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Expulsion of diplomats, forcing negotiations with Russian puppets, and the “value” of Nord Stream 2. Disinformation monitor #77

  • Criticizing all vaccines except Russian and describing how Ukraine is begging for vaccines that are refused in Europe
  • Concluding that YouTube, by blocking Medvedchuk’s accounts, backed down before the Nazis
  • Forcing Ukraine to negotiate with Russia’s putter
  • Trying to justify the liquidation of Russia’s spy base in the Czech Republic
  • Writing that Ukraine cannot defend itself against Russia and no one will help it
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: April 19—25, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new in disinformation?

Ukraine allegedly needs to negotiate with Russian puppets in the occupied territories, not with Putin. Disinformers promote the idea of Ukraine's debts to pensioners who remain on the occupied territory and use this as another argument to go on the offensive. They also used the expulsion of a Ukrainian diplomat from Russia to accuse Ukraine of preparing repression against people who had obtained Russian citizenship.

Pseudo-experts

This week we checked what is written in the materials featuring pseudo-experts from our database. We will do such reviews on a monthly basis in future monitoring issues.

Over the past month, pseudo-experts have written on very different topics. They criticized Zelensky for "vanity, unpredictability" and for being "overgrown" with corrupt connections. And they wrote about a possible meeting between Zelensky and Putin.

A particularly active topic was the aggravation on the border between Ukraine and Russia. Pseudo-experts commented on the words of the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany that the West should help Ukraine get a membership in NATO. They also assured that Ukraine should not expect help from allies in the confrontation with Russia.

Another leading topic was Ukraine's "rejection" of the Minsk protocols. Pseudo-experts supported the position that Ukraine needed to "fulfill agreements" (although Russia and its puppets ignore them). And they accused Ukraine of acting "in order to please" the United States and seeking to block Nord Stream 2 by aggravation.

Negotiations on the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk

Putin's annual speech was discussed on clickbait sites this week. It was expected "that Putin will announce the recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Democratic Republics of Belarus and integration with Belarus," but the Russian president limited himself to saying "I hope no one will think of crossing the so-called red line against Russia. And we will determine ourselves where it would be in each case." Judging by Russia's policy over the past 10 years, its "red lines" run through the territory of many independent and sovereign states.

As for the words of the American diplomat Kurt Walker that Putin will not allow Ukraine to become a successful state, the clickbaits wrote: “Ukraine has been under the external governance of the United States for 7 years, but Putin is to blame for the fact that the United States is only robbing Ukraine and using it against Russia, rather than making it successful”. It will be recalled that the United States has been assisting Ukraine in the military and other spheres and supporting reforms for many years. Instead, Russia has started a war with Ukraine, occupied part of its territory and continues to threaten it.

Russian sites targeting Ukraine have focused on Zelensky's statement that he is ready to meet with Putin in "any part of the Ukrainian Donbass." Disinformers wrote that Zelensky could not "appoint a meeting on the land to which he has an indirect relation" and "Zelensky should talk about Donbass not with Putin, but with the leadership of the republics." Russia continues to impose "negotiations'' on Ukraine with its own puppets in the occupied territories and is trying to pull itself out of the negotiation process.

In Telegram channels, it was written that "Ukraine was the first to draw forces to the Donbass." And that is "the United States who managed to change the psychological mood in the information sphere" and "convince" the world of Russia's aggressive intentions.

Russia's diplomatic "war" with Europe

This week, disinformers mentioned a lot about the Ukrainian consul in St. Petersburg, who was recently expelled from Russia. They wrote that "Ukrainian consul Alexander Sosonyuk caught at espionage was looking for data on Ukrainian citizens who received Russian passports." Such data "are needed by the Kyiv authorities to prepare political repressions against their own compatriots with dual citizenship of Russia and Ukraine."

In response to the expulsion of its own diplomat, Ukraine declared the Russian consul in Odesa an undesirable person. In addition to Ukraine, Russian diplomats were recently expelled by Poland and the Baltic states, and the Czech Republic forced Russia to dismiss most embassy staff. Russian sites targeting Ukraine wrote about the decision of the Czech Republic: "The expulsion of Russian diplomats is both a pretext taken out of the blue, and huge damage to the interests of the Czech Republic." It will be recalled that the Czech Republic began to so resolutely oppose Russian espionage activity after an investigation showed that Russian spies blew up weapons depots in the country and killed two of its citizens.

Russia's leading sites and those targeting Ukraine also continued the usual narrative that Ukraine is "controlled from the outside" (the West - Texty.org.ua) and that “if Ukraine ceases to exist as a whole, will fall apart, the West will only benefit from it, because for it the Ukrainian state is only a means to achieve its goals."

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Ukraine is "defenseless" and "the West" won't help it

As for sanctions against the Ukrainian representative in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), disinformers wrote: "Olexiy Honcharenko’s microphone was turned off at a meeting of the Assembly because of his next prank." It will be remembered that earlier, PACE returned the Russian delegation which wasn't allowed to meetings for 5 years because of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The Russian delegation was not subject to further sanctions or restrictions.

Russian sites targeting Ukraine have also written extensively about Ukraine's "defenselessness." There are two narratives, the first is "NATO will not help Ukraine": "NATO defends its allies, but is not going to defend Ukraine." The second is that the Ukrainian army is "incapable of combat" due to a lack of ammunition and military equipment, as well as because the "youth" does not want to join the army.

Leading Russian websites wrote that while accumulating equipment near the Ukrainian borders: "Russia is showing readiness to defend itself" and commented on the Ukrainian law on mobilization of reserve soldiers (it is criticized by experts): “{due to} the unwillingness of the inhabitants of Ukraine to fight, the law on mobilizing reservists will not cause the most favorable consequences for the Armed Forces of Ukraine”. The unpleasant consequences that disinformers write about are "mass desertion."

Coronavirus vaccination. Ukraine begs and is afraid of Sputnik V

Ukrainian manipulative media continue to publish commissioned materials with PR of Tymoshenko and Medvedchuk on the topic of coronavirus. News of the latter is accompanied by advertising the Russian vaccine, which, according to Medvedchuk’s experts and members of the OPFL party, is able to solve all the problems of Ukraine and the world. However, there are more and more arguments not in the favor of Sputnik V. For example, due to significant problems identified during its own inspection, Sputnik V was rejected in Brazil.

And Russian websites that write about Ukraine continue to reproduce Medvedchuk's theses that Ukraine could "join the club of strong countries" by launching the production of the Russian vaccine. They supplement this with the classic thesis of external governance: "Ukraine is trying to pick up doses that no one wants", while criticizing all vaccines except Sputnik V: "Indian, Chinese, Pfizer. They are all low-quality, all scientists in the world talk openly about it." However, developed countries are already at the finish line of vaccination and are ready to distribute vaccines to others.

Meanwhile, some Telegram channels mock the request of the Ukrainian authorities to avoid significant social contacts even after the lifting of quarantine restrictions: “by the end of April there will be even more alarmist statements, and [traditional] May Day barbecue parties will be equated with genocide

Nord Stream 2 the "diamond in the political crown" of Merkel

Russian sites targeting Ukraine predicted that "the Ukrainian gas transportation system will finally collapse, since it is the revenues from the transit of Russian gas that still allow Ukraine to maintain the GTS." The German Chancellor's decision to complete the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was called "one of the diamonds in the political crown with which Angela Merkel will leave."

Leading Russian sites sum up: "Germany, if it wants to remain one of the world's leading powers, simply has no choice but to follow a pragmatic course in relations with our country." In fact, Germany has been buying gas transited through Ukraine for decades. The construction of a new gas pipeline will only create additional problems for its eastern neighbors, including Ukraine.

Economic ruin and Ukraine's debt before the DPR

Ukrainian manipulative media are constantly pumping emotions writing about low pensions, high prices, utility tariffs, and the cost of Mykola Tyshchenko's party which took place despite lockdown restrictions. And they come up with absurd (although bright) terms such as "social racism".

Following them, all this negativity readily is picked up by Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues. And Russian sites add their own thesis that "The total debt of Ukraine on pensions to citizens of the Republic (the DPR - Texty.org.ua) as of April 1, 2021 is 128.9 billion hryvnia." However, they forget to add that Ukraine does not receive from the DPR the taxes that fill the pension fund. However, manipulators add a reaction from their social networks: "Take away the debt forcefully, in the form of Mariupol city", turning accusations of alleged anti-social into an excuse to escalate the situation.

Medvedchuk: YouTube's repression and "political cull of the undesirables"

In the texts promoting OPFL and Medvedchuk, both Russian and Ukrainian manipulative sites had an exceptional similarity of their theses. Both types of sites wrote emotionally about Zelensky's attempts to usurp power through an attempt to liquidate the District Administrative Court of Kyiv (known for its corruption) and criticized the blocking of Medvedchuk's media empire, now also on YouTube. The latter was called a "massacre of freedom of speech" and was accompanied by a description of how YouTube "engaged in the political cull of undesirable accounts" and "officially bowed to the Nazis."

Zelensky's anti-popular and criminal power has brought the country to such a catastrophic situation [...] that it can no longer allow the citizens of Ukraine free access to information, and therefore introduces strict censorship, established by usurpation of power and extrajudicial reprisals”.

Another thesis that was actively promoted by Ukrainian clickbaits: "Medvedchuk is the only Ukrainian politician who can end the conflict in eastern Ukraine." It was added that "the recent escalation in Donbass is the result of Kyiv's actions" or that Russia and Ukraine together "may be testing the new US President Joe Biden to see how far he is willing to go to protect Washington's ally and oppose Russia."

Sternenko and the radicals who "made the Office of the President back down"

"Zelensky turned to the right again". This is how Ukrainian manipulative media reacted to Sternenko's house arrest, Zelensky's offer to head the Security Service of Ukraine office in Odesa, and a story about right-wing radicals on Dom TV channel, which was removed under pressure from the National Corps. All these events did not go unnoticed by Russian sites that produced headlines such as "Unprecedented: they told the truth about the Nazis on Ukrainian TV, and they themselves were scared."

"Ukrainian nationalists" hunt for Lukashenko

Disinformers wrote about the visit of a “Servant of the People” member of parliament of the self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. They quoted Lukashenko: “I will absolutely sincerely tell you: the normalization of the situation in the problem areas of Ukraine, primarily in the Donbas, depends only on Ukraine.” And they also wrote: “ ‘Ukrainian nationalists’ could be used against Lukashenko...

Summary

This week, disinformers were particularly active in writing about the fate of the Russian diplomatic corps, which in many countries is a cover for purely espionage activities. The base in the Czech Republic, which operated throughout the European Union, was particularly active. Czech law enforcement officials have established that Russian saboteurs blew up military depots in the Czech Republic and killed at least two citizens of the country. This was the reason for disbanding the espionage center that had acted under the umbrella of the embassy.

They also commented on the expulsion of a Ukrainian consul from Russia, who was accused of trying to buy a database of Russian passports. Disinformers claim that in this way Ukraine "prepared repressions" against Ukrainian citizens who received Russian passports.

Another notable narrative is the "anti-Russian coalition" in the West. On the one hand, after the election of President Biden, disinformers write a lot that he is forming a coalition against Russia. On the other hand, they are convinced that NATO will not help Ukraine, and Ukraine by itself will not be able to resist Russian military power. At the same time, they do not forget to mention Russia's "exclusively peaceful intentions."

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 21846 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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