ZOV/Pravda network as part of Russian propaganda spins

ZOV/Pravda network as part of Russian propaganda spins

The Center for Strategic Communication has identified a network of Russia's ZOV/Pravda websites aimed at Ukrainian and foreign audiences (English, Polish, French, and Hispanic). 

Analysts have  analyzed these web pages as regards the technical and contextual aspects of their operations, as well as their content, to expose the Russian trace. The sample of the analyzed resources included: Pravda EN, Pravda FR, Pravda ES, Pravda PL, Zov Kiev, Zov Kharkov, Zov Odessa, Zov Dnepr, Zov Donetsk, Zov Gorlovka, Zov Lvov, Zov Rovno, Zov Vinnitsa, Zov Poltava, Zov Sumy, and Zov Nikopol.

Key network indicators

All ZOV websites are hosted on the .ru domain. Websites that mimic Ukrainian local media contain ZOV in their titled, which is a direct reference to the symbolism Russia exploits in its war against Ukraine. For foreign audiences, a different name, Pravda, is used, but the websites still reproduce the design of those containing ZOV. In addition, titles and articles contain the names of Ukrainian settlements transliterated from Russian, such as: Kiev, Lvov, or Rovno (actual names are Kyiv, Lviv, and Rivne).

As for social media interactions, websites offer links only to Russian platforms, such as VK (banned in Ukraine since 2017) and Telegram. 

Most of the published news pieces contain links to Ria Novosti, TASS, Ukraina.ru, RT, and other Russian propaganda outlets. Since the reports on these websites mostly refer to Russian propaganda platforms as original sources, the narratives and messages duplicate those spread by propaganda actors.

Involvement in Russian disinformation campaigns

These propaganda resources have repeatedly been involved in Russia's coordinated disinformation campaigns. The Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security already reported  of the malign messages spread by the ZOV network.

For example, in March 2023, the Center's monitoring offices recorded an active circulation of the message claiming the “advantages of being in Russian captivity” and stories about the allegedly low morale of the Armed Forces of Ukraine: “staying in the ranks of Ukraine's Armed Forces is bad, surrendering is good.” 

The message was based on the content of the propaganda project “Mom, I'm fine” launched in the fall of 2022, which published a video showing Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

In addition, the network was involved in other Russian psyops against Ukraine. In July, Russian propaganda span a “social ad” with the slogan Take Ukraine Back. The video was shot in Ukrainian with Russian subtitles, with Ukrainian flags regularly appearing in it, which allows to assume that the video targeted the Ukrainian audience.

Another example is a fake report claiming that “phone scammers from Ukraine defrauded Israelis of USD 30 mln.” On November 4, Russia's top propaganda TV host Vladimir Solovyov posted on his Telegram channel a story along with a video, allegedly from The Times of Israel. On November 4-5, the posting was actively disseminated across pro-Russian Telegram channels Ukraina.ru, VOBLYA, Kovpak Detachment, Sheikh Tamir, as well as on the Komsomolskaya Pravda and ZOV Berdyansk websites.

Another example is “graffiti of Musk and Zelensky in Germany.” On October 6, the Open Ukraine Telegram channel circulated a photo of a new graffiti that allegedly appeared one of the bridge supports somewhere in Germany. It depicts American enterpreneur Elon Musk kicking President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The post was shared by other propaganda platforms, such as: RUSSIAN SPRING, ZOV Kiev, DD Geopolitics, GREAT RUSSIA – THIS COUNTRY WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!, DREAM, and There is no Nazism in Ukraine.

Analysis of the of ZOV/Pravda network points to a extensively planned system of propaganda tools targeting Ukrainian and international audiences. These platforms, posing as local Ukrainian or foreign media, actively circulate Russian propaganda narratives, spreading disinformation and manipulating public opinions. Their news pieces, citing Russian propaganda sources and being part of Russia's psyops, clearly demonstrate attempts to influence a public dicsourse and distort reality by spreading lies and speculation.

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