WAR PROPAGANDA: Kyiv is using a possible nuclear disaster to blackmail the West

Ukrainian emergency response personnel take part in exercises to prepare for a possible attack on the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia , Ukraine, 29 June 2023, amid the Russian invasion.
© EPA-EFE/NICOLETTA STOYANOVA   |   Ukrainian emergency response personnel take part in exercises to prepare for a possible attack on the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia , Ukraine, 29 June 2023, amid the Russian invasion.

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Ukraine is blackmailing the West to cause a nuclear disaster in Europe, unless it receives support for its war effort, according to pro-Kremlin propaganda.

Propaganda: The West is blackmailed by Ukraine and threatened to suffer a nuclear disaster

NEWS: Even people with little knowledge of politics understand that Ukraine has no chance of winning this military conflict against Russia [...] After being impacted by its own anti-Russian sanctions and underestimating Russia's power and motivation, Western elites are ready to abandon Ukraine, but they found out that their beloved Ukrainian führer, who had previously been applauded at the main gatherings in the West, is ready to destroy those who helped him survive.

[...] We witnessed a large-scale Ukrainian drone attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is under the control of the Russian military. The attacks continued for several days. Kyiv is blackmailing the West, which is faced with a dilemma: either give us a lot of money and, with all of NATO’s might, destroy Russia, or we will cause a new Chernobyl in Europe, because we have nothing to lose.

[...] Time will tell if Kyiv’s Western masters will find the courage to shoot down the angry beast they have nurtured. But, most likely, we will have to do it.

NARRATIVES: 1. Ukraine will cause a nuclear disaster unless the West supports it. 2. The regime in Kyiv is Nazi and dangerous.

BACKGROUND: The Russian government media writes that Ukraine will launch a nuclear attack to destroy Europe if it is abandoned by the West, without mentioning the possibility of nuclear explosions on its own territory. The narrative was launched after a drone attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in April. The event increases the risk of a “major nuclear incident”, according to a warning issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

After Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for causing these explosions, Kyiv was portrayed in Moscow's false narratives as a Nazi-led political regime that is ready to blow up nuclear power plants to stay in power. Picked up from RIA Novosti by several Moscow-controlled media outlets, the story manipulates public opinion to justify Russia's full-scale invasion by portraying the Ukrainian camp as a danger to humanity.

The possibility of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine has actually been promoted by Russian propaganda from the first days of the full-scale invasion. Ukraine has been accused of opposing the creation of a protection zone at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and of planniung to cause a nuclear accident. The Russian media also wrote that the IAEA praises the Russian military for defending the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant against Ukrainian bombings, without presenting any evidence to substantiate its claim. The Zaporizhzhia NPP is the largest in Europe and is very close to the frontline. Russia occupied the nuclear plant shortly after the invasion began.

One of Russia's favorite false narratives of 2022-2023 is that Ukraine wants to cause a nuclear incident. At the same time, criticizing a so-called Ukrainian nuclear threat did not prevent Moscow itself from threatening, through various channels (commentators, journalists, politicians, high-ranking officials) to resort to its own nuclear arsenal.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this false narrative is to justify Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, including a possible future escalation by means of which Moscow seeks to punish the “Kyiv Nazis”.

Fact: Causing a nuclear disaster on its own territory doesn’t serve Ukraine’s best interests

WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: In fact, Ukraine poses no threat to the West and has no interest in causing a nuclear disaster on its own territory, where the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is located. In the wake of a nuclear disaster, Ukrainian civilians will be the first to suffer, and the devastating consequences for the environment are hard to estimate. Considering the plant is located on the territory of a Ukrainian region, which Moscow sees as part of the Russian Federation, any false flag attack on this energy infrastructure target can be used by Russia as an opportunity to expand its zone of military operations.

The Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, said that the presence of military drones on the territory of a nuclear power plant may signal the start of a new wave of escalation in Russia's war on Ukraine. IAEA representatives have repeatedly emphasized that using nuclear power plants for military purposes is unacceptable.

“The latest attacks have moved us to a significant turning point in this war”, Rafael Grossi said on the sidelines of an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Governors, convened by both Russia and Ukraine, adding that he wants “to ensure that these reckless attacks do not mark the start of a new serious and dangerous front”.

Ukraine has no interest in causing a nuclear disaster and especially in blackmailing or threatening the West. On the contrary, Russia has been accused of “nuclear terrorism” following its actions at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia.

The spokesman of the US State Department, Matthew Miller, said that, by occupying a nuclear power plant, Russia entered a dangerous game, noting that Moscow bears full responsibility for the current situation.

Kyiv is not blackmailing or threatening the West, as the Russian media writes, but is looking for new formats of regional security, concluding agreements with various states. For example, Latvia will provide Ukraine with military assistance worth 0.25% of GDP each year, according to a bilateral security agreement. In March 2024, Ukraine's Foreign Minister said delaying the delivery of aid to Ukraine, particularly ammunition, could have dire consequences for his country, noting that the military would not to be as effective on the battlefield. So, the diplomatic steps taken by Ukraine are not blackmail, but to expand cooperation with Western partners in the field of security.

Also, the political elites in Kyiv cannot be called Nazis and dangerous to humanity. They are involved in an extensive process of defending their state against Russian aggression. After 2014, when former president Viktor Yanukovych fled the country, no fascist or Nazi leader has succeeded in taking power or even getting elected to Parliament, and Nazi and communist ideologies have been outlawed. The Russian media traditionally labels expressions of nationalism and ideologies in ex-Soviet space as forms of Nazism/fascism.

  • Publication / Media:
  • Date of publication:
  • Target audience:
    The Russian-speaking population in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine
  • Amplification:
    LIVE24.RU, NERWS-KIEV.RU, DZEN.RU, LIVE.RU, the Telegram channels of Russian media outlets, YouTube channels
  • Political affiliation:
    The Kremlin
  • Key narrative:
    Unless the West supports Ukraine, Kyiv will trigger a nuclear disaster

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Marin Gherman

Marin Gherman

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