Ukraine, Crimean Platform, and the Witches’ Sabbath: this week’s Russian propaganda

 

Hybrid War

Many disinformation cases collected from pro-Kremlin media this week targeted Ukraine and the Crimean Platform – a summit organized to discuss the international response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and prevention of further human rights violations.

The fact that seven years after the events unraveled on the Maidan square in Kyiv the Kremlin media is still attacking Ukraine shows that not much has changed. The five most common narratives appearing in pro-Kremlin outlets remain largely the same as in previous years, just tailored to match the current events and interests of audiences. Let’s have a look at them.

The elites vs the people

According to this narrative, the citizens are suffering under the regime of evil elites, be it oligarchsbureaucrats, or bankers. Questioning the legitimacy of elections and claiming that the elites manipulate them is also a part of this narrative.

This week, RT Arabic accused the West of having double standards as it always criticizes democratic processes in Russia – but “whatever happens in the elections in Ukraine, Moldova, or the Baltic states, they will always be ‘good’ if they achieve the desired (Western) result”.

The next Russian legislative election will be held on 19 September, but instead of giving speeches at rallies, the most prominent opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, is in prison after surviving an assassination attempt. So maybe the real elites having a role in elections are not Western after all?

Threatened values

The narrative about “Threatened Values” is adapted to a wide range of topics and is typically used to challenge the rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBTQ groups, among others.

This week we found a case claiming that the West and the globalist elite use Western-funded media, human rights organizations, NGOs, bloggers, artists, and agents of influence to promote global liberal values and wage a hybrid war against Russia.

Returning from the disinformation realm to the real world, Kremlin disinformation often claims that domestic political opponents are Western intelligence assets. This tradition dates back to Soviet times and has been refurbished after a law that branded foreign-funded NGOs as “foreign agents” was passed by the Russian Parliament.

Critics of the bill argue that the term “foreign agent” harms the image of members of the opposition and human rights and environmental groups working in Russia.

Lost sovereignty, or threatened national identity

Russian and pro-Kremlin disinformation sources like to claim that certain countries, the EU or NATO are under the control of someone else.

This week an interview in Belarusian Sputnik tries to warn Belarusians that if Belarus becomes pro-Western, “it will turn into a sad, half-empty country” and will be subjugated to the West, just as Ukraine has. Truth be told: democracy is not sad at all, rather its alternative is.

As for international organizations, NATO was accused to be “an armed wing for US interests” to ensure control over “the areas with energy resources”. Contrary to the claim, NATO missions have rarely taken place in resource-rich areas and the Atlantic Alliance is focusing on the collective security of its members. For context, this example is one of more than 1,000 disinformation cases EUvsDisinfo has collected about NATO.

Imminent collapse

Variations of the “The Decaying West” narrative have been documented since the 19th century. Europe failing to fail for hundreds of years is a good debunking of the claim by itself, but the disinformation message is constantly adjusted to trends.

This week the imminent collapse has been waiting for the US. The logic is simple: the operation in Afghanistan exhausted Soviet resources, indirectly causing the collapse of the USSR. Since the American costs were far higher, “it is difficult not to have an impression that the USA may face a similar fate”.

Another case claims that the US is trying to impose the model of Western liberalism in Ukraine, but since it failed in Afghanistan, it will also fail in Ukraine. The underlying point of the disinformation message is to persuade the reader that Ukraine is under foreign control and the situation there is just as dire as in Afghanistan.

A different take on the same event plainly suggests that “After Afghanistan it is time to leave Ukraine, to prevent Kabul’s scenario”. This completely ignores the fact that there are no plans to weaken the ties between the US and Ukraine and there are no US military forces deployed in the country.

The hahaganda narrative

The hahaganda or just plain ridiculing has been used by pro-Kremlin media to deal with the Skripal case, but also to mock Ukraine or its political leaders. With world leaders in Kyiv discussing ways to mobilize a more effective international response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the pro-Kremlin media is shelling it with disinformation.

“There will be another Witches’ Sabbath day, that is, the Crimean Platform, during which the West will continue to nurture the neo-Nazi mood and racism of the modern Ukrainian authorities”, RT Arabic reports. The same claim about Nazis and racism is repeated in other articles, complemented with unfounded claims about the US, NATO, and the UK being behind the summit.

The Russian TV show 60 Minutes claimed that the Crimean Platform made no sense as the residents were not present. Moreover, the show claimed that residents of Crimea did not want to live under a Nazi regime and thus voted in a referendum to join Russia. What the presenters forgot was that no international body recognizes the referendum and a representative of Crimean Tatars was present, even though this community faces repression and violations of human rights. As for Nazis in power in Ukraine, the EUvsDisinfo database has more than 400 debunked cases about Nazis and Ukraine.

Last week also marked 30 years of independence for Ukraine, one of many countries that were occupied by the Soviet Union. Unlike what the Kremlin might say, there were no witches or devils involved in regaining independence, it was just the will of the people to leave the iron curtain behind and join the family of free and democratic countries. However, based on the disinformation collected this week, this concept still seems to be too difficult to comprehend for some.

Further reading:

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