Ukrainian Watchdogs Warn Against Foreign Interference

On January 28, 2019, the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) identified the following as the key threats from Russia that may influence the Ukrainian presidential elections scheduled for this spring: psychological operations, cyber provocations, financial support, and kinetic pressure.

CVU, operating since 1994, is one of the oldest and most well-known Ukrainian election watchdogs. With the March presidential elections fast-approaching, CVU is drawing public attention to the increasing threat of foreign interference, first and foremost by the Russian Federation.

CVU experts emphasize that Ukrainians in remote areas close to the Russian border have poor access to Ukrainian media. As a result, rural dwellers mostly consume Russian TV that is heavily controlled by the Kremlin. Together with disinformation spread via social networks, the consumption of Russian TV by rural Ukrainians gives the Kremlin powerful information tools with which it can influence the electoral process in Ukraine.

“Now the Russian propaganda machine tries to use such dependence [on Russian media] as much as possible, and thus significantly increases the percentage of topics related to the Ukrainian elections,” CVU reports.

Among other threats, the experts point at the opacity of many candidates’ sponsorship. They say that up to fifty percent of funds that candidates spend during the elections are “shadow financial resources,” meaning that their source is unknown and that the expenditures are not officially reported. Such hidden support may be given not only to candidates but also to media outlets that serve them as mouthpieces. The experts are sure that these warning signs merit urgent measures from the government and law enforcement bodies.