The propaganda battle between Russia and Ukraine taking place on social media and the internet news channels is unlike anything the world has seen before. It’s not just governments and state-run media pitching in, but patriots on both sides of the war. From the daily list of Russian equipment destroyed posted by the Kyiv Independent:
These are the indicative estimates of Russia’s combat losses as of April 13, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/bZApwMmjpg
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 13, 2022
To theatrical pieces meant to scare the opposition:
Орки біснують від цього відео 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/RhhE8ksjju
— Pilot SamolyotОFF 🇺🇦 (@pilotmsv) April 10, 2022
To the Russian response calling out the manhood of Ukrainian fighters:
I’m response to a video of the Ukrainian girl pretending to cut off a Russian soldier’s head. pic.twitter.com/yiZ7ImVO61
— ILL Eagle (@Qaraqul) April 13, 2022
The same propaganda war is being applied to alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Flynn Coleman reports in Foreign Policy:
The battle for hearts and minds today takes place electronically. So, predictably, just as soon as the images from Bucha were published, the Russia propaganda farm rolled out a highly coordinated and targeted disinformation blitz, calling the footage a “provocation” and a “staged production.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the massacre a “fake attack.” Russia’s defense ministry posted to Telegram, saying some of the photos were “fake.” Pro-Kremlin social media accounts accused “Ukrainian Nazis” of the Bucha killings—a deceit that has already made it to China.
The Kremlin reverted to a well-worn slogan, “Do not believe your eyes,” in an attempt to sow confusion domestically—deceiving a Russian population already primed to disbelieve these atrocities. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s version of events is amplified by an army of pro-Kremlin activists who seed the field with falsehoods, doing everything from calling the victims in Bucha crisis actors (just as they did in Mariupol, Ukraine) to claiming to uncover falsified footage (that was then debunked by open-source investigators).
This tragic moment in time can be a turning point, however. Human Rights Watch has already documented many “laws-of-war violations” and is gathering evidence and eye witness accounts, which include harrowing testimony about summary executions and rape as a weapon of war. Graphic videos of the bodies of dead civilians have been shared—and verified. Satellite imagery appears to confirm a mass gravesite in Bucha. And these will not be the last atrocities uncovered. The integrity of the war crimes documentation process is essential, and collecting data is only the beginning.
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