Hot Topics of Russian Disinfo. Issue #17. Normandy, "The new clown and the old marauder"
TEXTY continue to monitor the topics spread by Russian disinformation. This time, we have added some mainstream Ukrainian news sites in order to compare the coverage of the topic by different groups of sites. Also, Russian mainstream sites are now available in our monitoring.
Monitoring period: December 2 - noon December 10, 2019
Click on the chart to scale it
The Normandy meeting
The week’s main news was the meeting of leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in Paris. An excited atmosphere prevailed in the media before the summit. Russian disinformation outlets targeting Ukraine, as well as Ukrainian clickbait sites have been actively discussing the creation of “The Wall” in the Donbass, i.e. freezing the conflict. They have criticized this prospect in every possible way and quoted a Russian politician as saying: “To build a wall is to freeze the conflict for many years. And I'm not sure that [this] will be in favor of Kyiv. Because Donbass is, anyway, a very large industrial region... And it’s unlikely that it will live in a certain isolation". Mainstream Ukrainian media mostly discussed the scenarios of Donbas’s reintegration and the aftermath of the war.
After the Normandy summit, leading Ukrainian media mainly wrote about Zelensky's priorities in the negotiations, such as the return of prisoners and the ceasefire. Clickbait sites, in the meantime, were writing about the way personal conversation went between the Ukrainian and the Russian presidents. The topic also had a great share in news about Ukraine on key Russian media outlets.
Russian disinformation media aimed at Ukraine habitually manipulate and accuse Ukraine of aggressive plans. Interestingly, they repeat the same claim which has been whipped up all six years of war, about the alleged preparation of the offensive by Ukraine: "The Armed Forces of Ukraine are preparing an artillery strike along the border in order to switch to an active phase of war."
The Normandy summit did not prevent reporting, once again, Ukraine's alleged failure in foreign policy. During the monitoring period, this claim was mainly disseminated by Russian disinformation sites targeting Ukraine. For example, "Chronicles of Ukrainian "Uganda-zation": State Department and NATO praise corruption". The meeting between Dubinsky and Giuliani revived the topic of Ukraine's role in the impeachment of Trump. Ukrainian clickbait sites were covering this meeting as another proof of Ukrainian authorities’ alleged dishonesty and of the horrific embezzlement by treacherous top officials: "10 billion dollars cannot be returned to Ukraine because of Honcharuk, Smoliy, Rozhkova and Rashkovan", "A. Zolotarev: "Mega-robbery of billions from Ukraine threatens the country’s national security." Corruption is indeed a problem of Ukrainian society; at the same time, Russian disinformation uses its existence and exaggerates it in order to confirm its claim of "a failed state".
“The capitulation of the Normandy format? Zelensky was dressed it the tail-coat sewn for Poroshenko.”
"Volodymyr Zelensky, if he is actually the president of Ukraine, ought to find out who it is who exposes him as a "clown" unable to determine his stance in international relations.”
"Say No to Capitulation" and the memory of the Maidan
Clickbait sites discussed the rallies at Independence Square before the Normandy summit and who could "fund" the new "Maidan": "Of course, some funds to support the show of Maidan could be allocated by Soros or the Democratic Party which would like to destabilize the situation, but at the same time, I don’t believe these infusions will be significant.” At the same time, Russian media were writing about far-right young men from Ukraine who arrived in Hong Kong in order to "lend a hand to China's Maidan."
Among other international news, they also mentioned the following: "Parisians throw eggs at the rally of Bandera supporters in Paris." Meaning that only radicalized nationalists support anti-capitulation protests (which is not true).
Traditionally, both Russian sites and Ukrainian clickbait sites did not fail to mention yet another “Poroshenko’s Putsch”. "Poroshenko, instead of being jailed for his machinations, corruption and robbing Ukraine under false patriotic slogans, is now trying not only to raise his tail, but also to mount."
The topic of gas conflict is gaining momentum. Anong the major reasons for that are possible US sanctions against Russia's construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, termination of the Russia-Ukraine gas transit agreement, and the launch of a gas pipeline between Russia and China, which "means the collapse of the hopes of the West and Ukraine."
US sanctions are allegedly disadvantageous to all of Europe: "The US-Europe sanctions war over Nord Stream-2 can bring an ultimate controversy between these two partners (...) Europe can rebel and get even more addicted to cheaper Russian gas." The result is Ukraine inevitably losing EU assistance because Ukraine would support the US sanctions. This position was disseminated by Russian publications, and along with them, by sites from occupied territories and by Ukrainian clickbait sites.
All three types of publications also circulated Medvedev's quote regarding the re-signing of the agreement on gas transit through Ukraine. Although Russia fails to pay the money according to the court decision, the manipulators are constructing sentences as if Ukraine were to blame: "According to him [Dmitry Medvedev - TEXTY], Kyiv and Moscow will not agree on the issue of gas if the Ukrainian side will continue to demand the payment according to court decisions."
Mainstream Ukrainian media, like everyone else, mentioned the possibility of negotiating the gas conflict during the Normandy meeting, and they spoke about the risks of delaying the signing of a new agreement. "The authors of the study believe that Russia and Ukraine will also face reputational losses, depending on who will be considered responsible for the termination of the contract." The Russian sites, both leading ones and the ones that spread disinformation to Ukraine, blamed Ukraine. Along with them, clickbait websites disseminated Medvedchuk's manipulative statements on this subject: “Ukraine is deadlocked. It is unclear whether it will come out of the deadlock, but the former authorities are to blame for the deadlock, as are now Zelensky and his team, too”.
This topic was also covered by Russian disinformation publications targeted at Ukraine. They mentioned “Holodomor” (“cold” sounding similar to "famine", a cynical play on words alluding to the Genocide of Ukrainians in 1930s), rising tariffs and problems with the start of the heating season. “Putin emphasizes that one needs to discuss the gas issue, it worries everyone. But the President of Ukraine wants to talk again about the lack of sockets, ammunition and toilets on the returned ships. Although, at this time, thousands of Ukrainians are without heating. It's Holodomor, freezing Ukrainians say. They are blocking streets and storming City Halls across the country”.
"The White House also continues to blame the Russian Federation of the protracted Ukrainian conflict, even though it has no evidence, and Moscow is not in any way a party to the conflict at all."
Economy: "Argentina-zation of Ukraine", the IMF needle and "blacksoil sellout"
While the mainstream media are writing about the strengthening of hryvnia and the negative assessment of the NBU's exchange rate policy by the NBU Board, the manipulators reflect on the “Argentina-zation of Ukraine” and how the regulator's policy “is leading Ukraine towards the collapse of hryvnia and the fall of the economy”.
The finalization of negotiations with the IMF was discussed by all media outlets. Only Russian disinformation sites targeted at Ukraine accompanied the discussion with emotional phrases such as “the IMF Credit Needle”, “the Financial Mine”, and quotes from ex Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who now lives in Moscow: “When I was head of the government, Ukraine didn’t borrow from the IMF." Also, the IMF’s alleged disappointment with the land reform was presented as a fact: "The IMF is also not delighted with the restriction of foreigners' access to the Ukrainian land market."
Russian disinformation publications targeted at Ukraine sought out some vivid images in the topic of the IMF tranche. Clickbait sites, at the same time, disseminated sensational headlines featuring pro-Russian politicians Viktor Medvedchuk, Vadim Rabinovich, and left-wing populist Yulia Tymoshenko about the land reform. Their essence boils down to demanding a referendum on the introduction of land market, and the claim that allowing the selling and buying of land is treason and a total destruction of Ukraine. Following the manipulators, these quotes were also disseminated by Russian sites targeting Ukraine, but there it was presented not as just a criticism of the authorities from the point of view of the opposition, but as the accusation of all citizens of Ukraine: “Zelensky's election is apotheosis of schizophrenia which conquered the country,” “And not a single loser who wanted laced panties and the EU never thought of the fact the the ill-fames “eurointegration” would inevitably end up in losing the soil under one’s feet”.
This week, the topic of the Crimean peninsula was discussed more than usual because of the planned Majlis march from Kyiv to Crimea, as well as because the statements by the former head of the Yeltsin administration.
Some Ukrainian clickbait sites referred to Russian publications regarding Crimea's statements during the collapse of the USSR, providing quotes which openly justify the Donbass war, the annexation of Crimea, and call against Ukraine's territorial integrity:
“Of course, these lands were originally ours, they just given away to Kyiv. They [the Crimea and the Donbass - TEXTY] understood that they were on an unequal footing with the Ukrainians, nationalism was developing strongly in Ukraine. The war is still going on about these regions, and not just these ones. Now talks have started that we will also take other regions to Russia as well”(archive).
Similarly, there were reprints from Russia on manipulative sites that criticize the march to Crimea. Mainstream Ukrainian publications have mentioned Crimea in the context of sanctions against Russia and condemning the annexation.
Opposition Platform - For Life. Manipulative sites write about bullying, the rest do not
Among all the sites which we monitor, only clickbait sites have been writing about the searches at OPFL offices. The informal leader of this political group, Viktor Medvedchuk, described his political group as, in his opinion, courageously resisting the political storms:
“A monolithic power ideologically inconvenient for the authorities" (link to the archive). The place where the search took place is the office of a security firm working for Medvedchuk. The company is accused of illegal surveillance and raiding.
Limitations of the study:
We take the topics of Russian propaganda in Ukraine from the following groups of materials:
1) manipulative news from the Russian online publications which write on Ukrainian topics, for the population of the occupied territories
2) manipulative news from those Ukrainian sites where a significant amount of manipulative news has been spotted. This second category is targeted at Ukrainian audiences and publishes a lot of manipulative news of different ideological orientation
3) all news from mainstream Ukrainian publications
4) all materials from mainstream Russian news sites
In this study, we only regarded the topics which are in line with Russian disinformation campaigns. In the first and second groups of news, the materials were selected by AI classifier of manipulative news. Topic names reflect manipulations used in the topic. Accordingly, news stories on Ukrainian mainstream sites on the same topic may have a completely different content from that of manipulative materials.
Examples of headlines
The Normandy meeting
Putin's ex-adviser: Kremlin preparing to destroy Ukraine with Zelensky | xn--j1aidcn.org
Ukrainians demand to resume the attack on Donbass due to death of SBU snipers | nahnews.org
If Ukraine does not reach an agreement with Russia, Kyiv will encircle Donbass with barbed wire | nahnews.org
Members of the Council of Federation criticize Kyiv’s desire to fence off Donbass with a wall | spichka.news
While Zelensky and Putin decide Donbass's fate, Zhirinovsky plans to attack Kiev: "Let's end anarchy" | znaj.ua
"Say no to capitulation" and the memory of the Maidan
Will Americans help Poroshenko to “come back” with the help of a Maidan | from-ua.com
In Response to Exporting Maidan. Why Ukrainians Are Not Allowed in Hong Kong | ukraina.ru
In Hong Kong, a troop of Ukrainian nationalists was found | nk.org.ua
In Ukraine, myths about the deaths of the Heavenly Hundred are debunked | nahnews.org
All these "hawks" who are in opposition today, will ask Putin for peace and cheap gas in the same way, meekly shaking his hand - Kasyanov | antikor.com.ua
«After Poroshenko’s fantastic reforms»: Azarov names the real value of Ukraine’s gas trabsporting system | goruzont.blogspot.com
People in Bundestag threaten to leave Ukraine without EU assistance because of its support for the US sanctions against Nord Stream 2 | golos.ua
Kulikov states the destroyed hopes of the West and Ukraine after the opening of the "Siberia Force" | nation-news.ru
«Cold Holodomor»: while Zelensky discusses toilets, thousands of Ukrainians are cold without heating (VIDEO) | rusvesna.su
Getting closer to Moscow is the only option for Kyiv in the gas conflict, expert says | riafan.ru
Economy: "Argentina-zation of Ukraine", the IMF needle and "blackoil sellout"
Expert discusses how the NBU "is killing" the economy of Ukraine | ukr.life
The fraud of Privatbank’s ex owners can be paid for several times | for-ua.life
New IMF credit will leave Ukraine without land and sovereignty | nk.org.ua
People in Ukraine state that a new IMF credit will simple keep the country comatose | riafan.ru
Transport collapse is killing industry. Ukraine’s railway are out of the Soviet strengh margin | naspravdi.info
Ukrainan march on Crimea has been called a provocation | argumentua.life
People in Crimea state the Kyiv has de facto recognized the peninsula as being Russian | alternatio.org
Pushkov ridicules Ukraine's "fantasies" of returning Crimea with the help of the US | nation-news.ru
Wasserman calls Chubarov's “march” to Crimea a revenge for the impossibility of racketeering the peninsula | nation-news.ru
FSB chief calls Ukrainian radicals's attempt to destabilize situation in Crimea a threat | tass.ru
Opposition Platform - For Life. Manipulative sites write about bullying, the rest don’t care
Rabinovich: “A pack of Sharikov’s broke into the country and announced its regime | kievpravda.com
Searches at Medvedchuk's office are an example of how authorities use law enforcement for political purposes - Lozovsky | golos.ua
Medvedchuk believes that all initiatives of the current authorities of Ukraine are overseen by the US and the IMF | tass.ru
Shufrich of the searches at Medvedchuk’s office: Zelensky uses repression because he has no arguments to deal with the opposition | glavk.info
Medvedchuk explains why it is disadvantageous to NATO that Ukraine becomes a full member of the Alliance | akcenty.com.ua
We searched for topics in 11354 materials in Russian from:
16 Russian sites (manipulative materials only), oriented at Ukrainian topics: alternatio.org, anna-news.info, comitet.su, crisis.in.ua, e-news.su, glavk.info, mir-lug.info, nahnews.org, naspravdi.info, nation-news.ru, newsland.com, nk.org.ua, odnarodyna.org, rusvesna.su, ukraina.ru, voenkor.info
66 Ukrainian online publications where over 10% of all news about Ukraine have been spotted as being manipulative (manipulative materials only): akcenty.com.ua, antikor.com.ua, argumentua.com, argumentua.life, baza-pravda.in.ua, begemot.media, bessarabiainform.com, beztabu.net, bin.ua, bn24.biz.ua, censoru.net, dialog.ua, dneprcity.net, expres.life, for-ua.life, from-ua.com, glavcom.life, glavred.life, golos.ua, goruzont.blogspot.com, grom-ua.org, hyser.com.ua, inform-ua.info, ivasi.news, khersonline.net, kievpravda.com, kompromat1.news, kordon.org.ua, most-dnepr.info, most.ks.ua, newnews.in.ua, newsmir.info, odessamedia.net, onpress.info, osp-ua.info, person.org.ua, politjournal.com, politobzor.net, proua.com.ua, prportal.com.ua, replyua.net, rnbee.com.ua, rupor.info, skelet-info.org, sobytiya.info, spichka.news, spzh.news, strana.ua, t.ks.ua, timer-odessa.net, tochkazoru.pp.ua, u-news.com.ua, ua-vestnik.com, ua24ua.net, uazmi.org, ukr.life, ukrainianwall.com, ukranews.life, verhovenstvo.com, versii.com, vybor.ua, w-n.com.ua, xn--j1aidcn.org, znaj.ua
10 major Ukrainian online publications (all materials): 24tv.ua, bykvu.com, gordonua.com, interfax.com.ua, news.liga.net, pravda.com.ua, rbc.ua, segodnya.ua, ukrinform.ua, unian.net
15 major Russian publications (all materials): aif.ru, dni.ru, kommersant.ru, kp.ru, lenta.ru, life.ru, newsru.com, pravda.ru, regnum.ru, riafan.ru, russian.rt.com, slovodel.com, svpressa.ru, tass.ru, vz.ru
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.