The Kremlin’s disinformation campaign that accompanied its invasion of Ukraine five years ago continues to propagate fake news during the pivotal Ukrainian presidential election cycle today. During Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s press-conference on the results of Russian diplomacy in 2018, Lavrov once again repeated some of the most notorious false narratives.
“As for what is taking place in Ukraine now, I am far from being the only person who would like to see adequate policy there…As for the criteria for being adequate, this is respect for one’s own commitments, the Constitution and other laws. Everything else is inadequate, starting from the anti-constitutional coup d’etat when nationalists came to power and began to openly demand, like Dmytro Yarosh, the extermination or expulsion of Russians from Crimea,” Lavrov stated.
In reality, there was no coup, no matter how many times the pro-Kremlin disinformation machine keeps repeating it. The Maidan demonstrations in 2013 resulted from President Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the EU Association Agreement (due to Kremlin pressure), which halted Ukraine’s progress toward strengthening its relationship with the EU. Yanukovych and his government fled the country after the bloody shootings in central Kyiv in February 2014. Following this, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine took the lead and voted to remove him as president since he withdrew from his duties in an unconstitutional manner.
Nationalists never came to power in Ukraine. In fact, the nationalistic Svoboda party only garnered 4.17 percent of the vote during the 2014 parliamentary elections, which does not qualify for entering the Rada.
As for allegations that Yarosh called for exterminating or expelling Russians from Crimea, they exist only in Russian propaganda. Not a single video, post, or article in reputable media exists that would prove this statement. Neither Yarosh, nor any other prominent Ukrainian politician, has ever threatened any repressions against Crimeans. But propagandists actively distributed this fake news during the Crimea takeover operation to cultivate anxiety and fear in Russian-speaking regions and to justify the Kremlin’s military aggression.
Even after five years, pro-Kremlin propagandists still seemingly seek to denigrate the post-Maidan development of Ukraine. These propagandists attempt to discredit Ukraine’s development by citing human rights violations and government corruption as factors that make Ukraine “undemocratic.” During the election campaign, such efforts to besmirch Ukraine’s democracy might translate into attempts by propagandists to boost anti-Western and anti-European candidates who wish to make Ukraine more pro-Kremlin.