Spilnota Detector Media

Українською читайте тут.

Since February 24, Detector Media has been monitoring the Ukrainian segment of social media and documenting the chronicle of Russian disinformation around Russia’s war against Ukraine on a daily basis. Recently, we have also started doing regular reviews. 

Read reviews of Russian disinformation from previous weeks: September 26 October 2; October 39, October 1017, October 1724, October 2431, October 31 November 6, November 7–14, November 14–21, November 21–28, November 28 — December 4, December 5–12, December 12–19, December 19–26, January 2–9, January 10–16, January 17–23, January 24–31, February 1–8, February 9–28, March 1–14, a summary article, as well as a review of the most ridiculous fakes of the year of the full-scale invasion.

Between March 14 and March 21, 2023, Detector Media identified fifty instances of Russian disinformation. During this period, the propaganda attempted to persuade the global community that Ukrainians were xenophobic and engaged in burning the Koran on video. Additionally, they claimed that the proliferation of Nazism in Europe was due to the inability of Russians and Belarusians to bear arms in Estonia.

This week, Detector Media observed Russian propagandists attempting to disseminate hostile messages through fabricated accounts of Ukrainian military personnel on social media platforms, including TikTok. One such TikTok account impersonated the personal page of a Ukrainian Armed Forces sergeant who maintains a war diary. The fake account amassed over 19,000 followers, and some videos garnered millions of views. While the account posted authentic videos captured by real soldiers, the messages accompanying the videos were manipulated by the account owners. Propagandists pushed messages like “Bakhmut cannot be held,” “we are leaving Soledar,” and “the military is tired". Eventually, the actual Ukrainian sergeant confirmed that Russian propagandists exploited his videos.

In the same week, propagandists circulated manipulations that Estonia prohibits ethnic Russians and Belarusians from owning firearms. In reality, amendments to the weapons law, effective from March 15, 2023, revoke weapon usage rights for citizens of all non-EU and non-NATO countries, impacting around 1,300 people, not just Belarusians or Russians. Estonia will also cease issuing new permits to such individuals. Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets openly acknowledged that these restrictions are a direct response to Russia’s unwarranted aggression towards Ukraine and its policies against countries that oppose its war.

Propagandists further fueled their preferred narrative that “Ukrainian soldiers are xenophobes and Nazis” by fabricating a story that the Ukrainian Armed Forces allegedly burned a Quran. A video was circulated to support this claim, but it was staged, featuring pronunciation errors and a conspicuous Russian accent. In reality, the Russian military desecrated the Quran themselves, filmed the act, and falsely attributed it to Ukrainians.

Following the arrest warrant for Putin, Russian propaganda began to argue that Russia’s “evacuation” of Ukrainian children “is not a war crime". It should be noted that this is not an evacuation of children from their homeland but rather a deportation. Russia is essentially equivocating the crime as a “rescue". On March 15, 2023, UN international experts released a report on Russian war crimes, with a dedicated section on the investigation of forced displacement and deportation of Ukrainian children. According to Ukrainian authorities, children are being taken from not only the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions but also other occupied Ukrainian territories. As of December 29, Russia has deported 13,876 Ukrainian children. Ukraine considers these actions as abductions of its citizens. Detector Media analysts conducted their own study on how Russia justifies deportations and other war crimes in Ukraine.

Throughout the week, propagandists asserted that Russia had saved numerous lives by intercepting a US drone, a message disseminated by the Russian Ministry of Defense. The US-owned drone was reportedly detected during a purported special airspace operation. 

In reality, the US Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper drone was flying in the airspace over the Black Sea, which is not exclusively Russia’s “internal sea". The Black Sea is also utilized by Ukraine and NATO countries, meaning the US drone, as a North Atlantic Alliance member, had every right to be in international airspace over the Black Sea. Thus, Russian propaganda perpetuates the narrative of a “collective West” supposedly intent on destroying Russia, which is then forced to defend itself.

Analysts also observed that Russian propaganda is penetrating Czech Telegram channels. The number of anonymous channels broadcasting pro-Russian rhetoric in Czech has increased. These channels typically repost content from foreign sources spreading conspiracy theories, such as those about the “falsification” of the 2020 US elections or the man-made nature of the earthquakes in Turkey. Furthermore, most of the publications coincide with news from Russian Sputnik, which is blocked in the EU.

Telegram channels have attempted to destabilize the domestic political situation in the Czech Republic. For instance, one popular channel posted a fabricated video featuring then-Czech presidential candidate Petr Pavel, where he supposedly discusses the need to wage war against Russia. Through this, Russian propagandists aim to instill doubt among Czech citizens regarding the justification for supporting Ukraine, encouraging them to resist Western influence and support their alleged Russian “brothers”. This is particularly significant considering the Czech Republic’s historical ties to the Soviet Union.

During the week, false news emerged alleging that Ukraine had canceled the May 9 holiday and introduced a new one, “Victory Day over Russia". The basis for this claim was a bill submitted to the Verkhovna Rada proposing amendments to Article 73 of Ukraine’s Labor Code to establish “public holidays". However, the primary objective of the draft law is not to cancel holidays but to establish additional public holidays. At present, the draft law has not been adopted or even considered, so no holidays have been officially introduced.

Concerning Victory Day over Nazism in World War II, celebrated on May 9, the draft law’s authors clarify that this day “will be observed, however, as a regular business day". In other words, the parliament did not intend to cancel the observance, let alone consider celebrating “Victory Day over Russia” instead.

By the week’s end, a fake news story claimed that a “bread product” made from “stale leftovers” was being sold in Ukraine due to a “bread shortage". The story was accompanied by a video allegedly showing an online grocery store selling the “bread product” manufactured by the Kyivkhlib bread factory. However, the information was false: Kyivkhlib denied offering such a product, and the video was proven to be fabricated.

The notion of a “bread shortage” across Ukraine is also unfounded. According to Denys Marchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council, Ukraine is not experiencing a bread shortage, although prices may increase in 2023. In March 2023, the State Statistics Service reported that due to the crisis caused by Russia’s invasion, bread product prices rose by 26% last year. However, there was no mention of any “bread shortage". Propagandists disseminate such messages to intimidate Ukrainians and undermine their trust in their own country, insinuating that Ukraine cannot even provide its citizens with food.

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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