Narratives of Russia’s propaganda and disinformation in its fight against Ukraine and the democratic world

The West must understand that all of Europe is protected by Ukrainian troops. Moscow commits genocide in Ukraine. Its military-political leadership, propagandists, and general leadership will be held responsible in person or absentia at the level of individual nations and international institutions. Recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism will help confiscate Russian money and property in Western countries and give them to Ukraine as reparations. Eugene Czolij, a Canadian lawyer of Ukrainian origin and the head of the Non-Governmental Organization “Ukraine-2050”, told about this in an interview with Translated by UaPosition.

Your organization presented the results of monitoring Russian propaganda for six months until February 24. What conclusions were reached?
–We have 168 participants from 56 countries who, on a volunteer basis, monitor the media in 42 languages, starting from June 4, 2021. Five main metanarratives were identified in the report six months before the invasion of Russia, the main directions of Russian propaganda, which were divided into smaller narratives.
The Kremlin’s first metanarrative is “Ukraine is a failed state”. It denies the existence of the Ukrainian people as separate from the Russian people, and discredits Ukrainian statehood in every possible way. It contains the following narratives:

  • “Ukrainians and Russians are one people”,
  • “historically Ukraine was the periphery, the outskirts of the Russian Empire, and Ukrainians were border guards”,
  • “Ukraine does not have its own history and language”,
  • “Ukraine arose as a result of the actions of the Bolsheviks and Lenin”,
  • “Ukraine steals Cossack traditions from Russia”,
  • “Ukraine’s economic decline is inevitable”.

–The second metanarrative is “the Ukrainian government is Nazi, illegitimate.” It must discredit the Ukrainian government and split Ukrainian society. It contains the following narratives: “the Ukrainian government is under the foreign control of the USA”, “power in Ukraine has been seized by neo-Nazis”, and “Maidan is an armed coup with the support of Western special services, which led to the loss of Crimea and the civil war in Ukraine, as well as the deterioration of life of Ukrainians”, “the civil war in Ukraine after 2014 has nothing to do with Russia’s actions.

See also: Russians need to denazify themselves first, – Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Moshe Azman

The aggressor is Ukraine itself, which is waging war against its people”, “the war in Ukraine is supported in the interests and with the assistance of Ukrainian oligarchs”, “Ukrainians are not satisfied with their authorities, which will soon lead to mass protests.” Also, that the “Crimean platform” is a neo-Nazi platform for encroaching on Russia’s territorial integrity”, “Ukraine’s gas transport system for the transit of Russian gas to Europe is unreliable, as is Ukraine as a partner for the supply of energy resources, therefore the construction of “Nord Stream-2″ is justified”.

What else are the Russians spreading?

–The third metanarrative is “The West exploits Ukraine and is destructive to the world order.” It should present the West, led by the USA, as an exploiter of Ukraine in America’s geopolitical interests and a threat to the world order, and should also create mistrust of Western countries in Ukrainian society. The following narratives are within this metanarrative:

  • “The US is deceiving the world with statements that Russia is preparing an attack on Ukraine, and its real motive is to demonize the Russian Federation”,
  • “the West wants to use Ukraine to weaken Russia and is pushing Ukraine to war, but it will not help in any way attack by the Russian Federation”,
  • “new strains of coronavirus are part of the modernization of biological weapons, which are being tested on Ukrainians in secret laboratories in Ukraine under the leadership of the US”,
  • “the first meeting of the US President Joe Biden with his Ukrainian colleague Volodymyr Zelenskyy means nothing for the US, but for Ukraine it will not bring results, because America has no serious interests concerning Ukraine”,
  • “Nord Stream-2″ does not threaten the energy security of the EU, but strengthens it, thanks to the increase in capacity and price reduction”,
  • “Russia was given promises to refuse the expansion of NATO to the states of the former” Eastern Bloc”.

The fourth metanarrative is “the Russian national minority in Ukraine is an object of oppression.” They said:

  • “the illegal and violent displacement of everything Russian – language, church, history, culture and violent Ukrainization through the “language law” continues,
  • “discrimination and humiliation of Russians as a minority are taking place in Ukraine due to the law on indigenous peoples”,
  • “an unprecedented neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism prevail in Ukraine, and the memory of the “Great Patriotic War” and the USSR is discredited”,
  • “the Ecumenical Patriarch is splitting Orthodoxy”, “Ukraine is repressing pro-Russian mass media”.

“Russia threatens NATO and the USA with war”

–The fifth metanarrative is “there is an external threat to Russia.” It is aimed at intimidating Ukraine, NATO and the USA with war, presenting them as aggressors who plan to militarily return the territories of Donbas occupied by Russia. But it should also justify the need for Russia to resolve the “Ukrainian issue” and the conflict in Donbas by military means. As part of this metanarrative, we noticed the following:

  • “Russia is a peaceful state and does not threaten anyone”,
  • “Ukraine is an aggressor and is preparing to return the occupied territories of Donbas by military means”,
  • “NATO countries occupied Ukraine, thousands of US and Alliance troops are operating on its territory, there are NATO military facilities and infrastructure”,
  • “Ukraine is acting against the Minsk agreements, disrupting the peace process”,
  • “Ukrainian troops are demoralized and do not want to fight”,
  • “Ukrainian troops are shelling the population and civilian infrastructure of the so-called LNR and DNR”,
  • “Ukrainian troops have committed genocide in Donbas”,
  • “Kyiv’s provocations may force the Russian Federation to use the army to resolve the conflict in Donbas”,
  • “Ukraine will not be able to resist the war with Russia and will lose it, according to various estimates, from a few hours to a few days”.

Our mission continues its work and we will present the third report by the end of October. It will highlight the disinformation which Russia has been spreading around the world since February 24.

What are the main conclusions from the narratives of Russian propaganda? Is the idea that Moscow wants to show the world that the Ukrainian state and nation do not exist and that the country itself is a mistake the main?

–Yes, this is the essence of their campaign. The words of the former world chess champion and famous Russian opposition player Garry Kasparov were noted in the presentation of our report. He said: “The job of propaganda is not only to misinform or advance one’s agenda but also to attack critical thinking and destroy the truth.”

Russian disinformation tries in various ways to prove all theses that Putin wrote in the essay dated July 12, 2021 “On the historical unity of Ukrainians and Russians”.

“Moscow tried to show the world that the West was allegedly the aggressor”

That is, Russian disinformation tries to deny the existence of the Ukrainian people as a separate nation with its own history and culture, language and territory, as well as to deny Ukrainian statehood. Russian disinformation also tried to impose it on the world and prepared the ground for a Russian invasion. Moscow tried to show the world that this happened under pressure, or with the help of the USA and NATO, that the West is allegedly the aggressor.

When Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, many in the West didn’t know who was responsible – Russians attacked Georgians or vice versa. After February 24, almost everyone in the West unequivocally took the Ukrainian side regarding the definition of the aggressor and the victim. Can we say that Russian propaganda has lost its influence in Western countries?

–It is partly due to the efforts of mass media organizations like ours and other governmental or non-governmental structures that monitor, identify, and counter Russian disinformation.The image of Russian aggressive propaganda was formed in the Western world thanks to numerous painstaking work. Many people now have an excellent understanding of the current situation in Ukraine. Thus Russia’s disinformation campaign was not successful.

“Russian disinformation is part of Russian aggression. Its work is very dangerous”

However, this does not mean that we should fold our hands and stop working. As the saying goes, someone will definitely believe a lie repeated 10 times, if no one objects to it. Russian disinformation is part of Russian aggression. Its work is very dangerous. You should have a detection and countermeasure strategy to make society understand its hidden essence, expose the goals, voice and deactivate them in an appropriate way.

Ukrainian experts say that attention to Ukraine in Western countries periodically declines. Is “Ukraine-2050” working to draw the attention of Western societies to the war in Ukraine, so that their authorities keep this case in focus, and the leadership continues to help us with weapons and humanitarian aid?

–Not only “Ukraine-2050”, but also the Ukrainian diaspora is working on it constantly. In particular, the “Ukrainian World Congress”, and its constituent organizations in each country, especially in Canada, the USA, European countries. The Ukrainian diaspora in each country tries as much as possible to voice Kyiv’s needs at various forums and platforms, appealing to the power structures of the respective countries.

For example, I spoke that Russia was committing genocide in Ukraine in front of a parliamentary commission in Canada. I argued on the basis of the UN Convention on Genocide and explained Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity, in particular, acts of genocide.

“If there was an accident, the radiation could spread to the EU. Radiation does not require Schengen visas.”

–I constantly draw attention to the fact that Ukraine is a victim of unprovoked aggression and genocidal war. Therefore, helping Kyiv is a moral obligation. We are trying to explain that the Armed Forces of Ukraine, defending their territorial integrity, are actually defending Europe.

We give specific examples. Russian troops shelled the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. A fire broke out there, threatening a catastrophe, Ukrainian firefighters extinguished it during the shelling. If there was an accident, radiation could spread to many EU countries. Radiation does not require Schengen visas. If there was a disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, there would be millions of refugees not from Ukraine to the EU, but from Europe to other continents. This is one of many examples. Therefore, Western countries should help Ukraine to defend itself even more. This is the best guarantee for future peace and stability in Europe and the world.

You are a famous Canadian lawyer. How probable is the trial in person or in absentia of the Russian military-political leadership and propagandists?

Now the relevant information and evidence are being collected so that they can be presented in court. I hope that the Russian leadership and the military, who give and carry out orders, committing war crimes and crimes of genocide, will be brought to justice and receive appropriate punishment.

“There are countries that are on the way to recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. It will lose state immunity in such countries”

Are we talking about the courts of individual countries or international tribunals like the Hague?

–There may be different ways, in particular, based on the Genocide Convention. In addition, some countries are on the way to recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. When there is such recognition, the Russian Federation will lose state immunity in these countries. There you can seize Russian assets, sell them, and compensate Ukraine for damages. Different ways to do it the fastest and most efficiently are being considered.

High-ranking Russian officials who have been included in the sanctions lists can no longer travel outside of Russia, and use property and accounts in Western countries. Some European countries have banned Russians from entering with a simplified visa. There will be more and more pressure to impose sanctions on all those who support and carry out aggression. Legal loopholes that Russians use to avoid sanctions are being constantly looked for.

The Minister of Justice of Ukraine Denys Maliuska asks the UN and the countries of the G7 to return $300 billion from the frozen assets of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation in the countries of the Group of Seven as reparations to Ukraine. How realistic is it to get these funds?

–Now, the ways how to do it are being considered. One possible way is to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Such a country loses a state immunity in countries where there is such a recognition that will allow to seize Russian assets, sell them, or transfer to Ukraine as reparations.

Another way is that the relevant countries can adopt the necessary laws that will allow this to be done.

“Russian propaganda prepared Russians, in particular, the military, for war and fostered hatred against Ukraine”

Did the Russian government use its propaganda to prepare the military and the population for war crimes and acts of genocide in Ukraine?

–Obviously, the disinformation spread by the Russian authorities at home and abroad had different goals. It prepared the Russians, in particular, the military, for war and fostered hatred towards Ukraine, encouraged the West not to intervene in future aggression, and provoked a split in Ukrainian society. It was a multifaceted campaign to weaken Western aid and Ukraine itself, preparing the ground for an invasion.

After the crimes in Bucha, Putin awarded the military who were there. He stated in the decree that their behavior was an example to follow. Therefore, the troops understood that the crimes committed in Ukraine have the support of the Kremlin.

To what extent is Russian society massively and deeply poisoned by imperial chauvinistic ideas and is there a chance to overcome them?

–Russian propaganda had a great impact on Russians. Most of them do not have access to true information in Russian. Many do not want to look for it. They are used to living in the mirror world of Russian propaganda. Obviously, it influences Russian society, especially where access to alternative information is limited.

“There is a significant part of Russians who have imperial views. They believe that Ukrainians who do not want to submit to Russia deserve to be destroyed”

–Propaganda has been effectively forming public opinion in Russia for years. The part of the population has access to true information. But there is also a large percentage of those who support an aggressive war against Ukraine. The reasons may be different, in particular, the fear of repression. There is a significant part of those who have imperial views. They believe that Ukrainians who do not want to submit to the Russian Federation deserve invasion and violence from Russia.

See also: Anatomy of rashizm: how the undefeated totalitarian legacy became a countdown to Putin’s Russia

How can Ukraine live and develop next to an aggressive neighbour who can attack again every time, even after our victory?

–After Ukraine wins the war, Western powers should help Ukraine defend itself as soon as possible and as effectively as possible. One of the goals of “Ukraine-2050” is to facilitate Ukraine’s faster entry into the EU and NATO. So that the country could benefit from the guarantees of NATO’s Article 5 on collective defense.

What is the scenario for further developments in Ukraine?

–Ukraine has already prevented Russia from implementing its first plan – to seize the capital, occupy the country with the liquidation of power structures and take control of the entire country. It was supposed to last several days.

The second failed plan is to capture the entire Donbas by the beginning of May.

Now Ukraine is actively liberating the occupied territories. It will win back all the lands and completely restore territorial integrity over time. Further, it must guarantee its security so that it can defend itself at any time with the help of the West.

Unfortunately, Ukraine is paying a high price in the human lives of military and civilians, as well as the destruction of Ukrainian cities and villages. These are huge losses of people and property.

–Today, Ukraine defends its territorial integrity and Europe at a huge cost, approaching victory. The only question is the cost of human lives and destruction. Therefore, Ukraine deserves the full support of the West in order to speed up the victory. And then – to be able to rebuild the country, make it powerful, democratic, European.

What will happen to Putin’s regime after the defeat of the Russians in Ukraine?

–I wish that the perpetrators of the genocidal war in Ukraine are brought to justice and punished for their crimes. As for Russia itself, when it loses, it is possible that the leadership there will be changed and the new government will have less imperialistic intentions and encroachment on neighboring countries.

“The Russians will finally have a question: why it was necessary to start a war”

The large-scale losses of the Russians will help them understand that this war was unnecessary on their part. They did not gain anything, and the Russian population became poorer. The effect of Western sanctions will only worsen. Over time, the Russians will finally have a question: why was it necessary to start a war that caused only trouble and grief for them, not to mention the Ukrainians.

Eugene Czolij was born in 1959 in Montreal, Canada. Canadian lawyer of Ukrainian origin. Since 1982 he has been a member of the Bar of Quebec and a senior partner of one of the largest law firms in the region of Lavery, de Billy. Since 2012 – he has been in the directory “The Best Lawyers in Canada”. President of the “Ukrainian World Congress” from 2008 to 2018. He has been doctor Honoris causa of the National University “Lviv Polytechnic” and the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”. Since 2019, he has been the president of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) “Ukraine-2050”. Since 2019, he has also been the president of the Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation of Canada, a non-profit organization that supports the “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”. In 2020, he has been appointed Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Montreal.

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