Institute for Postinformation Society

Institute for Postinformation Society republishes materials of Ukrainian blogs on Russia aggression related issues (All rights reserved).

How the Kremlin turned Ukrainians into anti-Semites

The campaign aimed at discrediting the Ukrainian Armed Forces began simultaneously with Russian aggression in the Donbas region. Although, of course, the subject of fascism and anti-Semitism was efficiently put to use by the Kremlin propaganda long before. It dates back to the times of Viktor Yushchenko presidency and the activities of Volodymyr Viatrovych as the Head of Archive of the Security Service of Ukraine, where he had really put everything in order and turned it into an effective state mechanism.

However, in February-March 2014, the Armed Forces and volunteer battalions became the main targets of Kremlin propagandists. They were referred to in fake news as “hit squads” and “fascists”, and the media attempted to draw parallels with the Second World War.

At the same time, they used the term “militia”to describe Donbas guerrillas, which, according to researchers of the Media Sapiens project, “bore clear connotations with the heroic struggle of the Soviet people against German aggression during the Second World War.”

As a matter of fact, it does not make sense to describe all the intricacies and etymology of propaganda work. It’s just necessary to understand the principle. And the actual principle was that different triggers – words and symbols that could switch on different patterns of behavior – had to be used to reach different target audiences. These triggers depended on the cultural and informational environment in which a particular person lived, and on the contents of this specific cultural environment.

As an example, for the most part of the Russian (formerly Soviet) population, the theme of the Second World War is absorbed with maternal milk. People who were born before 1990, have consumed the military topic in virtually unlimited quantities: in the form of films, songs, school lessons, museums, war games in the courtyard etc. In the Soviet period they knew exactly how to do propaganda.

That is why almost every Russian citizen knew precisely who such “fascists” were, how did the “hit squadrons” look and what they were doing (surely, they mostly burned civilians alive), as well as what was going to happen to the Russian-speaking population, when the so-called “fascists” seized the Donbas.

The word “junta” is, in essence, on the same list. If you ask the average Moscow resident for his definition of this word, he is unlikely to give the exact criteria of this phenomenon. However during the Soviet period this word got overgrown with negative connotations.

As for the European and American parts of the world’s informational space, such words as “fascists”, “hit squadrons”, “junta” have no influence on them because no Soviet-style propaganda methods were practiced on their territory.

But the topics related to the “Jewish question” are still more relevant than ever. First of all, they are important because debate around the Holocaust are constantly supported by the world community. Second, there are communities that react sensitively to any changes to this topic in the informational space. That is why the Russian side is actively promoting narratives associated with anti-Semitism in Ukraine across the Western community. The goal, of course, is to convince Western elites to refrain from supporting Ukraine in repelling Russian aggression.

In April 2018, American Congressmen Ro Khanna and David Cicilline initiated an appeal to the US State Department, which was signed by more than 50 other legislators, to put diplomatic pressure on Ukraine and Poland in connection with the Holocaust denial and the growth of anti-Semitism levels. The letter was published on the official website of Congressman Khanna. Congressmen asked to provide information about the actions taken by the State Department to monitor the rise of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and distortion.

Ukrainian side reacted quite operatively to this document. The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, VAAD, issued a statement regarding this letter, which noted that the text of the letter contained a number of allegations or at least incorrect formulations that did not correspond to reality.

For example, the VAAD experts noted that the statement in the letter from Ro Khanna and his 56 colleagues about the state-supported distortion and denial of the Holocaust, which was presumably observed in Ukraine, had nothing to do with reality. The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine called such words “absurd”. After all, no one could point to a single fact when the Ukrainian state had supported the denial of the Holocaust in one or another form. There are doubts that any of the congressmen who signed the letter could name at least one such case.

The VAAD also underlined that the state was increasingly involved in activities related to preserving the memory of Holocaust victims through teaching, research and creating memorial sites.

In this letter, congressmen also stated that “the laws of Ukraine from 2015 go even further in praise of the Nazi collaborators, establishing criminal responsibility for denial of their heroism.” This statement is also not true. In the Law of Ukraine “On the legal status and honoring the memory of the fighters for the Independence of Ukraine in the XX century” there is nothing at all about heroism or responsibility for its denial. Actually, the interpretation of this law, proposed by the congressmen, is more of a remake of Russian version of events in Ukraine.

In fact, the law states an obvious fact – that the participants in the struggle for Ukrainian independence were doing exactly this one thing – defended the independence of Ukraine. And no such organizations as the SS Halychyna division or Nachtigall Abwehr battalion are mentioned there. Thus, we can assume that the author of the letter was using the translations and analytics reports provided by his Russian partners. It remains unclear why did Ro Khanna set up his Congress fellows by persuading them to sign an undoubtedly false document. The allegation of a “State-sponsored Nazi glorification” and a “state-backed Holocaust denial” were called defamation.

Referring to the report of the Israeli Ministry for Diaspora Affairs, congressmen argued that “the whitewashing of of Ukrainian heroes was accompanied by an increase in anti-Semitic incidents throughout Ukraine.” Indeed, the report published by the Office headed by Minister Naftali Bennett, contained a statement on the double increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine in 2017 compared to the previous year, but this data is not reliable.

The Department of Diaspora Affairs of the State of Israel did not conduct its own monitoring. While preparing the report, they focused on singled-out reports from the media and social networks. For that reason the report can’t be regarded as a reliable source of information. The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine carried out its monitoring, which did not record negative dynamics simply because in 2017 Ukraine had not recorded any anti-Semitic incident related to violence.

At the same time, in many Western European and US countries, the number of attacks on anti-Semitic basis is calculated by dozens. It is strange that the reports of the VAAD, which have been sent to the US Department of State among other reports, have been ignored for the past 15 years.

VAAD experts also noted that in previous cases when American congressmen wrote similar letters, in 2009 and 2013, it could be ascertained that such letters were initiated by political technologists who worked for the Kremlin.

Volodymyr Viatrovich also joined the opinion of VAAD. “It is strange that such a large number of respectable American politicians put their signatures under this document,” he said in a commentary to Radio Liberty. “For example, when Stepan Bandera, who had been a prisoner of the Nazi camp Sachsenhausen, or Roman Shukhevich, who since 1943 had headed one of the largest anti-Nazi resistance movements in Europe which was occupied by Third Reich at the moment, are referred to as an example of the celebration of the collaborators, this outlines only the low level of knowledge of people who signed the document “, – said the historian.

In this letter, congressmen presented an information campaign dedicated to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army(known as UPA) as an example of pro-Nazi or collaborative propaganda. It consisted of two exhibitions “UPA: the response of the unconquered people,” one of which spoke about the massive anti-Nazi struggle of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, and in particular, about the Jews who, in the ranks of the UPA, fought first against Nazism, and then against communism.

The defamatory letter of Ro Khanna was criticized not only in Ukraine. Christopher Harrison, who worked for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also as an advisor to Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, expressed his opinion on the pages of The Hill. He is a co-founder and head of ITJ Strategies (offices in Washington and Kyiv) specializing in information aggression committed by Russia.

Not entering into small details of the arguments Christopher Harrison brings to the pages of the publication, one can generally see that he believes that either the American Congressman unknowingly helps the Russian side to discredit Ukraine, and this makes Ro Khannah a “useful idiot” or he has ties with the Russian side and pursues certain interests by lobbying and promoting the Moscow-created narratives about Ukraine.

Russia started playing a Jewish card in the informational war against Ukraine back in 2014, right after initiating the conflict in the eastern part of the country and annexing the Crimea. In March 2014, the Russian channel, RT, released a loud fake, stating that Ukrainian Jews “were escaping from Kiev” due to an outbreak of anti-Semitism. This was described in detail by StopFake.

In fact, the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress during the annual meeting voted for a resolution on the growth of anti-Semitic violence. Ukraine was excluded from the list of countries before voting. This was announced by the head of the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine Joseph Zisels.


Extremists, oh so many extremists around…

In June 2018, the human rights organization Freedom House presented a report in Kyiv’s Ukrinform news agency :”Is far right extremism a threat to Ukrainian democracy?”

The author of the report was Viacheslav Likhachov, an expert on right-wing groups in Ukraine and Russia. Commenting the report to journalists, he said that he based his interpretations of events on observations of right-wing organizations: “In my opinion, these organizations act in a certain way partially because Ukraine has entered the pre-election period, and ultra-right must somehow manifest themselves. In addition, they have a very narrow electoral field with a very strong internal competition. In the event of the possible unification of the three main ultra-right forces (Svoboda/”Liberty”, “Right sector” and “National Corps”) in one block there will be competition for places on the joint list of candidates running for parliamentary elections. And if the main ultranationalist forces decide to put up separate campaigns, they must attract as many supporters as possible from similar parties. And in this field, of course, they must be more active, aggressive, more political for the media than their rivals. Therefore, I believe that this is partially explained by the election situation, and partly by a certain feeling that they lose the opportunity to proceed on a democratic way “, – said Likhachov.

At the same time, the expert excludes the possibility that the activities of ultra-right forces are directed from the Kremlin. “I am not a supporter of conspiracy,” says Likhachov in his interview.

We, too, are no conspiracy supporters, but the experience of observing the processes that are taking place with human rights organizations in Russia, as well as their existence while being recognized as foreign agents, gives rise to certain very specific considerations.

The aforementioned Mr. Likhachov has worked successfully in Moscow for some time. And in April 2014, he even prepared a report for the “Moscow Bureau of Human Rights” (MBHR) on the growth of xenophobia and anti-Semitism in the territory of Ukraine.

The April of 2014 was marked by the unfolding of Russian aggression against Ukraine in the Crimea and Donbas. Accordingly, Russian media used theses of Nazism, fascism and violence on the territory of Ukraine as an explanation and legitimization of this undeclared aggression by the Kremlin.

In Sevastopol and Simferopol, ordinary Ukrainian citizens sat in kitchens with knives and baseball bats in their hands, waiting for the mythical “trains of friendship”, packed with Right Sector guerrillas. Russian central TV channels talked about Dmitry Yarosh’s fake post, in which he allegedly called on the Chechen terrorist Doku Umarov (who was deceased at the time) to unite in the struggle against the Kremlin.

Under such specific circumstances, the MBHR decided to publish its report on the growth of xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Ukraine. The subject was immediately picked up by propaganda media. Director of the MBHR Oleksandr Brod, a member of the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, was presenting the report.

The State News Agency of the Kremlin, RIA Novosti, even organized a special video bridge Moscow – Tel Aviv for this case. “As for Ukraine, we prepared a report with Viacheslav Likhachov, a well-known expert on anti-Semitism, who runs between Kiev and Jerusalem. We presented this report here, showing that anti-Semitic manifestations have been occurring everywhere in Ukraine: in the West, in Kyiv and in the East. We are talking about desecration of synagogues, of monuments related to the Holocaust, of the attack on the Hasidim and other representatives of the Jewish community “, – Brod said during a video bridge.

Later, Brod spoke in support of Russia’s actions in the Crimea and Donbas using the standard Kremlin formulations: “A coup d’etat was committed by the opposition, radicals, neo-Nazis and other criminals in Ukraine. All the actions of the so-called new government are illegitimate. Radicals are to blame for floods of civilian blood. Country is in a chaos, and there exists a threat of genocide of Russians, our compatriots. “

It is not known whether his opinion was supported by Viacheslav Likhachov or the representatives of Freedom House, who paid for his research work and presentation of the report. However, the fact that the MBHR in 2014 actively began issuing out a hybrid analysis of “violation of human rights by the Ukrainian regime” was noted by many researchers. One of them was Katerina Smagliy, who prepared the report on Hybrid Analytics.

Materials related to the “problem of neo-Nazism in Ukraine” come out very regularly. It is possible to say that this happens much more often than media coverage of any other issues related to Russian aggression against Ukraine. Only in November 2018, in the world’s authoritative media, there appeared a few major articles devoted to creating a certain impression of Ukraine as a state dominated by violence and ultra-right nationalism. Initially, a Belarusian journalist, Yuras Karmanau, has published his investigation into “murder camps for children” on the pages of the Associated Press.

In the summer of 2018, he personally attended several summer camps, where ATO veterans who personally participated in repelling Russian aggression against Ukraine, lectured teens on how to handle weapons and instill discipline. Sure, learning how to protect yourself in a warring country – sounds wild for western media, right?

Of course, instructors who tell children about the war can be held on their words. What, in fact, Belarusian journalist did. However, this is not the whole story. The Russian narrative sounds like “the Ukrainian state supports the neo-Nazi ideology.” Therefore, these processes must necessarily be tied to official organs. This was done.

Yuras phoned the press secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine Natalia Vernigora and asked her to comment on the information he obtained. Apparently, according to journalists from foreign publications, this is also absolutely normal for a country that is trying to protect itself from aggression in the information space and where there were repeated occasions of prankster provocations – normal to discuss sensitive information by phone with everybody who says he’s a journalist.

The journalist refused to visit the department in person, yet he wrote in his article that the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine is funding special camps where children are taught to kill. Naturally it became a sensation … And in Ukraine as well

As a result, it took a few weeks for the editor of the European office Associated Press Niko Price and the head of the Moscow office, Kate de Piedi, for whom Juras Karmanau formally works (what a surprise), to arrive in Ukraine. As a result of the discussion, the Associated Press published a correction in which it noted that “the camps where children are taught to kill do exist in Ukraine for sure; but journalists have not found any proof that they are financed by the state…”

In general, the narrative is clear. Almost simultaneously with the appearance of Karmanau’s material Radio Liberty also published an article by Christopher Miller – a journalist who lives and works in Kyiv. In his materials and Twitter publications, Christopher mercilessly criticizes Ukraine for both reform and corruption, and for issues related to LGBT, freedom of speech and even the “Ukrainian crisis” (which is how he calls Russian aggression). He did not become an exception this time, when he spoke in detail about the increase of neo-Nazi spirit in Ukrainian society.

In early November 2018, a scandal broke out in Italy after a fight involving two young people in the Roman subway. On the video from the scene, it iv visible how two young people attacked a passenger. Russian and pro-Russian media in Ukraine immediately put responsibility for the incident on Ukrainians, stressing that the outrage of Ukrainian radicalism has already spread to European countries.

Interestingly, the scandal appeared in news stories just when the attention of the audience had to be diverted from the history of dozens of drunken citizens of the Russian Federation, who created an emergency situation in the subway of the Italian capital and broke the escalator.

People’s Deputy Dmytro Timchuk, commenting on these incidents, said that the video footage was published by Facebook user David Ognibene. It shows that two young people were aggressive against one of the passengers. The young people were then detained by the police, but there is no data on the identification of their personalities. “It remains a question whether these two comrades made a dirty show in the subway specially for the camera, in order to discredit Ukrainians and Ukraine in general in Europe. It should be noted that one of them has deliberately stressed the fact that he was a “fascist”. Why? “- asks the People’s Deputy.

However, this video, in a strange way, instantly flew through Russian propaganda resources; it was immediately picked up by the entire bot-farm with the appropriate support: “Ukrainian racists”, “Ukrainian fascists”, “Ukrainian Nazis”, etc.

Dmytro Tymchuk also noted the fact that the incident in Rome with the participation of supposed Ukrainian fascists has occurred at a time when the trial began in Italy over Vitali Markiv, a former military serviceman of the National Guard, who was accused of involvement in the death of an Italian journalist who was in the Donbass outside established accreditation procedures. But the Italian media reported the first information to appear was that 23-year-old Russian Nazis have attacked a 28-year-old Indian in the subway. And the woman who rushed to protect the Indian was a 57-year-old Ukrainian, who got her forehead cut by assaulters.

In the future, the Russian fantastic series on “Ukrainian fascists” will continue. This does not overturn the obvious facts of the emergence and development of right-wing organizations in Ukraine, which are becoming more prominent. But is this the reason for supporting the manipulative narratives of the Russian side, which have clear goals and objectives for audiences in the countries of Europe, Russia and the occupied territories of Ukraine?

The next parliamentary elections will show the truth, and undoubtedly, political parties with a right bias will participate in them. There, we will be able to see if the Ukrainian voter supports the right ideas, and whether the society does really support radical ideas. And the facts of racial and nationalist violence can be found in every country in Europe.


The Junta fairy tales. Create your own fascist

The emotion of fear is the most important and most powerful motivator of human actions. However, a manipulator who wants to attain the desirable behaviour from the audience doesn’t need fear itself. After all, the person who perceives the information one way or another must surely be afraid of someone or something in order to carry out an action required from her by manipulator.

Therefore somebody has to be appointed to the role of an enemy. No matter who. They may be Bandera, Europeans, gays, former associates or neighbors, Martians or cannibals from remote areas of Africa. And in order to make a successful appointment, it is necessary to find or fabricate the evidence of their hostility.

This technology is quite transparent. If you have proper channels for communicating your information to the target audience, as it was for the Kremlin in the Crimea and the Donbas, it does not matter if the specific information was real or fabricated.

If you manage to convince a certain segment of the audience, for instance the old ladies who watch TVs daily, they will do the rest of the job for you. In order to secure their own safety, they will gladly tell about the terrible “Ukrainian fascists who have crucified the boy” to everyone around.

However, the fear must be very specific. Russian technologists began to form this feeling in 2011. IIt is difficult to say whether they had the future aggression against Ukraine in mind. However, it is indisputable that a lot of money was spent on this.

Take the story of Iryna Bergset, which became widely known to the Ukrainian audience after a rally in support of the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimes, where she spoke about 58 types of gay in Europe and the zoobrothels.

Her story of formation of fear began in 2011, when almost all leading Russian TV channels showed a story about how she had married a Norwegian citizen, gave birth to a child, then divorced and began to fight supposedly against the usage of her young child by the former husband as an object for the sexual pleasures of his family.

This way, a message was formed that all Europeans were pedophiles. Viktor Medvedchuk’s political movement “Ukrainian Choice” made a massive use of it in 2013. Let us remind that the story of Norwegian pedophiles was told by Iryna Bergset back in the distant 2011, when Europeans did not even think about the possibility of special operations in the informational field and misinformation in the media.

All the subsequent stories were no more than a replica of the initial script. The main thing was to put an actor in the frame and let him tell his story which made the blood freeze. First, a little boy was allegedly raped by a Norwegian family. And when this, too, was not enough to turn on emotions, there came a story of a boy who was “crucified as Jesus by the Ukrainian Junta”.

Between these stories there was the “friendship train”, which, in the end of February 2014, had to go to the Crimea, according to Russian propagandists. They have very successfully used the words of the now deputy of the Oleg Lyashko’s Radical Party – Igor Mosiichuk, pronounced by him on the TV channel “112”, while sitting in a black T-shirt with runes on his chest on a talk show. In the heat of the debate, he said that, “in order to calm down the Crimeans who are not satisfied with what is happening in Kyiv, they and their brothers can gather people and send them to the Crimea by train”.

Actually, this was done in 1992 with the participation of Dmytro Korchynsky. But the train simply was stopped at the entrance to the peninsula, after which “passengers of friendship” left the train. Korchinsky himself wrote later that they got to Sevastopol by boat. How true is this – nobody knows. And how many “friends” from the train could fit into the boat? Is it important at all? The main thing is to create the scary picture.

The picture has already been created (by the way, it is still not clear why and for what did Mosiichuk say that). It was necessary to provide with this picture the hard-nosed Russian journalists of the central TV channels, which had a massive audience throughout Crimea. And hell broke loose…

All the Crimeans began waiting for the “train of friendship”: both those who were pro-Ukrainian-minded, and those who “wanted to Russian homeland, no matter what”. The fear of “the friendship train” immediately became an explanation of actions for those people who depended heavily on the TV: “We all should welcome joining Russia, because if we do not, the” Friendship Train” will arrive…”

In the Donbass region they only had to repeat the same things in a worse manner . The fakes about the cruelty of the Donbas battalion sometimes went beyond any reasonable limits. For example, on May 28, 2014, Russian media have spread the fake correspondence between Semen Semenchenko and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, in which the commander of the battalion admitted that he had ordered the shooting of a dozen of his fighters for a retreat from the battlefield. The information was disseminated by the so-called “United Cybermilitia of Novorossiia”. “StopFake” was able to easily identify falsification of the correspondence by the signs in the screen of alleged Semenchenko’s account – the lack of online contacts and the button “Find friends”, which is displayed in the case of a small number of friends on Facebook, while in real Semenchenko’s account there were 5 thousand. It means that the alleged pages of Semenchenko and Avakov were fake. It was significant that Dmitry Yarosh was mentioned as responsible for the creation of the Donbass battalion, although he had no relation to that

The trick with alleged correspondence of Semenchenko was repeated again. On July 5 of that same year, Russian media reported that the Facebook account of People’s Deputy Serhiy Vlasenko, who supposedly traded the organs of severely injured soldiers in the company of commander of the Donbass battalion Semen Semenchenko and the German physician Olga Wieber, was hacked. According to StopFake, this fantastic lies was denied by both Olga Wieber and the German radio station WDR, which turned to the German ministry and the police and received a response that there was no such possibility for such a trade.

The diversity of the themes was often impressive. On September 17, 2014, and several other publications wrote that the Aidar fighter from Luhansk region was buried in the Ternopil region, because his father and mother abandoned their son-”banderivets”.

During the hot phase of Russian aggression, from July 2014 to February 2015, Russian media began to actively promote the narrative about “genocide of the Russian-speaking population”. The fighters of the volunteer battalions became symbols of the process of induction of this narrative. And in the future, this narrative began to be reminded constantly by everyone, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the context of the possible introduction of a peacekeeping contingent in the Donbas. The Russian side permanently expressed the demand to prevent the control of Ukrainian authorities over their own territories and the border. They said: “When the Junta comes to Donbas, it will retaliate against the locals.”

The Media Detector, in a study of the rhetoric of Russian propaganda in 2014-2016, wrote that in July 2014 – February 2015, the main task of Russian propaganda was to cover and deny the facts of armed aggression against Ukraine and support for separatists, information support of conditions of termination of the conflict in the Donbass which would be favorable for Russia.

In this connection, Russian media simultaneously with senior Russian officials began to describe the situation in Ukraine as “genocide of the Russian-speaking population”. Focusing on the Western audience, Russian propagandists falsified the statements by international organizations and attributed the words “genocide” to them.

One such case was the media coverage of OSCE observers working at the site of the mass grave in the village of Lower Krynka, Donetsk region in September 2014. Immediately a few Russian TV channels reported mass rape of girls aged 12-14, reported by a human rights activist from Latvia who described the events as “genocide”.

“StopFake” analyzed the actual reports of the OSCE and Amnesty International on the situation in Lower Krynka, which concerned three graves with nine bodies, five of which were representatives of the so-called “DPR”, who died in battle. The Latvian expert was found to be the “paid actor” of the Russian TV channels Einars Graudins who appeared on Russian fake news on several occasions and about whom the Ukrainian fact-checkers wrote repeatedly.

The Russians were shamelessly investing in European organizations that held rallies and public campaigns under the walls of European institutions with demands to “stop the genocide in Donbas.” The representative of the Union of Writers of the DPR – Snighana Aendo – was one of the initiators of such events, and representatives of local Russian communities and pro-Russian organizations in Europe were local coordinators of the action. And all of it happened despite the fact that in the Kremlin media the action was presented just as “European”.

On November 10, 2017, the Senator of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Franz Klintsevich, said that the peacekeeping contingent could not be put into the occupied territory of the Donbas on the grounds that it would make genocide possible. Unfortunately, the world community is still believing into this Russian hogwash, without the ability to stop the aggressor. Although Ukraine offers active support for the various formats of the peacekeeping mission. So, does it mean that the mythical “fascists”, created by Russian agitprop, have long taken world community as hostage?!


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