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Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses corruption in Ukraine to achieve its goals

Russian propagandists constantly and systematically use the topic of corruption in Ukraine. News about the “most corrupt state of Ukraine”, which will destroy itself, was in the Russian media ten, five or two years ago. That is, the topic of corruption in Ukraine is one of the most common narratives of Russian propaganda. Russia uses corruption scandals in Ukraine to discredit it. In particular, Russian propaganda assures that corruption is the ideology of the Ukrainian people. It seems that corruption permeates Ukrainian society: from education, medicine, services, sports to the level of law enforcement officers, courts, municipal and central authorities.

Russian propagandists argue that if Ukraine still somehow struggled with corruption, into which it slipped after the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the beginning of the 2000s, then after the Euromaidan it is gone. According to propaganda, after 2014 Ukraine has slid to the level of Latin American states that are under the destructive influence of kleptocracy. After 2014, a number of anti-corruption agencies appeared in Ukraine, and propaganda sources were skeptical about this trend and decided that Ukrainians were monkeying with the American model, even a foreigner was appointed deputy head of NABU. Propagandists often cited then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, who suggested that corruption is sometimes worse than Russian tanks. They also speculated on the words of the then Vice President Joe Biden, who called corruption in Ukraine a cancer. It seems that corruption sits too deep in the liver of the West. It seems like a few more things will happen and it will stop supporting Ukraine.

The constant focus on the corruption of the authorities causes society, on the one hand, to distrust the leadership of the state and state institutions, and on the other hand, to the effectiveness of the fight against corruption on the way to membership in the EU and NATO. Russian propaganda here works at the same time for the domestic consumer: it demonstrates the absurdity of Ukraine, which the West is about to “throw”. Like, one sees what the game of democracy and European integration leads to. Russian propaganda also promotes messages to the Ukrainian audience, trying to affirm the opinion that the system of power in Ukraine is so rotten that nothing can change it; the state has no future, let alone the prospects for membership in the EU or NATO.

Russian propaganda systematically speculates on anti-corruption investigations by Ukrainian journalists and public figures into alleged corruption in the Ministry of Defense. The most famous case was the possible overpricing of food purchases, including chicken eggs. Recently, propagandists have been hyping the topic of non-critical spending of the state and local budgets during the war. They are trying to add a corruption component to these costs, even where it does not exist.

However, when writing about corruption in Ukraine and the fact that our state seems to have no chance for the future because of this, Russian propaganda avoids mentioning corruption in Russia. For example, from January to July 2021, 24.5 thousand cases of corruption were recorded in Russia. In 2017, the head of the Russian Accounts Chamber, Oleksii Kudrin, said that the department had identified a violation of 1.865 trillion rubles. That is, there is also corruption in Russia, moreover, there is also a fight against it. For example, opposition leader Oleksii Navalnyi “stepped on the Kremlin's toes” by making a series of high-profile revelations of large-scale corruption acts of officials, for which he was imprisoned. Also, Russian propaganda avoids mentioning that even in the conditions of a full-scale war, Ukraine is trying to fight corruption.

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