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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