A Guide to deciphering pro-Kremlin disinformation around Putin’s war
March 3, 2022

A Guide to deciphering pro-Kremlin disinformation around Putin’s war

For years, the Kremlin and its media and trolls have used the cheap tricks of the rhetoric of disinformation. Now, they have gone into overdrive during Putin’s war. EUvsDisinfo, the EU’s main tool to identify and debunk disinformation and propaganda, has listed these acts here by using the ‘SWAMPED’ model below:

S: Strawmen: Attack views or ideas never actually expressed by the target.

W: Whataboutism: Deflect the discussion away from the topic.

A: Attack: Use brutal language to discourage opponents.

M: Mockery: Use sarcasm to belittle the opposition.

P: Provocations: Who benefits from this?

E: Exhaust: Drown the opposition in details and technicalities.

D: Denial: Flatly deny any evidence.

Pro-Kremlin semanticsDebunk

Self-defence of Russia

Attack and invasion of a sovereign state which does not pose any threat

Limited military operation

All-out attack. Missile strikes, air and land invasion. Civilian targets, cities and infrastructure included. Large urban bombardments.

No occupation

Intent to occupy as much as possible, as long as necessary. Place Ukraine under Moscow’s control. Indefinitely.

De-nazification of Ukraine
Stalinist-type repression of elected, legitimate officials of a sovereign country.

Holding election for a new government
Gun-point fake-democracy to place Kremlin-loyal puppets in power.
Maximalist demands while continuing to bomb civilians. Attempt to buy time to regroup, refuel and reload a war machine that is experiencing resistance as it advances.
Only Russians suffered from the Nazi occupation during WW2
With the Kremlin’s use of Nazi labels, it is alleged that only Russians suffered during the Second World War. This is false. In relation to size, Ukraine and the Ukrainian nation suffered the most during the Nazi occupation. More Ukrainians died fighting the Nazis than fighting for Hitler.
Genocide is committed by Zelensky and Kyiv leaders against Donbas / Russian speakers
Putin, Lavrov and other Russian leaders misuse the word genocide itself.
Genocide: United Nations definition – In the UN Convention, genocide means the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”.
There is nothing to suggest that the modern Ukrainian state would want to destroy the Russian-speaking part of its population. The laws provide for the use of Russian language, culture and traditions in daily life. Secondly, President Zelenskyy and the government recognise this group. (see below under “Russian language and culture is prohibited by Kyiv”)
There is no evidence that Russian-speaking or ethnic Russian residents in eastern Ukraine face genocide. This has been confirmed in reports published by the Council of Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the OSCE.
It is an infamous Putin lie to postulate genocide. Further, it is an insult to the millions of victims of earlier wars.
If we speak about casualties and victims during this war, which Putin started in 2014, many more Ukrainians have been killed, wounded, displaced or driven into refuge. Until recently, before 24 February, the toll stood around 13,000 dead including over 3,000 civilians. Many more have been injured. By far the majority on the Ukrainian government side. This is due to shelling, sniping, and attacks of all kind launched by Moscow-backed armed militants. The OSCE Monitoring Mission has been documenting this daily. Even if Russia is a member of the OSCE, Russia and the militants have put all sort of obstacles to the mission, most likely because it does not want to hear the truth.
The killing committed by Russian forces is getting worse by the hour, as we can witness every day since 24 February with the brutal, unprovoked full-scale attack on Ukraine – missile attacks, air bombardment, artillery shelling on civilian targets.

Humanitarian and financial blockade of Donbass made by Kyiv
Wrong. For years, large groups of the population in Donbas have been crossing regularly into Kyiv-controlled areas for business, shopping and collecting their Ukrainian pensions. Crossing had been kept open for this and other reasons.
Russian language and culture are prohibited by Kyiv
Wrong. Ukraine passed a law ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as a state language in 2019, but this legislation only regulates the use of Ukrainian in public spheres. Russian and other languages of national minorities can be freely used in private communication, in book publishing, in the press, radio, television, education, and the service sector. The law also allows the use of other languages in the healthcare system and law enforcement.
See more disinformation cases here.
Minsk Agreements: Kyiv and its Western patrons destroyed it
The Kremlin tries to hide the fact that Russia is party to the Minsk agreement. By recognising DNR/LNR, Moscow de facto rejected the Minsk agreement.
Nevertheless, Ukraine has passed legislation on special status and amnesty (2014), and prepared draft legislation on local elections (2014). Ukraine adopted constitutional amendments to provide more autonomy to the territories currently outside its control (2015). See Myth #6 here.

Russia is not to occupy Ukraine and it is a limited operation to demilitarise and de-nazification of Ukraine

The biggest lie of them all. Putin’s ridiculous and grotesque lie is pronounced while a full-scale air, land and navy attack is ongoing, with bombardment of civilian targets and several other violations of the Geneva Conventions.
Kosovo conflict: NATO bombed Belgrade deliberately targeting civilians
Another Putin and Lavrov favourite, trying to make a parallel between Milosevic’s war of killing and ethnic cleansing and the conflict in Donbas. Kosovo was facing the abyss with more than 900,000 people, half Kosovo’s population killed, displaced or driven out as refugees. The responsibility to protect was clear. Totally unlike in Donbas.
After liberation from militarisation and neo-Nazism, Russia want to give Ukrainians the chance to determine their own future, without external influence.

Since the 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests, the pro-Kremlin media have falsely claimed that Ukraine was controlled from the outside. There are over 100 examples of similar disinformation claims in the EUvsDisinfo database. Such claims have no factual basis.
In fact, “liberation from neo-Nazism” is a euphemism for Moscow wanting to execute large scale suppression of political opponents, like Stalinist-type repression.
“Elections to determine their own future” is a euphemism for gun-point fake democracy – just like in Crimea in 2014 where Russian armed forces drove through a mock referendum which no international body recognises.
See our short debunk here.

The West sabotaged any agreements on Russian proposals for security guarantees.

Putin resorted to war, not diplomacy.
The Russian demands put forward in December 2021 in so-called draft ‘treaties’ between Russia and US and NATO respectively were designed to be rejected so Russia could play the role of martyr. In essence, the demands called for rolling back the situation in Europe to before 1997; the US leaving large parts of Europe; several NATO members de facto to demilitarise, and indefinitely restricting free countries’ right to decide their own policy.
This quasi-diplomacy, which did not seek compromise and solutions, was in fact a smoke-screen and part of a psychological operation to confuse, distract and split the West. Meanwhile, Russian forces were being massed and prepared for invasion. The West called out Putin’s bluff by sharing intelligence of offensive plans with the public.

Budapest memorandum [1994] is not relevant any more

The Kremlin avoids the central issue: Ukraine scrapped its nuclear weapons and in exchange, the leaders of the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom signed the Budapest memorandum with guarantees on the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
See disinfo cases debunked here.

Find out more

Article on EUvsDisinfo

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