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Unbalanced coverage most effective misinformation about Ukraine in the West – Andreas Umland

Kyiv, Independence Day 2018. Photo: Olena Makarenko, Euromaidan Press

And what do you read about Ukraine in your country?

Unbalanced information about Ukraine is one of the major problems in covering the country’s progress abroad, according to Andreas Umland, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation.

Speaking at the “Diagnosing and Countering Russian Influence and Media Capture in the Black Sea Countries” roundtable which took place in Kyiv on 4 September 2018, the researcher reminded about the main strategies of the Kremlin propaganda which can be described in four words: dismiss, distort, distract, dismay. However, according to him, the largest threat is coming from the information which is actually true.

The most effective misinformation and disinformation about Ukraine has been the truthful information about problematic aspects of Ukraine. [It is] becoming a problem for Ukraine not because it’s untrue, but it is in a disbalance to other information about Ukraine,” said Umland and gave examples.

There would be a lot of information about Ukraine about corruption, right-wing extremism, war crimes in Eastern Ukraine and so on. And some of these discourses can refer back to serious academic studies and to official reports from the UN, OSCE or from non-governmental organizations. And the problem is that people get this information and they would know a lot for example battalion or as it now called regiment Azov and they would also know about past of Azov. and what Andriy Biletskiy [the ex-commander of Azov] said before 2014 and this would be then repeated and repeated and then its very difficult deal with because not made up information.”

Umland is confident that similar negative aspects can be found in any other country and referred to the example of his native Germany:

We have a variety of right-wing extremism in Germany – subcultural, political and so on. I can talk to you a lot about it and if you would not know anything else about Germany you would think that fascism is everywhere there. And it would be all truthful information. But there is a lot of other information about Germany around the world, so if I tell you all this truthful information about German right-wing extremism that would not shape your opinion about Germany.”

But the situation in Germany and Ukraine differs dramatically:

Ukraine has a very big problem – people don’t know much about Ukraine. It is just a white sheet of paper. And then there would come this information and some of it you could disprove because its disinformation, but some of it would be true,” Umland said.

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