Despite facing criminal cases and being blocked on major platforms where he shared his opinions, Anatoliy Shariy remains prominent in the media landscape, thanks to his Telegram channel. By January 2023, his channel had already amassed over a million subscribers. In March 2023, Detector Media analysts documented how Anatoliy Shariy disseminated Russian propaganda messages throughout the year of the full-scale war.
In this article, we provide a clear explanation, based on Detector Media’s analysis of Shariy’s Telegram posts from February 24, 2022, to February 24, 2023, as to why Anatoliy Shariy should be recognized as a pro-Russian blogger.
“Media expert” Anatoliy Shariy first gained popularity through his YouTube channel, which launched in 2013. On this platform, Shariy shared his perspective on events in Ukraine and globally. The channel had over 2 million subscribers before being blocked by YouTube in March 2023.
Since 2012, Shariy has not resided in Ukraine but continues to comment on the nation’s events and attempt to sway public opinion. This influence has evolved into political backing. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, Shariy’s party, headed by his wife Olha, garnered 386,000 votes, granting them the right to receive state financial support. A year later, in local elections, the party formed factions in several local councils in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Detector Media previously reported on Anatoliy Shariy’s pro-Russian sentiments in August 2019. He has since faced treason accusations because of these statements. In early March 2022, YouTube and Facebook blocked Anatoliy Shariy, and his party was officially banned six months later.
Nonetheless, these criminal cases have not stopped Shariy from spreading propaganda and claiming to be a Ukrainian patriot. The posts on Shariy’s Telegram channel, however, suggest otherwise.
1. Anatoliy Shariy employs “Nazi” terminology consistent with Russian usage
Anatoliy Shariy’s Telegram channel frequently presents narratives about events in Ukraine that align with Russian sources, often to refute or discredit information from Ukrainian sources. According to Shariy, Ukrainian media “only reports victories,” while Russian media appears to offer more comprehensive information.
Anatoliy Shariy seldom employs balanced language. To criticize Ukraine, he frequently utilizes phrases commonly used by Russian propagandists, such as referring to the Ukrainian state as a “whiny nation” and a “non-state” and labeling the Ukrainian military as “Nazis.”
Owing to such phrasing, the rhetoric and themes of Shariy’s Telegram posts closely resemble those of his Russian-passport-holding counterparts. For instance, when discussing captured Ukrainian soldiers, Shariy implies that “Nazis from the Azov Brigade” receive better treatment in captivity and are more likely to return home, whereas soldiers from other units are not freed. Shariy’s conclusion is that only “Nazis who killed civilians” deserve favorable treatment and release from Russian captivity.
By using words and phrases characteristic of Russian propaganda, Shariy also legitimizes the Russian occupation and the Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories. He enables collaborators and Russian officials with tragicomic titles, such as the “DPR Ombudsman,” to speak on behalf of communities.
2. When Shariy criticizes the Russians, he asks them to do their job better
Anatoliy Shariy frequently mocks Russians, particularly Russian military officials who overstate or fabricate news about their army’s victories. However, when stories cast Russians in a negative light, Shariy tends to adopt their perspective, asserting that Russian missiles could not possibly strike civilians since they supposedly have special chips.
In reporting current events, Shariy employs the “primacy effect” propaganda technique by inundating the media with various narratives. While some of these may involve Russians, Shariy is more likely to debunk or omit them later if they are confirmed. For example, on August 20, 2022, it was revealed that Russian propagandist Daria Dugina, daughter of pro-government philosopher and ideologue Alexander Dugin, had died. Russia quickly accused Ukrainian special services of her death. Shariy then promptly published the results of a Russian “investigation” blaming Ukrainian Natalia Vovk for the murder. Despite Ukraine’s denial of involvement in Dugina’s car accident, Shariy repeatedly posted content supporting the Russian narrative and dismissing Ukraine’s version as “a fit.”
Frequently, following reports of Russian bombardments of civilian targets, Shariy disseminates messages alleging that Ukraine has also attacked Russian-occupied territories and caused civilian casualties. This appears to create the impression that Ukrainians commit war crimes as frequently as Russians. For instance, when a Russian missile struck the Officers’ House in Vinnytsia on July 14, 2022, Shariy immediately posted a message about the attack, shortly thereafter asserting that Ukraine had bombarded Donetsk.
In situations where occupation officials spark controversy, Shariy’s criticism amounts to typical personal insults and demands for Russia to appoint more competent individuals, not “geniuses nurtured by Konashenkov’s breast.” Alternatively, Shariy insinuates that Russians have “problems with shells because Russia’s defense sector has been privatized and plundered.” In essence, the blogger appears to criticize Russians while simultaneously urging them to “better” occupy Ukraine.
3. Shariy speaks of Ukraine with disdain
Anatoliy Shariy consistently speaks negatively about Ukraine, seizing every opportunity to declare the country as corrupt, alleging that law enforcement agencies persecute dissenters, carry out terrorist attacks abroad, issue draft summonses to protesters, and that the Ukrainian state distorts history. Shariy presents his view of Ukraine as follows: “Regardless of who governs my country, whatever scum rules it, no matter which orcs rape and plunder it, I distinctly separate the concepts. The state today is dictatorial, suppresses any dissent, and, honestly, is disgusting. A backwater center.”
In such statements, Shariy employs equivocation, conflating Ukraine with his own prejudice. He appears to attempt to “separate the government of bastards and the state of bastards from his beloved country,” only to repeatedly return to the notion that he cannot accept the Ukrainian state if it deviates from his preferred image. Any positive news from Ukraine simply fails to penetrate Shariy’s prejudiced filter.
Shariy also constantly claims to be “with the people” and sees himself as “a Ukrainian who wants his country to win.” He tries to define “good Ukrainians” in opposition to Russians. In his view, a “good Russian” is a Russian patriot who loves their country and does not wish for its downfall. When characterizing Ukrainians, Shariy’s opinion relies on his perception of them as individuals who reject Russianness and attempt to supplant it with something “provincial” or “inferior.” Consequently, Shariy concludes that there can be no “good Ukrainians.”
4. Shariy manipulates and influences people to adopt his viewpoint
In his posts and videos, Anatoliy Shariy avoids giving clear-cut conclusions. Instead, he guides his audience to the desired conclusion by using phrases like “Well, we understand” and “It’s obvious to anyone with a head on their shoulders.” By employing such language and presenting information accessibly, Shariy, first on YouTube and then in Telegram, fosters a community of like-minded individuals who embrace his worldview and uncritically absorb the propaganda embedded in his messages.
Shariy adds emotion through exaggerations about “mountains of corpses” and “eradication.” He readily resorts to harsh language when addressing criticism or discussing his adversaries. He frequently loses his temper when discussing the Ukrainian military and government officials. For instance, in the spring of 2022, Shariy claimed that the Ukrainian government was “jealous” of his alleged work on distributing humanitarian aid and freeing soldiers from captivity. This purportedly led to Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov, on Zelenskyy’s orders, blocking Ukrainians’ access to Shariy’s Facebook and YouTube channels. In response, Shariy labeled Fedorov “a murderer of hundreds or even thousands of Ukrainians.”
In the fall of 2022, Shariy accused volunteers Ihor Lachenkov, Serhiy Prytula, and Serhiy Sternenko of embezzling donations. He derided those who donated to the volunteers as “village hens” who “write enthusiastic comments ‘now we will win’.” He argued that only illiterate individuals believe private citizens can purchase Bayraktar drones or other military equipment. Interestingly, a few months earlier, Shariy claimed to be collecting donations and distributing humanitarian aid, yet no financial reports from him can be found, nor information on whom he helped.
Shariy has also prematurely announced the occupation of Ukrainian cities by Russians before receiving confirmation from Ukraine or even Russia. This occurred on June 1, 2022, when Shariy reported the retreat of the Ukrainian military from Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk three weeks they were seized by Russian troops.
5. Most of Shariy's readers on Telegram are Russians, and he posts Russian ads
According to Telemetrio, 46% of Shariy’s Telegram channel subscribers are Russians, with 18% residing in Moscow and 5.2% in St. Petersburg. Ukrainians make up a quarter of the channel’s audience, including 15% from Kharkiv and 4% from Kyiv. However, these statistics are imperfect, as data indicating users from other countries may involve those who access the Internet through VPNs, a technology often used by Russians due to Internet resource restrictions in Russia.
In the winter of 2022-2023, Shariy’s channel featured numerous advertisements for Telegram channels; Detector Media counted almost a hundred such publications. Shariy advertised resources about proper Russian language use, gardening advice, crypto-businesses, personal bunkers, etc. According to TgStat, all these channels were Russian. This suggests that Shariy recognizes his primary audience as Russian and publishes information aimed at attracting and retaining this demographic.
In his Telegram posts, Shariy tries to emphasize that Russia is more united and stronger than Ukraine. He rejects the severing of any ties between Ukraine and Russia. Even in the face of proven Russian lies and evidence of their crimes, Shariy continues to promote narratives favorable to Russia and disseminate disinformation.
After being blocked on Facebook and YouTube, Anatoliy Shariy lost a significant portion of his audience. However, he successfully transitioned to using Telegram as a platform to promote his worldview and repost Russian propaganda. On Telegram, messages from Anatoliy Shariy are less likely to become widely discussed news items in Ukraine compared to when the Ukrainian audience could watch him on YouTube. On Telegram, he primarily seeks the attention of people who are either Russians or support Russia.
The criminal cases against Anatoliy Shariy on treason charges, which could potentially lead to imprisonment and the end of his media and political career, are still ongoing. Until there is a court verdict, the blogger is considered innocent. Shariy is using this time to maintain his media presence and disseminate information that aligns with Russian propaganda.
In 2017, Anatoliy Shariy sued Detector Media for allegedly insulting his honor, dignity, and business reputation. However, he ultimately lost the case.