Analysis of the News “Ukraine attacked Russia”

February 2022

As part of the Regional Initiative in Combating Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

SHOCK! UKRAINE ATTACKED RUSSIA, KIEV SHELLED A VILLAGE ON THE TERRITORY OF THE RF?! Moscow is investigating where the shots came from – EVERYONE IS AFRAID OF WHAT PUTIN’S INVESTIGATORS WILL FIND!

https://informer.rs/planeta/vesti/679077/rusija-ukrajina-granatiranje-opasno-odgovor

In the midst of tensions between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, the tabloid Informer published the news that Ukraine had attacked Russia. This news, which has incorrect content, was on the front page of the printed version of the mentioned tabloid, and a few days after its publication, Russia invaded Ukraine.

The main headline read “Ukraine Attacks Russia,” while the subhead informed readers that “America is driving the world into chaos.” Only at the very bottom of the page was the news which was the main story in most of the world’s media – that the President of Russia Vladimir Putin announced the recognition of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk the previous evening.

“Ukraine attacked Russia yesterday! The Russian army killed five Ukrainian soldiers who tried to cross the border in two armored vehicles… At the same time, Kyiv launched a massive offensive on Donbass, hitting civilian targets, including schools and hospitals, but also the main water supply, electrical networks, and other infrastructural targets”, reported Informer in the print edition while the portal provides very precise details about the place and time of the attack: “The explosion echoed a kilometer from the state border with Ukraine around four o’clock in the morning, three hundred meters from one of the houses in the village of Mityakinskaya – Tarasovsky District.”

Since the Ukrainian government denied the allegations of an attack on Russia, and this information in the Russian media was not accompanied by official comments or any verifiable data, it is clear that this is a fabricated event. Details in the reporting of an event that did not occur are intended to give the reader the impression of accuracy and truthfulness without the need to verify it. This story was also mentioned in a BBC report on events the day before as an example of Russian disinformation. “There is no evidence to suggest that any of these things happened, but officials are forced to deny any claim, no matter how absurd or unlikely it is,” wrote Paul Adams for BBC on February 21.

The government of Ukraine denied the news about the attack and called the reports fabricated, which  Informer shared in the form of short information near the end of the article in the printed version, while the portal only provides information that the armed forces of Ukraine did not comment on the accusations.

News like this and a sensationalist approach in writing contribute to the spread of the narrative that Russia is waging a justified, defensive war against the Nazis who have been threatening its security and safety of its population for years. The news in the newspaper Danas shows that this narrative about Russia defending itself against the Ukrainian Nazis is deeply rooted among some Serbian citizens.

Author: Aleksandar Ivković