During the week, the Russian propaganda machine spread fakes and manipulations about the situation at the frontline and once again talked about Poland’s “plans” to invade part of Ukraine.

Українською текст читайте тут.

Since February 24, Detector Media has been monitoring Ukrainian social media and documenting the chronicle of Russian disinformation around Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine on a daily basis. Recently, we have also started making weekly reviews. During the week of December 12-19, 2022, Detector Media’s analysts recorded about fifty disinformation attacks made by Russian propagandists in an attempt to achieve Russia’s political goals. This week, the Russian propaganda machine attempted to convince the world that those Christians who were baptized in the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate will have to be “re-baptized” in Ukraine, that organs are harvested from Ukrainian refugees in Poland, and that minors serve in the Ukrainian army. 

You can find the reviews of Russian disinformation for the previous weeks hereSeptember 26 — October 2October 3 — 9, October 10 — 17October 17 — 24October 24 — 31October 31 — November 6November 7 — 14November 14 — 21November 21 — 28November 28 — December 4December 5 — 12.  

During the week, many fakes and manipulations concerned the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. They arose in the wake of the news about searches in churches conducted by the SBU, and also in response to the bill announced by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regulating the work of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. In particular, anonymous Telegram channels expressing pro-Russian sentiment spread an alert saying Ukraine would not recognize baptism in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Allegedly, those people who were baptized in the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate are forced to “re-baptize with a priest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.” As proof of this development, anonymous contributors added photos of ads that were allegedly posted in churches.  “Due to recent events, all baptismal rites performed by priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are terminated. You can sign up for re-baptism in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine with the priest,” the announcement allegedly read. However, this is a fake and has been denied by the press service of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. “Baptism of this kind is not permitted or carried out in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Because it is a gross theological error, a violation of the canons and a grave sin,” the press service of the OCU said. Rebaptism was previously practiced in the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate in relation to the parishioners of the Orthodox Churches of Ukraine because they considered the Orthodox Church of Ukraine schismatics. Using fakes like these, propagandists try to discredit Ukraine. They claim that the Ukrainian authorities order “illegal searches” in churches and even force people to rebaptise. Another propaganda message in anonymous Telegram channels concerned the fact that all the forgery”. They claim that all that remains is to “find some ammo”. Overall, they claim that is not a “cleansing” of pro-Russian agents and ideology, but a “struggle for influence on people’s minds”. Also, the alleged goal of the Ukrainian authorities is to redistribute church property and attempt to “ensure” that all donations go to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Using such messages, Russian propaganda seeks to distort the truth and shift the focus of attention. They claim that searches in churches are not related to the protection of national security. Although, based on past experience, SBU officers find documents and literature in such churches that indicate that church rectors supported Russia and praised the “Russian world” during worship. 

Also, several propaganda messages this week were dedicated to Poland and other European countries. For example, anonymous Telegram channels wrote that Poles “took apart” a Ukrainian refugee to harvest his organs. Allegedly, a friend of the Ukrainian refugee described in a video how her friend became a donor for four Poles after his death. However, in the video, which was distributed in the posts on Telegram, the woman does not say which person she is talking about, who the man was, why he was in a coma, whether he was a refugee at all. In particular, the speaker does not mention whether the deceased’s organs were sold for money. That is, the woman in the video simply describes how a Ukrainian became a donor for four people in Poland. The principle of presumed consent governs organ transplantation in Poland, and illegal transplantation of human organs is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 6 months to 5 years. In other words, it is unknown whether the organs were truly sold and whether the deceased was a refugee, but the propagandists, without providing any evidence, claim that the Poles did it deliberately: they used the refugee for profit. By spreading such manipulations, the Russian propaganda machine seeks to discredit Poland and its people. Propagandists claim they only exploit Ukrainian refugees, not help them. Disinformation like this is also aimed at intimidating Ukrainians who are seeking refuge in European countries because of the war. Read more about disinformation that aims to discredit Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees in our study

In addition, this week, the message that Poland plans to annex part of the territory of Ukraine, or, rather, to make the west of Ukraine its colony, was again reported in the media. According to the reports, Poland considers the western part of Ukraine its territory. In their conclusions, propagandists refer to The Conversation media and “their own sources” in Russian intelligence, which have repeatedly warned about Poland’s “aggressive intentions” towards Ukraine. However, in the mentioned article of The Conversation, there is no mention of Poland allegedly calling the western part of Ukraine a “colony of Warsaw”. All these are untrue statements, which Russian propaganda has been reproducing for years. Read more about why Russia created a narrative about Poland seeking to annex Ukrainian territories in the article by Mariya Spaliek. 

During the week, the Russian propaganda machine spread fakes not only about Poland, but also, for example, about Germany. As an example, a Russian state TV channel aired a story about an alleged mass rally in Nuremberg with demands to lift anti-Russian sanctions and stop supplying weapons to Ukraine. The same information was spread in pro-Russian and Russian Telegram channels. There was indeed a rally in the city, but it was not anti-Ukrainian, as it was portrayed by Russian propaganda. In fact, the rally was held by the Nuremberg Group for Human Rights, which has been organizing protests every Monday for many years. The main demands of these rallies over the past two years have been the abolition of mandatory coronavirus vaccination for healthcare workers, as well as more general demands against “digital surveillance by the state”, against “hysterical media”, and for social justice. This is not the first time that Russian propaganda has repeated the message that the EU countries, where many Ukrainians fled to escape the war, no longer support Ukraine and allegedly demand that their authorities stop supplying weapons to Ukraine. In fact, support for Ukraine in the EU has not decreased. According to a survey conducted in October-November 2022 at the request of the European Parliament, 74% of Europeans approve of all types of support for Ukraine. 

Also, over the course of the week, Russian propaganda conveyed to its audience that war would soon break out in other nations. The reports added that, for example, Serbia is being provoked to war by American officials. However, all such allegations of the Russian propaganda machine are groundless, there is no evidence that Serbia is preparing for war under the influence of the United States. The recent tension that arose between Kosovo and Serbia was that the Kosovo government wanted those living in Serbian areas to change their Serbian-issued license plates to Kosovo-issued ones. About 50,000 people refused to change their car license plates, and this increased tensions between the Serbian and Kosovo governments. With EU assistance, Serbia and Kosovo agreed on measures to avoid further escalation. The United States welcomed these agreements. This is not the first time Russian propagandists have called the United States a country that strives to promote war worldwide. In particular, the propaganda machine has been repeatedly stating that the war in Ukraine was started because of the US influence on the Ukrainian government.  

This week, propagandists also claimed that Moldova was preparing for war. They alleged that the Moldovan leadership will drag the country into Russia’s war with Ukraine by opening a “second front” in Transnistria on the orders of “external curators”. For this purpose, they have allegedly already increased the country’s defense budget by 50%. The money will be spent on the purchase of weapons and equipment, raising salaries for the military. However, this is a manipulation. Moldova’s defence budget has indeed been increased by 50%, and it provides for the purchase of military equipment and salary increases for the military. However, all this is not a sign of preparation for military actions. Moldovan President Maia Sandu stressed in the summer of 2022 that Moldova remains a neutral state, but will strengthen its defense capabilities. Currently, the Moldovan defense system is in poor condition, so the Russian aggression against Ukraine has made the need for re-equipment of the armed forces more obvious.

This week, there were also fakes designed to create the impression that Ukrainian troops were struggling on the frontlines. For example, Telegram channels reported that Zaporizhia morgues were overcrowded with the bodies of fallen Ukrainian soldiers, so the city council decided to open another morgue. However, in fact, the city council decided to create a municipal enterprise “Forensic Pathology Bureau”. There is a need for such a bureau in Zaporizhzhia because there are no forensic pathology departments in the municipal hospitals. The forensic pathology bureau has nothing to do with the storage of bodies, neither civilian nor military. By spreading such fakes, Russian propaganda seeks to frighten Ukrainians. They claim that the Ukrainian government is lying, and the situation on the battlefield is indeed critical with Ukraine suffering huge losses. This narrative was also fueled by the fake alleging that teenagers aged 14-16 are being mobilized to the Ukrainian army because there is supposedly a shortage of adults. This information was disseminated with reference to the statement of the Russian intelligence spokesman. The reports claim that Ukraine is forced to send minors to the front due to a lack of military personnel. A video allegedly showing such "teenagers" is presented as evidence by propagandists. But the video shows adult soldiers of the Ukrainian army. It was filmed by a military paramedic with the call sign “Chaika” and posted in October 2022. The video features Yelyzaveta, a 23-year-old woman.

Support us. Become part of the project!

Every day, our team prepares the freshest and independent materials for you. We would be extremely grateful for any support you may have. Your donations are an opportunity to do even more.

Support us