Defense/Security

Three Lies of Russian and Georgian Media about Donbas

8 July, 2019

On June 26, Russian media outlets spread three news stories about the developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region:

  1. On June 26, Russia Today released an  article, according to which Ukrainian troops were pulling back from the frontline because of the lack of military resources.
  2. On June 26, Russian website News Front wrote that the United States and NATO are ready to kill their own officers and put the blame on Russia. 
  3. On June 26, Russian daily newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets (Московский комсомолец) released a news story, according to which Ukrainian soldiers in civilian clothes were seen laying mines near the dividing line in Donbas. The article is accompanied by a photo with a description “Screengrab from a video” that creates a perception that it is a screengrab from the video featuring the Ukrainians in the process of laying mines on the territory of Donbas. Georgian website tvalsazrisi.ge later reposted the same information referring to Moskovskij Komsomolets.

All the three news stories spread by Russia Today, News Front, Moskovskij Komsomolets and Tvalsazrisi.ge are lies. 1. Ukrainian soldiers are leaving Donbas to fully implement their commitments under the Minsk agreements. 2. Killing the U.S. and NATO officers and putting the blame on Russia is a conspiracy theory. The Russian side has no evidence and it simply uses the method of counteraccusations. 3. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine does not confirm the information about Ukrainian soldiers laying mines in Donbas. The screengrab has been taken from the Ukrainian Army’s image video created by the Turkish company in 2015.

Disinformation N1: Ukrainian troops are pulling back from the frontline because of the lack of military resources.

Real fact N1: Ukrainian soldiers are leaving Donbas to fully implement their commitments under the Minsk agreements.

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Russia Today quotes Ivan Filiponenko, a police spokesman from the Luhansk People’s Republic, as saying that Ukraine’s military units started retreating because of scarce resources as well as the army’s moral and psychological destabilization. 

In fact, Ukraine is fulfilling its commitment under the Minsk agreements, according to which the conflicting sides should withdraw their troops from the separation line in the conflict region. 

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the situation escalated in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. According to the Minsk agreements, the conflicting sides had to withdraw their troops from the frontline to enable OSCE to monitor the situation on the ground. Bogdan Bondar, top military official of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said that withdrawal of troops from Stanytsia Luhanska on June 26 was a fulfillment of the commitment under the Minsk agreements forcing Russia-backed separatists pull back from the Ukrainian territory and enabling the OSCE Monitoring Mission to perform its work. 

Disinformation N2: The United States and NATO are ready to kill their own officers and put the blame on Russia. 

Real fact N2: Killing the U.S. and NATO officers and putting the blame on Russia is a conspiracy theory. The Russian side has no evidence and it simply uses the method of counteraccusations. 

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Russian portal News Front spreads a conspiracy theory by РенTV blogger, Alexei Selivanov, according to which the United States and NATO plan to stir up a scandal and unleash a new war by killing their own top officers and then putting the blame on Russia. 

The report is not accompanied by relevant evidence. Russia frequently uses the method of counteraccusations in its information warfare. For example, speaking about the use of chemical weapon in Syria by the Assad regime, Russia Today’s journalist asked the U.S. Department of State Spokesperson: “Are not you afraid that because of this warning, the opposition will use chemical weapon and put the blame on Assad?” This case very much resembles the above discussed conspiracy theory as if the West will kill its own officers and lay the entire responsibility on Russia. 

The 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States of America highlights a negative attitude towards Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, assessing it as an unlawful act against an independent, sovereign state. The United States and NATO express readiness to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and provide security assistance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the meeting with Ukraine’s new President, Volodymyr Zelensky on June 4 that Ukraine as a “highly valued partner,” which contributed to NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, would enjoy the Alliance’s strong political and practical support. 

Disinformation N3: Ukrainian soldiers in civilian clothes were seen laying mines near the dividing line in Donbas

Real fact N3: The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine does not confirm the information about Ukrainian soldiers laying mines in Donbas. The screengrab has been taken from the Ukrainian Army’s image video created in 2015.

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This information has been spread by Georgian website tvalsazrisi.ge, which writes referring to Moskovskij Komsomolets that Ukrainian soldiers in civilian clothes were seen laying mines near the dividing line in Donbas. Ivan Filiponenko, a police spokesman from the Luhansk People’s Republic, has been quoted as saying it. 

The article released by Moskovskij Komsomolets reads that the fact of laying mines by Ukrainian soldiers was also observed by OSCE; it provides a screengrab from a video, which actually is a photo manipulation. 

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In fact, it is a screengrab from the video uploaded in 2015, which was created by the Turkish company Haci Productions for the Ukrainian Armed Forces as a thank you for the video created by the Ukrainians for the Turkish Air Force. 

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The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) is controlling the situation in Donbas, regularly releasing reports on ceasefire violations. The information spread by Tvalsazrisi.ge and Moskovskij Komsomolets is not confirmed on the official website of OSCE SMM. 

The Kremlin has long been spreading this type of disinformation. Unconfirmed information about the Ukrainian soldiers seen laying mines was also spread in 2018. 

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It is worth noting that OSCE is monitoring the process of mine-clearing in Ukraine’s volatile areas. In 2018, Ukrainian troops detected and cleared the mines use of which is banned by the international conventions. Such mines (PMN-2) were created in 1987 and they had never been part of Ukraine’s military armament.  

Russia’s information warfare against Ukraine has further intensified after Ukrainian soldiers started retreating from the frontline of the occupied districts. This step is linked with the de-escalation commitment under the 2016 Minsk Agreement, which also forces Russia-backed separatists to leave the territory of Ukraine. 


Prepare by Achiko Maisuradze
Myth Detector Lab