After a Facebook post was published by the Ukrainian Ex-Prime Minister Iulia Timoșenko about the economic situation of Ukrainains, the Russian Website Sputnik (with domains in Poland: sputnik.pl) published an article through which it aims to convey the idea that the harsh economic situation in Ukraine is caused by Poland.
The title of the article is very suggesting: “Ukraine cannot evolve due to Poland”.
But how and from where did Sputnik draw this conclusion? They used specific paragraphs from the post published by ex-Prime Minister Iulia Timoșenko (and presently the candidate for Ukraine’s presidential campaign with the best chances in polls) in order to distort the truth. Mainly, they used her words to say something else than what the ex-Prime Minister actually declared.
Timoșenko began the post with the fact that Ukrainian citizens who are working in Poland had sent money in their motherland which reached approximately 800 million dollars in the last three months. She also declared that this money sent from Poland helps the remaining Ukrainians to survive.
Nothing defaming Poland, nor its citizens. On the contrary, Iulia Timoșenko considers the Ukrainians who had sent money from Poland the “economic factor” which guarantees the survival of those remaining in Ukraine.
Still, from where did Sputnik start when developing this disinformation? In the third paragraph, Timoșenko declared: “Meanwhile, in Ukrainian villages, [people] started buying apples from gardens. The price is phenomenal: 30-40 cents per kilogram. Slaves in Ancient Egypt, under Tutankhamun, had higher earnings”.
The article from Sputnik begins by refering to this paragraph and claim that the following words are written by Timoșenko: “Ukrainian authorities are mocking its citizens”, words that cannot be found in the Facebook post. Basically, Sputnik interpreted as they wished the ex-Prime Minister’s declaration in order to create a scenario which presents an extremly difficult life for the Ukrainian citizens.
In the same article another paragraph which in fact is created from different sentences from Iulia Timoșenko’s Facebook post which leads to the fact the those who are able to work in Ukraine leave their own country to find a better life in foreign countries (with a special reference to Poland).
Sputnik has garbled certain paragraphs from Timoșenko’s post and combined them so it would result that those 800 million dollars (coming from Poland of course) are sent by the work force when they could just work in Ukraine without growing other economies. They nuance Iulia Timoșenko’s Facebook post so it would sound that it is necessary to find solutions for this “situation” in which Ukrainians are going to work abroad.
At a thorough attention to on what Timoșenko said in her post on Facebook and what Sputnik reported using her declaration, we can clearly see that in the article her words are twisted so it may seem that the ex-prime minister declared that Poland is a malefic country which attracts citizens from Ukraine, making them leave their country for larger wages and for a better life, by using her argument that refered to the money sent from Poland which offers salvation to those who did not leave the country.
In truth, Timoșenko declared that measures need to be taken for Ukraine’s citizens so that they won’t continue to leave the country, but in a positive manner, for improving the quality of life in this country and not make money for other countries.
Manipulating through appealing to a “neutral expertise”
Not only did they use Timoșenko’s words to promote a false message, but Sputnik in the article had turned to an old and already a classic manipulation strategy, the declaration of an expert, named Andrii Zolotarev (the director of Ukrainian Analytic Center).
Andrii Zolotarev (Source photo: http://lyberti.com)
He claims that due to high living costs, mimum wages and pensions in relation with taxes and duties put those who live in Ukraine at the limit of survival. He says that he agrees with Timoșenko’s statement when it comes to the social issues in Ukraine.
In the article on Sputnik, it is mentioned that the declaration is given by Andrii Zolotarev (Andriej Zołotariew) specially for this publication.
It is hard to determine the objective reasons if this declaration made by Andrii Zolotarev was really for Sputnik or, similar to Timoșenko, had been taken and manipulated various declarations to distort the truth.
This Andrii Zolotarev is not at his first declaration, mentioning many times the difficult situation in which Ukraine is and which determines the citizens of this country to move to other states. Anyway the situation referring to the Ukrainain migration to Poland is real, so there is nothing about a staging regarding this phenomenon.
What are the reasons?
Coming back to the article published on Sputnik about the fact that “Ukraine cannot develop because of Poland”, the reasons behind this kind of article must be revealed.
In the first place, some details about this website so we know where to start. Even though, this article was published on the Polish edition of Sputnik (pl.sputnik.com), at a more thorough search on the internet, it can be observed that the IP of the publication is in fact in … Moscow.
An article written by the Russians, on a propaganda website, about Ukraine, for the Polish people. Why would the Russians want through this article? In the first place they want to create tensions between Ukraine and Poland, ex-countries from the Communist Block, but the last being a member of the EU and NATO. The NATO and EU member is portrayed as the country that oppreses the other country’s citizens.
Tensions can appear through the fact that the article conveys the idea that Poland “steals” the work force that could bring prosperity to Ukraine. Mirrored, the idea that the Ukrainains come to steal the jobs from the Polish also can be conveyed. Moreover, changing Timoșenko’s message and implying that Ukrainians are leading a harsh life in their own country (in reference to the idea that Egyptian slaves were better paid) could result in some internal tentions in Ukraine, especially before the up-coming elections, an extremely favorable scenario for the Russian Federation in the present conflict in Donbas and the Azov Sea.
Not the last hit of the hammer breaks the stone
It is obviously impossible that from an article like this one from Sputnik can seed military, ethnic, economic conflicts between the two countries given that Poland has numerous consulates in Ukraine and that there is an agreement to liberalize the borders between regions where the two countries meet. Also, it is in Ukraine’s interest to not be in conflict with a EU member and NATO.
But Russia knows that manipulating is a matter for the long term and the continuity of the project is essential. This why it perseveres. The last hit does not break the stone, but the previous does. That is why the hits must be systematic, consistent, because somewhere their effects will build up.
That is why these disinformation attempts, especially by using declarations belonging to political leaders like Iulia Timoșenko, must be tackled in order to prevent and educate the target group. In our case people from different social-economic categories, but in principle with an average education that can be easily subjected to disinformation.
Trolls are constantly present
Finally, I would like to emphasize some of the comments who had read the article on Sputnik:
Under the commnent section of the article in question, we find a certain “keram” who claims that: “To live off «someone else’s expenses» is always costly and without future”, referring probably to the money sent by Ukrainians from Poland to their relatives in their home country. Probably he is bothered by the 800 million dollars sent by his co-nationals (if it may be the case) in the country.
A comment on Facebook, this time using a rethorical question, if the Ukrainians could reclaim their three Polish regions (Przemyśl, Chełm and Cracovia), could that help them? This article leads to the idea that there could be a conflict between two countries for the three regions.
The comment is of course from a Facebook “user” who does not assume an identity and who shares massively propaganda articles on his page. What a coincidence…
Also, to these comments we add those that mention: “We don’t want Ukrainians!” said by weird individuals with no credible accounts.
Another extremely interesting comment comes from a “user” (whom I’ve seen leaving comments like this even to other Sputnik articles), whose Facebook page is full of weird articles and who supports the idea that “the highest economic development reached by the Ukrainian region was during the Russian Empire and the USSR”. A true “nostalgic” for the passed times of the Iron Curtain.
*Tudor Cîrligeanu is a student at the Security Studies Master at the Unviersity of Bucharest and a LARICS intern.