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Speculations over vaccines, covert threats of war. Disinformation monitor #104

  • Criticizing the new minister of defense
  • Zelensky’s “collapse”
  • Ukraine suffers from coronavirus because of “politicizing vaccination
  • Drones foretell an offensive
  • Everyone “allied against” Russia

Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Disinfo topics

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

What’s new in disinformation?

The appointment of a new Minister of Defense of Ukraine disrupted the minds of the disinformers. They wrote that a minister "must understand military issues" and that a civilian would not be able to do so. Also this week, disinformers began to justify anti-vaxxers in Ukraine, but at the same time to inflame the civil conflict over the issue of vaccination. One of the topics they developed compared to last week was the new amassment of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border. Disinformers blame Ukraine and the United States for this.

Civilian minister of defense, a target for Russian propaganda

The reshuffle in the Cabinet of Ministers has, as expected, attracted the attention of the Russian media and sites that disseminate their narratives. The appointment of Oleksiy Reznikov to the post of Minister of Defense aroused the greatest interest. "Sources" of the Russian state media immediately reported that the new minister would not be trusted: “the army were surprised to learn that a lawyer would be in command. So the new minister will not receive support and instant confidence. After all, he simply cannot answer the questions of the servicepeople. Because he just doesn't understand what's going on. It all looks like profanation”.

The same was written by clickbait sites that do not shy away from Russian propaganda. They actively quoted Viktor Shendybil, a representative of the National Corps (in general, they like to quote people from this movement), who said on one of the Ukrainian TV channels: “There is no logic in such appointments. That is, the Minister of Defense, it is logical, should be a person who is involved in the army and understands the issue." In fact, the appointment of Reznikov did not come as a surprise to the officers of our General Staff. This candidacy has been discussed for a long time and in general our military is quite optimistic about the personnel changes in the Ministry of Defense.

We remind you that according to NATO standards, the Ministry of Defense must be headed by a civilian person. This ensures democratic control over the armed forces, while the operational command of the army is exercised by the General Staff, headed by professional military specialists. Instead, the ministry manages the army. It decides on salaries, armaments, procurements, and so on. Thus, the appointment of Oleksiy Reznikov fully fits the logic of modernization of our defense sphere and its reform on the way to joining NATO.

Zelensky is in for inevitable “collapse”

Ukrainian clickbaits and Russian sites that disseminate disinformation about Ukraine have been actively speculating on lowering Volodymyr Zelensky's presidential ratings. He was called the "most hated" politician and promised a "very bad ending." Various pseudo experts have tried to unravel the cause of Zelensky's "nervous state of mind" and concluded that it was related to lawsuits against pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk. "Citizens no longer agree to tolerate the failures of power and the persecution of Medvedchuk," they wrote and intimidated Zelensky with a new Maidan. Even astrologers ("astro psychologist Evdokia Polishchuk") joined the case. They predicted "the fate of Kennedy" to Zelensky.

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Anti-vaxxers will be made responsible” for the epidemic

Clickbait sites synchronously with Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues wrote this week about the coronavirus epidemic in Ukraine. The main narrative of this theme is as follows: “Ukrainian anti vaxxers will be made responsible for the rapid spread of the epidemic”. Propagandists inciteв opposition among citizens over vaccines and quoteі "anonymous proponents of vaccination" as saying: “Ukrainian anti vaxxers will be made responsible for the rapid spread of the epidemic”. We have repeatedly noted how disinformers are ready to engage (often on both sides) in any public debate in order to sow discord, mistrust, and polarization in society. The same thing is now happening in the vaccination issue.

Another reason for the slow pace of vaccination which is cited on Russian sites is "politicizing vaccination": “the refusal of Russian vaccines led to insufficient attention being paid to explanatory work among the population”.

Also, disinformers did not fail to criticize Zelensky and his team who "failed everything that could be failed in the country." The authorities are accused of “For two years, the Kyiv regime has failed to modernize hospitals and purchase sufficient equipment and medicines”. At the same time, disinformers paint a picture of the catastrophe in Ukrainian medicine, where people are "fighting for oxygen." Note that in Russia the situation with Covid-19 is no better and it breaks its own mortality records, even according to official statistics, which have repeatedly been seen as hiding real numbers. Read also how pro-Russian activists join the actions of opponents of vaccination.

The winter bolt” and Bayraktar drones

Disinformers are building their absurd narrative that Ukraine is going to attack the huge and incredibly militarized Russia and its occupying forces. They write that “The Ukrainian army has extra determination after the successful use of the Turkish attack drone "Bayraktar" in the skies over the Donbas.” Interestingly, in some publications on military issues, disinformers quite clearly identify their own key messages for the autumn and winter season: “There are no victories in the economy, the energy crisis is coming in the absence of Russian gas and coal, the country is shaken by corruption scandals, including with the offshore money of President Zelensky”. We see an increase in the number of publications on each of these topics. Russian sites targeting Ukraine use these theses to claim that Ukraine is preparing for an offensive.

“Anti-Russian hysteria”

Disinformers wrote that "Anti-Russian hysteria" is flaring up in Europe. The tone of these publications is similar to the tone of articles about Ukraine's "aggressive" intentions. Disinformers write about the United States "constantly speculating on its nuclear capabilities" and trying to create an "image of a common enemy in the face of Russia" to "restore solidarity" within NATO. The Americans are accused of an "energy crisis" in Europe, because they allegedly "forbid the European Union to certify the Russian gas pipeline which the Europeans critically need right now."

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues try to convince their readers that the United States is as corrupt as Russia. They write that within the American establishment there are groups that see Russia as their main rival, and there are those who see China as the rival. But in the end, “Nobody cares about the ideology or real geopolitical interests of the country, budgets need to be appropriated”.

Also this week:

Disinformers denied the presence of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border and scoffed at an interview with a former military Lieutenant General Igor Romanenko, during which he said that the Russians would face a "bloodbath" in the event of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Leading Russian websites have discussed with interest how Geo Leros, a member of the Verkhovna Rada, showed Vladimir Zelensky the middle finger during a parliamentary session. And they praised Razumkov as the most promising opponent of Zelensky.

Ukraine is predicted to experience an "energy catastrophe" and a "cold winter". Disinformers continued to speculate on how "cheap" Russian gas could be for Ukraine. It will be recalled that the previous dose of “cheap gas” was used to extend the lease of the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol, the event which forestalled the occupation of Crimea in 2014.

Summary

This week, disinformers wrote about how people in Ukraine who do not want to be vaccinated are "discriminated against" and incited mutual hatred over the vaccine issue. They mocked the first civilian defense minister in Ukraine, although this has long been the norm for NATO countries and he is not the first such minister in Ukraine. Zelensky was predicted to "collapse" and to follow the fate of Kennedy, and once again Ukraine and the United States were accused of aggression against Russia. Disinformers used the old motive of a "besieged fortress" to describe Russia, and the governments of Ukraine and the United States were portrayed as corrupt, selfish, and willing to sacrifice people for profit and political dividends.

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 18406 materials in the Russian language from:

Manipulation in the 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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