A year ago Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression against its peaceful neighbour Ukraine, showing the world the true face of the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions. Today, Ukraine is still fighting, still resilient, and still determined to prevail over Russian aggression.
Russia prepared for its war against Ukraine by spreading myths about the country. Well before the full-scale invasion on 24 February 2022, a constant flow of disinformation paved the way for Russian military aggression.
Myth 1: a Russian victory is inevitable. Either Russia wins the war, or the conflict will lead to World War III. Western military support to Ukraine escalates the situation and prolongs the suffering. The only path to peace is Ukraine’s demilitarisation.
Ukraine’s remarkable resilience, resolve, and unbreakable fighting spirit have proven time and again that the Kremlin’s prospects in its war of aggression signal anything but victory. The world has shunned Russia, demanding an immediate cessation of offensives in Ukraine and the unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces beyond Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders. Since Russia launched its unprovoked ‘three day war’, Ukraine has successfully stemmed the invaders’ advance, turned the tide, and liberated considerable territory from Russian temporary military control. Ukrainian forces have also seriously eroded Russian military assets.
Ukraine’s perseverance in the face of overpowering aggression has shown us the true meaning of grit. Western military support to Ukraine is making a difference on the battlefield every day, helping Ukraine to uphold its right of self-defence, which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
Russian proposals for ceasefires or peace negotiations are not sincere, but merely PR stunts. When closely analysed, they reveal imperialistic Russian demands for Ukraine to surrender and give up more of its territory and sovereignty.
The true path to peace is the complete withdrawal of Russian forces beyond Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, and the complete abandonment of its aggressive policy. Russia started an unprovoked war in Europe in blatant disregard of international law, notably the UN Charter. Peace cannot be achieved by letting an unarmed Ukraine face a highly militarised Russia that denies its sovereignty and does not hide popular calls for genocide.
Myth 2: Russia is at war with the West. Ukraine is only a NATO proxy and a battlefield. Russia is defending itself against the aggressor Ukraine.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 and Ukraine has been defending itself ever since. The false claim that Ukraine is the aggressor is a classic pro-Kremlin manipulation tactic to portray Russia as the victim and to distract audiences from its own aggression. While this narrative is transparently absurd for most of the world, for the increasingly insular information environment in Russia it serves as a rallying cry to mobilise public support for the Kremlin’s authoritarian policies.
Pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative falsely claiming that Russia is fighting the West in Ukraine picked up steam after Ukraine launched a successful counteroffensive against the Russian invaders. Pro-Kremlin pundits particularly like to deploy this narrative whenever Ukraine receives military support from its Western partners, or when Russia is losing its hold on temporarily occupied territories in Ukraine. Neither the EU, the West, nor NATO have declared war on Russia. The EU, the US, and many NATO member states provide Ukraine with military assistance to help Ukraine repel Russia’s unprovoked aggression, but they are not involved in any fighting.
Myth 3: Ukraine seeks nuclear weapons, attacks civilian nuclear infrastructure, and hides weapons in nuclear power plants. Ukraine is working on a ‘dirty bomb’. It would be legitimate for Russia to use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
While there is a lot to unpack here, the overall tactic is clear. Scaremongering seeks to exploit an audience’s rational aversion to nuclear weapons, and increasingly belligerent nuclear rhetoric targeting Ukraine has been a constant thread weaving through pro-Kremlin war narratives.
Despite the constant accusations from the Kremlin, there is no evidence that Ukraine has ever worked on creating nuclear weapons for use against Russia or anyone else. In fact, Ukraine has been a nuclear-weapon-free country since 1994 when it signed the Budapest memorandum. It is one of the few countries in the world to have relinquished a nuclear arsenal, having eliminated the weapons that it inherited from the Soviet Union. Russia, on the other hand, has conveniently forgotten the commitment it made when it signed the treaty confirming that it would respect the independence, sovereignty, and borders of Ukraine.
The Kremlin is also quick to deploy nuclear narratives to deflect blame, to issue thinly veiled threats, or to resort to nuclear blackmail to support its aggression. Creating an image of a cornered yet nuclear-armed (as pro-Kremlin demagogues always emphasise) animal works to the Kremlin’s advantage.
Russia has used its accusations that Ukraine is attempting to create a ‘dirty bomb‘ as a pretext for greater escalation. Ukraine invited the IAEA to investigate the sites Russia has said are used for dirty bomb development. The IAEA has found no evidence that Ukraine is developing nuclear materials for use against Russia.
The claims that Ukraine is purposefully damaging its own civilian nuclear infrastructure are equally unfounded. In fact, Ukraine and the US have repeatedly tried to defuse tension around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Russia has taken many reckless actions targeting this facility. It has placed military equipment and troops inside the premises, used its surroundings as a base for rocket and missile attacks, taking the de-facto control over the facility, and cut the link to its main power line multiple times. The IAEA has not confirmed any Ukrainian bombing or attacks on the power plant either before or after Kremlin accusations to that effect.
Myth 4: all of Europe supported Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, just as Europe is now supporting Nazi Ukraine. Russia is continuing the Great Patriotic War in Ukraine to rid the world of Nazis.
We have closely followed the Kremlin’s use of the ‘Nazi spectre’ narrative for years. The Kremlin has consistently used this convenient disinformation trope throughout the war to dehumanise and vilify Ukrainians. Putin’s portrayal of Russia as the modern tamer of Nazism is a classic example of projection – a way for the Kremlin to shift blame from its own destructive actions.
The accusations that the whole of Europe supported Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union are beyond bizarre. They turn history upside down. In fact, by 1942, the anti-Hitler coalition included 26 states, as well as the governments in exile of the occupied European countries. Russia’s invocation of fighting Nazism to trigger a strong psychological or emotional response is not only manipulative, it is outright ludicrous, particularly considering the Kremlin’s pivot to openly anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Myth 5: Ukraine is an artificial creation, not a sovereign state. Ukrainian lands are historically Russian. The people of those lands have freely expressed their political will to return to Russia and it is Russia’s patriotic duty to liberate and protect them.
Ukraine is a sovereign state with own identity and long history. Denying Ukraine’s statehood and sovereignty is another go-to disinformation narrative that pro-Kremlin pundits have peddled for years. When Russia sought to justify illegal land-grabs by staging sham referendums in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, it came as no surprise that the pro-Kremlin disinformation ecosystem sprung to action once again to dispute Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Pro-Kremlin pundits have often used historical revisionism as a manipulation tactic to steer the public discourse toward supporting current Kremlin policies, including attempts to illegally annex temporarily occupied territories in Ukraine. Putin’s obsession with re-writing history has been equally well documented.
There was nothing free or democratic about the sham referendums. Voters were coerced into voting with armed soldiers going door to door to collect votes, in direct contradiction of Ukraine’s constitution. The entire process violated international law and was condemned by the UN resolutions on the annexation. The decision on annexation illustrate the imperialist nature of Russia’s warfare.
12 Myths: EUvsDiSiNFO