Spilnota Detector Media
Detector Media collects and documents real-time chronicles of the Kremlin disinformation about the Russian invasion. Ukraine for decades has been suffering from Kremlin disinformation. Here we document all narratives, messages, and tactics, which Russia is using from February 17th, 2022. Reminder: the increasing of shelling and fighting by militants happened on the 17th of February 2022 on the territory of Ukraine. Russian propaganda blames Ukraine for these actions.

On 25 June, on the 852th day of the full-scale war, our editorial office recorded:

Русскій фейк, іді на***!

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: “CIA drug dealers”

Propagandists use various conspiracy theories to discredit the Ukrainian government and its foreign partners. In this case, it is about the “CIA drug dealer” theory. Accusations and conspiracy theories about the involvement of American intelligence in the drug trade have been circulating for decades in the context of historical events and the confidentiality of the CIA's activities.

Some of the allegations stem from the CIA's involvement in covert operations during the Cold War, particularly in Southeast Asia and Latin America. For example, during the Vietnam War, there were reports of opium trafficking by CIA-backed guerrilla groups in the Golden Triangle region.

One of the most famous cases fueling these conspiracy theories is the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s. It involved secret arms sales to Iran (despite the embargo) to finance Nicaraguan rebels known as the Contras. Conspiracy theorists claim that the drug trade was allegedly used to finance these operations, although official investigations have found no direct evidence of CIA involvement in drug smuggling.

Journalist Harry Webb's 1996 San Jose Mercury News investigation, “Dark Alliance”,  revived interest in allegations of CIA drug trafficking. Webb claimed that the CIA-backed Contras were trafficking cocaine into the United States illegally, contributing to the cocaine epidemic. However, subsequent investigations and analysis contradicted some of his claims. While some investigations have acknowledged CIA involvement with individuals and groups involved in drug smuggling, they have generally concluded that there is no systemic CIA collusion in drug smuggling.

Consequently, although allegations of drug smuggling have been the subject of intense investigation, concrete evidence to support these allegations has not yet emerged. However, the continued existence of these conspiracy theories highlights broader questions about transparency, accountability and public trust in government institutions.

Russian propagandists use this conspiracy theory to promote the impression that Ukrainians are a nation of drug addicts. They say that they also participated in the Revolutions under the influence of drugs. Let us recall, for example, the “pricked oranges” that supposedly created a feeling of euphoria during the Orange Revolution “orchestrated by the collective West” and the “State Department cookies” in 2014. Propagandists are also spreading the message that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are supposedly also fighting drug addiction, and USAID (an American local assistance organization) supplies them with whole batches of drugs. They also want to toughen the message against the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi, created by Ukrainian political strategists in 2019. Now the Russians claim that he is allegedly a drug addict, and the CIA supplies him with drugs. Russians use different methods to spread this message: from fake covers and animated series to fake comments from stars on this matter.

Fake Tucker Carlson allegedly reported that Zelenskyi was arrested

Social media users are circulating a screenshot that allegedly shows Tucker Carlson. Like, it reports the capture and imprisonment of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi. However, this image is a fabrication created using existing images of both men.

Fact-checkers from Reuters drew attention to it. A spokesman for Carlson told Reuters that the posts were fake and his name and image were used without his permission.

The screenshot appeared on social media with the caption: "SENSATION! TUCKER RELEASED VIDEO OF ZELENSKYI'S ARREST... HE IS TRANSPORTED TO BLACK DOLPHIN PRISON (RUSSIA) WITH A LARGE NUMBER OF SECURITY..." The fake screenshot contains an image of Zelenskyi holding a sign with the number “003856” along with the Ukrainian text “V.P. Holoborodko”. However, this is a scene from Zelenskyi's television series “Servant of the People”, which appeared in the first episode of the third season and was uploaded to the official YouTube channel of the series on April 9, 2019.

Zelenskyi then played the role of Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko from 2015 to 2019 in the series “Servant of the People”, where, according to the plot, a school teacher is elected president of the country. The logo of Zelenskyi's film company Kvartal 95 Studio is visible in the modified image in the upper right corner. The image of Carlson, located at the bottom right of the fake screenshot, was taken from a video posted by his official social media account X on June 6, 2023. This video was the first episode of Carlson's new show on X.

The President's Office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Propagandists spread such fakes in order to personally discredit Zelenskyi, using an authoritative figure among conservative circles. Detector Media has already written about how Tucker Carlson repeats the messages of Russian propaganda in his own content.

Fake Ukrainian military are allegedly fed chaff bread

A video is being circulated on social networks in which an unknown man complains that the Ukrainian military is allegedly being fed chaff bread. However, this is fake.

Specialists from the Beyond the News project drew attention to it. They argue that this story looks like a provocation aimed at demoralizing Ukrainians. Their post notes that the bread shown in the video was actually made before the video was made. There is also no evidence that the person in the video is a military man, since no signs (such as chevrons) are shown to indicate this.

This video is being distributed from the page “Everything will be Ukraine”, which, at first glance, looks patriotic, but in reality is filled with low-grade content. In one day, dozens of videos are published on this page, mostly from TikTok, dedicated to humor, life during the war, and the everyday life of displaced people. Among this “light” content, themes of corruption, mobilization and reflections of pseudo-experts on the situation in the country also penetrate. These videos, although they do not repeat a pro-Russian position, do contribute to Russian propaganda.

Such “patriotic” communities with emotional and clickbait content gather around people who are guided not by facts, but by emotions and are easy to manipulate. These communities actively spread unverified information, even rumors and panic. At the same time, they are sincerely confident that they are helping and spreading the “hidden truth”. In the specific case of the bread, many viewers questioned the veracity of the video, expressing doubts and making arguments, but often faced hostility and accusations of indifference towards the military. Thus, such “patriotic” communities, instead of disseminating reliable information, disseminate dubious materials that can undermine confidence in the army and cause negative emotions among citizens.

Disclosure How Russians spread propaganda while masquerading as Ukrainian government agencies

Specialists of the NotaYenota project have found out that recently propagandists have been waging an anti-Ukrainian information campaign on Ukrainian Facebook, masquerading as government agencies. At the end of December 2023, a page called “Information Defense Center” appeared. This page has nothing to do with government organizations, but creates the illusion of officiality. In fact, it gently discredits the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the authorities. Although the number of subscribers on the page is small, the publications have a large reach, and comments are left by real users, not bots.

The authors of the page use painful topics for society, such as mobilization, telethon, elections and others. True facts are spread, which then turn into absurdity and only support the credibility of the telethon. For example, one of the publications is about conflicts between the Territorial centers of procurement and social support and civilians. The topic is controversial and scandalous, but messages on the page claim that all incidents related to the Territorial centers of procurement and social support are fiction and Russian propaganda.

Media that publish true facts are also discredited by adding reductio ad absurdum comments to claim that this is just a Russian propaganda narrative.

The problems discussed on the page do exist and are difficult to refute. Therefore, NotaYenota specialists urge people to keep a cool mind and not be fooled by provocations.

Disclosure How Trump fans discredit Volodymyr Zelenskyi in a series of programs on American television

The first episode of the Zelenskyi Unmasked project was recently released: Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy? (“Zelenskyi without a mask: Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyi?”). It was brought to the attention of journalist Serhii Mamaiev and a detailed analysis on his YouTube channel “Special Projects of Serhii Mamaev”.

The series is hosted by Ben Swann, who calls himself an investigative journalist. But it is not so. Mamaiev found out that he was actually a television sports producer, and later a news journalist, producer and editor-in-chief of the FOX network affiliates and Russia Today America. Based on the released analysis, Detector Media presents the main messages consonant with Russian propaganda, which can be found within the first series of the project.

Volodymyr Zelenskyi did not know Ukrainian and came to power dishonestly

The authors of the film made many inaccuracies in the biography of the President of Ukraine, which indicates that the material was not carefully prepared. In particular, they also noted that Kryvyi Rih is located in the south of Ukraine, although the map that was inserted into the video refutes this. According to the creators of the project, Zelenskyi allegedly did not know Ukrainian at all before his presidency. However, in fact, he only did not use Ukrainian in everyday life.

In addition, the authors demonized both the creation of Kvartal 95, the transition of Kvartal to 1+1, and the series “Servant of the People”, the creation of the “Servant of the People” party and Zelenskyi’s participation in the presidential elections. Like, he is not who he claims to be.

The situation in Donbas is expected as it is historically a Russian region

The authors of the project repeated Russian propaganda cliches on Euromaidan and the war in Donbas from 2014. They deliberately did not mention the true reasons for the Revolution of Dignity and the shooting of students. The presenter also kept silent about the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s orchestration of the creation of the so-called LPR and DPR. The authors of the project do not talk about torture and executions of pro-Ukrainian activists in Donbas by Russians. Instead, all this is summed up with the message that Donbas is in fact a historically Russian region. However, Mamaiev notes that most of the residents of the eastern regions identified themselves as Ukrainians in the population census.

Zelensky is spreading ultranationalism in Ukraine

The presenter says that Zelenskyi allegedly betrayed his native Russian language and turned Ukrainian society towards ultra-nationalism. They say that discrimination against Russian-speaking Ukrainians is also evidenced by legislation restricting Russian music and literature. Allegedly, this was one of the reasons for the invasion. However, the authors do not mention that the Decrees on quotas on Ukrainian music and acts limiting the distribution of Russian literature came after the full-scale invasion.

Russia only wants to restore the USSR, and NATO and the USA really provoked it to attack Ukraine and sabotaged the peace process

The authors justify Russian aggression by saying that Russia simply wanted to rebuild the Soviet Union and presented this statement in a positive sense, as if what Ukraine is against looks strange. In addition, according to the presenter, it was the United States and NATO that provoked Russia into invading Ukraine, since NATO allegedly surrounded Russia on all sides. But even here the authors contradict themselves, since they show a map where NATO members indicate states that joined the Alliance after Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Next, the authors tell how in the spring of 2022, Ukraine and Russia almost agreed on a peace agreement. However, according to the presenter, the peace fell apart allegedly because of the United States and Europe, which pushed Ukraine to continue the war. They say that it is because of them that Ukraine allegedly thwarted all agreements and continued repression within the country. However, in fact, the negotiations were stopped after the criminal actions of Russian troops in Bucha. And Russia calls “repression” any actions directed against violations of the law on cooperation with occupiers, deliberately dramatizing the situation.

Propagandists as project experts

A number of people who regularly play along with Russian propaganda provided their comments for the first episode. Among them is Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat who was a frequent guest on Medvedchuk’s channels, where he promoted relevant narratives. At one time, according to Mamaiev, he also tried to help promote the idea of then-President Trump, who supposedly Zelenskyi was collaborating with the US Democratic Party.

Another character in the project is Gonzalo Lira, about whose history we have written more than once before. The project repeats the story about the “illegality” of his detention. Like, in fact, he is in prison because of his criticism of Zelenskyi. However, the SBU, during Lira’s imprisonment, emphasized that the main charge for this was the justification of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Zelenskyi destroys religion in Ukraine

The authors of the project repeated the Russian message, complaining that Zelenskyi is trying to usurp religion in the state for himself, trying to delegalize the UOC-MP. However, they are silent about the fact that the priests of this denomination justified the invasion of Ukraine and aimed missiles at civilians. And not a word that Ukraine has its own church. The authors create the impression that Zelenskyi bans Orthodoxy in Ukraine as a whole, although this is not the case.

The United States has already made films about Ukraine, where they disseminated messages in tune with Russian propaganda. In particular, director Oliver Stone at one time began making films about dictators. In particular, in 2016 he published the work “Ukraine on Fire”, where he interviewed Medvedchuk. A year later, he recorded an interview with Putin.

Conservative media in the United States further spread skepticism regarding Ukraine, including through the spread of conspiracy theories. All this has a special context, given that the first impeachment of then US President Donald Trump was announced due to the phone call scandal with Volodymyr Zelenskyi. Since then, Trump fans have called the topic of Ukraine “toxic” and are trying in every possible way to reconcile Ukraine with Russia. This is clearly visible on Trump’s Truth Social, where we previously found a large amount of anti-Ukrainian rhetoric. This “information bubble” does not help Ukraine, and anti-Ukrainian messages are supported by the target audience of these media - recent polls from CBS News show that 61% of US citizens who identify as Republicans oppose assistance to Ukraine.

Orest Slyvenko, Artur Koldomasov, Vitalii Mykhailiv, Oleksandra Kotenko, Oleksandr Siedin, Kostiantyn Zadyraka, and Oleksiy Pivtorak are collaborating on this chronicle. Lesia Bidochko serves as the project coordinator, while Ksenia Ilyuk is the author of the project.