Spilnota Detector Media

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “ordinary people” tactics

“Ordinary people” is a tactic by which propaganda convinces the audience that the position of the propagandists coincides with the position of the majority and reflects common sense. Thus, propagandists seek to gain the trust of the audience by trying to communicate with them in the same language. That is, in the most simple words, understandable to a wide audience. Also, as part of this tactic, propagandists try to explain the concepts or processes they need using supposedly understandable examples, that is, close or known to the target audience.

Russian propaganda is using the “ordinary people” tactics, spreading the message that hunger will come all over the world through Ukraine. This is how propagandists take a topic that concerns the majority and assure that because of the war in Ukraine and even more because of the resistance that it is showing to Russia, first Ukrainians themselves, and later people in other countries, will die of hunger. For example, the Russian edition of RIA Novosti (RIA news) published an article entitled “Europe is running out of food”, which says that soon a food crisis will come in Europe. In fact, there will be food in Europe, but it may rise in price (which has already happened during the year of the big war against Ukraine) due to general inflation and fuel prices. In addition, due to the destroyed logistics, the range of goods may decrease.

That is, within the framework of tactics, Russia chooses a topic and, using most understandable examples, explains: because of the war in Ukraine, people will remain hungry, this is bad. This thesis is intended to reflect supposedly common sense. With the help of such messages and tactics, propagandists seek to establish the opinion that if a famine occurs, it will be Ukraine and the defending Ukrainians who are to blame.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda is using video games to spread anti-Ukrainian narratives

In the conditions of the Russian aggressive war against Ukraine, anti-Ukrainian propaganda penetrates into all spheres of life: literature, music, cinema and other areas of culture. In particular, propagandists use the field of video games as a platform for relaying their “ideal” life scenario.

Russia finances its video game developers in every possible way so that they create mass products with “their own scenario”, which is beneficial to propaganda. Consequently, Russian products can offer their own alternative reality, disfiguring real facts and presenting it as reality. Players can have specific scenarios in their minds and they will perceive them as something real.

For example, the video game “Atomic heart” was recently released; a Russian company is developing this game. The game is positioned by the developers as retrofuturistic in the style of the USSR. It describes the events of the alternative history of the 50s, when the Soviet Union emerged from World War II as an absolute winner. In addition, it is scientifically and technically advanced, because it is able to create robots “replacing human labor”.

After the release of the game, scenes hinting at the criminal Russian war against Ukraine were found in it. For example, a flying drone that carries a pot of geraniums (an allusion to the Geranium kamikaze drone, a terrorist country launches into Ukraine and kills thousands of Ukrainians). In addition, the game has “beautiful Soviet photos” of Ukrainian Mariupol, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia. That is, the bridge, which at that time did not hit Russian missiles. The game also found quotes about mentally handicapped “Nazi pigs” and a can of minced pork in a blue and yellow wrapper. The Ministry of digital transformation of Ukraine has called for limiting the distribution of this game in other countries due to its toxicity and the potential collection of user data information.

This is not a rare case of discrediting Ukraine with the help of Russian video games, because their only goal is to distort Ukrainian history, discredit domestic and foreign policy, and create a negative image of Ukraine among both foreigners and Ukrainians. Parasitizing on “alternative realities”, game developers fix certain images in the minds of the players. Therefore, such stereotypes are created that “Ukraine is the territory of Russia” or “The Soviet Union is the best education of mankind”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the tactics of comparison with the standard of the negative (destruction of authority)

Comparison with the standard of the negative (destruction of authority) is a propaganda tactic in which propagandists compare a new idea, process or person with an already known analogue that causes persistent negative emotions. In tactics, a certain logical flaw is applied: if A includes X and B includes X, then A = B.

Using this tactic, Russian propaganda is trying to convince both Russians and the whole world that Ukrainians are Nazis. In particular, Russians systematically find evidence of Nazism in the Ukrainian army. For example, they said that the uniform of the Ukrainian military was significantly changed after the 2000s and now it supposedly reflects the “reincarnation of Nazism”: rhombuses on shoulder straps instead of Soviet stars, the use of the “Nazi” edelweiss flower in the symbols of the units, as well as an artificially aged naval emblem of marine corps. Propaganda also considered Nazi symbols on military helmets, Ukrainian armored vehicles and even Ukrainian military awards. Moreover, allegedly the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Army Valerii Zaluzhnyi also has a “bracelet with a swastika”. Thus, the Russians are trying to promote the conclusion that if Ukrainian soldiers use Nazi symbols, then they share the same views as the Nazis during World War II.

They use the same tactics in relation to Volodymyr Zelenskyi - they say that he is not only supported by the same countries that supported Hitler, he even published the book “My Struggle” similar in name and style to “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler. Russian propaganda also said that in Poland they allegedly issued a stamp with Zelenskyi in the image of Hitler. Or they said that Zelenskyi, during a visit to the United States, handed over to Congress the flag of Ukraine “with SS runes”. And during a meeting with the leaders of France and Germany, the Ukrainian leader “could not resist” and “carefully showed Z” standing near the German flag.

Another example is the comparison of the Ukrainian special services, in particular, the Security Service of Ukraine, with punishers. Russian propaganda uses this tactic mainly in the temporarily occupied territories, convincing people that if they are released, they will live even worse. Like, the SBU is preparing punitive operations in the liberated territories. Allegedly, people will be judged even for such “innocent” acts as baking bread or organizing football matches during the occupation. In this context, the tactics of comparison with the standard of the negative are combined with the tactics of labeling (punishers) and the replacement of concepts (punishment for crimes committed is given as repression against civilians).

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “fake dilemma” tactics

A fake dilemma is a propaganda tactic in which the propagandists offer only two options. At the same time, in general, the “choice” option required by propaganda is obviously beneficial.

For example, the phrase “who is not with us is against us” has been well-known since Soviet times, it is a classic embodiment of the fake dilemma tactic. Either “you are with us” and enjoy all the privileges of “your own” - obviously a beneficial option - or “you are against us”: you are the enemy, and the attitude towards the enemies of the people in Soviet times was tough.

This tactic was used by Russian propaganda in the internal information space during the so-called “shared mobilization”. Russian men were also offered two choices: either go to the front to “defend homeland”, or join the ranks of “traitors”. Moreover, even in the manuals that were prepared in order to minimize the negative moods of the mobilized, that is, those who left Russia after the announcement of mobilization, they recommend ridiculing them, calling them “refugees” and “those who wait”, while emphasizing that words should be avoided that will hint to listeners that people left the country against their will.

The Russians also use this tactic in the temporarily occupied territories, offering Ukrainians Russian passports. The essence of the dilemma: either you get a Russian passport and have the opportunity to work, earn money and somehow survive; or, keeping the Ukrainian passport, you are an enemy. The danger lies in the fact that the effectiveness of tactics increases in direct proportion to the length of time under occupation. Many people are running out of resources, and hence the ability to resist the invaders.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “It’s your own fault” tactics

“It’s your own fault” is one of the most common propaganda tactics both in the internal (Russian) and external information spaces. Propagandists transfer the responsibility for what has been done to the victim, causing them to feel ashamed or guilty, etc. For example, the authorities are bad, but the officials who violate the laws are not to blame for this, but the voters who voted for them. Like, you have what you have voted for.

Since the beginning of a full-scale war, Russian propaganda has been convincing that it is Ukraine that is to blame for the duration of the war. Like, if the Ukrainians had not resisted, the so-called “special military operation” would have already “achieved its goals” and ended. The propagandists also tried to transfer part of the blame to the West. They say that the supply of air defense systems and weapons to Ukraine only “increases the number of victims and prolongs the conflict”. These messages propagandists spread to the internal audience. They say that Ukrainians “asked for it” with their resistance.

Using such tactics, Russian propaganda shifts responsibility for Russian massive missile strikes to the Ukrainian army. They say that if Russian “high-precision” missiles had not been shot down with the help of Ukrainian “ridiculous” air defense systems, they would have hit “only military targets”, and civilians “would not have suffered”. In particular, propagandist Olha Skabieieva voiced this on the air of a Russian TV channel: allegedly, the Ukrainian military fires dozens of missiles from air defense systems that randomly move in the sky, do not hit Russian missiles, but collide with each other and fragments of these missiles fall into civilian buildings while Russian rockets reach their goals. So, Skabieieva explained the consequences of rocket attacks on Kyiv. Similar explanations were given about the reasons for the X-22 missile hitting a multi-storied building in Dnipro: the Russian missile allegedly flew clearly at a military target, and it was “unsuccessfully” shot down over the building.

The propagandists also spread messages that, thanks to Poroshenko, Ukraine had lost Crimea and part of the East, and thanks to Zelenskyi, the loss of territories was even greater. They say that it was not Russia that began to occupy Ukrainian territories in 2014, but the “it’s own fault” of Ukrainians who supported the Revolution of dignity (in the language of propagandists - “coup d'état”), elected Petro Poroshenko, and later Volodymyr Zelenskyi as presidents. 

“It’s your own fault” tactics is used in combination with the “substitution of concepts” technique.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses labeling tactics (stereotyping)

Labeling (stereotyping) is one of the most common propaganda tactics. Propagandists provide the phenomenon/process they are working against with negative content using a deliberate name or characteristic that evokes negative associations. Less often, this tactic is used in a positive connotation such as calling a certain group of people heroes.

For example, Russian propaganda calls Ukrainian servicemen “militants”, “Nazis”, “neo-Nazis”. All these terms have a negative connotation and evoke associations of fear of the military. Thus, the propagandists are trying to level the image of the Ukrainian soldier as a defender of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine. At the same time, by combining labeling and substitution of concepts, Russian propaganda creates the image of a “defender of the fatherland” for Russian servicemen, despite the fact that they are fighting on foreign territory.

Another example is the use of the perverse label “independent” in relation to Ukraine. Propagandists deliberately do not translate the word “independent” into Russian, but create something in between. Thus, due to the caricature of the designation, propaganda forms a negative attitude towards Ukraine as a separate and independent state. Propagandists also use this label to nourish the narrative of “external governance in Ukraine”.

As for the use of stereotypes, this tactic is best demonstrated by the “inferior” attitude of Russians towards Ukrainians as “unreasonable, helpless younger brothers and sisters”. Despite the fact that Ukraine is historically the successor of Kyiv Rus, Kyiv is an older city than Moscow. After the collapse of the USSR, Russian rhetoric highlighted the “brotherhood of peoples”, “common culture”, “common values”. These stereotypes were also used in 2014. Like, “brother goes against brother” and “that's bad”. According to Russian propaganda, Ukraine, guided by “family feelings”, should not resist Russia.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses scare tactics

Scaring (appealing to fear) is a propaganda tactic in which propagandists use fear or persistent prejudice to obtain a desired result. If you don't do / support what is being proposed, it will only get worse.

After the liberation of Ukrainian territories from invaders, the whole world learned about numerous war crimes by the Russian army, including crimes against children. After the liberation of Kyiv region in the spring of 2022, the atrocities of the Russians in Bucha became known. At the time, propagandists wrote that the photos and videos from Bucha were a provocation by Ukraine to get Western help and discredit the Russian army. At the same time, the Russian propaganda started spreading fakes about “punishing” Ukrainians who were under occupation for receiving Russian humanitarian aid. During the Ukrainian army's counteroffensive in Kharkiv region, propagandists began to work ahead of the curve, assuring that Ukraine would allegedly run the message that the Russians tortured civilians in occupied Kharkiv region. The Russians also claimed that the Security service of Ukraine (SBU) was preparing a punitive operation against citizens loyal to Russia in Kharkiv; they wrote that Ukraine would allegedly send “punishers” who would mock civilians and kill anyone who did not support Ukrainian nationalism. In other words, Ukrainians were being intimidated into believing that they would be worse off after liberation than they were during the occupation. The Russians used the same tactics during the liberation of Kherson: first they spread messages that Ukraine was preparing a “new Bucha” in Kherson, and then they began writing that “hell for civilians” was beginning in Kherson. They said that after liberation, the Ukrainian military began repressions against civilians. They also wrote that Kherson residents complained about the deterioration of life after the arrival of Ukrainian troops, saying that they did not want to live “in Russia”, and now they suffer in Ukraine. In other words, the Russians not only keep Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories in constant fear, but also convince them that after liberation their lives will be even worse. They say that Ukraine will consider everyone to be traitors and collaborators, so we must “put up with it” and support Russia.

Also, Russian propaganda uses scare tactics during massive missile attacks on Ukraine. Repeatedly during the air raid alert, they spread the message that allegedly the Ukrainian air defense system cannot cope with the massive shelling, allegedly the Ukrainian air defense system shoots down only ten percent of Russian missiles. They say that the Ukrainian authorities lie about the number of missiles and forbid showing the results of their hits in order to hide the real state of affairs. Allegedly, the presidential office exaggerates the effectiveness of the air defense system and “invents” missile attacks. After reports from the General Staff about the real effectiveness (over 64%) of the air defense system, propagandists manipulate that if the Ukrainian air defense system works as effectively as possible, the West no longer needs to supply Ukraine with weapons. The purpose of these messages is psychological pressure on Ukrainians at a time of emotional vulnerability, to increase panic and fear caused by shelling, and to discredit the Ukrainian army and government.

Another example of the intimidation Russia resorts to not only in Ukraine but also abroad is the use of nuclear weapons. These messages have been broadcast by propagandists both to Russian audiences and to foreign audiences since the start of the full-scale invasion. Also, the Russian army is constantly conducting “training” of strategic deterrence forces with launches of ballistic and cruise missiles codenamed “Hrim” (Thunder). The need for such “training” is justified by the fact that allegedly Ukraine, the US or NATO want / could launch a nuclear strike on Russia, so one should be ready for a “retaliatory strike”. Russian propaganda also periodically spreads fakes that allegedly Ukraine wants to use a “dirty bomb” and blame it on Russia. At the same time, Russia has begun to expand the “list of situations” in which a “preventive” nuclear strike is allegedly possible.

In this way, Russia resorts to nuclear blackmail and tries to induce Ukraine and other democratic states to negotiate on its own terms.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses the tactics of appealing to authority

Appeal to authority is a propaganda tactic in which propagandists resort to quoting famous people or experts in a particular field to promote messages. Like, if the argument is in parallel with the statement of an authoritative person, then it is true.

Russian propaganda systematically quotes Western pro-Russian politicians or public figures to promote disinformation narratives. Russian propaganda presents the pro-Russian position of an individual as a generalized public opinion in a particular country.

For example, in order to create the illusion that even in the United States, more and more people “support Russia” or “understand Putin”, or “believe in the victorious power of the Russian army”, they use the American former military. One such expert is Colonel Douglas McGregor, ex-advisor of the head of the Pentagon. In 2014, McGregor supported the annexation of Crimea and spoke on RT, where he claimed that the inhabitants of Crimea were Russians, not Ukrainians. From the first day of the full-scale invasion, MacGregor predicted an imminent defeat for Ukraine. At the end of December 2022, Russian media quoted McGregor as saying that “almost nothing will be left of Ukraine” in the near future.

Another expert is Doug Bandow, an American scholar and columnist for The American Conservative. His quotes were used to promote messages about censorship and lies in the Ukrainian information space. In an op-ed, Bandow claimed that the Center for Counteracting Disinformation at the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine had formed a list of “naughty Americans who refuse to dance to the tune of the Zelenskyi and Ukrainian governments” (i.e., a list of pro-Russian experts). To fight with the Ukrainian Center, according to Bandow, the United States should also create a center to counter disinformation. In fact, The American Conservative has also repeatedly published materials in tune with Russian propaganda narratives.

Russian propaganda uses the Polish fake publication Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny (an independent political magazine) both to spread Russian propaganda in Poland and to quote the supposedly Polish publication in the Russian and Ukrainian information spaces. As Polish journalists found out, most of the publications on the website of this publication were literally copied from other portals; thus, the impression of a full-fledged media is formed. The publication's own materials are Russian propaganda and lies. For example, it was this publication that published fabricated statements by American generals that the Poles were drunkards, drug addicts, and thieves. Most of the texts are written in poor Polish, saturated with Russians, there are impossible language constructions in the texts. The editor of the publication, Adam Kaminsky, is a fictitious person. Instead of his photograph, a portrait of the Lithuanian traumatologist Andrius Zhukauskas was used. Among other things, this fake publication was used to promote messages that NATO is “supplying scrap to Ukraine”,that is, old, ineffective weapons, in order to “clean out warehouses” and “recycle old trash”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses personality tactics

Going personal is a propaganda tactic whose name comes from the Latin expression “Argumentum ad hominem (Argumentum ad personam)” - “an argument directed at a person”. Propagandists resort to personal attacks on the opponent when they cannot refute their arguments. Thus, they try to turn a losing situation into a “victory” by humiliating the opponent and distracting from the main topic.

For example, the spouses of Russian propagandists Yevhenii Popov and Olha Skabieieva resort to such tactics in their TV show “60 minutes about the essentials”. Guests were often invited to the studio, supposedly to represent Ukraine and Ukrainians. As soon as the arguments of these guests did not suit the hosts, they resorted to manipulation and going personal:

an explicit or veiled image of the interlocutors themselves;

manipulative use of phrases such as “as an intelligent person, you cannot contradict the statement …”; that is, they create a false dilemma for the interlocutor either to agree with the proposed unacceptable statement, or to argue and thereby contradict the statement “as an intelligent person”;

inappropriate appeals to authority such as “you are wrong, because we [in Russia] know better what is happening in Ukraine…”; that is, the further argumentation of propaganda is based on a logical flaw.

Thus, Russian propagandists on the air of the national TV channel formed the image of Ukrainians as stupid, uneducated, funny, helpless, “inferior” people.

Also, this tactic is used by the representative of the Russian foreign ministry, Mariia Zakharova, if the Russians cannot reasonably , in accordance with the norms of international diplomacy, respond to the statements of foreign leaders. For example, to the words of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that Russia poses a threat to Poland and Europe, Zakharova reacts with personal attacks against him.

Personality tactics are often combined with ridicule and substitution concept tactics.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses repetition tactics

Multiple repetition is one of the key tactics of Russian propaganda. The idea (thesis, slogan) is repeated many times in different sources of information until it is perceived as true. Television, radio, cinema, show business, literature, education, etc. are used to spread the idea.

For example, in 2014, after the occupation of the Crimean peninsula, Russians began to use the slogan “Crimea is ours!”. It sounded everywhere: in the official statements of Russian officials, in the media, in the statements of famous Russians, in humorous programs, etc. To reinforce the idea, Russian propagandist Andrii Kondrashov shot a documentary film for several hours - a reconstruction of the events of “Crimea. Way to the motherland” (meaning “return” to Russia). Due to the multiple repetition of the slogan in the form of a hashtag for social networks, a new version of its spelling appeared - “Krymnash” (Crimea is ours). In the Russian-language version of Wikipedia, such a transformation is called the “neologism of the Russian language”, which was allegedly recognized as the “word of the year”. The idea was endlessly repeated to the Russians that the temporarily occupied Crimea supposedly belongs to Russia. That is why they perceive it as true, despite the fact that not a single democratic state in the world has recognized the accession of the peninsula to Russia.

Another example of multiple repetition is the spread of the Russian narrative “Nazis/fascists came to power in Ukraine – Ukrainians need to be saved”. Since 2013, since the beginning of the Revolution of Dignity, Russian propaganda began to call the democratic processes in Ukraine a “coup d'état”, a “seizure of power”, power - a “junta”, a “Kyiv regime”. Also, messages about Ukrainian “nationalists”, “Nazis”, “Banderas” began to be promoted in the information space. That is, the propagandists combined the tactics of substitution of concepts with multiple repetition and fixed far-fetched messages as truthful. Finally, the narrative about the need to “liberate” Ukrainians from “Nazis/fascists” was used to justify the start of the so-called “special military operation”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses devalue tactics

Devalue is a propaganda tactic that Russia uses to spread messages both in the internal (Russian) and external information spaces. Propagandists deliberately downplay the importance, effectiveness, or success of certain events, decisions, processes, and so on. Like, if some actions are “meaningless”, there is no point in continuing to do so.

For example, Russian propaganda uses devaluation tactics when covering the topic of Western sanctions against Russia. In particular, the EU has already introduced the ninth package of sanctions. In contrast, Russia accuses the West of “the irrationality and illogicality of the sanctions that provoked chaos and destabilization of world economic ties”. Russian propaganda is constantly trying to convince the world that the sanctions are invalid. That's why they need to be canceled. In fact, if the sanctions were inactive, Russia would not have to make so much effort to avoid them.

Also, Russian propaganda systematically devalues the Ukrainian army. Like, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are losing their combat capability. As if the Ukrainian military is already exhausted and the majority of people cannot stand the test of military realities. Allegedly, the United States no longer believes in Ukraine's military victory over Russia and considers the chances of success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the battlefield “low”, and therefore will soon stop helping Ukraine. Russian propaganda also spread the message that it makes no sense to donate to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and help volunteers, because volunteer donations allegedly will not save the country, whose economy is bursting at the seams, and foreign partners are in no hurry to support it. In fact, the Ukrainian army has been protecting Ukraine and Ukrainians for almost a year now and is holding back the “second army of the world”, which planned to “conquer Kyiv in three days”. And foreign states systematically provide regular packages of military assistance in order to increase the defense capability of Ukraine.

Another example: the European Parliament supported a resolution recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism on November 23, 2022. After that, Russian propaganda began to spread messages that the European Parliament is extremists without real power, and the EU as a whole “sacrifices” its already “spoiled” reputation, calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Thus, the propagandists tried to devalue the European institutions and their decisions on Russia.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses tactics of “beautiful people”

The “beautiful people” tactic is one of the most common tactics of Russian propaganda inside the country, but it is also used in Ukraine. Propaganda messages are spread by attractive, successful, famous people such as TV presenters, bloggers, film actors, singers, writers, etc. Because of their recognizability, they become so-called “thought leaders”. This encourages other people to think that if they follow the same ideology, the same behavior, they will also be happy or successful.

This tactic is often used in advertising to increase product sales. It is also used to attract people to religious cults. Like, take an example from this person and come to us. Russian propaganda has also adopted this tactic and mainly uses it to spread propaganda in the domestic media space. In particular, actors and singers with Ukrainian roots who have Ukrainian relatives are used as a source of “true” information about events in Ukraine. Their fans, guided by the authority of idols, assimilate and spread this rhetoric. However, there are examples of the use of this tactic in the Ukrainian information space. Here are the materials of Detector Media for an explanation.

For example, after participating in the first season of the reality show “The Bachelor” with Maksym Chmerkovskyi (2011), Tetiana Pop became recognizable. At that time, she said that she had a business in Ukraine, and before that she worked on regional television in her hometown of Khust. Later, Pop appeared on Oleksii Durniev's show and was a participant in Russian TV shows “Mom in Law” and “Dom-2”. That is, the image of “a girl who suddenly woke up famous” stuck behind Tetiana Pop.

Since 2015, Pop has supported Russia and promoted Russian propaganda messages. In messages on the Vkontakte network, she called the participants in the Revolution of Dignity “conscious”, “Ukry” (“Ukrainians”); the authorities were called “junta”, and those who support this power were called “30% of morons”; she praised Stalin, and insisted that “Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians are one people”, and “gays are sick people” who “should be punished”. Now this rhetoric has become even more aggressive. Pop has her own telegram channel with over 107 thousand subscribers and a Youtube channel with an audience of 65 thousand subscribers. On these resources, the propagandist tells how “citizenship and language” are being taken away from Ukrainians, about American biological laboratories in Ukraine and glorifies Russia. Now Tetiana Pop lives in Russia, so her audience is mostly Russians, but videos from her telegram channel are shared to the Ukrainian information space through a network of pro-Russian telegram channels.

Another example is Diana Panchenko, a pro-Russian journalist and TV presenter for NewsOne, First Independent and Ukrlive channels. They tried to create the image of a young, beautiful, successful TV presenter of Diana Panchenko, who has her own opinion and is not afraid to express it.

While working on television, Panchenko refused to call a war a war until it was “recognized by the Verkhovna Rada”; made Ukraine guilty of continuing hostilities; imposed on the audience the thesis that Ukraine does not want to return the Donbas if it does not agree to Russia's demands. Panchenko also helped Russia justify a full-scale invasion, admired the strength of Russian weapons, which even the United States seems to be afraid of. She supported Lukashenko during the protests in Belarus and even held a concert for him. She promoted the Russian version of Victory Day, demonized the Revolution of Dignity, etc. Now Panchenko is promoting a pro-Russian agenda in the Ukrainian information space through a Youtube channel (a little over 77,000 subscribers) and a telegram channel (almost 66,000 subscribers). Recently, the Security service of Ukraine (SBU) informed the propagandist about the suspicion.

Pro-Russian propaganda was also spread by another TV presenter, Oksana Marchenko, the wife of the pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who is the godfather of Russian President Putin and who was accused of high treason. Actually, Oksana Marchenko was also informed by the SBU about the suspicion.

Marchenko gained the greatest popularity thanks to the work in the projects of the STB TV channel “X-factor” and “Ukraine has got a talent”. Using popularity and financial opportunities, Marchenko advertised the Moscow Patriarchate Church for Ukrainians in the author's project “Pilgrim”. In the Russian-language product, Marchenko manipulates church norms, promotes the idea of “general reconciliation”, “submission”, etc. Moreover, in one of the episodes, Marchenko tells how “Ukrainians are killing each other and how nice it would be for them to come to their senses”.

Another indirect way to advance the pro-Russian rhetoric is silence. Quite a few Ukrainian artists who previously worked in Russia have resorted to such tactics. Since February 24, 2022, they have either disappeared from the public space or avoided commenting on the topic of the war. The repetition of such behavior by their fans is fraught with the fact that silence, and therefore the absence of resistance, plays into the hands of our enemy.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses tactics of inhuman enemy

Enemy fiends is a propaganda tactic in which propagandists spread messages, manipulations and fakes that hyperbolically emphasize the negative qualities of Ukrainians (aggressiveness, vindictiveness, cruelty, etc.). The goal is to prevent compassion for the Ukrainians, moreover, to encourage the Russians to go to war as a “sacred mission”.

Russian propaganda used this tactic in the summer when covering the explosions in the Crimea. They wrote that supposedly Ukrainians are happy that war has finally come to Crimea. Information about the explosions at the airport really caused a strong reaction on social networks. But emotions are caused, first of all, by the significant losses of the enemy, because at the airfield in the temporarily occupied Crimea, the Ukrainian military destroyed the composition of aviation weapons and about a dozen aircraft systematically patrolling the airspace on the territory of Ukraine.

Somewhat modified Russian propaganda used the tactic of fiends - Ukrainians after the events in Brovary on January 18th. Russian propaganda began to spread messages that Russians sympathize with the deaths of Ukrainian children, unlike Ukrainians. Like, the Russians understand that Ukrainian children are not to blame for anything, Ukrainians call for the destruction of Russian children so that “orcs do not grow out of them”. In fact, Ukrainians showed condolences to the Russians even after 2014. However, a full-scale invasion significantly changed the situation. As of January 2023, due to Russian aggression in Ukraine, at least 459 children were killed, more than 909 were injured of varying severity. These figures are not final, since Russian war crimes, including against children, are being recorded and investigated in places of war fights and in the liberated territories.

Russian propaganda tried to make the “Ukrainians” inhuman by spreading messages on religious topics. They say that the “Kyiv regime” has turned Ukraine into a “totalitarian hypersect”, professing “neopaganism” as the basis of “radical nationalism”. The Russians wrote that allegedly the number of “Satanist sects” in Ukraine is unknown, but the countdown “is definitely in the hundreds”. So Ukraine needs to be “desatanized” and “deshaitanized”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “pass it on” tactics

“Pass it on” is a conventional name for propaganda tactics. Russian propaganda formulates a message that evokes a sharp emotional reaction and calls for it to be spread as much as possible. Basically, the purpose of the message is to cause panic or destabilize the situation.

For example, Russian propaganda uses this tactic to spread fakes about the lack of blood. Reports say that there seems to be a shortage of blood both in clinics and in hospitals. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Health has repeatedly denied this information, reports of a lack of blood are always very actively spread on social networks. The goal is to destabilize the work of blood centers, because an unplanned influx of people who want to help increases the load on the system. Propagandists also seek to create emotional pressure on Ukrainians. Like, the state does not cope well with its tasks in a critical situation, so people suffer.

A message like “Attention!!! For tomorrow, Russia is planning a massive shelling of Ukraine. Rocket strikes will be on Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa, Lviv ... Pass these coordinates on to your relatives. Perhaps, this will save someone's life” was massively distributed in various instant messengers and channels in the spring of 2022. Especially active such sharing happened on the eve of holidays or important events. The goal is to make Ukrainians nervous, increase stress, influence panic under the guise of “care and concern”. In reality, it is quite difficult to foresee Russian shelling.

What one should pay attention to:

source of information is named abstractly (military, acquaintances, friends of friends) or it is the one with very limited access (information from the Ministry of internal affairs, defense, Main intelligence directorate, etc.), it indicates manipulation;

checking information: for the most part, people in an emotionally excited state immediately share what they have written. However, checking the information is often simple. For example, the coordinates of objects that will supposedly be hit can be checked through a search engine (sometimes even the coordinates of Russian cities were distributed). Information about the lack of blood can be checked by giving a call to the institution mentioned in the message.

In fact, with the development of social media, messages like “Pass it on as there will be trouble”, “Pass it on as there will be no love”, “Pass it on and you will be happy” have become very popular. In fact, they were used to study emotional triggers for further use. Also, unscrupulous advertisers and scammers picked up the tactic and still use it.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses ridicule tactics

Ridicule is a propaganda tactic designed to undermine and discredit the enemy. Propagandists rely on a psychological technique: if someone is funny, this should not be feared or taken seriously.

Russian propaganda uses this tactic to discredit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. Propagandists distribute fake covers of French cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo, Spanish satirical magazine El Jueves and German satirical magazine Titanik. They also spread fake messages about offensive graffiti allegedly painted in Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Warsaw. They depict Zelenskyi as cowardly, helpless or nasty. Thus, propaganda is trying to create the illusion that the Ukrainian president is despised and ridiculed abroad. Propagandists are trying to make Ukrainians feel ashamed of their leader and divide people because of their likes and dislikes towards Zelenskyi.

In anonymous telegram channels, a message was spread that supposedly Ukraine plans to protect the nuclear power plant from itself. Like, planning the construction of new NPP units, taking into account military threats, is ridiculous. Allegedly, only Ukrainians around the world dared to deliberately shell nuclear power plants. Like, there are no other “suicidal people” anywhere. In this case, the tactics of ridicule were combined with the tactics of substitution of concepts, claiming that Ukraine was deliberately shelling its own nuclear plants.

In Russian methodologies with instructions for journalists on how to cover the events of the Russian-Ukrainian war, propagandists advise using ironic names for Russians who left the country because they did not want to participate in the war. In particular, they are advised to call them “patriots who fled”, “perezhdun” (those who wait), “fugitives”, etc. Because of ridicule, the propagandists are trying to form a dismissive attitude towards the behavior of those who have left and spread the message: “if the Russians do not support Russia's war against Ukraine, they are not patriots, they do not deserve respect, they are not worthy”, and so on.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses reflection tactics

Reflection is a typical Russian propaganda tactic, used in particular to divert attention. Propagandists make the same accusations against Ukraine / USA / EU / ”collective West” as they bring against Russia. That is, they reflect the actions of the opponent. At the same time, Russian propaganda uses real and far-fetched pretexts for accusations.

An example of the use of reflection tactics is the accusation of the Ukrainian authorities of lying to Ukrainians that there are no losses in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In practice, the expression “there are no losses in the armed forces of Russia” from the very beginning of the great war became a meme. It was Russia that for a long time did not recognize its losses, and then significantly downplayed them. On the other hand, the Ukrainian authorities have never denied the losses, moreover, they constantly note the price that Ukraine pays every day, although it does not clearly state the number of deaths.

The Russians also used the tactics of reflection to conceal the war crimes of the Russian army. After the liberation of the Kyiv region, it became known about the atrocities of the Russian army in the temporarily occupied territories. In particular, both Ukrainian and world media wrote about the war crimes of Russians in Bucha. Russia denied these accusations, calling them a staged and provocative act by the Ukrainian authorities. Further, during the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Russians began to spread messages that Ukraine was preparing for “Bucha-2” in the Kharkiv direction and “new Bucha” in the Kherson region. After the publication of information about the numerous sexual crimes of the Russian military in the temporarily occupied territories, Russian propaganda began to accuse the military of the Armed Forces of Ukraine of the same crimes, but did not provide any evidence.

The main purpose of the reflection tactic is to divert attention from the subject of discussion or change the direction of the discussion. In English sources, it is called Whataboutism, as a derivative concept from the expression “what about”.

Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses substitution tactics

“Substitution of concepts” is one of the most common tactics of Russian propaganda. Propagandists artificially substitute commonly used terms (concepts) that evoke mostly negative emotions with new ones that are perceived neutrally or positively.

Propagandists use this tactic primarily to form a modern new language. Since 2014, Russian propaganda has been talking about the “civil war” in Ukraine. Behind this term, Russia's participation in the hostilities in the East of Ukraine was hidden. Like, citizens of one country are fighting. The term “war” has stable negative associations. To avoid the sharp dissatisfaction of Russians with the fact that Russia is starting a full-scale war against Ukraine, they came up with a new, more neutral term - “special military operation”. Thus, the substitution of concepts was used to calm down the Russians.

Using the tactics of substitution of concepts, Russian propaganda called the retreat from the Kyiv region, Chernihiv region, the liberation of Zmiyinyi island a “gesture of good will”. That is, the Russian media covered the defeat on the battlefield as a voluntary withdrawal of troops, moreover, as a favor done to the enemy (that is, Ukraine). Thus, the emotions of strong disappointment were replaced by more neutral ones.

Russian propaganda widely uses the substitution of concepts to highlight the participation of foreigners in the war on the side of Ukraine. They call all foreigners fighting in Ukraine mercenaries. In fact, foreign citizens who receive financial rewards for participating in hostilities are required to enter the service of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and they are subordinated to its command. Otherwise, they fight as volunteers. Now Russian propaganda says that supposedly the fighters of the Wagner group are “courageous selfless volunteers”. Actually, the Wagner militants are mercenaries. The private company is not part of the Russian army, but receives financial rewards from Russia for participating in the war against Ukraine and coordinates its operations with the Russian military command. That is, Russian propaganda deliberately replaces one concept with another in order to confuse and change the attitude towards Ukrainian foreign military personnel and Russian mercenaries.

This text is the first in the “Tactics and tools” section, which Detector Media is launching as part of the Disinformation Chronicles project. In it, we will explain how the most common tactics, technologies, and tools that Russian propaganda uses to spread disinformation work.