However, Russian disinformation and propaganda are finding ways to penetrate the Ukrainian information space. It is thanks to the Russians posing as someone else that Ukrainians learn about the “death” or the “wounding” of the most famous Ukrainian generals, the “Israeli passport” of the first lady, or the “radioactive cloud” due to the “explosion of depleted uranium shells.” Fact-checkers and government agencies promptly refute the most dangerous hostile fakes and manipulations. But because of its mass nature, even the most ridiculous and absurd ones still get their audience.
The Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security recalls the 10 most brazen fakes of Russian propaganda that turned out to be a failure.
Death of Ukrainian military leaders
For more than a month, the Russian disinformation campaign concerning the highest military leadership of Ukraine has been underway. Fake stories about the injury, death, or just a mysterious “disappearance” of the commander-in-chief of the AFU Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence Kyrylo Budanov, and other generals are regularly spread on the Internet. Even the federal media and Putin personally joined the spread of fakes and rumours.
Fakes of Russian propaganda are regularly denied by the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. The generals themselves have repeatedly done this in quite an elegant way. The “non-statutory” chevron with Baby Yoda and Budanov’s new hairstyle turned into real memes of Ukrainian social networks.
Fake: Zaluzhnyi, Budanov, and other Ukrainian generals are periodically killed and injured.
Fact: Zaluzhnyi and Budanov exercise military leadership and regularly appear in the information space.
Radioactive cloud is approaching Western Europe
Kremlin propaganda insists that the depleted uranium munitions provided to Ukraine by the UK are supposedly nuclear weapons.
After the missile attack on Khmelnytskyi on May 13, the Russians claimed that they managed to hit the warehouse with this type of ammunition. Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Patrushev said that a “radioactive cloud” was moving towards the West, a significant “increase in the radiation level” had already been recorded in Poland, and in the near future, the cloud would “affect France, Germany, Switzerland.”
The reports about the “new Chornobyl” were spread not only by the Russians, but also by the media of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Tasnim), India, and some European countries.
The Russian fake was quickly refuted by the Polish State Atomic Energy Agency (Państwowa Agencja Atomistyki | PAA) and European fact-checkers.
Institutions monitoring the level of radiation in Ukraine, Poland, the EU (PAA, EU Joint Research Centre) did not record significant changes in the background.
Fake: Due to explosion at ammunition depot in Khmelnytskyi, Western Europe is threatened with radiation contamination.
Fact: No specialized monitoring institution in Ukraine and the EU has recorded an increase in the level of radiation.
Senator Graham rejoices at the death of Russians
At the end of May, one of the leading stories of Russian propaganda was the meeting of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. The video was cut in such a way that the two phrases of the senator, said in different contexts, were put one after the other: “Yes, the Russians are dying” and “Best money we’ve spent,” giving the impression that they are part of a single logical construction.
The hosts and guests of Russian shows, Putin’s spokesman Peskov, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova were “outraged” by Graham’s words. Head of the Investigative Committee of Russia Bastrykin instructed his subordinates to initiate a criminal case against Graham, and Secretary of the Security Council Medvedev “reminded” the senator about the fate of Robert Kennedy and other American politicians who were killed.
The Presidential Office of Ukraine promptly provided journalists with a full version of the video, which showed that Graham’s statements about the death of Russians and the spending of American money did not follow each other. The phrase of the senator “Best money we’ve spent” was a response to the words of gratitude to Zelensky for the assistance to Ukraine from the United States.
Rheinmetall shares fall amid reports of Leopard tanks destroyed during Ukrainian offensive
On June 12, a number of Russian media and Telegram channels reported a sharp drop in the share price of the German concern Rheinmetall. The concern produces Leopard 2 tanks, which Western partners supply to Ukraine.
The author of the publications spread the same photo of the destroyed tank and predicted that Western arms manufacturers would “think hard” whether to provide their products to Ukraine. To confirm their own words, they even published a part of the exchange chart, where a decrease in the share price was recorded in mid-May – early June 2023.
In fact, the fluctuation of the course in the specified period did happen. But since March 2022, there has been a steady trend in the growth of the Rheinmetall share price. The exchange rate difference between the share price on March 1, 2022, and June 21, 2023, was +62.8%.
The concern is increasing production, and the demand for its products against the backdrop of the Russian-Ukrainian war is only growing.
Fake: The share price of the German concern Rheinmetall plunged due to destruction of Leopard tanks during the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Fact: The Russians presented a short-term fluctuation in the exchange rate as the “plunge.” For more than a year, there has been a steady trend in the growth rate of Rheinmetall shares. From March 1, 2022 to June 21, 23, they rose in price by 62.8%.
Anti-Semitic attacks against Volodymyr Zelensky
Russian propaganda branded Ukraine as a “Nazi” state. At the same time, the Kremlin does not hesitate to make openly anti-Semitic statements and speculate on the ethnic origin of Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with an Italian media: “So what if Zelensky is a Jew. I may be wrong, but even Hitler had Jewish blood.” And he added that “the fiercest anti-Semites are usually Jews.”
Putin, speaking at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on June 16, called Zelensky “a disgrace to the Jewish people.”
The reaction to the statements of the Russian leaders was immediate. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, head of the Yad Vashem Institute pointed out to Lavrov the inadmissibility of statements based on a long-exposed conspiracy theory. The Jewish Confederation of Ukraine responded harshly to Putin’s accusations against Zelensky. As an illustration to the statement, a photo of the Menorah destroyed by Russian artillery on the territory of the Drobytskyi Yar memorial near Kharkiv was chosen; it was the place of mass executions of Jews during the Nazi occupation.
Fake: Ukraine is a Nazi state that Russia is trying to denazify.
Fact: Russian leaders make anti-Semitic statements and try to attack Volodymyr Zelensky for his ethnic background. Russian artillery struck the graves of Holocaust victims.
Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security