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On the example of Russian-Ukrainian relations the world community faced a new type of aggression – the so-called hybrid war. The whole world observes the Russia`s funding and arming of insurgents on the south-east of Ukraine. With their help it performs military operations, organizes provocations, diversions, terrorist attacks in the territory of Ukraine, destroying infrastructure, upsetting state`s economy, exterminating civilians. Russia deals destruction and chaos. Meanwhile, the Kremlin completely denies its implication in conflict in Ukraine, describing it as internal conflict or civil war.

One of the most important elements of hybrid war is an information war. The citizens of Russia, Crimea, the south-east of Ukraine have already become the victims of deceitful and cynical propaganda of Russian mass media.

Mass media is a powerful weapon in information war.

In unannounced war to Ukraine the Russian mass media – TV and radio broadcast promote solving a lot of military missions. Crimean blietzkrieg implemented with the support of Russian-language population, influenced in appropriate way by Russian propaganda may serve as an example.

Currently Russia possesses the most powerful outreach resource in the world. Its formation became possible as a result of accumulation of power in the hands of a single person – Vladimir Putin has been governing the country for almost 15 years. During this period he managed to establish mass media organizations fully controlled by the regime. The most severe mopping-up of mass media was performed in recent years. Last year the law was enacted that prohibited advertisement transmission by commercial cable channels since the beginning of 2015. These developments became a serious blow to private channels – it would be more difficult for them to compete with state mass media which run by the state. Foreign companies are forced to pull the plug as well: the amendments to the Law on mass media adopted in 2014 restrict the foreign equity in mass media to 20 %.

Today Russia has practically lost independent TV and radio channels. Those that voice criticism regarding government actions act in a well-defined field – nothing more nor less. Practically all media organizations execute state`s order. One can say, nonconformity in Russia became a criminal offence. Informational resources with the policy that contradicts the Kremlin`s are banned, independent journalists and editors are dismissed subjected to staging a case and if pressure and threatening do not help they are simply killed. Internet media also faces all-out offensive: the adopted law on extremism allows blocking site without the court`s permission for the calls for public events which are supposedly held with breach of the law. Persuasion of overwhelming majority of Russians that the war in Ukraine was launched by the West against Russia as well as unanimous support of aggressive government policy by the most part of the Russians may be considered as undoubted “achievement” of the Russian propaganda.

Not merely mass media tell lies in Russia, but highly positioned politicians as well. Moscow doesn’t accept its participation in military clashes in the territory of Ukraine and hides the fact of support of terrorists. And at the same time it sends to Ukraine humanitarian convoys with weapons, ammunition and fuel for insurgents. Right after the next delivery of such “aid” the fire in the conflict zone thickens and hundreds of civilians die. However, Putin feels free to tell the whole world that Russia has nothing to do with escalation in conflict zone and the Russian weapon, heavy military equipment, “GRADs” and “BUKs” which are used by insurgents to fire on civilians and by one of which the Malaysian Boing 777 was shoot down, one may “easy as pie buy” darn near in neighbourhood store. Despite of the obvious facts of Russia`s involvement in military and financial support of separatists, presence of the Russian militarists (currently about 9 thousands military servants) and heavy military equipment (tanks, armoured vehicles, rocket systems “Uran”, “Smerch”, heavy flamethrower rocket systems “Buratino”) in the territory of Ukraine, Russian media continuous to allege the civil character of Donbass war. Some Russian citizens, being influenced by Russian propaganda, went to Ukraine to fight for “Novorossia” or so-called LNR and DNR people`s republics. All these people believe that they combat against “Ukrainian fascists” and hired guns: American, Poland, Lithuanian, Finnish.

Via all the television channels and media the journalists don’t grow weary in lying that Ukrainian troops shoot civilians. One striking example of that lies is bombardment by pro-Russian insurgents of the checkpoint near Volnovakha on January 13, 2015, which resulted in 12 dead and 16 injured. As in case with shot civil airplane, pro-Russian insurgents have immediately reported about successfully executed operation, and later, when victims from civilian population were found out, tried to blame Ukrainian military for the tragedy. Then the Russian media started talking that the bus supposedly trips a mine. But the conclusion of the OSCE monitoring mission is clear: the bus near Volnovaha was crushed by rockets fired from the territory controlled by Russian insurgents.

Aggressive and cynical propaganda campaign unleashed against Ukraine aims at encouraging the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine to betray their own state and support the aggressor. The insurgents use Donbass civilians “in shady” as a lee, but actually as “food for powder”. The citizens of the occupied territories face the most difficult situation having no other sources of information in addition to Russian television. They are under a constant influence of deceitful Russian propaganda and extremely hostile to the official Kyiv authorities. The Russian media constantly convince them that it is Ukrainian troops who fire on dwellings, schools, hospitals, that they would kill the Russian-speaking Donbass citizens only because they speak Russian and “want to be with Russia.”

Kremlin informational troops misinform population imposing far-fetched stamps: “punitive operation of Kyiv junta,” “Ukrainian fascists,” “American insurgents” and so on.

Russian television organizes so-called “eye-witness reports,” which are in fact staged acts of terror that are represented as the atrocities of the Ukrainian army. On January 22, 2015 a missile fired from the launcher hit the public transport stop in the city of Donetsk – causing deaths, according to various sources, of 8-15 people. It is indicative that for some reason at this instant and just at that spot there were Russian journalists, who presented the incident as a shooting of civilian population by Ukrainian military, although it is well known that the positions of the Ukrainian military were at least 15 kilometers away from the place of fire.

Following it, another terrorist attack, even more cruel and cynical shelling of absolutely pro-Ukrainian Mariupol from GRADs and SMERCHes on January, 24 only confirmed the fact that terrorists are ready for further killing civilians to achieve their goals. As a result of the attack 30 people were killed and 90 were injured, including children, there are also badly wounded. OSCE special monitoring mission has already confirmed that the firing was launched from the north-east direction, from the territory controlled by the insurgents.

Russian media is a threat to European security.

On the example of the “Russian spring” in Crimea and artificial incitement of separatist sentiment in south-eastern Ukrainian regions it is clear that the Russian propaganda poses no less danger than actual combat. Having the experience of Chechnya, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria, in the war launched against Ukraine Kremlin makes active use of well-proven technologies, with the help of which mass media quite successfully manipulates people`s consciousness, destroying psyche, sowing the seeds of hatred, mutilating the destinies of people influenced by the ideas of “Russian world”.

The importance that is attached by Kremlin to the consolidation of its positions in foreign countries in informational sphere is confirmed by the fact that currently Russia has a world lead in propaganda expenditures – about 1,6 USD billion. And these expenditures are ever increasing. Only the International Information Agency “Russia Today” intends to obtain 150 USD million applied in budget for 2015, and TV channel “Russia Today” will get more than 360 USD millions. Previous November International Information Agency “Russia Today” launched one more large-scale project – “Sputnik”, intended to join a score of sites and powers of “Voice of Russia” radio broadcaster. It is planned to broadcast in 45 languages and in 130 cities of the world. The main objects of influence would be USA, Canada, Western Europe, China, India, Latin America, Japan and Middle East.

Europeans are gradually realizing that Ukraine may become not the last victim of Moscow`s revanchist plans towards reformation of European and global security architecture. The first to feel destroying influence of Russian propaganda and imposing of ideas of the so-called “Russian world” were Baltic countries and Eastern European countries. Specifically the recent Estonia`s experience shows that among the Russian language citizens that constitute approximately one quarter of the country`s population, the number of those who aggressively express their pro-Russian position has risen. Such sentiments increased in Latvia as well. Naturally, this is a matter of serious concern for the government of these countries, especially given the constant V. Putin`s declarations that Russia will “defend” compatriots abroad and a maniacal desire to rewrite history to fit its geopolitical plans.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, given the seriousness of the situation (currently about 6% of the Russian-speaking population live in Lithuania and about 30% of the media content is Russian production), proposed at least 90% of TV programs to be broadcasted in the official languages of the European Union. In her statement, she noted: “Today, no one doubts that information security is a part of national security. Propaganda, incitement to war and hatred, disinformation pose a threat to democracy and security of our country from the outside. We must implement measures and more actively integrate into the information space of the European Union.” Following the developments in Ukraine and the fact that the Russian media succeed in “effective” mislead of the foreign audience about the events in Ukraine, it is difficult to quarrel with her statement.

Great Britain, Denmark, Lithuania and Estonia referred to European commission seeking bringing appropriate measures against Russian propaganda campaign. The question is to establish an alternative European Russian-language channel for the adequate coverage of events and “accurate and highly exact” news based on reliable evidence. Such decision adopted by the EU countries caused hysteric reaction in Russia, as far as all that huge costs spent on propaganda may appear to be wasted. Such Kremlin reaction can only mean that the adopted decision was correct and timely.

Contemporary history of the European continent revealed that threats to national security of the European countries still were not defined and evaluated in proper manner. Propaganda, manipulative and disinformation war, as a component of the general Russia’s aggressive policy, should disabuse Europe of notions. We have powerful, experienced and subtle enemy which we should counteract immediately and in solidarity.

Author :
EurActiv Network