Ukraine 2023: Top PROPAGANDA, FAKE NEWS AND DISINFORMATION narratives debunked by Veridica

Ukrainian servicemen of the 68th Separate Jager Infantry Brigade "Oleksa Dovbush" fire an M2 machine gun on a frontline position at an undisclosed location in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, 26 February 2023.
© EPA-EFE/OLEG PETRASYUK   |   Ukrainian servicemen of the 68th Separate Jager Infantry Brigade "Oleksa Dovbush" fire an M2 machine gun on a frontline position at an undisclosed location in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, 26 February 2023.

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In 2023, the second year of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, war propaganda remained the main instrument of disseminating Russia’s false narratives targeting Ukraine and ex-Soviet space. Fake news and disinformation narratives, which are slightly more sophisticated than mere propaganda, continued to circulate, although to a lesser extent.

Moscow continued to try to justify its aggression in Ukraine, depicting it in the terms used in 2022 – either as a response to a Western aggression against the “Russian world” and its traditional values, or as an action to save the Ukrainian people (from Nazism, biological weapons, etc.). In addition, NATO, the EU and the United States (in short, the West) continued to be targeted by false narratives fostered by Russia.

Top 5 narratives

The political leaders of Ukraine and the West need the war. Due to the war in Ukraine, the USA has preserved its position of global leader, and Zelenskyy will never lose power. In fact, Western and Ukrainian leaders did not trigger the war, nor did they argue in favor of it. Rather, they advocated lasting peace, meaning that Russia has to withdraw its troops, stop killing civilians and violating international law.

Russia is looking for a peaceful resolution in Ukraine, while the West wants to prolong the war. Moscow’s actions are depicted as measures to save the Ukrainian people from Kyiv’s Russophobia, backed by Western states. In fact, Russia was the one that triggered the war and that continues to fight it by trying to capture as much of Ukrainian territory as possible.

Ukraine has become a Nazi state, and Ukrainians need denazification. Not only is Ukraine a pseudo-state, but it is also led by Nazis and was driven by the West to launch a war against Russia, Russian propaganda claims. In fact, neither Kyiv nor the West ever wanted a war, and Ukraine banned Nazi (and communist) ideology by law. Besides, since the proclamation of independence, no significant far-right party has even taken power in Ukraine.

Ukraine is an invention of the USSR, and Russia has a historical claim to divide its territory. In 2023, a number of false narratives were reiterated or reformulated with a view to convincing public opinion that Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era, being a byproduct of historical Russia. Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin was repeatedly accused by Vladimir Putin of providing national republics with a right to leave the USSR.

The “special military operation” saved Russia from the NATO aggression. The West failed to wipe Russia off the face of the earth owing to the “special military operation”, described by Russian propaganda as a war to liberate Ukraine from the occupation of NATO and the EU. The Russian military aggression against Ukraine is referred to a war launched by the West, dominated by racism and neo-Nazism, against Russian citizens. Surrounded by the West coordinated by the “American hegemon”, Russia was forced to launch the “special military operation” to protect the authentic values and people living in harmony on its territory.

Top 5 WAR PROPAGANDA narratives

The war in Ukraine is meant to liberate Russia, but also the entire world, according to Putin and a number of articles published in Moscow-based media. Starting from the myth of the besieged fortress, Russian propaganda has developed an image of the external enemy that the Russians are forced to destroy and help Ukraine to become free. One indication of this national liberation is the "return to Russia of some historical territories," which, according to Putin, get reconnected to the values ​​of the Russian world.

Peace in Ukraine depends on the USA and on Zelenskyy stepping down. In actual fact, the end of the war in Ukraine does not depend on the USA or the West, but primarily on Russia, the country that invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, after previously annexing Crimea and supporting separatist movements in Donbas.

Upon the request of Kyiv authorities, Interpol will search for Ukrainians who fled the mobilization. In fact, Ukraine interacts with Interpol in identifying Russian collaborators in the EU, not refugee men. Moreover, the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees prohibits the signatory states from deporting, discriminating or arresting people who have fled war, regardless of sex, age, race, etc.

Moral principles prevent Russia from ending the war. Russia is fighting this war for ethical reasons, which is why it will keep fighting until it wins, Moscow propaganda argues. In fact, Russia has committed war crimes on the territory of Ukraine, and the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin.

The war forced the USA to relocate its bioweapons from Ukraine. Russia managed to stop the US production of biological weapons in Ukraine, a threat to its national security. In fact, Ukraine never hosted laboratories manufacturing biological weapons. In 2007, Ukraine joined the Convention on the non-proliferation of biological weapons. The agreement signed by Ukraine and the USA in this field is described by Russia as an element conducive to manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the agreement targets scientific research designed to help identify and combat dangerous pathogens.


FAKE NEWS: Ukrainians no longer want a war and have stopped believing Kyiv’s propaganda. Kyiv is no longer capable of persuading the Ukrainian people this war must continue, and the society wants Ukraine to surrender to Russia. In fact, according to a study conducted by Gallup, 60% of Ukrainians have argued in favor of continuing operations to liberate Ukrainian territories until Ukraine wins the war against Russia. Surveys conducted in Ukraine and citizen resilience to this war have proved that the narrative about Ukrainians who want to stop fighting in this war and to surrender to Russia is a fabrication of Moscow’s war propaganda.

FAKE NEWS: Ukrainians don’t learn anything useful from NATO training. Ukrainian military trained by NATO specialists failed to learn modern methods of conducting assault operations. In fact, due to training conducted by NATO, Ukraine successfully deployed a number of counteroffensive operations.

The USA allowed Ukraine to bomb Russia. The Ukrainian army publicly got the US’s approval to bomb towns on the territory of the Russian Federation, according to a false narrative disseminated by the Russian state media. In reality, the US has clearly discouraged potential operations on Russian territory, but has recognized Ukraine's right to operate on its own territory, including the ones illegally annexed by Moscow (territories in Donbas, the Crimean peninsula).

DISINFORMATION: Russia created Ukraine, and Ukrainians are part of the Russian nation. The Kremlin is trying to persuade Russian readership that the borders of the Ukrainian state is subject to negotiations, and Russia has a historical and political right to take part in these negotiations because Moscow created this state. In fact, Russia and Ukraine are two independent states that pledged to mutually observe the immutability of their borders and their territorial integrity. Furthermore, under the Budapest Memorandum, Russia provided Ukraine with security guarantees in exchange for the latter discarding its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal.

Top 5 most outlandish narratives of Russian propaganda

Ukrainians want a president like Vladimir Putin, not the puppets put into office by the West, according to pro-Kremlin propaganda. In fact, 98% of Ukrainians hate Putin, regarding him as the new Hitler. Hatred for Vladimir Putin is also detectable in every region of Ukraine, regardless of their being inhabited by Russian or Ukrainian speakers.

The war has saved Russia from unemployment and poverty and generated global economic growth, according to pro-Kremlin propaganda designed to justify the partial mobilization. In fact, although Russian economy seemed to recover in the last year following the decline reported in the first year of war, the recovery was determined by converting the economy into a war economy, whereas reverting to a conventional economy will pose a serious challenge to Russia. At the time the narrative was published, Russia’s economy was in definite decline, and the mobilization dealt a serious blow to the business environment and stability. The drop in the unemployment rate, presented as Putin’s big success, actually hides a big issue for the Russian economy – a shortage of labor force.

The actions of the Russian military in the Kherson region are an example of humane behavior, reads a narrative published during the occupation of this region. In fact, mass graves and torture chambers have been discovered in southern Ukraine that show how humane the behavior of the Russians really was. A team of researchers from the Humanitarian Research Laboratory at the Yale School of Public Health released a report in November 2022 documenting 226 cases of arrests and disappearances of people in the Kherson region during the Russian occupation.

The UE wants Ukraine to review its Nazi legislation on national minorities, but Kyiv objects. In fact, the EU’s recommendations by no means refer to Nazism, a concept that is no longer part of the terminology of European official documents. The new Ukrainian law on national minorities offers guarantees in accordance with international standards, but in order to ensure full compliance with these standards, some provisions of the law must be reconsidered, the Venice Commission estimated, the request also being confirmed by the EU.

Romania backs the proposal to divide Ukraine and will occupy the regions of Chernivtsi and Odesa, the Russian propaganda media writes after former president Dmitry Medvedev suggested a “quiet partition” of Ukraine. In reality, Romania unconditionally supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity and is helping Kyiv deal with the aggression of the Russian Federation.

EBOOK> Razboi si propaganda: O cronologie a conflictului ruso-ucrainean

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