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Attempted assassination of Zelensky’s friend, threats of disappearing from maps, and gas price again. Disinformation monitor #98

  • Erdogan accused of desire to “take” Crimea
  • Rejoicing the fact that people in the occupied territory voted in Russian elections
  • Prophesying economic collapse and decay of Ukraine
  • Threatening with high gas prices
  • Persuading that the “profiteering” Americans are leaving Ukraine on its own
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: September 20 — 26, 2021

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new in disinformation?

Disinformers have returned to their narrative that Turkey supports Ukraine's integrity and advocates the deoccupation of Crimea allegedly because Turkey itself really wants to seize Crimea. Another topic that arose this week was the assassination attempt on Ukrainian presidential aide Shefir. Russian websites and Ukrainian garbage websites spreading disinformation for money have spawned various conspiracy theories about why the President's aide was shot in the assassination attempt. Disinformers also fanned the panic over rising gas prices in European markets (which the Russians themselves provoked).

Erdogan wants to take Crimea

Turkey did not recognize the Crimean "elections" to the State Duma of Russia, and Erdogan stated in the UN that Turkey does not recognize the annexation of the peninsula. And this, as expected, caused a surge of publications from Russian disinformation. They accused everyone of interfering in Russia's internal affairs, they called Erdogan's statement "an attempt on Russia's territorial integrity" (because "The Turks consider Crimea their own territory and are going to prove it"), and they called bilateral relations between Turkey and Ukraine insincere and dependent: “The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs Ukraine only to use it in his own interests, there can be no question of any respect for the country on his part”.

Kyiv preparing for war, Russia "returned suffrage to the residents of the Donbas"

While Russia effectively freezes the conflict in the Donbas and continues to push the thesis of "civil war", Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues are happy that “The massive participation of the Donbas residents in the elections to the State Duma is yet another confirmation that the integration of the Republics with Russia cannot be stopped.”

They also rejoice, noting in the style of Soviet newspapers, "an unprecedented turnout and unanimity in their choice," forgetting to mention the massive falsifications and coercion by which this turnout was increased. And they also simply continue to accuse Kyiv of military conflict and rejoice at how "Kyiv is driven crazy with the realization that the Donbas and Crimea are lost."

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Shefir assassination attempt: "Zelensky got a chance to follow Stalin's way"

The assassination attempt on Shefir became a serious information drive not only for the mainstream Ukrainian media. But while the latter quoted official police statements or comments from Shefir himself, Ukrainian garbage websites gave the floor to their (pseudo) experts and produced dozens of hypothetical versions of what actually happened. And Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues chose from all these versions the ideologically "correct" ones and continued to promote the thesis that "the split within Zelensky's team is a reality," that "Shefir's shooting is Zelensky's answer to the sharp redistribution of the financial market in Ukraine" or in general that "the resonant event was staged by the authorities themselves," and "Zelensky and Ermak went to the United States during the assassination attempt on Shefir to prepare an alibi."

“Obviously, the event was staged in order to give significance to the law that Zelensky is pushing via the Verkhovna Rada and to make it clear to the curators from the State Department that the law on oligarchs is such a big threat that an attempt is being organized on Zelensky's inner circle”

“Of course, they immediately created the show of a search for the "killer of Shefir", although everyone knows very well how they are looking for criminals in Ukraine after the murder of inconvenient politicians or journalists”

“Shefir's case, like the case of Kirov's murder during Stalin's time, gives Zelensky the opportunity to destroy his enemies, as they say, in bulk.”

Ukraine: "deindustrialization" and "the manic obstinacy of market-orientedness"

This week, Ukrainian websites targeting Ukrainian issues mentioned the shutdown of the Odesa port plant. The main reason is the high price of gas on the commercial market, read more about the plant here. But misinformers are looking for "deeper" reasons:

After the Odesa port plant, against the background of a total rise in gas prices, other enterprises of the Ukrainian industry, which still remain, may also stop working. After all, production will simply become unprofitable, and, accordingly, there will be no one to buy the products. Then the heat supply enterprises will stop, because the citizens will not be able to pay the tariffs for housing and communal services. However, the Ze-team obstinately follows the market orientation towards EU prices. The interests of citizens are completely alien to the crooks who have settled in Kyiv”.

We recently published an article on the causes of turbulence in the gas market and what they mean for Ukraine. A brief conclusion is that for now Ukraine is protected from most shocks caused by rising prices, but what the situation will be in the future is not clear. However, the Ukrainian government does not focus only on market mechanisms, as disinformers write, on the contrary, it limits the growth of retail gas price.

In addition to "deindustrialization", disinformers have traditionally been intimidating their readers with the rise in utility tariffs and have written about the Ukrainian economy: “Overheating of world markets, and special concern about the financial pyramid in the market of Ukrainian bonds of the domestic government loan” (The first mention of the fact that the topic of high tariffs in Ukraine is promoted by the Russians was recorded due to the hacking of mail of Surkov, Putin's aide, in April 2015). Read in this article what is really happening with Ukrainian debts and bonds, which disinformers like to call the "financial pyramid".

Leading Russian websites intimidate Ukrainians with alleged lifting the ban on forest exports ("are we selling land, are we planning to sell the forest, will we at least leave the air to ourselves?") And they are spreading statements by politicians from the OPFL faction that Ukraine "exports not goods but people" . Not so long ago we made a special project about what and how much Ukraine exports.

Imaginary promises to Gorbachev and the "profiteering" Americans

Disinformers wrote a lot about the union of the UK, the United States, and Australia. As expected, they saw it as a "sentence" for Ukraine. And the US was accused of caring only for its own interests: "In the best tradition of "indirect action", the United States has already received bonuses from such an alliance. Now Australia will buy nuclear submarines from Washington." Although close security cooperation between the Anglo-Saxon countries has existed for a long time.

They see the fate of Ukraine as Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues traditionally do: "Ukraine will be erased from the map as a state by a hurricane of the new redivision of the world, but it is unfortunate that for Russia this will not be the beginning of an era of calm." And they are trying to intimidate the recipients of these messages with a possible alliance between Russia and China.

In order to somehow justify their aggressive attacks on Ukraine, disinformers use the old Russian narrative of "a promise not to expand NATO to the East."

The collective West, which did not give a damn about the promises made to the foolish Gorbachev, continues to move towards the Russian borders and at the same time demands that the Russians sit silently and not stick their heads out. The leadership of the Alliance also dreams of containing Russia in the Black Sea. Especially touching is the excitement of the Americans”.

However, even Gorbachev himself does not know about such promises. It should be noted that NATO is extremely reluctant to move to the East and does so only in response to Russia's growing aggression.

Zelensky is “personally responsible” for the high gas prices

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues placed personal responsibility on Zelensky for high gas prices. "President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky is responsible for the high gas prices in the country." And they were worried that Ukraine had not "signed a direct contract for the purchase of gas at the level of $175 per thousand cubic meters." In fact, it is a standard Russian game to screw up the price of gas and accuse Ukraine's leaders of doing so. Behind the brackets of these messages are always the political conditions that Russia sets for supposedly cheaper gas (often small details of contracts make it very expensive). The latest example is the permission to continue the base of the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea in exchange for cheap gas. With this permission, the occupation of Crimea actually began. Read more about it here.

Leading Russian media complained that "European authorities want to make the Nord Stream 2 system work so that the pipeline is not operated by Gazprom, and Russia continues to pay money to the Ukrainian repressive regime for the gas transit." Indeed, this is what the EU government insists on, and the operation of the pipeline by a non-gas-producing company is enshrined in European law, to avoid pressure from monopolists.

Various anonymous insiders were cited in Telegram channels this week: “Our source in the OP said that the President's Office is satisfied with the redistribution of responsibility for heat tariffs for the population. The local authorities are forced to provide subsidies to the heating companies, who have raised prices by 45-70%, but still work at a loss due to gas prices. Naftogaz and the Office of the President actually dumped the regional authorities, which were promised subsidies in February if they did not raise prices in winter, and now they ignore the appeals of the deputies”.

And they made disappointing forecasts: “A catastrophe with the heating season three weeks before its start is almost inevitable. Due to gas price, social facilities, such educational institutions and hospitals, will be first without gas”.

It will be recalled that gas prices in the EU, and hence in Ukraine, which buys it on the European market, are rising due to targeted actions by Russia. Read in detail here.

Also this week:

Ukrainian manipulative media, after a continuous stream of mentions of Medvedchuk in foreign (well-known and not so well-known) mass media, concluded: "The West intensifies its criticism of the authorities for repressions against the media", and "The attack of the Ukrainian authorities on the media and repression against the opposition is a" hot topic "for the Western press"

The Ukrainian military was accused of shelling: "Kyiv dealt a terrible blow to the children of the Donbas on International Peace Day."

The "anti-oligarchic" law was criticized, parallels were drawn between Zelensky and Yanukovych. We also described the problems with this law and what solutions really can help overcome the power of the oligarchs in Ukraine.

Summary

This week, disinformers wrote that Turkey supports Ukraine because it has plans to "seize Crimea." Disinformers rejoiced at the participation of residents of the occupied territories in the Russian elections and spawned conspiracy theories about the assassination attempt on Serhiy Shefir. In the economic area, the greatest attention was paid to record gas prices. Disinformers claimed that they would destroy the Ukrainian economy and lead to "riots." They put the responsibility for the European prices personally on Zelensky.

Given that the rise in prices was provoked by Russia, such allegations can be seen as an explanation for another goal of the gas war with the EU, i.e. to cause maximum harm to Ukraine. It is unlikely to succeed in real life, because Ukraine has sufficient gas reserves, which were purchased at extremely cheap last year's prices.

In the field of international relations and global security, Russian sites have written a lot about the news of the defense alliance of the United States, Britain, and Australia. They speculated that America's attention had shifted to the Pacific and that soon "Ukraine will be wiped off the map by a hurricane of a new division of the world."

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 13898 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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