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Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses disinformation tactics

Disinformation is the misleading of an adversary or competitor with false information, false documents or audiovisual materials. Disinformation as a tool, in particular, is used for propaganda, military and commercial purposes. Russian propaganda uses it systematically to, for example, discredit the Ukrainian government, split society, create despondency about the victory of Ukraine, etc. Also, disinformers are trying to convince Western allies that Ukraine is an unreliable partner, a “failed state”, etc. Another function of disinformation is to rally the Russian people in support of the so-called SVO, a full-scale military aggression against Ukraine.

With the start of a full-scale war against Ukraine, Russian propaganda began to work even more actively than 8 years before. For example, one of the disinformation attacks at the beginning of a full-scale war was the drawing of marks on roads and houses. The attack had some success: state structures and law enforcement agencies of Ukraine at first perceived the tags as a serious threat. It was believed that they help the ground forces of the enemy navigate the territory of Ukraine, help direct missile and air strikes, position for snipers and conditional marks for saboteurs. Law enforcement officers detained many for applying these labels. It turned out that this was disinformation to spread panic and chaos in Ukrainian society, to show that there are many potential traitors in it who are ready to help the enemy for money.

Also, Russia systematically spreads messages that military assistance to Ukraine from Western partners is useless, because they allegedly sell weapons to third countries, criminal groups around the world, including the EU, and even ISIS terrorists. On August 5, 2022, the American television channel CBS released a 23-minute report “We arm Ukraine”. This product contained a number of manipulations with the help of supposedly Western experts and promoted the Russian propaganda message that 70% of American weapons in Ukraine are stolen and only 30% end up at the front. After a sharp reaction from the Ukrainian authorities and a wave of criticism, the channel removed this film. Disinformation of this kind is dangerous, because it can lead to a decrease in military and financial assistance from Western allies.

Also, Russian propaganda regularly spreads disinformation to accuse Ukraine of developing the so-called “dirty nuclear bomb” and preparing provocations using it. Propagandists claim that the Ukrainians want to add nuclear fuel from its nuclear power plant to a conventional bomb and use it against Russian or civilian troops. So, Russia is trying to present Ukraine as an aggressor state and a threat to the nuclear security of the whole world.

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