Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 16.05.2018
Russia uses anti-Ukrainian hate propaganda extensively in its hybrid war against the West. The Russian invaders of Europe in Ukraine thinly cover the work of their information warriors with the veneer of journalism. In Ukraine, what appeared to be a news outlet called “RIA Novosti Ukraine” has been unmasked as a Kremlin propaganda operation. What looked like news reporting was all along a hybrid war effort by Muscovy.
The director of the anti-Ukrainian propaganda outlet ”RIA Novosti Ukraine,” Kiril Vyshynskiy, was arrested and charged with treason. This was announced by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on May 15. At a briefing for the press, the deputy head of the SBU, Victor Kononenko, denounced the “subversion of information activities against our country by media structures under the control of Vyshynskiy.”
Kiril Vyshynskiy was made head of “RIA Novosti Ukraine” in 2014 by Dmitriy Kiselyov, the Director-General of “Russia Today.” Based in Moscow and holding court nightly on Russian television, Dmitriy Kiselyov is Putin’s chief propagandist. The name “RIA Novosti Ukraine” was chosen to conceal the Russian financing of the anti-Ukrainian propaganda outlet, and its true command-and-control from Moscow and the Kiselyov propaganda apparatus.
In 2014, Vyshynskiy travelled to Crimea. Under direction from Moscow and in the guise of a journalist, Vyshynskiy gave active support to the invasion of Ukrainian territory by foreign troops (the “little green men” of Kremlin propaganda). He pushed the agenda of the foreign Muscovy invader-occupiers, which was to say that Ukraine’s Crimea had been ‘annexed’ to the Russian Federation.
The SBU discovered in its investigation of Vyshynskiy that he had been awarded a medal for services to Russia. In May of 2014, Vyshynskiy was awarded the medal “For Merit to the Fatherland” by private decree of Putin.
After Ukraine’s Crimea became temporarily occupied by Russia, Vyshynskiy returned to Kyiv. There he suborned journalists under him to become anti-Ukrainian propagandists. These information warriors – not journalists – wrote in favour of the Russian terrorist organizations, so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)” and so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).” This was in the period when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shifted from Crimea to Donbas. The propaganda they put out was that the Russian-armed, Russia-led, Russian-paid terrorists were “pro-Russian separatists” or “pro-Russian rebels.” This fake news was picked up by a Ukraine-ignorant and incurious Western press, and still to this day these phrases of Kremlin propaganda against Ukraine are used by news agencies such as Reuters, the American Press, Agence France-Presse and the BBC.
“Russia Today” covered its anti-Ukrainian propaganda operation by creating a parent company “Interselekt LLC” to own the brand “RIA Novosti Ukraine.” Kiselyov’s Moscow propaganda operation created a shell company nominally headquartered in Belgrade, Serbia to funnel money through the bank accounts of corrupt Ukrainian enterprises whose beneficial owner was Vyshynskiy. Kiril Vyshynskiy was paid 53,000 euros a month to betray his country, Ukraine, to the foreign invader Russia.
The SBU investigation is discovering that Dmitry Kiselyov’s “Russia Today” is calling the shots. “RIA Novosti Ukraine” was in fact a network of media resources under “Russia Today” control in Ukraine. Under the direction of Kiril Vyshynskiy (who actually worked for Dmitriy Kiselyov) “RIA Novosti Ukraine” carried out subversive actions in the information space as a campaign of Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine.
To top it off, the SBU revealed that Kiril Vyshynskyi holds Russian citizenship. A well-established practice in Russia’s hybrid war against the West is “passportization,” where citizens of neighbouring countries are given Russian passports as a way to divide loyalty. Knowing this dirty trick of Russian aggression, Ukraine makes it illegal for its citizens to hold another passport.
Russia is at war with the West and does not have a free press. There are very few real journalists in Russia and a great many Kremlin information warriors who call themselves journalists. Especially since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, anti-Ukrainian hate propaganda has become a major campaign of Russian hybrid warfare against the West.
Ukraine is in the vanguard when it comes to active defence against Russian information warfare. The SBU raid on “RIA Novosti Ukraine” and arrest of Kiril Vyshynskyi is evidence that Ukrainians are on their guard, and have the strength to withstand the massive infowar onslaught coming from Russia. But most of the press in western Europe and North America is not so resilient when it comes to Putin at war. Every time a Western journalist writes “crisis in Ukraine” instead of “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” Russian propaganda wins over a true reporting of events. Every time a Western journalist writes “pro-Russian separatist” instead of “Russian soldier” Russia wins. Russia has largely fooled the Western media into treating Kremlin lies and propaganda as a different point of view. When Western media present Russian lies equally with the truth of events for “balance” the effect is nihilism. The chaos and meaninglessness of nihilism serves Russian hybrid war better than any other weapon.
“RIA Novosti Ukraine” is just the tip of the iceberg of Russia’s information warfare campaign against the West. Ukraine is fighting the infection of journalism by Putin at war effectively. It’s long past time that other Western democracies joined Ukraine in meeting aggressor Russia on the battlefield of information warfare.