For Promote Ukraine, the International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda continues to review the messages and narratives of Russian propaganda, which it broadcasts both to its own population and to residents of other countries. In particular, yesterday Russia held a military parade in honor of Victory Day, which had previously been postponed due to the pandemic. Interestingly, the parade took place a week before the referendum on constitutional changes that can allow the incumbent president of Russia to remain in power until 2036.
Let’s start with the parade to Victory Day. One of the high-profile events in Russia was Putin’s signing of federal law on “postponing the end of World War II to September 3”. “By the same document, the memorable date of September 2, which is celebrated all over the world, was canceled in the Russian Federation. Despite all the absurdity and ridiculousness of this step, its symbolic meaning is obvious – Russia is once again trying to rewrite the history of the world, in particular, World War II, emphasizes its “special way” and draw attention to its “exceptional role” in victory,” says Valentyna Bykova. media expert, an analyst at the International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda.
At the same time, the information noise from the signing of this law was supposed to offset the inconvenient information failure for Putin, when he was forced to cancel the Victory Parade, without announcing a new date. In the jubilee year (75 years since the end of the Second World War), when the hysteria of the “victory rage” spread through all information channels long before the events themselves, it became a very painful decision. After all, Putin invited leading leaders from countries that were members of the anti-Hitler coalition to this parade.
Valentyna Bykova analyzes: the Kremlin ideologues also tried to use the parade dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Victory to once again proclaim the propaganda narrative about the “unity of Russia and Ukraine”. It was said that Volodymyr Zelensky could attend this parade. Vadim Rabinovich, co-chairman of the parliamentary faction of the Opposition Platform – For life, also declared his readiness to attend the parade in Moscow, proposing to form a delegation of the Verkhovna Rada to take part in this propaganda event in Russia.
Such ostentatious unity with the aggressor country, watching the parade of Russian troops that annexed Crimea and occupied part of Donbas, would be another image blow to Ukraine and would weaken its position in the negotiation process and create additional obstacles to restoring territorial integrity.
Putin’s cancellation of such a significant image event as the Victory Parade because of the new coronavirus pandemic also thwarted attempts by Kremlin propagandists to prove that Russia is “the only country in the world that met the COVID19 epidemic with dignity and even helps others, unlike the United States and the EU, that aren’t ready for a pandemic”. To disguise the “loss of face”, in official sources Russian Federation tried to “lay straws” and show forced action as “merciful consent” of Putin to the “initiative of the people”.
The health of the Russians is nothing – propaganda is the main thing
Immediately after Putin’s announcement that the parade would be postponed, a new possible date was set for June 24, the anniversary of the first postwar parade in 1945. The corresponding “initiative from the grassroots” was made by the major general of the Russian Federation Serhiy Lypovy.
Indeed, a military parade dedicated to Victory Day took place in Moscow yesterday, postponed in May due to a pandemic (it took place despite warnings from the World Health Organization).
Many foreign leaders have chosen to ignore Moscow’s invitation. The presidents of France, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and China have previously said they plan to take part in the parade on May 9, but after postponing it to June 24, they canceled their intentions to come to Moscow. And this is not surprising, because, in Russia, 8,000 new cases of coronavirus are recorded every day. Despite the threat, thousands of soldiers marched shoulder to shoulder in Moscow and other Russian cities on Victory Day. In addition, hundreds of thousands of spectators gathered at the largest parade on Red Square with the participation of tanks and missiles.
Thus, only the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Serbia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan came to Moscow for the parade. Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov was not present at the event, as two members of the Kyrgyz delegation were diagnosed with coronavirus after arriving in Moscow.
Interestingly, the parade took place a week before the referendum on constitutional changes that can allow the incumbent president of Russia to remain in power until 2036. The parade was supposed to increase the patriotism of the Russian population, as the Putin era is characterized by the tendency to integrate victory in the Great Patriotic War into the legends and myths about Russia that are becoming part of them.
Another painful topic for Russian propaganda was Ukraine’s blocking of a manipulative resolution of RF in the United Nations to ease sanctions over the economic crisis amid the coronavirus. The sensitivity of this blow to Russia was so great that the comment on the website of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN goes beyond even diplomacy, but ordinary courtesy. The text entitled “With Victory, Gentlemen!”, Oversaturated with emotionally colored vocabulary, evaluative judgments and propaganda rhetoric is a classic example of manipulation and does not meet the standards of international relations. In particular, Ukraine’s actions to block the Russian resolution are assessed as “sticks in the wheels”, “blasphemy”, “stale stamps and fakes about Russia”.
The painful defeat of Russian diplomacy was also commented on in the State Duma, calling it “an unconstructive and inhumane approach”. The reaction to the event was heard from the territory of Crimea annexed by Russia, where the representative of the occupation administration – Deputy Chairman of the so-called “Public Chamber of the Region” Oleksandr Formanchuk said in an interview with RIA Novosti said about stubborn of Ukrainian nationalism that does not fit into logic” and “dense anachronism” solution.
The hysteria of Russian propagandists about blocking the resolution is another proof that the topic of lifting sanctions is one of the most urgent on the agenda of modern Russia.
Another unhealthy excitement among Russian authorities and propagandists was also caused by the statement of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry regarding the online marathon “Month of Ukrainian Diplomacy”. It includes work on correcting articles about Ukraine in Wikipedia in several languages, combating misinformation by filling gaps on Russian aggression, Ukraine’s integration into the European Union and NATO, relations with other countries, the activities of international organizations, and more. Work has now begun in cooperation with Wikimedia Ukraine in the languages of the countries where Ukrainian offices are present.
Of course, this step could not go unnoticed by the workers of the ideological front of the Russian Federation. The reaction was not long in coming – a member of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, Serhiy Zheleznyak, began with threats, emphasizing that this would allegedly “undermine the reputation of the Internet resource”. He also used a typical method of propagandists – reflection, accusing Ukraine of rewriting history, that is, of what Russia has been doing for a long time and on a large scale.
“These regular attempts to rewrite the history of the country, as well as to correct world history for own political interests, are a very dangerous game. Such action is, of course, a political order, aimed primarily at the consciousness of the younger generation,” Zheleznyak said.
Another touch in the overall propaganda picture is Russia’s attempt to demonstrate its readiness to provide assistance to “poor and helpless Ukraine” from “strong and powerful Russia”, the main purpose of which is official penetration into Ukraine.
Russia is once again trying to improve its image in Ukraine and around the world, trying to portray itself as a “savior” rather than an insidious aggressor to use this argument to lift or ease sanctions by demonstrating “improved neighborly relations” with its victim.
At the same time, this step is reinforced by Russia’s propaganda message about Ukraine as a “failed state,” a “404 state” that cannot cope without the help of its northern neighbor. Who exactly would be part of the Russian “humanitarian mission” if the Ukrainian authorities agreed to it, can be seen in the example of Italy. With 80% of Russia’s cargo being unnecessary, Russian military and intelligence agents (including high-ranking officials), as well as Russian propagandists, fighters of the information front, were legally entered the NATO country, which is Italy.
Russia does not stop and will never stop trying to conquer Ukraine: politically, economically, culturally, informationally. Attempts to rewrite the history, in particular, of the Second World War, remain one of the favorite tools of Russian propaganda. At the same time, Russia is scaling up the successful experience of conducting high-profile PR campaigns to provide “humanitarian assistance” to the population of other countries, neglecting the unwillingness of its own health care system to adequately respond to the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Their own problems, exacerbated by the COVID19 pandemic and the deteriorating economic situation, are prompting Russian propagandists to use any informational pretext to improve the image of Russia, and of Putin personally, in order to lift or at least ease sanctions. An important role in this process is played by Ukraine, as a victim country of the aggressor, which was the reason for imposing these sanctions. Therefore, it is very important that Ukraine is ready at all levels to defend not only its own territories but also its own information space, to repel the encroachments of Russian propagandists and to shape its own policy for both the domestic and the world community.