Spilnota Detector Media

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda instrumentalizes the history of Ukraine for its own purposes

Russian propaganda uses its versions of historical events against Ukraine to discredit and devalue the achievements of Ukrainians. Propagandists regularly spread manipulative statements about the history of our state, accusing Ukrainians of rewriting the history of Kyiv Rus, the Holodomor, World War II, or certain territories, in particular, Crimea and the eastern part of Ukraine. For example, Kremlin propaganda notes that Kyiv Rus was a “common state of ancestors”, which means that Ukraine and Russia have “same roots”.  Kyiv appears in such statements as “the mother of Russian cities”, which allegedly emphasizes the historical connection and strengthens the influence of the aggressor country on Ukraine. However, after the beginning of Russian aggression, disinformers almost stopped calling Kyiv Rus and began to focus on the leading role of Velykyi Novhorod in the formation of ancient Russian civilization.

Also, Russian propaganda tries to emphasize the positive aspects of the history of the USSR, significantly diminishing its negative consequences. This is how propagandists want to portray Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union and assert its influence over Ukraine. Russian propaganda downplays or denies the suffering experienced by Ukrainians during the Soviet era, especially during the Holodomor. It is portrayed as a general Soviet experience rather than a targeted genocide of Ukrainians. And the collapse of the Soviet Union is presented as “the greatest tragedy in the history of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians”. The propagandists of the aggressor countries exaggerate the role of the Soviet Union in the victory over Nazi Germany in relation to other victorious states. At the same time, they selectively keep silent or downplay the contribution and sacrifices of Ukrainians, exalting and exaggerating the role of Russia. Russian propaganda often depicts all of Ukrainian nationalism and the independence movement as Nazi through the cooperation of individual Ukrainian nationalist groups with Germany during World War II.

To justify the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russian propaganda claims that Crimea “has always been a Russian land and an integral part of it”. Russian propaganda positively highlights the periods when the island was under Russian control. At the same time, they are silent about the history of the Crimean Khanate and any positive changes in the peninsula associated with Ukraine. In addition, disinformers try to justify Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 by claiming that they were “Nazi collaborators”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses science to advance propaganda

In addition to other areas of life, such as music, sports, show business, films and video games, Russian propaganda uses science and technology for its own purposes. Basically, it is the military-industrial complex, the space program and robotics. The latest developments of Russian science are presented as unique, having no analogues in the world, and will provide Russia with a qualitative advantage on the battlefield and in space.

After the illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia's resolution of the war in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014, Western countries imposed the first sanctions against the aggressor country. At the same time, in Putin's Russia, the policy of import substitution began - the development of a domestic manufacturer to replace sanctioned goods with their own. Putin and his generals and officials have come up with the concept of “there is no analogue” and repeat it like a mantra, usually on models of weapons that do not yet exist. This is reminiscent of the World War II Nazi propaganda narrative of the “wunderwaffe”—the “wonder weapon”.

Putin scares the world with such “brilliant inventions of the domestic military-industrial complex” as the Sarmat missile system, the S-500 air and missile defense system, the Su-57 fighter, the T-14 Armata tank, etc. Usually, “analogue” types of weapons exist only in the imagination of Putin and his generals, are at the stage of prototypes, or in reality have significantly worse tactical and technical characteristics than officially declared.

 The space program has always been the pride of the USSR, and then Russia, and was used for propaganda purposes. For example, Yurii Haharin's flight into space in 1961 became an element of propaganda. In recent years, the program has been in decline, in particular, due to Russian aggression in Ukraine. The Russians are still on the International Space Station, but because of the war they are losing other opportunities for international space cooperation, other countries do not want to deal with the aggressor.

Are we losing the “space race”? It doesn’t matter, but one can “get creative” in propaganda: send the flag of the completely Russian-controlled “pseudo-republic of the LNR” to the International Space Station, draw the letter “Z” on a space rocket, be the first to make a feature film in space, call American rival Elon Musk on Twitter, or threaten to destroy the International Space station.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses music to spread anti-Ukrainian narratives

Music and songs have long served as a propaganda tool for many states, political regimes, parties and rulers. Russian propaganda uses musical works of various genres to achieve its goals, to increase the level of “patriotism” among the people and the army. Nostalgia for the Soviet past is one of the key themes in Russian music, which is used for propaganda during the full-scale war against Ukraine.

So, the singer Oleh Hazmanov at a concert in support of the so-called special military operation on March 18, 2022 performed the song “Born in the USSR”. And the song of the group “We are from the 90s” “I want to go back to the USSR” at the beginning of a full-scale war became a hit in the Russian segment of social networks and went viral. Also, in the music used by Russian propaganda, war is often romanticized and promoted. For example, the songs of the same Oleh Hazmanov are often used, such as “Officers” and “Soldiers of Russia”, or the “creativie works” of the Liube group, which is called Putin’s favorite group, are popular.

More than half of their songs belong to this genre, and they, like Hazmanov, are regular participants in propaganda concerts. At such events, the song of the Kino group “Kukushka” (Сuckoo) performed by Polina Haharina is often heard. The song became the official soundtrack of the propaganda film “Battle for Sevastopol” - a joint Ukrainian-Russian project.

In the Ukrainian box office, the tape was released under the name “Indestructible”. After the start of a full-scale war, new works appeared, imbued with hatred for Ukrainians, in particular, with calls for murder. Examples are the work of Wagner group called “SvynoriZ” and the song, which is called the obscene form of the word “Strike”. Russian propaganda “does not forget” about the youth either.

So, even before the full-scale aggression of 2022, hip-hop tracks were released, like “My best friend is President Putin” performed by Timati, and Volodymyr Putin from Slava CPSU, who has been banned from entering our country since 2017 through anti-Ukrainian statements. The most recent example of propaganda among young people is the “work” of the singer Shaman, whose image is specially tailored to this age group. His songs “Let's get up”, “I am Russian”, “Confession” and “My Russia” are gaining millions of views on YouTube among the audience infected with the criminal ideology of “rashism”. The singer combines in his work the image of a “young and modern rock star” with dreadlocks on his head with “patriotic” rhetoric and song themes, more typical for such singers with an audience “over 50 years old”, like Oleh Hazmanov and Hryhorii Leps.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses sports to spread anti-Ukrainian narratives

The Russian authorities have been using sports as a propaganda tool since Soviet times. Famous athletes and coaches publicly express their support for Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, and also speak at propaganda events of the Putin regime. The Ukrainian sports portal Trybuna, with the help of fans, has created and regularly updates the List of Shame - a database of Russian and Belarusian current and former athletes and coaches, as well as sports functionaries and officials who publicly supported Putin's aggression. Putin's pro-government United Russia party has been using popular ex-athletes as a mouthpiece for propaganda for decades. Some of them became deputies of the State Duma of Russia from the ruling party and found their place in the system of Russian power. Nine former athletes supported Russian aggression against Ukraine. Among them are boxers Mykolai Valuiev and Dmytro Pyroh, biathletes Anton Shypulin and Serhii Chepikov, hockey player Viacheslav Fetisov, chess player Anatolii Karpov, wrestler Artur Taimazov, figure skater Iryna Rodnina and speed skater Svitlana Zhurova. Active members of the sport also took part in Putin's propaganda activities after the start of the full-scale war and supported the aggression against Ukraine. The most famous are figure skaters Arina and Dina Averina, Aliona Kostorna, Kamila Valieva, Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva, skiers Oleksandr Bolshunov, Oleksandr Lehkov and Veronika Stepanova, wrestler Roman Vlasov, football players Artem Dziuba and Ari, mixed martial arts fightersOleksandr Yemelianenko, Oleksandr Shlemenko, Petro Yan. Russian gymnast Ivan Kulyiak went further and in March 2022 entered the World Cup stage awards with the letter “Z” on his suit, the main symbol of Russian aggression against Ukraine for which he was disqualified for a year.

Unfortunately, this list was not without traitors: some former Ukrainians have long supported the Putin regime and an aggressive war against their own country. Here we can distinguish chess player Serhii Kariakin, MMA fighter Oleksii Oliynyk and ex-volleyball player Taras Khtei. After the start of a full-scale war, most international sports institutions (not controlled by the Russians themselves) either completely banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in competitions, or set conditions for them to compete in a neutral status: without flags, anthems, and subject to public condemnation of aggression against Ukraine. Russian propaganda, of course, began to shout about “double standards”, “politicization of sports” and “russophobia”. Even the Russian Foreign Ministry distinguished itself by this.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “slamming the door” tactics

Slamming the door is a propaganda tactic that aims to increase the perception range of the target audience. This is achieved by artificially raising rates and expectations in order for people to accept a conditionally “middle” position. This technique is actively used in marketing, through which it came into the field of propaganda. For example, if a seller wants to sell an item for 100 UAH, but the public is only willing to pay 50 UAH, the seller first puts a higher price (for example, 200 UAH) and then lowers it to 100 UAH to make it look like a bargain. Russian propagandists often and actively use this tactic. Recently, Russia's desire to sign a peace treaty and secure the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine has become a very popular narrative. Against the background of the counter-offensive of the Ukrainian Defense Forces and the inevitable liberation of the occupied Ukrainian lands, propagandists are promoting messages that Western support for Ukraine will soon be significantly reduced, our country will be left alone with Russia and the consequences for it will be much worse and more tragic than the loss of those territories under a peace treaty which are now occupied. In a somewhat modified form, this tactic is used to speed up Russian passportization in the temporarily occupied territories. The occupiers on local telegram channels advertise ordinary Russian social payments and digital public services as great advantages and achievements, deliberately “forgetting” that they themselves, by their occupation, deprived people of absolutely the same payments and services from Ukraine and put the local population on the brink of survival. This tactic was also used in April - May 2022, when Russian propaganda actively promoted the narrative that the ruble is perhaps the most stable and dynamically growing currency in the world. The Russian currency at that time did grow somewhat, but only against the backdrop of a terrible and catastrophic fall in March of the same year after the introduction of Western sanctions against the aggressor country.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “selective truth” tactics

Selective truth is a propaganda tactic that partly uses the truth to mislead people and achieve its own goals. The statement may be partially true, may be entirely true (but not include the whole truth), or may contain several deceptive elements such as mispunctuation, double meanings, misrepresentation of the truth. Russian propaganda often and actively uses this tactic. A recent example is the claim by disinformers that the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station was destroyed by water pressure due to damage in 2022 as a result of shelling by American HIMARS MLRS. There were indeed shellings, but as a result of them only the roadbed on the dam was damaged and they definitely could not entail such large-scale destruction of the dam itself. Western experts are inclined to believe that the Kakhovka HPP was destroyed due to an explosion from the inside. Another example is the numerous reports of pro-Russian anonymous telegram channels about losses in the battle for Bakhmut. The propagandists write only about the supposedly heavy losses of the Defense Forces, completely “forgetting” about the losses of the Russian armed forces and the Wagner group, which Western officials estimate at about 60 thousand people.

Of course, unfortunately, the Defense Forces suffered significant losses in Bakhmut, but this “feast victory” cost the infidels many times more. One of the main disinformation narratives of Russian propaganda is the assertion that Western sanctions will not have a negative impact on the Russian economy. Among them there is a message that the ruble is growing, strengthening and is perhaps the most stable currency in the world. This message was especially actively promoted at the beginning of a full-scale invasion. There was some truth in this, but Russian propagandists deliberately kept silent about the fact that their currency fell rapidly and very strongly in March 2022 against the backdrop of the introduction of Western sanctions for aggression against Ukraine and only in April began to recover. It should also be understood that the Russian currency was saved from a further rapid fall by manual regulation of the economy, which always leads to extremely negative consequences in the future. The disinformers “forgot” that the ruble in April 2022 grew slightly only against the US dollar, but this was by no means an absolute indicator.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “flag waving” tactics

Flag-waving propaganda tactics are used to justify an action on the grounds that it is patriotic or that it benefits the country, group, or cause that the target audience supports. This tactic uses patriotic symbols (national banner, anthem, patriotic symbols) to evoke a sense of national pride and loyalty. Propagandists appeal to the sense of patriotism, which is sacred to many people, by appealing to the values and identity of the nation.

Flag waving has its roots deep in history. So, even during the French Revolution, the Legislative Assembly of France on July 11, 1792 issued a decree entitled The Motherland Is In Danger. At that time, the French Revolution was under the threat of defeat, external (Austria, Prussia and other states) and internal (nobility, clergy) enemies were actively attacking the young republic. This decree helped to rally and mobilize French society to repulse enemies on the basis of patriotism and preserve the republican structure in the country.

Other examples of “flag-waving” are the Uncle Sam slogan “I need you for the United States Army” and the Soviet “Motherland Calls!”. They appealed to patriotism and sacrifice for the sake of their native countries and used the personifications of the USA and the USSR of “Uncle Sam” and “Motherland”.

Through this tactic, Russian President Volodymyr Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine, the so-called “special military operation”. Allegedly, the expansion of NATO threatens the very existence of the Russian Federation, and it only defends itself, protecting its national interests, in Ukraine rampant Nazism and the genocide of the pro-Russian population.

Another example of the use of this tactic is the policy of so-called “import substitution”  carried out in Russia since 2014, when Western states imposed the first sanctions against it for the illegal annexation of Crimea. It is accompanied by a corresponding information campaign, where there is a strong appeal to patriotism. Like, we do not need Western goods, our analogues are no worse than them, we need to develop and stimulate domestic producers, and so on.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “relocation” tactics

Propaganda uses the tactic of “relocation” to create permanent associations in the audience with certain symbols or constant expressions. They can be both positive and cause approval, and negative to discredit certain people, communities or phenomena.

Soviet and later Russian propaganda never used the term “Warrior of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army”, but called them “Bandera”. This word in the USSR and Russia has a strong association with bandits and Nazi collaborators. The red and black flag of the OUN and UPA has the same negative connotation for Russian propaganda, for the patriots of Ukraine it is a symbol of will, inflexibility and liberation struggle against any foreign invaders.

During the full-scale war of 2022-2023, Russian propaganda often prefers to call UAF soldiers “Nazis”, “militants”, “mercenaries” and so on. Thus, there is a movement from the soldiers of the regular army of an independent state to irregular gangs of various rabble. In order to avoid the terrible word “war” to denote a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and to call it, if not positively, then at least neutrally, the Putin authorities came up with the ludicrous phrase “special military operation”.

Russian propaganda is also trying to use supposedly positive symbols to increase support and justify aggression against Ukraine. The so-called St. George ribbon has been a military symbol of Russia since the 18th century, meaning military glory and valor. It retained its significance even in the Soviet Union and became one of the symbols of victory. In modern Russia, the St. George Ribbon is widespread and popular, since it is not associated with the communist regime of the USSR, which has a very ambiguous attitude inside the country, despite the fact that the Soviet past actively serves Russian propaganda.

Another symbol is the so-called “victory flag”, which Russian propaganda sacralized as part of the hyperbolization of Russia’s role in the victory over Nazism and made it one of the key elements of the “victory”, which is the cornerstone of the modern state ideology of “racism”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the “vague assumption” tactic

Using the vague assumption tactic, propagandists present the messages they want to the audience in the format of multiple guesses or hints. This is done to inspire more credibility, because the message itself may sound unconvincing. When people hear repeated fuzzy assumptions or hints, they themselves come up with the “truth” that propagandists need.

An example of the use of this tactic is the propaganda messages that appeared after Russian missiles hit Khmelnytskyi and Ternopil region on May 13, 2023. Pro-Russian anonymous telegram channels provided the messages they needed precisely in the format of vague assumptions of varying degrees. The least clear of them were the following: “The consequences of the strike at the ammunition warehouse in Khmelnytskyi. Most of the object was destroyed by the explosion and secondary detonations. There is no information about what was in the warehouses, as well as a photo of the work of the State Emergency Service” and “Here is such a memo that appeared in public places in cities in the Khmelnytskyi region. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine reminds of the need to follow  radiation safety rules. However, at the official level, so far no one has explained anything: what actually exploded in warehouses in the Ternopil region”. Such reports, combined with clearer ones about the uranium cores of shells for British Challenger 2 tanks, were intended to create panic and a sense of a radiation threat among Ukrainians, as well as to show the alleged aggressiveness and desire to escalate the war on the part of the Western allies.

Another example of the use of allusions in propaganda is a report by another pro-Russian anonymous telegram channel, which criticizes the statement of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Ihor Klymenko about the fact that men who illegally left Ukraine will be punished: “A Ukrainian who is abroad is outraged that people's deputies are preparing to adopt a bill on criminal liability for men who have gone abroad. I wonder if such a law is passed, what will the sons of Danilov and Stefanchuk do? And the sons of other bureaucrats and businessmen. Will they be given a disability? Or something else?”. Here propagandists make an indirect allusion to the fact that the sons of the highest officials of Ukraine Oleksii Danilov and Ruslan Stefanchuk are allegedly illegally abroad, with the aim of discrediting the authorities as a whole and accusing them of double standards.

Tactics and tools The Russians circulated a document on behalf of the commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who asks to increase space in cemeteries for “Polish mercenaries”

Such information was disseminated in social networks, in particular, on telegram channels broadcasting pro-Kremlin rhetoric. The reports say that the commander of the Operational Command “Skhid” (East) of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleh Mikats, allegedly appealed to the administration of Zaporizhzhia with a request to increase the space in the cemeteries for “Polish mercenaries”. The authors of the messages attach a “document-appeal”.

The fact-checkers of the StopFake project drew attention to the case and found out that this “document” was fake. In particular, the following errors indicate the fakeness of the document:

The name and position of the addressee are incorrectly written in the “document”; Now there is no mayor in Zaporizhzhia, and the powers of the mayor until new elections are exercised by the secretary of the Zaporizhzhia city council. In all documents, he is signed as “secretary of the city council”, but in the fake document they indicated “head of administration”.

Fact checkers also found factual errors, for example, the appeal was to increase space in the Shevchenko district of Zaporizhzhia. There is no such area in the city.

They also found wording that is not inherent in official business broadcasting. For example, the propagandists in the “document” wrote “occupied Donbas”. Since August 2022, a single concept of “the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation” has been introduced.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “join the masses” tactics

“Join the masses” is a propaganda tactic by which propaganda backs up its messages with claims supported by large masses of people. This is how propagandists try to convince the audience that everything they say is true. This tactic is based on conformism - the tendency of people to adapt, bow before authorities, accept opinions and positions shared by the majority of representatives of their social group.

As part of this tactic, propagandists can use both truthful data, sociological surveys in their favor, and manipulate them and resort to perversions. There are also links to frankly custom or even fictitious surveys that no one has conducted. Such technologies are often used during elections to add votes to certain parties or blocs, because people tend to vote for those who are supposedly stronger and have more support. How this works is noticeable when candidates try to overcome electoral barriers: the voter fears that his or her vote will actually be “lost” if they vote for a party that does not overcome the barrier. Therefore, due to false opinion polls, their choice may change at the last moment. Texty.org.ua has collected a whole database of Ukrainian pseudo-sociologists, some of whom openly worked for Russian propaganda, which also uses this tactic for its own purposes. In particular, in a full-scale war.

For example, one of the pro-Russian anonymous telegram channels to discredit the Ukrainian authorities cited data from a real sociological survey “Veterans' Needs” conducted by the Ukrainian Veterans Fund. In the title of the message, the authors made the wording “53% of Ukrainian veterans believe that the Ukrainian state is not fulfilling its obligations to them”. In this case, the propagandists resorted to brutal manipulation: they used the opinion of veterans who fought against the Russian occupiers to promote anti-Ukrainian messages.

Another example of propagandists using sociological surveys for their own purposes is the report of an anonymous telegram channel about the results of the Internews study, according to which 74% of Ukrainians consume information from social networks (60% specifically from telegrams), and only 36% trust television. Propaganda uses these numbers to criticize the United News telethon and accuse the authorities of censoring television. The marathon is opposed to the telegram, which supposedly is a platform for obtaining independent and objective information. At the same time, the authors of the messages deliberately do not mention that over the past few years, people in the world have mainly consumed information on the Internet, and not from traditional media. Anonymous telegram channels, which spread the thesis of government censorship, are often sources of disinformation, in particular pro-Russian. Due to their anonymity, they do not accept any responsibility for their content.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “third party” tactics

Third party is a propaganda tactic in which propaganda seeks and publicizes a third, independent opinion in order to validate its messages. The target audience finds it easier and more likely to trust an independent opinion that is not related to the stakeholders. This technique is used not only in propaganda, but also in advertising and marketing. Journalists, media, scientists, and experts are used as independent sources.

Pro-Russian telegram channels regularly use as a third opinion quotes from Western media, speeches by politicians and experts, often taking them out of context or distorting them in order to confirm their propaganda messages, to give them greater independence and authority. We wrote about this in more detail in a study on the MediaPost telegram channel, created by Russian propaganda specifically to distort and use Western media content for their own purposes.

In practice, this tactic, for example, works like this: one of the pro-Russian anonymous telegram channels in its message refers to an article by the Polish journalist Endzhey Bielecki for the Rzeczpospolita newspaper, which allegedly contains information that despite Poland’s insistence, the United States will not support Ukraine’s entry into NATO that Ukraine will be given only modest security guarantees and will have to put up with territorial losses. This is how propagandists use the authority of the Polish newspaper as an “independent source” to confirm their messages. Disinformers reinforce their thesis that Western aid to Ukraine will soon be seriously curtailed and our state will be left face to face in the war with Russia.

The Russian propagandist in the message of her personalized telegram channel used the data of the British betting company Smarkets. Based on betting odds, it claims that Ukraine will not win the war, will not become a member of NATO or even the EU. The argument is that bookmakers “know how to count their money”. The propagandist also focuses on the results of the voting of bookmakers’ clients, who also do not believe in Ukraine. That is, the disinformer used the authority of the bookmaker to allegedly confirm her propaganda messages in order to create the appearance that Ukraine would lose in the war with Russia and would never become a member of the EU and NATO.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses out-of-context tactics

Out-of-context is a conscious or unconscious mistake in which a certain passage of text is taken out of it and often takes on a completely different meaning, out of context. In propaganda, this technique is often used to manipulate the words of famous people, in particular politicians or the military.

Russian propaganda constantly uses words and phrases taken out of context to discredit Ukraine in various ways. So, in June 2022, disinformers dispersed the message, supposedly the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “the world is tired of Ukraine”. In fact, the head of the British government warned against a possible “slight Ukraine fatigue” that has begun to appear in the world. Johnson also stressed that it would be a “disaster” if Russian President Volodymyr Putin succeeded in Ukraine.

Propagandists recently circulated a distorted speech by US Chief General in Europe Christopher Cavoli, where he allegedly said that the Russian military allegedly “has not been affected negatively” in the war, and Western media seem to distort information about the “degradation” of Russian troops. In fact, the general stated only about Russian patrols in the Atlantic Ocean, that it was precisely this part of their troops that the war had not affected.

Russian disinformers spread a manipulative message that President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi carries a pistol with him to shoot himself in case of danger. In fact, Zelenskyi has a gun exclusively for self-defense.

The fantasy of Russian propaganda sometimes leads to curious cases. So, in June 2022, propagandists took the words of the wife of the President of Ukraine Olena Zelenska out of context and distorted them so that their 9-year-old son Kyrylo is allegedly a military adviser to the President. In fact, Olena Zelenska told the British newspaper Daily Mail how she communicates with her children on the topic of the war and how the reaction of her eldest daughter Oleksandra and her youngest son Kyrylo differ. This was done in order to ridicule Volodymyr Zelenskyi, show his alleged incompetence and reduce the authority of the President in the international arena.

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.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “great lies” tactics

The great lie is a propaganda technique described back in 1925 by Adolf Hitler in the book “My Struggle”, which became the ideological basis of national socialism.

The German dictator defined this concept as “a lie is so great that no one will believe that someone had the courage to distort reality so shamelessly”.

A correctly arranged and well-thought-out “great lie” causes a deep emotional trauma in the listener or viewer, which then determines their views for a long time, contrary to any arguments of logic and reason. False descriptions of the abuse of children or women work especially well in this sense. Russian propaganda has studied well the heritage, principles and methods of its “sworn ideological enemy” Hitler and often uses this technique in its work.

An example of a systemic disinformation narrative is the alleged work of numerous “American biological laboratories” in Ukraine. Russian propagandists spread extremely absurd messages about the presence in Ukraine of fighting mosquitoes, birds and bats, designed to spread dangerous viruses to the soldiers of the occupying army. The continuation of this narrative was fakes about the presence of dangerous infectious diseases in the blood of captured soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, for example, West Nile fever. Russian propaganda noted that “secret experiments” were carried out on them, which turned the Ukrainian military into “super-hard monsters”.

Propagandists came up with other completely wild fakes. Thus, they claimed that during the defense of Mariupol in 2022, “Ukrainian Nazis from Azov allegedly raped pregnant women [local residents hiding in basements from shelling] for food” and tortured them. Some of the girls were minors.

Russian propaganda used the “great lie” during the ATO in 2014-2015. One can recall the fake about the alleged crucifixion and burning alive of a DNR militant (“militia”) by “mercenaries of the Azov battalion”, as well as, of course, the “immortal classic” - the crucifixion of a “boy in panties” in Sloviansk after his release in 2014 from Russian terrorist gangs of Ihor Strielkov (Girkin). In both cases, an allusion to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is used, which fits well into the general outline of Russian propaganda, one of the cornerstones of which is Orthodoxy.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “prejudice” tactics

A prejudice is a delusion that is formed in a person under external influence in relation to certain people, objects or phenomena. This happens without direct experience, the use of critical thinking and sufficient objective evidence.

Negative biases can be created based on gender, race, nationality, or ethnicity. Russian propaganda constantly appeals to all sorts of prejudices.

An example of the use of a number of prejudices is a comment by Dmytro Medvediev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, after blocking his English-language Twitter profile. “Twitter caved in under the State Department and hohols (Ukrainians)”, “Russia's main task is to inflict a crushing defeat on all enemies: the Ukronazis, the United States, their minions in NATO, including disgusting Poland, and other Western nits”. Prejudice against Ukrainians, the United States and its government, other Western allies of Ukraine, in particular Poland, is applied here.

Also, Russian propaganda broadcasts the prejudices of foreign volunteers who defend Ukraine with weapons in their hands. So, in the news about the death of American Andrew Harris Cooper in Bakhmut, they use the terms “bandit” and “mercenary”, and also descend to outright racism. Similar rhetoric is used in the news about the death of two Canadian volunteers.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the “oversimplification of cause” tactics

In the “oversimplification of the cause” propaganda tactic, Russian propagandists often use desired generalizations to provide simple answers to complex social, political, economic, or military problems. The point is to promote simple answers to complex questions.

An example of the simplified logic of propaganda is the message that Ukrainians are trying to dissociate themselves from Russia geopolitically, economically, culturally and politically, because the so-called “collective West” insists on this. In fact, Ukrainians are striving for the country to become a member of the EU and NATO, because Ukraine is an independent and sovereign state and has the right to make its own choice without additional conditions. Western countries have real democracy, fair competition, great economic opportunities, the rule of law, etc. That is why Ukraine seeks ties with them, and not with Russia, where an aggressive militaristic totalitarian regime reigns, where a person is disenfranchised, an insane level of corruption and a poor level of infrastructure development in most of the country.

Another example of the logic of Russian propagandists is the message that Ukraine fulfills all the whims of the IMF, which always harms ordinary people. In reality, everything is more complicated: unfortunately, Ukraine still cannot do without IMF loans. Tranches are also not provided just like that: the Fund, as a creditor, calculates the most optimal options on how to push the Ukrainian economy to development so that it can pay off its debts, and not get bogged down in a debt hole and collapse.

Russian propaganda often complains about the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western powers. They emphasize that this is discrimination and their favorite word is “russophobia”. So, propaganda greatly simplifies the understanding of the problem and creates the image of a victim for the aggressor country. At the same time, hostile propagandists deliberately “forget” a key point: the first sanctions were introduced in 2014 not without reason, but in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, as well as parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In addition, it was Russia that unleashed a bloody and brutal war against Ukraine from 2014 to the present day. The soldiers of the occupying army kill and rape Ukrainian prisoners of war, as well as the civilian population (including children), destroy the homes of ordinary people and the infrastructure of the entire country.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “scapegoat” tactics

A “scapegoat” is a tactic that mitigates the responsibility for those guilty of something by shifting the responsibility to someone else - the so-called “scapegoat”. This is one of the main tactics of Russian propaganda, which propagandists use to justify the war crimes of the Russian occupiers.

An example of the use of tactics is the statements by Russian propagandists that the bloody massacre committed by the occupying army in Bucha was staged by the Ukrainian authorities. To reinforce its version, the propaganda allegedly used the words of a citizen of France, an ally of Ukraine, which is actively supplying us with military equipment. Disinformers claimed that some of the corpses that Ukrainian soldiers allegedly decomposed on the streets of Bucha to film the dramatization were civilians killed by the Ukrainian army during the “civil war” in Ukraine.

Russian propagandist Oleksandr Malkevych, who is in charge of the occupiers for the Kherson region, in December 2022 accused the Ukrainian army of shelling the liberated Kherson. He stated that the shelling (which is indeed carried out by the Russian army from the temporarily occupied left bank of the Dnipro) was supposed to divert public attention from the terrible humanitarian situation in the city after the liberation by the Ukrainians. The city really had a problem with communications, food and the like, but the humanitarian crisis arose precisely because of the capture of the city by the Russians, who purposefully destroyed the critical infrastructure of Kherson. It was because of the Russians that the residents of the city spent about a month without electricity, water, heating, communications and the Internet, in some areas even longer.

Also, according to Russian propaganda, the Azov regiment is terrible Nazis and punishers. Thus, propagandists spread a fake that the soldiers of the regiment in Mariupol allegedly “raped pregnant girls for food”. With such false news, propagandists are trying to divert attention from the numerous facts of terrible sexual crimes of Russian invaders on the territory of Ukraine: they raped children and the elderly, did it in front of their close relatives and so on.

In its investigation, Detector Media described how Russian propaganda is hiding behind the children of Donbas to justify war crimes in Ukraine. Like, the Russians are fighting for the children of Donbas, who are allegedly destroyed by Ukrainian Nazis and punishers. This topic is also an example of “scapegoat” propaganda tactics, as disinformers deliberately “forget” who exactly carried out the military invasion and illegal annexation of the territory of a sovereign state in 2014, which led to the death of not only children.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the tactic of imposing shameful “epithets”

Imposing shameful “epithets” is a tactic used by propagandists when addressing people. These are abusive and insulting words referring to a specific group of persons or one person, in order to form a “correct vision” of a phenomenon or process, according to propaganda. So, if a propagandist wants to change his/her mind about this or that person and form the desired effect (negative attitude) among the viewer/listener and reader, he or she uses profanity, imposes nicknames and shameful “epithets” on the opponent.

Repeatedly propagandists turned to the personality of Volodymyr Zelenskyi, trying to humiliate and devalue him in the eyes of Ukrainians. With the help of Russian propaganda, Zelenskyi was able to appear in various roles, in particular:

A vain person who spends all budgetary funds only on himself;

A punisher-satanist, destroying the Ukrainian church property;

A person with drug addiction;

A theft of Western money;

A puppet puppet controlled by the West;

Inhuman, throwing “everyone” to the front, etc.

Such “epithets” are intended to form a negative image of Zelenskyi among the public, allegedly reinforced by his actions. Propagandists deliberately build the image of “Zelia” as an envoy of the West in order to undermine his authority both among Europeans and Ukrainians.

As for the formation of negative attitudes towards a certain group of people, in our study “You are either Russian or gay”, we described the use of offensive words by Russia to spread LGBT disinformation. For example, in the course of our analysis, both in the Russian and Ukrainian segments of social networks, the words “gayropa”, “evrogay”, “UN gay assembly”, “gaysek of the Council of Europe”, “hohlopedyk” were often encountered. Such words are hate speech towards representatives of the LGBTI+ community.

Propagandists use perverted phrases to ridicule and humiliate LGBT people. Readers get the impression that everything that concerns LGBT people is negative. Moreover, when the authors spread fakes and use swear words about LGBT people to refer to Ukrainian or Western leadership, in this way they associate homosexuality with something humiliating, a sign of weakness or incompetence, etc. Although homosexuality is the same common orientation as heterosexuality.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses heroization tactics

The tactic of heroization is one of the methods of military propaganda that has several key tasks. First, to consolidate the masses around a common goal – in the context of Russian aggression, this goal is the”denazification” and “liberation” of Ukrainian territories. Secondly, to inculcate the “correct” values and types of behavior, that is, to consolidate loyalty to the regime, active support for the army, and a desire to join military operations in society. Thirdly, to divert attention from urgent problems, compensating for them with dubious “achievements”. Fourth, once again justify and rationalize aggression by strengthening the desire for revenge. In addition, heroization gives rise to a romanticized vision of death, destruction and human suffering, and thus darkens the realities of war and emasculates the cost of human losses.

This tactic became popular with the outbreak of full-scale war. After all, during the first eight years of the war, Russian propagana appealed to suffering images: “the outcast people of Donbas”, “Russian-speaking Ukrainians curtailed in their rights”, “tortured children of Donbas”, “Orthodox believers persecuted for the truth”, “desecrated Soviet monuments”... The propaganda aim is to appeal to torment and suffering - to cause, on the one hand, hatred for the “punishers”, to demonize and dehumanize them, and on the other hand, to arouse sympathy for the “victims” and rationalize the generous “aid” - gum convoys of weapons. It is difficult to maintain morale if it is based only on sympathy or pity. That is why Russia glorifies 11-year-old Fiodor from the Briansk region: a group of “Ukrainian saboteurs” allegedly attacked him and two schoolgirls. The guy was wounded, the “NATO bullet” was stuck in the body, but he did not lose his head, he saved himself and the girls, running away to a safe place.

The story of the boy Fiodor appeals to strong emotions. Russian propaganda is trying to arouse sympathy for Fiodor: the little guy got into a situation from which not every adult could get out. It makes one empathize and admire - a wounded “hero” with a bullet in his body saves himself and two of his age. In addition, the courage of the schoolboy contrasts with the audacity of the “saboteurs”. If one projects these emotions into specific actions, they will get respect for the “heroism”, fierce hatred for Ukrainians and a desire for revenge.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “love bombing” tactics

"Love bombing" is a tactic used by propagandists to attract people to their cult or ideology. It works like this: they try to cut a person off from existing social support and replace him or her with communication with members of a particular group, that is, supporters of a particular ideology, who deliberately bombard the person with affection, trying to isolate them from the previous belief and value system.

For example, Russian propagandists are trying to convince those in Bakhmut that they should support Russia. The messages of supposedly former residents of the city, who have already “evacuated” to the aggressor state, are oriented towards civilians. There are also statements from seemingly residents of Bakhmut that they have “suffered a lot from the Ukrainian army over the past 9 years”, are waiting for the arrival of “real liberators” from Russia and, in order to speed it up, they even adjust the fire on their city. The tactic of “love bombing” in such messages is used to justify cruelty with humane intentions.

“Love bombing” was also used in the hope of reaching out to the military defending Bakhmut. For example, they circulated publications about other Ukrainian military men who seemed to have “smiled with happiness” and were taken into Russian captivity, where they seem to be treated well.

The Russians used “love bombing” tactics when they violated international law and forced Ukrainians to leave for Russia. They present the deportation as a “vacation in Russia”, and the war against Ukraine as “revenge for the children of Donbas”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses show business to spread anti-Ukrainian narratives

The Kremlin uses show business as a tool to influence public opinion and to spread Russian propaganda. Artists with a large number of fans publicly express their support for Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, and also perform at propaganda events both in Russia itself and in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories.

So, a year ago, Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine was accompanied by massive reports of Russian “starship landings”. For example, Russian singer Nikolai Baskov wrote on his Instagram that “Russia's operation is in full compliance with international law”. He believes that Russia is using the right to self-defense and the protection of its allies (the so-called DNR and LNR). Baskov's position was supported by the Russian radio and TV presenter and actress Alla Dovlatova. Another TV presenter, Tina Kandelaki, rebuked those who condemn Russia's aggression against Ukraine. These people relayed Kremlin talking points to justify Russia's actions.

In addition, the Ministry of Culture, together with the Russian Ministry of Defense, recently announced the formation of propaganda teams, which include Russian artists. These brigades are created, in particular, in order to organize concerts, including in the regions, to raise the fighting mood among the mobilized. Similar propaganda teams also existed under the Soviet Union, when artists were used for political agitation and propaganda.

At the same time, Russian artists spread propaganda not only in Russia. They also travel with concerts to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and perform at propaganda events. Moreover, some representatives of the Russian show business at one time received the passports of the so-called DNR and LNR. Thus, they tried to legitimize these pseudo-republics and support the position of the Kremlin.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses cinema to spread anti-Ukrainian narratives

“Cinema is the most important art”, said Bolshevik Lenin, praising the Soviet school of cinema (according to Russian propaganda). Volodymyr Putin also vowed to keep an eye on Russian cinema when he recently commissioned films about the war against Ukraine to be shown in Russian cinemas. More precisely, the films are called upon to “fight against the spread of neo-Nazi and neo-fascist ideology”. The order from Putin states that the Ministry of Defense will assist Russian documentary filmmakers in preparing cinematographic material about the participants in the so-called “special operation” (in reality, a full-scale war), who “showed courage, bravery and heroism”. However, are courage, bravery and heroism inherent in the Russian occupiers? Russian propaganda is trying to build a favorable image of “military heroes” by using cinematography.

“Bandera”, “supporters of the Nazis”, “goofs in bloomers” - such a Ukrainian is in Russian cinema, created by order of Moscow. Russian films methodically use stereotypes to speculate about Ukrainians and other non-Russian peoples. Thus, Russian propaganda distorts reality and imposes stereotypes on viewers who begin to believe in an alternative reality. In addition to demonizing Ukrainians, Moscow often resorts to “toxic nostalgia” and revolves around its stereotypes of a “good Soviet Union” and a “victorious Great Patriotic War” to nourish the narrative about the existence of a “one people”, mentally uniting Russians with Ukrainians.

In 2014, with the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, a film called “Russian Character” was released. The film was released on December 28, 2014, that is, less than a year after the occupation of Crimea. This is a story about how in 2013 a Russian naval officer comes on vacation to his grandfather in the Crimea and learns that he was killed by “Bandera”. Also, messages are constantly being promoted about “Crimea is ours”, “oppression of Russian-speaking people”, “the vile nature of Ukrainians who spoke Russian all their lives, and suddenly remembered that they are Ukrainians”, etc.

And Lenin's phrase about cinema, as they say, sounds like this in full: “While the people are illiterate, of all the arts, cinema and the circus are the most important for us”. The Russian authorities operate on the same principle.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses rationalization tactics

Rationalization is a propaganda tactic that works as a psychological defense. For example, it is used when they want to prove that any actions of a person or, as in our case, a country are the only correct ones. Therefore, it is not worth questioning and criticizing them. This tactic works in cases where one needs to explain some actions that caused a negative reaction from the audience. That is, a person or a group of people does not admit their guilt, but on the contrary, they try to justify themselves and prove their case with supposedly logical concepts. Like, otherwise it would be impossible to act. Rationalization also helps to maintain self-respect, avoid responsibility and guilt. That is, in any rationalization there is at least a minimum amount of truth, but the percentage of self-deception is much higher.

With the help of this tactic, Russian propaganda regularly tries to justify its actions in Ukraine, seeks to justify its aggression towards peaceful Ukrainians. For example, during the year of a full-scale war (and long before it), there were theses that Russia was forced to conduct military operations in Ukraine, because the Ukrainian authorities were allegedly guided by the West and wanted to harm Russia itself. Like, if Russia had not started the war, Ukraine or the so-called collective West would have started it. This is how the propaganda rationalizes its actions, allegedly explaining that it was impossible to do otherwise in this situation. However, the only truth in this example is that Ukraine really chose a course towards the European direction (that is, it cooperates with the West), defended its language and statehood, but was not going to attack either Russia or Russians. Similarly, Western countries do not attack Russia, however, among the justifying messages there are those who claim that it was the Western country that supposedly started the war with Russia on the territory of Ukraine, and Russia allegedly had no choice. Through this tactic, Russian propaganda creates the appearance that Russia is doing the right thing. They say, yes, people suffer because of the war, cities are destroyed, but our choice was rational and it was impossible to act otherwise.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the “primacy effect” tactics

“This is happening now, which means that…” This is a typical message template using the “primacy effect” propaganda tactic. It is used when it is necessary to form the desired attitude to events or processes about which there is no reliable information. The first one to report information, offer a version, how to understand it and cover the largest audience, has the highest chances of establishing his or her opinion in society.

The tactic of the “primacy effect” is used when it is necessary to react to a news occasion from opponents. The response does not have to be coordinated or truthful. The main thing is to promptly report the probable version of the incident. For example, when at dawn on October 8, 2022, a section of the bridge connecting the temporarily occupied Crimea with the Krasnodar territory of Russia fell into the sea, Russian propagandists reported the following versions of the event:

- train tank exploded with fuel,

- it was NATO that arranged the explosion,

- Ukrainian special services carried out a terrorist act.

Which of the versions one would not have come across first, each of them gave an explanation for what happened and pointed to the “guilty”.

The primacy effect tactic works well as an accompaniment to crimes committed by Russians themselves.

On October 10, two days after the explosion on the bridge to the Crimea, the Russians fired on the objects of the energy system of Ukraine. In the first hours after that, Ukrainian pro-Russian telegram channels, in order to cause panic and force the Russians to yield, offered ten versions of the explanation of what happened:

- Ukraine's air-defense system is useless and the Russians easily bypass it,

- the Ukrainians themselves brought trouble on themselves by attacking the Crimean bridge;

- the authorities of Ukraine hush up the catastrophe and forbid reporting the destruction,

- it will be even worse further, it is not for nothing that the embassies of other states leave Ukraine.

Propagandists also use the tactics of the “primacy effect” to form expectations for the future or to convince the audience that they are right. In the Ukrainian telegram segment, there are telegram channels that “specialize” in the distribution of all kinds of supposedly insider versions of certain events. The authors of such channels in their messages regularly refer to anonymous sources, offering the audience the so-called insiders. Also in the messages of channels there are often phrases like “there are rumors”, “our insider in ... reported”, “they are talking on the sidelines..”. For each of the informational occasions that fall into the field of view of the authors of these telegram channels, they offer more than one interpretation or forecast of what is happening and what will happen next. In the course of events, these reports are intended to set the propagandist's favorable interpretation of the situation. After at least one of the interpretations will come true, these messages serve to confirm the trust in the sources of telegram channels. Other false reports may be forgotten or serve as the basis for further explanation of new news stories.