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“Alphabet war” prophesied for Ukraine, Zelensky is accused of hatred of Russians. Disinformation monitor #97

  • Pseudo experts prophesied protests against Zelensky
  • Ukrainians were intimidated with “impoverishment” and the sale of Ukrainian Railways (Ukrzaliznytsia)
  • Rage over Ukraine’s agency
  • Zelensky’s alleged “hatred of Russians
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: September 13 — 19, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

Pseudo experts

This week we checked again what is written in the materials where pseudo-experts from our database appear. We will conduct such reviews on a monthly basis in the next monitoring issues.

Most of the pseudo-experts's materials concerned President Zelensky and the Opposition Platform - For Life party. They contemplated a lot about the future "protests" in Ukraine. We have already written many times that in the autumn period disinformers traditionally talk of "tariff Maidans", which, however, have never happened so far. Another narrative about Zelensky was his "confrontation" with Verkhovna Rada Speaker Dmytro Razumkov and, occasionally, with Kyiv Mayor Volodymyr Klychko. As for Medvedchuk, pseudo-experts (who often openly promote him) write that he will definitely win all the lawsuits, and they help him spread Russian narratives. As for international events, Pseudo-experts also wrote about the completion of Nord Stream 2 and Zelensky's visit to Biden.

What’s new in disinformation?

This week, disinformers accused Ukraine of "begging for handouts from the West" and threatened it with a military disaster. A miraculous feature of the rhetoric of disinformers is that, at the same time, they constantly assure readers of Russia's peace and threaten almost all neighboring countries with Russia’s military might. We also noticed that Russian sites targeting Ukraine are increasingly sharply criticizing Zelensky. In fact, now his image in disinformation is no different from Poroshenko’s in the 3rd year of his presidency. Russian military exercises in Belarus received special attention from disinformers. News about the exercises exploit the image of a "fortress under siege", i.e. Russia, which is being encircled on all sides by aggressive enemies. In reality, Russia has one of the largest armies in the world and it constantly provokes neighboring countries and "flexes its muscles"

Ukraine's total impoverishment

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues continue to distribute texts in which they sow despair about tomorrow among pensioners: "Citizens of Ukraine have been warned again, there will be no retirement pensions." They also quote a pseudo-expert who "predicted barely physiological survival for Ukrainians", dispel rumors that "Ukrzaliznytsia" is being deliberately destroyed and driven to bankruptcy, in order to sell it for debts to some unnamed investor" and discredit the state budget for 2022, calling it “a budget of barely physiological survival."

And Ukrainian manipulative media use the topic of economic problems to propagate certain political forces under clickbait headlines, often at the same time spreading the theses of Russian disinfo: “Zelensky turned out to be an exact copy of Poroshenko, and only Tymoshenko can really help Ukrainians - a political scientist”.

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Russia intimidates "weakling" Ukraine with war

Last week, Russian propaganda actively discussed President Zelensky's remarks about the possibility of a full-scale Russian invasion. In response, Russian officials issued a series of statements ridiculing Zelensky and Ukraine's top military leadership, and continued to promote the "one nation" narrative. In addition, the disinformers decided to support the statements of the Russian leadership with various "military analytics" by marginal "experts", the main purpose of which was to sow distrust among the population and to create the illusion of Ukraine's being forsaken internationally.

“Nobody thinks that the resistance of the Ukrainian army to the Russians would lead to any positive result, the experts of an American institution are sure.”

The Ukrainian army will be defeated without war and tanks, a well-known Ukrainian political scientist Mikhail Pogrebinsky told Ukrlife TV”.

Russian propaganda is enraged when Ukraine demonstrates its agency

The interview of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba published by The Independent caused a great stir in the Russian disinformation media. In the interview, Kuleba said that Ukraine needs to learn to be a flexible military state like Israel. "Circumstances leave us no choice. The army, diplomacy, and the Ukrainian people are all we have in order to survive,” the minister said. Apparently, Kuleba's words greatly annoyed the Russian leadership, as Russian propaganda once again did all it could trying to ridicule the agency of our state in the international areas. Thus, Sergei Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, stated that Ukraine should "beg less" from the US and the EU: “It is their habit to beg from the West. Like, they say, give us some money, admit us into NATO, into the EU. So they beg and they beg”, Lavrov said. “Ukraine has lost its independence and the ability to independently determine its foreign policy”, another official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia claimed.

"Killing the Cyrillic" and "Ukraine on the threshold of alphabet war"

Last week, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, said that Ukraine should switch from Cyrillic to Latin. And although this was only a personal opinion voiced in the interview, this did not prevent Russian disinformers (and after them, Ukrainian garbage sites) to start contemplating about how "Ze team want to bury the Cyrillic alphabet", to sow personal insults towards Danilov himself (“A man with the face of a Neanderthal") and to simply intertwine criticism of Latin alphabet with theses of the "Russian world": “The Azbuka is a structurally better alphabet than the ABCadlo” [used derogatively here - Texty.org.ua], or “The Azbuka is much more practical and convenient than the ABCadlo”.

The language issue. How Zelensky "started hating the Russians"

Russian disinformers continue to promote the thesis of the language problem in Ukraine. This time, they backed it up with Illia Kiva’s reflections on "when Zelensky began to hate Russians" and they linked language issues to the thesis of external governance: “Disguised by talking about Ukrainian patriotism, there is a brisk trade in the country and in live stock [people - Texty.org.ua] for the needs of wealthy foreigners”.

Also this week:

Ukrainian garbage sites continue to place paid ads disguised as journalism for Medvedchuk, naming him "the key to solving all of Zelensky's problems," and to spread the word about Medvedchuk being mentioned in any (even unknown) foreign media. And also dispersed any Ukrainian domestic political scandals: spreading absurd quotes from Arestovich, or emotionally telling how Geo Leros is at war with the President's Office.

The Ukrainian military was accused of shelling the occupied territories and, at the same time, unwillingness to fight. Zelensky is credited with "frantic and hysterical militaristic rhetoric" about Russia because of his words about the possibility of war with Russia. Disinformers call the President of Ukraine "the head of neo-colonial administration".

It is speculated that the “West 2021” military exercises are aimed at protecting Russia and Belarus from alleged "expansion" of their Western neighbors. It will be recalled that the Baltic States and Poland are many times smaller than Russia and cannot pose a significant threat.

Summary

This week, disinformers have largely continued the rhetoric of recent weeks. They aggressively attack President Zelensky, portraying him as "a nationalist and a militarist," predicting protests and a "cold winter" due to the abnormal rise in gas prices in Europe (and Russia's abuse of market power). We have already written that Ukraine has a margin of safety to go through the heating season without any problems.

Another topic that disinformers often turn to is the agency of Ukraine in the international areas. Propagandists are openly annoyed that Ukraine is negotiating, looking for allies, and strengthening itself while Russia is isolated. That is why they are spreading statements by Russian officials that Ukraine is "begging" for something from NATO or the collective "West".

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 15901 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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