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Ukraine is being intimidated with winter, war, and NATO. Disinformation monitor #96

  • Predicting the winter “apocalypse”
  • Russia frightens Ukraine with war
  • NATO “want” to use Ukraine and won’t help the country
  • Ukraine “discriminates against” Russians and the Russian language
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: September 6 — 12, 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 mostly continued their usual autumn topics (protests, tariffs, "apocalypse") and reacted to current political events of recent weeks. They continue to ridicule Zelensky's visit to the United States and Ukraine's inability to stop Nord Stream 2.

Disinformers started to talk again about the possibility of war with Ukraine: "Kyiv's provocations may force Russia to really use its armed forces to resolve the conflict in the Donbas." It will be recalled that in recent weeks the strength and frequency of shelling by Russians and their puppets in the occupied territories has greatly increased.

In Crimea, they continue to look for "Ukrainian saboteurs" and to repress Crimean Tatars. Disinformers accuse detainees of blowing up a gas pipeline on the peninsula.

"Ukraine dies off" and the winter that "not everyone will survive"

Every autumn, disinformers intensify their narratives of economic impoverishment, population extinction, and unprecedentedly high utility tariffs. And this autumn is no exception.

Russian disinformation published in Ukrainian manipulative media, adapting to the tastes of the Ukrainian audience, promoted OPFL members and drew apocalyptic predictions: "Ukraine is threatened by the tariff shock and the technical shock", or that “The country is sinking deeper and deeper into debt, while the government does nothing to save the economy”. And they constantly reminded their readers that very soon there will be mythical protests (read more about how Russian propaganda pumps up this topic in Ukraine).

Zelenskiy's trip to Washington was most likely a trip to ask for legitimacy for a second presidential term. But judging by the results of the visit, this legitimacy was not granted to him, which also opened the field for protests.”

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues were more radical in their wording. In their headlines, they stated that "Ukrainian authorities are lying about economic growth" or "Not everyone will survive the winter."

In general, most of the propaganda narratives about Ukrainian "impoverishment" concerned one of the 3 theses:

  1. Utility tariffs are rising, food prices are rising, and the state is not paying people salaries. At the same time, they accused the corrupt and unprofessional central government, focusing on emotions rather than reasoned criticism. “This is a natural process when people who are not versed in economics are the managers. They do not understand what GDP is, they do not understand their own production, budget, and so on.” And they tried to present a successful reform as the cause of the catastrophe that allegedly was about to happen. “The policy of decentralization, which is being carried out in the country in the form of the center's withdrawal from social responsibility and the dumping of social infrastructure as a burden for local authorities, only contributes to the destructive tendencies”. By the way, this is a standard technique: take some positive changes and present them in extremely dark colors.
  2. Emotionally, pumping up the "demographic crisis" with headlines with phrases such as "Ukraine is dying out" or "Childless Ukraine: there will be no one to join the EU in twenty years." And although the population decline is our reality, it is typical of most European countries and of Russia itself, and it is certainly not a reason for apocalyptic texts and eerie headlines.
  3. And they come to the conclusion, again and again, that people have to go out to protest this autumn: "From everything it follows that “heated” autumn is expected in Ukraine”.

Surely we will witness the "marches of empty pans", "tariff Maidan" and other protests

It will be recalled that writing about the future as an accomplished fact is also a standard method of disinformers.

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Russia frightening people with war

Zelensky's words that he admits the possibility of a full-scale war with Russia, but that this would be "Russia's biggest mistake," provoked a strong reaction from Russian disinformers. They quoted Russian politicians who continued the Kremlin's official line on "fraternal peoples", that Ukraine does not want peace, that "war with Ukraine can only happen if provoked by Kyiv" and classic theses about how “Stupid Ukrainian policy and Kyiv's anti-Russian provocations can force Russia to really use its armed forces to resolve the conflict in the Donbas”(as if there were no Russian troops in the Donbas).

Zelensky himself was verbally attacked by disinformers: “The person who promised peace and the end of the war in the Donbas in the elections should not now declare the possibility of war with Russia... This is permissible for some stupid "Nazi" and Banderite, but not for a statesman of such a high level”.

At the same time, they produced texts criticizing the Armed Forces and speculating on "Why the servicemen are leaving the Ukrainian army."

“Ukraine has nothing - no strong army, no strong economy, no international support”.

This is a classic style of propaganda aimed at the army and the population of the enemy, in order to undermine the will to resist.

Ukraine's movement towards NATO is the scariest nightmare of Russian propaganda

Last week, the Verkhovna Rada did not support the appeal to the United States for the status of a major non-NATO ally (MNNA). A few days earlier, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova had warned deputies against the vote. "MNNA is a status for countries that do not plan / cannot join NATO for political or geographical reasons. This is definitely not about us”, the ambassador wrote in her Facebook post.

Opposition lawmakers registered the draft resolution to address the US Congress in May this year, with the aim of drawing the authorities' attention to the issue of relations between Ukraine and NATO. At the same time, the recent signing of a large-scale defense partnership agreement has strengthened our relations with NATO and sent a clear signal to the world that Ukraine's strategic goal is to fully join and actively participate in the Alliance.

Russian propagandists and disinformers are afraid of the rapprochement of Ukraine and NATO, and therefore did everything to denigrate Ukraine's diplomatic efforts and sow disbelief in our international partners.

All our current “friends” have united around Ukraine with one goal, to use it in their own interests”,“ [Alliance members] do not see, as a member of NATO, this impoverished and chaotic country that rushes there to suck money out of them”. This is how disinformers commented on the strengthening of relations between Ukraine and NATO. It should be noted that they often write that the West exploits and pumps money out of Ukraine. In fact, it is useless to look for logic in disinformation, and any thesis that can affect emotion the most is used. It is assumed that few people will remember the content of the previous emotional cheats, especially that people would not compare old and recent theses.

Read more about Russia's strategy, including its strategy concerning NATO

Ukraine as "the target range to destroy the Russians"

Russian state media have traditionally accused Ukraine of oppressing the Russian language and Russian-speaking citizens and have spread statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “Discrimination of the Russian language in Ukraine has already reached the scale of a disaster. We, of course, will not use forceful methods, but it is necessary to call to account, and we do it,” Lavrov stated at one of the protocol meetings. In response, low-grade disinformation media spawned a series of insults about Ukraine and Ukrainians.

“The original names and surnames are being distorted, the past is being cleaned up, monstrous pseudo-historical constructs that have nothing to do with reality are invented, and against the background of all this, a frantic, irrepressible desire to constantly mimic someone”, they wrote, and did not even shy away from direct threats: “UkrReich will have to be destroyed”.

Also this week

They wrote that Zelensky's meeting with Biden “is not important" and "will not lead to anything." And they repeated their usual theses about the "transition" of Ukraine under the control of Washington. And they assured that the United States would not help Ukraine in the event of war with Russia.

Accusing Ukraine of "terrorist attacks" on the territory of the occupied Crimea was widespread. Disinformers justified the detention of dozens of Crimean Tatars by "investigating" the explosions on the pipeline.

Propagandists also wrote that the election of the mayor of Kharkiv is the way the Office of the President wants to "serve" the West. "Serving" comes down to the fact that the elections will be fair and the central government will not interfere in them.

Summary

This week in the news that we monitor disinformers wrote about utility tariffs and mythical "protests". Ukraine (as always) was in for upheaval and change of government or at least chaos. Although in the real world there are no visible preconditions for large-scale protests in the country. Disinformers reiterate the official position of Russian officials about Ukraine and accuse it of "provocations." Meanwhile, the Russian military and the militants controlled by Russia shoot daily at the Ukrainian military on the line of contact. In the field of international relations and Ukraine's interaction with its allies, one specific narrative is firmly established: the West wants to use Ukraine and will not help it in the event of a Russian attack.

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 16575 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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