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Demonizing the Poles. Coal deficit. The migration crisis. Disinformation monitor #105

  • Grotesque criticism of Poland, and Ukraine collaterally
  • Defending anti-vaxxers and denying Russia’s influence in the issue
  • Contemplating the “unprofessional tariff policy” of the authorities
  • Blaming the West and Ukraine of war preparations
  • Prophesying energy crisis for Ukraine and demanding to launch Nord Stream 2
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Period: November 8 — 14, 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 focused on the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border. It is not the first time that we notice that when the focus of political events is on Poland, propagandists on the one hand demonize it, and on the other hand try to incite hostility between Poland and Ukraine. It happened this time as well. Disinformers used a full arsenal of manipulations, mentioning Ukrainian migrant workers in Poland, World War II, and the Soviet repression of Poles. Among the most absurd accusations is that repressing ethnic Poles in the USSR in the 1930s is justified because they "could" be Polish spies.

Demonizing the Poles, and Ukrainians a bit, too

Due to the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, disinformers actively wrote about Poland and its relations with Russia and Ukraine. As expected, criticism of Ukraine and Poland occupied a much larger place in these publications than the fate of the migrants. For example, the statements of the self-proclaimed President of Belarus Lukashenko that Poland allegedly used tanks against migrants were disseminated (there is no confirmation of these statements). The apotheosis of Russian propaganda were materials of the type as follows: “Warsaw is trying to be friends with Banderite Kiev, painfully biting the lip of the memory of the Volyn massacre and the once Polish Lviv, but it willingly demolishes monuments to Soviet soldiers. Poland does not allow refugees to go to Germany, but it makes xenophobic films about Ukrainians, whom she herself invites to work and study”.

Disinformers even use most ordinary events to demonize Poland. For example, employees of the Polish consulate in Kharkiv laid flowers at a memorial to Poles repressed in the Soviet Union. Disinformers accused the Poles of "giving these repressions an ethical and emotional color" and wrote that Poland itself was to blame for the Soviet Union's repression of the Poles: “The arrests of persons of Polish nationality in the Ukrainian SSR were carried out not because they were Poles, but because Warsaw at the time used the Soviet Poles a personnel base for recruitment by the Polish special services”.

Ukraine was also mentioned in the discussions of Poland. Disinformers wrote that "the Ukrainian defense industry is in a deep crisis," and Poland will be able to "demand that Kyiv respect the rights of the Polish community." Propagandists claim that "the situation of Poles in Ukraine is changing for the worse." The alleged reasons are an exaggerated dissatisfaction with "language laws", historical disputes between countries, the "socio-economic situation" in Ukraine and the "coronavirus pandemic, as Ukraine ranks second in Europe in terms of coronavirus mortality." This is an outright lie. According to the number of deaths per 1 million population, Ukraine ranks 21st in Europe by the number of deaths per 1 million population. Disinformers significantly exaggerate dissatisfaction with Ukraine's language policy, although such statements were indeed made by Polish officials. Until recently, only 2,000 children studied in the Polish language in Ukraine. In addition, in 2017, Ukraine and Poland signed a declaration of understanding in this area.

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Coronavirus

Russian websites that write about Ukraine continue to pay special attention to opponents of coronavirus vaccination in Ukraine and ridicule any attempts to accuse Russia of interfering: "Russia has been accused in Ukraine again." They criticize the restrictions on the unvaccinated, emotionally describe how "vaccination centres have become hotbeds of infection" and say that "the country ranks fifth in the world in the number of newly diagnosed cases and third in mortality in Europe." Forgetting to mention that Russia is ahead of Ukraine even in spite of its policy of "adjusting" medical statistics.

Also, Russian disinformers strongly support the "artificial division of society into the vaxxers and anti-waxers", regularly publishing the arguments of both sides and criticism of their opponents, from Shari's theses to Komarovsky's quotes. However, the Ukrainian authorities are accused of escalating the conflict, as they allegedly “divert attention from their blunders in the issue of medical protection of the population and, supporting the separation, throw in the theses that “the Ukrainians are to blame” for lockdown, lack of oxygen, and the death rate of 700 people per day”.

The neverending economic crisis

Opposition politicians continue to step on painful points: Tymoshenko sings the oldie-goldie song about the demographic crisis and the "extinction" of the population, Boyko says that "unprofessional tariff policy of the government has driven people into poverty." All of them together give the Russian disinformers excellent content for, let’s say, classic headlines like "In Kyiv, the extinction of Ukraine is declared." And when this is not enough for Russian disinformers, Azarov's quotes come in handy: "Day by day, Ukraine is confirming its new status - a 'second-hand state', becoming a country where Western 'friends' sell off everything they don’t need themselves."

Russia continues to fan up war

Russia and its vassal state, Belarus, continue to escalate relations with the West and Ukraine. The rhetoric of Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko is becoming harsher and harsher, and military equipment is appearing at the borders and the risks of armed provocations are growing. Instead, Russian propaganda, as always, is trying to turn everything upside down and accuse the United States, the European Union, and Ukraine of inciting war. “The West is urging Zelensky to a big war”, “Can Warsaw and Kyiv, united, attack Belarus?”, “Preparing a military solution in the southeast. Why does the United States continue to scare people with the invasion of Russia into Ukraine?" These are examples of headlines on Russian disinformation media targeting Ukrainian audiences.

At the same time, the Ukrainian manipulative media which spread Russian propaganda tried to push through another narrative, according to which the West uses Ukraine and will stop supporting our country at the first opportunity. “The relationship between the United States and Ukraine cannot be called partnership. This is not about equality, but about unquestioning obedience. Funny and ridiculous ...” “Ukraine is of little interest to the United States and China. We greatly overestimate our importance for the world and Europe” “If Ukraine conducts unpredictable, freaky, bluffing foreign and domestic policies, then the United States may well refuse to restrain Russia”, they wrote. In addition, Russian propagandists resorted to direct intimidation of Ukraine and warned our country against repeating the "fate of Georgia," alluding to the Russian full-scale invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Coal and energy crisis

Disinformers are already predicting for Ukraine: "energy chaos and subsequent social protests could lower the ratings of the authorities by up to 10%." This is a common narrative for disinformation at the beginning of every winter, but this year the situation in the energy sector is indeed difficult. We wrote that coal reserves at many power plants are low. There are several reasons for this, including the shortage of coal on the world market and the occupation of coal basins in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The nuance is that Ukrainian thermal power plants are built for the specific type of coal, which is mined in the occupied territories. And there is little similar coal in the world. Because of this, Ukraine was forced to buy coal from Russia and Kazakhstan (now Russia is blocking coal exports to Ukraine from Kazakhstan). There is also evidence that Russia sold to Ukraine the coal mined in the occupied territories of Ukraine itself. However, now that Kyiv is experiencing difficulties, Russia has suspended coal imports to Ukraine since November.

Disinformers also wrote that the sudden rise in world gas prices and in the EU to above $1,000 per thousand cubic meters of gas is a "new reality." And Europeans need to certify Nord Stream 2 to get cheaper gas. Meanwhile, Russia is underutilizing the capabilities of gas pipelines passing through Ukraine. Instead, it is using the crisis to put pressure on Europeans and demand the launch of its “Nord Stream 2” political project.

Also this week:

Ukrainian garbage sites continue to cite "foreign media" (including, for example, news.ru, TASS, and a little-known Italian news agency), citing Medvedchuk and Medvedchuk's experts on repression and the "authoritarian totalitarianism" in Ukraine.

Disinformers spread Lukashenko's absurd statements that migrants on the Belarusian border with Poland were armed with "weapons from the Donbas."

Summary

Over the past week, disinformers wrote about the division of society into "vaccinators" and "anti-vaccinators", which they themselves heated up. And they were also frightening readers by the pace of the epidemic in Ukraine. Ukraine's economic policy, which "transforms" the country into a "second-hand state", was not overlooked either. An important element of the narratives about the economy was energy. Propagandists intimidate Ukraine with the winter and "social protests", as well as foresee power outages. They call the sky-high gas price a "new reality" and use it as an excuse to justify why the EU should certify Nord Stream 2 sooner. It will be recalled that Russia has promised that the new pipeline would reduce the cost of gas for Europe. Now it has increased manifold. Also, for several weeks in a row, disinformers have been writing about the "great war" that Zelensky and the West are allegedly preparing. At the same time, the Russian army is again accumulating its forces on the Ukrainian border.

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 14656 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.

disinfomonitor

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