Russian propaganda glorifies the Odesa tragedy. Russian Media Monitoring Report, April 29 - May 5, 2024

Last week, Russian media commemorated the anniversary of the 2 May tragedy in Odesa. This has been standard rhetoric since 2014, when Russia tried to capture Odesa with hybrid methods, just as it did Donetsk before that. The propagandists compare this tragedy to the terrorist attack in the Crocus City Hall. In both cases, Ukraine and the United States are to blame. Disinformers are also afraid that the Global Peace Summit will be held in Switzerland at the initiative of Ukraine. The Kremlin is implementing a strategy to discredit the summit. The main arguments are: no agreement can be reached without Russia, the West is trying to impose its will on the Russian people, Moscow wants peace, while Kyiv and its allies want the opposite, China will not betray Russia, so the summit is futile.

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Read about this and more in the new issue of our monitoring of Russian state media and manipulative websites that target Russian disinformation.


Anniversary of the tragedy

2 May marks the tenth anniversary of the events on Greek Square and Kulykove Pole in Odesa. Back then, Russia organised an attempted hybrid takeover of Odesa, similar to the way it had seized Donetsk before. Ukrainian law enforcement officers fled the city. The operation failed due to massive resistance from Ukrainian civilians. After the street brawls, Russian titushky gathered in the Trade Union Building. Some of them began to make Molotov cocktails to throw at pro-Ukrainian activists but failed, and the building began to burn from the inside. That killed 48 people and injured more than 200. Russian propaganda is trying to make lemonade out of lemonade and portrays its defeat as a myth about the suffering of Russian supporters who Ukrainian Nazis burned. 

Every year, Russian propaganda uses these events to discredit Ukraine. The Kremlin has constructed a myth that it uses as a weapon against the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian society: "Exactly ten years have passed since the massacre of Odessans who opposed the coup d'état in Ukraine and demonic worship. On 2 May 2014, courageous Odessans who opposed Euromaidan (recall that the campaign of soft takeover of Ukraine, called the Russian Spring, began after Yanukovych's escape as a result of the Maidan protests and simultaneously with the military occupation of Crimea) were burned alive and maimed by neo-Nazis in the Trade Union House." 

Since 2014, Russia has been using the Odesa tragedy to foment protests in other cities, particularly in eastern Ukraine. Alongside the mention of Odesa were narratives about a violent seizure of power by the street, Nazi-Ukrainians, the murder of Russian-speaking and ethnic Russians, and the forced imposition of Western values. 

In 2024, the Russian media was full of old clichés.

Viktor Medvedchuk, the Russian agent who was exchanged for Ukrainian prisoners, commented in Russia, stressing that Ukraine had deliberately committed a crime to intimidate supporters of friendship with Russia, and "Peskov said that the Kremlin had read Medvedchuk's interview and agreed that the events in Odesa were a 'scare campaign' by Kyiv".

New arguments to justify Russia's aggression against Ukraine were also presented. The Russian media reported that the "SMO" (as the war is still called in Russia) began to punish those responsible for the tragedy, that Odesa is a Russian city waiting for Russia's liberation, and that the tragedy proves the fact of the split in Ukrainian society even in 2024.

Allegedly, Odesa remembers these events, so it does not want to fight against Russia: "Zelenskyy should not be surprised that Odessans are evading mobilisation en masse and fleeing a country that kills its own."

The myth is also new in comparing the events in Odesa to the terrorist attack in the Crocus on 22 March. For the propagandists, it is the work of the same people. The "Kyiv regime" is to blame: "The terrorist attack in the Crocus City Hall concert hall near Moscow and the tragedy in the Odesa House of Trade Unions share a common approach."

Some so-called experts have said that "Biden personally bears responsibility for the mass political murder in Odessa on 2 May. It was Biden, as vice-president under Obama, who was then responsible for the overall political supervision of the US special services that carried out the coup d'état".

Switzerland without Russians

During the peace conference, the international community should coordinate its vision of ending the war in Ukraine. The peace plan, which should form the basis of the upcoming summit, includes ten steps, including the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine, the restoration of territorial integrity, the release of hostages and nuclear security.

Russian propaganda has its own opinion on the peace plans.

First, Russia is trying to prove that it is Moscow that wants peace and that Ukraine, controlled by the West, wants to fight to the "last Ukrainian" to stop Russia's development: "The Russian side points out that de jure Kyiv is not ready for this process", "Putin said in a February interview with journalist Tucker Carlson that Russia had never refused to engage in dialogue on Ukraine, but that it was not going to make the first step after the talks in Istanbul had stopped".

The propaganda took out of context the words of US Director of National Intelligence Evril Gaines to demonstrate Russia's peacefulness. She allegedly officially stated that Russia was ready for negotiations: "Evril Gaines, speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, said Russia was ready to negotiate with the United States and Ukraine to resolve the military conflict." Whereas Gaines calls for increased support for Ukraine and says that Moscow's goal today is to try to reassure Ukrainians that continuing the fight only leads to more casualties. Putin believes the situation is in his favour and is likely to continue his aggressive tactics in Ukraine, so the war is unlikely to end anytime soon.

The message that Russia wants peace today is aimed at the countries of the so-called Global South and at people who are "tired" of the war in Ukraine. This will be an argument for them to refuse to support Ukraine sustainably and fully.

Second, propaganda is trying to prove that without Russia's participation, any discussion of Ukraine will fail: "What kind of serious conference with serious expectations, what kind of results can we talk about without Russia's participation? It is impossible."

Third, disinformers claim that the West is trying to impose unfair conditions on Russia. Other countries understand this, which is why China refuses to participate in this summit: "China refuses to take part in the conference in Switzerland in June on Ukraine. This is the conclusion everyone is drawing after Xi's statement to the media after his talks with Macron. Xi's statement is as follows: China supports all peace talks, provided that Russia and Ukraine participate equally".


Students see the essence of the Biden regime

Last week, Israel was on the receiving end of a lot of flak. Propaganda portrays the Jewish state as the main culprit in the war with the Palestinians. And today's fighting by the Israeli army is portrayed as an act of genocide against the Arabs.

Unlike the peace-loving Russia, "Israel is only interested in a military solution to the Palestinian issue". Disinformers claim that all of Russia's diplomatic work in the region is aimed at preventing a possible major war between Israel and Iran: "The Palestinian-Israeli problem has not yet been resolved, so there may be a repeat of the escalation between Iran and Israel. Moscow is calling on both sides through diplomatic channels to prevent the situation from escalating."

While the war is being fuelled, of course, by the United States.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the United States have added fuel to the fire. As a reminder, pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses continue in the United States: "In recent days, strikes have been held at American universities in support of Palestine and against US policy in the Middle East. The protests intensified after the US House of Representatives approved a $14.3 billion aid package for Israel."

On 30 April 2024, pro-Palestinian demonstrators seized the Columbia University building in New York, barricading all entrances and unfurling a Palestinian flag from a window. The protest began on 17 April, when students pitched tents and put up posters in front of the university's main library. They accused the university and the US government of supporting the "genocide in the Gaza Strip" and called for an end to cooperation with companies that allegedly profit from the "Israeli occupation of Palestine".

For Russian propaganda, such simplicities are a gift. The information propaganda machine began to spin the theme that even US citizens themselves are aware of the demonic nature of the US government.

According to their messages, Biden is to blame for the protests that "turned the country into a fire". They expect the demonstrations will help Trump be re-elected to the US presidency.

The Methodology

To monitor the information published on disinformation websites, we analyzed approximately 500,000 news reports collected from ~ 1,000 Russian websites. The data for the analysis was collected and provided by SemanticForce.

Each paragraph was processed using an algorithm which defines its topic automatically. The resulting topics (i.e. groups with similar content) were short-listed by the topics relating to the war or its consequences for Russia. The number of mentions of a certain topic was then counted for each publication. Our conclusions are based on the respective findings and the quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.

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This article was originally written in Ukrainian. It has been translated into English using AI tools such as DeepL, ChatGPT, and Grammarly. If you encounter an error that requires immediate attention, please inform us via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Your understanding and support are appreciated.

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