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Russian Misinformation, Zelensky’s Denial Paved Way For Putin To Further Aggression. Here’s How

By: Shankhyaneel Sarkar


Last Updated: February 23, 2022, 08:29 IST

A Russian soldier smiles during military drills in Rostov region in Russia (Image: Reuters File)

A Russian soldier smiles during military drills in Rostov region in Russia (Image: Reuters File)

The Ukraine-Russia crisis is not only emanating fears of war, bloodshed and loss of lives and livelihoods but also an information crisis as well

While addressing a press conference with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, his US counterpart Antony Blinken highlighted to the members of the press present that the US laid out Putin’s plans clearly on how he plans to invade Ukraine.

This is not entirely incorrect as the US began highlighting the threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty as early as January which only intensified further in February when US president Biden clearly said that the Russians are planning an full-scale invasion.

What was interesting was Ukraine president Zelensky too denied that there were any plans echoing Russian foreign ministry and Russia president Vladimir Putin’s tone as all three accused the US and the West of spreading hysteria. To make the western leaders look foolish the Russian foreign ministry even shared memes and foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova even wanted to know the dates of Ukrainian invasion so that ‘she could plan her vacation’. Zelensky even ignored Biden’s concerns regarding him attending the Munich Security Conference only to see days later Putin approving a bill that might bring Russian tanks closer to Kiev.

But in the last 48 hours a lot has changed. Russia recognised the so-called sovereignty of rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. Then Putin further got approval to use his military ‘abroad’ making the Western leaders wonder if sending military to those areas would amount to an invasion. Russia has backed the rebel militias of these regions for the last eight years but the US said action would be taken when the ‘tanks start rolling’.

Meanwhile, an information war has been going on between journalists on both sides. Elliot Higgins, journalist who runs investigative journalism portal Bellingcat, over the past few weeks investigated Russia’s claims of Ukrainian aggression only to find that the Russian propaganda machine was working round the clock to justify future invasion.

Reports by news agencies the Guardian and VICE News show that Russia’s claims were dubious and they highlight investigations done by few investigative journalists who claim that Russia was peddling misinformation to justify its actions.

For example, Russia earlier claimed that Ukrainian shelling decimated Russia’s border infrastructure. It claimed that the area affected was inside Russian territory but it was in the rebel held regions. The Russians also claimed that they destroyed a Ukrainian BTR-70M type armored personnel carrier (APC) – a military vehicle – but Ukraine did not own any BTR-70M type APC.

News agency Axios, also called Denis Pushilin, the so-called head of state of Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), claim that it was evacuating Donetsk’s residents to Moscow due to Ukrainian shelling was dubious.

Pushilin took to Telegram and posted a video online on his website to claim that there was increased risk of invasion but Bellingcat and Axios confirmed that this video was shot two days earlier using Metadata available from the video on Telegram.

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first published:February 23, 2022, 08:28 IST
last updated:February 23, 2022, 08:29 IST