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Since February 24, 2022, Detector Media has been monitoring the Ukrainian segment of social networks and the Kremlin media and documenting the chronicle of Russian disinformation about Russia’s war against Ukraine on a daily basis. Over time, we started making regular reviews. Read the latest ones here: May 29 - June 4, June 5-11, June 12-18, June 19-25, June 26 - July 2, July 3-9, and July 10-16, the final text for ten months, as well as a review of the most ridiculous fakes published during the year of the full-scale war.

From July 17 to 23, 2023, the experts at Detector Media identified over 30 instances of disinformation. During this period, propaganda claimed that Western countries had supposedly lifted sanctions against Russian journalists and described how Ukraine had supposedly consented to cede its temporarily occupied territories to Russia.

“A Friendly Appeal to Zelenskyy”

Early last week, a false claim circulated suggesting that the American actor Elijah Wood had urged Zelenskyy to come to the U.S. to undergo “drug addiction treatment.” This was supposedly supported by a video and an Instagram story post, with a screenshot as “evidence”.

However, no such video exists on Elijah Wood’s official social media. The alleged video seems to be a deepfake, given the evident editing marks. Furthermore, the attached screenshot displays an incorrect username for Wood’s Instagram. Elijah Wood has also repeatedly stated that his Instagram is currently private; his only public platform is Twitter.

“Naughty Joe?”

Anonymous Pro-Kremlin Telegram channels began peddling a story that President Joseph Biden’s capability to serve as President was compromised due to alleged inappropriate behavior. They cited a video from TikTok, which supposedly showed Biden “sniffing a teenager” and expressing “undue interest” in the child.

Upon closer inspection, the video was found to have been manipulated. The frame was zoomed in, and sounds were edited to misrepresent the scene. The actual footage shows Biden leaning in to share a whispered comment with a child before offering to take a photograph with the child’s mother. The original video’s caption, “I met the President of the United States today,” which provided context, was deliberately omitted by the creators of this false narrative.

“Russia’s ‘Legitimate’ Artillery Shelling”

Russian propaganda channels recently circulated claims that Russian forces are solely targeting Ukrainian equipment storage facilities, alleging that Ukrainian authorities are misrepresenting these actions as attacks on civilian infrastructure. They emphasized that on July 19, the intended target was a facility storing Ukrainian equipment, not grain storage. Accompanying these claims were certain videos.

However, these videos were misleading. They actually showed a Russian military equipment warehouse that had been targeted by Ukrainian forces. Mykola Solskyi, Ukraine’s Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food, clarified that the Russian attack destroyed 60,000 tons of grain and caused significant damage to the port facilities vital for the grain corridor.

Contrary to these misleading claims, Russia’s actions continue to hinder Ukraine’s ability to export grain by damaging its infrastructure. The authors of such false narratives typically describe their targets as “military facilities” in an attempt to deflect responsibility.

“Pardoning Russians?”

Throughout the week, anonymous Telegram channels with a pro-Kremlin stance falsely reported that the UK had removed sanctions against a former director of the Russia Today TV network.

On July 21, 2023, the official website of the British government did publish a document indicating that this individual had been removed from the sanctions list. Yet, the document provides clarity: the director was listed twice by mistake, and the redundancy was corrected. Importantly, the individual, Krasovsky, remains sanctioned with his assets still frozen.

By disseminating such narratives, these sources aim to suggest waning support for Ukraine and growing global endorsement for Russia, potentially demoralizing Ukrainians with the implication of Western reconciliation with Russia.

“Planned Shelling of the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa”

Detector Media analysts countered false claims suggesting that the Ukrainian government had premeditatedly targeted the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa. This narrative was supposedly supported by a premature Wikipedia update on the cathedral’s destruction, occurring hours before the actual event.

However, this argument lacks foundation. On July 23, Russian forces launched 19 missiles at Odesa, severely damaging the city’s historical landmarks, including the cathedral. The Wikipedia update was made post-event. Anatoliy Lutsiuk, a Ukrainian Wikipedia administrator, explained the perceived timing discrepancy due to the UTC time zone used in Wikipedia’s edit history, which is 2 hours behind Kyiv time.

“Will Ukraine Return the Temporarily Occupied Territories?”

Certain media outlets and anonymous channels falsely reported that Ukraine has conceded the possibility of surrendering occupied territories to Russia, referencing a statement by Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to the Ukrainian President, on Rada TV.

In reality, Podolyak outlined three potential outcomes for the conflict, emphasizing that Ukraine only accepts complete victory and reclaiming all occupied territories. He never indicated any forced concessions of land to Russia. 

Such misleading narratives attempt to paint Ukraine as willing to compromise its sovereignty.

“The US Has Long Been Planning to Destroy Russia”

By week’s end, anonymous Telegram channels shared a video clip from a TikTok user who recited a supposed statement from Mitt Romney, the 2012 US presidential candidate, implying the US’s longstanding intent to dismantle Russia.

However, this assertion is baseless. Romney never made such a statement. Back in 2016, Voice of America journalists wrote about the fake origin of this statement. In fact, the quote was first published in September 2012 on the Fognews platform, which specialized in fake news. From there, this “news” was replicated. That is, this fake is old, but propagandists have used it again when it suited their needs.

Distributing this misinformation promotes the idea of a collective Western conspiracy against Russia, framing Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine as mere self-defense against this supposed Western threat.

NGO “Detector Media” has been working for our readers for over 20 years. In times of elections, revolutions, pandemics and war, we continue to fight for quality journalism. Our experts develop media literacy of the audience, advocate for the rights of journalists, and refute Russian disinformation.

“Detector Media” resumes the work of our Community and invites those who believe that the media should be better: more professional, truthful and transparent.


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