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“Ukrainians are Russians” and external governance of Ukraine, now also from China. Disinformation monitor #87

  • Pumping up the language conflict and writing the “Ukrainians are Russians
  • Negiotiations with China were turned into nostalgia over the USSR
  • Demonizing Ukrainian nationalists
  • Accusing Ukraine of unwillingness to settle peace in the Donbas
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: July 5 — 11, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new in disinformation?

The theses of the "Russian world" certainly cannot be called new, but recently there are more and more texts and quotes from Russian (and some Ukrainian) politicians to support them. Although Putin's article was published this week and will be monitored next week, there were plenty of reasons last week to inflame the language conflict, demonize Ukrainian nationalists, and criticize the Ukrainian government through the prism of its ethnic policies.

In addition, much has been written about geopolitics and how the West rules Ukraine and does not give it enough support, forcing it to turn to China.

Geopolitics: rapprochement with China, distancing from Belarus, playing up to the United States

The topic of Ukrainian foreign policy has been turned by Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues into an occasion to remind their readers about alleged foreign governance. For example, the arrival of George Kent in Ukraine was described under headlines such as "Extreme measures: the United States sent a new ambassador to Kyiv for complete subordination of Ukraine." At the same time, Ukraine itself was called a "bridgehead for the attack on Moscow," and US support for anti-corruption bodies was easily turned into "Demands to fight corruption are in fact aimed at establishing strict control over the Ukrainian elite".

The flirtations with China by the Servants of the People and Arahamia personally did not go unnoticed. Disinformers saw this as disappointment in the West ("Ukrainian authorities realized that there was nothing to get from the West and turned their eyes to the East") and sarcastically added, "Servants of the People want to learn from the Chinese Communist Party, which learned from the USSR."

Meanwhile, the deterioration of Ukraine's relations with Belarus was described in a light exclusively favorable for Belarus. Disinformers blamed Ukraine, describing it as "Kyiv did not spare unflattering, humiliating and insulting comments against Alexander Lukashenko." Adding that Lukashenko "made serious accusations against Ukraine of involvement in the destabilization of the situation in the republic [of Belarus] and the supply of weapons into the country." At the same time, the refutation of this thesis was unsurprisingly silenced. Nor did disinformers write about many other real reasons for the deterioration of Ukrainian-Belarusian relations, i.e the usurpation of power by Lukashenko, the persecution of the opposition, repression against independent media, and so on.

The threat of loss of native soil and other economic problems

Another recurrent topic for promoting the narrative of Ukraine's external governance is the land market, or, as Russian websites mention it, "in Ukraine, land is freely available." This topic continues to be developed in two directions: "The government does not want to support Ukrainian farmers, who are devastated by droughts and floods", although this year a record harvest is expected due to favorable weather, while drought, and then floods hit the occupied Crimea and “Despite the fact that the people do not want to sell land to foreigners, the Ukrainian authorities are going to do it anyway." And for even greater emotional hyping of the reader, they add unfounded forecasts of famine and vivid descriptions of the level of poverty in Ukraine. It should be noted that Ukrainians are not a rich nation, but they are not as poor as the Russian disinformation represents.

Ukrainian Nazis and "total Banderstadt"

Recently, quotes from Putin and other Russian political leaders about alleged Nazism/fascism in Ukraine have been appearing more and more in (pro)Russian media. Last week, Russian websites (and at the time Putin's article on the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians had not yet been published) spread Peskov's clarification that such an opinion "is not the official position of the Russian authorities," and then immediately switched to another statement. "Banderites and supporters of Nazism are honored in Ukraine [...] and they have a huge impact on public and domestic life."

But in addition to Russian members of parliament, this thesis was fueled by the statements of some Ukrainian MPs. Like, for example, Ilya Kiva, who "criticized the consistent glorification of Nazi accomplices in Ukraine, calling such actions part of a 'hybrid war on the part of the West' aimed at destroying the Slavic peoples."

As another proof that "Banderites and people who preach neo-Nazi ideology came to power in Ukraine" the law on national minorities was once again cites in its (completely false) propaganda interpretation: "Russian Ukrainians are declared inferior."

In the Russian version, as Putin also wrote, Russians and Ukrainians are one people, and whoever does not recognize himself as a Russian is a Nazi. Perhaps the increase in statements about the "Nazis" should have foreshadowed Putin's message from his article.

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"Blockade, siege, shelling". How Ukraine is losing the Donbas and Crimea

Russian disinformers continue to accuse Ukraine of the impossibility of establishing peace in the Donbas. In addition to fakes about shellings, they disseminte texts about how "Kyiv deliberately brings negotiations about the Donbas to a standstill," the Ukrainian side allegedly disrupts the meeting of the TCG (because the Russians called a representative of occupied territories convicted of terrorism). There is also a new fantastic version that the representatives of the so-called LDPR offer to hold talks with the participation of the United States and present it as "LDPR lures the United States to its side." The proposal to involve the United States in the negotiations was voiced at different times by different representatives of the Ukrainian side.

"Ukrainians are Russians"

Russian sites continue to pump up the language issue. Disinformers are still discussing Euro 2020 and the language in which Ukrainian footballers spoke at the press conference. They convey the ideas of the "Russian world", commenting on the law on national minorities ("Russians are excluded from human rights: how to erase the nationality of millions of people"). They simply write manipulative texts about how "Zelensky's regime is making every effort to disperse Russians and Ukrainians on different sides of the barricades and make them look at each other through the aim-sight of a machine gun." And from time to time they publish historical texts for which they look for "correct" arguments, from a superficial analysis of (allegedly Russian) names of Ukrainian cities, to the already classic thesis that "Ukrainian embroidered shirt is found not only in Ukraine but also in Russian regions, because it is not strictly Ukrainian, but all-Russian."

Ukrainian manipulative websites also actively support this topic. Their texts can be divided into two opposite (though equally destructive) directions.

The first is simply the reproduction of Russian theses by Ukrainian sites. One of the most striking examples is an article entitled "Ukrainian propaganda creates hysteria over Putin's remarks", where, reacting to Putin's statements about a single nation, one of the pro-Kremlin "experts" broadcasts the main theses of Russian propaganda in Ukraine.

But there is also another direction, an attempt to reflect anti-Ukrainian theses with the same emotional and manipulative texts, but already anti-Russian. As, for example, the publication under the title "Did you know that the Russian language is artificial?". Such texts, despite their alleged "pro-Ukrainianness," are really only fueling the pyre of language conflict, using the same manipulative hate speech, and giving Russian propagandists a source for quotes that they later refute.

Also this week:

Sea Breeze-2021 exercise continued to be called a provocation of Kyiv. Disinformers promoted the thesis that by the end of the summer the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline would be put into operation and called it "Zelensky’s fiasco", which "will finally bring down his regime."

Medvedchuk again defended and promoted. It was claimed that most Ukrainians consider him innocent, citing a poll by the pseudo-sociological office BURI-Ukraine, which has been processing orders from the OPFL for many years and does not even have a normal official website.

Summary

Despite the fluidity of topics, the main tools of disinformers remain unchanged. Pseudo-sociological data are used, reinforced by links to English-language articles on questionable sites. All foreign policy topics are interpreted through the prism of external governance. The description of favorite topics (such as the opening of the land market) is accompanied by emotional words and vivid descriptions of the famine in Ukraine and farmers who are forced to destroy their crops. And from all over the history of Ukraine, the right arguments are selected to promote the thesis of the "Russian world" and to sow enmity among Ukrainians on the basis of language.

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 17508 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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