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The lack of oxygen, the drone hysteria, and the Scythian gold. Disinformation monitor #103

  • Malicious joy over the scale of epidemic in Ukraine
  • The drone strike on a Russian mortar
  • Speculating about the seizure of Staromaryivka village
  • Accusing Ukraine of war preparations
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: October 25 — 31, 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 continue to criticize the preparation of the Ukrainian healthcare system for the peak of the epidemic. They scoffed at the allegation of sabotage at major factories producing oxygen. And they were happy with the spread of sales of COVID-certificates and fake PCR tests in Ukraine. In contrast, disinformers rarely mention the situation in the "God-saved" Russia, where "there’s more than enough" Sputnik V vaccine, but the level of vaccination is far from that of the developed countries.

We will remind you that the next wave of the epidemic in Russia has not started, because the previous one has not ended there yet. In early summer, the epidemic declined in most countries, but not in Russia. In the summer, more than 700 people were dying in Russia every day. Now more than a thousand die each day and there's been no decline in mortality.

Another topic promoted by disinformation is the use of a drone against a Russian howitzer mortar that was shelling Ukrainian military positions. They wrote about the "first act of a new military play", searched for imaginary Turkish soldiers, and threatened Ukraine with terrible consequences. It will be recalled that the drone destroyed a howitzer mortar that violated the ceasefire agreement by firing at Ukrainian positions and had no right to be so close to the front line.

Coronavirus

Ukrainian manipulative media last week reflected on the "special features of national vaccination" and promoted the Opposition Platform - For Life (OPFL) party. The latter continues to use the topic of the coronavirus epidemic to accuse the authorities of inaction.

An important topic for disinformers last week was the lack of oxygen for patients with coronavirus due to the planned repairs of the two main producers of medical oxygen in Ukraine. Russian sites mocked Radutsky's quote and the fact that Ukrainian law enforcement officers are checking the version of the sabotage: “By the way, due to the acute shortage of oxygen, the Ukrainian security forces did not find anything better than to suspect sabotage. Indeed, it is very convenient to blame saboteurs rather than the negligence and carelessness of the country's leadership, for which ‘Ukraine did not feel’ where the oxygen comes from”.

Following them, Ukrainian garbage sites took on an ironic tone: “Oh, this Putin! He came here and stole all the oxygen from Lyashko... Lack of electricity, coal and gas - sabotage. Small salaries and pensions - sabotage. Sky-high utility tariffs for utilities - sabotage. Or maybe, it’s our authorities who are the saboteurs of Putin??

In addition, Russian websites continued to rejoice at the spread of selling COVID certificates and fake PCR tests in Ukraine and to describe how "Ukrainians are dying en masse because of the refusal of the Russian vaccine." The latter thesis was supplemented by references to a fake from an anonymous source of an anonymous pro-Russian Telegram channel: “The Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council and a number of ‘servants’ were vaccinated by the Russian Sputnik. Zelensky forbade the disclosure of this information."

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Is the Bayraktar strike on a Russian mortar "huge provocation" or "full-scale war"?

Ukraine used a Bayraktar drone to suppress enemy artillery, which, contrary to previous agreements, began firing in the JFO zone. This response came as a surprise to the occupiers. At first, Russia seemed a little confused and did not know how to react to this event. However, shortly afterwards, its propagandists tried to promote the thesis that Ukraine was "ready to escalate" the war. Russian state media reflected on "a new round of war", "the end of the truce" and "a full-scale offensive [of Ukraine]", as well as spread disinformation about the appearance of tanks and massive shelling by the Armed Forces:

After the drone strike, the situation on the contact line became seriously aggravated. To the air strike, the Ukrainian military added artillery shelling, and tanks began to appear at the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In addition, information appeared that in some regions of Ukraine several tank units were raised on alarm - the Zaporizhya 55th artillery brigade and the 17th separate tank brigade in Kryvyi Rih.”

They were supported in this by some anonymous Telegram channels, which also undertook to spread "insider information" about the situation in the JFO zone: “Our source reports that the hunt for the Bayraktar drones of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has now begun in the Donbas. […] Everything will be shot down. [...] on Bankova Street they decided to raise the bidding rates, attract the attention of Western partners and improve Ze's image among the military. For the Kremlin, this step of Ukraine was also beneficial. According to the source, this was the first act of the ‘new war play’. To be continued...

At the same time, the Russian mass media writing about Ukraine launched frankly fake news into the information space: “The Turkish military took part in the attack of the Bayraktar on the DPR”, “In Donetsk, a drone of the Ukrainian Armed Forces attacked an oil handling terminal”.

Ukrainians are being intimidated with cold weather and high tariffs, again

For the seventh year in a row, disinformers have been intimidating Ukrainians with cold weather, high tariffs, and energy disasters. (It is documented how Russia promotes the topic of expensive tariffs in the hacked mail of Surkov, Putin's adviser in 2014-15). They focused on the southern and eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. Here are examples of news headlines published in regional media, clickbait garbage sites and anonymous Telegram channels: "No one knows whether Ukraine will be able to survive the winter", "Many regions of Ukraine were left without gas for the winter", "And in Odessa, there are ever more questions about the coming winter." As the previous week, disinformation media continued to publish manipulative news about the low quality of gas supplied to the population: “The homes of Ukrainians are supplied with ‘cold’ gas. What to do?” It was also discussed that Ukraine depends on Russia and Belarus to supply coal and electricity. On this topic, you can also read our extensive article on the gas crisis in Europe.

"Seizing" Staromaryivka

This week, disinformers also accused the Ukrainian military of "aggression." Among other things, they wrote that the destruction of a Russian howitzer by a drone was a cover for the "seizure" of the village of Staromaryivka "in which some of the 200 inhabitants have already become Russian citizens." Basically, they admit that although the village is in a gray area, it was controlled by the Russian hybrid army.

Another narrative promoted by disinformation: "the intensification of hostilities [is related - Texty.org.ua] with the launching of ‘Nord Stream-2’ “.

Europe steals Scythian gold from Crimea for Ukraine

Russian sites were outraged by the ruling of the court in Amsterdam that the "Scythian gold" still belongs to Ukraine. They promised there would be an appeal, the called the court ruling "theft" and "neglect of the rights and interests of the Crimean people, a spit in the soul of the people of Crimea." They argued that "there are no guarantees of the safety of Scythian gold in Ukraine" and expanded the topic with their reflections on "how many more valuable exhibits Russia can lose".

Ukraine is being prepared for a war with Russia

Forcibly, without asking the population, not even asking a significant part of the political and business elite, the regime of President Volodymyr Zelensky is driving the country and its people to war". This is how disinformers continue to develop the thesis that Ukraine is the real aggressor, while Russia is only defending its borders. They continue to demonize NATO, predicting that “The war over Crimea will quickly develop into a nuclear one”, telling how “The Pentagon is preparing in Moldova to escalate in the Donbas”, and theorizing that “Moscow's strategy is to wait and show the world that Ukraine brings more problems than good”.

It is necessary to have a scenario that will allow Russia to launch a preemptive strike not on the territory of Ukraine, as a policy object that does not have any independent military-political potential, but on the territory of those countries that are the sources of Ukraine's provocative behavior. We need to create a deterrent element not in relation to Ukraine, this is pointless. You can't restrain people who don't have a brain. And we must restrain people who have the brain. Americans have the brain. Therefore it is necessary to restrain the Americans”.

Also this week:

To the PR of OPFL and Medvedchuk on the topic of gas was added the thesis that the representatives of occupied territories expressed their readiness to hold further talks only with the chairman of the political council of the party "Opposition Platform - For Life" Viktor Medvedchuk, because he "proved to be an obligatory negotiator."

Oleksiy Danilov's phrase that he supports a "tough presidential republic" has made disinformers worried about the state of democracy in Ukraine. "Ukraine is confidently on the path to becoming Belarus-2", "Autocrat in power with huge powers is dangerous to life, not only Ukrainians but also the world…" wrote the media of the aggressor country, which has long plunged into the brutal authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin.

Disinformers called former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili a "shopkeeper who killed the state" and blamed him for the chaotic construction and failure of the state in Georgia. They also considered the possibility of his murder in prison. Finally, they described how Saakashvili's "adventure" "threatens" Russia: "He (Saakashvili - Texty.org.ua) managed to blow up the situation and is very helpful to his supporters in the election."

Summary

This week, disinformers wrote about the Ukrainian government's failures in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic and tried to promote the Russian vaccine. They diplomatically avoided the catastrophic situation with the coronavirus in Russia itself. Another major topic was the first combat use of drones on the borders of the occupied territories. Disinformers tried to use this as proof of Ukraine's aggressive intentions and spread disinformation that the Ukrainian military had begun to seize settlements. At the same time, they did not even mention that the howitzer destroyed by the drone fired in violation of all ceasefire agreements. Moreover, weapons of this caliber should not be found so close to the line of contact.

Also, disinformers continue to frighten Ukrainians with high tariffs and "cold" winter ahead. Some sites claimed that Russia and Belarus would save Ukraine which is "under American occupation," while others wrote that Russia would not supply coal and electricity ‘in retaliation for Crimea." Other topics mentioned were a Dutch court ruling that Crimean Gold should return to Ukraine instead of entering the Russian-occupied territory, Medvedchuk's promotion, and the mockery of Mikheil Saakashvili, who had been arrested in Tbilisi.

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 18587 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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