Today in the frameworks of the #FocusOnUkraine month, co-organized by the Embassies of Canada, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States to Hungary, a roundtable discussion “Disinformation: Lessons from Ukraine and Salisbury” was hosted by the British Embassy in Budapest.
Opening the event Ambassador of the United Kingdom I.Lindsey said that disinformation is one of the great challenges of our time and this is about defending the international rules based order, and ultimately collective prosperity and security.
Andrew Pike, Director of International Communications at the Foreign Office drew attention on the issues of Salisbury's poisoning investigation.
Prof. Olexiy Haran, Research Director of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor of the Department of Political Science of NaUKMA, told about the main theses of Russian disinformation about Ukraine.
Co-founder of StopFake project Olga Yurkova, the editor of the Donbas and Crimea department of the Krayina magazine, talked about the Stopfake project.
In her final speech Ambassador of Ukraine Liubov Nepop stressed the following:
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Our Ukrainian month is dedicated to the situation with Russian aggression against Ukraine and I think that the topic of disinformation is one of the most crucial in this context.
Ones I had a conversation with my colleague who said that nowadays it is really difficult to understand where the truth is. That is why the reaction is not always as strong as it could be. I answered that it is exactly the Russian goal: to make the situation unclear, to lie and to deny everything.
First Russia denied its military occupation of the Ukrainian Crimea. They told the truth only after finishing the operation.
Now they continue denying despite the clear evidences that the Russian regular army and weapons are in the East of Ukraine.
They deny the fact that MH17 was shot down by Russian Buk missile.
They continue denying that there are Ukrainians-political prisoners in Russia and in occupied by Russia Ukrainian territories, because of artificially fabricated accusations against them.
When you read press or watch TV you can also find a lot of elements of the Russian fake news and disinformation there. And very often there are alligations without even attempt to prove it.
In using term “civil war in Ukraine”, while we all know that it is not the internal conflict, but the Russian aggression against my country.
In speaking about the Ukrainian nationalism, fascism or antisemitism, while it is well known that there are no nationalist parties in Ukrainian parliament; while the Ukrainian police during the investigation of the cases which can be considered as the actions against national minorities, for example, the situation with attacks on the office of the Hungarian cultural society, finds clearly visible Russian connection to these cases; while the latest data shows that the level of antisemitism in Ukraine is the lowest in the Central and Eastern Europe - 5%.
Russia tries to present Ukraine as a failed state, while the EU, IMF and others recognize that in last 4 years Ukraine made more reforms that in previous 23.
You can often read in newspapers about the Ukrainian corruption. But it is less mentioned that exactly in Ukraine we have introduced one of the most transparent system of public declaration of assets for all civil servants with criminal responsibility for false data. Even in the EU not all countries have such a system. We are finalizing the establishment of all bodies responsible for prevention and control in sphere of countering corruption. The final step is creation of Anti-Corruption Court, and it will be done before the presidential election in March next year.
Currently Russia inverted the thesis that it is worth to stop cooperating with the Ukrainian authorities until the elections will be held in Ukraine and then to build relations with the new leadership of Ukraine. It is not only a clear meddling in the elections. It is also one more attempt of Russia to froze conflict in the East of Ukraine, to stop Western support of Ukraine in conducting reforms, and of course to undermine our unity and to try to cancel or at least to soften sanctions against it because of aggression against Ukraine.
Speaking about sanctions we have to admit, that there is a lot of disinformation saying that sanctions don’t work and at the same time have negative influence on the European countries. But let’s look into the European Commission’s reports on the impact of sanctions on EU member states – it’s almost nothing. The most losses in percentage have the Baltic States. But they do support sanctions as they know what they are suffering for – independence, lives, values.
To lift the sanctions Russia also promotes the thesis, that it is impossible to solve the main international problems without Moscow. But let’s be frank: Russia is staying behind a lot of these problems.
At the same time Russia prepares to conduct the local elections on the occupied Eastern territories on 11 November, continues to kill our soldiers and civilians in the East, opposes the deployment of peacekeeping operation, makes attempts to legitimise the representatives of the so-called DPR/LPR: according to our data, the chair of the so-called “representation centre of the DPR” in France Messier Feyear is working on the establishment of the same “centers of DPR” in Hungary, Austria, Italy, Belgium. I want to call for your support in preventing implementation of such dangerous initiatives.
Russia continues the militarization of Crimea and tries to legitimate its occupation. One vivid example how the different informational channels are used by the aggressor. Web-site “Russians in Hungary” is organizing the contest about Crimea with a trip to the occupied peninsula as an award. Such a trip without respecting the Ukrainian legislation will be the infringement of the international law. At the same time, it will be used by the Russian propaganda as one more element in trying to legitimize the occupation.
Since 29 April 2018 with construction of so-called Kerch bridge, Russia has started to block the passing of the trade vessels through the Kerch Strait and in the Azov Sea. Russia has stopped and delayed shipping of more than 200 vessels of both Ukraine’s flag and those under flags of third states. Today this issue will be discussed by the European Parliament and I hope that it will lead to more sanction pressure on Russia.
It is also worth to mention how Russia is using church in its disinformation campaign. Ukraine is on the final stage in the process of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church. The Tomos of Autocephaly will restore historical justice and strengthen religious freedom and inter-confessional peace. It is not a secret that the Russian church in Ukraine was actively involved in support of the Russian aggression. Now it is spreading false information that it would lead to the unrests and goes against the orthodox traditions. It is important to prevent the spreading of anti-autocephaly messages. The Russian orthodox churches are located in a majority of EU MS and G7 countries. Please, focus your attention on their activities, which can have the main purpose to destabilize situation in your country or cover and finance some subversive activities.
The Russian disinformation will be very active in coming period as we are close to the elections in Ukraine. The aim of Russia is to prevent our further way to the EU and NATO. Ukraine’s successes are seen by Moscow as its own defeats.
Today we also have discussed the Salisbury attack.
In my opinion it is not only about Moscow’s intention to show that it can reach everybody everywhere. The interview of suspected persons and explanations done are about complete lack of respect to the West, saying that if after 4 years of the Russian aggression against Ukraine the aggression is still can be called civil war, if after not stopping the aggression there is discussion to bring Russian delegation to the PA CE just because of the money and some voices for softening the EU sanctions, Russia has no reason to change its attitude and even to make its lie more credible. And it is a moment to think, what should we do in such situation?
The response is to remain united, spread the truth and counter disinformation.
We should improve resilience to Russian propaganda and responsibility for disinformation and manipulations. Democracy is not only about freedom. It is also about responsibility.
At the same time, we need your help in telling the world about the ongoing Russian aggression, in prolonging sanctions against Russia for its aggression and in promoting the results of Ukraine’s reform efforts.
We have to recognize Russia as an aggressor.
The best way to protect the West is to protect Ukraine.
In era of the modern technologies the information has a crucial role in making right decisions and in protecting our common values.