Trying to drive a wedge between soldiers and commanders, a new vaccine, accusing Biden of weakness. Disinformation monitor #76
- Disinformation that “regional elites and local businessmen” will be inoculated with Pfizer
- Protecting the District Administrative Court of Kyiv in the case of its liquidation, bleaching judge Vovk’s brother arrested for bribery
- Writing that stopping repression against Medvedchuk is enough to stabilize the Donbas situation
- Calling the leadership of Armed Forced “muddle-headed”
- Mocking Biden’s restraint
Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization
Period: April 12—18, 2021
What’s new in disinformation?
The key to resolving the escalation in the Donbas is the lifting of sanctions against Medvedchuk and his TV channels. In general, the aggravation of the situation in the Donbas is the golden thread in all topics. But compared to recent weeks, the tone of the messages has changed. There have been fewer threats of "destruction" of Ukraine or scenarios of full-scale war. Instead, disinformers are trying to attack the credibility of the Ukrainian armed forces and NATO. Another notable change is the return of the discourse about "saboteurs" allegedly being prepared by the West in Ukraine. As for the American president, they mostly wrote about his "weakness" and inability to resist Russia. Nevertheless, Russia has announced the withdrawal of troops from the border with Ukraine.
Disinformation about the Armed Forces: "brave soldiers" and "muddle-headed commanders"
They write about key leaders of the Ukrainian army: “Defense Minister Taran is not a great commander either. The Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Korniychuk, was the chief inspector of technical support throughout the war. Probably competent, but definitely not a great commander either. Did they at least take a modern brigade into battle? Did they feel how it all happens?” And the commander-in-chief of the military forces of Ukraine Ruslan Khomchak is accused of losses in the battle of Ilovaisk: “Due to the fact that this man simply lost his nerves, hundreds (and maybe more) of the Ukrainian military died in the Ilovaisk trap”. They also write about “absolutely muddle-headed commanders” (of the Armed Forces of Ukraine - Texty.org.ua).
It is worth noting how Russia is trying to drive the wedge between the army and its leadership. As the experience of the active phase of the war of 2014-15 shows, this is a standard technique used to reduce the control of troops, and with a view to encouraging unauthorized retreat in conditions of heavy combat. We all remember the panicked posts of the beginning of the war, which were allegedly written by Ukrainian soldiers, such as: "We are being betrayed", "We are surrounded without ammunition, the corrupt generals have abandoned us", "We were evicted from the base for the sake of general's wives", calls to “March on Kyiv" and the like.
In addition to disinformation about the combat capability of the Ukrainian army, they tried to provoke disbelief in NATO's support for Ukraine. "In the event of a possible armed aggression, no NATO soldier will come here, no one will come here, and we will fight ourselves." In fact, Ukraine does not need NATO soldiers, modern weapons and intelligence are enough.
Biden the "trembling creature"
Clickbait sites have shamed Zelensky for asking for the help of Biden and leaders of other NATO nations: "The apogee of state infantilism: ‘Give us, give us, give us." Shame and disgrace”. And also transferred responsibility for the escalation to Ukraine and its "curators". They write that "Biden does not owe us anything, much less does he owe anything to Zelensky."
Russian sites targeting Ukraine focus on the US-Russian relations. They adhere to the official Russian narrative that Russia is a great power, that it needs to be granted exclusive rights, and that other "great powers" must negotiate with it. Ukraine has no place in this narrative, as most of Russia's neighbors haven’t. Disinformers write that "the United States has decided to "talk out of" the conflict as soon as it became clear that their satellite (Ukraine - Texty.org.ua) will lose."
In order to blame Biden personally, disinformers pulled the long-forgotten Ukrainian scammer Onishchenko, who was in the gas business, out of oblivion: "Joe Biden drove the businessman to Uzbekistan: he was on the sanctions list, along with other whistleblowers of the current White House dweller, Derkach and Dubinsky." Sanctions against Onishchenko were imposed for trying to influence the US election by publishing Biden's talks with Petro Poroshenko.
Mainstream Russian sites talk about the "benefits" to America coming from cooperation with Russia: “American corporations, especially IT firms, have a serious interest in the territory of the Russian Federation, and for them this is a serious consumer market, where they sell their products, their software, various gadgets”. It is ironic that Russia, which constantly calls Ukraine a "colony" of the West, sees its role in relations with the United States as a market for the US products. Russian sites strongly urge Biden to "stable" relations with Russia and dissuade from sanctions.
Telegram channels write about Joseph Biden's decision to call on Putin to negotiate: “Biden looks like a "trembling creature" now, like a provincial tragic actor, his image losses are already irreparable and by the end of the year he, with a very high probability, will retire”.
Impoverishment in Ukraine. "Ukrainians live worse, they get sick and become paupers"
Ukrainian manipulative media do not stop hyping on the eternal topics of dependence on the IMF ("Ukraine is for the IMF like a suitcase without a handle"), the high cost of utilities ("people cannot pay") and "look how the oligarchs have earned in this one year." In one of the previous monitoring issues, we have already analyzed the latter thesis about the oligarchs. They have indeed become rich over the last year, but largely due to rising prices for oil, steel, and other export commodities. In addition, Russian propagandists periodically call Ukrainian oligarchs "the defenders of Ukraine" from "external governance."
Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues add to these theses the idea of Ukraine's interest in returning the Donbas. They called "the destroyed Donbas a burden for Ukraine" and speculated that "Ukraine is spending more and more money on weapons and less and less on reconstruction" (which is a bit strange to read on a site with the domain of a country that ranks fourth in the world in terms of military spending). They add that "war and the coronavirus are two saving tools for Zelensky, which cover the main problem of Ukraine, namely the economy flying into the abyss."
The vaccine war continues. Pfizer "the elixir of life"
Low rates of vaccination and high rates of coronavirus spread in Ukraine continue to play into the hands of disinformers. Ukrainian clickbait sites do not stop reminding about the Russian vaccine ("we have hundreds of deaths and the authorities still do not look in the direction of Sputnik V"). At the same time, they discredit all other vaccines. For example, the supply of CoronaVac is emotionally described: "200,000 vials of Chinese vaccine were brought to Ukraine in a mud-stained truck (bold selection by Texty.org.ua)." (The vaccine was actually delivered by airplane). And they add the rhetorical question: "How does the vaccination from communist China, where the ruling party is desperately repressing innocent Uighurs, go with decommunization?" Trying, in this way, to include the "antivaxxers" as a progressive part of society, which is worried about the repression against the Uighurs in China.
And in connection with the delivery of a small batch of Pfizer vaccines, Ukrainian clickbaits are inflating an unconfirmed "treason!" narrative that Pfizer, instead of vaccinating key groups, "will be spent by the elite." Russian sites add their own interpretations to this theory: "Ukraine is convinced that Pfizer is almost an elixir of life, because it is made in the United States, in front of which Ukrainians are loyal servants, not paying attention to the fact that it also has enough negative reviews about side effects." .
And Telegram channels produce even more fantasies, which pretend to be "insides" around this topic:
“The USA vaccine Pfizer will be used to inoculate the regional elite and local businessmen who are willing to pay $1,000 or more. Doctors and military personnel receive Indian and Chinese shots, while MPs, officials, businessmen have already bought out the queue for a month in advance”.
“Our source reports that President Zelensky refused to re-vaccinate with Indian Covishield (AstraZeneca). President is going to get a new Pfizer vaccination in autumn”.
Zelensky the “jolly Ukrainian Fuehrer”
The brightest propaganda headline last week was "The jolly Ukrainian Fuehrer entertains the perishing people with the ‘invasion of Russia’." Under this name, one of the Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues published a text in which, in the best disinformation traditions, the author reflects on how “in order to divert the attention of the Ukrainian population from his “modest” person, who has exacerbated the crisis in the country, Zelensky and his gang are relentlessly intimidating people with the coming ‘invasion of Russia’ ”. Only one other headline of a Russia site can compete in humiliating Zelensky: “Luckily, there is Putin!”: Ukrainians are disappointed in Zelenskiy, who behaves like “an offended sixth grader”.
Here, like in the disinfo of Poroshenko's times ("the war was started by the oligarchs"), everything turns upside down, and it turns out it's not Russia pulling troops to the border, it turns out Zelensky is guilty because he says it's a threat to Ukraine. That is, Ukrainian presidents are to blame, not Russia.
Ukrainian manipulative media also support such narratives (albeit without openly glorifying Putin). For example, one of the sites quoted Dubinsky as saying that "Ukraine has established a special, unique for the world form of government, the tragicomic dictatorship." Another site published a text in which they emotionally exaggerated how "Zelensky managed to do so many things in two years in power that it is scary to imagine what he will do in the remaining three" and discussed his transformation from "the hope of the nation'' to "a political clown whom no one in the world takes seriously." The text ended with the thesis already familiar to this site that everything would be much better if "Zelensky, having moderated his pride, would agree to the plan of the chairman of the political council of OPFL party Victor Medvedchuk."
Texts defending corrupted politicians. Bleaching the District Administrative Court of Kyiv
Ukrainian manipulative media actively cover the issue of liquidation of the DACK, defending the court. At the same time they use the classic Russian narratives of external governance, writing about the "court inconvenient for the West." And they manipulate the opinion of readers using emotional stamps: "shameful campaign to harass the court", "the double-limp activity of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau."
Russian websites targeting Ukrainian issues also defended the DACK, responding to the arrest of judge Vovk's brother and all his property (which included large amounts of cash in foreign currency) for bribery. They picked up the thesis from an anonymous Telegram channel that the money allegedly belonged to "another person who can and is ready to confirm their legal origin" (without naming anyone). And then they immediately went on the attack, adding an unsubstantiated story that "there should be more money than the NABU said, about $ 500,000 ‘evaporated’ after the search."
Other texts have already deliberately downplayed the entire case: "the last story with the found stash containing 100 shekels, allegedly belonging to Vovk's brother, has become anecdotal." In addition to the 100 shekels, more than $ 3.7 million, € 840,000 and £ 20,000 were seized. But disinformers are silent about it.
Medvedchuk as the guarantor of peace with Russia
Ukrainian manipulative media continue to promote pro-Russian forces and Medvedchuk personally. However, now their focus is not only on the reminder of Medvedchuk's agreement with Putin on the Russian vaccine but also the thesis that it is "Zelensky's sanctions policy that led to the escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine." And that in order to resolve the situation in the Donbas, it is only necessary to "stop infringing on Medvedchuk's interests, not to move him from the political arena, as well as to restore the broadcasting of opposition TV channels."
Ukraine not admitted to the NATO
Clickbait sites wrote about who would be "against" Ukraine in the Alliance: "Hungarians and Poles will block it, and Israel, through its lobbying capabilities… And not only the French and Germans will vote against the Membership Action Plan, but 5 or 6 countries will." And they actively disseminated the Kremlin's announced goals: "Moscow has repeatedly warned that the accession of this former Soviet republic to NATO is absolutely unacceptable from the point of view of national security."
Russian sites targeting Ukraine commented on the issue of joining NATO as follows: "Ukraine's accession to NATO will once again split this country." And they were afraid that it would only "aggravate" the situation for Ukraine.
Also this week
Disinformers wrote about the "nobility" of Russia, which "did not split the achievements in the field of space conquest between the peoples of the republics of the USSR" and lied that "the Russian side has never influenced and does not influence events in southeastern Ukraine." Andriy Yermak's statements about the need to obtain American “Patriot” anti-missile systems were commented on. They said that these supplies could turn Ukraine into a new Syria. Although the presence of such powerful weapons guarantees the integrity and peace in Ukraine, because the main threat to Ukraine is Russia, and it will be afraid to take aggressive action if we have weapons like that. They also lied about Ukraine's "plans" to "sell" the Motor Sich plant to Turkey in order to "pay" for its support of Ukraine.
Fakes about the Armed Forces and right-wing radicals in the Donbas
Aiming at the residents of the occupied territories of the Donbas, Russian sites targeting Ukrainian issues continue to promote the fake about a boy allegedly killed by a Ukrainian drone. It is supplemented by other fakes about attacks and murder of civilians by the Ukrainian military and horror stories that for provocative attacks "right-wing radicals began to arrive to the Donbas". This is done to increase the motivation of residents of the occupied territories to fight Ukraine if Russia decides to escalate.
Disinformers began to write less about the Ukrainian allegedly planned offensive and switched to criticizing the combat effectiveness of the Ukrainian army, primarily by discrediting its commanders. On the other hand, they write that Ukraine will definitely not be accepted into NATO because of Russia's "dissenting opinion." Disinformers are trying to portray the American president as vengeful (sanctions against Onishchenko), weak, and indifferent to the fate of Ukraine. At the same time, they paint "prospects" for improving relations between Russia and the United States and talk about the "interests" of American companies in Russia.
At the same time, we recorded texts about the "training of saboteurs" in Ukraine, which is allegedly conducted by the United States. These "saboteurs" are supposed to carry out "terrorist attacks" in the Crimea and other regions.
As for vaccination, disinformers disseminated the emotional thesis that Pfizer would actually be used to vaccinate VIP clients, not at-risk groups. This thesis is similar to their statements about good soldiers and bad generals, which also unfolded last week.
So far, "insides" about the vaccination of the elite are not supported by any evidence, but in the event of such violations, they can seriously undermine confidence in the government, the Ministry of Health, and the Ukrainian state in general.
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:
- manipulative news from the Russian online publications which write on Ukrainian topics, for the population of the occupied territories
- 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
- all news from mainstream Ukrainian publications
- all materials from local Ukrainian news sites
- all materials from mainstream Russian news sites
- posts in Telegram channels popular in Ukraine
In the first and second groups of news, the materials were selected by the AI classifier of manipulative news.
We searched for topics in 23175 materials in the Russian language from:
- 72 Russian sites (manipulative materials only) targeting Ukrainian topics: 3652.ru, 3654.ru, 8692.ru, anna-news.info, antifashist.com, antimaydan.info, c-inform.info, comitet.su, crisis.in.ua, delovoydonbass.ru, dnr-lnr.info, dnr-pravda.ru, dnr24.com, dnr24.su, donbasstoday.ru, doneck-news.com, dontimes.news, dontimes.ru, dosie.su, e-gorlovka.com.ua, e-news.su, evening-crimea.com, free-news.su, fresh.org.ua, fromdonetsk.net, front-novorossii.ru, gorlovka.today, jankoy.org.ua, kafanews.com, komtv.org, kv-journal.su, lgt.su, luga1news.ru, lugansk1.info, meridian.in.ua, metayogg.com, miaistok.su, mir-lug.info, mnyug.com, mozaika.dn.ua, nahnews.org, naspravdi.info, nefakt.info, newc.info, news-front.info, newsland.com, nk.org.ua, novorosinform.org, novorossiy.info, novosti.icu, odnarodyna.org, on-line.lg.ua, patriot-donetsk.ru, pohnews.org, politnavigator.net, politobzor.net, pravdanews.info, ruinformer.com, rusdnepr.ru, rusnext.ru, russian-vesna.ru, rusvesna.su, sevastopol.su, sevnews.info, sobytiya.info, svodki24.ru, time-news.net, ukraina.ru, voenkor.info, voskhodinfo.su, vsednr.ru, xvesti.ru
- 105 Ukrainian online publications where over 10% of all news about Ukraine have been spotted as being manipulative (manipulative materials only): 0432.in, 112.ua, agrimpasa.com, aif.ua, akcenty.com.ua, antikor.com.ua, argumentua.com, baza-pravda.in.ua, bbcccnn.com.ua, begemot.media, bessarabiainform.com, censoru.net, dialog.ua, donetskie.com, elise.com.ua, expres.life, figurant.com.ua, finoboz.net, for-ua.life, fraza.ua, from-ua.com, glavcom.life, glavk.info, glavred.info, glavred.life, golos.ua, hpib.life, hyser.com.ua, inforesist.org, inform-ua.info, informator.news, intell.in.ua, ivasi.news, jizn.info, job-sbu.org, k-stenke.com, khersonline.net, kompromat1.info, kompromat1.news, kordon.org.ua, korr.com.ua, kyiv.press, lifedon.com.ua, mignews.com.ua, monitor-ua.com, newnews.in.ua, news247.com.ua, news24ua.com, newser.com.ua, newsmir.info, newsua.one, nezalezhna.com, onpress.info, ord-02.com, ostrovok.lg.ua, p-zona.com, podrobnosti.ua, politdengi.com.ua, politeka.net, politica.com.ua, pravda.rv.ua, prioritet.org, proua.com.ua, provokators.top, prportal.com.ua, replyua.net, rezzonans.in.ua, rnbee.com.ua, rupor.info, rupor.od.ua, rusjev.net, sharij.net, skelet-info.org, spektrnews.in.ua, spichka.news, spzh.news, startko.co.ua, strana.ua, t.ks.ua, tema.in.ua, timer-odessa.net, tp0432.in.ua, tribunanaroda.info, ua-reporter.com, ua-vestnik.com, ua24ua.net, ukr.life, ukraine-zmi.info, ukrainianwall.com, ukranews.com, ukranews.life, ukrpost.biz, ukrrudprom.ua, vesti-ukr.com, vesti.ua, vkulake.com, vlasti.net, voi.com.ua, vremya.com.ua, vybor.ua, vz.ua, xn--j1aidcn.org, zhitomir-online.com, zik.ua, znaj.ua
- 17 major Ukrainian online publications (all materials): 24tv.ua, bykvu.com, censor.net.ua, fakty.com.ua, fakty.ua, gordonua.com, interfax.com.ua, lb.ua, liga.net, nv.ua, pravda.com.ua, rbc.ua, segodnya.ua, tsn.ua, ukrinform.ru, unian.net, zn.ua
- 16 major Russian publications (all materials): aif.ru, dni.ru, kommersant.ru, kp.ru, lenta.ru, lentainform.com, life.ru, newsru.com, pravda.ru, regnum.ru, riafan.ru, russian.rt.com, slovodel.com, svpressa.ru, tass.ru, vz.ru
- 175 Ukrainian local publications (all materials): 0432.ua, 048.ua, 04849.com.ua, 04868.com.ua, 0512.com.ua, 056.ua, 0564.ua, 057.ua, 061.ua, 06153.com.ua, 0619.com.ua, 06239.com.ua, 06274.com.ua, 06277.com.ua, 0629.com.ua, 0642.ua, 1kr.ua, 1news.zp.ua, 44.ua, 5632.com.ua, 5692.com.ua, 62.ua, 6264.com.ua, 7kanal.com.ua, actual.today, allkharkov.ua, atn.kharkov.ua, barometr.info, beg.dp.ua, bessarabiainform.com, city.sumy.ua, cxid.info, dancor.sumy.ua, dani-info.com, dnepr.com, dneprcity.net, dneprnews.com.ua, dneprnews.info, dnews.dn.ua, dnl.com.ua, dnl.dn.ua, dnpr.com.ua, donbass.ua, donetskie.com, dontimes.news, dozor.kharkov.ua, dp.vgorode.ua, dpchas.com.ua, dumskaya.net, dv-gazeta.info, dzerghinsk.org, ecity.cn.ua, gloss.ua, golos.zp.ua, gorod-online.net, gorod.cn.ua, gorod.dp.ua, gx.net.ua, inform.zp.ua, informator.dp.ua, inshe.tv, insidernews.info, irtafax.com.ua, iz.com.ua, izbirkom.org.ua, izmailvechernii.com.ua, izmnews.info, izvestia.kharkov.ua, kg.ua, kh.vgorode.ua, kharkov.dozor.ua, khersonline.net, khustinfo.com/video, kiev.informator.ua, kiev.vgorode.ua, kievpravda.com, kn.ks.ua, kolokol.od.ua, korabelov.info, kramatorsk.info, kramatorskpost.com, krlife.com.ua, krnews.ua, krug.com.ua, kstati.dp.ua, lenta.kharkiv.ua, lugradar.net, mariupol-express.com.ua, mariupol.in, mariupolnews.com.ua, mig.com.ua, misto.zp.ua, mk.mk.ua, most-dnepr.info, mrpl.city, mycity.mk.ua, mykharkov.info, nashemisto.dp.ua, nashkiev.ua, nashreporter.com, nefakt.info, news.mspravka.info, newsroom.kh.ua, nf.dp.ua, niknews.mk.ua, nikolaevnews.com.ua, nikvesti.com, novosti-n.mk.ua, novosti-n.org, novosti.dn.ua, novosti.zhitomir.ua, objectiv.tv, od-news.com, od.vgorode.ua, odessa-life.od.ua, odessa.net.ua, odessa.online, odessapost.com, on.od.ua, ostro.org, otkat.od.ua, podrobnosti.mk.ua, press-center.news, prichernomorie.com.ua, pro.berdyansk.biz, rama.com.ua#tab_3-widget_panorama_posts_feed-2, real-vin.com, reni-odessa.od.ua, reporter-ua.com, ru.korzonews.info, rupor.od.ua, ruporzt.com.ua, russkiev.info, slavdelo.dn.ua, sobytiya.dp.ua, sq.com.ua, subbota.ua, svsever.lg.ua, t.ks.ua, telegraf.in.ua, timenews.in.ua, timer-odessa.net, timeua.info, tnua.info, topnews.cn.ua, topnews.odessa.ua, topnews.zp.ua, topnews.zt.ua, topor.od.ua, treebuna.info, tribun.com.ua, tribune.com.ua, tvplus.dn.ua, ua-reporter.com, uanews.kharkiv.ua, usionline.com, verge.zp.ua, vesti.dp.ua, visti.ks.ua, vmestezp.org, vn.mk.ua, vo.od.ua, volnorez.com.ua, vseprokiev.com.ua, vv.com.ua, x1.com.ua, z-city.com.ua, zachem.com.ua, zaodessu.com.ua, zhitomir-online.com, zhzh.info, zi.dn.ua, zp.vgorode.ua, zptown.zp.ua, zv.zp.ua
- 100 Ukrainian Telegram channels (all materials): @ASupersharij, @AleksandrSemchenko, @BerezaJuice, @BiletskyAndriy, @BondarenkoElenaUA, @botsmanua, @donetch, @KAPVEY, @KlymenkoTime, @KrokooDil, @LastBP, @MaxBuzhanskiy, @OP_UA, @OlgaSharij, @PortnovUA, @Pravda_segodny, @PresidentPoroshenko, @SBUkr, @ShrikePolitics, @SlugaNarodu_Official, @Ten_NaPleten, @UkrainaCHP, @UkraineNewsUa, @V_Zelenskiy_official, @Yad_OK, @ZeFackTy, @ZeRada1, @advocatprava, @borodatayaba, @borys_filatovv, @dadzibao, @dark_k, @dobkinmm, @donbasscase, @ednist_ta_progress, @ednistinfo, @gistapa, @gordonuacom, @govorit_ukraina_novosti, @gpolitnews, @gribvictoria, @gryaznayaigra, @insiderUKR, @joker_ukr, @kachuratut, @kryuchoktv, @kyivvlast, @legitimniy, @legitimniy_live, @lugansk_inside, @maksnazar, @monovaolena, @multlychnosty, @mustafanayyem, @mvs_ukraine, @nabolelo_odessa, @nach_shtabu, @nedotorkani, @nextaUkr, @notesdetective, @ochkobakanova, @office_ua, @olejnikovschina, @oleksiihoncharenko, @online_novosti_ua, @pavlovskynews, @politikaukraine, @portnikov, @razvedinfo, @rezident_ua, @rus_demiurge, @sharij_official, @shaurma_inside, @sheptoon, @skosoi, @smolii_ukraine, @sonyakoshkina, @sorosata, @spletnicca, @stolovka_ukr, @tayni_deputata, @thanksrinat, @tsibulya_ua, @tzhitomir, @ua_hot_news, @ukr_novyna, @ukrainskinovosti, @valeriazaruzhko, @varta1, @vestiukr, @wagnergate, @yurasumy, @ze_landia, @ze_team2019, @zedigital, @zv_kyiv
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.