Astrologers, Baba Vanga and Bezuhla. Monitoring Report on Disinformation in Ukraine, 1-29 November 2023

In November, many Ukrainian trashy websites published mysterious forecasts and esoteric insights. They spread predictions by Wolf Messing, Baba Vanga as well as the modern breed of Ukrainian psychics and mentalists.

The trashy websites also actively commented on the controversial statements coming from “Sluha Narodu” MP Mariana Bezuhla. The websites called her “idiot” and “traitor” and accused her of promoting a Russian narrative being part of a much larger psychological operation. Although we have no intention of evaluating those statements, the conflict between Bezuhla and the Ukrainian military has been a hot topic on the trashy websites which are known to spread Russian disinformation.

Bezuhla Trending on Trashy Websites

Last month, People's Deputy from “Sluha Narodu” (“Servant of the People”) political party Mariana Bezuhla’s statements on the need to change the military leadership sent ripples through the Ukrainian information space. As usual, trashy websites got their share of the hype: “How can one be such an idiot? The servant of the people Bezuhla — or is it Bezumna (Ukrainian for ‘crazy’ — translator’s note) is demanding the resignation of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Zaluzhny”, “Bezuhla, Arakhamia and other embodiments of mediocrity in the parliament are on a rampage.”.

The trashy sites did not mince words describing Bezuhla and the president's team: “The current team whose members were hired from among wedding photographers and toastmasters is utterly unprofessional and has managed to squander all political gains and waste all the chances both at home and abroad”, “This appears to be an attempt of shifting the blame for their own failures onto “soldiers who can't tell one end of a rifle from the other”, half-witted fools manipulated by “the hands of the Kremlin”, dispersers of “FSB narratives”, “Poroshenko loyalists in love with Putin” and “Maidan 2014 fanatics”, “How convenient! Make the Ukrainian people and the AFU look stupid and unprofessional so that you would look like saviors of the nation”.

However, there were also those who stood up for Bezuhla who had “fired a broadside at Zaluzhny for the failed mobilization campaign”.

It is difficult to trace the origin of these publications without insider access to the sponsored publication market. One explanation is that Russia is trying to deepen the conflict by radicalizing both sides which is a common tactic for Russia. However, there may be a much simpler explanation: the trashy websites may have been hired to promote Bezuhla’s narratives and criticize her at the same time by players within Ukraine.

For what it is worth, offensive language and emotional criticism and other forms of character assassination are all characteristic of propagandist materials regardless of who sponsored them.

End of War Predicted, Click to Read More

Ukrainian trashy news sites have been spreading esoteric teachings and predictions coming from all kinds of prophets. Ukrainians are being fed a potpourris of emotional headlines and tales about sensational and shocking discoveries under the guise of news.

"In addition to Baba Vanga, many other clairvoyants have been making predictions about the future of Ukraine in 2024. Their scenarios are focused on the political situation, economic development and the country's security. Some of them argue that Ukraine will face new challenges and crises while others predict stability and prosperity”. “Vedic astrologer Inna Hnatyuk has found a curse that dates back to the times of Ancient Rus in the natal chart of Ukraine. We must overcome that curse in the near future to finally bring peace”.

The trashy websites publish such “news” simply to attract readers who desperately want to believe in miracles amidst chaos and unpredictability.

An astrologer's prediction about when to expect a nuclear explosion and whether it will happen at all offers reassurance: living is easier when you know what to expect and how to prepare. If you want to know when the war will end, just trust the astrologer: “He predicts Russia not to leave Ukraine and Ukrainian people alone until 2026-2027”. The astrologer also offers insights on when to expect Russia to answer for the atrocities: “In 2025, the planets will move into the element of Libra, and this will mark the start of a 25-year period of Ukraine suing Russia for all the crimes committed by the occupiers”.

The trashy websites even published prophecies allegedly made by Baba Vanga: “Among other things, she foretold the war in Ukraine: “2022 will be the year of horrible changes”. According to the Bulgarian prophet, the war will begin in the winter and end in the summer, but will last no more than two years. Everything will end once “the eighth assumes the throne”. Despite the vague language, some experts believe that that the prediction refers to the future eighth president of Ukraine”.

Russia also uses prophecies and esoteric references to its own advantage. Russian online media and television are brimming with such dubious news. Baba Vanga and Wolf Messing no longer need an introduction even the dead politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky has been promoted to the rank of “psychic.

According to those prophecies, Russia will win the war against Ukraine and the West, and will rule the world for another century. They claim Putin to be the chosen one who will bring victory to the Russian people and unite the Slavs.

This is how propaganda affects the domestic audience: it soothes you and gives you the strength to live on waiting for the big changes. Why worry if it is said in the prophecies and does not depend on the authorities? How can the big-name clairvoyants and astrologers who predict a bright future for Russia be wrong?

On the War

The presentation of facts by some trashy news websites in November was even more surprising than usual. This time, some of them kept posting reports about incredible victories and invented stories. “Zaluzhny's jaw dropped! Everything went according to his plan: the AFU did the incredible and recaptured Ukrainian territory! Is that the end of the counteroffensive? We shall be victorious!”, “Hoist the flag! THIS DAY HAS COME — the AFU sunk their teeth and pushed the enemy kilometers back! Great news straight from the front!”, “”AM I NO LONGER PRESIDENT!?” The end of an era as Putin is forced to step down: the latest news on the coup in the Kremlin! The name of the new head of Russia has been announced!”, “An ENTIRE city in ONE night? Meet our boys! The AFU have broken through: advancing in convoys to crush the occupiers — that is quite some push!”.

Such news published by the trashy website are actually doing a lot of harm since they create an alternate reality for Ukrainians. They contain false information which has nothing to do with the reality and causes frustration, desperation and distrust of reputable media or official sources.

The Methodology

The corpus contains publications from 54 Ukrainian-based online outlets which were found to be publishing a significant number of manipulative reports. The analysis covered a total of approximately 24,000 news items. 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 socio-political topics. The number of mentions of a certain topic was then counted for each publication. Our conclusions are based on the respective findings and contain quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.

Trashy websites: ua-vestnik.com, ukrainianwall.com, newsua.biz, politeka.net, uatime.net, ua24ua.net, from-ua.com, newsua.one, p-zona.com, newformat.info, korupciya.com, tt.inf.ua, rkm.kiev.ua, kompromat1.info, intvua.com, ord-02.com, akcenty.com.ua, lifedon.com.ua, censoru.net, navarti.in.ua, 368.media, k-stenke.com, 0432.in, taras-ua.com, newskraine.com.ua, hit.miformat.info, rnbee.com.ua, tochkazoru.pp.ua, pravda.rv.ua, agrimpasa.com, ukr.life, crime-ua.com, dosye.com.ua, tema.in.ua, prportal.com.ua, slovo.odessa.ua, beztabu.net, grom-ua.org, holosua.com, newnews.in.ua, xn--j1aidcn.org, doslova.com, likeme.pp.ua, intell.in.ua, euro-ua.com, prawda.org.ua, tribunanaroda.info.


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