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Disinformation:

DISINFORMATION: In Ukraine children are starving, and the country is turning into an underdeveloped Western colony

Disinformation

While Ukraine exports food to the EU, its children are starving, and the country is turning onto a Western colony. These narratives have been reiterated by the Russian state media, which distorts a series of statistics presented by international organizations.

NEWS: “The UN has sent a warning signal with respect to the increase of the number of people suffering from malnutrition all over the world due to the coronavirus and the economic crisis, and Ukraine is exporting its agricultural products abroad, thus depriving its already impoverished population from access to relatively cheap foodstuffs.

It's terrible that 22.9% of Ukrainian children under the age of 5 are suffering from chronic malnutrition, while 8.2% suffer from acute malnutrition. According to 2019 estimates, 21.3% of children under the age of 5 are underdeveloped due to malnutrition […]

We’re not talking about a shortage of food, bur rather the fact that production is controlled by private companies, including foreign corporations, which export everything to Western countries […]

Ukraine is a colonial-type plundered state, where 30% of children under the age of 5 are starving. One piece of good news is the fact that Ukraine’s economy is similar to that of Somalia of the Ivory Coast, although its agricultural sector is sizably smaller compared to the two states”.

Reality

NARRATIVES: 1. Children in Ukraine are starving. 2. Ukraine is turning into an underdeveloped Western colony.

BACKGROUND: Ukraine was supposed to sign its Association Agreement with the European Union at the summit in Vilnius, but due to strong pressure from Moscow, president Viktor Yanukovych changed his mind at the last moment. The decision triggered a wide protest movement, the Euromaidan, which toppled the Yanukovych regime. Russia responded by annexing Crimea and subsequently backing separatist forces that launched a civil war in Donbass. Meanwhile, the new administration in Kiev signed the Association Agreement and launched a series of reforms, some of which link Ukraine’s food market to the EU single market. Moreover, on July 1, 2021, Ukraine liberalized its land market. Ukrainians are now free to buy or sell farmland, and starting 2024 the market could further expand to include foreign nationals as well. Right now, Ukraine’s agricultural output is way below its potential due to lack of investment. Ukraine’s falling in line with European standards through the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU has become the target of information attacks coming from Russian government media.

Russian politicians and Moscow-linked media see the initiatives aimed at tying Ukraine to the Western world as a great threat – a genuine loss of control over Kiev in economic terms. The false narratives about the Ukrainian agricultural sector more often than not target the political class in Kiev that came to power after president Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.  

The fake news about an imminent food crisis is not limited to Ukraine alone, and is not entirely new. Veridica has recently examined a number of fake news, according to which Romania too will be hit by a shortage of food, the narratives seeking to induce panic among the population with the cold season drawing near. A number of press articles also reference the same metanarrative. For instance, in 2017, a Russian TV station published an article about “the great famine” in Ukraine, claiming people were eating bread fed to the pigeons.

PURPOSE: The purpose of these narratives is to inoculate the idea that, once long-standing economic and political ties with Russia are severed, Ukraine will turn into an underdeveloped Western colony. The narratives equally seek to fuel fears in the Russian public sphere with respect to the West’s policy of plunder, leaving ex-Soviet states to starve.

WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: In fact, the author of the article manipulates public opinion, quoting older statistics or deliberately presenting them in a distorted context. Like other false narratives focusing on this topic, some analyzed by Veridica.ro, the Russian state media doesn’t specify which Ukrainian territories are mentioned in the reports of international organizations. In most cases, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and other international bodies write about various problems facing Ukraine due to the conflict in Donbass. They recall about the food crisis in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the Russian state media generalizes it to describe the whole of Ukraine. For instance, according to the latest report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ukraine is listed among the states where access to food is difficult in conflict areas. The Russian state media however doesn’t bring up the conflict in Donbass, but rather builds an anti-Western narrative.

Furthermore, the statistics quoted from Ukraina.ru and other news agencies are outdated (they reference the 1998-2002 period). According to the 2021 Global Nutrition Report, only 2.2% of Ukrainian children are affected by malnutrition, not 30%. The Russian media did not quote more recent statistics because it didn’t support their disinformation narratives. The Hunger Map, which, according to the article, proves Ukrainians are struggling with famine, actually puts Ukraine on a par with most other European states, although the situation is critical in Donbass, namely the very area outside the control of the Ukrainian government.

  • Publication / Media:
    Ukraina.ru, Narodnii koresspondent, News Front
  • Date of publication:
    05/11/2021
  • Language / Target audience:
    Russian-language readers in Russia and ex-Soviet states
  • Amplification:
    Social media
  • Political affiliation:
    The Kremlin
  • Key narrative:
    In Ukraine children are starving, and the country is turning into an underdeveloped Western colony
Marin Gherman

16 Nov 2021
Marin Gherman

10 minutes read
  • While Ukraine exports food to the EU, its children are starving, and the country is turning onto a Western colony. These narratives have been reiterated by the Russian state media, which distorts a series of statistics presented by international organizations.
  • PURPOSE: The purpose of these narratives is to inoculate the idea that, once long-standing economic and political ties with Russia are severed, Ukraine will turn into an underdeveloped Western colony. The narratives equally seek to fuel fears in the Russian public sphere with respect to the West’s policy of plunder, leaving ex-Soviet states to starve.
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