odessa, or it may even lode Odessa."

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Coronavirus vaccination in Ukraine: "impotence and stupidity"

Ukrainian manipulative publications continue to give the opportunity for PR on the topic of the coronavirus to pseudo-experts who promote pro-Russian politicians, especially Medvedchuk: "who needs such authorities if the issues with the vaccine are decided not by Zelensky & Co, but by oppositionist Medvedchuk." But they have already started thinking about a "vaccine cocktail" for those who received the first dose of CoviShield, but VERY HYPOTHETICALLY will not be able to get it as a second dose ("One thing is clear, in no case can you catch up with the Sputnik of the enemy”). Note that the problem is not there yet, because the second vaccine dose needs to be injected in 90 days, but disinformers are already creating emotional tension and excitement in their audience.

Let Zelenskiy agree with Pfizer so that they give Ukraine a production license, we will also produce Pfizer. Why didn't you agree? Version number 1, Zelensky does not have contacts of the same level as Medvedchuk, who resolved all issues related to the production of Sputnik V personally with Putin. Version number 2, Zelenskiy and the company serve the business interests of foreign pharmaceutical giants and help Pfizer and others enrich themselves”.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues are also constantly promoting Medvedchuk, frightening readers about how "refusing Moscow’s help in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic could cost Kyiv a lot" and that it is this “refusal to produce the vaccine against coronavirus "Sputnik V" in Ukraine which has led to massive mortality." In addition, experts are quoted as recommending that Russia "open free vaccination points around the Ukrainian border" (and to make a "passport issuance point" of the Russian Federation in neighboring rooms).

In the context of criticism of Ukraine's refusal of the Russian vaccine disinformers describe how "in Europe, which is always a role model to Kyiv, there is a queue for Sputnik V." It is presented as if those countries that do not vaccinate the population with the Russian vaccine are simply "waiting for the approval of the European Medicines Agency, but the patience of many of them is running out." And Russian mainstream sites explain the lack of this approval by the fantastic qualities of the Sputnik, although it is known that its export is accompanied by many scandals. For example, in Slovakia they supplied a vaccine with a different composition than the one mentioned in a scientific article in a reputable medical journal. We also wrote before that scientists have doubts about the reality of the results of the vaccine test described in the article in The Lancet.

Zelensky the puppet, dictator, and a sore "good Jewish boy"

Ukrainian clickbait sites, following Russian sites that write about Ukraine, disseminate texts by authors who, under the guise of satire, push anti-Ukrainian theses. This time, for example, the site news24ua.com (and with it the Russian mouthpieces of the "Russian world" sites antifashist.com, nk.org.ua, naspravdi.info) published a text, according to the author of which Zelensky "has only to completely kill numerous enemies, stuck in the media and at customs to enjoy the opportunity to live in a true democracy".

However, sometimes such emotional speeches are produced not only by no name authors, but also by members of parliament. As in the case of the People's Deputy from the OPFL party who stated that Zelensky "seeks to close” the Shariy Party because of a "personal insult", and that sanctions against Medvedchuk's channels were imposed for criticizing the president. At the same time, neither the deputy nor the authors of the article mentioned the spread of anti-Ukrainian propaganda on these channels and the owner's connection with business in the occupied territories.

In addition, Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues diluted the news about Zelensky with conspiracy theories. For example, they questioned the reality of Zelensky's arrival at the front line (because the trench in the photo "does not correspond to the state in which they should be in the combat zone") or state that Zelensky flew to Qatar only to call Biden (and there was no conversation with Biden the day before because Biden is afraid of new “leaks''). And they simply reminded once again that Zelensky is not only "just a puppet," but also a dictator who plans to "be re-elected for a second term, and then to change the Constitution and nullify his first two terms." Surprisingly disinformers did not add the obvious: “like Putin”.

"Repression" against Medvedchuk and Shariy. "Opposition forces are uniting"

Ukrainian manipulative media continue to write about the "repression" of the opposition. They called the OPFL rally against the ban on the Shariy Party a testimony to the unification of opposition forces, described the National Security and Defense Council as "an instrument of political persecution of the ruling party," and described the search at the Storm security firm, which is linked to Medvedchuk, as follows: “authorities use law enforcement to neutralize the security of opposition politicians”. “It would be better if they did something useful, and would have sent helicopters with special forces to the Russian border”.

Medvedchuk himself, meanwhile, plays along with Russian disinformation, contemplating the "forceful seizure of the Donbas by the Ukrainian military" and produces quotes that are quickly picked up by the Russian mainstream sites: “Political repression in Ukraine should divert the attention of citizens from the real problems in the country: poverty, sky-high utility tariffs, a crisis in the social sphere, the failure of the campaign to vaccinate the population”.

Ukraine is in for "social stratification"

This week, Russian sites targeting Ukraine wrote extensively about the economy and compared Ukraine to Russia and the occupied territories. They criticized Ukraine's economic sanctions against Russian companies and companies in the occupied territories as "an example of neglect of international law and common sense." And the sanctions against Rossotrudnichestvo were called "unprecedented." Rossotrudnichestvo is a Russian propagandist organization acting in other countries.

In addition, disinformers boasted that Russia was transporting its citizens to the occupied Crimea "with the largest demographic increase being in Sevastopol." The reason for this population growth is supposedly "urban development" and "support for motherhood and childhood." In reality, Russia is probably trying to change the demographic composition of the population of Crimea and increase the share of Russians there. This is also one of the reasons why the peninsula is experiencing problems with water supply. It should also be noted that a significant proportion of migrants can be the military or serve the occupying forces in Crimea.

Instead, disinformers paint an unattractive picture of depopulation and unemployment for Ukraine: "There are no factories, no plants, no collective or private farms, no hospitals and schools, no institutes and design bureaus, no seaports and airports… There is nothing left in Ukraine." They also do not forget about emigration: "up to four million people left forever." Which is not true, but there is a narrative that Ukraine is a lost state.

Leading Russian sites write that Ukraine is in for a "social stratification" and suddenly mention the reform of the land market. They return to the usual narrative of external governance, this time taking the popular name of an American agency that distributes American aid around the world, the USAID, which supports credit unions for farmers. Allegedly, it wants to "lure (farmers - Texty.org.ua) into debt pits in order to then take away their land shares for resale to foreign latifundistas in payment of the debt". Credit unions are nonprofit organizations that unite people (such as farmers). Participants pay contributions and can place deposits, and from this money other participants can get cheap loans.

Fake about "a drone of the Armed Forces" to justify aggression

Russian sites targeting Ukraine continue to spread the story of a "boy from Oleksandrivka" who allegedly died from an explosive device dropped from a drone. This week, the militants even "found" the culprits among the servicemen of the Armed Forces: “a criminal case is being investigated (by pseudo-attorneys of the militants - Texty.org.ua) against the commander of the 59th separate motorized infantry brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Gennady Shapovalov, as well as servicemen subordinate to him on the fact of dropping an explosive device in Aleksandrovskoe”. In fact, the story spread by the militants is a complete fake. The place of the explosion is 12 kilometers from the front line and Ukrainian drones simply do not fly that distance. In addition, the militants do not provide any details about the identity of the deceased and the circumstances of his death.

JFO: military action and occupation

As for the direct fighting on the line of contact, disinformers accuse the Ukrainian military of mining and shelling in Horlivka and write about the arrival of "right-wing radicals."

"Ukrainian Russian language"

The spokeswoman for President Yulia Mendel, who, following Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, said that the "Russian Ukrainian language" should be developed, was accused of flirting with Russian-speaking voters by Russian websites targeting Ukraine. At the same time, they complain about the "language law" and the language ombudsman, whom they dubbed the "language superintendent."

One of the main lines of propaganda by which the Russian Federation justified its aggression against Ukraine from its very beginning in 2014 was exactly the idea of protecting the Russian-speaking population.

Russia will defend Crimea and Ukraine "destroys its production" under the control of the IMF

Russia's leading sites and those targeting Ukraine mainly promote the "wise" Russian policy in Crimea. “The economic strategy of Russia is fundamentally different from the economic strategy of Ukraine, which follows the instructions of the IMF and destroys its own production, the expert emphasized”.

They claim that the status of the region is "safe" under the protection of the Russian occupationist forces. Particular emphasis is placed on the security of the bridge in Kerch.

The National Security and Defense Council is an investment robber

Along with the NSDC's statements on the preparation of a new package of sanctions against those involved in the work of conversion centers and smuggling, pro-Russian sites have also intensified. They consider the NSDC sanctions an illegal tool for the current government to fight political and business opponents. The National Security and Defense Council is called an "out-of-court arbiter in commercial disputes" or an "investment robber" whose activities scare the last investors away from Ukraine.

Also this week

It was reported that Judge Chaus was лшвтфззув by Ukrainian special services with the help of Ukrainian diplomats. Disinformers also tried to find a trace of the NABU head in this story. As for Nord Stream 2, they asserted that the escalation near Ukraine's borders was only a reason to close the pipeline. In religious matters, they intimidated Ukraine with a "religious war" with "millions" of adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

Summary

Since officially Ukraine does not take any aggressive steps, does not declare preparations for the offensive, does not even mobilize the army, disinformers have to dodge and come up with "signs of Ukrainian aggression." Here, they benefit from dubious reports of civilian casualties from Ukrainian drones (far beyond the front line) and statements by Ukraine's allies about their support, and words from Ukrainian officials. But it is important to remember that, by its very nature, disinformation can distort any information and present it in the needed light.

The increase in the number of reports on the issue of escalation and the growth of their aggression is one of the elements of the pressure that Russia is currently exerting on Ukraine. Its goal is to limit Ukraine's foreign policy opportunities and to cut it off from the support of foreign partners. And also to sow panic and despair in Ukraine itself.

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 23193 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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