How Russia runs disinformation campaign against Zelensky – Report

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A recent Washington Post report based on Kremlin documents has unraveled how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration used a group of Russian political strategists to push a disinformation campaign to malign Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

The platform said the documents received from a European intelligence service revealed how Russia led by Putin earns its disinformation superpower status.

The documents include screenshots of a sophisticated digital dashboard measuring how well Vladimir Putin’s operatives spread falsehoods and propaganda to undermine democracies.

READ : Germany uncovers pro-Russia disinformation campaign on X – Report

“The files, numbering more than 100 documents, were shared with The Washington Post to expose for the first time the scale of Kremlin propaganda targeting Zelensky with the aim of dividing and destabilizing Ukrainian society — efforts that Moscow dubbed “information psychological operations,” part of the report reads. 

The Washington Post reported that this dashboard is reviewed nearly weekly by the Kremlin to measure the success of its “information psychological operations” targeting Ukraine. 

A translation of a sample screenshot from the dashboard indicates that it measures goals including discrediting the Ukraine government, dividing the elite in that country, demoralizing the Ukrainian armed forces, and creating divisions among the Ukrainian population. 

The platforms listed by the Russian officials that they use to spread disinformation include Twitter (X), Facebook, Telegram, and Instagram.

According to the report, Russian disinformation operatives internally use the Orwellian shorthand “additional reality” to describe the false claims they create and spread. 

One of the dashboards brags about getting two million views of a false claim that the family of a killed Ukrainian soldier had not received any support from the government. Another win was the spread of the falsehood that Kyiv defines its main war aim as “to fight to the last Ukrainian.”

“By early March, dozens of hired trolls were pumping out more than 1,300 texts and 37,000 comments on Ukrainian social media each week, according to one of the dashboard presentations. Records show that employees at troll farms earned 60,000 rubles a month, or $660, for writing 100 comments a day, “ the report reads.

“Most of the strategists’ reports to their political masters focused on the volume of content produced and total views, but for the first five months, they offered little in the way of evidence that the effort was having any impact on Ukrainians.”

The documents also include a price list to pay social media influencers “willing to work with Russian clients” and to pay up to $39,000 for pro-Russia commentaries published in major media outlets in the U.S. and Europe. 

Nurudeen Akewushola is a fact-checker with FactCheckHub. He has authored several fact checks which have contributed to the fight against information disorder. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 via Twitter.

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