Russians fed ‘fog of disinformation’ amid Ukraine invasion

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Russians fed 'fog of disinformation' amid Ukraine invasion

As world leaders condemned Russia’s declaration of war on Ukraine and full-fledged invasion of the country, causing frightened residents to flee and sanctions being imposed, Russians were fed a misleading “fog of disinformation” about the conflict.

State-funded media presented a rosy picture of Russia’s military’s actions starting during the beginning of the invasion — insisting the Kremlin was merely defending neighbors and that Ukraine was the aggressor.

After President Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s recognition of the separatist areas in eastern Ukraine as independent states and ordered its troops to “maintain peace” there, TV broadcasters gushed about the “historic” day and claimed it represented good news for the residents of the breakaway regions.

“You paid with your blood for these eight years of torment and anticipation,” anchor Olga Skabeyeva said Tuesday morning on Russia 1 state television. “Russia will now be defending Donbas.”

Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv  on February 24, 2022.
Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv on February 24, 2022.
ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images
Ukraine explosions
Vladimir Putin recorded his declaration of war against Ukraine on Monday.

Vladimir Solovyev, a TV commentator, also presented the inching toward full-scale invasion as altruistic maneuvering.

“We will ensure their safety,” he said on state Vesti.FM radio. “It is now dangerous to fight with them … because one will now have to fight with the Russian army.”


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“The invasion has begun,” declared Yevgeny Popov, a Russia 1 TV host. “But it wasn’t Putin who invaded Ukraine — instead, Ukraine went to war with Russia and Donbas.”

Vladimir Solovyev, chairman of the Russian Union of Journalists
Vladimir Solovyev presented the inching toward full-scale invasion as altruistic maneuvering.
Sergei Fadeichev/TASS via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin as he speaks about authorising a special military operation in Ukrainian Donbass region in Moscow, Russia, 24 February 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently used deceptive tactics in his own public statement.
EPA

State-funded TV station Channel One celebrated the moment, as a correspondent in Donetsk claimed that local residents “say it is the best news over the past years of war.”

“Now they have confidence in the future and that the years-long war will finally come to an end,” she said.

Valentina Shapovalova, an expert in Russian media and propaganda at the University of Copenhagen, told France 24 the spread of misleading information was needed because Russia’s recent military actions have been “much less popular” with the population than 2014 annexation of Crimea.

A jet missile wedged into a damaged roadside in the aftermath of Russian military operation
A jet missile wedged into a damaged roadside in the aftermath of Russian military operation.
EPA/SERGEY KOZLOV
Damaged radar arrays and other equipment is seen at Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
Russia has launched a barrage of air and missile strikes on Ukraine early Thursday.
AP Photo/Sergei Grits

 “The goal is to create so many different — and sometimes even contradictory — versions of what is happening at the border that no one can really distinguish the true from the false anymore,” said Shapovalova.  

Stefan Meister, a specialist in Russian security and disinformation at the German Council on Foreign Relations, told the outlet Putin “already used the same techniques in 2014 to justify the annexation of Crimea”, and that “it’s impossible to imagine Russia today conducting a conflict without a cyber-propaganda dimension.”

The misinformation campaign has proved somewhat effective, experts said.

Explosion in Kiev
Russians were fed a misleading “fog of disinformation” about the conflict.
© ROPI via ZUMA Press
Police block Red Square ahead of a planned unsanctioned protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in central Moscow on February 24, 2022.
Police block Red Square ahead of a planned unsanctioned protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in central Moscow on February 24, 2022.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

Denis Volkov, director of the Levada Center, Russia’s top independent pollster, told the Associated Press that surveys show more than half of Russians were ready to support Putin’s moves.

“The situation, as it is understood by the majority, is that the West is pressuring Ukraine” to make a move against the rebel-held areas, “and Russia needs to somehow help,” Volkov said.

“This notion of helping in an extraordinary situation translates into support” for recognition of the separatist regions, he added.

Ukrainian military vehicles move past Independence square in central Kyiv on February 24, 2022.
Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv today as cities across Ukraine were hit with Russian missile strikes and artillery.
DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images
Traffic jams are seen as people leave the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
Traffic jams are seen as people leave the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

In addition to the disinformation Russian state media has broadcast in recent days, Putin recently used deceptive tactics in his own public statement.

Putin recorded his declaration of war against Ukraine on Monday, days before the address that aired on state TV in Russia on Thursday, according to multiple reports. An outlet posted metadata purportedly from the Kremlin’s website indicating the footage was created at 7 p.m. on Feb. 21, not immediately before the full-scale invasion began late Wednesday.

The Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team also noted that Putin wore the same maroon tie and dark suit during Thursday’s address as he did during a Monday meeting with the Russian Security Council.

Damaged radar, a vehicle and equipment are seen at a Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
Ukrainian officials said that Russian troops have rolled into the country from the north, east and south.
AP Photo/Sergei Grits

With Post wires

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