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Russia issues its passports in the occupied territories, Zelensky dismisses law enforcers. Disinformation monitor #90

Events used to spread disinformation:

  • Rising utility tariffs
  • Russia threatening with invasion and issuing its passports in the occupied territories
  • Zelensky threatened with a military coup
  • Russia pressuring Turkey to stop its cooperation with Ukraine
  • US President failing to visit the Crimean platform meeting
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: July 26 — August 1, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new in disinformation?

This week, disinformers wrote about the issuance of Russian passports in the occupied territories. Occupiationists also plan to hold elections to the Russian parliament there. Russian sites claim that Ukraine has "given up" on people from the occupied territories and that their future is in Russia. In the field of international relations, they wrote that Turkey is "double-faced" because it does not want to refuse to cooperate with Ukraine. And the United States has humiliated Ukraine because it is not Biden who will come to the meeting of the Crimean platform, but a member of his cabinet.

Disinformers have tried to justify the recent rotations in the leadership of the security forces by Zelensky's "paranoia" and their own new prophecies of his "overthrow." Attentive readers of the monitoring have noticed that such prophecies appear periodically from the fall of 2019.

Ukrainians "on the brink of extinction" due to tariffs

This week, disinformers continued to promote the topic of rising utility tariffs. It is characteristic that Zelensky is personally blamed for future real and imaginary raises. For example, disinformers write that there was an increase "not in salaries and pensions, as promised in the election by Volodymyr Olexandrovych [Zelensky], but rather in electricity tariffs." They pump up emotions by describing Ukrainians who "once again will be put on the brink of extinction."

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues habitually linked the growth of utility tariffs to the salaries of officials and management of state-owned companies. “Utility tariffs for Ukrainian citizens are constantly raised but salaries are not paid; meanwhile, government officials, top company managers, and politicians live very well.” Read here about why top managers of state-owned companies have high salaries.

At the same time, Russian sites praise Medvedchuk. “The only one who worries about Ukraine and has proved many times that he is not indifferent to the fate of the nation is opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk and the Opposition Platform - For Life party. He told the authorities more than once that a 70% increase in gas prices for the population over the past two years is a disaster.”

Publications about the "extinction" of Ukrainians also appeared this week. Disinformers used the consumption of flour and bread in Ukraine as arguments. They write that "Consumption of flour in Ukraine since 2008 has also decreased by almost a half…", which means that the population was also to decrease. Read about the problem of such calculations in this material.

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Russia threatens, criticizes, and issues passports for the residents of occupied territories

After Putin's article, calls for a military invasion of Ukraine to return the lands of the "Russian Empire and the Soviet Union" are increasingly heard not only from Zhirinovsky, but also from other State Duma deputies. And these calls are actively spread by both Russian sites and Ukrainian clickbait sites (although the latter still mostly accompany them with criticism).

Russia must attack Ukraine preemptively to prevent its attack” (Duma member)

Ukraine! Come back home - to Russia!” (Duma vice speaker)

At the same time, Russia is actively preparing for the elections, having decided to increase the electorate of the United Russia party with the count of the people of the Donbas. And so it launched an active activity of (sometimes forced) issuance of Russian passports to the residents of occupied territories. And although the EU has already condemned the issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainians, this does not prevent Russian sites writing about Ukraine from spreading theses such as "Kyiv will finally give up the people of Crimea and the Donbas" or "Ukraine scares the people of the Donbas with deprivation of citizenship, but we do not care".

Zelensky is afraid of "putsch"

Last week, the heads of many law enforcement agencies changed in Ukraine, and this fact attracted the attention of disinformers. They constructed conspiracy theories, which are reduced to two main directions: Zelensky is afraid of a military coup or "preparing for the autumn aggravation."

Regarding the first "explanation", Russian sites targeting Ukraine write that "Zelensky received information about a conspiracy to overthrow the legitimately elected leader of the nation." And the dismissal of the commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Ruslan Khomchak is explained as follows: "The former head of the Armed Forces fell into disfavor because he did not promise to ‘return’ the [Crimean] peninsula by the end of the season. According to him, Zelensky demands victories from his team. However, Kyiv has already lost in the case of Nord Stream 2, and against this background Khomchak does not seek to storm Russian territory, and even dissuades his leader of this stupid idea”.

Disinformers claim that Zelensky has become paranoid: "President Zelensky seems to have lost it to fear. And he began to strengthen his personal power even more and more actively, to reinforce, sorry for the tautology, the enforcement bloc, surrounding himself with people not so much competent as personally devoted to himself." And they also spread the words of the pro-Russian deputy Ilya Kiva about the "date of the overthrow" of Zelensky. Disinformers were unable to provide any facts, while Ukrainian experts praised the newly appointed leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Zelenskt the "swindler" blackmails the West and anticipates a coup

While Russian websites are once again disseminating the idea of ​​early presidential elections, Ukrainian manipulative publications instead of constructive criticism continue to simply emotionally discredit the President of Ukraine. They ridicule all of Zelensky's attempts to "sternly and harshly answer Putin," thus, in pursuit of clickbait, they are in fact playing up to Russian propaganda. Another way that Russian disinformers probably like is to interpret personnel changes as a result of deteriorating relations with the abstract "West" ("The West no longer wants to have anything to do with Zelensky"). And because of this, the president's office allegedly decided to "blackmail the West by aggravating relations with Russia." But one would like Ukrainian clickbait sites to remember that there is less than one step from such unsubstantiated criticism to Russian propaganda theses.

Covid threat for Ukraine and "Sputnik Light" for the occupied territories

Ukrainian manipulative media discussed the possible consequences of the spread of the "Delta" coronavirus strain in Ukraine and how to avoid it. Russian sites have described the transmission of a batch of Russian coronavirus vaccine to Sputnik Light to the so-called L/DPR. And if Sputnik V is still not approved by the WHO, then the international certification of this vaccine is not even mentioned, and in Russia itself they promise to publish the results of clinical trials no earlier than the end of this year.

Turkey’s “double-faced” international policy catches Russia by surprise

The conversation of Turkish international expert Hassan Yunal with the pro-Kremlin publication Lenta.ru was an unexpected challenge for Russian propagandists and disinformers. During the conversation, Hassan Yunal decided to speculate on possible agreements on mutual recognition by Turkey and Russia of the facts of occupation of Northern Cyprus and Ukrainian Crimea.

At the same time, he stated that Turkey is not going to stop its military cooperation with Ukraine and will definitely take part in the Crimean platform at the end of August. Judging by the reaction of Russian propagandists, these theses of Yunal came as a complete surprise to them.

The interview of the little-known Turkish expert was commented on by everyone, from Dmitry Peskov (Putin's spokesman) to representatives of the local occupation administration. In general, the tone of these reports was quite restrained, although some commentators could not restrain themselves and called Turkey "double-faced" and called for learning to shoot down Turkish drones: “we should not aggravate relations with Ankara because of their [drone] supplies to Ukraine. We just need to practice shooting the drones down”.

Relations with the US and the "Crimean platform"

In the field of international relations, disinformers speculated that the United States had ignored Ukraine and even deliberately humiliated it because neither the President of the United States nor the Vice President would come to the meeting of the Crimean platform. Instead, the United States will be represented by Infrastructure Secretary Pete Buttigieg (a former Democratic presidential candidate). "Having sent Buttigieg to Ukraine, they lowered Kyiv and the summit itself to the bottom level."

Disinformers were particularly active in discussing that the American representative was openly gay. “Imagine Mr. Erdogan claiming the role of the leader of the entire Ummah, or strict (at least for show) Arabian sheikhs who shake hands with an openly married gay man”,

Telegram channels discussed who will be appointed the new US ambassador to Ukraine. “There is panic in the camp of Soroslings, rumors have spread that the US Embassy will be headed by an unfamiliar ‘diplomat with a principled position’.

“Neonazi games” around the dismantling of a Soviet monument in Lviv

The dismantling of the Soviet Red Army memorial in Lviv has caused outrage among the Russian state media, as well as Russian websites that write about Ukraine. Disinformers preferred not to mention that the memorial had been moved to the Territory of Terror Museum. They presented this event in the usual manner, as another proof of the fact that Ukraine is allegedly flooded by a wave of Nazism.

“There is no longer a memorial in memory of the victors over Nazism in the Great Patriotic War on Stryiska Street. Young Nazi baboons even managed to come running and arrange their ritual dances on the bones, siegging and shouting Nazi slogans.”

Russian state media called the dismantling of the memorial a "cynical act of state vandalism" and "neo-Nazi games."

Also this week:

Disinformers continue to foster discussions about Putin's article. A poll by the Rating group, in which 41% of Ukrainians support Putin's statement that Ukrainians and Russians are one people (and 55% do not support it), added even more topics for publications: "Surprise for nationalists: 41% of Ukrainians supported Putin's thesis of the unity of the peoples."

They wrote about David Arakhamia's words about nuclear weapons for Ukraine. They called Ukraine a "blackmailing country" and accused it of wanting to engage in "financial blackmail of the West."

Summary

To summarize, this week we saw that disinformers continue to speculate on utility tariffs and the "decline" of the population in Ukraine. These are popular topics that are always addressed by manipulators with the approach of the heating season (when utility bills are the largest). It looks like this year will be no exception. In addition, disinformers turned to dubious methods to "prove" that there were almost no people left in Ukraine.

In the field of international relations, Russian sites have actively written that Turkey does not want to stop cooperating with Ukraine (especially in the military sphere). And Zelensky was accused of wanting to "blackmail" the world with "military aggravation with Russia." They also called Ukraine a "blackmailing country" because of a Servant of the People MP saying that Ukraine could have kept its nuclear weapons.

One of the notable events of the past week was the large-scale rotation of the heads of law enforcement agencies, especially the army. Disinformers explained it by the "paranoia" of Zelensky who, according to one version, fears a military coup by generals associated with Poroshenko. On the other hand, he wants to get a "loyal army" to avoid being "overthrown".

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 16994 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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