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How online media speak of radicals and extremists. Monitoring study

25.11.2020, 14:44

"Kyiv nationalists staged a protest against LGBT people", "Right Sector held rally near Palchevsky's clinic", "Neo-Nazi group tried to recruit people in Ukraine", "SBU conducted mass searches in" National Corps "and" Azov", such headlines happen increasingly frequent in Ukrainian media. 

Not only there are scandals related to the actions of extremists, Russian propaganda about the Nazis who would seize power in Ukraine, mass media themselves cover this sensitive issue inconsistently. 

IMI experts decided to find out how and what Ukrainian popular media write about extremist and radical organizations and groups. 

The monitoring included all news published on 20 popular online media during October 2020 *.

Who and how spoke about extremist movements 

According to IMI study, most of the extremist movements were covered on the website - 15% of the total number of mentions in mass mediawe have been monitoring. In second place - "Strana" (10%). The third position was shared by TSN, "Ukrainska Pravda" and NV: 7% of the total number of mentions of radicals in the monitored mass media. 

The least mentions about radicals and extremists was seen on the sites "Liga" and "Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya" - 1% of the total number of mentions in the monitored mass media. No mention was made on the “Segodnya” website during the monitoring period *.

The study found that 17% of all mentions of radical extremists in the online media we have surveyed turned out to be pro-Russian manipulation. 

In particular, sites with pro-Russian rhetoric and “Strana” often published pieces about right-wing radical movements in Ukraine in violation of the standard of balance and employing an emotional vocabulary.

The main conclusions of the study:

-During the monitoring period, only 73% of news items that mentioned radical or extremist groups adhered to the journalistic standard of balance of opinions and points of viewThis standard was most often violated by the pro-Russian media, in particular by retransmitting stories / statements from the political forces they serve or narratives of Russian / Belarusian propaganda. 

-23% of articles had signs of hate speech.

-Regarding geolocation, 75% concerned Ukrainian extremists in Ukraine, respectively 25% of news concerned foreign organizations and groups. 

-81% of the stories about extremists concerned groups and in 19%  spoke of individuals. 

-Most often they mentioned " National corps" (31% of all references within a month), in second place they spoke of a politician Illya Kyva and "Patriots - For life" (10% ). The "Right Sector" accounted for 4% of mentions about radicals in mass media. 

-The study found that mass media often did not identify radical organizations or groups (and possibly confuse them): in at least a third of cases, the media spoke of simply "far-right," "nationalists," and "radicals." 

-Regarding the topics that mentioned radicals: in the first place there were the criminal chronicle (28% of the total number of stories). There were five main newsmaking facts for these stories: the explosion near the National Corps office, the case of Kyva’s bus, the massive search of the Radicals, the detention of foreign neo-Nazis, and the deadly massacre in France. 18% of mentions were published on occasion of the Defender of the Fatherland Day. 17% were related to the human rights issues and politics. 13% of references to extremists and radicals were related to international news, and 7% dealt with other news. 

In 80% of the stories, mentions of extremists were direct (the main characters of the publications). In 20% of the materials, journalists mentioned them secondarily.

Power wing of OPFL and " National Corps "

In August 2020, in the Kharkiv region, representatives of the National Corps attacked a bus carrying representatives of the “Patriots - For Life”.  

Since then, Ukrainian news agencies have provided factual background information and information on court decisions.

All suspects in the attack on the bus OPFL near Lyubotyn will remand in custody - court / Interfax

Attack on Kyva’s bus: Court remanded suspected persons in pre-trial detention center / Ukrinform

The same news was presented at Gordon online edition saying that the attackers were members of the National Corps and the Azov Regiment, and at the same time, they cited an opposing the opinion of Azov and the National Corps, where they denied to be involved. 

Court remanded in custody 15 suspects of attack on bus with Kyva’s comrades / "Gordon"

The standard of balance was frequently violated and the position of Kyva and "Patriots - for life"was promoted on site

Court of Appeals arrested ten radicals who attacked the bus of activists of the organization "Patriots - For Life" /

The website published a news item quoting a member of the OPFL saying that representatives of the National Corps and Azov had carried out an armed attack on a bus with members of the “Patriots for Life”. They also did not forget to complain that the president Zelensky was wrong. The OPFL is constantly mentionning that Zelensky is "the second Poroshenko, or even worse."

Subsequently, prepared a series of pieces about right-wing radicals voiced by the members of the OPFL party and “experts”. Most of them were published on October 1 and 2 (several hours apart), following the news about the arrest of members of the National Corps. For example, Ilya Kyva and Oleg Shyryaev, who would be regional leader of the “Patriots - For Life” movement, as well as Andriy Lesyk, a member of the OPFL. 

Oleg Shiryaev: The law has come into force for right-wing radicals

Lesyk about trial of radicals who attacked the bus "Patriots - For Life": perpetrators should get  maximum term (VIDEO)

Kyva: Biletsky's intention to make his henchmen avoid punishment for shooting the "Patriots - For Life" bus ended in fiasco (VIDEO)

Kyva: perpetrators of shooting of bus "Patriots - For Life" should sit on the dock (VIDEO) 

Kyva: We demand from security officers to protect people from radicals (VIDEO)

Ilya Kyva: leadership of National Corps should be punished along with perpetrators  

In all these videos, the same rhetoric can be traced that in Ukraine there is a rampancy of "right-wing radicals - bandits who are being under cover of the authorities." If you do not have enough health and energy to watch all these videos, then we quote Ilya Kyva from one video speaking about the attackers on members of the "Patriots - for life":

“... Well-formed, trained terrorist gangs led by Biletsky [the leader of the National Corps] , which is under the control of the government, and all this was obviously created earlier …to put pressure on the opposition, to intimidate uncomfortable citizens, for the state system, it was all created in the days of Poroshenko ... ” 

Similar accusations are made by "OPFLers" in all videos. It seems like one signle text was written by the same copywriter. Even the words were not displaced from its lines. 

Long-known people - Oleg Shiryaev and Olena Bondarenko - undertook to confirm these narratives on October 27, who made very similar speeches with a difference of three hours.

Shiryaev on the shooting of the bus "Patriots - For Life": the radicals are trying to put pressure on the investigation to release the perpetrators (video)  

Bondarenko on the shooting of the bus "Patriots - For Life": The judiciary will be under pressure (video) 

While vigourously defending the “Patriots - for Life”, did not disclose in detail who they were and where they were going to. It seemed that this was not about the actual "power wing" of the OPFL in Ukraine, but about the artists who went to the children's morning. 

The pro-Russian websites Strana and also published information about “mass searches” of “radical bandits,” citing Andriy Portnov and their own sources in the SBU. Apart from these two sites, none of the Ukrainian media, that we are monitoring, published this information. 

SBU secretly conducted mass searches in Atsakov in "National Corps" and "Azov" / "Strana"

The Security Service of Ukraine conducted mass searches in the National Corps and Azov /

Searches in "Azov" and "National Corps". Weapons and drugs found. Provocations in the elections were being prepared. All details / “Strana”

Criminal Chronicle 

One of the top topics related to the radicals was the explosion of a grenade near the office of the National Corps. There was no lack of balance of opinion and point of view in this news, and there were no tokens to indicate hate speech.

An explosion took place near office of National Corps in Kyiv, police mentioned grenade explosion / Ukrainian Pravda

A grenade was detonated in Kyiv under office of National Corps / Obozrevatel

A grenade was detonated near the National Corps / Public office in Kyiv at night/ Suspilne

In addition to local criminal news, there were mentions of recruiting Ukrainians to the neo-Nazi movement.

In Ukraine, it was planned to create a branch of neo-Nazis to recruit people - SBU / Ukrayinska Pravda

A neo-Nazi group wanted to recruit people in Ukraine  / RBC-Ukraine

SBU declares suppression of attempt of two foreigners to create neo-Nazi cell in Ukraine / “Liga”

And news of the murder of a history teacher killed by an 18-year-old guy who was considered by the media to be a radical Islamist. With this in mind, most media outlets used tokens in their news that could be seen as hate speech.

The killer of a teacher near Paris was a native of Moscow - mass media  / 112 Ukraine

Murder near Paris: terrorism with a Moscow print/ Ukrinform

Decapitation of a teacher in France: government is preparing to deport more than two hundred people who may be associated with extremist organizations  /

Defender of the Fatherland Day

The stories about the actions dedicated to the Defender of the Fatherland Day (and the March of Glory of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army) accounted for 18% of the total number of news related to the Radical men.

In addition to reports from the March in Defense of Defender's Day, which were published by Ukrainian media:

March in honor of Defender's Day. Right-wing forces go to Zelensky's office - broadcast / "Liga"

Nationalists march UPA in Kyiv - video  / “Bukvy”

Nationalists start march in Kyiv, go to Bankova with demands  / “Ukrainska Pravda”

- there were traditional “rublout” and emotional vocabulary, evaluative judgments from the pro-Russian sites "Strana" and

Nationalists noyt wearing face masks, nor respecting distance held a UPA march in Kiev. How it was / “Strana”

In the midst of coronavirus anti-records, nationalists plan to hold a UPA march in Kyiv/ “Strana”

Fireworks and lack of social distance: March to Defender's Day took place in Kyiv /

Anti-Semitism and loneliness . Why the "UPA march" this year was not massive / "Strana"

But it is interesting that even "Strana" admitted in the story that, " despite years of propaganda, (far-right. - Ed.) did notr enjoy mass popularity". ( After these words, Ilya Kyva is furious somewhere, speaking in every prime time of Medvedchuk's channels sabout the terrible threat and rampant extremism in Ukraine.)

Human rights and LGBT people

The third most frequent mentions of radicals was human rights (17% of the total).

The incident around illumination of the Gulliver shopping mall became an informational newsmaker. A rainbow flag was broadcast on the building, which provoked a protest from right-wing radical organizations. Subsequently, KyivPride organized a rally in support of LGBT visibility, which was also attended by nationalist organizations. 

Most of the surveyed media had their own correspondents on site. There was no hate speech in such news, and the balance of opinions was mostly maintained:

An action for LGBTs rights took place in the center of Kyiv/ UP

The LGBT issue is sensitive and manipulated quite a bit. So, writing such news one should  especially carefully select words, be sure to provide a background, put a balance of opinions and avoid incorrect terminology or personal reflections. IMI's research showed that journalists of some publications, covering the situation with the coverage of Gulliver shopping mall, did not present the point of view of KyivPride itself, but gave the floor only to right-wing radicals and representatives of the shopping center. In this case, it was a violation of the balance sheet standard.

In addition, the UNIAN website used some incorrect terminology about homosexual people: instead of the token " homosexuality" it is necessary to use " homosexualness". 

But, of course, as long as the Ukrainian media take the courage to use incorrect terminology, hate speech, write news not for easy perception of events, but interpret it in their own way, write headlines "with a spoonful of shit", democratic Ukraine will still be intolerant of otherness, to those who do not fit into the stereotypical staples of patriarchy.

Politics and extremism with radicals

Mentions of extremists were also present in political news (17% of the total news included in the monitoring). 

Ilya Kyva, member of the OPFL party, together with his “personal army” “ Patriots - For Life” laid flowers in Kyiv's Eternal Glory Park, where he thanked the "Soviet soldiers". 

However, Kyva could not avoid som pro-Russian manipulations and the division of Ukraine into "western parts" and Ukraine (ie, all other regions):

"We will never reconcile, we will never understand the fascist ideology, the Nazi ideology, which is deeply rooted in the western parts of Ukraine today. "

Kyva staged a rally in the center of Kyiv and thanked the USSR. Video / "Obozrevatel"

These are not isolated cases when Ilya Kyva, together with his colleagues from OPFL, tries in every possible way to pull the veil of patriotism on his young comrades from "Patriots - for Life". We have given above examples of manipulations and narratives on pro-Russian sites about the battle over who is the greater patriot: the "far right" or the "Kyva’s patriots."

Meanwhile, Volodymyr Katsman, who appears in Medvedchuk's media both as a political expert and as a journalist, is making accusations against the moderators of US Facebook page. Once again, hate speech is being dispersed and attention is being drawn to who is a "true patriot" in Ukraine. 

Facebook moderators settle acounts with Rabinovych playing bandits and neo-fascists - Volodymyr Katsman / “112 Ukraine”

And about quirky corn

"In the Ukrainian camp they made a swastika with the bodies of children " (C) "Strana"). Calm down, the children are alive. It seems that for the employees of the "Strana" Ukrainian automatically means Nazi. In fact, the camp really belongs to right-wing radicals, not ordinary Ukrainians, and, as you can guess, the story lacks credibility, balance, and separation of facts from comments. 

A swastika made of bodiesof children in Ukraine field. Picture

On this occqsion, IMI experts would like to remind that they publish a quarterly a quarterly  rating of popular national media in terms of its compliance with journalistic standards. For example, those media outlets that belong to pro-Russian politicians or disseminate half-truthful or unverified information often have the lowest ratings. 


Despite distortions in pro-Russian sources, problems with identification and balance, the vast majority of Ukrainian online media wrote about members of extremist and radical groups in a rather restrained and balanced way.

The main topics mentioned by the radicals were conflicts and crime. Much of this news was presented in the form of reports or a list of facts from the scene. 

At the same time, IMI experts found not sufficient of balance and correct terminology not in coverage of radicals, but in their coverage of the rights of LGBT or other vulnerable populations that could be misused or journalists could "forget" to cover their views. 

At the same time, the media seem to have a weak distinction between radical groups and do not really understand the essence of the concepts of "extremism", "radicalism", "Nazism", "fascism", "neo-Nazism" and so on.  

The study of online media content was conducted from 1 to 31 October 2020 inclusive in 20 national online media. 


In 2018, the Ukrainian office of the human rights organization Freedom House published a report "Far-right extremism as a threat to Ukrainian democracy".  The analysis was about which organizations and groups in Ukraine were extremist in their behavior, which threatened a democratic Ukraine. Vyacheslav Likhachev, an expert on right-wing groups, listed cases where extremist groups threatened and sowed anxiety. In this way, extremist groups tried to impose their views and values ​​on Ukrainian society. In the text, Freedom House listed extremist organizations at the national level: VO "Svoboda", "National Corps" and "Right Sector", as well as extremist groups.enrolled : " Volunteer Movement of the OUN", "Bratstvo", C14, "Carpatska Sich", "Social-National Assembly, UNA-UNSO", "Tradittsiya I poryadok", "Revansh", "Revolutionary Right Forces", "Catechon" and others .

Based on the data of this study, with the help of AI, with which IMI experts work, and some customized Google Advanced Search queries, all news that had mentions of the above-mentioned organizations and groups, as well as mentions of Ilya Kyva and his organization “Patriots - For life ”and other related keyword mentions. The monitoring covered 20 Ukrainian online media: Ukrayinska Pravda, Strana, Korrespondent, Channel 24, RBC-Ukraine, Obozrevatel, NV, Censor, TSN, Gordon, and Politeka. UNIAN, "Liga", "Suspilne", 112 channel, "Segodnya", "dzerkalo Tyzhdnya", Bukvy", Ukrinform, Interfax-Ukraine.

Monitoring period: from 1 to 31 October inclusive.

Total sample: 223 pieces. 

The news items have been analyzed in terms of: subject matter, mention (direct / indirect), personification (group / person separately), news geolocation (Ukraine / world), balance of opinions (observed / violated), hate speech (yes / no) and, accordingly, the name of the group / organization mentioned in the news.

The writing of this material was made possible by the support of the American people through the USAID Media Program in Ukraine project, which is implemented by the international organization Internews. The contents are the sole responsibility of the Institute for Mass Information and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the US Government or Internews.

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