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Intern Polina Baranivska collaborated on this text as a co-author.

On April 20, the lower house of the American parliament, the US House of Representatives, voted to grant Ukraine 60.84 billion dollars in aid. Israel and Taiwan will also receive $26.4 billion from the United States, while $8.1 billion will go to other US allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

The upper house of the American parliament, the Senate, supported the transfer of aid to Ukraine on the morning of April 24. It became known that US President Joe Biden signed the respective laws around 18:00 Kyiv time on April 24.

The Appropriations Committee of the US Congress published funding distribution according to the bills for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the US's Indo-Pacific allies. In particular, the distribution of aid to Ukraine will be as follows:

  • $23.2 billion to replenish reserves of defense materials and services provided to Ukraine;
  • $11.3 billion for current US military operations in the region;
  • $13.8 billion for the procurement of advanced weapons systems, defense materials, and services;
  • $26 million to continue monitoring and ensuring accountability for aid and equipment provided to Ukraine.

According to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal, $49.9 billion from US aid funds will be used for defense expenditures. He called $7.8 billion "potential budget support" and $1.57 billion "economic aid". Another $400 million, as planned by Denys Shmyhal, will be spent on border protection and humanitarian demining.

The United States is one of the main donors of financial support to Ukraine during the war with Russia. According to the Kiel Institute, from January 24, 2022, to October 31, 2023, the United States provided Ukraine with about $30 billion in aid. About $27 billion was financial, and the rest was humanitarian support.

The Kremlin negatively perceives any aid to Ukraine, while its agitational propaganda sources consider certain positions of this assistance as "red lines". Russians state that the transfer of a specific type of weapons will be proof that Russia is fighting against the entire "Western world" and not against Ukraine, using these statements as key arguments. Sometimes, these Russian statements influence the population and politicians of democratic states. In particular, they have influenced the citizens of Germany, the third largest provider of aid to Ukraine, most of whom do not accept the arguments of their partners about the transfer of Taurus long-range missiles to Ukraine.

Describing the selection, structure, and dynamics of such publications

For this publication, we analyzed 426 Telegram posts created between April 16 and 10:00 on April 24, 2024. The sample included posts in 62 Telegram channels provided by LetsData. This segment allowed us to analyze [Telegram] messages produced in Ukraine and its neighbors at almost equal intervals of time before the US vote for Ukraine's support and between the decision on aid to Ukraine by the US Congress and the US Senate.

Publications in Telegram about US aid to Ukraine from April 16 to 10:00 on April 24, 2024

Ukraine accounts for almost 55% of all [amount of analyzed] publications. Moldovan pro-Russian Telegram channels accounted for another 33%. Moldovan Telegram channels are aimed not only at Ukrainian refugees, of whom there were about 740,000 at the beginning of 2023 but also at citizens of Moldova. After all, such Telegram channels worked in Moldova before the full-scale invasion [of Ukraine] by the Russians. A more likely explanation for this is the connection between the networks of pro-Russian propaganda distribution in Telegram between different countries and the prevalence of the Russian language in both states, facilitating the penetration of Russian propaganda. Although, according to the 2014 census, only 4% of Moldovan citizens consider themselves Russian, the Russian language is still much more widespread there. Moldovan authorities and media websites also have their Russian language versions. In particular, one of them is the National Bureau of Statistics of Moldova, which published information on the share of Russians in the country. Among the pro-Russian Russian-language Telegram channels aimed at an audience from Moldova is the second most subscribed Moldovan Telegram channel, "Sputnik Blizhneye Zarubezhye" (Ближнее зарубежье). It has almost 179,000 followers. According to the Telemetrio company, as of April 24, 2024, at least 44 of Moldova's 100 most popular Telegram channels have names in Russian.

30 Telegram channels that mentioned the US aid to Ukraine from April 16 to 10:00 on April 24, 2024

According to the results of a survey by the sociological group "Rating" dated May 3, 2022, 15% of respondents in Ukraine spoke only Russian, and 33% spoke both Ukrainian and Russian. Among the hundred most popular Telegram channels in Ukraine, at least 16 Telegram channels have names in Russian. However, the language of Telegram channel names can be misleading. For example, in the sample of analyzed Telegram channels, there are those whose names are in Czech, such as "Ukrajina bez cenzury", or in Bulgarian, such as "Istoriyata uchi..." (Историята учи), but the posts there are mainly or exclusively in Russian. They contain Russian disinformation about aid to Ukraine from its partners.

"Aid to Ukraine contrary to the Americans’ wishes and capabilities"

Ukrainian and foreign pro-Russian authors of Telegram posts are trying to convince that the decision of the US Parliament to direct aid to Ukraine harms the US first and foremost. For this, they have resorted to manipulating economic indicators. For example, on April 16, the Moldovan pro-Russian Telegram channel with 2,700 subscribers posted:

"The USA instigates new military conflicts to save the economy. The loss of hegemony is costly to the American budget. According to the US Treasury, its deficit amounted to $236 billion in March. It is an established negative trend. Today, approximately 28% of US budget spending is financed by loans."

Moldovan expert Sergey Banar, who has 7,000 Telegram subscribers, shared a graph on April 22 showing historical indicators and forecasts of the US budget deficit to GDP.

The US budget deficit graph from James Bianco's LinkedIn

American financier James Bianco first published this chart in December 2023. Accordingly, estimates of the US budget deficit to GDP for 2024 were predictive. Banar presented them as facts:

"Today, the US budget deficit as a percentage of GDP is higher than in any other period except for the 2007-2009 recession and the 2020 lockdown."  Banar's post said.

The graph interpreted by the Moldovan expert did not contain the information Banar had written in Telegram. After all, according to James Bianco's graph, the most significant deficit of the US budget to GDP since the end of the 1960s was in March 2021 — 18.12%. And in 2006 and 2007 — 1.8% and 1.1%, respectively. According to the official portal of the US Congressional Budget Office, the deficit of the US budget to GDP in 2024 will be 17.5%, which does not exceed the figure of 18.12%, according to James Bianco's schedule. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the US budget deficit for 2024 is $4.9 trillion. By 2034, it may reach $7.5 trillion.

It is definitely not the largest US budget deficit. According to the American Federal Reserve Economic Data portal, in 1943, the US budget deficit to GDP was almost 27%. Even with such a budget deficit, the United States financed lend-lease to replenish the allies' defense capabilities in the fight against Nazi Germany.

On April 21, the Ukrainian pro-Russian channel with almost 416,000 subscribers, in agreement with Moldovan sources, published a forecast of the decline of US influence within 30 years:

"The steady growth of US national debt relative to GDP through 2054 will generally constrain future administrations, as an ever-increasing share of revenue will be used to service the debt. Any great state spending more on debt service than defense will not remain great for long."

Tucker Carlson as a propagandist

In the analyzed sample of publications, manipulations mixing propaganda tactics such as "appealing to the people" and "the third person" were presented as arguments against aid to Ukraine. In this case, one expert assumed the right to speak on behalf of the entire nation. This time, American blogger Tucker Carlson became an expert in pro-Russian Telegram channels. On April 23, a pro-Russian Telegram channel with 3,000 subscribers wrote:

"Tucker Carlson on helping Kyiv: don't call the USA a democracy, Congress doesn't care about the opinion of its people. 70% of the US population does not want to finance Ukraine, but Congress has not been stopped by it, — the independent journalist Tucker Carlson notes in an interview with Joe Rogan's podcast."

DM recalls that in May 2023, the Fox News television company announced they "agreed to terminate cooperation" with TV presenter Tucker Carlson. After that, Carlson launched his streaming platform and began blogging on the X social network. In February 2024, Tucker Carlson allowed Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to tell his audience about "Ukrainian Nazis" and that "Poland forced Hitler to attack itself." After returning to America, Tucker Carlson criticized Putin's position in an interview and continued using his platforms to say things consistent with the positions of US presidential candidate Donald Trump.

"US aid will not change anything. Requests from Ukraine will never end. Russia cannot lose."

The Ukrainian pro-Russian Telegram channel "Resident" (Резидент) has one million subscribers, and the Moldovan one has more than 70,000 subscribers. Both channels quoted the French general Dominique Delaward, who was an observer at Russia's presidential elections in March 2024.

"I do not believe that the European Union will be able to support Ukraine in the future. The reason is simple: we are already in a crisis. If this aid to Ukraine continues in parallel with budget deficits in the EU, the economic situation in France simply will not allow supporting Ukraine," stated the quote attributed to Delaware and posted by Telegram channels.

Other "experts", whose positions the Russians used to confirm the thesis that aid to Ukraine would not be enough, resorted to manipulation regarding the aid’s amounts and statistics.

On April 21, the Moldovan Telegram channel with 20,000 subscribers shared a collage of publications by X American businessmen David Sachs and Elon Musk. The first complained that the aid to Ukraine would only be enough "for half of the summer counteroffensive", and the second one stated that "there is no exit strategy, only an eternal war, where children die in the trenches".

Tweets by David Sachs and Elon Musk, which were distributed by pro-Russian Telegram channels 

It is unclear how Sachs calculated the costs of a counteroffensive, yet unknown. Moreover, it is unknown whether he can be a reliable expert in military matters despite his business success. Earlier, in April 2024, Sachs had already expressed unsubstantiated estimates of US military reserves and baselessly asserted "connections of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with ISIS."

In the Moldovan Telegram segment, a quote from US Republican Senator Ron Johnson was shared at least twice:

"Russia has four times the population, at least four times the ability to produce 155mm rounds at ten times the market price… They also have nuclear weapons. So we have to be very careful with Ukraine. Our strategy for Ukraine should be to do everything possible to bring Putin to the negotiating table and get out of this bloody impasse."

By adapting non-Russian "experts" statements to their own needs, propagandists tried to create the impression that aid to Ukraine does not make sense because it is not enough, Ukraine is weak, and Russia has advantages in population, military power, and finances.

"Credit to Ukraine to continue the US war against Russia"

On April 16-17, before members of the American parliament supported the draft law, several Telegram channels spread the thesis that aid to Ukraine should be provided exclusively as a credit. At that time, there were still doubts that assistance would be sent to Ukraine at all. In particular, a pro-Russian Telegram channel with more than 416,000 subscribers published an "explanation" regarding aid to Ukraine:

"The main difference from the previous draft laws is that all the money should be allocated as a loan. That is, Ukraine will lose twice—in addition to the continuation of the war, its foreign debt will also be growing. But Zelenskyy has already publicly agreed to this option."

The presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed lending aid to Ukraine.

"Lend them money. If they can handle it, they will pay us back. If they can't handle it, they don't have to pay us back," Trump suggested.

The current US President, Joe Biden, did not support this idea. However, some Republican Congress members who favor Donald Trump supported it. Speaker of the US Senate, also a Republican, Mike Johnson, when promoting the bills, said that part of the aid could come as a loan within the $9.5 billion economic support for Ukraine and other countries affected by Russia's invasion. Ukraine will receive $7.8 billion in credit, and the American president will have the right to write off 50% of this loan only after the US elections scheduled for November 5, 2024. After January 1, 2026, removing 100% of the debt will be possible.

After the draft law was supported in the House of Representatives, pro-Russian Telegram channels forgot the thesis about "loan aid". They began speculating that part of the funds was intended for "building up the US military industry."

"In the draft law on Ukraine adopted yesterday, out of almost $61 billion, khokhly [derogatory for “Ukrainians”] will actually receive only $8 billion in financial aid (which will be divided and stolen along the way). Yet, a large part of the money will not leave America: about $23 billion will go to the Americans to replenish their military arsenals, and another $14 billion will also remain in the pockets of the United States," stated the pro-Russian Telegram channel with 7,800 subscribers attributing the quote to the Pentagon.

Pro-Russian Telegram channels used the lack of information about draft laws on aid to Ukraine to intimidate their readers. They wrote that the loan would increase Ukraine's national debt. They tried to use this argument to outweigh the damage from Russia's war against Ukraine.

Corruption in Ukraine and "external management"

Fakes about corruption and accusations of Ukraine's lack of independence are among the traditional topics of Russian propaganda that the Detector Media’s team has exposed in the Chronicles of Disinformation since February 2022.

When discussing US aid to Ukraine, which we analyzed this time, the topic of corruption in Ukraine was discussed using jokes and memes almost without retelling propaganda theses about corruption in Ukraine. Such messages were more frequent in Telegram channels aimed at non-Ukrainian audiences.

Memes about helping Ukraine in a pro-Russian Telegram channel in Moldova, with 20,200 subscribers, April 21, 2024

On the contrary, there were more publications about "external management" in the Ukrainian segment of Telegram.

"Zelenskyy has already licked the host's hand. He thanked the US House of Representatives for approving aid to Ukraine," the Ukrainian Telegram channel with 150,000 subscribers commented on Volodymyr Zelenskyy's gratitude for the decision of the lower house of the American Parliament to support the transfer of aid to Ukraine.

Another attribute of the topic of Russian propaganda about "external management" is the discussion of who will lead Ukraine to "please the hegemon, the USA," as best as possible. In winter, for example, propagandists predicted that the US would facilitate a coup d'état in Ukraine in order to bring the military to power. This time, they focused on who among Ukrainians, "convenient for the US", will lead the government.

On April 20, a pro-Russian Telegram channel with 1,000,000 subscribers, citing "its sources" in the Office of the President of Ukraine, reported that "Andriy Yermak agreed with the State Department to reset the government, all key positions will be transferred to the American clientele. Bankova was forced to agree to such a scenario so that the US would allocate funding."

The next day, another Telegram channel with 415,000 subscribers reported that the Americans apparently want Ms. Oksana Markarova, the ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, to head the Ukrainian government.

"However, Andriy Yermak remains the desired candidate for Bankova, and Markarova is seen as the first deputy prime minister the minister of finance at most," the Telegram channel added.

The head of the Office of the President of Ukraine previously appeared in fake threats that martial law in Ukraine would not be abolished after the end of hostilities. Moreover, with his [Yermak’s] participation, Ukraine lost chances for peace and headed for the sale of Ukrainian land to American billionaires for storing toxic waste, etc.

"Mobilization will definitely be terrible now"

Since February 2022, Chronicles of Disinformation has published 172 refutations of propagandists’ fakes or messages about mobilization to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. On average, messages about mobilization appeared once every 4–5 days. The last peaks of publications in Telegram about mobilization in Ukraine were in the winter of 2023-2024, when new changes in legislation were discussed, and a week or two before the US Parliament voted to provide aid to Ukraine.

The pro-Russian Telegram channels tried to provide cause-and-effect links between legislative changes to the rules of mobilization in Ukraine and the transfer of US aid. Such messages were less common in foreign Telegram channels, where the position of Russian officials was more often disseminated. In particular, on April 21, the Moldovan Telegram channel with 3,000 subscribers quoted the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

"US military aid to the Kyiv regime is direct sponsorship of terrorist activities, to Taiwan is interference in China's internal affairs, to Israel is a direct path to the escalation of unprecedented aggravation in the region."

Messages about the mobilization in pro-Russian Telegram channels aimed at a Ukrainian audience were more conspiratorial. Most of them were published before April 20.

"Now Zelenskyy will be obliged to recruit the promised manpower for the offensive at the end of summer/beginning of autumn," stated a pro-Russian Telegram channel with 1 million subscribers on April 19.

The day before, the same Telegram channel, with reference to "its source" in the government, wrote that Volodymyr Zelenskyy had allegedly promised American lobby groups to "catch" 100,000 to 300,000 conscripts to launch a counteroffensive before the autumn during the US presidential elections.

"Of course, the losses in the Armed Forces will be huge. But Bankova and Ze hope that by simultaneously throwing 300-400,000 infantry into the attack, they can take a large amount of territory from Russia. In the event of victory, no one will ask about the losses and the "price"; everyone will have victory in their mouth," claimed the propagandists.

On April 18, another Telegram channel with 150,000 readers repeated theses about mobilization and the offensive but assumed that the USA considered Ukraine's victory unnecessary:

"The Americans need to continue the war, but not at the expense of increased military funding and the transfer of new military toys, but at the expense of Ukrainians. Probably, the war is moving into a "semi-frozen" phase, where Russia will gradually press down, and the Office of the President of Ukraine will have its last push in the fall. If it is a failure, it will be Kyiv's loss."

Taking advantage of the fact that the vote for aid to Ukraine was on April 20, several pro-Russian Telegram channels compared Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Adolf Hitler. In this way, the Ukrainian pro-Russian Telegram channel, with almost 28,000 subscribers, negatively compared the US aid to Ukraine from the USA:

"Americans were right about fate. The decision to provide aid was made on Adolf Hitler's birthday. A hint about whose fate will be repeated in Kyiv."

To sum up, propagandists' Telegram publications about US aid to Ukraine used approximately the same set of messages about US aid to Ukraine in Ukrainian, Moldovan, and other pro-Russian Telegram channels. It once again proves the coordinated efforts of Russian propaganda and the existence of a single hierarchy of disinformation dissemination in different countries. The topic of US aid to Ukraine is close to classic fact-checking, as propagandists often resort to manipulation of economic indicators and statistical data. These manipulations are relatively easy to refute using open and official sources of information.

Propagandists' messages can be conditionally divided into two groups: those that claim the inability of partners to support Ukraine due to economic and other restrictions and those that discredit Ukraine itself as an unworthy recipient of aid due to corruption, foreign governance, etc.

In general, pro-Russian Telegram channels continue to spread disinformation about aid to Ukraine from Western partners, trying to undermine support for Ukraine and sow distrust in its positions. However, their messages are often based on manipulation and twisting of facts. Its final effect is achieved by layering the theses and propaganda tactics that have been used more than once, making them convenient to refute.

Main page illustration and infographic: Natalia Lobach

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