Presidential talks and attacks on Zelensky. Disinformation monitor #109
- Ukraine is just a bargaining chip for Biden and Putin.
- Thousands of NATO soldiers in Ukraine are preparing sabotage in Russia.
- Zelensky creates bills for ethnic cleansing and genocide of "Russians".
- Nostalgia for the USSR and the chance lost in 1991 “to pull the Small Russia out of the colonial clutches of our geopolitical opponents”.
- Learn how topics of disinformation have changed over the year with our interactive visualization.
Period: December 6 — 12, 2021
What’s new in disinformation?
Ukrainian-Russian relations remain the focus of Russian disinformation. This time, Putin's talks with Biden gave new impetus to the old theses. Russian websites (followed by Ukrainian trashy websites) saw the video conference between Biden and Putin as a confirmation of Ukraine's being a “puppet” and an occasion to once again glorify Putin and Russia, who are not afraid of US sanctions and want world peace.
In addition, they were nostalgic for the Soviet past and concluded that NATO-occupied Ukraine wanted a war in the Donbas, and that Zelensky wanted to pursue ethnic cleansing in eastern Ukraine with the help of his citizenship bill.
Putin-Biden talks. "Ukraine handled without Ukraine"
After Putin's talks with Biden, both the Ukrainian and Russian information fields were filled with texts about US-Ukrainian-Russian relations. Importantly, Ukrainian manipulative publications willingly supported and retransmitted Russian propaganda, and sometimes even reprinted full texts. We tried to structure this whole stream of Russian propaganda and to single out the main theses, illustrating them with quotes from both Russian and Ukrainian trash websites.
- “The invasion play” by western intelligence.
The prelude to the talks between Putin and Biden was the thesis that Russia did not plan any invasion of Ukraine, and that all of this is just an information operation of the West.
“The head of the White House needed a victorious foreign policy action in order to restore his reputation and in order to shut his opponents' mouths. To do this, the State Department perfectly played out hysteria about the "large-scale offensive of Moscow on Kyiv", raised the bar of negotiations to the maximum, and, as it were, "convinced" (forced Putin) to abandon this plan (which never existed)”.
“Operation ‘Compulsion to Invasion’, which Western intelligence services had been preparing for several weeks, actually failed. ... Jen Psaki openly yelled ‘come on, invade at last!’ but nothing helps”
“Putin will not attack, because Russia simply cannot afford Ukraine, and even any of its large parts... Financially, Russia almost broke down with tiny Crimea (people in the know say that the Kremlin did not really expect such a level of infrastructure degradation)”
- Ukraine the losing puppet
After the presidential talks, as the logical result of the accusation of an information attack on Russia (and delaying Biden-Zelensky call), comes the conclusion that Ukraine is just a puppet in this serious geopolitical game, and “the main loser in the conversation is the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky”.
“This demonstrative disregard is the main result of the video summit of the presidents of Russia and the United States, not only for Ukraine, but for all countries that cling to American aid.”
Here, vivid metaphors are used by propagandists. “"Ukraine is being played without its knowledge", "Ukraine is a bargaining chip, the subject of an agreement between the two states”, and Ukraine is for Biden “not even a country on the world map, not a state at all”. Propagandists even ridiculed Ukraine openly: “... then, after the head of the White House has discussed the conversation with Putin about Ukraine with everyone, including the emperor penguins in Antarctica, he will call Bankova Street ...”
The main objective of disinformers is discrediting both Ukraine (“Why should we hope that Biden will fight against Putin for a distant corrupt country on another continent?”, “The Ukrainian political crowd has lowered itself to this bestial state, but in any case, they are now waiting for Biden's call here”) and its mercantile allies (“If the Americans agree on something about Ukraine, this does not mean that Ukraine is important to them, or that they are fighting for it.”)
- Sanctions are not as scary as Biden depicts them
Biden was also ridiculed. According to Russian propaganda, he had a "record low support rating and his position is very shaky", and even Trump called him "incompetent". As for the sanctions he had promised, “All these ‘new sanctions’ and ‘old disconnections from SWIFT’ are completely unimpressive and cannot do much harm to Russia.” Propagandists even contemplated how Putin might actually like the sanctions: “I would not be surprised that when Putin hears from Biden about all these stunning sanctions, he will jump in his chair for joy”.
“Biden was convinced of one thing: powerful Western sanctions will not stop Putin in the event of an invasion of Ukraine” (and again, a reminder of a possible invasion, which they themselves have denied in previous texts).
Meanwhile, the mainstream Russian sites continued to use the classic method of quoting anonymous contributors from social networks and turn them into headlines: “Social media about the talks between Putin and Biden: ‘One of them is the leader, and the other one is Biden’ ” (we wrote more about this and other methods analyzing the information operation "Invasion")
- Russia the initiator of peace
And in order to retain their righteousness and (imaginary) victory, Russian propagandists continue to develop the thesis of Russia's peacekeeping mission: “Putin, in fact, through Biden, offers Europe and the United States a return to the path of ensuring European and world security.” However, according to disinformation, "unjustified whims" of the United States stand in the way of this brave new world: “The White House believes that Russia should continue to supply the Ukrainian side with gas (in fact, Ukraine is purchasing gas in European market at market price - TEXTY.org.ua) as well as with other necessary resources, and if Ukraine joins NATO, Russia must express its approval, or keep silent”. Ukraine itself, according to disinformation, does not really want peace in Ukraine.
“After the talks between Biden and Putin, the US does not exclude that Washington will seek from Kyiv to grant some autonomous rights for the Donbas in order to calm Russia and thereby end the conflict in the region”.
And if Russia is not allowed to demonstrate its peacefulness, the usual threats are underway: “if the parties disperse without agreeing on anything, the possibility of open war between Russia and Ukraine will increase”.
Thousands of NATO soldiers are already in Ukraine
NATO countries have already effectively "occupied" Ukraine. This narrative was widely disseminated by Russian manipulative media last week, citing well-known Russian propagandist Alexander Kotz. According to disinformers, many NATO soldiers are present on the territory of Ukraine: “at least ten NATO military facilities, where more than 4 thousand US military personnel and about 8.3 thousand troops from NATO countries are located”. In addition, US and British intelligence is preparing "top-secret units" and "sabotage groups" to conduct operations in other countries. At the same time, disinformers continue to impose on their audiences the idea that Ukraine is not needed by the Allies, and that NATO is brazenly lying to us and sees in Ukrainians only "cannon fodder." “ ‘Open doors’ to NATO for Ukraine are just a lie”,“ ‘This is a stab in the back’. Why NATO has abandoned Ukraine”. These are examples of headlines used by Russian manipulative sites last week to write about Ukraine's relations with the West.
Occupied Crimea and its "integration" with Russia
Russian websites are debating whether to unite Sevastopol and Crimea into a single region. In addition, special attention was paid to the 5-member Belarusian delegation, which arrived in Crimea and whose members have already "called Ukraine's sanctions for a visit to Crimea a sham" and reflected on Ukraine's dependence on Belarus.
Another popular topic related to Crimea was the official introduction of QR codes (confirming vaccination) for visiting public places. In addition to the results of the Crimean parliament vote and Aksyonov's quotes, there was news of single pickets from opponents of the bill and theses by Peskov who “called the process of adopting bills on QR codes difficult, both technologically, socially, and digitally”. Thus, the conspiracy theories and theories spread in the Telegram by Russian anonymous channels turn against Russia itself and its attempts to counter the coronavirus, including in the occupied Crimea.
"Durg addict" Zelensky oppresses "Russians" again
Russian manipulative sites targeting Ukraine mocked Volodymyr Zelensky, called him a "drug addict," and offered him a "white path." [cocaine] With the help of such publications, disinformers tried to convince their audience that Ukraine is ruled by subnormal people who pose a danger to the world and their own citizens. “... power in the "Independent One" [using derogative for Ukraine here - TEXTY.org.ua] was seized by really inadequate people, which is fraught with a serious threat not only for itself, for the Donbas that rebelled against Kyiv, but also for its neighbors","hopefully we do not have to witness an attempt to blitzkrieg in Donbas under some cheap amphetamine ... The result, of course, is predictable, but UkrDrugaddicts can manage to kill many civilians of the Donbas before they die the dog’s death themselves, like their Georgian predecessors did”, they wrote.
Disinformers also actively commented on Zelensky's submission to the Verkhovna Rada of a number of bills on Ukrainian citizenship. The Russian manipulative media did not hesitate to interpret this initiative as another oppression of "Russians" in Ukraine. According to them, Zelensky is preparing "prisons", "thousand-hryvnia fines" and "significant restrictions on rights" for residents of the occupied Donbas and Crimea. Some commentators generally equated the presidential initiative with ethnic cleansing and genocide: “Therefore, the introduction of this bill in parliament and its approval can be legally regarded as Ukraine's withdrawal from the Minsk agreements. In general, it provides for discrimination and ethnic cleansing. Special status, only in a completely different, negative way towards the Donbas”.
Longing for the USSR and the imperial past
Russian sites have continued to reflect on the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. They discussed the survey data, in which respondents were asked to decipher the abbreviation of the USSR and asked "what they associate the name of the formerly great country with." Disinformers and propagandists tried to impose sadness because the younger generation of Russians could not always name all of the 15 Soviet republics. They blamed Yeltsin and Gorbachev for the collapse of the "empire" and also considered how best to restore the results of "400 years of expansion." “The faster the realization of false goals and the false path that part of the Russian lands took in 1991, the higher the chance of pulling the Small Russia [imperialist name for Ukraine - TEXTY.org.ua] out of the colonial clutches of our geopolitical opponents”, they wrote.
Also this week:
Along with news about swindlers who exploit the "thousand of Zelensky" in their schemes, Ukrainian trash sites publicized the populist thoughts of one of the leaders of the OPFL, Yuri Boyko, that “People should be able to spend the thousand they are paid for being vaccinated for their own needs, not in the way the president and his entourage want.”
The pro-Medvedchuk sites called the “repression” against Medvedchuk a "PR project of the President of Ukraine", rejoiced at his entry into the top five most influential Ukrainians (according to the Telegraph.co.uk) and attacked the National Agency on Corruption Prevention, which dared to mention Medvedchuk's undeclared property for 73 million hryvnias: “If the NACP wants to punish Medvedchuk for the declaration, then let him punish Zelensky, Shmyhal and others who also do not indicate the value of their property either.”
Russian state media, manipulative websites and anonymous Telegram channels voiced their alarm over the passage of unarmed Ukrainian ship “Donbas” near the occupied Crimea near the Kerch Strait. The Ukrainian Navy vessel performed the task at a distance of 18 nautical miles (over 30 km) from the strait and was not going to pass through it. However, almost all Russian disinformation media simultaneously accused Ukraine of "provocations" and aggressive behavior.
Russian websites also continued to accuse Ukraine of sabotaging the Minsk agreements, citing Putin and his comparison of events in the Donbas to genocide. At the same time, they continued to turn the US and Ukraine into aggressors, who in the near future "will try to start a war in the Donbas."
The main topic of the week was Biden's talks with Putin and Ukraine's international status. Disinformers called Ukraine a puppet, laughed at possible sanctions against Russia, and blamed Ukraine and the United States for Russian aggression. As for the occupied Crimea, most publications described its "integration" into the Russian state system and emphatically placed it outside the brackets of the "Ukrainian question." We have also seen a great deal of manipulation about Zelensky and accusations of his "inadequacy" and drug addiction. Among other things, disinformers spread their allegations of "genocide" of Russians in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And the passage of an unarmed Ukrainian ship near the Kerch Strait was called "provocation" and one of the reasons for Russia's aggressive sentiment.
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 14504 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.