Review of disinformation by propaganda media

The operational working group on strategic communications of the European External Action Service – EEAS has prepared a weekly disinformation review, which contains examples of pro-Kremlin propaganda spread in European countries. The full text of the disinformation review with analysis of individual articles can be found here.


Consequences of misinformation

What is the real impact of misinformation on people’s behavior?

We got a glimpse of the answer to that question this week when fierce protests erupted in Ukraine after a letter purportedly authored by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine falsely claimed that there were 5 cases of the coronavirus in the country. The Security Service of Ukraine later found out that the letter had been forged outside of Ukraine, but the damage had already been done. People took to the streets, mercilessly protesting against the arrival of Ukrainians evacuated from the city of Wuhan in China.

Fear, misinformation and low levels of trust in the authorities turned out to be an explosive mixture, and the pro-Kremlin media enjoyed it.

After years of portraying Ukraine as a Nazi and Russophobic country, pro-Kremlin media seized on the opportunity to tie it all together, claiming that Ukrainians’ hatred of Russians has now turned into hatred of their own people, and that Ukrainians think like Nazis and adhere to Nazi principles in that the sick must be destroyed.

This, of course, is not the only case when pro-Kremlin propagandists have used global health issues as a weapon. Just last week, US officials warned that thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts had begun a coordinated campaign to spread disinformation about the coronavirus, hindering the global community’s efforts to combat it and blaming US authorities for its spread.

But the protests in Ukraine due to the coronavirus became a chance for the pro-Kremlin media to release a new dose of poison in another attempt to discredit the Euromaidan protests, which were brutally suppressed exactly six years ago. The Maidan and the coronavirus are connected in the minds of Ukrainians; protests against the coronavirus have become a symbol of the Maidan, pro-Kremlin media say, adding that Ukrainians hate each other and are ready to kill, and that is why Ukraine is dangerous for Europe.

These disinformation narratives are aimed not only at undermining Ukrainian democracy and its European course. They also play into the Kremlin’s attempts to portray the aggression of the Russian armed forces in eastern Ukraine as a civil war. While armed groups backed by Russia continue to violate the Minsk agreements, the pro-Kremlin media offers a false logic: if Ukrainians are throwing stones at each other in a small village because of the fear of the coronavirus, who would doubt that they are shooting at each other in Donbas?

Euromaidan: back to the origins

Let’s leave the protests against the coronavirus, because the sixth anniversary of the brutal suppression of protests on the Euromaidan has turned into another opportunity to use old disinformation narratives again.

And the signal was given by the top of the Kremlin, which declared that the authorities of Ukraine after the Maidan serve foreign masters who seek to divide Russia and Ukraine.

A chorus of pro-Kremlin media chimed in, claiming (again!) that former US Vice President Joe Biden, along with former US State Department employee Victoria Nuland, as well as the secret services of the US, Canada, Great Britain and Poland, and neo-Nazis organized the Euromaidan protests in order to bring to the power of the oligarchs.

After six years of continuous disinformation, it seems that the pro-Kremlin media has finally run out of new examples of “Western puppeteers” who can be credited with being behind the Euromaidan protests.

But despite their attempts to discredit Euromaidan and Ukraine itself, the people of Ukraine are still full of optimism about the future of their country and the desire to participate in democratic processes.

Dedicated to memory

This week also marks the tragic anniversary of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition politician and former Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. Boris Nemtsov was killed on February 27, 2015, a few steps from the Kremlin. In memory of him, Prague, following Washington, Vilnius and Kyiv, named a square near the embassy of the Russian Federation in honor of the murdered politician.

For all of us, this anniversary is a sad reminder of how damaging the effects of misinformation and deception can be. Quoting Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of Boris Nemtsov, who gave us an interview earlier: “If there was not this large-scale propaganda, the murder of my father would have been impossible.” Read the full interview here.


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