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International plotting, distrust of the NATO, Russia’s vaccine blackmail. Disinformation monitor #78

  • Disinformers consider dividing Ukraine “along the Dnieper”
  • Ukraine is blamed for supporting radicals because of a hundred marginal people marching in Kyiv
  • NATO membership “unachievable” and “unneeded” for Ukraine
  • Still advertising the Russian vaccine
  • Promoting Medvedchuk
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: April 26 — May 9, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new in disinformation? Russia and the USA have divided Ukraine "along the Dnieper"

“Moscow and Washington have already agreed on everything in private and the division of Ukraine along the Dnieper is thus part of a large transaction that remains secret”.

Among the laudatory texts about the OPFL, we suddenly found an article criticizing the OPFL containing the thesis that for this party, “The word ‘opposition’ in its name is completely inappropriate. This party is a product of agreements with the authorities, a convenient opposition”. Interestingly, laudatory publications about Medvedchuk appear, first of all, on Ukrainian garbage sites, while the mentioned quote appeared on one of the Russian sites targeting Ukraine.

Polish volunteers and the Georgian battalion

Clickbait sites echo Russia's propaganda that recent uncovering of Russian saboteurs in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are part of a "script written overseas."

At the same time, they are spreading outright lies about “Military instructors from Canada, USA, and Great Britain, about 200 people (that’s only officially). Two volunteer units from Poland, numbering three hundred bayonets. A detachment of Polish snipers. Lithuanian and Georgian battalions, two and a half hundred soldiers” who are all allegedly on the frontline and can “start firing”.

Russian sites targeting Ukraine are spreading statements by Russian officials that “Zelensky must not be let off the hook of Minsk agreements”. Russia is not trying too hard to hide the fact that the Minsk protocols are a trap into which Ukraine has been lured by force.

Another notable international topic was the visit of the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Kyiv. Disinformers commented on his words about financial support for Ukraine: “Washington just "buys cheap" the Independent One” [a derogative for Ukraine in Russian propaganda]. And they also continued to accuse the United States of cynicism and persecution of its own interests only: “Americans do not give a damn about the interests of Ukraine, its population and, in general, anything where there is no self-interest”. At the same time, they promoted the need for "dialogue with Russia".

"Nazis march along the streets of Kyiv". The march in honor of the Galician division of the SS

About 100 people who marched in honor of the 76th anniversary of the first Ukrainian division of the SS "Galychyna" (“Galicia”) quickly became an occasion to actualize the theme of Nazism and fascism in Ukraine. And although the President's Office, the Foreign Ministry, the People's Servant Party, Parliament Speaker Dmytro Razumkov, Volodymyr Vyatrovych, an EU parliament member (the former head of the Institute of National Remembrance who is known as an ideologue of decommunization), and other Ukrainian politicians and activists have all condemned such actions, Russian sites nevertheless threw in their theses that "the Ukrainian government uses the radicals", "Ukraine has rolled out the red carpet to the Nazis."

And Russian mainstream sites additionally quoted Putin’s spokesman Peskov: “Ukrainian Nazis, who marched across Kyiv in honor of the SS division ‘Galicia’, do not hide their desire to start hostilities in the Donbas again”. Thus, shifting the responsibility for the ineffectiveness of the truce from Russian militants to a hundred people whose actions were harshly criticized by the Ukrainian authorities.

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NATO membership

Russian sites targeting Ukraine are increasingly writing about the possibility of Ukraine's membership in NATO. The arguments in these materials range from "Ukraine does not need NATO" to "NATO is expensive and not useful to Ukraine." They write that all US assistance to Ukraine comes down to the fact that "the US cheaply sells to Ukraine its decommissioned boats and other iron that has known better days, and American instructors teach patriotic recruits to fire on the civilian population of the Donbas." In reality, the Americans supply Ukraine with boats that will form the basis of the fleet (along with British missile boats), the latest anti-tank systems, communications systems, anti-artillery radars and many other equipment which is more modern than the one Russia uses in its war against Ukraine.

Regarding recent Russian military exercises in the occupied Crimea, Russian websites wrote that "Ukrainian authorities are pumping up the situation only to join the North Atlantic Alliance." They also assured that "Ukraine has never met any of the criteria of existing NATO integration initiatives." In fact, there is simply no specific list of "criteria" for joining NATO, this is a purely political decision. In March 2020, NATO accepted Northern Macedonia, which is difficult to call a more developed country than Ukraine. Therefore, Ukraine's accession to NATO depends to the greatest extent on public opinion in the member countries, which Russia is actively trying to influence, and on the geopolitical situation.

On the other hand, disinformers invented "facts" that would indicate "NATO's uselessness": “the countries of the alliance are burdened with the policy of purchasing "a horrendous amount of excessively expensive American military equipment", to which NATO, if not bombing some small states and defenseless peoples, is engaged in forcing its members”.

"Ukrainian authorities go on canceling the Victory Day"

Before the dates of May 8 and 9, Ukrainian manipulative publications were earning money by printing the full texts of politicians' congratulations presenting this as news, or simply spreading news about how the OPFL are the only ones who celebrated May 9 in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russian sites ]expectedly interpreted the change in state rhetoric and the commemoration of the Day of Remembrance of Reconciliation on May 8 as another evidence of the victory of Nazism in Ukraine. They quoted congratulations from the President of the Russian Federation and pondered "Why Putin did not congratulate the leaders of Ukraine and Georgia on Victory Day", spread fakes as "Ukraine congratulated the people of Donbass on Victory Day with mortar fire", and responded to the action "Immortal Regiment" in Kharkiv with a title: “Ukraine will start waking up from Kharkiv." And at the end, they asked themselves the question "what happened to Ukraine and why is it getting further away from its closest neighbor every year?".

Coronavirus vaccination. "Ukraine must be vaccinated in Russia"

Ukrainian manipulative media continued to fuel emotions over coronavirus vaccination problems (preferring emotional comparisons to reasoned criticism) and quoting "experts" promoting the Russian thesis on Ukraine's external governance on coronavirus vaccination: "for the Minister of Health, it is more important to please the American embassy than to save the lives and health of Ukrainians."

And Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues manipulated, contrasting the fight against the coronavirus with Russian aggression in the East: “The authorities are struggling with something they call hybrid aggression [bold by Texty.org.ua], but right under their noses they deliberately doom many thousands of citizens of their country to certain death”, meaning the rejection of the Russian vaccine. Advertising the Russian vaccine, disinformers contrived to re-translate the lack of information about the vaccine, its secondary efficacy and the vaccination in Russia into an advantage. They wrote that in Russia, “there were no scandals related to Sputnik V, unlike with AstraZeneca" and "there was no disruption of mass vaccination due to the fact that the regulator recognized any vaccine as hazardous to health”. As of early May 2021, less than 10% of Russians were vaccinated. Russia lacks the capacity to produce enough vaccines for its citizens, and at the same time it continues to export it to other countries. Also note that according to recent polls, 62% of Russians do not want to be vaccinated with Sputnik. Among people under the age of 50, the vast majority do not trust the Russian vaccine.

Also, Russian sites continued to fantasize how “Ukraine must be vaccinated in Russia” proposing to set vaccination centres “right on the border”. “The bulk of the Russian population of Ukraine live in the east and southeast of the country, and anyone can safely get there and get vaccinated”. However, what exactly is the "Russian population of Ukraine" (which in fact has already become one of the leading theses of the "Russian world" in Ukraine) was not explained.

Meanwhile, various Telegram channels cannot decide whether the Office of the President plans to dismiss Stepanov "to blame him of the failure of vaccination in Ukraine", or, conversely, will keep him in the ministry either because of the lack of a single candidate, or simply because "Leaving the country without a person responsible for fighting the coronavirus is somehow inconvenient for the authorities, as a wave of criticism could hit the president and prime minister".

Promoting OPFL and Medvedchuk

Ukrainian manipulative media in texts promoting Medvedchuk's have moved from reproducing his quotes under almost identical headlines to quotes from "international" media that write about Medvedchuk. For example, last week they quoted "an Italian media": "With sanctions against Medvedchuk, Zelensky asked for the support of the West and Biden's phone call." However, the name of this Italian media, "Lettera da Mosca" translates as "The word of Moscow". Another example is quotes from the OPFL leader's advertisement published by “Belgium's largest daily news publication, The Brussels Times”. They just forgot to mention that this was an article by a third-party author that does not reflect the position of the editors, and the quotes themselves were simply taken out of context (written as "Political elite, in its struggle for power, control and resources, sometimes gives their actions as the will of the EU and the USA”, forgetting to reproduce another no less important opinion of the author about the spread of the narrative about Ukraine’s external governance by (pro) Russian media and the greatly exaggerated influence of the West on Ukrainian domestic policy).

Russian sites targeting Ukraine also sang an ode to Medvedchuk, describing how "out of non-existence, he entered the top three in the presidential rankings in less than two years" and calling him "the man who can lead the resistance to Western rule," and all the "repression" against him turned into "it’s not even the Ukrainian government who is fighting Medvedchuk, but Western capital and representatives of Western intelligence services."

Among the laudatory texts about the OPFL, we suddenly found an article criticizing the OPFL containing the thesis that for this party, “The word ‘opposition’ in its name is completely inappropriate. This party is a product of agreements with the authorities, a convenient opposition which at the same time serves as a horror story for nationalists due to the allegedly pro-Russian aspirations of the party, personified by politician Viktor Medvedchuk, but at the same time does not go beyond public criticism of the authorities, making this criticism an element of the show, but not real politics”. Laudatory publications about Medvedchuk appear, first of all, on Ukrainian garbage sites, while the mentioned quote appeared on one of the Russian sites targeting Ukraine.

Read about the reaction of the Russian media and garbage sites to the suspicion of treason against Medvedchuk and Kozak, which was signed on May 11, in our next issue of disinformation monitoring.

"Overwhelming economic ruin"

The continuous flow of emotional texts about the total impoverishment of Ukraine was supported last week by statements about extremely high taxes, utility tariffs, and the price of gas. And Russian sites targeting Ukraine added to this the idealization of the state of the Ukrainian economy until 2013 and once again manipulated the fact of enrichment of Ukrainian oligarchs: "For most Ukrainian oligarchs, the era of poverty is really over."

Also this week

This week, disinformers continued to accuse the Ukrainian military of shelling the occupied territories in the east. They compared the possible meeting of Zelensky and Putin with the meeting of Stalin and Hitler (the role of Hitler was adapted to Zelensky). But they immediately remembered that "Volodymyr Zelensky does not make any decisions himself, but acts on the orders of the West, so it makes no sense for Russian leader Vladimir Putin to meet with him." That is why Zelensky "does not deserve" a meeting with the "mighty" leader of Russia. As for the Minsk consultations, they wrote that Ukraine wants to blur the "agreements". And the inclusion of the United States or Britain in negotiations with Russia could lead to escalation.

Summary

During the period during which this monitoring covers, there were many weekends in Ukraine and no high-profile political events took place (materials about Medvedchuk's suspicion will be included in the next monitoring - Texty.org.ua). Maybe that's why this time the disinformation is "without a spark". Even the topic of May 9, about which manipulators loved to write every year, was not very bright.

Disinformers also continued to support Russian vaccine diplomacy. Among the proposals they mentioned was to set up vaccination points on the Russian border. We have already written that the vaccine is a tool for Russia to increase its prestige after the pandemic and economic stagnation undermined it.

We expect that in connection with the announcement of suspicion of Viktor Medvedchuk and his colleague Taras Kozak, next week disinformers will pay a lot of attention to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. So read our next issue to find out what's next!

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 30694 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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