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The expedition of HMS Defender, rumors of Avakov’s resignation, Zelensky’s “Wall 2”. Disinformation monitor #85

  • Spreading rumors of Avakov’s resignation and early presidential election
  • Fury over the passing of a British HMS near the Crimea
  • Describing the “impoverishment” of Ukraine
  • Outrage over the restrictions on Russian pop stars entering Ukraine
  • Defending the Russian narrative of World War II
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: June 21—27, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s now in disinformation?

From Zelensky's interview for 1+1 Channel, disinformers liked the quote about the construction of "Wall 2" in the Donbas the most, taking it out of context and turning it into "Zelensky forfeits the Donbas'' or (by Peskov) "The Kyiv authorities have already severed ties with the Donbas, it will be sad if it happens de jure." They also disseminated rumors about the resignation of the government and the "eternal" head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, who allegedly "flirts with the Soroslings." Russian sites reacted violently to the British destroyer's march near Ukrainian territory (occupied by Russia) off the coast of Crimea.

Pseudo-experts

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

This month, the pseudo-experts worked on various topics, but most of them wrote about international relations. Especially many such publications appeared before the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva. Pseud-experts wrote that Biden would leave Ukraine without US support, and also disseminated a fake story that the United States allegedly refused to provide military assistance to Ukraine before the meeting of the presidents. In general, pseudo-experts contemplated a lot about the fact that the West does not need Ukraine and it would leave it to stand alone against Russia. Additionally, pseudo-experts criticized the law on oligarchs proposed by President Zelensky, accusing him of authoritarianism.

Zelensky "catastrophically grew up" and opposes Avakov and Razumkov

Disinformers often spread rumors of resignations, early presidential elections (according to the latest forecasts, they would take place either this or the next autumn) or the dissolution of the Cabinet of Ministers or the Verkhovna Rada. Thus, they emphasize the turmoil of Ukrainian politics and the instability (and hence inefficiency) of the Ukrainian government. Therefore, it is not surprising that Russian sites focused on Ukrainian issues actively spread and discussed (so far unsubstantiated) rumors about Avakov's future resignation. It was explained by the fact that "Zelensky became more resolute", and, under the guise of expert analysis, disinformers disseminated meaningless reflections on how "Avakov opposes the plans of the Office of President to deprive him of his post, flirting with Soroslings."

Subsequently, rumors were also spread by Ukrainian manipulative publications. Although the latter did it more carefully, for example, clarifying that this is not yet accurate and assuming that it is in fact that "Bankova Street [Office of President] tests the opinion of Ukrainians about the dismissal of Avakov."

HMS Defender is "a provocation" for Russia

Disinformers continued to promote the "betrayal" narrative about Biden's words that the United States wanted to "continue diplomatic work on the Minsk agreements." They fantasize about it: "Kyiv may well try to go all-in, enlisting the support of the Poles to carry out such an action in the Donbas, which will simply force the United States to jump into the Ukrainian trench." But a special topic this week was the march of a British destroyer ship off the coast of the Ukrainian Crimea. Despite the fact that the international community considers the waters the destroyer sailed through Ukrainian territory, Russian officials write that the ship "violated the sea border of Russia." It will be remembered that the territory of the Crimea is illegally occupied by Russia.

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues write that "such provocations have no reasonable justification" and accuse the British of vainly "teasing Russians near their borders” (and even almost exactly on the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War)" . They also write that Ukraine's Western allies want to create a "feeling of instability" around Russia. Along with the HMS Defender's campaign, disinformers also mentioned the “Sea Breeze 2021” exercise, which began on June 28. Russia strongly opposes Ukraine's joint exercises with NATO countries because they severely limit Russia’s ability to blackmail Ukraine at sea.

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Total impoverishment. Ukraine "is in debt up to its eyeballs"

Both Russian sites and Ukrainian clickbaits continue to describe the total impoverishment of Ukraine, focusing mainly on the bleak future of the pension sector and Ukraine's public debt. The latter was particularly well suited to the thesis of external governance, and therefore texts on relations between Ukraine and the IMF were saturated with emotional phrases such as "debt slipknot", "Kyiv in debt up to its eyeballs" or in general "Stupid Ze-power has already got more debts than a dog bitch gets fleas." They did not forget to mention the cost of the planned celebration of Independence Day: "A feast during the plague. Kyiv to spend billions of hryvnias on Independence Day."

Philippe Kirkorov as a personal enemy of Ukrainian authorities

Last week, the disinformation media all resented the situation surrounding the ban on Russian singer Philippe Kirkorov from entering Ukraine. In the past, Kirkorov has repeatedly visited the occupied Crimea and supported its annexation. Based on this, he was included in the list of persons threatening the national security of Ukraine. Ukrainian clickbait sites were not particularly interested Kirkorov's ban on entering Ukraine. They intimidated the Ukrainian government with collapse in ratings and sucked up conspiracy theories that shifted the focus from visiting Crimea to President Zelensky's fictional personal war with the Russian singer.

the ‘war’ against [...] Kirkorov is a loss of at least 3% of Zelensky's rating

He accused Zelensky of betrayal. Why Kirkorov was declared a threat to the national security of Ukraine

“It's like banning Jesus Christ soon. Kirkorov's ban in Ukraine”

Many Ukrainian regional media later picked up on these theses and continued to spread them to their own audiences.

However, the SBU later excluded Kirkorov from the list of those who are banned from entering the country.

The pro-Russian OPFL party guarding historical memory

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany began the occupation of Ukrainian lands being than part of the USSR. World War II claimed tens of millions of lives, and the memory of it lives on in every family. However, according to Ukrainian manipulative media, the only organization in Ukraine that still remembers this is the openly pro-Russian OPFL party.

OPFL preserves historical memory for posterity

Has KYIV FORGOTTEN the Great Patriotic War?

In the imagination of manipulators, fascism has invaded Ukraine, and members of the OPFL are heroically fighting this invasion. Only they will protect our country from "dirty politicians" who try to "distort history".

Also this week:

Disinformers continue to accuse Ukraine of sabotaging the Minsk protocols. Now, the already classic theses are supplemented with the alleged desire of Zelensky to build a wall in the Donbas and finally break any relationship with the occupied territories (in fact, it's just a distorted quote taken out of context).

In addition to the "Wall 2" project, Zelensky was also accused of selectively fighting the oligarchs, called "a small Erdogan", and disinformers wrote that all the sanctions are actually done for the United States, which are already "preparing to buy titanium mines owned by Firtash."

Disinformers defended Medvedchuk, trying to make readers pity members of his family: "Guilty without guilt. Kyiv has intensified repressions against the relatives of those involved in the Medvedchuk case." And the very fact of searches was called "chaos for the brains of Ukrainians", because these searches allegedly create a "sense of chaos and danger among ordinary citizens."

As for gas issues and Nord Stream 2, disinformers continued to ridicule Ukraine and frightened readers with the terrible consequences of the launch of the gas pipeline. "After Nord Stream 2 is launched, the Ukrainians will not be able to afford a pair of socks." On the other hand, they accused the United States of wanting to "grab the heat with other people's hands”, that is, to force Germany to put pressure on Russia in gas matters.

Disinformers wrote that China "intimidated" Ukraine and forced it to withdraw its signature on a statement about the persecution of Uighurs in China. It is alleged that China has threatened to refuse to supply vaccines to Ukraine if Kyiv does not withdraw its signature on the statement. Disinformers commented on China's tactics as follows: "Ukrainian politicians are jackals who understand only power."

In the field of culture, Russian sites have traditionally written about "forced Ukrainization." Disinformers called the recent law on indigenous peoples ‘Nazism’ because it does not recognize Russians as indigenous. It will be recalled that an important feature of an indigenous people is that they do not have a separate statehood. Obviously, the Russians do not fit this definition.

Summary

This week, disinformers repeated their usual theses a lot and reacted only slightly to recent events. They circulated comments and statements by Russian officials about the passage of a British ship off the coast of Crimea (occupied by Russia). The action of the British was called "a provocation" and disinformers also threatened that the “Sea Breeze 2021” exercise would lead to instability in the region.

An unexpected topic was the discussion of the possible resignation of the government and, as a consequence, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. But the disinformers did not find specific facts, so they spread only rumors instead. They also write that Avakov opposes plans for his dismissal by flirting with “the Soroslings”.

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 17328 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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