How Russian state media misinformed the audience on the escalation in Avdiivka


International, War in the Donbas

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In 2014, NATO’s General Philipp Breedlove talked about Russia waging “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare” in relation to obfuscating over its intervention in Ukraine. This week we have seen the “fog of falsehood” fall again, this time in connection with recent violence in the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka.

Avdiivka is on territory that should be under the full control of the Ukrainian army, according to the line of conflict stipulated in the Minsk Agreements. On the morning Sunday 29 January, the Ukrainian army reported that Russian-backed militants had begun shelling their positions there. The OSCE special monitoring mission positioned in the city flagged up hundreds of ceasefire violations in both directions of the front. Journalists reported that the shelling came from Russian-backed “separatists” (here, here, and here).

But Russian state media immediately started denying any Russian role in the newest escalation. During the talk show “Vremya pokazhet”, we heard that there are no Russian troops on the ground – not only around Avdiivka, but also in the whole territory of Ukraine. Later in the same show it was claimed that a “secret plan” of the Ukrainian government is being realized, aimed at ethnic cleansing of Donbas. The next day, we heard in the same show that actually it is European humanists and their friends from the US who are responsible for the deaths in Avdiivka – not those doing the shelling.

Another show, “Mesto vstrechi”, blamed Kyiv for the humanitarian catastrophe in Avdiivka.  One of the speakers accused President Poroshenko of provoking the conflict in order to divert the attention of Europeans away from the “fact” that he is stealing the gas flowing from Russia to Europe. Sergei Zheleznyak, Kremlin-loyal MP of the Duma, stated in “Pervaya studia” that Poroshenko provoked the hostilities in order to receive financial help from the West, as he had lost a huge investment in backing Hillary Clinton. suggested that Ukraine provoked the fighting to test the loyalty of the new American administration.

President Putin has also made multiple accusations: that Ukraine provoked the renewed violence in the east of the country in order to pretend to be a victim and receive money from the West; to establish a dialogue with the new US administration (after Ukraine supported the losing candidate); because the government needs to regain the people’s support; and because Ukraine is not ready to implement the Minsk agreements.

Germany again

The disinformation focus and personal attacks continue to follow Germany, as we so often report they do. We learned from Russian state TV that Angela Merkel is trying to occupy Ukraine and to put her country into conflict with Russia .  In the same TV show, we were later told that Germany supports neo-Nazism in Ukraine . Another pro-Kremlin outlet accused Germany of also occupying Lithuania and parallels were drawn with WWII (there was no mention of the fact that the manoeuvre in question is a joint venture of the participating NATO countries and thus by definition not an occupation). Furthermore, an Italian outlet informed us that Germany has in fact already decided to leave the Euro before the end of the year.

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