The Kremlin’s propaganda continues to advance by leaps and bounds. Instead of being embarrassed by the constant stream of debunked news stories, Russia’s agitprop machine is on the offensive. The principle of “mirroring” is a common Soviet/post-Soviet tactic employed by the Russian Federation, brazenly accusing opponents of the same actions Moscow is undertaking. Russia’s talking heads and Internet trolls have taken to accusing the West of inventing “the myth of Russian propaganda.” The Kremlin’s official and unofficial spokespersons disingenuously accuse Ukraine of “faking the news.” The stream of phony “experts” delivers deliberately false narrative to please the likes of RT and Sputnik. Russian media outlets tirelessly disseminate various hit pieces, targeting reporters and researchers who successfully debunk Kremlin propaganda. They’re aided by hordes of paid trolls. Nonetheless, this elaborate smokescreen is not sufficient to override outrageous misrepresentations and outright fabrications birthed by Russia as a diversion for its covert offensive in Ukraine.
Having been debunked on so many prior occasions, Russian news outlets have largely changed their previous tactic of using photographs and videos from other regions and time periods, while falsely alleging they pertain to the current hostilities in Ukraine. Current propaganda tactics rely on various strawmen (such as stringers, bloggers or “experts”) to deliver fake or misleading news coverage. Russian networks in turn use this information “as reported by” various third parties, in an attempt to distance themselves from the content that is subject to being debunked.
Even Lifenews, which is not known for journalistic integrity, annotated their article with a statement that the veracity of these events and the source of this video are still in question. LifeNews stated that they received this video from the pro-Russian “Cyber Berkut” group, which supposedly published it on its VKontakte page. The video, however, was published on the page of unaffiliated kyber.berkut – and not the hackers’ original page, cyberberkut1. There are numerous inconsistencies that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that this video is yet another anti-Ukrainian propaganda fake.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that after former president Yanukovych ran off to Russia, the new government of Ukraine “seized power and said that Russians must be driven from Crimea because they wouldn’t praise Bandera.” In reality, no such statements were ever made by the Ukrainian government officials. Furthermore, in his speech announcing the annexation of Crimea, Putin admitted that this move was designed “to protect Russia’s interests” and to retaliate against the West for its perceived disrespect towards the RF.
Representative of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Constantin Dolgov, claimed that since the beginning of 2014, there were many Jewish “pogroms” in Ukraine and that the entryways of Jewish households were being marked with a Jewish star. Dolgov did not cite any specific incidents, referring instead to Russia’s recent report about the rise of neo-Nazism all over the world. That report didn’t contain any specifics about these alleged “pogroms” in Ukraine either. It also curiously omitted Russia’s own neo-Nazi groups and far-right movements. It should be mentioned that in 2015, Russia hosted a gathering of Neo-Nazis and fascists in St. Petersburg.
Contrary to common misrepresentations by Russia’s media and politicians, new report by the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (VAAD) of Ukraine stated that “the surge in anti-Semitic violence expected in the wake of early 2014’s Ukrainian revolution, failed to materialize.” A number of senior Jewish leaders, including VAAD President Joseph Zissels and Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, have accused the Kremlin of fomenting anti-Semitism to justify its interventions in Ukraine.
RT (formerly Russia Today) and other Russian mainstream media reported that two journalists have been killed near Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine, as a shell hit the car they were travelling in. “A car carrying two local journalists was destroyed by an anti-tank missile. It is not possible to recover the bodies at the moment due to heavy fire coming from the Ukrainian side. Currently we’re trying to determine what news outlet the slain journalists were working for,” representative of the unrecognized “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) told the Sputnik news agency. DPR “officials” later told Lenta.Ru that only one journalist was killed. They subsequently claimed to RIA Novosti that “one journalist was contused, the other was seriously wounded.” Later, DPR representatives refused to identify the alleged victims and instead, decided to show the journalists the body of a dead Ukrainian soldier. At that point, it became abundantly clear that the story about “two killed journalists” was nothing more than another propaganda fabrication.
Russia’s Channel One used an interview with political analyst Yuri Gorodnenko in their program, alleging that Communist politicians in Kyiv face political repercussions. Gorodnenko was introduced as a Ukrainian political analyst and was said to be reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine. As an alleged eyewitness, he claimed that persecution of Communist leaders demonstrates that Ukrainian government is a “Nazi regime.” In reality, closer look revealed that the interview wasn’t filmed in Kyiv, but in Moscow, near the Golyanovo pond. Furthermore, it turns out that Gorodnenko is an attorney, who moved from Ukraine to Russia over one year ago, after his unsuccessful attempt of suing the Ukrainian government. Therefore, he has no firsthand knowledge about current events in Ukraine, as well as a strong agenda to misrepresent them in order to secure his residency and potential citizenship in Russia, as a self-described asylum seeker.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, NTV and a number of other Russian mainstream media outlets reported that a 10-year old girl was killed in Donetsk by the Ukrainian military’s shelling on March 23, 2015. BBC investigation later determined that there was no shelling on the date in question and report of the little girl’s death was completely made up. Russian journalists admitted on-camera that the said girl “never existed” and they reported this fictitious demise simply because they were told to do so.
TV Zvezda reported that members of the Ukrainian military, returning home from the war zone, are appalled by the dilapidated state of their hometowns. As an illustration of the allegedly dire conditions in Cherkasy, Ukraine, TV Zvezda used a photograph taken in Kadykchan village, Magadan region of Russia.
Recurring theme of black foreign fighters in Ukraine was replayed yet again in an article by Sputnik, entitled “Donetsk militias discover hundreds of black mercenaries beyond the front lines.” To add more excitement to this tired, uncorroborated claim, this time “Arab mercenaries” were also reportedly spotted, along with Israeli fighters and their “attack drones.” These fabricated claims were not substantiated by any photographic or video evidence. It appears that Sputnik simply echoed hysterical allegations published by one of Russia’s biggest mainstream media outlets, TASS, as well as online news outlet Rusvesna, RIA Novosti and others. These allegations have no basis other than unsubstantiated claims by the “leaders” of self-proclaimed, unrecognized “republics” terrorizing Eastern Ukraine. Irresponsible media reports quote the contentions of terrorist leaders as facts, which are later cited by Russia’s top government officials. “Hundreds of foreign mercenaries” have been falsely reported to be fighting on the side of Ukraine since 2014, with no evidence of any kind to corroborate these claims. This is yet another example of Russia’s “mirroring” technique: in order to justify the presence of its own soldiers and mercenaries in Ukraine, Russian Federation accuses the West of doing the same.
One of the favorite targets of the Russian media is the security service company, ACADEMI. For example, Komsomolskaya Pravda claimed that ACADEMI employees are “known for their cruelty worldwide” and that approximately 500 of the company’s employees are currently fighting in Ukraine. Contrary to claims by Russian mainstream media, ACADEMI and the company Blackwater are not the same. ACADEMI merely purchased training facilities, formerly owned by Blackwater. Official representative of the company confirmed that none of ACADEMI employees are fighting in Ukraine.
LifeNews reported that Ukrainian mobile service providers are taking funds out of the accounts of their customers, located on the territory of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic,” to be used by the government of Ukraine for its anti-terrorist operations (ATO). LifeNews attempted to corroborate this claim with SMS messages, shown on-camera by two local customers. The first message is purportedly from ‘Kyivstar,’ although the company’s name in the SMS message is misspelled as ‘Kievstar’ and contains other obvious typos. The second message purports to be from the company named ‘Life,’ but does not contain the logotype usually present in its official messages. Ukrainian mobile service providers don’t withdraw funds from customers’ accounts without their express permission and approval and the said SMS messages were clearly fake. Furthermore, none of the customers in question reported any funds being taken from their accounts. This fictitious “news story” seems like another propaganda piece, which at the same time is designed to promote the upcoming mobile service provider “Phoenix,” which is supposed to start functioning in Donbas anytime soon.
TV Zvezda – an entity owned by the government of Russia and its Ministry of Defense – claimed that members of Ukrainian military were stealing cattle from the people of Donbas. To corroborate this bizarre claim, TV Zvezda used a badly-Photoshopped image.
TV Zvezda claimed that Ukrainian military used outlawed artillery for their strikes “with intent to inflict deadly casualties” on the civilian areas of Donetsk. The video they used to corroborate this claim actually shows the fire set by locals, in which garbage and tires were burned near the Shakhtar Stadium. The video shows the locals calmly walking down the street and waiting for the fire truck to put out the burning garbage. It is clearly not the reaction that could be expected if the area was just hit with deadly artillery strikes.
RIA Novosti, Zvezda and other Russian mainstream media outlets reported that representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) retrieved flags emblazoned with Nazi swastikas from Ukrainian tanks. The image used to corroborate this baseless story was taken from World War II photograph, with the German Nazi flag Photoshopped to resemble a Ukrainian flag.
RT (formerly Russia Today), Gazeta and other Russian media outlets have falsely claimed that Regional Council of Lviv, Ukraine demanded for the government in Kyiv to “recognize Crimea and Donbas as Russian territories.” Notorious self-proclaimed “gonzo reporter” Graham W. Phillips immediately echoed this preposterous claim. In reality, Lviv lawmakers accepted a resolution that denounced Russia’s treachery and its violations of numerous agreements with Ukraine, as well as international legal norms. This resolution condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as well as its military aggression and occupation of Eastern Ukraine. The document did not contain any demands cited by deceitful propagandists and Russia’s mainstream media.
Russian news outlets Russkaya Pravda (‘Russian Truth’), Antifashist(‘Antifascist’) falsely claimed that Ukrainian veterans of WWII in Chernyhiv were offered to turn in their war medals in exchange for canned goods, bread and buckwheat. The lie was echoed by notorious anti-Ukrainian propagandist Valentina Lisitsa. She Tweeted: “New low. Impoverished war veterans in Chernihiv are being offered to trade-in their medals for grits and bread.” In another Tweet pertaining to the same ludicrous allegations, Lisitsa wrote: “Animals. I hate them.”
In reality, volunteers in Chernyhiv are conducting an action to collect old Soviet keepsakes, in exchange for food items. This event is not designed specifically for veterans and their medals are not being sought. Food items are being offered in exchange for old Communist flags and Georgian ribbons, which are now associated with Russia’s terrorist activities and covert military incursion into Ukraine. Communist and Soviet mementos collected in the course of this action will be donated to a museum.
In reality, Ukraine simply continues its 2009 project of building small detention facilities for illegal migrants, designed to hold no more than 100 people at a time. These unfinished facilities are very similar to other such detention centers across Europe and have no correlation to Donbas separatists or Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens.