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Hot topics of Russian disinfo: Who Smoliy conspired with, the whole truth about Chinese loans. Issue #44

  • Propagandists mentioned Novorossiya before the local elections
  • They fueled hysteria and confused readers by writing about the threat of Russian military invasion in southern Ukraine
  • Disinformers explained Smolya's resignation as Poroshenko's plan
  • They dreamed of conquering Europe and at the same time tried to turn it against the United States
  • And speculated about the fate of the occupied territories

Period: June 29 – July 5, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Attack of the week

Bullying the now former chairman of the National Bank Yakiv Smoliy. He survived scandals with the NBU's supervisory board, statements by pro-Kolomoisky "servants," wiretapping of Honcharuk, and default offers from Kolomoisky. This time he was in for the fate of Gontareva (remember the threats and her burned house) and he was accused of conspiring with Poroshenko (this is a universal curse).

Hysteric fit of the week

The secret of a successful life in Ukraine from Russian propaganda:

Everywhere in Ukraine it is sad. In the sense that there’s complete anarchy in the country. Whatever you want, do it. No one will say a word to you. The main thing is that you have an embroidered shirt, the flag of Ukraine, and “Hang the Muscovite”. This is the most important thing, and then no one will ever touch you at all. If you are a “patriot”, an activist, everything will be fine with you, and your life was a success. And if you happen to think differently, you’ll be in trouble”.

Local elections: miscellaneous Russian propaganda

Emotionality is gradually building up in the texts about local elections. And while Ukrainian manipulative publications are promoting or, conversely, actively criticizing potential candidates for mayors of cities with a population of more than a million, Russian disinformers are mixing in all possible propaganda theses.

Thus, having pulled out of a hat the thesis of external governance, they wrote how "Klitschko and "Svoboda" party united against the “Soroslings’ in the local elections." They thought about the button that "turns on and off" "Svoboda" party, and rejoiced at how "athletes and radicals easily found a common language in the battles against the "decoy ducks" of Soros". On the other hand, in Lviv, Poroshenko is already "offering Tiahnybok a long-term alliance" in order to "make Lviv his springboard for returning to the presidency." Soros, nationalists from Galicia and beyond, Poroshenko - all this, according to disinformation, should bring Ukrainians east of Zbruch river into a silent horror and a desire to demand a menu in fast food restaurants in Russian.

Propagandists did not forget federalization, either. Writing about Kharkiv and Kernes, Russian disinformers manipulate that "all opinion polls" (we don't know which ones) demonstrate that Kharkiv remains a "Russian-speaking and generally tolerant of its northern neighbor." They reflect on Kernes's merits. Kharkiv "can provide for itself without the need for Kyiv's handouts", and they add that Kernes "never wanted Kharkiv to join Russia", but “the idea of ​​Novorossiya as an independent state would come to his liking."

One more political scientist, as usual in Russian propaganda, "predicted for Ukraine the fate of the USSR before it collapsed" immediately after the local elections.

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Speculating about possible Russian invasion in Southern Ukraine

It all started with a warning from an American general that Russia might use large-scale military exercises "Caucasus 2020" to invade southern Ukraine. Ukrainian manipulators turned the already scary news into hysteria. Clickbait sites stamped fantasy headlines: "If I were Putin, here’s what I would do to Ukraine." Manipulators, on the one hand, terrified their readers, and on the other hand, they called an invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine "adventurism on the verge of a failure."

Some of these materials are not disinformation but pure pursuit of clicks. However, a part can be used to confuse and blur the main thesis that the country is at war, and who knows what to expect from the northern neighbor? For example, an article headlined "Russia will not be able to seize even a few Ukrainian regions: the conclusions of analysts" wrote “on Ukraine” not “in Ukraine” [in Russian, this is a sign of seeing the state as “a part of something bigger” - TEXTY.org.ua], and at the end of the material they probably could not hold back the question: why then have analysts been warning for so many years about a Russian threat to the Baltic countries? This all suggests that the authors of the material are Russians.

Meanwhile, Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues have been actively fueling hysteria. Look at headlines such as “Moscow has concentrated five military divisions on the border which can conquer the “Independent One” in just a few days”, or this headline: "Why the South of Ukraine will meet Russian troops with bread and salt." Ukrainians were even accused of "inciting hatred through unfounded accusations against the northern neighbor." It will be recalled that the first statement did not belong to a Ukrainian, and there are good reasons to beware of Russian aggression, as the war is already underway.

Resignation of Smoliy is Poroshenko's plan

The biggest topic of the week was the resignation of the head of the National Bank of Ukraine Yakiv Smoliy. Prior to his resignation, Smoliy said he was stepping down due to political pressure. Disinformers wrote: "With his statement he tried to cause maximum harm to the country." He did not invent such a cynical plan himself (according to the manipulators): "Undoubtedly, he acts as part of the political team to which he has long belonged (Poroshenko-Gontareva), and certainly he operates within a more general plan." Disinformers did not specify the exact plan of the sinister Poroshenko-Smoliy team.

Instead, they were trying to convince their readers that the NBU "is one of the most important tools of Ukraine's external governance." They also offered to "take money from China" if there were problems with Western creditors due to pressure on the independent banking regulator. The latter is a bad idea: loan conditions are unclear, interest rates are higher, money is given for specific projects, mostly under payment guarantees - for example, to supply oil if it is not possible to repay the loans. To put it simply, the IMF and traditional lenders can be compared to large banks, which also lend at interest rates below market rates to support something, while China could be compared to a moneylender people turn to when their credit history scares away normal lenders. Read more about the manipulations and disinfo about cooperation with the IMF in the blog of our monitoring team.

In reality, thanks to the work of the NBU, Ukraine received a stable banking system, inflation in the country has returned to normal levels, and the opportunity to raise funds at record low interest rates has been used. Whether or not Ukraine will be able to preserve after Smoly's resignation what has been achieved is an open question.

Russia an "equal rival to the US" and China's partner

In international news, disinformers fueled the egos of Russian weapons fans and effectively threatened Europeans with war: "The war will begin with a misunderstanding and last on a European battleground for one to ten days." It makes no sense to deny the seizure of Europe in 10 days, because we are unlikely to have a chance to check. The Russian army only fights against weaker and smaller opponents.

Instead, let's turn our attention to the theses of Russian diplomacy promoted by manipulators: “NATO membership does not increase, but lowers the security of your country. Fight for neutral status and against strike groups near your home, arsenals of nuclear weapons, missile defense systems and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, for the closure of military biological laboratories."

In addition to purely military issues, disinformers have speculated a lot about the "union" between Russia and China, which should become a "nightmare for Washington." And also that Germany is about to "oppose" the United States and protect Nord Stream 2 from US sanctions.

In each issue of the monitoring, we meet a topic that is very difficult to summarize or at least to name. These are materials about how good Russia is and how other countries want to be friends with it. The "goodness" is accompanied by outright fabrications, hate speech and bravado about greatness and power. This flow should wash away from the minds of a loyal audience the news of sanctions, geopolitical defeats, other countries’ unwillingness to deal with Russia more than necessary.

Also this week:

Fake about school cuts and teacher layoff in Kherson

Russian disinformers disseminated a fake about the reduction of the number of high schools in Kherson: "The Maidan is working: in Kherson, most children will only be able to study till the 9th grade." They added that all this was allegedly a requirement of the IMF, they wrote about the transformation of Ukrainians into slaves and called "the real decommunization" the destruction of the Soviet education system. Although, according to the reform calendar of the New Ukrainian School, the launch of the profiled school is not planned earlier than 2027, and there are no reductions next year, let alone in a single region.

The "Minsk dead end": Russia to "decide Ukraine's fate"

Disinformers wrote a lot about the reintegration of the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine. They disseminated the words of former President Leonid Kravchuk: "We believe that Russia will not refuse to help rebuild the destroyed territory." Read more about what and for which publications Kravchuk comments in our special review. It was speculated that Russia would agree with the United States on a "future world order" and would engage in "reformatting, inevitable denazification, and determining the status of Ukraine's regions" (as an occupationist?).

Return of Crimea an "impossible condition" for Russia

As for Crimea, Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues have been repeating for several weeks that they do not care about international recognition of the occupation of Crimea. "The most important thing for the region is that it has become part of Russia once and for all," these publications write. They repeat this so often that even they themselves seem to have doubts about their own words. The manipulators also claimed that Ukraine wanted to fire at Crimea with missile weapons, but Russia would protect it. Such statements seem delusional, but they could justify military aggression at the right time.

Zelensky loses public support

The manipulators did not ignore the loss of the rating of the President of Ukraine. It was assumed that Zelensky “would not serve until the end of his presidential term", and his voters would gradually flee to the OPFL or similar political projects (we see here signs of news paid for by OPFL itself). "And it doesn’t even matter who will be in his place, Boyko, Portnov, or some other Rabinovich."

Summary

There was a lot of rattling of weapons, Russian weapons on manipulative websites this week. Disinformers threatened Europe with war, and they dreamed of dismembering Ukraine and "determining the status of its regions." Much attention has been paid to the local elections, after which another "collapse" of Ukraine is to take place. It did not matter that none of the previous collapses they prophesied ever happened. Despite the constant stream of threats from the Russian-controlled media, disinformers accused Ukraine of "inciting hatred through baseless accusations against its northern neighbor."

Methodology

We searched for topics in 8622 materials in the Russian language from:

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.

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.

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