Institute for Postinformation Society

The snapshot from the “Russia 24” program about a fake rally in Venice / vesti.ru

 

Postinformation Society blog publishes materials of the “White book of the special information operations against Ukraine in 2014-2018“, that was created by the Ministry of information policy of Ukraine experts and edited by the deputy minister for information policy Dmytro Zolotukhin.

The “White book” consists of the 10 big chapters – “series” of Kremlin fakes. Each chapter describes one big fake narrative, made by Kremlin and Russian special services, aimed to destabilize situation in Ukraine and destroy the trust of foreign partners to Ukraine.

Ukrainian language version of the book was published in Ukraine in 2018th. English version has never seen the world, because of the new president and new authorities came to power in Kyiv.

We hope these publication will help to understand Russian propaganda and disinformation much deeper and prevent new special operations by Russian special services.

Scenario

With the beginning of the war in Donbas Russian propaganda began a large-scale information campaign to discredit the actions of Ukraine in the East. Its main objectives were the Armed Forces of Ukraine and volunteer battalions, which in the fake news served as “punishers” and “fascists”, trying to draw parallels with the Second World War.

On the other hand, the term “rebels”, which was used by the Russian side and then by the Western media has clear connotations with the heroic struggle of the “Soviet people” against German aggression during the Second World War.

Russian media actively used the wording “genocide carried out by Ukrainian troops” and “war crimes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and volunteer battalions”, which were to confirm the “genocide”.

All this is aimed at demonstrating the domestic Russian consumer the information on Ukrainian aggression against the “Russian-speaking population of Donbas” and thus justifying the invasion into the Ukrainian territory to protect this population. At the same time, a distorted picture of events is being created for the international community, which should force Ukraine’s Western partners to refuse to provide support to Kyiv.

The key target audiences of this series were, first of all, residents of the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as Crimea; citizens and residents of Russia; political elites of Europe and America.

Residents of certain areas of Donbas, where the armed confrontation continues, have become victims of the daily Russian “brainwashing”, with the purpose to convince of the lack of alternatives to the Russian choice, since Russian-speaking population of Donbas could be waiting from the Ukrainian side alleged only atrocities and violence.

For the domestic Russian audience, these narratives were important for legitimizing the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Like, otherwise, the Russian-speaking population would have been destroyed by radical Ukrainian nationalists. The audience of the European countries had to make sure that war crimes are committed by both sides – so it makes no sense to support Ukraine as one of them.

Season 1. Armed Forces of Ukraine, “Genocide” of Donbas population

 

Since the beginning of the active phase of the armed confrontation in the East of Ukraine, the Kremlin propagandists have been trying to discredit the actions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They depict the victims of the alleged Ukrainian shelling, often using the photos of killed children, women and pensioners to enhance the emotionality of such photos, – and, please note, that these images not always concern to the events in Donbas.

Very often Russian and Pro-Russian media, blogs and news web-sites used photos taken in other countries and in the armed conflicts in Georgia, Iraq, Syria and so on to illustrate the terrible events in Donbas.

Also, they distorted the data of the reports of international observers, with the aim to turn the population of the occupied territories against Ukraine and to show the world the violations by Ukrainian militants of international treaties that govern the treatment of combatants during hostilities.

The story that is the subject of the story in this “season” looks like this:

  • Ukrainian militants purposefully destroy the civilian population in Donbas, while Russia protects the “Russian-speaking population»;
  • “Atrocities” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and volunteer battalions, use of prohibited weapons by them are recorded and get into the media, but this fact does not stop them;
  • Western countries should refuse to support Ukraine, which is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the situation, and rely on Russia to resolve the conflict;
  • If the Ukrainian militants gain control over the region, then violence will be used against local residents, since Russian sources have already “repeatedly confirmed” this thesis.

Season 1. Episode 1. Shelling “of civilians of Donbas” by Ukrainian “punishers”

 

Russian propaganda regularly distributes misinformation about the shelling of Donbas cities by Ukrainian troops. It is noted that the Armed Forces of Ukraine deliberately points a weapon at civilian infrastructure for the sake of provoking a humanitarian disaster and at the residential sector – for the destruction of the local population.

It is almost impossible to describe all the fakes about the shelling of the cities of Donbas and the civilian population by Ukrainian troops, because this topic is addressed by Russian propaganda every day. Therefore, we will focus on some episodes that reflect milestones in the development of Russian misinformation regarding military actions in Donbas.

At the initial stage of the war, Russian propaganda was rather low-quality and often created strange stories that were easily to be refuted. Russian journalists produced fake stories with the participation of paid actors who posed as “victims of the shelling by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

An example of this is the release of the TV-program “Emergency incident” on the TV channel “NTV” on April 20, 2014, was “a resident of Kramatorsk”, who reported that she is hiding from the shelling in her own basement “to survive the ATO”, as the speaker said. However, ICTV journalists found out that this woman lives in the village of Terpinnya near Melitopol at distance of 300 km from Kramatorsk. It turned out that she would agree to play again for the Russian television, as journalists claimed to be the representatives of Russian TV; but she cannot do it through the negative reaction of the villagers.

At the same time, Russia began to actively use video and photos of the destruction, posing them as the consequences of Ukrainian shelling. For example, on July 8, 2014, the TV channel “Russia 24” reported an air attack on Donetsk, which resulted the destruction of a mine and a plant in the Petrovskyi district of the city. But the photo of the plant, which was given in the story as confirmation, was made a month and a half before the events described, and it displayed not the plant, but the Ice Palace “Arena Druzhba”, looted and set on fire by the separatists on May 27.

Sometimes the fakes of the Kremlin about the alleged attacks on civilians by the Ukrainian army was simply absurd. Thus, in August 2014, Dmytro Zolotukhin created a video for the Research and Information Centre of National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, which depicted how the TV channel “Zvezda” (owned by the Ministry of Defence of Russia) fabricated a story about the shelling of the city of Makiyivka of Donetsk region by the Ukrainian army using the Tochka-U missile.

On August 20, 2014, the TV-channel “Zvezda” reported live on television about the shelling of Makiyivka by Ukrainian troops from the Tochka-U missile complex, which is considered a weapon of mass destruction. At the same time, the video confirmation, which was given, has been published on YouTube for more than a year and depicted the impact of the “Proton-M” missile in Kazakhstan on July 2, 2013. Moreover, even Russia Today reported that “network users gave the impact of Proton-M for the shelling of Donetsk»

On August 25, 2014, RIA News also reported the first shelling of Donetsk from Tochka-U. Thus it was reminded about the alleged shelling of other cities, not indicated Makiyivka.

On October 20 in Donetsk, a loud explosion occurred at the state plant of chemical products. Militants from the so-called “DPR” reported: “this was the result of being hit by a missile “Tochka-U”, which was released by Armed Forces of Ukraine”. Again it was reported on February 2, 2015 about destruction of this plant by “Tochka-U” missile fighters. On the same day in the Russian media there were stories about the alleged downing of the Ukrainian “Tochka-U”, which was supposed to fly from Artemivsk to Luhansk. The so-called “rebels” said that they would hand over the wreckage of the missile to the OSCE and thus prove the crimes of Ukraine. And on the next day the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has not confirmed the use of “Tochka-U” by Ukrainian forces.

On February 13, 2017, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation published a report that it has “irrefutable evidence of the use of weapons of mass destruction – tactical missile systems “Tochka-U” by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2014 and 2015. The Department claimed that the Ukrainian military used missiles equipped with high-explosive and cluster charges against the civilian population of Donbas”. A number of points of their application in the Luhansk region were cited, but the date of attack wasn’t specified anywhere.

Another subject of fakes was about the use of prohibited weapons – phosphorus bombs by Ukrainian troops Russian media several times claimed that Ukrainian troops use phosphorus bombs in shelling, which is prohibited by the Geneva Convention. For example, on June 12, 2014 the TV channel “Zvezda” reported that the Ukrainian army fired the village of Semenivka near Sloviansk, causing numerous fires.

The portal of “StopFake” found out that the footage provided by the Russian TV channel was shot by CNN in 2004 in the Iraqi city of el-Fallujah, and later it became known about the request of the separatists to the Russian to transfer phosphorus shells for a better imitation of this fiction. On the same day, a fake about phosphorus bombs was published by well-known propagandists from Komsomolskaya Pravda Alexander Kotz and Dmitrii Steshin, but the video, which would have to confirm this, showed the fall of heat traps that are used on aircraft to divert missiles. A similar videos appeared during August and September 2014 online, but everywhere the heat traps were depicted.

Phosphorus bombing in Fallujah: the firing by phosphorus shells in el-Fallujah downloaded in 2008
Zvezda TV made a fake on phosphorus bombing in Donbass: the same frame from the CNN video, but filed by Russian propagandists as the Ukrainian shelling of Semenivka / tvzvezda.ru

 

On December 7, 2017, one of the militant leaders Eduard Basurin claimed that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are ready to use prohibited phosphorus bombs against the population of Donbas. This information was allegedly reported by the intelligence of the so-called “DPR”. He also noted that this will immediately give the Armed Forces of Ukraine NATO assistance, because only the Alliance countries have it in service and allegedly they gave the bombs to Ukraine in 2014, after which Ukraine repeatedly used it.

Military expert Serhii Zhurets in the comments of “Radio Svoboda (Liberty)” said that information about the availability of phosphorus shells only in NATO is fiction, because during the Cold war the both units were armed with it. And it’s export to Ukraine is unlikely, because it is prohibited to export such ammunition from NATO countries.

Misinformation about the use by Ukraine of weapons prohibited by treaties was carried out in order to justify their use by the militants themselves as “equivalent resistance”. Allegedly, “if they use, why can’t we?“.

In May 2015, the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination provided the OSCE mission with the information about the deployment of “Tochka-U” in Donbas by Pro-Russian militants. It is possible that in the event of a resumption of full-scale hostilities, the militants would use these missiles, referring to the previous “crimes” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The same concerned the phosphorus bombs. On December 6, 2017, ATO headquarters reported the use by militants of phosphorus mines prohibited by international conventions[4]. The fake on the preparation by the Ukrainian troops of phosphorus shells for the bombing of the residents of Donbas, as mentioned above, appeared the next day.

Another tactic of the Russian media was the distortion of Ukrainian news stories. On August 19 “LifeNews” showed a story about the battle for Ilovaysk and in the familiar style reported about the deliberate shelling of residential areas by the Ukrainian army. Thus the Russian propagandists referred to a plot of the channel “1+1” where shots of attacks of the city by the Ukrainian security officers were allegedly openly demonstrated. But as the “StopFake” specified, the Russian channel just assembled some videos that are not related to those events in Ilovaysk: video of shelling of the city Miuysinsk in Luhansk region by the group of militants of “Motorola” and fighting on the approaches to Ilovaysk on August 10. Footage from the plot “1+1” were real, but were used only as a background, and no one reported the shelling of the city by the Ukrainian army.

Screenshot of the freeze frame from the plot of LifeNews on the shelling of Ilovaysk by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, allegedly taken from the plot of “TSN” on TV-channel “1+1”
The real video of the assault by the unit of “Motorola” of the city of Miuysynsk / youtube.com

In addition to the increase in social stress and discrediting the Ukrainian forces on a permanent basis, the Russian propagandists used the fakes that they are those who responsible for the attacks to hide the terrorist acts of the militants. One of such tragedies with many civil victims was the shelling with “Hrads” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine checkpoint near Volnovakha on January 13, 2015, as a result of which 13 people were killed and 18 were injured through a direct hit of a rocket into a bus. The militants immediately, de facto, acknowledged responsibility for their actions, publishing the post in the “NOVOROSSIYA First operative channel” reporting that “the checkpoint at the exit from Volnovakha to Donetsk has been destroyed“. The attack was recorded on video.

 

Representatives of the General staff noted that the artillery strike was carried out in order to cause return fire on Dokuchaievsk, where at that time the Russian journalists were ready to shot “the next atrocities of punishers“.

The President appealed on the world community to associate with the victims of this terrorist attack as well as with the terrorist attack in Paris on January 7 in the office of “Charlie Hebdo”, and the campaign “Je suis Volnovakha” began in the social network by analogy to the action in support of France “Je suis Charlie”. Russian propagandists immediately tried to “block” it through the ejection of fakes.

So, on January 13, the fake screenshot from group “UKROP|RIGHT SECTOR|NEWS OF ATO” began to ripple through social network, and it allegedly contained a message stating that “the destruction of the bus with the terrorists” is the work of the volunteer battalion “Right sector”. “StopFake” immediately denied it, showing that such a post was not existed.

Further, the fake about the murder of bus passengers by the Ukrainian security forces continued. However, the propagandists could not build a single line of misinformation. So, on January 14 on TV channel “Russia 1” it was shown an interview with the woman with the rewound hand and the head which allegedly suffered at attack of the bus. Her name was Snizhana Karpeko and she said that she had not heard explosions and shelling, but only loud sound that took over the mine explosion. As reported the edition of “Ostrov”, a woman with that name was not in the list of victims and she gave a comment in the apartment, while all the other victims were in the hospital in Volnovakha.

On January 17, 2015, the Russian media distributed the misinformation about the OSCE report, which allegedly stated that the bus under Volnovakha was not fired by terrorists. Actually OSCE didn’t call the responsible one in the tragedy, but casually disproved disinformation of Russians who said that the bus was shot from assault rifles by fighters of Armed Forces of Ukraine or struck by a mine. Observers of the OSCE Special monitoring mission described five craters from missiles near the scene of the incident.

 

The SMM message about 5 craters near the bus and the shelling from the North-East direction (militants’ positions) / osce.org

 

Another important episode of the initial stage of the war (before Minsk-2) was the shelling of Mariupol by Pro-Russian militants, which was committed on January 24, 2015. Then, as a result of a missile attack from the “Hrad” and “Hurricane” installations, 30 people were killed and 138 were injured. OSCE mission on the same day reported that attack was carried out from the East and North-East directions – from the areas under control of the so-called “DPR”. After that, it was difficult to talk about any interpretations of the terrorist attack.

Direct indication from the OSCE that the shelling occurred from the territory controlled by the militants / osce.org

However, on January 25, the Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs said that the shelling of Mariupol is “a provocation of the Ukrainian military as well as Volnovakha and Boeing“, citing false information that the OSCE reported shelling from Ukrainian positions. Well-known propagandists Alexander Kotz and Dmitrii Steshin from the “Komsomolskaya Pravda” reported the fault of Ukrainians, however, they do not distort the report of the OSCE, and referred to the “investigation” of their colleague Valentin Trushnin from the “REN-TV”. He allegedly defined that the Ukrainian security officers shot due to the form of holes from shells. His conclusions were denied by Mariupol blogger Maksym Borodin. He also made a selection of news in the Russian media with the dynamics of headlines during January 24. And if at the beginning, referring to Aleksandr Zakharchenko it was reported about “the Novorossia army assault on Mariupol“, then after the shelling, the rhetoric changed drastically over the objections of the assault by militants and allegations of Armed Forces of Ukraine in fire. The investigation of the Security Service of Ukraine and published records of telephone conversations between soldiers of the Russian army clarified the details.

The key audience for information special operations of the first year of the war were residents of the occupied territories of Donbas, who, according to the plan of propagandists, should perceive the Pro-Russian terrorists only as liberators, and the Ukrainian army only as invaders. The main task that was faced the special services of Russia in the beginning of the conflict is to show the suffering of the people from the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and to provide accusations of the Ukrainian side in the shelling and killing of civilians in order to hide the atrocities of the militants, as it was with the shelling of the bus under the Volnovakha and a shot from “Hrad” on Mariupol.

After the conclusion of the Minsk agreements the propaganda modified, the Russian media began to speculate on the issue that Ukrainian militants have violated them all the time. The vector of information attacks shifted to the external audience, which demonstrated cases of violation of the agreements by Ukraine. Their common goal is to discredit the Ukrainian army and Ukraine as a whole as a party to the negotiation process to resolve the situation in Donbas. Thus, the Kremlin is trying to bring the leaders of the United States and the EU the following message: the conversation about options for peace in Donbas should be held only with the leadership of Russia and its controlled militants.

For example, resorting to the distortion or falsification of the statements of OSCE on shelling of civilians by the Armed Forces of Ukraine or carrying out the planting of disinformation without reference to independent sources. Consequently, on November 10, 2015, the TV channel “Zvezda” reported about the ceasefire violations near Donetsk by Ukrainian Security Forces, claiming that “the OSCE confirmed the shelling of the city from “Hrad”. At the same time in the report of OSCE only the direction of hit and the fact that the house in Kuibyshev district of Donetsk was damaged was specified. “StopFake” reported that part of the territory to the North-West of the Kuibyshev district is controlled by the “DPR”, and the OSCE did not indicate the belonging of the projectile or military equipment to one of the parties.

Since that time, a typical fake of the Russian media about the shelling consists of a reference to the publication of the local separatist media, in which there is most often a statement of someone from the militants, – Eduard Basurin. For example, on November 14, 2017, the TV channel “Zvezda” reported that the Ukrainian military shot a café near Luhansk with the armoured infantry fighting vehicle for the fact that its owner refused to give a bribe. The edition referred to “Luhansk information centre”, and it in turn – to the representative of the so-called “National militia of LPR”.

On March 8, 2017, the Main Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine reported that the Russian occupation troops are buying a thousand sets of Armed Forces of Ukraine uniforms to prepare materials to discredit the ATO forces.

Season 1. Episode 2. “Punishers” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine: the crucified boy and the other fantasies of Russian propaganda

 

By demonizing the Ukrainian military, the Kremlin is trying to show to the Ukrainian and Russian population that Ukraine is ruled by a “fascist regime”, dangerous for all those who are not nationalists. Russian media began consciously use the word “punishers” to describe the Ukrainian soldiers and used it to fake the “crimes” that they supposedly carried out.

The very phenomenon of using in the news vocabulary from old Soviet films about the Second World War is very interesting. The terms “punishers”, “fascists”, “junta” proved to be a very effective medium for transmitting negative emotions and distributing ethnic hatred through television. Active information support of everything that concerned the victory of the Soviet Union in World War II helped the propagandists in creating the “right” attitude of the population towards aggression against Ukraine.

Political right-wing Ukrainian organizations such as “Svoboda (Freedom)” and “Right sector” were portrayed rather hyperbolized. It was said that they either seized or exercise control over the state authorities of Ukraine. The “Right sector” generally acquired a half-mythical halo and compared with the “SS units”. Subsequently, this analogy between Ukrainian volunteers from right-wing organizations and Nazi troops would be extended to all Ukrainian Armed Forces, which the Russian media would call “punishers”.

It was meaningful the story of the “First channel” on November 2, 2014, where Russian “journalists” used the stories of the alleged inhabitants of the village of Stepanivka in Donetsk region for comparison of current events with the year 1941, in the context of which the Ukrainian troops were equal to the Nazi invaders. The authors of the plot were not too worried about historical accuracy, remembering about Liudmyla, who “marked 80 years old this year and who experienced famine of thirties years and war.” By simple calculations it can be established that she was born in 1934, while the Holodomor (Famine-Genocide) was in 1932-1933.

Russian propagandists in their usual manner try to provoke the maximum fear and indignation of the audience, inventing fakes about the crimes of “punishers”. So often the scale of the atrocities in their stories is hyperbolized. All of them can be divided into two conditional groups – extremely cruel treatment and mass murder.

The story of the “crucified boy” in Sloviansk is one of the most striking examples of the lies of the Russian media during the war – became a meme. In July 2014, the Russian “First channel” broadcasted an interview with Halyna Pyshnyak, where she told how the Ukrainian military after liberation in Sloviansk gathered residents of the city in the square and allegedly arranged a public execution of a boy who was crucified on a Bulletin Board, and also his mother, who was tied to a tank and dragged down the street to death.

Journalists couldn’t find people who confirmed this story, and the woman who was called as Halyna Pyshnyak, was the wife of the fighter of the so-called “DPR”. Subsequently, in December 2014, the channel “First channel” denied the information about the crucified boy. Its anchor Irada Zeynalova in the issue of the program “Vremya” (“Time”) stated that there were no journalists and no evidence described in the video history.

Freeze frame from the plot of the “First channel” about the crucified boy in Sloviansk with his main character – Halyna Pyshnyak
A photo of the same woman with her husband-fighter

But “crucified boy” was only the beginning of phantasmagoric stories of the Russian media. Another similar story also using the image of a child was a story about a 13-year-old Stas from Krasnyi Lyman, who was hijacked by Ukrainian soldiers, doped and forced to go towards the militants, before putting on his jacket with radio transmitters. As noted by “StopFake”, in the stories on ” NTV “and ” LifeNews” there were discrepancies in the traces of injections on the hands of the boy and in the screenings of the psychologist. In fact, nobody kidnapped Stas: according to the local Ministry of Internal Affairs, he had a slight mental retardation and left home.

On December 10, 2014, Pro-Russian sites spread the news that the “punishers” shot the old man for refusing to shout “Glory to Ukraine!”. This information seems to be doubtful due to the fact that the only source was Iryna Popova – the Deputy of the so-called “Parliament of Novorossiya”.

The well-known “activist” of the so-called DPR and Novorossiya Iryna Popova tells a propaganda resource “Politnavigator” about the concentration camps in Mariupol as “participant the movement for the liberation of Mariupol
Irina Popova gives an interview as a “member of the Parliament of Novorossiya”

In addition to the alleged killings of civilians, Russian propagandists spread fakes about the cruel treatment of Ukrainian militants with people. One of the plots for this kind of fakes are stories about the mythical concentration camps of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/Security Service of Ukraine for the residents of Donbas.

The fake about the concentration camp in Mariupol existed for a long time. Firstly, it appeared on the program “Special correspondent” on “Russia 1” on March 2, 2016. Then the “official representative” of the so-called DPR said that on the territory of the airport of the city there is a concentration camp and a burial ground with at least of 2.5 thousand bodies of people who were missing[1].

On September 11, 2017 the member of the separatist “movement for the liberation of Mariupol” – Iryna Popova – said for the “Politnavigator” about the concentration camp in the airport of Mariupol, which has a firing space and chambers of torture. In the usual manner for Russian propaganda, a parallel was drawn between Ukrainian troops and fascists, because the material informed about the anniversary of the liberation of the city from Nazi invaders.

Russian propaganda likes to amaze viewers not only with the fictional cruelty of the Ukrainian military, but also with the mass character of their “atrocities”. On June 11, 2014 “NTV” told about execution of a funeral procession by the Ukrainian military in Sloviansk. Allegedly when 10 “rebels” were buried, there were symbolically shots in air, on what Armed Forces of Ukraine opened fire in reply. “StopFake” found that it is de facto denied by the militants themselves in the “Summary of events from Igor Strelkov dated 11.06.14”, where they remembered the burial, but did not write about the shelling by the security forces. At the same time, they wrote about the shooting in other parts of the city.

On June 27, 2014 in the program “Svobodnoe vremya (Free time)” on REN-TV told about atrocities of fighters of national guard in the villages of Saurivka and Stepanivka of Donetsk region. Allegedly the Ukrainian military slaughter out all men, and raped women. The channel even called it “Saurovsk massacre”. But this information was denied by the journalist of the Russian opposition newspaper “Novaya Gazeta” Pavel Kanygin. He interviewed local residents of these villages and found out that there were no massacres and rapes. Moreover, the national guard was not there, and fighters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were retaken by the militants of “DPR” during the battle for Saur-Grave.

On September 30, 2014, the “Russian newspaper” and other Kremlin media reported an interview with a fake Latvian human rights activist Einars Graudiņš, who was allegedly in the occupied territories, together with representatives of the OSCE and the reported widespread looting and rape of women of the local villages by “mercenaries of “Azov” and “Donbas” and mass graves of bodies near Donetsk and 400 unidentified bodies in the morgues of Donetsk. The OSCE said that they don’t know any Einars Graudiņš, and “Radio Svoboda” found that person with the same name is a Latvian politician and businessman of Pro-Russian views, who represented himself in Donbas as “Latvian human rights defender”.

Given the fact that the key audience for such reports were Russian citizens, it can be concluded that the expressive stories about the alleged mass crimes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the “hell” they commit to the “Russian-speaking population of Donbas” in 2014 were beneficial to divert attention from domestic economic problems in Russia.

Now the disinformation about the crimes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is integrated into a more general narrative of the “genocide” of the population in Donbas. Thus, Russian propaganda is developing material to put itself right with the international community in the event that Russia re-massively uses regular military units at any time under the same slogan as in 2014 that is “protection of the Russian-speaking population from fascists.” Welcome the target audience for the dissemination of information on the violation of the rights and freedoms of human are the representatives of the political elite of Western society, which, in response to such stories, had to abandon the support of Ukraine.

 

 

Season 1. Episode 3. The genocide of Donbas population

 

“Detector media” in the study of the Russian propaganda rhetoric in 2014-2016, reported that in July 2014 – February 2015, the main task of Russian propaganda was to protect and deny the facts of armed aggression against Ukraine and support the separatists, information support of favourable conditions for Russia to end the conflict in Donbas. In this regard, the Russian media simultaneously with the highest-level leaders of the Russian Federation began to describe the situation in Ukraine as “genocide of the Russian-speaking population”. Further, it was constantly mentioned in the context of the possible bringing of a peacekeeping contingent in Donbas. To be more definite – there were requirements of the Russian side to prevent the control of the Ukrainian authorities over their own territories and abroad.

Focusing on the Western audience, Russian propagandists falsified the statements of the international organizations and attributed the words of “genocide” to them. On September 29, 2014, the TV-channel “Zvezda” reported that OSCE observers are working at the mass grave site in the village of Nyzhnya Krynka, Donetsk region. With reference to an undisclosed human rights defender from Latvia, the mass rapes of 12-14-year-old girls were reported, that he interpreted as “genocide”.

“StopFake” in the material on this fact joined the reports of the OSCE and Amnesty International delegation on the burial in Nyzhnya Krynka and found out that there was not any information about genocide and rape – it was found three burial with the 9 dead human bodies, 5 of which were the bodies of representatives of the so-called “DPR” who died in battle. Also in the material it was noted that this Latvian expert most likely was Einārs Graudiņš, who has repeatedly appeared in Russian fakes.

Report from the OSCE web-site about three burials with 9 bodies and an indication that over the burial of 5 people there was a sign with the inscription “Died for Putin’s lies”.
Amnesty International report – a clear indication of exaggeration in the Russian media and claimed that the 5 victims were not civilians, but were the fighters of “DPR” / stopfake.org

Also, to convince Europeans of the “genocide of the population of Donbas”, Russian special services hold paid rallies in Western countries, and sometimes directed them themselves. An example of such an action is a rally in Venice against the “genocide in the South-East of Ukraine”, which was released on September 6, 2014 on “Russia 24”. The artificiality of the event was indicated by the video of its preparation shot by Ukrainians. StopFake has determined the fabulousness of this action according to the fact, that the only media that took it off was “Russia 24”, the operator gave the “protesters” a sign “not to smile”, and all the supposedly Italian participants understood the Russian language, etc.

The snapshot from the “Russia 24” program about a fake rally in Venice / vesti.ru

On working with domestic user propaganda statements about “genocide of Donbas” regularly voiced during the political talk shows, like “Vremya Pokazhet” (“Time will tell”) on the “1st Channel” or “Vecher s Vladimirom Soloviovym” (“Evening with Vladimir Soloviov”) on TV-channel “Russia 1”. The list of such fakes on the website of “EU vs Disinfo” shows their regularity. However, they began to distribute especially actively together with the negotiations at the UN level on the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent at the 72nd session of the General Assembly, which was held on September 12-28, 2017 in New York.

A selection of fake messages of Russian propaganda at the request of “genocide” on the website “EU vs Disinfo”. A marked increase in the number of references to “genocide” since September 2017 / euvsdisinfo.eu

Immediately after that, the Russian propaganda system began work on discrediting the project of bringing the peacekeepers to the entire territory of the occupied territories to the border with Russia. At the same time, the promotion of the theme of “genocide” began, the genocide from which the population of Donbas is protected by the militants of the so-called “LDPR” and which can happen with the connivance of Western peacekeepers.

On June 23, in the program of “Vremya pokazhet” (“Time will tell”) on the “First channel” one of the guests of the studio said that the genocide of the population of Donbas, which is now arranged by Ukrainian troops, could counteract the peacekeeping contingent, by which the Armed Forces of Russian Federation were meant[1]. According to him, the peacekeeping contingent is necessary to hide the delivery of the American military bases.

On September 7, 2017 on the air of the talk show “Mesto vstrechi” in the Studio it was announced the information that “Russian volunteers in Donbas fighting for the prevention of genocide of the local population.” Almost the same information was reported in the program “Vremya pokazhet” on the “First channel” on September 28, 2017, where the reason to talk about the “genocide” was called the plan to bring the peacekeepers to the border with Russia, along with the allegedly more frequent discussions in Ukraine of the “Croatian scenario” of 1995.

On November 10, 2017, Senator of the Federation Council Franz Klintsevich said that “genocide” will take place in Donbas, provided the US contingent is brought.

The Russian political elite almost immediately made it clear that the information campaign is directed against the bringing of peacekeepers as a “non-disclosure for genocide”. This position of Russia on October 20, 2017 was reported by the press-secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitrii Peskov, who noted that the presence of international observers not only will not save the residents of Donbas from deadly threat, but on the contrary – “the OSCE observers can be followed by the Armed Forces Of Ukraine and extremist groups, well-known for their inhuman actions.”

On the same day, Vladimir Putin said that the closure of the border between Russia and the so-called unrecognized republics in the East, as envisaged by one of the options for the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent, could lead to a tragedy similar to that that that occurred in Bosnian Srebrenica (the murder of 6,000 Bosnian Muslims by Serbs in July 1995), and Russia will not allow this.

Thus, producing this misinformation, the Russian leadership always wants to leave behind a backup version of the introduction of regular military units in Donbas and discredit the project of the peacekeeping mission, which will make it impossible for further Russian aggression in Donbas.

Season 1. Episode 4. Fake photos from the ATO area

Russian propaganda has a clear aim to give out dead or spavined people in other conflicts as examples of atrocities committed by the Ukrainian military. Very often such materials involve children in order to cause greater hatred of the consumer of information to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

This method of disinformation was most actively used at the first stage of the confrontation in Donbas, when Russian propagandists used any available tools of information attacks. Ukrainian editions have repeatedly made a selection of the loudest fakes, which were spread in social networks.

For example, it became known a photo of an 8-year-old boy seriously wounded at the airport in Donetsk, distributed by the journalist of the “LifeNews” channel Ermina Kotanjyan on Twitter on May 27, 2014. However, Ukrainian journalists found out that the photo was taken in 2013 in Aleppo after it’s shelling by government troops.

 

Screenshot above shows the publication of Ermina Kotanjyan on Twitter with fake post about the Donetsk airport, photo below shows the same photo, but taken after the shelling of Aleppo in March 2013 / stopfake.org

 

Also there was a photo of the boy who was actually killed by the maniac in 2010 in Dzhankoy, and a photo of the girl allegedly killed in Sloviansk on May 19, who actually died as a result of a collapse of a balcony in the building of the Crimean sanatorium “Yunist’ (Youth)” in 2013. All of them were submitted as proof of atrocities of the Ukrainian security officers counting on trusting audience of a network “Odnoklassniki”.

Photos like these were shared on social media with the hashtag #savedonbasspeople and mostly contained images of children and women, as in a photo from Venezuela, where a woman in a pool of blood was depicted. It was distributed by the odious journalist of “Russia Today” Graham Phillips with this hashtag, but it was deleted after he learned about the fake.

Except photos of children and women propagandists used the photos of the cities of Donbas processed in photo editors with allegedly catastrophic consequences of attacks of “punishers”. For example, on May 26, 2014 there were publications with the photo of scorching Donetsk and the message that the city is fired at by fighters, and people run from their homes. “StopFake” quickly found out that the photo is a result of “photoshop”, and the original was taken on the website of the Donetsk photo studio.

Fake photos allegedly of Donetsk after the shelling of the Ukrainian fighters. Bottom – real photos on the website of one of Donetsk photo studios / politnavigator.net, stopfake.org

Early on August 2014, the American website “Examiner.com” published a selection of 100 fake materials of Russian propagandists about the events in Ukraine. Most of them were just such images taken from other parts of the world and with the addition of propaganda slogans or hashtags.

Later, fake photos with “victims of Ukrainian shelling” were also used, but sporadically and less often than in 2014-early 2015. In particular, several times for the events in Donbas the photos from the shelling in Israel were used.

The ultimate goal: At the first stage of the conflict, when the main task was to maximize the degree of stress among the population in the East of Ukraine, and through the speed of events, the ability to critically comprehend such stuffing was minimal, such fakes played a role in inciting the hostility.

Also Russians wanted to cause indignation of events in Ukraine at the Western community. So the task was to create the image of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as “punishers” who make the peaceful people suffer, and that was made for people who don’t understand clearly all the details of the conflict in Donbas.

Season 2. Ukraine disrupts the Minsk agreements implementation

 

The Russian side is not limited to falsifying violations of the Minsk agreements by Ukraine. In addition, the Russian media distort the statements of foreign partners and international organizations, in particular the OSCE. And sometimes it even stages attacks from Ukraine.

Fake news about the Minsk agreements failure are primarily aimed at the international community to demonstrate that Ukraine’s promises should not be taken into account seriously, because Ukraine allegedly does not comply with the international treaties. At the same time fakes with statements of foreign leaders have to convince the population of Ukraine of inconsistency of actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donbas, and the population of Russia – on the contrary, in justification of military aggression.

Naturally, for the Russian security services the targeted audiences in this matter are representatives of Western States (in particular, the United States of America, France and Germany, which are most involved in the peacekeeping process and in the implementation of political and economic pressure on Putin).

The main goal of the Russian side was and is to convince the Western partners that the point of view of Ukraine in the negotiation process on regulating the conflict should be ignored in contrast to the so-called “L/DPR” and Russia. The reason for such behaviour could be a public censure of the facts of “Minsk agreements” failure by Western leaders and individual functionaries, besides the death and suffering of people in the result of shelling in Donbas.

That is why Russian media related to the special services continue to promote information that Ukrainian troops are allegedly systematically shelling civilians and violating agreements.

 

 

Season 2. Episode 1. Western leaders and observers accuse Ukraine of the Minsk agreements failure

Russia and its proxy forces, “DPR” and “LPR”, constantly report Ukraine’s violation of the Minsk agreements. These reports are uniform and therefore do not worth of any attention. From time to time, Russian media are a source of fictional statements about “failure of agreements” from the side of European politicians or experts. Partially, such statements are made by persons who have an open or indirect affiliation with the Kremlin. Sometimes certain statements are twisted or interpreted inappropriately by the Russian side.

In early September 2015, the Russian media manipulatively filed a statement of Raimonds Vējonis, the President of Latvia, on the fact that Ukraine allegedly failure the Minsk agreements.” In fact, he casted doubt on their implementation due to the fact that they are failure by all the parties to the conflict, including militants, Ukraine and Russia. Also Vējonis allegedly reported on the incomprehensibility of sanctions against Russia, which allegedly is not a party to the conflict. But he did not say it, but rather explained that the reaction to the aggression began late due to the fact that Russian Federation was previously perceived as a partner by Latvia.

In a similar manipulative way, the Russian media showed the Francois Hollande’s briefing on March 18, 2016 during the trialogue negotiations in Brussels between Ukraine, Germany and France. The propagandists noted that Hollande and Merkel “reminded to Poroshenko of the need to implement the Minsk agreements,” whereas, according to StopFake, in reality, no one had appealed on Ukraine before unilaterally. The French President said that he “held on the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which are now reached a deadlock, and that Russia and Ukraine are moving forward to comply with the agreements.” Also, the Russian media did not mention the sanctions against Russia, which will be valid until the implementation of Minsk-2, and the non-recognition of the “annexation” of Crimea.

On July 23, 2016, the Russian edition of “Vesti” published the news with a loud headline – “International observers were convinced of Ukraine’s ignoring of the Minsk agreements”. In fact, it was only one person – Manuel Ohsenrayter, who, according to “StopFake”, was an observer at the so-called elections in the “LPR”, an expert on the Middle East issues on “RT”, justified the Russian intervention in the Crimea and Donbas, and in this case, said about the “violations” by Ukraine, without citing any facts.

A screenshot from StopFake material about “international experts”, whose services are used by Russian propagandists, with the participation of the Ohsenrayter / stopfake.org

In July 2017, during the G20 summit in Hamburg, the Russian media spread misinformation that the leaders of Germany and France allegedly do not deny “the fact of failure by the Ukrainian authorities with the agreements reached in Minsk.” The media referred only to the words of Dmitrii Peskov, the press Secretary of the Russian President. “StopFake” determined that Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel did say nothing like that. The German Chancellor only said that “progress is very slow“, and the French President reported on “the complexity of the situation.”

Fake statements of EU and US leaders on Ukraine’s violation of the Minsk agreements are sent to the domestic audience and Pro-Russian citizens of Ukraine. Russia seeks to show that even Western countries are already disappointed in the Ukrainian authorities and are already openly talking about the illegality of its actions in Donbas.

But some Russian officials and deputies sometimes depart from the main line of the propaganda narrative. For example, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Council of Russian Federation Konstantin Kosachov in June 2018 generally called Western countries, in particular the Netherlands, guilty of Ukraine’s failure to comply with the Minsk agreements. When the offer of the “Forum for democracy” party to bring Ukraine to responsibility for the MH17 catastrophe was not supported by the Dutch Parliament.

 

Season 2. Episode 2. Russia: “The OSCE ignores the shelling of the Ukrainian side”

Russian propaganda since the cessation of active offensive actions in Donbas sometimes refers to the shelling by Ukrainian troops of observers from the OSCE Special monitoring mission (SMM). On August 21, 2016 “Vesti.ru” groundlessly accused the Ukrainian military in the OSCE observers shelling. With reference to the News Agency “TASS“, they reported that on August 20, members of the SMM got under the fire with the help of a drone during the monitoring of the territories controlled by Ukraine, referring to the SMM report of August 21. However, neither the report nor even the TASS report indicated who had opened fire on the observers.

Part of the OSCE report on the incident on August 20, which does not indicate who fired at the observers / osce.org

On September 11, the Russian media, referring to one of the leaders of the so-called “DPR” militants Eduard Basurin, reported that representatives of the OSCE and the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination came under fire of the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the inspection of craters in the village of Kruta Balka. “StopFake” noted that Basurin wrote in Facebook that this attack is an attempt of the Ukrainian command to hide the fact of penetration of DPR (diversionary intelligence group) and attack of the settlement by it” (the post isn’t available now). The SMM report for that day did not indicate anything about the shelling of the group in Kruta Balka.

Screenshot from the report dated as of September 12, 2016, which shows that the SMM did not get under fire in Kruta Balka, but simply analysed the funnel / osce.org

“Crimea.Realities” noted an interesting series of fake reports about the shelling of observers[1]. On January 31, 2017 the TV channel “Zvezda” with reference to the “Donetsk News Agency” reported the shelling of Russian officers from the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination by the Ukrainian military in Kyiv region of Donetsk. And, oddly enough, this information was denied by Eduard Basurin, terrorists’ speaker. And the next day, “Ruskaya vesna (Russian spring)” spread another fake – the shelling of Russian officers from the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination together with the Alexander Hug, the Deputy Chairman of the OSCE Special monitoring mission. The edition of “Crimea.Realities” noted that the OSCE on the same day denied this misinformation.

Russian propagandists reported the shelling of the OSCE mission with a group of people in military uniform on June 20, 2017. Representatives of the so-called “DPR” said that it was a provocation of Ukrainian forces, because the “suspects”, who were allegedly detained were not members of their armed gangs[1]. And at a press conference in Donetsk on June 21, Alexander Hug, the Deputy Head of the OSCE SMM said that this incident is “a consequence of the inability of the so-called “DPR” to control their people.[2]

On July 21, 2017, Russian media reported that Ukrainian troops fired at an OSCE SMM patrol in the village of Vasylievka near Yasynovata[3]. As always, it was nothing indicated about the shelling by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the OSCE report for that day. On the contrary, the organization has noted the opposition of the militants of the so-called “DPR” to the work of observers. On May 22, 2018, the Russian top media referring to the “police representative” of the so-called “LPR” spread the news about the Ukrainian military, who fired at the OSCE patrol near the village of Kryakivka. The OSCE confirmed the shelling, but indicated that the direction of fire was not determined, so the accusations against Ukraine were baseless.

The purpose of these fakes is to show to local residents and citizens of Russia that the Ukrainian military, allegedly, do not avoid to shoot at representatives of the international organization, even not mentioning “civilians of Donbas”. It is against this background that any reports of attacks on civilians seem to be more remunerative.

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