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Militants’ and Russian media promote a narrative about Ukraine's "fencing off" Donbas

Militants’ and Russian media promote a narrative about Ukraine's "fencing off" Donbas

A non-governmental organization iDemocracy has carried out a monitoring of information space across Ukraine, the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as well as Russia and detected that at the end of June-beginning of July 2021 there was an anti-Ukrainian narrative about Ukraine’s “fencing off” Donbas.

This narrative was promoted due to two cases, namely Volodymyr Zelensky’s interview taken by «TSN» media outlet on June 24, 2021 and a disruption of a meeting within the political working group to Trilateral Contact Group (hereinafter referred to as TCG). For example, after the President’s announced option to bring the issue about relations with the temporary occupied territories to an all-Ukrainian referendum as a last resort, i.e. in case of negotiation failure and non-compliance with the Minsk agreements on the part of the Russian Federation and its puppet regimes of so-called «Donetsk People’s Republic» («DPR») and «Luhansk People’s Republic» («LPR»), the following headings and messages began to appear across Russia, «DPR» and «LPR» information space:

Если же в понимании Зеленского «стена» — это разрыв всех отношений и коммуникаций, то что делать с людьми, которые по разным причинам вынуждены посещать противоположные от линии соприкосновения территории. Запретить общаться родственникам, посещать могилы, решать другие насущные проблемы? Что делать с поставками воды, электроэнергии? На эти вопросы главный шут всея Украины ответов не дал.
If Zelensky understands a «wall» as the severance of all relations and communications, then what we should do with people who are forced due to various reasons to visit the territories located opposite to the confrontation line. Should we forbid relatives to communicate, visit their graves, solve other pressing problems? What should be done with the water supply, energy supply? The main clown of all Ukraine has not replied to these questions.

Source: Luhansk information center, 27th July, 2021

По Донбассу у Зеленского нет никакого плана, как оказалось: либо взять измором по границе с Россией, либо — граница с ОРДЛО. Стена, и всё
Looks like Zelensky does not have any plan concerning Donbas; either exhaust [Donbas territories] up to borders with Russia or place a frontier with the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Just a wall and nothing else

Source: e-news, a Russian website oriented on topics about Ukraine.

The same narrative was promoted by an Ukrainian manipulative outlet aiming at discrediting the President of Ukraine after his interview June 24, 2021.
Another case is the disruption of the political working group to the TCG meeting on July 6, 2021 by the separatists, who invited to non-formal consultations Maya Pyrohova, convicted by the Ukrainain court of terrorist activities on June 28, 2018. Consequently, the Ukrainian delegation was forced to leave a videoconference of the political group to the TCG. This reaction was used by the representatives of so-called «DPR» and «LPR» on July 7, 2021 during the TCG’s videoconference. For instance, «Ministries for Foreign Affairs of LPR and DPR» started posting information that Ukraine does not reply to their questions about the resumption of political working group to the TCG although they had disrupted it on their own on July 6, 2021. Meanwhile they began to spread the similar messages like «Kyiv authorities seem to get exited about a new „trick“ of the President to fence off Donbas by a wall; and they consider this „wall“ probably as a bulletproof one» or «Ukraine is preparing to implement a scenario announced by President Zelensky to fence off Donbas».

Russian media outlets like Ria-Novosty, TASS, Sputnik, etc, picked up the above mentioned message that led to an information wave that Ukraine allegedly plans to «fence off» Donbas.

iDemocracy believes that the aim of spreading this narrative is to shape a negative stereotype about betrayal and abandoning them by Ukrainian side among citizens of Donbas in the both territories — controlled by Ukraine and the temporarily occupied ones. Moreover, another goal of the narrative is to disseminate false information that Ukraine itself does not comply with the Minsk agreements and pursues dragging out negotiations on the resolution of war in Donbas. It means that this narrative is Russian and pro-Russian propaganda that we consider as a main weapon in information warfare directed to support one side of a conflict but not another one.

To summarize, the aim of the propagandistic narrative about Ukraine’s «fencing off» Donbas is:

  • to demonize Ukraine among citizens of Donbas;
  • to shift blame for non-compliance with the Minsk agreements on Ukraine although severe violators are «DPR» and «LPR» militants themselves. This fact is proved by the operative reports of the Joint Forces Operation. For example, as of July 13, 2021 militants violates the cease-fire regime 13 times;
  • to dehumanize the Ukrainian President by portraying him as indifferent to the lives of ordinary people.

All in all, iDemocracy states that the reason for disseminating the narrative of so-called Ukraine’s «fencing off» Donbas pursues Russia’s strategic goal to set citizens of Donbas region against Ukraine in order to deeply anchor pro-Russian sentiments and forces. It will help pro-Russian parties to dominate in Donbas in the long run, even in case of democratic elections.

In general, we recommend Ukrainian authorities, especially the Presidential Office, the ministries concerned with issues of reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories as well as the Ukrainian delegation to the TCG to take some proactive actions regarding such narratives, to inform population about activities of the TCG in an operative way with a clear message regarding the actions of the Ukrainian delegation to counter «DPR» and «LPR» militants’ provocations. We suggest to the Ukrainian delegation to TCG to generate a respective counter-message that Ukraine does not intend to abandon citizens of Donbas.

* The search of narratives was carried out by manual monitoring of Ukrainian, Russian and the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas and Luhansk information spaces. In addition, a dynamics of Russian disinformation messages presented in the interactive visualization by was taken into account as well as weekly disinformation monitoring carried out by the same outlet.