It Is Ukraine that Fires Missiles at its Neighbors — Stop Blaming Russia! Russian Media Monitoring Report, 25 September-1 October 2023

Last week, Russian propagandists took advantage of the scandal in the Canadian parliament to promote their own narratives.

Russian media appealed to the background of the former fighters of the Ukrainian “Halychyna” division which had fought in World War II as part of the German Waffen to blame Western countries of supporting the Nazi and fascists. Finally, the propagandists used the findings of the Polish prosecutor's office in the case involving the death of two Poles from a missile allegedly launched by Ukraine to claim that it is Ukraine that fires missiles at its neighbors to blame everything on Russia.

This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

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Follow the trending topics of Russian disinformation on our interactive dashboard “Disinformation about the War in Ukraine”

The Innocent Russia

Following Ukraine’s successful strike on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet on 22 September, Russian media hurried to publish some soothing news. The propagandists argued that the strikes on Crimea were being launched in a desperate attempt to make headlines as the Ukrainian counteroffensive was going from bad to worse, and there was nothing Ukraine could do about it: “European officials doubt that attacks on Crimea can be a game changer for the AFU”.

The propagandists tried to avoid mentioning the successful hits on the Russian Black Sea fleet ships and the destruction of anti-aircraft systems such as S-400 Triumph.

However, the Russian authorities seem to be well aware of the danger caused by Ukrainian long-range strike capabilities. “The member of the working group on mobilization with the Ministry of Defense of Russia Dmitri Gusev ”hurried to assure that “the government intends to build a security shield over Crimea to protect it against UAV strikes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). Upon coming within range of the system, the drones will lose contact with the control center and collapse to the ground”.

Last week, Russian media published the statement of Polish investigators regarding the incident involving a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile falling near the village of Przewodów during Russia’s massive missile attack in November 2022.

The statement was issued in connection with the tragic event that took place on 5 November 2022. On that day, Russia launched nearly a hundred missiles at Ukraine. Polish media reported an explosion near the village of Przewodów just 5 kilometers from the Ukrainian-Polish border. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland later confirmed the landing of a Russian-made missile on Polish territory which killed two people. The Russian ambassador was summoned to Poland’s foreign ministry. Eventually, the president of Poland Andrzej Duda stated that Poland had no evidence that the missile had been launched by Russia. The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that it was impossible to ascertain where the missile had come from until the official investigation of the tragedy was over.

According to an earlier statement of the secretary general of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, the incident might have been caused by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile launched to protect Ukraine’s territory from Russian cruise missiles. However, he stressed that Russia was responsible “since the incident was directly related to the ongoing war and yet another wave of Russia's attacks against Ukraine”

Russian propagandists rushed to take advantage of the latest statement and claim that “Ukraine is hitting its neighbors” to blame Russia.

The official Russian media also drew parallels with the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014 which they had also attempted to blame the “Kyiv regime” for: “This incident is similar to the downing of the MH17 passenger aircraft by a Buk missile fired by the Ukrainian air defense forces.

This claim ignores the fact that a court in the Netherlands ruled that MH17 flight had been downed by a Russian-made missile. The court also concluded that Russia had been in control of the separatist forces in the east of Ukraine at the time of the downing.

The Fascist Canada

The meeting of the Canada’s House of Commons on 22 September later caused a political scandal. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy was invited to address the members of parliament. Following his speech, the House speaker Anthony Rota announced: “Today, in this hall, we have a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran of World War II who fought for Ukraine’s independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today — even at the age of 98. Please welcome Yaroslav Hunko”.

It later came to the public attention that the Ukrainian veteran had been a member of the First Ukrainian Division. Until April 1945, the unit was known as the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division or the “Halychyna” (Galicia) Division. After the capitulation of Nazi Germany, the former members of the "Halychyna" were held in POW camps. After their release in 1947, most of the veterans moved to Canada, the USA, and Great Britain.

The historian and Ukrainian MP Volodymyr Vyatrovych stresses that being a member of “Halychyna” division of Waffen-SS is neither a display of heroism nor the ground for accusations of military crimes. In the mid-1980s, the Canadian government formed a dedicated commission of inquiry on war criminals led by Jules Deschênes. Here are some quotes from Volodymyr Vyatrovych:

“— The commission concluded that the members of “Halychyna” division should not be indicted as a group since the fact of being a member of “Halychyna” division does not provide sufficient grounds for persecution.

— All the members of the division were subjected to rigorous checks by the Canadian immigration authorities.

— The accusations of war crimes against the members of “Halychyna” division never stood in court.

— There are no grounds for stripping the former division members of their Canadian citizenship and deporting them from Canada”.

However, Russian propagandists could not resist taking advantage of the scandal. They immediately blamed the Canadian government of sympathizing with the Nazi and fascists: “Dmitry Medvedev called it “fraternization of Canadian animals with the Nazi”.

Once again did the propagandists spread Putin's statement claiming that “the local nationalists and antisemites killed a million and a half of Jews in the territory of Ukraine”.

The House speaker Anthony Rota took the first hit. Russian media called him a hypocrite who only showed remorse after the outrage of Jewish groups: “Only after the anger of Jewish organizations did Mr Rota admit his wrong”.

Kremlin's information minions called for Anthony Rota “to express remorse” to Russians: “The thought of apologizing to the multinational Russian people never even crossed his mind”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident a “terrible mistake” and said that the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Anthony Rota, who had already handed in his resignation, was solely responsible.

The Russian government accuses Ukraine’s leadership, the countries of the West and even Israel itself of anti-Semitism with remarkable regularity. For example, in May 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia accused the Israeli government of supporting “the Kyiv neo-Nazi regime”. Later, in January 2023, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov compared the U.S. policy towards Russia with the actions of Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust. At the same time, top Russian officials never hesitate to make anti-Semitic comments, sneer at Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Jewish roots and claim that Hitler “had Jewish blood, too”.

The scandal in the Canadian parliament is a vivid example of how Russian propaganda uses scandals and political missteps to support its allegations of “Nazism”, “fascism”, “anti-Semitism” and the claims that Ukraine poses a threat to its neighbors.

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Also in the News:

Russian media came up with yet another fake. This time they said that the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was using social media to beg the Russians to spare the American-made Abrams tanks: “The Pentagon boss Lloyd Austin addressed the Russian military with a bizarre request. Mr Austin asked the Russians to play by the rules and not to hunt the U.S.-made Abrams tanks which had been delivered to Ukraine”. According MythDetector project, the U.S. Secretary of Defense never said anything like that. The fact-checkers tracked the phrase in search engines to determine that the phrase allegedly said by Lloyd Austin had been initially published on X (former Twitter) on 25 September before being reposted on Facebook. However, the quote does not have a source and was never published by an appointed official or a reputable media outlet.

The Deputy Head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmytry Medvedev, who is notorious for spreading the craziest propagandists narratives, said that Russia could launch a strike on Germany in retaliation for the supply of Taurus missiles to Ukraine: “The factories in Germany will be a legitimate target of the Russian armed forces if they ship Taurus missiles to Ukraine”.

His statement was picked up by another frequent subject of our monitoring reports, the propagandist Scott Ritter. In his day, Mr Ritter was the Chief UNSCOM weapons inspector to Iraq in the 1990s. Following his resignation, he became one of the most vehement critics of the U.S. government. Russian media often present Scott Ritter as a “Western expert” to spread disinformation about the United States and the collective West. Last week, Mr Ritter warned about an imminent Russo-German war following the delivery of Taurus missiles to Ukraine: “The delivery of Taurus cruise missiles can trigger a military conflict in German which would be entirely Berlin’s own fault”.

The Methodology

To monitor the information published on disinformation websites, we analyzed approximately 410,000 news reports collected from ~ 1000 Russian and occupation websites. The data for the analysis was provided by SemanticForce.

Each paragraph was processed using an algorithm which defines its topic automatically. The resulting topics (i.e. groups with similar content) were short-listed by the topics relating to the war or its consequences for Russia. The number of mentions of a certain topic was then counted for each publication. Our conclusions are based on the respective findings and the quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.


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