Proposals to “push” Ukraine towards Russia. Disinformation monitor #106
- Criticizing the “Vova’s thousand”.
- Redeeming Medvedchuk after the fake about coal from occupied territories.
- Ukraine “needs to be pushed toward” Russian vision of the Minsk protocols.
- Ukraine not Russia is “to blame” of the migrant crisis.
- Learn how topics of disinformation have changed over the year with our interactive visualization
Period: November 15 — 21, 2021
What’s new in disinformation?
This week, disinformers have largely continued to develop the same topics they have been raising recently. Fewer publications than expected appeared on the “Wagnergate”. Instead, we have seen many reflections on the need for the West to "force" Ukraine to comply with Russia's vision of a "peaceful settlement." We also saw some Western journalists and commentators spread Russian themes about the need for a "compromise" at the expense of Ukraine's interests. This is not the first time we have seen Russia use the threat of military force to impose its own foreign policy on others.
This week we checked what is written in the materials featuring pseudo-experts from our database. We will continue making such reviews on a monthly basis in future monitoring issues.
The key topic for the pseudo-experts this month (as expected) was the operation to detain the Wagner mercenaries and the role of Zelensky and his entourage in this operation. Some wrote that Zelensky was accused of "high treason." Others, on the other hand, called the Bellingcat investigation an attempt to destroy Zelensky's reputation. In their materials, they quoted many times the interview with Burba, the former head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense. In the interview, Burba spoke about the operation and his own dismissal after information emerged that the operation failed due to the postponement.
Another constant topics for the pseudo-experts was the advertising of the OPFL party and Medvedchuk personally and the energy crisis in Ukraine. Pseudo-experts advised "Medvedchuk's idea of a gas consortium" and to wait for Nord Stream 2 as a solution to the gas price problem. At the same time, they intimidated Ukraine with “blackout” due to coal shortages. They predicted that protests would begin in Ukraine due to high utility tariffs and energy shortages, and Zelensky would lose his post.
Ukrainian clickbaters criticized the "Vova’s thousand" (payment of money for vaccination) and spread manipulations that this thousand will have to be declared in tax declartions (and therefore those who do not declare the money, "will be fined for non-payment of taxes from May 2022") , or that it may result in the loss of the right to subsidies for utility tariffs.
Russian mainstream sites also discussed the "the Zelensky thousand" (its potential (non)ineffectiveness) and continued to refute the thesis of Russia's funding of the anti-vaccination movement, bots and trolls in Ukraine.
It is worth noting that there are almost no anti-vaccination theses on Russian sites. This can't be said about pro-Russian anonymous Telegram channels. They criticize the government, spread outright fakes, and write about forced vaccinations and violations of the Constitution. “We are simply being forced to get the shot, due to the low planning of the Ministry of Health, which has bought drugs with a limited shelf life.”
Economic impoverishment: coal shortage and energy crisis
Disinformers continue to develop the narrative of Ukraine's economic impoverishment, intertwining it with Ukraine's coal shortage and the threat of rolling power outages.
Medvedchuk is actively promoting himself using this topic, distributing dozens of articles on Ukrainian garbage sites under almost identical headlines: "While coal reserves were melting before our eyes, Kyiv decided to "finish off" Viktor Medvedchuk." They also disseminated fakes from Russian sources that "the Kyiv regime intended to secretly agree with the Luhansk People's Republic on the supply of coal and electricity."
And although the Ukrainian delegation to the Tripartite Contact Group has already refuted this disinformation, it did not prevent Ukrainian sites disseminating Russian disinformation from defending Medvedchuk (because his accusation focused on supplying coal from the occupied territories of Donbass, and in 2014 he did the same, now saying that allegedly Zelensky is engaging in such trade today). And Russian sites, when spreading this fake, once again demonized the "Kyiv junta", continued to intimidate people with warnings "about the most difficult winter during the country's independence" and considered whether the Donbas should trade with the "Ukrainian regime":
“The Maidan regime shells the cities of the Donbas, kills people, including children. The economic blockade set up by Kyiv does not allow the region to develop normally economically. And one-time purchases of coal by Ukraine will not change this situation. But they will prolong the existence of the Maidan regime, which will only lead to an increase in the suffering of the inhabitants of the region. It turns out that supplying coal to Ukraine is like feeding a wolf in winter, which will get stronger by the spring and eat the one who helped him”.
Russian invasion. "Long siege of Ukraine"
Russian troops continue to create tensions near Ukraine's borders. At the same time, Russian propaganda is trying to promote the narrative that our state is behaving aggressively and is a puppet of the United States and NATO. Pseudo-experts and disinformers tried to accuse Ukraine of disrupting and/or sabotaging the Minsk Protocols. “Zelensky brought the Minsk process into a dead corner, and they already openly say that the Minsk agreements are not being implemented and no one is going to implement them [...] And this is the road to war, not to peace. The only question is when Zelensky will be kicked into battle by the US with a NATO boot”, they wrote on manipulative sites that distribute Russian disinformation.
Russian manipulative websites writing about Ukraine and the Russian state media followed the same line, emphasizing that the West should "push" Ukraine or even "call hard" on the state to implement the the Minsk "agreements."
At the same time, Russia has again promoted the narrative of "unneededness" and "abandonment" of Ukraine by Western partners. "No one will help Ukraine in the war with Russia and here's why", "Is NATO going to attack the country which possesses 1,000 nuclear warheads?" Such formulations were promoted on Ukrainian manipulative clickbait dumps.
Poland and Ukraine are the main culprits the new migrant crisis in Europe
Last week, disinformers wrote a lot about the artificially created migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border. They accused Poland of "harassing" migrants and called for sanctions against the Polish government. Russian propagandists convinced their audience of the EU's defeat in the "migration wars" and spread manipulative comments from European Kremlin supporters. Also, Russian disinformation sites writing about Ukraine tried to shift the responsibility for the illegal transportation of migrants to Ukrainian citizens. They wrote: “Everyone knows very well that migrants come to the EU from Ukrainian territory, but they don't talk about it. […] Ukrainians, who are engaged in the transfer of illegal immigrants from the territory of Belarus, contribute to the aggravation of the migration crisis in the European Union. This is because the EU made the mistake of deciding that Ukrainian citizens can freely enter the territory of the European Union. Now we can see the consequences of this decision”.
Also this week:
Ukrainian garbage sites spread the thesis that Olena Shulyak (who headed the Servant of the People party instead of Oleksandr Kornienko) got this position because she "oversees the so-called Sorosling group in the faction." And Razumkov was called "the new Medvedchuk" (alluding to his allegedly pro-Russian position).
Russian websites that write about Ukraine have written a lot about Putin's decree on Russia's trade with the occupied territories of the Donbas. They rejoiced in even greater rapprochement with Russia “in the context of the economic blockade of Kyiv, as well as genocide and ethnocide on its part”.
Russian propagandists have widely circulated statements by the incumbent Bulgarian president about "Russian Crimea," as well as closely monitored the health of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who went on a hunger strike to protest the actions of the current Georgian government.
The pseudo-experts whom we are monitoring commented a lot this week on Bellingcat’s investigation which reveals the details of the operation to detain the Wagner mercenaries. Among other things, they accused Zelensky of treason, and his entourage of working for Russia. Regarding the topic of coronavirus, disinformers paid the most attention to the "Vova's thousand". They argued that vaccination payments were voter bribery and that those who received them would lose the right to utility subsidies.
Regarding the coal shortage in Ukraine, Russian sites used their own fake (that Ukraine would buy coal in the occupied territories) to justify Medvedchuk. He himself is accused (among other things) of trading in coal with the occupied territories. One of the key topics of the week was the call to "force Ukraine to peace”. Russian disinformation has used fears of real Russian aggression to persuade the West to forfeit Ukraine's interests and Ukraine to lose confidence in its partners.
Other notable topics are the migration crisis, of which Ukraine and Poland have been blamed. Allegedly, Ukrainian citizens are transporting migrants from Belarus, and "visa-free travel" is to blame. Decree of the President of the Russian Federation on trade with the occupied territories which "saves" inhabitants under the Russian occupation from "economic blockade of Kyiv" was another major topic.One more theme was the statement of the Bulgarian president about "Russian Crimea".
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 15501 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 media 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 media (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 media (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 media (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 the 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.