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DISINFORMATION: the EU Association Agreement, a catastrophe for Ukraine

Disinformation

In February this year, the EU and Ukraine reconfirmed their readiness to continue cooperation under the Association Agreement, in particular with regard to Ukraine’s economic and political integration. Also, the parties discussed several amendments to the provisions of the association agreement, which was an opportunity for a new disinformation campaign launched by the Russian press against Ukraine and the EU. "A catastrophe that’s been lasting for five years now, in every sphere of life", "a wrong foreign policy choice made by Ukraine" – are some of the reactions in the Russian press. Elements of typical narratives are present, such as: "fake state", "coup d'etat", "Russophobia", "poverty", etc.

NEWS: “[…] Experts describe the results of the Agreement, whose economic provisions came into force five years ago, in 2016, as a genuine “catastrophe” in every sphere of life […] The Association Agreement was signed by Kiev in 2014 after a coup that was provoked by Western countries over President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign the document on unfavorable terms for Ukraine […]

"Visa-free travel has turned into a colossal depopulation and people migrating to neighboring countries - Poland or Germany. In fact, Ukraine has been depopulated, and this couldn’t possibly be regarded as a positive consequence of the agreement", Larisa Shesler, head of the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners in Ukraine, said.

Ukraine has also assumed additional obligations in the humanitarian sector, which, however, it will not fulfil. "For example, the country has adopted a completely undemocratic, non-European law, which bans communication at work and education in any language other than Ukrainian. This decision is a case of overt discrimination against those who speak other languages in Ukraine and also a direct violation of human rights. The European Parliament drew Kiev's attention to this situation in its latest resolution, questioning Ukraine's plans for EU accession in the near future”, the interlocutor said. […]

"The economic situation is deplorable: last year alone, the GDP per capita fell by 30%. This is another consequence of the fact that Ukraine has moved away from the eastern market, has suddenly worsened its relations with Russia and, at the same time, has gained nothing in the West," Shesler said[…]"

Reality

NARRATIVES: 1. The EU will turn Ukraine into a colony. 2. Ukraine is growing poorer and more depopulated following the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU. 3. The EU and Kiev promote a Russophobic policy in Ukraine. 4. The European option in Ukraine's foreign policy emerged as a result of a coup d'etat, encouraged by the EU.CONTEXT / LOCAL ETHOS: Ukraine's Association Agreement with the European Union should have been signed at the Vilnius summit in late November 2013, but due to extremely strong pressure from Russia, the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych changed his mind at the last minute. The decision triggered the Euromaidan protest movement, which turned into a popular uprising that forced Yanukovych to flee to Russia in 2014, after the police opened fire on protesters, using war ammunition. The parliamentary and presidential elections held the same year confirmed Ukraine's pro-European choice, but Russia, in order to block the move, resorted to illegally annexing Crimea and directly supported the armed insurgence in Donbass. In 2016, the Association Agreement was signed by President Petro Poroshenko, and the implementation of this document has become a priority of Ukrainian foreign and domestic policy. At the same time, Russia has tried, using the press, to discredit Ukraine's efforts to get closer to the EU. Using various false narratives, it has promoted the idea that the Association Agreement does not benefit Ukrainian society, that the EU forced Kiev to sign the document, and in the future, Ukrainian society will be nothing but a colony of the West. The Russian and pro-Russian press in Ukraine blame the EU when it comes to economic and social issues and conveniently forgets to mention the annexation of Crimea and the permanent destabilization caused by the Donbass conflict as risk factors for the economic life of the Ukrainian state.OBJECTIVE: The purpose of these narratives is to undermine the support of the population for the European integration process, but also to show Russian-speaking readers in the former Soviet states that the rapprochement with the EU has nothing but negative consequences. There is also an attempt to discredit Brussels' policy on the eastern flank, by creating the image of a "colonizer" of a geopolitical space that "normally" should have been under Russian control.

WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Ukraine was going through a severe economic crisis when Victor Yanukovych left office, and the crisis was exacerbated by the costs of losing territories and the revenue sources generated by them (the heavily industrialized areas of ​​Donbass and Crimea), as well as the costs of the war itself, which practically led to redirecting resources that could have otherwise been used for investment. Also, in the past year, the costs generated by the coronavirus pandemic have added to all that. The Russian press do not mention any of these real causes of Ukraine's economic difficulties and instead seeks to blame it all on the proximity to the EU. In fact, despite transition difficulties, the number of Ukrainian economic entities exporting to the EU and integrating into the European business environment has been growing by the year. According to the Economy Ministry in Kiev, the EU is Ukraine’s main trade partner  (the share of trade in goods and services with the EU amounted to 40.4% in January-September 2020).

As for the alleged Russophobia encouraged by the EU, the Russian press speak of the education and state language laws in Ukraine, which restrict some of the national minorities’ rights. They were adopted by Kiev to limit the role of the Russian language in Ukraine, but were not imposed by the EU; on the contrary, the laws have generated criticism at European level, especially since they also affect minorities of some states that are members of the EU (Hungary, Romania)

  • Publication / Media:
    VZ.RU, Regnum
  • Date of publication:
    12/02/2021
  • Target audience:
    Russian-speaking readers from the former Soviet states, the Russian public
  • Political affiliation:
    the Kremlin, pro-Russia opposition forces in Ukraine
  • Key narrative:
    The Ukraine-EU Association Agreement is an economic catastrophe, and European integration does not benefit Ukrainian society
Marin Gherman

23 Feb 2021
Marin Gherman

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10 minutes read
  • NARRATIVES: 1. The EU will turn Ukraine into a colony. 2. Ukraine is growing poorer and more depopulated following the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU. 3. The EU and Kiev promote a Russophobic policy in Ukraine. 4. The European option in Ukraine's foreign policy emerged as a result of a coup d'etat, encouraged by the EU.
  • OBJECTIVE: The purpose of these narratives is to undermine the support of the population for the European integration process, but also to show Russian-speaking readers in the former Soviet states that the rapprochement with the EU has nothing but negative consequences. There is also an attempt to discredit Brussels' policy on the eastern flank, by creating the image of a "colonizer" of a geopolitical space that "normally" should have been under Russian control.
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