The year 2020 will go down in history books not only due to its eventfulness (coronavirus pandemic, tensions in the Middle East, protests in Belarus, the Armenia-Azerbaijan war, the US presidential election and other equally important events) but also due to its structural changes since the world will never be the same again.
Let’s go straight to the information field. The widespread disinformation about coronavirus, government conspiracies, the impact of 5G towers on the spread of coronavirus, the existence of reptilians from Nibiru and other nonsense showed how easy it is to manipulate the mass consciousness of the world’s population. And, of course, all this was used in the interests of various political groups, individuals, corporations, and sometimes states.
In this article, we will take a closer look at what kind of disinformation the Russian media outlets resorted to for discrediting Ukraine and its armed forces, which information areas the propaganda resources of the aggressor country used, and what topics pro-Russian resources focused on. The presentation will follow a clear chronology – from the beginning to the end of 2020.
Downing of Ukrainian Boeing in Iran
The year began tragically for Ukraine. At 06:14 Tehran time on 8 January 2020, a Ukrainian Boeing 737 was shot down near Tehran. There were 176 people on board – nine crew members (all Ukrainians) and 167 passengers. They all died. On 11 January, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted that the plane had been accidentally shot down by a missile fired by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Russian and pro-Russian media outlets focusing on Ukrainian issues immediately began drawing parallels with the MH17 crash, blaming UIA and justifying Iran.
The main culprit in the tragedy was the United States, which allegedly planned to shoot down an Iranian government plane with officials who were in charge of missile attacks on American military bases.
The team of the President of Ukraine was accused of lack of professionalism in responding to the consequences of the tragedy. There were reports about the 95 Kvartal programme [Ukrainian comedy TV show formerly produced by Zelensky], which was broadcast after the President’s address regarding the tragedy, and the Head of State was blamed for a long silence after the tragic events.
Honcharuk’s Audio Recordings and Invisible Hand of Soros
One of the hottest news stories of the “pre-coronavirus period” was the publication of audio recordings of the conversation during a meeting in the office of the then Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk. Disinformation on this issue focused on the “external control” of the Cabinet of Ministers, and Soros, who had real power in the government through “sorosiata” [his supporters].
In general, the term “sorosiata” has actively entered the lexicon of Ukrainian politics, denoting all those who won Western grants, studied in Western schools, or those whom the West is actively promoting to leadership positions.
After all, a few years ago it was almost impossible to hear the surname of Soros. “Sorosiata” was a little-known achievement of conspiracy theorists and was mentioned only on cheap blogs, not on news sites, which are among the five most visited information resources in Ukraine.
Coronavirus in Ukraine: American Test Site and Biolabs
The coronavirus unexpectedly caught all of humanity by surprise; no one was ready for this challenge. Not a single health care system was able to cope with the flow of patients caused by the virus.
During 2020, Russia actively disseminated the narratives of the collapse of Ukraine due to the coronavirus, the inability of the authorities to keep the situation under control, and much more.
First of all, it is worth mentioning Russian reports about secret American biological laboratories that are engaged in “doing experiments” on ordinary Ukrainians or even on Russians.
The information bombardment also touched upon the decision of the Government of Ukraine to purchase only a certified vaccine and to prevent the official distribution of untested samples. In the context of saving Ukraine, the Russian media outlets actively promoted the idea that Ukrainians could be saved only by the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.
Theses concerning lockdown were also actively disseminated. Statements were made that if a lockdown is introduced, Ukraine’s economy and healthcare system will not withstand restrictions, hunger riots will begin in Ukraine, and the overall situation in the country will be out of control.
In this context, there were reports of a large outbreak of coronavirus among the servicepersons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, especially on the front line, which is not entirely true. To hide this fact, the command allegedly came up with different stories, including that the SBU confiscated cell phones of servicepersons and Kyiv was busy with washing armoured vehicles instead of treating soldiers. That is, there were attempts to impose the opinion that there were mass outbreaks of coronavirus in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, due to which personnel deserted from the army and refused to fight.
War in Eastern Ukraine
Despite reaching the ceasefire, a tense situation remains in eastern Ukraine, killing Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.
The idea is being actively promoted that Ukraine is systematically violating the ceasefire by shelling militants’ positions and populated localities.
“Ukraine has again taken up the ax of war.” Such headlines could be read in pro-Russian media resources describing the situation in eastern Ukraine. They wrote that the Ukrainian army shelled the “DPR,” killed the commander of one of the “separatist” battalions, and then opened aimed fire on the employees of the Donetsk filtering station. In short, the “villains from Ukraine” are going to start full-scale hostilities in Donbas, especially after the election of US President Joe Biden.
While Ukraine proposes to reform the negotiation format and make progress in the talks on resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia and its puppet republics, in turn, continue to accuse Ukraine of violating the Minsk agreements and sending “clowns” to negotiations in Minsk to freeze the conflict.
Ukraine and NATO
NATO’s active position on Ukraine, joint exercises on the territory of the country, provision of material and methodological assistance – all this worries Russia. In its information resources, Russia accuses NATO of using Ukraine as a test site.
The Russian Federation carries out “fused proposals” and false analogies: during the flights of B52m nuclear bombers over the Odesa region, the United States practiced nuclear strikes against Russian facilities in Crimea – the United States recognises Crimea as Ukrainian territory – the United States practiced nuclear strikes against Ukraine.
The visits of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the UK and Turkey, where certain defence and security agreements were reached, did not go unnoticed. For Russian propagandists, this meant that Ukraine was sold to the British crown and the Turkish sultan.
All this turns into one big narrative that Ukraine is a puppet of the West.
Hunting for Russian-Speaking Population…
Speaking about the language issue, Russia continues to accuse Ukraine of oppressing the Russian-speaking population. It does it so much so that now Russian-speakers will be specially caught and placed in a “concentration camp.”
The reason for this was the entry into force of the law on language, which obliges serving customers exclusively in Ukrainian, which caused a public outcry.
But despite this, Russian propaganda continues to promote the narrative that the Russian-speaking population has been oppressed in Ukraine since early 2014.
Of course, this is not a complete list of all the topics of Russia’s information attacks on Ukraine, as it is also worth recalling that Ukraine “supplies weapons” and nationalists from Azerbaijan.
It is necessary to understand that all information attacks of the Russian Federation fall into one big strategic narrative about “Russian world.”
AM&PM Centre for Counteracting Information Aggressions