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Narratives of Russian propaganda that remain dangerous to Ukrainians

02.02.2023

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Narratives of Russian propaganda that remain dangerous to Ukrainians

Russian propaganda never takes a break, ceaselessly generating new narratives. We know by now that Ukraine does not actually export energy, its people do not “suffer hellish torments”, and Poland does not intend to annex Ukraine’s western regions. Those are all Russian narratives that have little effect on the Ukrainian conscience. We have learnt well to distinguish them as enemy propaganda.

However, some narratives that do affect the Ukrainian conscience remain out there. Read our article to find out more about them.

You have probably seen the photo above (a soldier swept with snow).

You might even know that the depicted person is not a Ukrainian soldier, and the photo was not even taken in Ukraine. Public chats captioned the image as “the cost of free Ukraine”, and some disingenuous people attached fundraising information to it. Although the hype around it has subsided, let us study the dangers such hoaxes pose to Ukraine’s information space.

Russia does this deliberately; it is winter, and Ukrainians are worried about the soldiers. Upon seeing such photos, Ukrainians begin to think that the state does not support its own people and that it significantly undermines the country’s spirit and standing. This is just one of the dangers of such propaganda.

On 14 January, a terror attack took place in Dnipro. In the wake of the massive media outcry in the world that followed the Russian missile destroying a multi-apartment building, Russia decided to make a poor attempt at distracting Ukrainians. Thus, it launched a wave of bots spreading a new narrative aiming at dividing Ukrainians: “Dnipro is being discussed. And yet everyone has forgotten about us. Our city has been under such shelling for three months, and somebody has yet to react somehow.”

Although Russian offhand propaganda occasionally renders this message in a poor Ukrainian translation, it still works because it evokes public outrage and resentment against the Government and the mass media.

There is another version of the Dnipro narrative. According to it, the mass media disproportionately covered the destruction of the multi-apartment building (allegedly destroyed by the AFU, to begin with) to distract public attention from the tremendous losses at Soledar and Bakhmut. It is essential to bear in mind that regular civilians of Ukraine would not have seen the information about the situation in the hotspots anyway. After all, information is a weapon that can play into Russian hands.  

That is why the information about Ukrainian losses is kept secret, to begin with. We do not know the exact number of wounded and fallen warriors of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Based on this, russians created another narrative, insisting that Ukrainians are being lied to about our losses. 

The Government of Ukraine does not disclose such information because concise knowledge about our personnel losses could greatly aid the enemy. The russians need this narrative to cover up and justify their own death toll to their people.

Relying on their own lies in making conclusions, the propagandists decided that Ukraine was going to mobilize women and teenagers. As proof, russians post pictures of call-up papers issued by the military. Fact-checkers across various projects analysing those images say that the documents are mostly fake. 

According to Ukrainian law, women not in the medical profession can only join the Armed Forces of their own free will. As to men, they can only join the army once they turn 18. 

The following case is interesting because of its duplicity. Today, reports appear on the Internet about hospitals receiving castrated AFU soldiers. Except for sparse accounts by volunteers and bloggers, there is no concrete evidence behind such information. Nonetheless, local public chats keep circulating it. In doing so, they do not just demonise russians but also demoralise Ukrainian troops.

Currently, the narratives that divide Ukrainians into “grades” are the most troublesome for Ukrainian society. One such narrative is about the IDPs from the east who allegedly do nothing but drink alcohol and refuse to work or enlist with the AFU. 

A different hoax is circulating about Ukrainians from western regions. Propaganda claims that they believe that shelling is what Kharkiv and other eastern cities “have brought on themselves” for their pro-Russianness.

Volunteering is one of the vital cohesive forces in Ukrainian society. It takes place in humanitarian hubs, devastated cities, etc. Ukrainians who donate to the needs of the front are volunteers too. Yet Russian narratives insinuate that the largest foundations are actively appropriating donated funds. As a result, the frontline receives fewer resources. 

We cannot speak for all foundations, but the largest of them disclose detailed financial statements everyone has the right to review at any moment. As to the foundations that do not publicise such information, you should not trust them with your money. 

Currently, those are the most prominent narratives of russian propaganda. Maintain caution and examine all information critically.

02.02.2023

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