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Since February 24, 2022, Detector Media has monitored the Ukrainian social networks segment and Kremlin media, daily documenting the chronicle of Russian disinformation about Russia's war against Ukraine. Over time, we began to complete such reports regularly. Here are the latest of them: June 26 - July 2, July 3-9, July 10-16, July 17-23, July 24-30, July 31 - August 5, August 7-12, August 14-19, August 21-27 and August 28-September 2. Additionally, here is the ten-month recap since the full-scale Russian invasion and a review of the most ridiculous hoaxes during the first year of the Great War.
From September 11 to 17, 2023, analysts of "Detector Media " recorded 25 disinformation messages. During this time, propagandists convinced that a Ukrainian refugee allegedly set fire to a DNA research center in the USA, because he was dissatisfied with the test results. And they also told how Boris Johnson visited Ukraine and apparently "used" Nazi salutes as a sign of support for Ukraine.
"American drug dealers reached Ukraine"
In anonymous Telegram channels, a false claim was circulated, suggesting that the USA was providing soldiers of the 79th separate assault brigade of the Armed Forces with drugs instead of weapons. The posts were accompanied by a "video proof" depicting a Ukrainian military officer unpacking a package from the USAID Agency for International Development and purportedly finding a substance used to make drugs.
It was later discovered that propagandists shared this video on a fabricated Telegram channel pretending to be associated with the 79th Brigade. The brigade itself does not have an official presence on this messaging platform. Subsequently, the video was disseminated within the Russian segment of social media.
In reality, the video was a montage of different clips. USAID representatives confirmed that the organization did not provide Ukraine with any such substances.
The creators of this fabricated post also alleged that the military supposedly received a package containing drugs in Zaporizhzhia. However, the 79th brigade operates in the Marin and Vuhledar directions in the Donetsk region. This information was relayed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces back in July.
Russian propaganda machinery frequently establishes bogus accounts impersonating Ukrainian military personnel on social networks to propagate favorable narratives. For more instances of these fake accounts involving Ukrainian military, you can read further details here.
“We’ll put order here”
Additionally, disseminators of misinformation have circulated a false claim suggesting that Ukrainian refugees in Germany are being actively encouraged to learn vocabulary pertaining to cleaning and housekeeping in order to secure employment. These messages were accompanied by a photograph of a brochure listing specific words for memorization. Allegedly, the European Union and the platform aiding refugees in Germany, Handbook Germany, were implicated in this initiative.
However, the online platform Handbook Germany did not initiate or conduct any such campaigns, and consequently, did not distribute informational brochures. The organization clarified that all their materials are exclusively available in digital format – accessible on their website or official social media pages. Furthermore, the media later refuted the information regarding the job search campaign for Ukrainian refugees. They explained that the posts that propagandists drew attention to were exclusively disseminated in Russian-language Telegram channels. It is highly likely that such images were simply fabricated using photo editing software.
Moreover, the brochure itself is riddled with errors. The propagandists provided incorrect translations for words, exhibited confusion in spelling, and so forth. For instance, they translated the verb "bügeln" as "iron," when in fact, it means "to iron."
This is a clear example of how the Kremlin endeavors to portray Ukrainians as being only suited for household tasks, insinuating their unsuitability for any other form of employment.
“Johnson gives a Nazi salute”
Pro-Kremlin media outlets have disseminated false information claiming that on September 9, Boris Johnson performed a Nazi salute during the awarding of an honorary doctorate degree from the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv.
However, the photo in question was manipulated using Photoshop. In the original image, Boris Johnson's hands remain at his sides, while the other participants in the ceremony hold one hand over their heart.
As per the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Article 436), it is prohibited to publicly display symbols associated with the totalitarian Nazi regime, including the Nazi salute.
"In the тame of Ukrainian blood"
In the past week, there was also a spread of misinformation alleging that a Ukrainian refugee set fire to a DNA research center in California. According to anonymous users on Telegram, this act was purportedly in response to his dissatisfaction with the results of a genetic test, which indicated that he was only 7.9% ethnically Ukrainian. These claims were accompanied by "video evidence" from the international television company "Al-Jazeera".
However, it was later revealed that this news story had been fabricated. No such report was found on the official social media pages or website of the television company. Furthermore, this "news" was exclusively circulated within the Russian-speaking segment of social networks. Additionally, the video snippets used in the false report actually depicted different incidents, specifically the arson of a U.S. prison lobby in June 2023, a story covered by American media outlets.
This is not the first instance where the Kremlin has employed such portrayals of Ukrainians as aggressive, ultra-nationalistic individuals who place sole value on "Ukrainian heritage". Other examples include claims that wives of Ukrainian fighters express concerns that their husbands are receiving "Moscow blood" through transfusions, or allegations that Ukrainians are prohibiting foreign citizens from becoming blood donors.
Detector Media analysts characterized the propaganda message as presenting the elections to the State Duma in temporarily occupied territories as "legitimate." They further claimed that the voter turnout in these areas was "high," suggesting substantial interest in the formation of a "competitive, honest, and unbiased" Russian political landscape. However, much like these elections, any pseudo-referendums regarding joining Russia in September 2022 do not reflect the will of Ukrainians.
Previously, the Verkhovna Rada urged foreign nations to recognize the illegitimacy of Russian elections in the occupied territories of Ukraine, as outlined in Resolution No. 9581. This resolution asserts that the occupying power coerces and manipulates Ukrainian citizens' participation in the elections through unlawful passporting and the substitution of Ukrainian identification documents with Russian equivalents. In June, the European Union also condemned Russia's attempts to conduct pseudo-elections in Ukraine's temporarily occupied territories. EU spokesperson Peter Stano emphasized that Moscow has no legal claim to the captured Ukrainian territories, acting unilaterally and disregarding established norms and rights.
The occupying authorities tacitly acknowledged the failure of their compulsory passporting policy by permitting individuals to vote without a Russian passport. Local collaborators were also permitted to abstain from opening polling stations, opting to cast their votes at home.
This outcome is a consequence of the low voter turnout at the "precinct," demonstrating Ukrainians' lack of interest in participating and their overall resistance to the occupying authorities.
"Is this all due to NATO?"
Towards the end of the week, we observed a manipulation that implied Jens Stoltenberg confirmed at a press conference that Russia invaded Ukraine "through NATO." However, propagandists distorted Stoltenberg's statement, compiling it from his remarks at the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament on September 7.
During this session, he discussed Putin's failed strategy, highlighting how, on the verge of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin attempted to coerce the Alliance, demanding Eastern Europe be included in the "Russian sphere of influence." In late 2021, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued an ultimatum to Western nations, urging them to "stay away from Ukraine" and cease Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration.
When reflecting on past events, Stoltenberg emphasized that Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine represents a significant strategic error on Russia's part.
By distorting statements from external experts, Russia reinforces and advances its own narrative.