EU vs DiSiNFO: How Тhe Kremlin Fabricates Reasons for Invading Ukraine
“EU vs DiSiNFO”, the EU-based service for combating disinformation and manipulation placed by official Moscow and its agents, has published a new analysis of the prevailing disinformation narratives about Ukraine, which we are transmitting in full
In the midst of the military escalation along Ukraine’s borders, the Russian-controlled media continue to cultivate disinformation narratives about threatening crimes or crimes already being committed against the population of Donbas. This, obviously, is done to create an occasion for war, “reasons” for invasion, and to constantly keep open the possibility of a new, direct military aggression against Ukraine, “EU vs DiSiNFO” wrote.
False allegations accusing official Kyiv of “crimes and reprisals” in Donbas have been regularly present in the pro-Kremlin media for years. Disinformation “media”, including those found to be linked to Russia’s intelligence services, have many times accused Ukraine of “ethnic cleansing” and genocide in the past. Such was the case in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.
These scams are now being recycled by the Kremlin’s highest echelons.
Below is an overview of some of the most underlined Kremlin-related disinformation narratives that are being used or could be used as an excuse for further escalation through military aggression against Ukraine.
Myth: “Ukrainian forces will launch a major offensive in Donbas at any moment”
Fact: Ukraine values the life of each citizen and does not plan any aggressive actions – the message of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense could not be clearer than this.
“The Ukrainian army is not planning any offensive and is not using weapons that could endanger civilians. All activities on the territory of the Joint Forces Operation are of a defensive nature.”
Russian state media are intensifying accusations against Ukraine for secret offensives. It culminated in synchronized and almost identical video messages (allegedly recorded 2 days earlier) by Russian-backed militant leaders in the so-called DNR and LNR. These messages called for a mass evacuation (actually: ordered relocation) by Russia. By using the term “evacuation”, local militants try to present their activities as humanitarian, whilst in fact, the term refers to the eviction of civilians from their homes and daily life. The claim of the Russian state media that 700,000 people are being evacuated suggests an attempt to take responsibility for protection as a reflection of the war in Kosovo.
Where have we seen this before? For years, media close to the Kremlin have been flooded with allegations of Kyiv’s offensive plans against Donbas, portraying Ukraine as an unscrupulous aggressor. Such examples can be seen here. At the same time, media close to the Kremlin deny that a kindergarten was bombed in Ukrainian-controlled territory.
Myth: “Ukraine plans to carry out a terrorist attack in Donbas or Russia (with numerous civilian casualties)”
Fact: This and similar allegations are among the false narratives accusing Ukraine of either preparing or carrying out violent (“terrorist”) attacks. Recent examples include allegations of plans to blow up dangerous industrial capacities, administrative buildings in Donetsk, or allegations of “Polish mercenaries.” A more detailed view of this can be found at DFR Lab.
One constant in all such diverse claims is the persistent absence of any credible evidence. No independent observer has confirmed such allegations. No credible witness has made such a claim. This narrative also includes the explosion of a car broadcast by many media in Donetsk on February 18, 2022, during which a reporter of a state-controlled Russian television stands next to a damaged car, as no credible forensic activities are seen. There is also no documentation regarding a similar story about any explosions.
The Ukrainian government categorically denies such disinformation claims.
Claims by media close to the Kremlin regarding an alleged terrorist attack by Ukraine have intensified following international media reports based on publicly available intelligence suggesting that Russia could launch a fake terrorist attack to justify a military invasion of Ukraine.
Where have we seen this before? Russia has accused Ukraine of “terrorist attacks” before (see 2016), as media close to the Kremlin claimed that Ukraine is run by a “terrorist junta” and that it is “training terrorists” for operations in Europe and the Middle East. But there is no evidence to support such claims.
Myth: “Ukraine is committing genocide against the Russian-speaking population in the East.”
Fact: By accusing the Ukrainian government of the deadliest crimes against humanity, the Kremlin is not only trying to portray official Kyiv as the worst criminal but also misusing the term clearly defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, from 1948.
Such allegations were clearly disfigured, among others, by independent Russian media. None of the many reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine that are regularly published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission come close to mentioning genocide in Ukraine.
Where have we seen this before? Over the years, media close to the Kremlin have arbitrarily used the word “genocide” to describe things that have nothing to do with large-scale human rights violations, thus undermining this term of international law. Examples of this are the “water” and “visa” “genocide” in Crimea and the “genocide” of Ukrainians over the refusal to buy the Sputnik V vaccine.
Myth: “Ukraine will use chemical and other banned weapons against civilians in Donbas. The U.S. is planning a “masked chemical weapons attack” on Donbas.
Fact: Ukraine has never produced, stored or used chemical weapons. The U.S. is also a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and does not use chemical weapons.
Media close to the Kremlin have further accused the Ukrainian military of using white phosphorus munitions, which is banned by the Geneva Conventions, while Telegram channels linked to Russia’s secret services have been spreading rumours of homemade radioactive bombs. Such false narratives are disseminated in order to sow fear and act as “emotional switches”, humiliating the Ukrainian armed forces.
Where have we seen this before? Media close to the Kremlin has a long history of distorting facts about chemical weapons, including the denial of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime. The media close to the Kremlin also served as instruments to blur the facts of the assassination of Alexei Navalny and Salisbury, in which Russia actually used chemical weapons.
Myth: “The Ukrainian army is committing crimes in Donbas”
Fact: Allegations of the so-called crimes in Donbas are terrifying and sometimes complemented by gruesome images by major Russian TV stations. However, they lack a significant amount of credible details. With the constant movement restrictions to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, there is no possibility for independent observers to investigate such allegations.
Where have we seen this before? Media close to the Kremlin use highly emotional and fabricated messages to agitate hatred and fear of Ukrainians, especially among domestic Russian audiences. After the well-known fabrication of the “crucified boy” placed by the media close to the Kremlin in 2014, there were also round-the-twist allegations that the Ukrainian armed forces had organized a “human safari” in which rich people from the West could allegedly “buy the right” to kill civilians in Donbas (2018). Similar allegations of an alleged “sniper safari” have surfaced. In the spring of 2021, the Russian state media largely placed a story about a 4-year-old boy in Donbas who was reportedly killed by a Ukrainian drone. According to all reports, this cause of death is fiction. Such disinformation messages are closely linked to the prominent disinformation narrative of “Nazi Ukraine”, “nurtured” by both Russian media figures and officials.