Moscow’s information war against Ukraine: the Western and the Ukrainian fronts


At first it was simple. Recall Russian propaganda against Ukraine from the start of Putin’s War, in 2014-15: “Nazi youth”, “crucified little boys”, “bloody trains from which you can be taken to the National Guard”, “red hand, black sheet, green fingers” and other horrors. But the propaganda effort failed. It failed to spread. At great cost, the Russians had been trying to create the image of Ukraine as a ruined state, where “the fascists seized power”. But Russian propagandists and their initiative failed.

Now there is another plan. Those who keep a close eye on events and who read the last “investigation of Al Jazeera” (saying “Kurchenko sold Yanukovych’s assets to Onyshchenko”) surely paid attention to one important detail. As you may discover in the “investigation”, Russia finds the authorities in Kyiv very inconvenient for its purposes, and so Moscow will do its best to change this government. How? The “information plan” is as follows:

FIRST, THE WESTERN FRONT OF INFORMATION WAR

Russia’s main purpose is to destroy Ukraine’s reputation, to cause quarrels between Ukraine and other Western nations, and to make Ukraine a rogue nation. There are three main subjects.

Corruption” – which can’t be measured, which undoubtedly exists in every post-Soviet country – can be a very good reason to sling some mud at Ukraine. It’s now usual for articles about “Ukrainian corruption” to regularly appear in Western media. And it’s typical for such articles that their local sources are almost always “uncorrupted” individuals who nevertheless seem to own many apartments or the “uncorrupted and independent” political party “Samopomich”.

Outbreak of crime” – As I see it, Russian information war is the reason why the “honest media” made a big crisis out of the murder of a human rights activist murder. It’s amazing that the “most honest Ukrainian MP” of Pashtun descent didn’t even try to speak out about the problem in Ukrainian. He began tweeting in English right away. He seemed to be saying: “Hey! Western partners! Please write something about crime in Ukraine. Come on, guys!”

People of Ukraine are very angry at the government” – The people of Ukraine live in a country which had been under foreign occupation for hundreds of years, and latterly was led by two communist comrades, the bandit hat-snatcher and the bee-keeper. They got used to hating government, every government. And, in spite of this, genuine support of the government today is at the highest rate for many years (correct me if Kuchma, Yushchenko, Kravchuk or Yanukovych had a higher level of support).

Moscow’s task is to dramatize complaint and to convince Europe that this complaint is very big. There were only one or two thousand people at the latest protests, but don’t count, don’t check official sources and don’t view aerial photography! Just copy lies from the internet page of one political party about “50,000 protesters”. And just keep at it! Keep panicking! Let it seem like there’s “a NEW REVOLUTION in KYIV”.

SECOND, THE UKRAINIAN FRONT OF INFORMATION WAR

As for the Ukrainian information area, Moscow feels itself at ease and free here. That’s because Ukraine unfortunately has established no genuine free press. Ukraine only has platforms for paid content, which is exploited to slander individuals or raise them above others, as you please: just pay them some money. This has a historical foundation, and nothing has changed recently. Russia has already succeeded with this strategy in Moldova. As a result, the Kremlin brought to power Putin’s good friend Dodon. How’s it working in Ukraine?

Shifting focus: Russia isn’t our enemy; our real enemy is Kyiv” – Disguisedly or overtly, not Russia but Ukraine is accused of direct invasion. “Why can’t Poroshenko stop the war in the east of Ukraine?” (Here’s a tip – the war can be “ended” anytime, except in Saakashvili’s way. There is even an incredible definition that describes this ending! It’s capitulation).

Proletarian wrath” – A Soviet man is very trustful. It’s very easy to convince him that “he has nothing because of rich men who stole everything from him. Well, not rich men, hagglers. Well… you got it, man, didn’t you?”. But why, then is the economic situation so difficult in our country? Hmm… Maybe it’s because Ukraine was being robbed over the past 23 years? Maybe it’s because of contracts like “Gazprom is our love”? Maybe it’s because of financial gaps that have existed for more than ten years, like with “Naftogaz” (those gaps are already gone)? Maybe it’s because of state financial support for oligarchs and their profitless mines or banks? Wait! Maybe we have a difficult financial situation because of war that is still ongoing? No, nothing of that is worth our consideration. A Chocolate Hitler stole everything. That’s the main reason you haven’t got your own Rolls-Royce or Rolex or a cottage in Koncha Zaspa. No doubt it’s true, I’m telling you!

Depression” – If you convince your enemy he is a failure, you can almost celebrate victory. That’s when we promote a problem of poverty (some stories like “old man with just one piece of bread or a granny with a half a pill for her medicine”) but don’t talk about real achievements or just make fun of them: new roads, hospitals, the visa-free regime with Europe, a decrease in poverty. “Ha-ha-ha! You’re kidding! Hagglers! Offshores! Poroshenko! Bots!”. In addition, there still is a myth about a factory of Ukrainian bots in social media (but no one has proven this during four years of war). You shouldn’t be proud of real achievements Ukraine has made. You shouldn’t support a pro-Europe/anti-Russian government. You must be ashamed of all this. And for Russia THIS position is very important.

Hysterics” – Russian proxies (they call themselves “journalists” and “activists”) make a problem of any event (not necessarily negative). And in these situations no arguments will help you. Here you can use only memes, primitive models and indistinct accusations. “You are out of your minds! Thieves! Offshores! Rotterdam+! Finish them all!” If you ask any propagandist: “What problem do we have exactly? What’s done wrong exactly? And how should we act in this situation?”, he/she will get mad, shake with convulsions and “continue to eat cactus” (that’s because he/she has already got money for it).

The saddest thing in this story is that Ukraine has no protection or almost no protection at the battlefront of this information war. It’s just like in the first days of the Revolution of Dignity in 2014: volunteers with wooden shields resist the professional Russian propaganda machine.

But it’ll be alright. We got through Euromaidan and won, having no chance for victory. We outstayed the beginning of war, in horrible 2014 when our country might have stopped existing. The most important is to do what you can to save your country. Do everything you can! We will win.

Allan Levitov
Radio Lemderg

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