Russian information war against Ukraine

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An outlet for Russian propaganda -TASS

Information war has been described as "the use of information to achieve our national objectives."[1] According to NATO, "Information war is an operation conducted in order to gain an information advantage over the opponent."[2] The contest widely described as an information war between Russia and Ukraine is not symmetric, except as each side tries to gain "information advantage."[3][4]

Information war by Russia incorporates elements of propaganda, demoralization, distraction and political posturing in addition to cyberwarfare as NATO understands the word. "Informatsionnaya voyna" differs from cyberwarfare, usually framed as technical defenses to technical attacks in warfare.[5]

Even in times of peace,[6] Russia's information war continuously seeks strategic victory and reflexive control through tools as diverse as undersea cable, national origin stories, control of the news cycle, or polluting an information space with Russian bots and trolls.[7][8]

Russia takes a different approach to convincing citizens of the Russian Federation of the rightness of its approach in Ukraine.[9] The Kremlin denies waging war in Ukraine, saying its goal is to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine against Ukrainian Nazis.[10]A Russian law signed March 4, 2022 provides drastic penalties for spreading "false information" or protesting the war or "discrediting" Russia's actions in Ukraine.[11] Russian schools also must follow the official narrative.[12]

According to The New York Times "Ukraine's online propaganda is largely focused on its heroes and martyrs, characters who help dramatize tales of Ukrainian fortitude and Russian aggression."[13] Such stories are spread not only by Ukraine's leaders but also by citizens using social media.[14] Another part of Ukraine's strategy is to create skepticism of Russian narratives.[15][16]


Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, has advocated a 4:1 ratio of nonmilitary to military measures. Nonmilitary competition comes under the military in Russia, and although United States Marine Corps research suggests that the ratio is still largely aspirational, it indicates a recognition of "the utility of nonmilitary measures in interstate confrontation, especially during what would be considered peacetime."[6]

Propaganda targeting the Russian people themselves, justifying a future war against Ukraine, appeared before Russia's 2014 incursion into Ukraine.[17] In 2009, Maxim Kalashnikov's "Independent Ukraine: Failure of a Project" portrayed Ukraine as a Yugoslavia on the verge of an ethnic breakup. Novels such as Fyodor Berezin's "War 2010: Ukrainian Front", Georgiy Savitsky's "Battlefield Ukraine: The broken trident" and Alexander Sever's "Russian-Ukrainian Wars" posited a war against Ukraine.[18][19] According to activists, Russia has also waged an information war against Ukraine through cinema.[20]

Kremlin-run media in 2014 created the impression in Crimea that "fascists, anti-Semites and extremists" were in power in Kyiv and chaos ruled the rest of Ukraine, but this had "little or nothing to do with reality."[21] The Russian Federation misinforms and misleads its citizens and the audience of its television channels in other countries - Channel One Russia and Russia-24 for example.[22]

Reasons for the conflict

Russian politicians idealize Soviet Russia, the rule of the Communist Party as a time of prosperity, and the ruling United Russia party as the heir to the country's "glorious past."[23] Since the collapse of the USSR, Russian politicians have talked about restoring Russia's influence in post-Soviet countries. "According to Vladimir Bukovsky, a dissident who spent a decade in Soviet prisons before his exile to the West in 1976, Putin is totally genuine when he says that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was a "geopolitical catastrophe"."[24]

Putin sees the growing number of NATO members in Eastern Europe as an "existential threat",[25] and he has written that Russia and Ukraine are really one country.[26] This revanchism focuses on Ukraine, whose withdrawal from the USSR led to its collapse.[27][25] "Russia is restoring its unity—the tragedy of 1991, this terrible catastrophe in our history, has been overcome," exulted RIA Novosti, Russia's main state online news agency, on February 26, 2022.[28]

At the 2008 Bucharest summit April 2–4, 2008, Putin told United States President George W. Bush: "You understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state! What is Ukraine? Part of its territory is Eastern Europe, and another part, and a significant one, was given to us!"[29][30][31]

He regularly refers to Russians and Ukrainians as one people, which is an utterly tone-deaf comment that many Ukrainians hear as a denial of their culture, history and language.

— Steven Pifer, former US Ambassador to Ukraine, interview with Stanford News[32]

In November 2013, the pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych blocked[33] the legislatively approved course towards European integration, and the Revolution of Dignity began. Putin "used disinformation to lay the groundwork to annex Crimea in 2014, and to support continued fighting in Ukraine's Eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk," wrote Forbes contributor Jill Goldenziel.[34] Again in 2022, Kremlin propaganda had the goal of preparing world public opinion for the invasion of Ukraine.

At the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2014, Russia took measures to increase its influence on Ukraine,[35] The Russian government frames its hybrid war as a conflict between Russia and NATO, but while geopolitics and its desire for a post-Soviet sphere play into its focus on Ukraine, so do its domestic politics. An independent Ukrainian democracy might inspire Russians to demand the establishment of their own democracy and "perhaps even challenge Mr. Putin's authoritarianism."[32]


Many Russians see Kyiv as the birthplace of their nation.[36] In the 2000s, Russia waged a large-scale propaganda campaign in Ukraine, based on the doctrine of the "Russian World".[37] Its ideological basis was the post-Soviet revanchism of the Russian Federation for the cultural, economic, and territorial restoration of pre-1991 borders and the restoration of the former Soviet "zone of influence" in Europe and Asia.[38][39][40][41]

This revanchism sees three categories of the world's population as "Russian": ethnic Russians, regardless of where they live; a Russian-speaking population regardless of nationality; compatriots who have never lived on the territory of the Russian Empire, the USSR and other state entities, as well as their descendants.[42]

"You could spend every hour of every day trying to bat down every lie, to the point where you don't achieve anything else. And that's exactly what the Kremlin wants," says Greg Pryatt, former US ambassador to Ukraine.[8]:59 Information warfare has deep roots in Russia. In addition to presenting a Russian narrative and version of events, it strives to cause confusion and cast doubt on the idea of truth.[43]

In June 2014, the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) DC obtained materials used to train Russian information war specialists.[44] They instructed Russian soldiers to "actively influence the consciousness and system of knowledge and ideas of the target country," according to NSDC Secretary Andriy Parubiy.[45]

The Putin regime contrasts "ours" and "others" in Ukraine, and suggests that violence against "others" is desirable and even required.[21]

Information operations

In February 2017, the Russian Minister of Defence acknowledged the existence of "information operations forces" in Russia.[46] In 2021, Open Media,[47] VTimes,[48] and the Moscow bureau of Deutsche Welle were shut down.[49]

Following 2022 legislation making it illegal to publish information on the Ukrainian war that the Kremlin deems "false", some Western media withdrew its reporters due to concern for their safety.[50] Independent Russian media outlets that shut down in the wake of the law included Dozhd (TV-Rain) and Novaya Gazeta, whose editor received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.[49] News website Znak announced its closure, and Ekho Moskvy, owned by Kremlin-linked Gazprom, also shut down.[51] The websites of Deutsche Welle, the BBC, Meduza and Radio Free Europe became inaccessible from within Russia without a VPN.[49] News sites Mediazona, Republic, [ru] and Agentstvo were also blocked from the Russian internet after the law passed, and only available by VPN.[52]

Russia also jammed commercial broadcast signals and penetrated both civilian and military communications networks.

"Russia, they own or operate Ukrainian cellular companies, banks, electricity. They don't need to hack anything. It's a secret war conducted by agents of influence."— Oleksandr Danylyuk, former secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council[53]



Russia's Leer-3 RB-341V [fr] drone system can listen to or suppress cellular communications, and even send text messages to front-line soldiers. Ukrainian soldiers have received texted jeers and threats from the Russians on their cell phones,[54] and family members of Ukrainian soldiers have also reported receiving calls saying that those soldiers were dead.[53]

The Orlan-10 has also been extensively used in electronic warfare in Ukraine.

Internet infrastructure

On March 9 internet service provider Triolan suffered an outage in Kharkiv and other cities csused by a factory reset of several of its devices. Recovery efforts were hampered by shelling in the area at the time, which made it dangerous to go on-site and may have damaged internet connectivity.[55] Attackers had previously disrupted its connectivity and DNS routing on February 24.[56]

In Russia, as of March 14 peering agreements were still in place but new regulation was expected to ban web hosting outside Russia and require the use of official DNS servers.[57]

War propaganda

Russia transmits war propaganda through news media in its ongoing war against Ukraine.[58][59] As early as September 2008, Alexander Dugin, a Russian fascist[60][61] known as "Putin's brain," advocated an invasion of Ukraine and other countries that had previously been part of the USSR:[62][60] "The Soviet empire will be restored. in different ways: by force, diplomacy, economic pressure ... Everything will depend on place and time."

On 13 April 2014, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in a statement posted on the alliance's website, accused Russia of promoting war and wanting to overthrow Ukraine.[63] In early 2022 the United States government warned that Russia was planning a false flag operation to invade Ukraine, and pointed to "a pattern of Russian behavior" that included invading and occupying parts of Georgia in 2008, and noted Russia's "failure to honor its 1999 commitment to withdraw its troops and munitions from Moldova, where they remain without the government's consent."[64] In 2014, Vladimir Putin called opponents of the war nothing more than "traitors" and a "fifth column".[61]

Children's television has also broadcast war propaganda, as when Phil the dog joined the army in 2014 to become "a real defender".[65]

The throttling of information into Russia also impedes the Kremlin's own information diet. The Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in 2022 that the Ukrainian invasion "bears an eerie resemblance to Soviet decision making in 1979 to invade Afghanistan," poor intelligence, misreading the international reaction, over-optimism, incomprehension of the costs.[66]

Control of news outlets

Public relations

Russia has learned to use respected Western media like BBC News, Reuters, and AFP to promote anti-Ukrainian propaganda. These media outlets were unprepared for the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2014, and often became unintentional distributors of Russian anti-Ukrainian propaganda.[67][68]

Russia has also learned to skillfully use Western PR companies to disseminate the narratives it needs in the interests of various Russian government institutions and private corporations.[69]

The Kremlin has instructed official Russian television outlets to rebroadcast Tucker Carlson's show “as much as possible.”[70][71][72] Marjorie Taylor Greene has also gotten approving coverage on Kremlin media, as when she said that the US was responsible for the 2014 overthrow of the Russian puppet government in the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity.[73]


Many Ukrainian news outlets are financed by wealthy investors.[74][75] Some of these investors have close ties to Russian political power.[76] This highly concentrated ownership of Ukrainian media has set a high barrier to entry for the market.[77] Four financial-political groups control nearly all broadcasting im Ukraine.[78][79]

The top 20 most-viewed TV channels almost all belong to Ukraine's wealthiest oligarchs:

Russia supports and covertly funds pro-Russian media outlets in Ukraine:

> The decline in advertising revenues has left media outlets even more dependent on support from politicised owners, hence hindering their editorial independence. Paid content disguised as news (known as jeansa) remains widespread in the Ukrainian media, weakening theirs' and journalists' credibility, especially during electoral campaigns.[84]

Media ownership remains opaque, despite a February 2014 bill requiring full disclosure of ownership structures.[84]

Other oligarch-owned media outlets
    • SCM Holdings[87][88] Akhmetov has been its sole proprietor since 2009.[89]
      • Landline business Vega Telecom
      • Russian-language newspaper Segodnya has drawn criticism for coverage allegedly favoring certain politicians and public figures, say journalists at the paper.[90][91]
      • Ukraina Media Group.

Russian media have been used for propaganda to persuade domestic and world audiences.[92] Among the best-known are Sputnik, RT (formerly RussiaToday), RIA Novosti, Life (formerly LifeNews).[93][94]

Employees of Russian news outlets have been resigning since the 2022 incursion into Ukraine: “English-language RT staff member and one frequent RT contributor in Moscow have quit the network in recent days over the editorial position on the war, the Guardian has learned.”[95]


RT is an important Russian weapon in the information war.[96] In 2014, John Kerry, then United States Secretary of State, called it a state-sponsored "propaganda bullhorn".[97] Its audience in 2015 was 700 million people in more than 100 countries.[98]

"RT's 2015 budget, according to its website, was 13.85 billion rubles (about $220 million at 2015 exchange rates). However, in a 2015 interview with the Russian independent media outlet Dozhd TV, Simonyan said the budget for that year was 18 billion rubles. The RT website claims its 2016 budget was $275 million (17 billion rubles), while a video published by RT contradicts this information by claiming its 2016 budget was $300 million (21 billion rubles). In 2019, RT announced on its Telegram channel that RT and Rossiya Segodnya's budget from federal funding was $440 million, yet the official federal budget number for 2019 was $430 million. [99]

In 2012, RT had the highest government spending per employee in the world, $183 thousand per person.[100]

As of 2014, Russia had spent more than $9 billion on its propaganda.[101][102] In 2021, it increased the state media budget to 211 billion rubles (about $2.8 billion), 34 billion rubles ($460 million) more than the previous year.[103]

Russian interference with Ukrainian media

On March 6, 2014, "1 + 1" and Channel 5 in the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea were turned off and Russia 24 captured the broadcasting frequencies of Crimea's private "Chernomorskaya TV and Radio Company". In Simferopol, state television and radio broadcaster Krym was also blocked by people in camouflage uniforms. General Director Stepan Gulevaty called the police, but they did not respond.[104]

On March 6, 2014, an Internet poll on the ATR TV website found that most respondents opposed the annexation of Crimea.[105] The next day Russian military in Crimea disconnected the ATR website. They also shut down the analogue broadcast signal of the Ukrainian TV channel Inter, on the frequencies of which NTV is broadcast.[105]

On August 10, 2014, the German provider Hetzner Online AG sent a letter of apology to Glavkom. The provider had previously moved to block Glavkom at the request of the Russian Roskomnadzor for publishing material about the March for the federalization of Siberia.[106]

In July 2019, Hetzner Online warned The Ukrainian Week that the site would be blocked until "extremist content" was removed. The provider received a request for this from Roskomnadzor, which considers the 2015 material on Right Sector a violation of Russian legislation.[107]

For several months, DDoS attacks were carried out against Ukrainian information sites: Censor.NET,, Ukrayinska Pravda and others, as well as the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, with the appearance of ads for V. Yanukovych.[108] Similarly, in January 2022 Ukrainian cyber official Victor Zhora reported attacks on over 90 websites of 22 government groups on January 14, 2022. About 50 websites were vandalized while the remainder suffered some damage.[109]

Methods and resources


Russia uses disinformation both to support an image of its greatness and importance — or of the weakness of its enemies — or sometimes to deny its actions.

Kyiv “hasn’t been bombed by anyone” Channel One pundit Artyom Sheynin assured viewers on February 24, 2022, for example.[95] Also on February 24, “explosions and gunfire were heard through the day in Ukraine's capital and elsewhere in the country, with at least 70 people reported killed,” according to Reuters.[110] Most Russians get their information from television,[76] although younger Russians tend to prefer online sources. These now require a VPN connection, making the truth now “mostly is discovered by people who already distrust the Kremlin and its state-sponsored media.”Here's how propaganda is clouding Russians' understanding of the war in Ukraine, Nell Clark. NPR, March 15, 2022</ref>

The untethering of the Russian news diet from facts doesn't just affect the populace. The Kremlin has been described as:

a bunch of old men who can't quite get over the fact that they're no longer running a superpower, and who also are increasingly surrounded by people who tell them what they want to hear.[111]

Other more subtle attacks, known as reflexive control, systematically distort and reinterpret words, leading "extremists" to become an accepted description for independent journalists and human rights activists, or peaceful demonstrators to be arrested as security threats.[21]

Falsehood and adamant denial

In 2014 Putin for quite some time denied sending troops into Ukraine. He later said Russia was "protecting" the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.[112] When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, it gave many alternative explanations for its actions there as well,[113] and denied having plans to attack it. In 2014 Putin again denied his invasion, despite photos of military vehicles there from the North Caucasus Military District[114] One car had forgotten to camouflage an icon of the Guards Division. The soldiers also carried the Dragunov self-loading sniper rifle), only used by the Russian military.[115]

Since Ukraine's independence, the Russia has waged a constant information war against Ukraine, especially under the pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovych.[116] In February 2014, for example, Russians flatly denied that their military maneuvers in any way threatened Ukraine:

"The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies the participation of the Black Sea Fleet in destabilizing the situation in Crimea."[117]

"These were local self-defense forces," Putin said of the men who tried to seize the Crimean parliament.[118]

In March 2022 Russians said they had found evidence at the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant that Ukraine was working on a nuclear bomb. Experts scoffed at the claim, which they said was both impossible with the fuel there and not how anyone would run a secret weapons program.[119]

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

The most fake tweets in a day, or on a single topic, by Russian disinformation agency Internet Research Agency (IRA),[120] following the shooting down of the Malaysian MH17 airliner.[7] Russia took extensive measures and gave many narratives to hide its involvement.[121][122]

In three days after the crash, the Russian Internet Research Agency posted 111,486 tweets from fake accounts, mostly in Russian.[123] At first they said that Russian-backed rebels downed a Ukrainian plane; later tweets said Ukraine had shot the airliner down.[124] RT quoted a Twitter account purportedly of an air traffic controller named Carlos who said he had seen Ukrainian fighter jets following the airliner[125] Supposedly Ukraine mistook the airliner for the Russian presidential jet.[126] In August 2015 Komsomoloskaya Pravda published a wiretap transcript of two named CIA operatives planning the MH17 attack, ridiculed for English that recalled "Google translated Russian phrases read from a script".[127]

On December 20, 2017, the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Parliament in a report specifically emphasized that Russia had waged a massive information war with intense, multi-channel propaganda to convince the world that Russia did not shoot down the plane.[128][129][130]


In 2022 Russia insisted it was merely conducting military exercises on the Ukrainian borders, then declared that it needed to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.[131] Russia also amassed troops at the Ukrainian border with Belarus and held naval exercises in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, which Kyiv called "an unjustified complication of international shipping", that made navigation "virtually impossible".[132] On February 15, 2022, Russia said it would "partially pull back" from Ukraine's borders, but according to the US, in fact sent additional troops.[111] "We can't really take the Russians for their word" said Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae, after Russia resumed shelling within hours of announcing a ceasefire for civilian evacuation.[133]

After shelling a nuclear power plant complex in Zaporizhzhia, the Kremlin said its military seized it "to prevent Ukrainians and neo-Nazis from 'organizing provocations'".[119]


Since the collapse of the USSR, Russia has circulated propaganda and disinformation to demonize Ukrainians. Neo-Nazis play a recurring role in Russian propaganda; in 2022 to justify military "denazification."[119] In Mariupol, Russians were told in 2022, Ukrainians fired on Russian soldiers despite the cease-fire, and according to TASS neo-Nazis were "hiding behind civilians as a human shield."[119]

According to Kacper Rękawek, a postdoctoral fellow with the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo, simultaneously portraying Ukrainians as fascists and depraved pro-gay liberals, as opposed to the solid conservative values of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, has roots in a longstanding narrative of politicians both in and outside Ukraine that ties Ukrainian speakers in Western Ukraine to far-right nationalists who fought against Soviets in World War II.[134]

Russia "has an extensive network of allies and front organizations, and reconstructs reality and rewrites history to legitimize itself and undermine others," says a 2018 article in Nature.[135]

In the early 1990s the first such propaganda tropes presented events with the phrases "after the collapse of the USSR", and "with the collapse of the USSR", to create the impression that these phenomena arose because of the collapse of the USSR, and not the reverse. Propaganda tried to portray Ukraine as economically and politically bankrupt as a state. In 2009 Russia accused Ukraine of "stealing Russian gas".[136]

Ukrainian figures have been allegedly quoted making provocative statements.[137] A criminal case was brought against the leader of the Ukrainian Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh, for supposedly publishing an appeal to Dokka Umarov to carry out terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation. A day later authorities announced that the "appeal" had been the work of hackers.[138]

In the same way as Russian propaganda sought to portray its swift victory as inevitable against incompetent Ukrainian commanders, Russian media also sought to create fear and loathing with stereotypes of its own Chechen fighters.[139]

Social media

In 2022 government groups posed as independent news entities and created fake personas on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and also the Russian-language Odnoklassniki and V Kontakte, to disseminate Russian narratives, such as the alleged haplessness of Ukrainians and videos of their fighters surrendering.[140]

According to The Washington Post, in 2014 the Russian military intelligence (GRU) created more than 30 pseudo-Ukrainian groups and social media accounts, as well as 25 "leading English-language" publications. Posing as ordinary Ukrainians, intelligence operatives concocted news and disseminated comments to turn pro-Russian citizens against the protesters.[141]

In early 2016 Ukrainian journalists discovered a network of dozens of social media groups, run from Moscow on multiple social media, that used nationalist rhetoric to undermine the Ukrainian government and mobilize protesters.[142]

Access to social media
  • MSNBC in October 2017 reported that Russian information warfare operatives "reported" the Facebook posts of Ukrainian activists, baselessly claiming that they were pornography or another regulated type of message.[143]
  • On July 14, 2014, Facebook blocked the page "Book of Memory of the Fallen for Ukraine", after warning that the content of some messages "violate(d) Facebook standards".[144][145][146] They were primarily messages about the death of Ukrainian soldiers from the OZSP NSU "Azov".[93]
  • On March 5, 2022, Russia blocked access to Facebook and Twitter, in response to their freezes and bans on Russian state-owned media.[147] A few days later it announced it would block access to Instagram.[148]

The high PageRank of Wikipedia does not go unnoticed. One of the most used disinformation methods is influence on historical narratives. For example, constant edit wars take place over the article "Kievan Rus" on the Russian-language version of Wikipedia.

Attempts to censor Russian Wikipedia

Ever since the early 2010s, Russian Wikipedia and its editors have experienced numerous and increasing threats of nationwide blocks and country-wide enforcement of blacklisting by the Russian government, as well as several attempts to Internet censorship, propaganda, and disinformation,[149][150][151][152][153][154] more recently during the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian conflict in the Donbas region[7][155][156][157] and the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian War.[158]

In February and March 2022,[158] the first week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and breakout of the Russo-Ukrainian War,[158] Russian Wikipedia editors warned their readers and fellow editors of several, reiterated attempts by the Putin-led Russian government of political censorship, Internet propaganda, disinformation, attacks, and disruptive editing towards an article listing Russian military casualties as well as Ukrainian civilians and children due to the ongoing military conflict.[158]

On March 11, 2022, Belarusian political police GUBOPiK arrested one of the most active users of Russian Wikipedia Mark Bernstein for the "spread of anti-Russian materials".[159]



During and before its annexation of Crimea and encroachment into Donetsk and Luhansk with AstroTurf rebellions, Russia demonized Ukrainians in the eyes of the Russian and international communities.[160][161][162]

  • January 21 - Protesters received text messages saying that they were "registered as a participant in the mass disturbances."[163] Cell service providers denied sending the messages, but two of them were owned by Russian companies. Experts suggested state actor involvement.[164][165]
February 2014
  • Protests in Ukraine
  • Overthrow of Yanukovych - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych elected to accept Russian foreign aid rather than join the EU,[166] and violent protests broke out.[167] Yanukovich fled Kyiv.[168] The Ukrainian Parliament decided that he had abdicated and removed him from office.[169]
  • Yanukovych called the vote a coup[170][171]
  • Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that "illegal extremist groups" had taken control in Kyiv.[172] This and similar language frequently recurred in the ensuing years.[173][174]
  • Parliament appointed Alexander Turchinov acting president pending an election scheduled for May.
  • 19 February - Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to Euromaidan revolution as "Brown revolution" and Euromaidan protesters as "rampant thugs."[175][176]
  • 20 February - Russians enter Crimea
    • According to Russian media, Euromaidan supporters brutalized a bus convoy of anti-Maidan activists on the night of February 20–21, 2014 in Korsun-Shevchenkivskyi, Cherkasy Oblast, burned several buses, and killed seven passengers. On April 3, 2014, occupation forces in Crimea said seven people had died and 30 gone missing. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the local police force all questioned the accuracy of this account.[177] However, Putin said this story was the reason for the military operation in Crimea,[178] and the alleged killings of anti-Maidan activists near Korsun were later reflected in the Russian pseudo-documentary Crimea. The Way Home.
  • February 27, 2014 - Russian soldiers seize Crimean Parliament
    • Sergey Aksyonov installed
    • Putin gives multiple versions of Russian participation[179]
    • Donetsk People's Republic separatist Igor Girkin said in January 2015 that Crimean members of parliament were held at gunpoint, and forced to support the annexation of Crimea.[179]
March 2014
  • March 2, 2014, Russian media reported that Ukrainian saboteurs shot at a crowd and the House of Trade Unions near the Crimean Cabinet in Simferopol. The masked saboteurs were armed with modern Russian weapons, including the latest GM-94 grenade launcher, and the "victims" of the attack were unharmed.[178]
  • March 18 - Annexation of Crimea
  • March 19 - Russian media reported arrest of a 17-year-old Lviv sniper in Simferopol the day before, killing an APU serviceman Sergei Kokurin and a Russian mercenary. No further Information about the 17-year-old sniper was given, but Igor Girkin later admitted that his unit was responsible. (See also: 2014 Simferopol incident)
  • On March 24, 2014, several media outlets reported that the deputy commander of the Kerch Marine Battalion, Nikiforov Alexey Vladimirovich [uk], had written a statement about joining the Russian army. However, he went to the mainland and studied at a Ukrainian military university.[180]
April 2014
  • Russia annexes Crimea.
  • The Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic secede.[36]
  • April - Oleg Bakhtiyarov arrested in a plot to storm Ukraine's parliament and Kyiv Cabinet of Ministers building. He recruited some 200 people, paid them each $500 to help, and stockpiled petrol bombs and tools.[181] Bakhtiyarov arranged for Russian TV channels to film the incident, then blame it on Ukrainian radicals.[182]
  • Vitaliy Yarema said that Russian Special Forces units, including the 45th Parachute Guards Regiment from Moscow, were operating in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. On 16 April, 450 Russian special forces troops were said to be there.[183][184]
  • On April 27, 2014, Russian media aired a story about "EU concentration camps in Ukraine." Construction began at the site in 2012, under pro-Kremlin Viktor Yanukovych, an EU-funded project to detain illegal migrants.[185]
  • On April 29, 2014, Russian news agency ITAR-TASS called a brutal attack by a pro-Russian mob on a peaceful Ukrainian march in Donetsk as "[Ukrainian] radicals attacked thousands of anti-fascist marchers."[186]
  • In June 2014, after the capture of Nadezhda Savchenko, Russian TV channels NTV and Channel 5 aired a misleading sound bite in a LifeNewd interview with Nastya Stanko from a soldier named Volodymyr Kosolap, an Aidar Battalion fighter from Shchastia. Russian media presented him as a "punisher" from a barricading detachment, ordered to shoot anyone who did not want to kill members of pro-Russian armed groups. In the full video of June 16, 2014, Kosolap had said that he would have shot any Aidar fighter who tried this. LifeNews took this sound byte out of context.[187]
April–May 2014: Sloviansk
May 2014 - Ukrainians attack
  • Russia broadcaster Channel One[189] falsely claimed Ukrainian soldiers tortured and crucified a three-year-old child[190][191]
  • On July 15, 2014, the English-language Russian broadcaster Voice of Russia published an article in which pro-Russian militants attributed the killing of Pentecostals in Slovyansk to "Ukrainian nationalists,"[192] twisting the words of Anton Gerashchenko,[192] then a government spokesperson. The killings have since been attributed to Donetsk separatists.[193][192]
  • In May 2014, a television commercial surfaced that was created in the autumn of 2013 for a Russian Defense Ministry recruitment campaign. The video was criticized for promoting war and the account that had posted it was removed from Vimeo. (It is now only posted on YouTube).[194]
  • May 25 - Oligarch Petro Poroshenko wins Ukrainian presidential election
  • Summer 2014, Azov helped retake Mariupol[195][196]
July–August 2014
  • In late July-early August 2014, a video of Bohdan Butkevich of Tyzhden was widely publicized, allegedly calling for the killing of 1.5 million Donbas residents.[197][198] The video was a rough snippet which completely distorted the meaning of what he said.
  • August 2014 - Ukrainian government blocked 14 Russian TV channels to stop them from spreading war propaganda.[76]
  • August 2014 - captured Russian special forces from the 331st regiment of the 98th Svirsk airborne division say they crossed the border by accident. Ukrainian spokesman Andriy Lysenko [uk] said: "This wasn't a mistake, but a special mission they were carrying out."[199][200][201]
  • August 2014 - The Ukrainian government bans a number of Russian news outlets for broadcasting war propaganda.[202]
  • October 2014 - Pravda and Izvestia accused Right Sector of terrorizing the Jewish community of Odessa and beating more than 20 people. Mikhail Maiman, quoted by Izvestia, was fictional, and there had not been a single incident of violence.[203]
  • October 24 - CyberBerkut claims to hack electronic vote counting system, Ukraine's CEC website[204]
  • October 28 - Russian intelligence and security services were behind a plot.[205] to create a people's republic in Odessa, said the SBU, which also said it had found a munitions cache and arrested the alleged separatists.


January–February 2015
  • 28 January on the outskirts of Khartsyzk, east of Donetsk - the OSCE observed "five T-72 tanks facing east, and immediately after, another column of four T-72 tanks moving east on the same road which was accompanied by four unmarked URAL-type military trucks." as well as intensified movement of unmarked military trucks, covered with canvas.[207]
  • January - After the shelling of residential areas in Mariupol, NATO's Jens Stoltenberg said: "Russian troops in eastern Ukraine are supporting these offensive operations with command and control systems, air defence systems with advanced surface-to-air missiles, unmanned aerial systems, advanced multiple rocket launcher systems, and electronic warfare systems."[208]
  • February 9 - Artillery shell causes explosion at a chemical plant in Donetsk.[209]
  • February 12 - Minsk II accords signed[210]
  • February 15 - Minsk II ceasefire took effect
  • February 16 - Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin said pro-Russian forces fired on Ukrainians over 100 times in the past day. Separatists accuse Ukrainians of violating the ceasefire.[211]
  • February 17 - Rebels conquered most of Debaltseve and encircled 10,000 Ukrainian troops in the area. Rebels claimed the town was not part of the recently established ceasefire.[212]
March 2015
  • On March 23, 2015, Russian outlets broadcast a news story about a 10-year-old girl from allegedly killed by Ukrainian shelling in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk.[213] BBC correspondent Natalia Antelava discovered in Donetsk that the story was Russian propaganda. She asked Russian media employees about the girl's death, a and they replied that "she is not here anymore" and that no-one was killed. When asked about the news stories they answered that they had been "forced".[214][215]
June 2015
  • June 22 - European sanctions against Russia because of its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Kremlin calls them “unfounded and illegal.”[216]


  • Oxford Dictionaries named the term "post-truth" the word of year.[217]
  • In April 2016 the Internet Research Agency released a video claiming that an advertising sign in New York's Times Square had been hacked to show an image of Vladimir Putin winking. The video was a fake.
  • On December 12, 2016, the press centre of the Special Operations Forces of Ukraine reported that unauthorized information resources appeared with symbols and photo materials of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine that might provide distorted or unverified information.
  • On December 13, 2016, Russian media preliminarily accused Ukraine of gas theft.[218]
  • On December 22, 2016, American cybersecurity company CrowdStrike released a report according to which Russian hackers from the Fancy Bear group monitored the location of APU D-30 howitzers through an Android application written by Ukrainian gunner Yaroslav.[219]


May 2017 - Poroshenko blocked access in Ukraine to Russian servers for VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, Yandex and, claiming they participated in an information war against Ukraine.[220]

  • July 2017 -Putin signed a bill, which took effect 1 November 2017, banning software and websites to circumvent internet filtering in Russia, including anonymizers and Virtual private network (VPN) services.


  • Kerch Strait incident - EU Commissioner for Security Sir Julian King said that prior to the incident Russia had spread rumours:
    • that the Ukrainians were dredging the Azov Sea to prepare for a NATO fleet[221]
    • that Ukraine planned to infect the Black Sea with cholera[221]
    • that it planned to blow up the Crimean Bridge with a nuclear bomb[222][221]


April 2019


  • May 11, Viktor Medvedchuk and fellow Opposition Platform — For Life lawmaker Taras Kozak named suspects for high treason and illegal exploitation of natural resources in Ukraine's Russian-annexed Crimea.[223][224]
  • 13 May - Viktor Medvedchuk put under house arrest[80] and fitted with an electronic tracking device.[225]
  • May 2021 - Russian authorities began liquidating the Russian company Novye Proekty allegedly used by Medvedchuk for his alleged illegal exploitations in Crimea.[226] In 2021, Poroshenko was named as a co-suspect in the criminal case against Medvedchuk.[227]
  • November 2021 - Zelenskyy accused Rinat Akhmetov of helping to plan a coup by Russia in Ukraine.[228][229] Akhmetov called the allegations "an absolute lie."[230] Zelenskyy later said the plot had tried to enlist Akhmetov but without success.
  • December 2021 - Mythos Labs found 697 accounts tweeting Russian disinformation about Ukraine, vs. 58 in November, 2021. The number of Ukraine-related tweets by these accounts soared 3,270% from September to December[231]


  • 6 January - Assets of former president Poroshenko frozen as part of Ukrainian proceedings for high treason.[232]
  • 22 January - United Kingdom announced it had intelligence of planned Russian coup in Ukraine[233]
  • "Russian-backed forces are already shelling targets in the east, as Moscow's propaganda organs blame the violence on the Ukrainian government."[234]
  • 3 February - TV channel NewsOne banned by presidential decree.[235][236] Since then, NASH has taken the place of the banned pro-Russian TV channels.
  • 18 February - Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, the separatist areas of eastern Ukraine involved in the War in Donbas, broadcast an urgent appeal for citizens to evacuate to Russia. Investigation showed that the messages were pre-recorded.[237][238]
  • February 21 - United States president Joe Biden warned of an impending invasion of Ukraine[239]
  • February 28 - Google turns off live traffic updates for Ukraine out of safety concern for users.[240]
  • March - Azov Battalion fighting Russian invaders in Mariupol[195]
  • March 1 - Russians deploy vacuum bomb at Ukrainian army base in the northeastern town of Okhtyrka, killing 70 soldiers.[241]
  • March 4 - Russia blocks access to the BBC and Voice of America from within Russia, as well as Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe.[242][243]
  • March 9 - Mariupol hospital airstrike[244] Four died.[245][246] Russian forces deny this event happened.[247] Twitter removed a tweet by the Russian embassy in London to this effect, calling it disinformation.[248]
  • March 9–22 bombs defused in Chernihiv, according to Ukrainians, who released images of what appear to be 500lb FAB-500s.[249]
  • March 13 - Russians shell Chernihiv.[250][251]
  • Mariupol theatre airstrike
  • March 16 - TASS says Mariupol theater was blown up by Asov Battalion[252]
  • March 16 - Russian spokesman Igor Konashenkov denied that Russian forces had killed 10 civilians queuing for bread, calling footage of the event a “hoax launched by the Ukrainian Security Service”; ”“No Russian soldiers are or have been in Chernihiv. All units are outside of the Chernihiv city limits, blocking roads, and are not conducting any offensive action,” he said.[253]
  • March 16 - Two adults and three children were killed in Russian shelling in Chernihiv.[254]
  • March 16 — Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev said Moscow would “turn to international organizations” because, it said, Ukraine was holding Ukrainians hostage in Kyiv, Kharkov, Chernihiv and Sumy rather than allowing them to travel to the Russian Federation.[255]
  • March 17 - Russia's ambassador to the United Nations denied bombing a theatre in Mariupol that had been serving as a bomb shelter.[256]
  • March 17 - Russian media (Pravda) said that three members of the Tennessee National Guard, all relatives, had been killed while fighting as mercenaries in Ukraine. The guardsmen had been home for more than a year.[257]
  • March 21 - Ukrainian media reported a missile strike on Kyiv's Retroville Shopping Mall.[258] Russian media released drone footage allegedly showing an MLRS system stationed near the mall.[259]

Staged videos

  • On July 22, 2015, the head investigator of the Lugansk Prosecutor General's Office, Leonid Tkachenko, said that a warehouse of American weapons had been discovered during the excavation of debris near Luhansk airport. The video allegedly showed army boxes and an American Stinger MANPADS.[260] Analysis of the video found that the "Stinger" was a poorly built prop made of welded plumbing pipes. The markings on it came from the video game Battlefield 3, including the identification number and the errors in the English.[261][262][263] The fake was distributed by Russian media, in particular Komsomolskaya Pravda, RIA Novosti and TV-Zvezda.[264][265]
  • On January 18, 2016, the eve of the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, Russian sources circulated a video of Azov Battalion fighters allegedly burning the flag of the Netherlands and threatening to commit terrorist acts there if the agreement was not approved. Bellingcat concluded that the video was a forgery and distributed if not created by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency in St Petersburg.[266]
  • Another video released by the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and CyberBerkut had links to the IRA. The Defense Intelligence Agency considers Cyberberkut a front for the Kremlin's internet activities, and the Kremlin maintained plausible deniability as to the activities of the IRA by bankrolling it through Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as "Putin's chef".[267] It accused Ukraine's Azov Battalion of fighting alongside ISIS militants. Photos and videos made by the pro-Russian militants showed armed men wearing ISIS and Azov symbols firing on industrial buildings.[268][269] The BBC identified the buildings as hangars at the Isolation mineral wool plant in Donetsk, which in 2011 was converted into an art space, the Isolation art project, then seized in June 2014 by pro-Russian militants.[270][271]
  • On July 23, 2018, a video spread through the Russian media alleged that a special unit of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) stormed the base of Ukrainian volunteers using armoured personnel carriers. The video then purported to show the SBU beating them. As early as July 25, the video was exposed as fake: the SBU uniform had outdated elements and insignia; the armoured personnel carrier had white identification lines in a form that had not been used for a long time, as well as anti-accumulation grilles, which the SBU does not put on its equipment. The actors who played SBU special forces spoke with a foreign accent, threw around emotional phrases about hatred for Bandera members and unprofessionally pretended to kick the volunteers.[272] On September 11, an armoured personnel carrier was filmed in Donetsk.[273][274] On September 20, the location of the staged assault was identified — the grounds of the abandoned Reaktiv chemical plant in occupied Donetsk.[275]
  • On August 16, 2018, a video of alleged brutal detention of a person at a Ukrainian checkpoint was published on a YouTube channel with no subscribers or other videos. The video was distributed among the Russian occupation forces, in particular through the Lost Armor website. The Ukrainian portal published a debunking. The appearance of all Ukrainian checkpoints (Majorca, Marinka, Gnutovo, Stanitsa Luhanskaya, as well as Chengar and Kharkiv) was analyzed, and none of them matched the video. There were few cars and practically no people, untrue of any of the checkpoints. License plate numbers were also falsified. The video purported to show a rebel fighter attempting to surrender under the SBU “Waiting for you at home" program, which offered amnesty to fighters who returned to peaceful life. Since the video showed the purported fighter on the ground being kicked, it may have been an attempt to discredit the program and reduce attrition in the rebel forces.[276]
  • During the Russian invasion in March, videos were discovered purporting to show Ukrainian-produced disinformation about strikes inside Ukraine which were then "debunked" as some other event outside Ukraine. However, this may be the first case of a disinformation false-flag operation, as the original, supposedly "Ukraine-produced" disinformation was never disseminated by anyone, and was in fact preventive disinformation created specifically in order to be debunked and cause confusion and mitigate the impact on the Russian public of real footage of Russian strikes within Ukraine when it eventually got past Russian-controlled media. According to Patrick Warren, head of Clemson's Media Forensics Hub, "It's like Russians actually pretending to be Ukrainians spreading disinformation. ... The reason that it's so effective is because you don't actually have to convince someone that it's true. It's sufficient to make people uncertain as to what they should trust."[277]
  • On March 14, 2022, a video was released purporting to show a helicopter attacking a Russian convoy, resulting in the destruction of military aircraft and tanks. Upon further analysis, the footage was revealed to have been produced using the "Arma 3" video game.[278]
  • On March 16, 2022, a one-minute deepfake video aired on the website of the Ukraine 24 television channel. In it, Zelenskyy appeared to tell Ukrainian soldiers to surrender. Ukraine 24 said they had been hacked, but Russian social media boosted it. Zelenskyy immediately disavowed the video and responded with one of his own, and Facebook and YouTube began to remove it. Twitter allowed the video in tweets discussing the fake, but said it would be taken down if posted deceptively. Hackers inserted the disinformation into the live scrolling-text news crawl. It was not immediately clear who created the deepfake.[279][280]


On November 23, 2016, the European Parliament passed a resolution opposing Russian propaganda.[281] Putin responded by calling the work of the Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik effective.[282]


On March 1 YouTube blocked channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe,[147] then world-wide on March 11 due to its insistence that Russia was not waging war in Ukraine.[283] Roku and DirectTV also dropped RT.[284]


No precise equivalent appears to exist to the systemic Russian disinformation campaign, although Ukraine and other interested parties have used speeches, television appearsnces, social media, cyber warfare and viral memes against Russia. Not all of these actions can be attributed with certainty, but the United States has deployed soft power on Ukraine's behalf, at least one self-identified Anonymous account has claimed to have damaged Russian infrastructure, and a number of official Ukraine social media accounts have successfully created a favorable narrative.

The U.S. government, suspecting a buildup to a false flag attack, released its intelligence findings about Russian troop movements before the invasion began undermining its posited plans to blame an attack on Ukraine; "the U.S. government was very forthcoming...there wasn't an information vacuum that the Russians could step in and fill" explained researcher Laura Edelson.[285]

Ukraine on the other hand has created a narrative of Ukrainian bravery and indomitability.

“If Ukraine had no messages of the righteousness of its cause, the popularity of its cause, the valor of its heroes, the suffering of its populace, then it would lose,” said Peter W. Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at New America, a think tank in Washington. “Not just the information war, but it would lose the overall war.”[286]


Zelenskyy's speeches have repeatedly gone viral and galvanized the Ukrainian population.[287] An underdog hero tackling evil forces attacking him is an ancient human narrative as fundamental and continuing as Gilgamesh and Luke Skywalker, and Zelenskyy has told it masterfully.[288] Wearing a green military t-shirt,[289][290] he passionately appealed for help for his people in fiery virtual speeches to the parliaments of Canada,[291] the United Kingdom[292] and the European Union,[293] as well as a joint session of the U.S. Congress, to a standing ovation each time.

He has spoken to the Russian people directly,[294] in Russian, his first language. Also in Russian, he positioned himself on March 3 as a "neighbor" and an "ordinary guy", needling Putin for recently receiving his visitors at an extraordinarily long table:

"Come sit with me! Just not 30 meters away like with [French President Emmanuel] Macron and [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz. … I'm your neighbor … What are you afraid of?"[295]

Putin's previous shirtless photo-ops sought to position[296] him as a strong and virile leader. Images of the younger Zelenskyy wearing body armor and drinking tea with Ukrainian soldiers starkly contrasted with news broadcasts of Putin in rococo and very socially distanced[297] The body armor photo was taken in 2021,[298] and he actually drank tea with the soldiers a few days before the invasion began,[299] but the images were real if out of context, and the pictures of Putin at an enormously long table, apparently for fear of COVID-19, were also real.[300]

Ukrainian media has been particularly savvy in playing up the eleventh hour rise of its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose line, "I need ammunition; not a ride," may rival the likes of William Shakespeare's "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war" in terms of quotability.[301]


Also shot February 25, a video of an elderly woman scolding a Russian soldier appears to record an actual event in Henichesk. She gave him sunflower seeds so sunflowers would grow when he died.[302][303]

The wildly popular social media legend, Ghost of Kiev, "a Ukrainian fighter pilot who shot down six Russian planes cannot be confirmed", said Deutsche Welle on March 1.[304] The story was tweeted by the official Ukraine account and authenticated by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko but the photo of the pilot posted by Poroshenko turned out to be three years old.[304] The story's factuality has been questioned by both Russian and Western media. The Ukrainian military has not verified it, for one thing, and some of the images were definitely repurposed from elsewhere.[305] But on February 25, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine suggested that that "The Ghost of Kyiv" might be a returning reserve pilot, so they didn't deny it either.

See also


In English



  1. ^ Stein, George J. "Information warfare". Air University (U.S.). Press. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  2. ^ "Information warfare" (PDF). NATO. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  3. ^ "The Information War Isn't Over Yet". The Atlantic. March 8, 2022. Retrieved March 24, 2022. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not yet two weeks old and yet a dozen headlines from major media outlets now suggest that Ukraine is 'winning the information war' across much of the world (Russia and China may be notable exceptions).
  4. ^ "Outmatched in military might, Ukraine has excelled in the information war". Washington Post. March 16, 2022. Retrieved March 24, 2022. By playing up Russian brutality and military stumbles, deftly using social media, and appealing to foreign leaders’ emotions while challenging their policies, Zelensky has steered an information offensive that has yielded greater Western arms donations and wider backing for unprecedented economic sanctions against Russia.
  5. ^ War of the Cyber World: The Law of Cyber Warfare, Phillip Pool, The International Lawyer. Vol. 47, No. 2 (FALL 2013), pp. 299-323 (25 pages). Published By: American Bar Association, via JStor
  6. ^ a b [Russia's Information Warfare: Exploring the Cognitive Dimension], Blagovest Tashev, PhD; Lieutenant Colonel Michael Purcell (Ret); and Major Brian McLaughlin (Ret). Marine Corps University, MCU Journal vol. 10, no. 2, Fall 2019 p.133
  7. ^ a b c Stukal, Denis; Sanovich, Sergey; Bonneau, Richard; Tucker, Joshua A. (February 2022). "Why Botter: How Pro-Government Bots Fight Opposition in Russia" (PDF). American Political Science Review. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association. 116 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1017/S0003055421001507. ISSN 1537-5943. LCCN 08009025. OCLC 805068983. S2CID 247038589. Retrieved 10 March 2022.
  8. ^ a b Gilles, Keir. "Handbook of Russian Information Warfare. Fellowship Monograph 9. NATO Defense College ISBN 978-88-96898-16-1 p.4" (PDF).
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  10. ^ Putin says he will 'denazify' Ukraine. Here's the history behind that claim, Miriam Berger. Washington Post, February 24, 2022
  11. ^ Russia Takes Censorship to New Extremes, Stifling War Coverage, Anton Troianovski. New York Times, March 4, 2022
  12. ^ Do not call Ukraine invasion a ‘war’, Russia tells media, schools: Instead, ‘special military operation’ should be used to describe Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, according to officials, Al-Jazeera, March 2, 2022
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Further reading

Original content from Wikipedia, shared with licence Creative Commons By-Sa - Russian information war against Ukraine