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Distracting Blame from Russia

Section 7 from “Old Wine in a New Bottle: Russia’s Modernization of Traditional Soviet Information Warfare and Active Policies Against Ukraine and Ukrainians”.

by Taras Kuzio, the Department of Political Science, National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Kyiv, Ukraine

In the year prior to the Azov crisis, Russian media had been claiming Ukraine was being assisted by NATO to intervene into the Sea of Azov. Ukraine had allegedly infested it with cholera.

In September the messaging was already preparing the ground for later disinfor-mation, forecasting ‘West-inspired provocations on the Azov Sea shore’ and that the US has been ‘planning for clashes between Ukrainian and Russian naval forces in the Black Sea since the 1990s.88

Russia’s naval piracy on 25 November 2018 in the Black and Azov Seas, when it seized three vessels and 25 crew and security forces, led to an unprecedented disinformation campaign to defect blame on to Ukraine. The aim was to show Ukraine as the aggressor state and a Western fifth column taking orders from Washington. Russian media also continued with the traditional messages that the ‘fascist’ regime in Kyiv is bloodthirsty: ‘The West hoped to paint the Azov Sea with the blood of Ukrainian citizens’ and ‘children in Mariupol are forced to dig trenches for soldiers’.89 Russia’s intervention prevented World War III by stopping the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) transporting a NATO-supplied nuclear device to destroy the new Crimean bridge.90

Russia’s information warfare included the following messages:91

  1.   Ukrainian sailors were sent to be killed in order for Kyiv to receive more funding from its Western sponsors;

  2.  There is a civil war in Ukraine;92

  3.  Crimea voluntarily joined Russia;

  4.  Ukrainian vessels entered territorial waters that belonged to Russia prior to Crimea joining Russia in 2014;

  5.  Ukraine’s provocation aimed to derail the Trump-Putin summit;

  6.  Ukrainians will be deprived of medical supplies, such as syringes and bandages;

  7.  The vessels seized by Russia were donated by the USA;

  8.  The West planned for Ukraine to seize Russian vessels in order to paint the Azov Sea with Ukrainian blood;

  9.  President Poroshenko and the United States planned the Azov Sea ‘provocation’;

  10.  Ukraine is forcing children in Mariupol to dig trenches;

  11.  The West does not know where the Azov Sea is and does not care about it;

  12.  The UK was forcing Ukraine to stage a chemical attack, which would be blamed on Russia.

Footnotes

  1. 88‘Russia’s Long-Term Disinformation Plan for The Azov Sea’, EU Disinformation Review, 6 December 2018, https://euvsdisinfo.eu/russias-long-term-disinformation-plan-for-the-azov-sea/.

  2. 89‘Russia’s Long-Term Disinformation Plan For The Azov Sea’.

  3. 90‘Ukraine and UK Conspired to Destroy the Crimean Bridge Using a NATO Portable Nuclear Device’, EU Disinformation Review, 26 November 2018, https://euvsdisinfo.eu/report/nato-conspired-to-destroy-the-crimean-bridge-using-nuclear-land-mines/.

  4. 91‘Russia’s Long-Term Disinformation Plan for The Azov Sea’.

  5. 92 Vinogradov, ‘“Nedostrana” i “grazhdanskaya voyna”’; and Tymofil Brik, ‘“Civil War” and Other Clichés: Why Is It Important to Study Terminology, Context, and Data?’, Vox Ukraine, 20 February 2019, https://voxukraine.org/en/civil-war-and-other-cliches-why-is-it-important-to-study-terminology-context-and-data/.

CONTACT Taras Kuzio taras.kuzio@ukma.edu.ua Department of Political Science National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy 2 Skovoroda Street Kyiv 04070 Ukraine

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