Without proper confirmation, Ukrainian news portals Censor.net, Anticor.com.ua, InfoResist and a user on the Ukrainska Pravda forum have posted the news about the non-existent invasion of China in Russia early in the morning of October 15, 2014. Clashes between Russian and Chinese armies ostensibly resulted in casualties on both sides.
Here are some excerpts from the ‘breaking news:’ “Today at 10:00 Moscow time, all troops of the Eastern Military District of Russia were put on full alert.”
“This order, as reported by news agency RIA Novosti, was issued by Russian Commander-in-Chief President Vladimir Putin. Earlier media reported that the People’s Liberation Army of China began to amass its forces along the border with Russia. Formally, Putin’s order was issued as an alert. This was announced by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at a special meeting.”
“At a briefing in Moscow, Sergei Lavrov said: “The massive shelling of our borders from Chinese territory, involving military equipment of the Armed Forces of China, started in early September, and the number is growing every day. On average, the Chinese military carries out 2 to 4 artillery shelling of border units a day.”
“A Russian checkpoint nearby Nakhodka came under attack from the Chinese territory. Border guards who came to the rescue, allegedly destroyed 3 truck with ammunition and damaged an APC (armored personnel carrier). After exchanging fire, 16 Russian border guards died on the spot and the rest were forced to retreated, LifeNews television channel reported.”
Then, it was reposted on the InfoResist website.
This ‘breaking news’ was also posted in forums of Ukrainska Pravda, one of the most credible news portals in Ukraine.
As it turned out, the news was infused through Twitter.
The original Twitter source of this news was the Voice of Donetsk which twitted it on October 8, 2014
with reference to VeraVera (+18) @VeraVolf
What a reliable source! Of course no such news was ever reported by RIA Novosti which was cited by both Ukrainian agencies. Anticor.com.ua also made reference, without providing the link to the source, to the “site of [the Ukrainian oligarch Ihor] Kolomoiskiy.” To increase credibility of the piece Ukrainian news agencies even cited commentary of Russian ‘witnesses’ confirming the invasion:
On September 12, Russian online news portal Lenta.ru did post a report were it merely stated that the Russian military was holding military drills near the Chinese border in response to the Chinese drills.
This provocation was meant to demonstrate that the Ukrainian media is just as prone to as its Russian counterpart to use propaganda methods. Russians use such tricks on some Ukrainian media channels that reproduce the news without proper fact checking so that they lose trust and credibility of their readers. Breaking news is nothing but a message that people want to hear.
Censor.net has responded immediately and urgently removed this news. The fake could have achieved its goal: at least three Ukrainian Internet resources Censor.net, Anticor.com.ua, InfoResist and forums of Ukrainska Pravda were compromised and discredited. Russian information provokers suppose that there could be less trust to their information because of this provocation. Russian trolls did a great job for Putin.
One mocking and derogatory Russian post confirms that it was a planned Russian provocation in which, unfortunately, some Ukrainian media were caught.
Internet posts, of course, can never be removed completely, they remain in the cache of Internet browsers and search engines.
It confirms again that information wars are conducted by trained Russian professionals. Uncoordinated and untrained Ukrainian volunteer news media with scarce or no funding become easy targets for Russia. Information war is a formidable front, but so far it seems it has not been taken seriously by the Ukrainian government. Ukraine already is losing the infowar abroad. For example, try to type “Ukraine deutsch” in a YouTube search. You will be much surprised with what you see (in German of course). Most of the materials are pro-Russian or in agreement with Russian point of view or filled with conspiracy theories that US would like to conquer Europe and Ukraine.
If such situations persist and appreciation of the severity of the infowar does not change in Ukraine the situation will be far worse. The funds directed at the Ukrainian electoral campaign are sometimes used by some Ukrainian politicians to throw dirt at each other and results in the deterioration of Ukraine’s image. Even if a fraction of the funds such as those spent today on the electoral campaign could be committed to the professional informational work against Russian informational warfare, the benefits for Ukraine would be great. There are some activities of the independent foundations directed to build up professional resources from uncoordinated volunteer groups in Ukraine, but they are far from sufficient. Perhaps in the near future this situation will change and more support for independent media and social networks activities will be forthcoming.
Written by Dr. Vitalii Usenko, MD, MBA, expert of the Center of Military-Political Studies in the sphere of psychology of communications and by Dmytro Usenko, student at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto