Russia-Ukraine War and Disarming Propaganda
By Kabir Abdulsalam
The web has been circulating thousands of false claims as the war in Ukraine continues. Staged attacks, old pictures, and manipulated videos surfaced. There was a great deal of expectation that Russia would have beaten Ukraine early on due to its experience in propaganda.
The influence of Russian deceptive operations has been global for a long time, You could recall the Russian propagandist role to convey nationalistic as well as pro-Assad messages during the Syrian Civil War, the troll farms that favoured Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election in the US.
What about the Russian state-owned media, Sputnik, a news agency in Scotland published manipulated satellite images of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 downing, released by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Russia has intensified international propaganda efforts targeting Africa, Asia, and the Arab world during the invasion of Ukraine. Several international media have debunked some misinformation and disinformation about the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Interestingly, Russia has consistently censored media to maintain the fiction of a “special military operation” rather than an invasion, projecting the narrative as ridding Ukraine of Nazis and fascists.
In the information ecosystem, Russia has operationalized the concept of a perpetual adversarial competition by fostering a disinformation and propaganda ecosystem to strategically advance its Kremlin’s policy goals.
Notwithstanding, Kremlin’s goal, Analysts noted that Ukraine is seen as an anti-Russian weapon in Western hands—and destroying it will not automatically lead to Russia’s victory in this anti-Western geopolitical game.
In an attempt to justify his action, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “the war on Ukraine as a peacekeeping mission, a “denazification” of the country. While addressing Russians on Feb. 24, 2022, Putin said: “the purpose was to “protect people” who had been “subjected to bullying and genocide for the last eight years. And for this, we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.”
Several media, both international and national, have to disarm Russia’s disinformation weapons created to influence websites that pretend to be news outlets for spreading misinformation and propaganda about the war.
Deutsche Welle (DW) Germany’s international broadcast media has identified different fake reports emanating from the war.
“The claim that a Russian youth was beaten to death by a “mob of Ukrainian refugees” in the German city of Euskirchen was published in a video addressing Russians in Germany. However, DW reports the incident never happened.
Again, Videos of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy have been used to create deep fakes with a message that favors their adversary.
According to the report, “is Russia using butterfly mines in Ukraine?” DW while deploying deep fake tools said: “They are not true, but they still quickly spread online.”
“Butterfly mines, look like toys and are therefore particularly dangerous for children. Russia has been accused of using the weapons in the war against Ukraine, but is there evidence for this?” the media added
The US through the Department of State has published several disinformation Campaigns to debunk allegations that her country and Ukraine are conducting chemical and biological weapons activities in Ukraine.
Recently, PRNigeria an online news platform has unfolded another fake report concocted by the chief of Russian Radiation, the Chemical and Biological Protection Force. Igor Kirillov, claimed, “Washington controlled at least four laboratories in Nigeria which are responsible for the outbreak of Monkeypox.”
It was later cleared after Fact-checking the allegations by the Russian Chief that the Chemical and Biological Protection Force is not backed by evidence, “there’s insufficient proof to show that the United States-funded laboratories are responsible for the outbreak of monkeypox in Nigeria.”
The US Department of State in a separate report claimed, how Facebook/Meta inscribed some contents in January 2022 exposed IRA-linked, an Internet Research Agency (IRA), a troll farm often recognized for repeatedly attempting to interfere in U.S. election, has targeted African journalists primarily in Nigeria, Cameroon, Gambia, Zimbabwe, and Congo to trick journalists to publish articles on the IRA’s behalf.
Alike, at the beginning of the war, I wrote about how Russia had underestimated Ukraine’s resilience, in the information sphere, in its disinformation, and propaganda tactics. Ukraine was able to offer stiff resistance because its call for citizens to arm themselves campaign, was successful.
Ukrainian civilians are also helping the propaganda efforts by spreading footage of the realities of the war.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s western efforts also extend to Nato countries (particularly Germany) to decits from patronizing Putin’s oil and gas. This bid is to get the West to declare total economic war on Russia.
With the power of Zelensky’s persuasive speeches, the revenue generated from oil and gas represents a large tranche of Russian GDP. This means an embargo could force Russia to cease fire within months, as it loses the resources needed to finance its war effort.
Similarly, both Ukraine and Russia had deployed information operations and propaganda but in different ways. The Kremlin focuses on deception operations, censorship, and false narrative while Ukraine is centered on diplomacy with the West and NATO, boosting civilian morale and encouraging them to take up arms.
By using information warfare to fight a war of necessity, Ukraine is demonstrating a sense of moral authority while Kremlin, however, aims to rebuild the Soviet empire that was shattered after the cold war.
Wuye District, Abuja.