Staunton, May 31 – A new study by the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center says that between July1, 2014, and December 31, 1917, a third of all news stories on the three major Moscow television stations was devoted to Ukraine and that “more than 90 percent” of these stories were negative.
The Center released its findings at a briefing in Kyiv available on Youtube (youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=mDd51eE2tSc&feature=youtu.be&t=21). They now have been summarized by Radio Svoboda’s Ukrainian Service journalist Vladimir Ivakhnenko (svoboda.org/a/29257729.html).
The study finds this Russian news followed six major narratives. In descending order of importance, these are “In Ukraine a civil war is going on,” “Ukraine is not an independent state,” “the Russian Federation is helping the Donbass,” “Russophobia is widespread in Ukraine,” “Fascists and radicals are destroying Ukraine,” and “Ukraine is a puppet of the West.”
Aleksey Makukhin, head of the analysis group for the Center which prepared the report, says that his analysts counted 15,400 negative references to Ukraine over this period, 90 percent of which fell into one or more of these six main “narratives.”
He said he and his colleagues had been surprised by how much time Moscow TV devoted to Ukraine. In many broadcasts, “up to 90 percent” of the stories involved either Ukraine or some other foreign country. And he said his people were shocked by how disciplined the Moscow outlets were, following the same narrative and often using exactly the same words.
That points to the existence of a single center controlling this news, Makukhin continues. He said the report shows that what Moscow is distributing is not just “fake news” as many have assumed but “myths” or “narratives” that weave together truth and falsehoods in ways that many find it difficult to separate.
The Center’s study supplements the work of Stopfake.org, a portal that has been keeping track of Russian media lies about Ukraine since March 2014. Ekaterina Kruk, one of its leading analysts, tells Ivakhnenko that her group has found the same narratives the Center has but also materials linking the Russian effort in Ukraine to the fight against fascism in World War II.
That has the effect of legitimizing what Moscow is doing in Ukraine in the minds of many in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere, she says. And she says her group has seen Moscow again and again throw up “smoke screens” to hide what is being reported by others, most recently in the case of the report on the downing of the Malaysian airline.
She adds that Moscow is seeking to penetrate the Ukrainian media market by financing groups there because the Russians know that only two to four percent of Ukrainians trust anything coming from a Russian outlet or having a .ru extension. Kruk says she sees this as a growing problem.
Another major problem she points to is “the dissemination of Russian propaganda theses” in such a way that they “often correspond with criticism of the Ukrainian authorities for various political motives and create a situation in which it is difficult to distinguish which are [legitimate] criticism and which are Russian propaganda.”
That pattern, Kruk concludes, will certainly grow especially as Ukraine heads into presidential and parliamentary elections next year.