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Discrediting Biden and "Ukraine is to blame for this war." Anti-Western and pro-Russian narratives in Ukrainian online media

08.06.2021, 12:58

37% of pro-Russian misinformation and manipulation that have been actively spread in Ukraine target Western countries, and  mostly the United States.

These are the results of a monitoring study the Institute of Mass Information conducted passing through 15 websites *, in which pro-Russian and anti-Western narratives, fake news, manipulations, and news campaigns were identified during the period of 2020-2021, and which were seen just at the same time, as Russian propaganda mass media outlets launched its campaigns.

The study found in the Ukrainian segment of the Internet 6 sites from among the TOP-50 most visited, which systematically disseminated pro-Russian and anti-Western narratives. And after the sanctions of the National Security and Defense Council imposed on the set of Medvedchuk TV channels, these sites lost only a quarter of their audience in total. Prior to Medvedchuk's media blockade, these 6 sites had more than 42 million views per month (data from the specialized site similarweb.com). As a result of the decision of the National Security and Defense Council, three of the six sites changed domains and lost their audience, while the other three could keep one’s audience and have a total of 31 million views per month.

 

 

The study also found that the most common categories of narratives in these media were "Ukraine is under external governance" (18.5% of Russian propaganda in Ukraine) and "escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian war is Ukraine’s doing" (14.15%). Most often, these narratives are spearheaded against the presidents of the United States and Ukraine, Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky.

6 periods were selected for this study:

1) March 16-22, 2020 - the period of the anniversary of the "celebration of the referendum" in the Crimea;

2) May 14-20, 2020 - the period of the information campaign on the activities of "secret US biological laboratories" in Ukraine and the publication of the so-called "Derkach tapes";

3) September 4-10, 2020 - the period of the information campaign on US bombers aircrafts that flew over Ukraine;

4) November 2-8, 2020 - the period of voting and establishing the results of the US presidential election;

5) January 4-10, 2021 - the period of storming the Capitol;

6) April 1-7, 2021 - a period of escalation of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

During these periods, the study identified 1,526 news items with various narratives, of which 567 materials (or 37% of all) employed anti-Western narratives, and 959 materials (63%) had pro-Russian narratives. That is, we can talk about conducting not only systemic pro-Russian propaganda campaigns in the studied media, but also systemic anti-Western propaganda campaigns.

 

In general, most of news items with pro-Russian rhetoric were found on the following sites: Strana (381), 112ua (287), and ZIK (285).

 

ANTI-WESTERN NARRATIVES

Repartition of news items with anti-Western rhetoric is not equal depending on periods of the monitoring and is related to anti-Western information campaigns in Ukrainian mass media.  

Thus, within the period of May 14-20, 2020, 107 news items were identified which had anti-Western rhetoric (or 19% out of all news items with a whole number of anti-Western narratives).

This period coincides with a campaign to promote the so-called "Derkach tapes" - recordings of the Biden-Poroshenko conversation and claims about the need to investigate corruption involving American and Ukrainian officials. Another spike occurred in January 2021, when 137 materials with anti-Western narratives were recorded (24% of all materials). This period coincided with an active criticism of the new US administration, including the new President Joe Biden. Pro-Russian materials actively covered the smallest nuances of developments in the Capitol, raised the question of eventual election fraud in the United States. The pro-Russian media also actively disseminated information about Ukraine's foreign governance. In April 2021, the narrative was spread saying that it was the Western countries (in particular, NATO) that sought to harm Russia and the post-Soviet countries ("Europe and the United States are playing their combinations")

At the same time, there is no significant decrease in anti-Western news items after the blocking of mass media that fall within the sphere of influence of Viktor Medvedchuk.

The most of news items promoting anti-Western rhetoric were found on the site strana.ua : 173. Also, among the key channels spreading such narratives were mass media belonging to the sphere of influence of Viktor Medvedchuk (112ua.tv, zikua.tv, newsoneua.tv), where our experts found a total of 195 materials with anti-Western narratives.

  • The most common category of anti-Western rhetoric is "Ukraine is under an external governance," which includes the assertions such as "Western control centers," "The IMF has come to sell Ukrainian land," "Foreign curators are pushing Ukraine to war," and the “Ukrainian government reports before Western foreign senior managers"," Soros and his emissaries in Ukraine "," Soros-young". That is, it is a campaign to discredit the cooperation of Ukrainian state as a whole with Western partners, as well as individual officials and politicians. This campaign comes to the fact that all the troubles the Ukrainians have are due to "external governance", and so Ukraine ought to abandon the idea of cooperation with the West. These narratives were found in 18.15% of all news items. The front-runners in terms of the quantity of such rhetoric were golos.ua, strana.ua and 112ua.tv. Separately, IMI analysts singled out some narratives about the IMF's negative impact on the Ukrainian government. In particular, it is about carrying out reforms at the request of external creditors, the launching of the land market at the request of the IMF so that foreigners can buy Ukrainian rich black soils, and so on. These stories are aimed at undermining Ukraine's cooperation with the IMF, refusing to implement its reforms, and as a result to loose favorable loans and bring Ukraine to economic collapse. These narratives are recorded in 1.83% of the materials.
  •  The second most widespread anti-Western category of narratives is "The End of the Legend of Democracy in the United States." This includes, in particular, the information campaign of MP Andriy Derkach on the so-called recordings of the Biden-Poroshenko conversation and the investigation of corruption involving American and Ukrainian officials, then the campaign based on quotes from Hunter Biden's book, and finally the "Trump victory and falsification" and coverage of the storming of the Capitol. Within this narrative, a common category of manipulation was "Trump's victory in the presidential election was stolen." This is an information campaign in support of the headquarters of the former US president, which was launched in November 2020 by the site strana.ua. It was a series of publications on falsifications during the establishment of the results of the US presidential election, including allegations of ballot stuffing, non-existent Americans voting, and adding some zeros to the number of votes in favor of Biden. Such an information campaign not only formed a one-sided view of the vote count, but also created and fueled distrust of Biden and his team, as well as the United States as a whole, incapable of holding elections in accordance with democratic standards. These texts were published by Strana with reference to Russian websites, Trump's social media accounts, and statements by representatives of his election headquarters. In general, the materials within this narrative are aimed at undermining the authority of the United States in the eyes of Ukrainians, at discrediting Ukraine's course towards European integration and rapprochement with NATO. Narratives of this category are found in 11.93% of materials, most often they appeared on the sites of Medvedchuk's pool and on strana.ua.
  • The category "Discrediting the United States and European countries" (6.75% of the materials) gathered the narratives with unfounded criticism of the EU and the US, some government officials and international institutions, as well as the democratic system of Western democracies. To the same category the IMI analysts have included an information campaign about so-called "Lukashenko records" made public in September 2020 by the Belarusian authorities' (allegedly intercepted conversations of foreigners discussing creating problems for Putin so that he would not interfere in the affairs of Belarus). These records would prove that there was no poisoning of the Russian opposition, and the story of the poisoning by "Novichok" is nothing but a fiction of Europeans.

 

PRORUSSIAN NARRATIVES

  • • The most common category of pro-Russian narratives is "escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian war is Ukraine’s doing" (found in 14.15% of materials), which includes allegations of violation and non-compliance with the Minsk agreements, Ukraine's attempts to break the ceasefire in Donbas, preparation of the Ukrainian army to offensive action. In other words, this gives the impression that Russia and its puppets are seeking peace, while the Ukrainian government is engaged in escalation. As a result, Russia is trying to avoid its role as a party to the war and to create a background for lifting the sanctions imposed on it. Increase in the number of news items voicing this rhetoric was seen during September 2020 (period of aggravation in the area of ​​Shumy, Donetsk region and the ultimatum of the DPR to start shelling of Ukrainian positions) and April 2021 (period of aggravation in Donbass and Russia's built-up of troops to the border with Ukraine). The main agents publishing this narrative were Strana, Golos.ua and Vesti.
  • • The second category of pro-Russian narratives in terms of the number of news items is "discrediting the current government", ie unfounded criticism voiced by Russia, pro-Russian parties, politicians and experts. This narrative also promoted the discrediting of the Revolution of Dignity and the concept of "Ukraine is a failed state." In this way, they are trying to undermine confidence in the government, destabilize the country, create conditions for re-elections and change the position of the Ukrainian government towards Russia. This category of narratives is recorded in 12.58% of materials, and its main mouthpieces are the pool of Medvedchuk's sites : 112ua.tv, zikua.tv and newsoneua.tv.
  •  The next category of pro-Russian narratives in terms of its number is "Russia succeeds in fighting coronavirus" (10.35%). This category includes assertions saying that Russia has successfully developed an effective Sputnik-V vaccine, Putin's willingness to sell the vaccine to Ukraine as a sign of the Kremlin's peaceful stance, and official Kyiv's refusal to accept the offer, even to the detriment of Ukrainians. The spike of presence of news items with this rhetoric was the fall of 2020, and the leaders in such publications were 112ua.tv, zikua.tv, newsoneua.tv and strana.ua.
  • • Next by number of news items was the category of "Extremism / Nationalism / Nazism / Radicals in Ukraine" narratives - 9.64% of the total number of materials with pro-Russian and anti-Western narratives. This category included manipulative assertions on the widespread sympathies to Nazi ideas in Ukraine, the representation of Ukrainians as fascists and radicals, and the assertion that the Ukrainian authorities are acting under pressure and cooperating with radicals. The narrative also disseminated information about the persecution of Russian-speaking citizens and the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. This creates grounds for a split among Ukrainian citizens, hatred of Ukrainian street activists, and the transformation of patriotic Ukrainians into objects of hatred both inside Ukraine and in Russia. Most frequently, these were strana.ua and 112ua.tv that came out with news in this aspect.
  • • And another category of narratives, which stands out against others : "Ukraine carries out repression" (10.94%). It is about manipulations around sanctions against pro-Russian politicians and the media, the second is about the oppression of the Russian language and Russian-speakers in Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church, and so on. This narrative can be used to discredit the democratic structure of the state and justify Russian military aggression against Ukraine to protect against persecution by the pro-Russian part of the country's population. The leaders in publishing this narrative are 112ua.tv, zikua.tv, and newsoneua.tv.

Here are examples of pro-Russian and anti-Western narratives in the news of these sites.

STRANA.UA

 Strana.ua has 25 million hits per month (hereinafter - according to the site similarweb.com). The founder of this media on the site strana.ua is Lasmak LLC. According to the registration data, the beneficial owners of this LLC are Igor Guzhva and Ganna Solntseva, and the founders are Ganna Solntseva and Madzheri LLC.

 The main categories of narratives published by "Strana":

1) "The escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian war Ukraine’s doing, Ukraine is guilty of non-compliance with the Minsk agreements" - 53 materials throughout the monitoring study period. There is an increase in news with such a rhetoric in the spring of 2021 during the period of built-up of Russian troops to the border with Ukraine and the occupied Crimea.

Examples:

  •         «This is not the first provocation by Reznikov aimed at disrupting of peace negotiations and , escalation of the conflict» dated of 2.11.2020;
  •         «Ukrainian counterpart can undertake provocative actions which will lead to war» dated of 1.04.2021;
  •        “The explosive device, which killed a five-year-old boy near the village of Aleksandrovskoye in Donetsk on April 2, was dropped from an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the 59th brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. ” dated April 6, 2021.

2) "Trump's victory in the presidential election was stolen" : 36 materials between November 2-8, 2020 and January 4-10, 2021. There is a tendency to biased coverage of the vote count, in particular, quoting Donald Trump (primarily from social networks) and representatives his headquarters.

Examples:

 

3) "External governance" : 37 news items throughout the whole monitoring study period.

Examples:

  • “The group of prosecutors, which has been on the Maydan case for the sixth year, or rather continues to make exempt the real perpetrators of the fusillade from suspicion, is sponsored and supported by Western curators. In particular, the International Renaissance Foundation, which belongs to George Soros "in the news dated of 14.05.2020;
  • "there was a hollo from external creditors - the masters of the current government" - in the news dated of 3.11.2020;
  • "Zelensky appreciates staff close to the" seven-embassy "- in the news dated of 7.11.2020.4)

"Extremism / Nationalism / Nazism / Hard-core nationalists in Ukraine" - 46 materials throughout the whole period of the monitoring study.

Examples:

5) "The end of the legend of democracy, Biden is corrupted" - 34 news items. In particular, “Strana” began to employ such rhetoric during May 19-20, 2020, as Andriy Derkach published the so-called recordings of a Biden-Poroshenko telephone conversation. To the point, Strana provided information support for this news campaign, which the editorial office itself called Bidengate.

Examples:

  • "Andrei Derkach published audio compromising Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden, Biden gives unequivocal orders to Poroshenko";
  • "Biden put pressure on Poroshenko over Shokin - because of his son Hunter's corruption schemes or for some other reason, this is important from the point of view of the investigation in the United States";
  • "Trump's team, represented by his aide Rudy Giuliani, has long been looking for compromising information on Biden in Ukraine. And they call for an investigation into the corruption of the former vice president in our country ";
  • "In Biden's pocket… a strong argument… 1 billion loan guarantees… such is the price of rescuing Biden from prison."

Narratives denying Navalny's poisoning ("If it was a" Novichok", we wouldn't have seen him alive") and the news dated of September 7, 2020, and the involvement of foreigners in the falsification of poisoning were also published on the Strana website. The second case concerns the so-called "Lukashenko's recordings" - allegedly intercepted conversations of foreigners published in September 2020, which discussed creating problems for Putin so that he would not interfere in the affairs of Belarus.

And in the list of materials with the category of narratives "NATO threatens Russia" there is news for 6.09.2020 "American planes are practicing missile strikes on Russian territory."

Much of these narratives are presented like an editorial stuff. Also anti-Western and pro-Russian narratives were voiced by:

  • Andriy Portnov, an official under Yanukovych's presidency;
  • Svitlana Kryukova, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Strana website;
  • Olesya Medvedev, an employee of the Strana website;
  • Journalist for the “Strana" website Oleksiy Romanov;
  • Doctor Olga Golubovska;
  • Political scientist Kost Bondarenko;
  • Political scientist Dmytro Spivak;
  • Yanukovych's lawyer Vitaliy Serdyuk;
  • MP Rinat Kuzmin;
  • MP from the OPFL Vadym Rabinovych;
  • MP Andriy Derkach;
  • Ex-MP Oleksandr Onishchenko;
  • Ex-MP David Zhvania.

 

GOLOS.UA

Golos.ua has 2 million hits per month. As to the registration documents, the founder and ultimate beneficial owner of GOLOS.YU LLC is Oksana Vashchenko. She is the wife of the leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine Petro Symonenko.

The main categories of narratives spread by the site golos.ua:

1) "External governance" : 51 news items.

Examples:

  • "The result of the US elections: Will Ukraine become the" eternally defaulted 51st state "" in the news dated of 4.11.2020
  • "Law on banks aims at providing external control over the banking system of Ukraine" in the news dated of 16.05.2020
  • "Dubinsky appealed to the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) with a demand to verify the declaration of "complete Soros-young person" Oleksandra Ustinova" in the news dated of 20.03.2020

 

2) "Escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian war is Ukraines doing" : 31 news items.

Examples:

  • "The regime in place headed by Zelensky, is not going to implement the Minsk agreements, much less allow a peaceful end to this conflict" in the news dated of 4.01.2021;
  • "The Ukrainian side always appeals to Russia in case of any escalation at the front, this is a usual practice" in the news dated of 8.09.2020;
  • "Zelensky may try to resolve the conflict in Donbass by tour de force" in the news dated of 5.04.2021.

 

3) "Russia’s success in fighting against coronavirus, Sputnik-B vaccine": 15 news items

Examples:

  • "By refusing to negotiate the purchase of the world's only Russian coronavirus vaccine, the Ukrainian government has once again put its political ambitions above the lives of millions of citizens of our country" in the news dated of 5.11.2020;
  • "The world community is serious about the potential of the Russian vaccine" Sputnik V "" in the news dated of 6.01.2021;
  • "When I held talks with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and he approved the supply of the Sputnik V vaccine to Ukraine" in the news dated of April 1, 2021.

 Anti-Western and pro-Russian narratives were voiced by:

  • Lawyer Igor Serkov;
  • Lawyer Rostislav Kravets;
  • Political scientist Serhiy Tolstov;
  • Political scientist Valdentyn Gayday;
  • Political scientist Oleksabnder Lazarev;
  • Political scientist Mykhaylo Pohrebynsky;
  • Political scientist Andriy Zolotarev;
  • Political scientist Oleksiy Yakubin;
  • Political scientist Volodymyr Volya;
  • Political scientist Mykhailo Chaplyha;
  • Political scientist Kirill Molchanov;
  • Political scientist Pavlo Rudyakov;
  • International affairs expert Ruslan Bizyaev;
  • Economist Oleksiy Kushch;
  • Analyst Valentyn Zemlyansky;
  • Blogger Oleg Ponomaryov;
  • Journalist Oleksiy Kurakin;
  • MP Viktor Medvedchuk;
  • MP from the OPFL Yuriy Zagorodny;
  • MP from the OPFL Oleg Voloshin;
  • MP Rinat Kuzmin;
  • Ex-MP Petro Simonenko;
  • Ex-MP David Zhvania.

 

112ua.tv

 

Data on visits are non-existent for the last recent months. Before the TV channels from Medvedchuk's pool came under sanctions, this site had got 7.5 million hits per month. The site 112ua.tv (before suspension of 112.ua) is part of Viktor Medvedchuk's media pool, as well as zikua.tv (before suspension of zik.ua) and newsoneua.tv (before suspension of newsone.ua)

1) "Discrediting the current government of Ukraine" : 56 news items

Examples:

  • "The authorities in Ukraine are specifically exacerbating the situation in Donbass region. They realize well that attention of society has to be diverted from tariff increases, pandemics, and failed vaccinations. This can be done in a way convenient for them - escalation in Donbass. This government does not and will never have the task of achieving peace in eastern Ukraine. Do not expect any solution to the war from this regime, they are capable only to produce chaos, death and pain, " as Ilya Kiva said in an article dated April 4, 2021;
  • "The government must stop making provocative statements and ensure the negotiation process to achieve peace in Ukraine.", - said Yuri Boyko in the story from 07.04.2021;
  • "The conflict in Donbass continues, a chaotic personnel policy annihilates the system of public administration, instead of supporting citizens and the economy in the priority of repaying large-scale external loans - these are the key results of the government work." as this is said in the story dated of 15.05.2021.

2) «Russia’s succeeds in fighting coronavirus, vaccine Sputnik V: 30 news items

Examples:

"By refusing to negotiate the purchase of the world's only Russian coronavirus vaccine, the Ukrainian government has once again put its political ambitions above the lives of millions of citizens of our country" in the news dated of 5.11.2020;

  • "Many countries are waiting in line for a vaccine from the Russian Federation, and we will stay in the backyard" in the news dated of 8.11.2020;
  • Medvedchuk has already agreed to receive the only Sputnik V vaccine available as soon as possible. But the authorities, apparently, do not care about people's lives and health "as they said in the news dated of 4.01.2020.

 

3) "Extremism / nationalism / Nazism / radicals in Ukraine" : 29 news items

Examples:

  • "The authorities, bowing to the hard-core nationalists, decided to withdraw from the Kryvyi Rih Museum the battle flags of the military units of the Red Army" as they said in the news dated of 16.03.2020;
  • “In European countries, any attempts to manifest national radicalism are severely suppressed. In Ukraine, such manifestations of radicalism have occurred in the past, but they surfaced especially actively at the beginning of the local election campaign "in the news dated of 4.09.2020;
  • "Villages in Donbass are peopled by hard-core nationalists on the eve of the elections" in the news dated of 9.09.2020.

 4) “The escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian war is Ukraine’s doing ”: 31 news items

Examples:

  • "The developments in Donbass and the peaceful settlement of the conflict depend entirely on the political will of President Zelensky… The situation in Donbass is apparently inflamed, specifically and unmotivated" in the news dated of 1.04.2021;
  • "The rhetoric of the Ukrainian leadership, which intensifies tensions and exacerbates the conflict, has gone far and is fraught with the most severe consequences," as they said in the news dated of 5.04.2021;
  • “Kyiv does need neither dialogue in Minsk, nor dialogue in accordance with the Minsk agreements. At the same time, the Ukrainian government deliberately destroys relations with Belarus ", as they said in the news dated of April 6, 2021.

 

5) "External governance" : 55 news items

Examples:

  • “We are a colony. And we have economy structure inherent to a colony! ” they said in the story dated of 6.01.2021;
  • "The world credit oligarchy rules Ukraine and the people", as they said in the story dated of 8.01.2021;
  • "We can not bring order to our country by ourselves," as they said in the news dated of 7.09.2020.

Also, 112ua.tv website had news supporting pro-Russian and anti-American information campaign on the so-called "secret US biological laboratories in Ukraine in the." "What kind of ne’er-do-well you have to be, if you hide the information about American bacteriological laboratories and the experiments that are being conducted there from your people?!" This is not the government, this is an organized crime syndicate, and Ukrainians are just a biomass for them to conduct experiments with combat viruses and this in total impunity! " as they said in the news dated of 14.05.2020.

Among the news items with anti-American rhetoric, it is worth to be noted the following ones:

  • News with a narrative about the decline of the West dated of 8.01.2021: "A total breakdown of the legend of "democracy in the American way ", which the United States are cynically trying to impose to the whole world."

-The narrative about the decline of the West from January 8, 2021: "The storming of the Capitol by right-wing radicals, in which several people were dead, and shops and police stations were burnt, robberies by left-wing radicals took place two months ago, evidenced a deep schism in American society."

  • Narrative about the threat from the US in a video news dated of 09.09.2020 about the flight of American aircrafts over Ukraine: "This is an extremely dangerous step towards further escalation of tensions due to the military-political situation around Ukraine, post-Soviet space and the Black Sea-Caspian region, that the origin had been laid down during the Ossetian conflict unleashed by Saakashvili's regime in 2008. "

Anti-Western and pro-Russian narratives were voiced by:

  • Political scientist Dmytro Spivak;
  • Political scientist Mykhailo Pohrebynsky;
  • Political scientist Vadym Karasev;
  • Expert Dmytro Marunich;
  • Analyst Oleksiy Kalinichenko;
  • Analyst Valentin Zemlyansky;
  • Journalist Iryna Gavrilova;
  • Journalist Yuriy Molchanov;
  • Expert Volodymyr Katzman;
  • Expert Victor Skarshevsky;
  • Expert in conflict resolution techniques Maryna Cherenkova;
  • MP from the OPFL Viktor Medvedchuk;
  • MP from the OPFL Vadym Rabinovych;
  • MP Yuriy Boyko;
  • MP Rinat Kuzmin;
  • MP Ilya Kiva;
  • MP from the OPFL Oleg Voloshin;
  • MP Viktor Chorny;
  • Artem Marchevsky, the head of the youth branch of OPFL;
  • Ex-MP Ganna Herman;
  • Ex-MP Petro Simonenko;
  • Former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov;
  • Politician Andriy Palchevsky;
  • Anatoly Shariy. 

VESTI

 

“VESTI” gets 4 million hits per month. The domain vesti.ua is registered to the Cypriot company MEDIA HOLDING VESTI UKRAINE LTD. The same company is listed on the site itself. The  Vesti Ukraina media holding is linked to fugitive Minister Oleksandr Klymenko, who went into hiding in Russia after the Revolution of Dignity.

 

The main categories of narratives published by "VESTI":

1) "Escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian war is Ukraine’s doing": 23 news items.

Examples:

  • In Russia they said that "the video conference of the Trilateral Contact Group was on the verge of failure due to the position of Kyiv" in the news item dated of 14.05.2020;
  • "Official Kyiv has not yet fulfilled a number of commitments" in the news dated of 1.04.2021;
  • “Violations of all Minsk agreements by Kyiv are evident. Now Kyiv has switched from criticizing the political framework for resolving the crisis in Donbass to threats to start military action "in the story dated of 6.04.2021.

2) "The End of the Legend of Democracy, Biden is corrupted" : 19 news items.

Examples:

  • “Kerry asked Poroshenko to consider the option of substitution of Prosecutor General Shokin, who "blocked the reform of the purge of the Prosecutor General's Office" in the news from 19.05.2020;
  • "Revenge of Democraption" represented by Biden, Kent and Keen. Revenge is an integral part of their regular activities against Ukrainian investigators, journalists, experts, solving more and more schemes of international corruption "in the news dated of 10.09.2020;
  • " Mysterious death of a diplomat got already several leads: adherents of conspiracy theories blame the United States for the murder" in the news dated of 18.05.2020;
  • "The pogroms in the US Congress building are a complete failure of the legend of" American democracy "" in the news dated of 8.01.2021.

 

3) "External governance": 13 news items

Examples:

  • Ukraine is under external governance. I am concerned with that there is a statement by a very influential embassy and a very influential state that supports these sanctions ”in the news dated of April 1, 2021;
  • "Putin will act ultimatimum-like, if he calls on Merkel and Macron to bring Zelensky to life, since the escalation of tensions is due to the fault of the Ukrainian government, which is controlled by the United States" in the news dated of 1.04.2021;
  • "All their power was aimed at fulfilling “wish list” of the International Finance Corporation" in the news of 2.04.2021.

Since February 2021, the website of “Vesti” has increased many times the number of news with pro-Russian narratives. This coincided with an escalation at the front. In particular, on April 5, 2021, he spread a fake news about a boy killed by the Ukrainian military: "Since the next escalation of Kyiv's aggression against Donbass, this is the second victim who died as a result of a terrorist attack organized by Ukrainian militants."

Much of these narratives is presented like it were editorial content. Also anti-Western and pro-Russian narratives were voiced by:

  • political scientist Ruslan Bortnik;
  • political scientist Denis Zharkykh;
  • political scientist Kirilo Sazonov;
  • political scientist Oleksiy Yakubin;
  • political scientist Oleksiy Voronenko;
  • political scientist Taras Chornovol;
  • political scientist Serhiy Markov;
  • international affairs expert Denys Pilash;
  • expert Serhiy Rosenbaum;
  • media expert Larysa Drozdova;
  • MP Andriy Derkach;
  • MP Viktor Medvedchuk;
  • MP Vasyl Nimchenko;
  • MP Maksym Buzhansky;
  • Former MP Vitaliy Zhuravsky;
  • Anatoly Shariy.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

In February 2021, the National Security and Defense Council staged a strike on pro-Russian propaganda on Ukrainian television. Then the TV channels from Medvedchuk's pool came under sanctions: 112th, Newsone, ZIK. Later, an attempt to broadcast this media under the new logo of the First Independent TV Channel was prevented.

As a result, pro-Russian and anti-Western information campaigns and narratives on Ukrainian television have declined significantly. Some of the speakers who voiced these narratives on Medvedchuk's channels switched to NASH and Ukraina-24 TV channels. However, the overall degree of pro-Russian rhetoric has decreased significantly. Together with the audience that consumed it.

Instead, there has been no such sharp drop on the Internet. Following the February NSDC sanctions, the online audience of anti-Western and pro-Russian narratives has shrunk by only a quarter.

Thus, before the sanctions the three sites from Medvedchuk's pool had a total number of monthly hits at the level of 11 million (112.ua - 7.5 million, Newsone - 2.5 million, ZIK - 1.2 million). Today, the statistics of views of these media on new domains are not available on the specialized site similarweb.com. This indicates low views of these sites.

Instead, an IMI study found that six sites that spread anti-Western and pro-Russian narratives between 2020 and 2021 and conducted entire information campaigns of manipulation and misinformation, with a total of more than 42 million hits per month. Now, the three sites that failed to fall under the sanctions have a total of 31 million hits per month (strana.ua - 25 million, vesti.ua - 4 million, golos.ua - 2 million).

That is, we can say that the Ukrainian online audience is still coming under influence of pro-Russian manipulative companies. And these media outlets with pro-Russian owners keep on spreading anti-Western and pro-Russian rhetorics.

Moreover, IMI analysts note that the sites of Medvedchuk's pool, strana.ua and vesti.ua increased the number of news with pro-Russian narratives after February 2021. In particular, they became leaders in the dissemination of narratives in the categories of "external governance" and "the escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian war is Ukraine’s doing" during the escalation at the front and Russia's built-up of troops to the borders with Ukraine and Crimea.

* Sites covered by the monitoring study: 112ua, ZIK, Newsone, Strana, Golos.ua, News, Ukrayinsky Novyny, Podrobnosti, Bahnet, KP in Ukraine, Apostrophe, Commentari, Telegraph. The total sample is 1526 news items.

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