Who’s to blame of the hostage take in Lutsk? Poroshenko, of course! Disinfo monitor #47

  • Ukraine is a “failed state” that cannot cope with terrorists
  • Conspiracy about "imitation of arson" by an anti-corruption activist
  • Mudslinging and stereotypes in writing about the mayoral election in Kyiv
  • Ignoring the violation of the cease-fire by militants
  • Predicting Zelensky’s resignation
  • See how disinformation topics have changed throughout the year in our interactive visualization

Period: July 20—26, 2020

Disinfo topics

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

Headline of the week

Ukraine fights the crisis like a loser suffering leg gangrene - economist

Manipulation of the week

Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues continue to actively respond to the Verkhovna Rada's resolution on local elections, which in fact postpones local elections until the end of Russian military aggression. They wrote that in this way "Ukraine officially formalized its withdrawal from the Minsk agreements," and then contradicted themselves, adding that "Donbass is soon-to-be Russia".

Lutsk terrorist is evidence of "country decay"

Last week, a terrorist took hostage bus passengers in Lutsk. He made some weird demands and threatened to kill the hostages if the authorities did not comply. One of the demands concerned the president, who was to advise the country's citizens to watch a film about the exploitation of animals. After several hours of negotiations and after the president complied with his wishes, the terrorist released the hostages and surrendered to the police.

Disinformers saw the events in Lutsk as evidence that "the state is helpless" in Ukraine and "terrorists are dictating their will." Everyone was found guilty, the SBU which "turned into an office to earn money," Zelensky who complied with the terrorist's demand and recorded the video, and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov who "brings turmoil and panic to the work of law enforcement." How is this different from adequate criticism, since there is a bit of truth in each statement? The fact is that manipulative materials and disinformation brought to the fore not the terrorist act but a message about the "failed state", the message which is pushed at every opportunity.

In addition to the obvious actors, such as the terrorist, the security forces, and the president, the manipulators began to weave into the story their traditional "enemies", Poroshenko and Ukrainian nationalists. They spread the message from the probably fictional man "Feofan Dobrolyubov": "According to his information, the Lutsk terrorist was expelled from the ranks of nationalists (ie from the Azov Regiment - Texty.org.ua) for homosexuality." And, of course, the culprit is "All this gang led by Poroshenko and his entourage for years, who increased the degree of hatred in society, splitting it with their “Army, Language, Faith" slogan, decommunization, so that the hatred eventually became extreme."

Undoubtedly, the reaction of Ukrainian law enforcement to the events in Lutsk was not very effective. And the belated assault, when the terrorist had already surrendered, looked just weird. But disinformers did not try to constructively discuss what happened. They replaced this discussion with populist slogans such as "it is time to introduce the death penalty." It will be recalled that the death penalty is not humane, is ineffective and contradicts Ukraine’s international obligations. But topics such as the death penalty are convenient for the replacement of real problems and real solutions in the country.

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Shabunin's “self-arson” and a camp of "Soroslings"

Ukrainian manipulative publications continue to promote Russia's thesis about Ukraine's external governance. This time, in the context of the arson of the house of the head of the Center for Combating Corruption, Vitaliy Shabunin. Instead of sympathizing or calling for an independent investigation, they called Shabunin himself a "scandalous person," pondered "how much money Shabunin built the burned house for," and distracted attention to other painful topics: "Which of you who supported Shabunin supported the families of those soldiers who died this year? ” and once again accused Zelensky of beginning to "drift into the camp of the so-called Soroslings”.

And the Russian websites targeting Ukraine accused Shabunin himself who allegedly "imitated the arson of his own house in order to hide grant embezzlement", and argued for their version of events only because nobody suffered "for they could kill, as Sternenko did for self-defense, or pour acid on him like they did with Katya Handzyuk."

Local elections and hate speech

Local elections are getting nearer in Ukraine. Given the falling ratings of Zelensky and the “Servant of the People”, they will be very competitive. Manipulative sites do not stay aside and actively comment on the political struggle in the regions.

Recently, the “Servant of the People” announced that Iryna Vereshchuk would be the party's candidate in the local elections in Kyiv. This is a politician who is linked to the pro-Russian Medvedchuk. Still, she is being targeted by disinformers. It seems that her candidacy will be used to promote the old theses which, as disinformers believe, can potentially split our society. For example: "also, she’s a Greek Catholic, a Uniate by religion, while Kyiv, even taking into account the spiritual "occupiers" from the numbers of political migrants the guest workers, as well as the brought Mai-Downs (derogative: Maidan morons - Texty.org.ua) from Galicia who settled in the capital forever, is still an Orthodox city."

Also this week:

Ignoring the cease-fire

Unexpectedly little was written by Russian about the armistice signed last week. They only noted that the uncontrolled territories were "ready to implement additional measures to comply with the armistice in Donbass." The cease-fire was violated by Russian hybrid troops in the Donbas on the same day that it began, but we read that "the Kyiv authorities have left themselves a loophole that will allow them to open fire on the people's republics with impunity." By "loophole", disinformers mean a ceasefire clause stating that both sides have the right to fire if the other side tries to change disposition or engage in reconnaissance. It is difficult to call this a "loophole", since the agreement gives the same right to the militants.

Nord Stream necessary for Europeans, Ukraine a "puppet" of the US

In late 2019, the US Congress imposed sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Since then, manipulators have begun to demonize US foreign policy even more and to frighten Europeans with dependence on the United States. For six months, the argument has not changed. The United States interferes in the "internal affairs" of Europe, Ukraine is "only the executor of the task," and Russia is a "conservative democracy... an alternative to the Western world." It will be recalled that in order to become a conservative democracy, it would not be bad for Russia to become at least just a democracy. Russia has had problems with that for many years.

Zelensky promotes himself a lot and created a competitor for himself (Razumkov)

Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues wrote this week that Zelensky "was accustomed as an actor to speaking in public for self-promotion”. And they advised him to get rid of the image of Holoborodko (persona of a popular president in his earlier movie - texty.org.ua) and make a "bet on middle-ranking officials." They also did not forget to mention that the head of the Verkhovna Rada Dmytro Razumkov has recently received a level of support only 4% lower than the President. It is the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada who becomes acting President in the event of the President's resignation. Disinformers regularly predict that Zelensky will resign because he will not withstand the pressure and loss of popularity.


This week's biggest topic was the discussion of hostage-taking in Lutsk. However, instead of discussing the causes and consequences of the terrorist attack, the manipulators put theses about Ukraine as a "failed state” in the foreground. They tried to cover any events as a confirmation of these theses.

Activists, veterans, and businessmen have been attacked in Ukraine in recent months. Now the recent hostage-taking has been added. Disinformers are trying to hold ATO veterans and the previous president's policy responsible for all of this.


We searched for topics in 7016 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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