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Supporting Medvedchuk, accusing the US of indifference to Ukraine, repression in Crimea. Disinformation monitor #79

  • Using May 9 to remind of “the fascist regime”
  • Defending Medvedchuk who fell victim to the US and totalitarianism in Ukraine
  • Continuing attempts to create a conflict between Ukraine and the US
  • Praising Russian occupation of Crimea
  • Reiterating Putin’s “anti-Russia” badge for Ukraine
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: May 10—16, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new in disinformation?

They were happy about Stepanov's resignation, but complained that Lyashko, a "protege of Soroslings," would most likely be appointed instead. Medvedchuk was widely defended, the case against him is called almost a sign of Ukraine's transformation into a "totalitarian state." They wrote that the American president does not help Ukraine, NATO will never accept it, Ukrainian military bases in Azov are a provocation for Russia. As for the occupied territories, repression and killings of Muslims in Crimea were justified under the pretext of fighting against Islamic radicalism. And they assured that Russia does not want to "absorb" the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine.

Reprisal against Medvedchuk: totalitarian Ukraine and revenge for May 9

Ukrainian trash sites continue to defend Medvedchuk and cover only one side in the case against him. They quoted the OPFL, Medvedchuk himself and his experts, who spoke of "legal arbitrariness", another example of pressure on the Russian language, and that such actions by the authorities were “an outright and cynical political onslaught on an opposition politician who exposed unprofessionalism, corruption and anti-people nature of the authorities."

All this was also picked up by Russian sites that write about Ukraine. They quoted Russian politicians, diluting them with joyful emotional comments from Ukrainian right-wing radicals, to confirm their claims of Ukrainian Nazism and that the accusations against Medvedchuk "were another step towards turning the country into a totalitarian state." However, along with the theses about the totalitarianism of the Ukrainian government, following the Russian mainstream sites, they wrote about the signs of "manual control by the United States." The latter added that this showed that "America is afraid of Medvedchuk like it is afraid of fire," and that "searches of his home are revenge on the part of the authorities, in particular, for the opposition-organized celebration of Victory Day on May 9."

May 9: the day of resistance against "Ukrainian fascist regime"

Ukrainian clickbait sites continued to openly promote OPFL, calling it the only party that was "not afraid to demonstrate that there is another Ukraine."

And Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues reflected the course of the May 9 celebrations and all (even minor) conflicts that took place that day. Under headlines like "After Victory Day. What Really Happened in Ukraine” scares were disseminated describing the “sieg-ing of local radicals”, how “supporters of pro-Hitler collaborators” attacked civilians with communist symbols and that in Ukraine “fascists and police are one coalition”. The flow of texts was completed by theorizing about the "Kyiv regime" (calling it the "fascist regime"), the state ideology of "anti-Sovietism and Russophobia" and that "Victory Day in Ukraine became a spontaneous day of resistance, and by distancing from the false Ukrainian official holiday, the real one only won in its deep, popular essence."

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US "reject real aid to Ukraine" but "took control" over its state assets

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues published articles with headlines similar to "Biden's administration has refused real help to Ukraine." The typical "arguments" to support this topic were as follows: "Have any other steps been taken that were material confirmation of the intention of the United States and NATO members to support Ukraine? For example, increasing the number of maneuvers or exercises on the territory of Ukraine, supplying new weapons, sending US or NATO delegations to Ukraine, appointing a US ambassador to Ukraine, appointing a special envoy of the Secretary of State for relations with Ukraine."

In reality, the answer to most of these questions is yes. American ships are constantly off the Ukrainian coast, the United States is preparing to supply weapons in the event of Russian aggression in addition to the incoming aid, the US Secretary of State arrived in Ukraine on a visit. Although a new ambassador and special envoy have not yet been appointed.

Along with cultivating "loss of trust" in the allies, disinformers develop the usual narrative of "external governance." This time the reason was criticism of the government’s interference in the work of Naftogaz. Disinformers wrote that: "Joe Biden began to push for changes in Ukrainian legislation that would allow the Supervisory Boards of state-owned companies to become an independent governing body with great powers… In fact, it was a matter of full control over key state assets of Ukraine." It will be recalled that during the years of independent corporate governance, Naftogaz was able to make Ukraine independent of Russian gas, won arbitration against Gazprom in Stockholm, began to make a profit and carried out many important reforms.

Disinformers did not ignore Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic prospects. They commented on Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanyshyn's words about when Ukraine will be in NATO: "when pigs begin to fly." In the last issue of the monitoring, we described how disinformers are trying to cause disappointment and despair in the process of Ukraine's integration into NATO. However, experts are already proposing steps to stimulate this process and achieve results in the medium term.

Leading Russian sites were concerned that the Ukrainian naval base in Berdyansk could lead to a clash: "Yes, the intention of foreign warships to go to a new military base or port may turn into a reason for local clashes with the Russian Navy." It will be recalled that Ukraine has the full right to build any bases on its territory and invite anyone's ships there. But since Russia is illegally blocking the Kerch Strait, the passage of warships (even Ukrainian) is still unlikely.

"Purging" Stepanov, Indian variant closing in

Last week, Ukrainian manipulative sites intimidated their readers with the arrival of the Indian strain of coronavirus: "scary movies will come true." But (even before Stepanov's official resignation) there was much speculation about the "true" reasons for the removal of the Minister of Health from his position. It was speculated that the "President's Office decided to" clean up "all uncontrolled ministers" or that it was in fact "the United States needed such personnel changes needed to strengthen control over flows."

And Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues, on the one hand, continued to criticize Stepanov, and on the other - reminded that "Stepanov is being displaced by the Soroslings who put their own man, Lyashko" (who has already been appointed Minister of Health).

Crimea: militarization and repression

Regarding the occupied Crimea, Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues disseminated the "impressions of a Ukrainian tourist" about the occupied peninsula: "Something is constantly changing here, and for the better. It is clear that there is more infrastructure, quality playgrounds, schools and hospitals. Roads are being repaired and built, which was not the case in the times of Ukraine.” In contrast to the "bright" picture of Crimea, the alleged tourist complains that “in Ukraine now it is impossible to celebrate Victory Day in a normal way, wearing appropriate symbols. For this you may even be arrested."

Infrastructure development in Crimea in recent years has almost entirely revolved around military needs. The recent escalation has shown how effectively new roads and bridges in Kerch are used to transfer equipment. We have written a lot about how militarization affects the peninsula, leading to a shortage of drinking water, repression of the indigenous population, and constant military danger.

As for the repression, the recent murder of a citizen of Uzbekistan in Crimea is a demonstration. He was accused of terrorism and killed in a search after he successfully defended himself in court for several years against Russia's attempts to extradite him to Uzbekistan. Disinformers wrote that the murdered man was “allegedly engaged in construction work. In fact, he organized a volunteer food outlet for Islamic activists, "and the area where everything happened is "controlled by radical ethnic groups." It will be recalled that accusations of territorialism and Islamic radicalism have become a common form of repression against Muslims in Crimea, and especially Crimean Tatars.

Anti-Russia

Russian websites wrote: "Russian citizenship is granted to residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics for purely humanitarian reasons" and assured that Russia was not trying to annex the occupied part of eastern Ukraine. In fact, this territory has been controlled by the Russian military since 2014, and the only thing that can change is the formal recognition of the occupation by Russia.

They also quoted Putin's words that Ukraine is becoming "Anti-Russia" and that "there is a real cleansing of the political field, while Western countries do not react to it", speaking about criminal prosecution of Medvedchuk. Zelensky's actions were explained by disinformers: "Zelensky decided to show not only the Ukrainian political and economic elite that he has balls, but also to one of the most authoritative Presidents of the world, Vladimir Putin, that he is no longer a boy, but worthy to sit down."

Ukraine's economic problems: "let people suffer" and "governmental terror"

Ukrainian manipulative sites, along with Russian sites that write about Ukraine, continue to react emotionally to everything related to the Ukrainian economy: criticizing the tax system, too high utility tariffs, reducing the "army of subsidy recipients," and so on. All this is served under headlines like "Grandma should receive a decent pension, not a heart attack from seeing Zelensky."

Summary

This week, disinformers wrote that the "onslaught" on Medvedchuk was "legal arbitrariness," a sign of "totalitarianism," and even an example of "US foreign rule." They did not forget to remind that Medvedchuk's party Opposition Platform - For Life (OPFL) openly and in the spirit of the Russian propaganda carries out solemn actions devoted to the victory of the USSR in the Second World War, and that in "Ukraine now it is even impossible to celebrate Victory Day normally" . In reality, May 9 was celebrated by everyone who wanted and in any way they wanted, without any problems.

Another vector of disinformation is Ukraine's relations with its partners. After the information support for the aggravation on the borders of Ukraine decreased a little, it was the diplomatic direction that came to the fore. Disinformers usually contemplate that Ukraine is under "foreign governance", it is not helped by the United States and "will not be accepted" into NATO. In reality, the picture is much more complicated, Ukraine definitely receives support, but no one will solve its own problems for it.

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 19384 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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