Russia: Civil activist warns of ‘propaganda against Ukraine’
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Kateryna Koval, a reserve officer in the Ukrainian armed forces and a civil activist, explained how an incredibly strong “information policy” masterminded by the Russian government, involving armies of digital trolls and bots has played a pivotal role in shaping anti-Ukrainian sentiment across Ukraine, as well as in occupied Crimea and in the war-torn Donbas region, where Ukraine is currently fighting Russian-backed separatists. Ms Koval, who also lectures in national security and defence at the Kyiv School of State Management said how such bots puppeteered by the Kremlin have formed what she termed as the “first stage of invasion” of Ukraine.
Fears are mounting of an imminent invasion by Russia into Ukraine as President Vladimir Putin has now amassed over 100,000 troops at four locations along the country’s border.
Explaining the information wars waged by Russia, Ms Koval said: “They have armies of trolls and bots in social networks like Twitter, like Facebook, like Instagram.
“And they use lots of messages concerning war, lots of messages concerning that NATO is the challenge for Russia.”
She added how online campaigns also focus on persuading the public not to throw their support behind Ukraine’s possible ascension to NATO.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly claimed that NATO show increasing aggression against Russia and its allies while also asserting NATO and its expansion threaten Russian interests.
Information campaigns against Ukraine have also been launched within Russia through state-run TV and media over the years to drum up domestic support for Russia’s foreign policy aims.
Ms Koval, who campaigns as an independent politician in Ukraine, added how central to this movement is Russia’s desire to generate “panic” in Ukraine as a form of destabilisation.
She stressed how “the main aim” for Ukraine now, alongside protecting the country from real invasion, is to develop a strong information policy to counter the onslaught of Russia’s propaganda activity.
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Explaining the importance of Ukraine’s response, she noted how an entire generation of children have grown up under Russian occupation in Crimea and Russian influence in the Donbas.
As a result, she said it is vital that Ukraine pushes a campaign to show future generations what life can be like under Ukraine instead of Russia, in the hope they can inspire future generations to take up the call of Ukraine over President Putin.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 when soldiers bearing no insignias entered the Crimean Peninsula in an almost bloodless takeover of power. The move was followed by the War in Donbas between Ukrainian Government forces and Russian-backed militants, 14,000 people have died in the fighting.
Concluding her analysis, Ms Koval said the issue now forms one of two challenges posed by Russia that run in “parallel” with one another, each posing credible threats.
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She said: “That first is that real challenge of invasion and we cannot exclude it, and the second part is the strong information war and propaganda.”
Western nations, including the USA and Britain, have piled arms and training into Ukraine in recent years, over fears of mounting aggression from Russia’s President Putin who views Ukraine and Russia as “spiritually” made up of one people.
While not suggesting an intervention if Russia sends troops over the border into Ukraine, Britain has promised “sanctions” against President Putin as a deterrent.
Almost one million regular and reservist Ukrainian soldiers have been put on alert of invasion.
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