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Anticipating an “energy crisis”, Lukashenko’s threats, and Kharkiv raiders. Disinformation monitor #92

  • Accusing Zelensky of wishing to “rule forever”
  • Anticipating an energy crisis in Ukraine
  • Disseminating Lukashenko’s fictions
  • Criticizing policies supporting Ukrainian language
  • Writing that Zelensky “purges the street” from nationalists
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: August 9 — 15, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new in disinformation?

Disinformers have begun to prophesy an "energy crisis" for Ukraine due to the construction of Nord Stream 2. Thus, they directly deny the official position of the Russian authorities that the pipeline is purely commercial and does not aim at political pressure. As history shows, Russia is always trying to gain political advantage in gas issues. We also see more and more mentions of the mythical "autumn protests", although no major rallies are planned and the main political forces are not urging their supporters to take to the streets. Rising gas prices, utility tariffs and inflation are a really good time to try and destabilize. Russian propaganda always actively uses such opportunities.

Of the local events, much attention was paid to the events in Kharkiv, where the SBU detained several members of the National Corps on charges of racketeering. Disinformers interpret these events as evidence that Zelensky is "purging the street" and trying to influence the upcoming mayoral election.

Die-hard Russophobe Zelensky wants to rule forever

Ukrainian manipulative media (we include in the monitoring those publications from this segment of publications that repeat or are in tune with Russian narratives) continue to criticize Zelensky emotionally and completely unconstructively: “he is still incompetent, limited in knowledge and just as suitable for his post as a saddle is suitable for a cow».

The symbiosis of the stupid and the rotten gives rise to Zelensky

Clickbait websites once again compare him to Poroshenko (not in favor of both of them): "Zelensky caught up and overtook Poroshenko on all counts of stupidity", they openly reiterate theses of Russian propaganda: "Jew Zelensky in the footsteps of Hitler proposed a final solution to the Russian question in Ukraine'' and once again predict early presidential elections. They combine this forecast with the thesis that "Zelensky is developing a plan for how to rule Ukraine forever after August 24." It is the risk of early elections that explains how "Zelensky is trying to become famous as a patented Russophobe", all in order to "get into the runoff not against Poroshenko, but against someone from OPFL."

Well, they also simply pump up emotions and produce conspiracy theories around the upcoming meeting with Biden: "Kolomoisky, Derkach, Dubinsky. Whom will Zelensky "give up" to Biden on August 30?"

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Olympics: "harassing" Ukrainian team and talk of Nazism

All Russian and some Ukrainian manipulative sites have been very active in using criticism of Ukrainian athletes by Ukrainian public figures as an excuse to discredit the entire country and confirm the thesis of Ukrainian neo-Nazism. The focus was on the criticism (in offensive language) by Larysa Nitsoy of Russian-speaking athletes of the Ukrainian national team and the statement of "neo-Nazi" Iryna Farion with criticism of Yaroslava Maguchikh (bronze medalist of the High Jump Olympics) for her photo together with a Russian athlete (the gold medalist). Farion's words about "bio-garbage" quickly turned into headlines such as "how the authorities harass the Olympic medalist Maguchikh for a photo with a Russian athlete."

There are so many Russian-speaking people that everyone cannot be fined, imprisoned, or executed

Gas issues: "energy crisis" and protests

In recent weeks, two factors have come together, namely the approaching heating season in Ukraine and the US waiver of sanctions against Nord Stream 2. This has led to disinformers actively writing about utility tariffs and gas prices. We have noticed several narratives on the subject: "betrayal of the West," Russia's ridicule over Nord Stream, and the prediction of protests in the fall.

As for Ukraine's Western allies, misinformers have resung their old song into new notes: “you shouldn't really rely only on the West, but this thesis that “people from abroad will help us” was constantly used for mass consumption, and now it became clear that Ukraine has no real allies on whom you can fully rely”.

At the same time, disinformers tried to accuse Ukrainians of their problems with gas transit: “Therefore, either the Ukrainian GTS pumps Russian gas to Europe, or it will become the world's largest closed enterprise. There are no other options." They forget to mention how Russia repeatedly blackmailed Ukraine over gas supplies. And even now it is using its influence in Europe to promote the gas pipeline that bypasses Ukraine and tries to cause the bankruptcy of the Ukrainian gas transportation system.

Leading Russian websites write that "The energy crisis awaits the Independent Country [using derogative re-transcription in the original - Texty.org.ua] first, and then the collapse of the financial system, similar to what happened in Russia in 1998, when the foreign loan policy led to the country's bankruptcy." And it is customary for disinformation to once again predict Ukraine's decline and disintegration: "Russia, realizing that if it stops the torment of Ukraine and simply kills it, will receive great criticism from the West…. we are just waiting for Ukraine to do everything itself".

Telegram channels wrote that "all those who will help the, let’s say, opposition to organize autumn protests will be purged in the regions" and predicted that the current government will go to the concept of power following the example of the Party of Regions in 2010-2013.

Lukashenko threatens to "bring Ukraine to its knees"

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues pondered whether “there could be a mass invasion of Russian regular troops here. Yes, there could. First of all, Putin would like something like the Maidan, the uprising, the movement of Ukrainian citizens to happen in Ukraine." Russia had already tried to do something similar in 2014, but was defeated. They also quoted self-proclaimed President of Belarus Lukashenko as threatening to "bring Ukraine to its knees together with Putin."

Mr Lukashenko has made various absurd accusations against Ukraine: "he accused Kyiv of smuggling weapons across the border and said he would never support the force scenario in the Donbas." But at the same time, he did not want to take the risks of legalizing Russia's occupation of Crimea: "Lukashenko has stated that Belarus would recognize Crimea as part of Russia only when the last Russian oligarch begins to supply products there."

They also quoted Lukashenko's words that "If they (the West - Texty.org.ua) enter Belarus, then, of course, Russia looks at it as its own. Because, God forbid, Belarus will collapse then these missiles will be near Smolensk". Separately, disinformers stressed that the idea of ​​the location of American air defense systems in Ukraine is "another provocation of the Ukrainian authorities" and threatened that if this idea is implemented it will be “a clear crossing of the red line, after which this Bandera-Nazi territorial malignant neoplasm may disappear altogether from the world map”. It will be recalled that Ukraine is an independent country and has the right to decide for itself how to ensure its security. Especially in conditions when its biggest neighbor (Russia) is constantly threatening to "wipe it off the face of the earth." Read a detailed analysis of Lukashenko's theses here.

Ukraine is "Russophobic" and certificates on the command of Ukrainian cause corruption

Disinformers are constantly looking for traces of "Russophobia" in Ukraine. This week, they wrote: "In Ukraine, the struggle against the Russian language may escalate into a struggle against its own citizens." And they tried to convince their readers that Ukraine "infringes on the human right" to receive education in Russian. They are also looking for different historical parallels to justify the special status of the Russian language in Ukraine, which was consolidated during the Soviet occupation. As an argument, Latin America and the United States are cited, where Spanish, Portuguese, and English languages dominate.

Russian sites targeting Ukraine also mentioned certificates on the command of the Ukrainian language, which has been required for some officials since July 16. "Since all this is taking place in Ukraine, it has not led to a diligent study of the state language [derogative used - Texty.org.ua] by officials, but to the birth of another corruption scheme."

Nationalists, racketeers, and Kharkiv politics

After the SBU detained several members of the National Corps in Kharkiv and accused them of racketeering, Russian websites launched a new wave of manipulation about nationalists and veterans. Disinformers write that "Not everything is so simple with Kharkiv, because Avakov's departure confuses the election situation there a bit." It will be recalled that many media associate the former interior minister with the leadership of the National Corps. They also explain the detention by the fact that Zelensky "purges the street."

Another option is that this is done in preparation for the elections in Kharkiv: “he is getting rid of the people of ex-minister Arsen Avakov in the Kharkiv region while the latter is enjoying a vacation at his villa in Italy. The first blow was inflicted on Pavel Fuks, and then they went to weaken the entire grid in the Kharkiv region. On August 4, the chairman of the Kharkiv regional council Artur Tovmasyan was handed a suspicion of receiving an illegal benefit of 1.05 million hryvnias."

Summary

This week, disinformers wrote mostly about gas issues and international relations. They predicted an "energy crisis" for Ukraine in the coming years due to the start of Nord Stream 2 and rising gas prices. In relations with its closest neighbors, Russian websites have paid close attention to Lukashenko's claims that he is ready to "bring Ukraine to its knees" along with Putin, as well as his fears of "missiles near Smolensk." Oleksiy Reznikov's idea to deploy American air defense systems in Ukraine was not appreciated by disinformers and they threatened to wipe Ukraine off the face of the earth.

Also this week, disinformers used criticism by some public figures of Ukrainian Olympics athletes to discredit the entire country and compared Zelensky to Poroshenko, looking for the greatest "Russophobe" between the two. For some reason, they called one of the signs of "Russophobia" the unwillingness to maintain the privileged status of the Russian language in Ukraine.

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 17524 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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