Werewolves and other creatures. What is happening to the Telegram channels of pro-Russian bloggers, politicians, and media
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Werewolves and other creatures. What is happening to the Telegram channels of pro-Russian bloggers, politicians, and media
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The complete defeat of Russian disinformation in Ukraine has not come yet, but the first stones have already begun to fall. Pro-Russian bloggers, who spoke to the Ukrainian audience via Telegram, and until recently, almost in unison, spread pro-Kremlin messages, are now "in search for the new rhetoric": some "switch sides on the go", some mask obvious indicators of working in the interests of the Kremlin, and some are just silent.
On the eve of and after the full-scale invasion of the Russian army to Ukraine, public figures who promoted the slogans of Russian propaganda faced the issues. Some of their Facebook pages or YouTube channels were blocked, where they had gathered an audience for years. Some have received criminal cases or ended up in custody. However, Telegram remained a safe haven where Russian lovers could spread Russian propaganda without hindrance. Through the years, the administration of the service has done almost nothing to stop the spread of disinformation. In this cozy ecosystem, pro-Russian channels create a parallel reality, spread propaganda, convey the words of collaborators and propagandists as truth, and quote each other.
We analyzed the Telegram channels of pro-Russian media, bloggers, politicians, and fugitive bloggers to understand whether their rhetoric has changed since the beginning of the full-scale war and whether this impacted the number of their audiences.
The object of the research: channels of pro-Russian bloggers, politicians, and media from the Ukrainian segment of Telegram. Detector Media analyzed the content of Telegram channels that systematically spread pro-Russian and anti-democratic messages in the Ukrainian information space before and at the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. We also checked the Telegram channels named after specific figures which regularly reposted and mentioned the network of channels administered by the Russian special services.
Read more about the methodology here.
Loyal dogs of Russian propaganda. Popular pro-Russian bloggers and media that have not changed their rhetoric
Anatoliy Shariy (Анатолий Шарий)
This is the channel of the pro-Russian blogger and politician Anatoliy Shariy (760,000 subscribers), a well-known Russian propagandist with anti-Ukrainian sentiments. The channel appeared on Telegram on April 22nd, 2019. In the conditions of a full-scale war with Russia, this channel has no overtly Russian rhetoric: its author, on the contrary, allegedly does not take sides in the conflict, seemingly defending the regular people. Therefore, it is not immediately apparent that Shariy is a supporter of Russia. Blogger’s posts are averagely read by 83% of his subscribers.
Anatoliy Shariy periodically mocks the actions of both the Ukrainian and Russian armies. However, in his posts, many theses support the actions of the Russian military or threaten the consequences of disagreement with the actions of the Russian leadership. Anti-democratic rhetoric can also be traced: he believes that the leadership of Ukraine is incompetent and subordinate to the West, whose high-ranking officials are also, according to him, not very intelligent. In particular, during the last three months, the blogger regularly criticized the decisions of the EU countries’ governments regarding the sanctions introduced against Russia.
Blogger ridicules Ukrainian politicians, humiliating them and portraying them in a negative light, periodically asserting that the authorities do not think about Ukrainians. In addition, Shariy sometimes tries to devalue the aid that Ukraine receives during the war, such as the help from international partners and private initiatives.
During the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, Shariy also allegedly did not take sides, simply reporting what was happening, supposedly promptly and impartially. But when it became known about the first successes of the Ukrainian army in the Kharkiv region, the blogger reported that the Ukrainian authorities would send “punishers” to the liberated territories, who would mock peaceful people.
The personal channel of pro-Russian journalist and blogger Olga Shariy, Anatoliy’s wife, was created on June 5th, 2019. The channel has almost 138,000 subscribers. In September, the number of channel followers increased dramatically. In one day on September 12th - by 5165, and on the previous week - by 13,000. In general, the audience grew by almost 20,000 in September. The readers of this channel are quite loyal; 73% of them constantly read the channel's publications.
The channel's rhetoric has practically not changed since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Olga Shariy conducts the channel in a rather rude, superficial way, using obscene vocabulary and transitions to personal insults against the Ukrainian authorities and Western politicians. Traditional for this channel is a Russian glossary such as "civil war" and "Nazis". The author often distorts the essence of what her opponents say. Most often, the targets of her attacks are President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Office of the President, and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
The channel's rhetoric also includes hate speech, discrimination against Ukrainians based on language (Russian speakers are more privileged), and region (residents of the western part of Ukraine are worse Ukrainians, a.k.a, "Nazis"). As Olga notes in one of her posts: "The war showed everyone that we really, really love this country. But it also confirmed to me [that we specifically love] the country, but not the state and the power."
The channel of her husband, Anatoliy Shariy (760,000 subscribers), and the party named after his last name (17,500 subscribers) quote Olga Shariy the most. Also, Olga is often quoted by the "Zerada" channel (more than 272,000 subscribers).
Olga Shariy offers the readers of her channel posts from her and Anatoliy's Telegram channels "Novoye Izdaniye", the Shariy’s party, and their own channel "Shariy.net". As a blogger, Olga often records videos, posts them on her YouTube channel, and reposts them on Telegram.
In addition to several publicly available channels, the Shariy couple also has so-called private channels, which allegedly discuss current issues with their subscribers. However, access to these channels is paid — the subscription costs 5 euros per month.
Lawyer and former civil activist Tetiana Montyan has two Telegram channels where she promotes slogans consistent with Russian propaganda. Both are called "#MONTYAN!". One of them is in the list of the top hundred Ukrainian Telegram channels. Since August 30th, 2018, the channel has gained 513,000 subscribers, while the other has just over 16,000. In her posts, Montyan uses specific slang that only increases her public disdain for Ukraine. For example, she calls Ukraine "Saloreich / Салорейх", and the leadership of the state - "Zelebobus / зелебобуси". The reach of posts on her most popular channel is 54% of the number of subscribers.
In her publications, she most often refers to Russian or pro-Russian channels such as "Stalingrad TV" (57,000 subscribers), "PryZrak Novorossiyi" (158,000 subscribers), and the channel of Russian propagandist Oleg Blokhin (42,000 subscribers). She is quoted by channels from the same pro-Russian "metauniverse", such as "Ukraina Novosti / Украина новости" (almost 40,000 subscribers), the already mentioned "PryZrak Novorossiyi / ПриZрак Новороссии", and Andriy Lysenko, a volunteer who carries humanitarian aid from Russia to the occupied territories (90,000 readers in Telegram).
Blogger Maxim Shikhaliev launched his Telegram channel "Sheikh Tamyr" (338,000 subscribers) in 2020. At first, Shikhaliev positioned himself as a sports blogger, distributing training videos on the channel, promoting his blog on YouTube, and publishing "humorous" posts. However, his channel gradually turned from sports to political topics, supposedly humorous posts were replaced by videos from Russian TV programs, and training sessions were replaced by anti-Western attacks and criticism of the Ukrainian authorities. Although Shikhaliev mentions his sports blog from time to time, the main content of the channel is devoted to spreading Russian messages and criticizing Ukraine. In general, his channel is a collection of classic anti-Ukrainian narratives and statements about "Zelensky's betrayal", "the ineffectiveness of anti-Russian sanctions", "the rotting West", "Ukraine's threat to neighboring countries", "Nazis", and "Russia's good attitude towards occupied territories and prisoners of the Ukrainian military" - a classic Russian propagandist’s technique in action. After worldwide leaders concern about recognizing Russia as a state sponsoring terrorism, Maxim Shikhaliev began to promote the message that Ukraine is a terrorist in this war. Along with statements about attacks and shelling allegedly by the Ukrainian military against the population, he also often refers to Ukraine as "UHIL" / УГИЛ (derived from the Russian acronym for ISIS, which stands for the terrorist organization the "Islamic State") [a.k.a, Ukrainian Islamic State].
Such aggressive rhetoric against Ukraine brought the blogger a significant audience of followers - since the beginning of February 2022, the number of his channel’s subscribers has increased by almost 2580%. However, according to TGStat, most of the channel’s views come from Russia — 57%, Ukraine — 21%. Currently, the Telegram channel "Sheikh Tamir" is in the top hundred of the Ukrainian Telegram segment, which Detector Media recently investigated. Despite the large audience, the average reach of the channel's posts is only 39.7%. Shikhaliev’s Telegram was most often mentioned by the pro-Russian channels "Kot Bayun / Кот Баюн" (62 subscribers), "KUCHA MALA / КУЧА МАЛА" (551 subscribers), and Ponomar (180,900 subscribers). The channel itself mainly mentions "ROZENGRAM" (5,000 subscribers), "Alexei Zhuravko / Алексей Журавко" (58,000 subscribers), and "Ponomar / Пономарь".
Ponomar / Пономарь
Telegram channel "Ponomar" (182,000 subscribers) was launched by blogger Andriy Ponomarenko in August 2020. Since then, he openly supports Russia and opposes the Ukrainian authorities and the "collective West". In addition to the open pro-Kremlin messages humiliating Ukraine, he also uses Russian vocabulary. For example, the classic "on Ukraine" / "на Украине" instead of "in" / "в Украине". Ponomarenko's channel is a mix of reposts from Russian and pro-Russian Telegram channels, memes about the Ukrainian government, the US leaders, and EU member states. However, this content was ignored by the channel’s Telegram users until the beginning of the full-scale war. Telegram channel’s audience began to grow only at the end of February 2022. During this time, the audience of the channel increased by 2533%. As in the case of Shikhaliyev, the posts do not even reach half of the audience: its coverage is almost 38%. Ponomarenko has not changed his approach to running the Telegram channel, so finding the blogger's original posts among the reposts is still challenging. Although the blogger writes less often than he reposts, most of his posts promote Russia's message about "the poor attitude of Western countries towards Ukrainian refugees." From time to time, he also spreads statements that "Russia is developing the occupied territories" or that "Ukrainian men are running away from the draft." Despite the not "signature" content, the channel is often mentioned by the Russian public, as well as "Sheikh Tamir", and former Ukraine’s People's Deputy from the Party of Regions Oleksiy Zhuravko (58,000 subscribers), who fled to Russia. In addition, Shikhaliev and Ponomarenko have several different Telegram channels, also mentioned in their main Telegram blogs.
The connection between the "Sheikh Tamir" and "Ponomar" channels goes beyond reposts in Telegram. Until the summer of 2022, Shikhaliev and Ponomarenko together posted content on the YouTube channel "Sheikh Tamir", and in July 2022, they launched a new YouTube project, "Mriya / Мрія", which they actively advertise on their Telegram channels as a "political program". Among the guests of their programs are other pro-Russian bloggers such as Dmitriy Vasilets. The project's Telegram channel was launched on June 28th, and now it has more than 19,000 subscribers.
Dmitriy Vasilets, leader of the "Derzhava / Держава" party, which has been banned from mid-June 2022, also runs his Telegram channel with 332,000 subscribers. The channel was created in March 2018, but it began active work during the presidential election campaign at the end of January 2019. Initially, the channel was focused on the elections and spreading accusations against Petro Poroshenko. The channel also distributed links from the pro-Russian publication "Strana UA", videos by Anatoliy Shariy, and reported on the "oppression of the Russian language". With such messages, the Vasilets Telegram channel grew its audience very slowly. In two years of functioning, until the beginning of 2022, he gained only a bit more than 10,000 subscribers. After February 24th, Vasilets supported the Russians and discussed events in the spirit of Russian propaganda, such as the stability of the Russian army, its support among Ukrainians, and that refugees from Ukraine will not receive support in the EU. Between these posts, he continued to promote the criticism of Poroshenko.
A sharp increase in subscribers to the Vasilets channel began on the eve of the ban on the Derzhava party between March 9th and 10th. In one day, the number of subscribers to the channel increased from 13,000 to 31,000 subscribers. Since then, the number of subscribers to the channel has begun to grow. Now the channel is in the first hundred of the largest Telegram channels in Ukraine. On average, more than 150,000 people read posts from the Vasilets channel. These posts are most often shared by the anonymous Telegram channels "Adequate Kyiv / Адекватный Киев" (857 subscribers), "Mriya" (19,300 subscribers), and the pro-Russian YouTube blogger Tarik Nezalezhko (101,600 subscribers). The latter's Telegram channel also often mentions Vasilets in its posts. More than to Vasilets, he refers only to "Sheikh Tamir" and the channel of Oleksandr Semchenko, a member of the list of traitors prepared by the "Chesno" movement (170,000 subscribers).
Politika Strany / Политика Страны [Country’s Politics]
The telegram channel "Politika Strany" is associated with the pro-Russian Internet media "Strana.UA", which due to the ban, has changed its website address to strana.best and continues to work, adapting to new conditions.
The Telegram channel was created on November 5th, 2016, and has 250,000 subscribers. On average, 29% of subscribers read the channel’s posts.
Today the channel is trying to hide its pro-Russian orientation. Many neutral or pro-Ukrainian posts conceal a small number of posts with pro-Russian narratives. Most often, the channel manipulates by using posts containing videos of houses and other civilian infrastructure destroyed by shelling. The channel shows videos of the consequences of Russian shelling in the same style (without additional explanations) as videos allegedly from the occupied territories. The open conclusion and analogy with other videos are imperceptibly promoted for readers as one of the most common Russian narratives "Ukraine is shelling the civilian population and civilian infrastructure objects in the occupied territories." He also promotes the following messages: "European energy crisis is caused both by sanctions against Russia and inept European leadership", "humanitarian and military aid is being stolen in Ukraine, partly under cover of the President's Office and other state structures".
Most often, the channel refers to Olesya Medvedeva’s channel called "Lesia iz Strany / Леся из Страны" (21,000 subscribers), "PavlovskyNews" (24,000 subscribers), and the eponymous channel of the pro-Russian politician "Andrey Portnov / Андрей Портнов" (88,000 subscribers). It also links to videos from its YouTube channel. In the posts, the authors of the channel often note "according to the Russian media", but they try to avoid clear indications of these media resources. The Russian Telegram channel "Agregator Pravdy / Агрегатор Правды" (more than 77,000 subscribers), "Meduza - LIVE" (1 million and almost 89,000 subscribers), and "Dezhurniy po SNG / Дежурный по СНГ" (a little more than 45,000 subscribers) like to quote "Politika Strany".
The former host of Medvedchuk's channels, Diana Panchenko, created her Telegram channel "Panchenko" (12,000 subscribers) on December 1st, 2021. At first, she presented her channel as a platform to promote her sports and political projects. She also reported on the progress of court cases related to her and criticized state TV channels. Later, when there was more news about the possible full-scale offensive by Russia, she began to post more actively and criticize the "collective West" for allegedly inciting panic. She also spread Russian fakes about Ukraine’s shelling of Russia, occupied parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, etc. For more than half a year of the full-scale war, Panchenko did not change her rhetoric. She is still spreading the narrative about "Western management of Ukraine", messages about "sorosyata", "invalidity of anti-Russian sanctions", which supposedly hit Europe harder than Russia, "corrupt volunteers", "the need to implement the Minsk agreements", and that "Ukraine could have avoided the deaths, but does not agree to negotiations."
Panchenko’s Telegram channel is one of the few whose audience was not affected by the full-scale war. There were no significant changes in the increase or decrease of subscribers - she harmoniously lost and gained an audience. Panchenko channel was most often mentioned in the pro-Russian propaganda Telegram channels such as "Vse v kuchu / Всё в кучу" (59 subscribers), "VelychkoLife " (1,000 subscribers), and "Sheptun Ukraine War / Шептун Украина Война" (56,000 subscribers).
The audience of Oleg Tsarev's Telegram channel was also not affected by the full-scale war since the former Ukrainian politician, who fled Ukraine in 2014, was already involved in spreading Russian disinformation. The author gained a much larger audience with the beginning of the full-scale war. The channel itself has almost 217,000 subscribers. Publications are regularly read by half of the channel's subscribers. Most often, the channel refers to the propagandist media "Ukraine.ru", "Zaporozhskaya Narodnaya Respublika / Запорожская Народная Республика" (4,000 subscribers), and the pro-Russian channel "Russian Demiurg / Русский Демиург" (57,000 subscribers). The channel mainly publishes materials from Russian propagandist TV. Tsarev is mostly quoted by such propagandist Telegram channels as "PolitNavigator / ПолитНавигатор" (39,000 subscribers) and the Russian propagandist "SOLOVIOV / СОЛОВЬЁВ" (1 million subscribers).
"Ukraine.ru" spreads outright disinformation. The channel is mostly full of fakes about Ukraine. It often emphasizes economic sanctions and discredits high-ranking Ukrainian officials and the population. Its news feed is filled with many posts containing fakes. Authors actively publish information; therefore, direct disinformation is hidden in the news. The channel has more than 120,000 subscribers, and the average reach of the publication is 26% of subscribers. The authors refer to "InformBuro-UFO / ИнформБюро–ЮФО" (44,000 subscribers), "Temy. Glavnoye / Темы. Главное" (56,000 subscribers), and "Doktor Sosnovsky / Доктор Сосновский" (118,000 subscribers). It reposts information from such Telegram channels as the "RIA Novosti", "RT in Russian", "Donbass reshayet / Донбасс решает" (77,000 subscribers).
The average reach of the post
The channel has been active since December 20th, 2017, and has more than 61,000 subscribers, but its posts are read by only a quarter of the channel's subscribers. It is the platform of Oleksandr Klymenko, the former Minister of Revenue and Duties in the government of Mykola Azarov, who fled Ukraine in 2014, but tried to influence Ukrainian politics in particular with his media ("Vesti", "Radio Vesti", "Vesti Reporter" magazine).
Klymenko Time does not directly publish slogans of Russian propaganda. They appear in extensive posts among other points of view on events or in articles, which are distributed by the Klymenko Time Telegram channel, as well as in the words and videos of collaborators, whose videos and quotes the channel publishes regularly.
Klymenko Time most often refers to the anonymous pro-Russian channels "Novostnoy / Новоstnoy" (2,500 subscribers) and "Zrada chy peremoha / Зрада чи перемога" (22,000 subscribers), as well as to the "Vesti" channel (23,000 subscribers), which Klymenko owns.
Shariy.net / Шарий.net
Telegram channel of the pro-Russian online edition Shariy.net has been operating since January 29th, 2018, and has more than 43,000 subscribers who read the channel quite actively: the average coverage of its publications is 90.6%. In mid-February 2022, Volodymyr Zelensky implemented the National Security and Defense Council’s decision which imposed sanctions on the domain of this edition. Interestingly, the channel does not publish direct pro-Russian theses. The channel’s content is generally dominated by world news, mainly from Russia and Ukraine. The author does not express his opinion but refers to propaganda publications as reliable sources. The author also gets reposts information from other Shariy’s Telegram channels. "Shariy.net" most often refers to the channels of propagandists couple "OLGA SHARIY" (138,6000) and "Anatoliy Shariy".
New Edition / Новое Издание
The Telegram channel "New Edition", which is owned by Olga and Anatoliy Shariy, also has its own YouTube channel. The edition was founded to circumvent sanctions against Shariy's previous edition, "Shariy.net".
The channel was created on November 1st, 2021. Today it has a broad audience (379,000 subscribers), but between September 6th and 12th, the channel lost 2,500 subscribers. Despite the significant audience from the Ukrainian segment of Telegram, the channel's attendance is not very active. Posts are read by an average of 23% of subscribers. Most often, the channel refers to the public channel of Olga Shariy (135,000 subscribers). The local Telegram channel "HK Kyiv / ХК Киев" (almost 193,000 subscribers), which is mostly focused on Kyiv news, is also among the leaders in citations. This channel is one of the four variations of the "Hueviy Kyiv / Хуевый Киев" channel, as well as the millionaire (subscribers) channel "Ukraine Now: News, War, Russia / Украина Сейчас: новости, война, Россия" (almost 1 million 590,000 subscribers), which has a much less popular Ukrainian-language version called "Ukraina na chasi | news 24/7, war, Russia / Україна на часі | новини 24/7, війна, Росія" (1578 subscribers). The Ukrainian-language channel positions itself as a "Telegram channel of unbreakable Ukraine", which offers operational news to its readers.
Among those who distribute the content of this channel are Olga and Anatoliy Shariy, as well as the Russian Telegram channel "Svodki opolcheniya Novorossii Z.O.V. (DNR, LNR, Ukraine, War) / Сводки ополчения Новороссии Z.O.V. (ДНР, ЛНР, Украина, Война)" with an audience of 290,000 subscribers.
Unlike the Telegram channels of the Shariy couple, this channel does not use aggressive rhetoric. The posts’ language is primarily neutral. However, it uses tactics similar to "Politika Strany": pro-Russian messages are blurred by a vast number of news articles, both domestic and foreign. The pro-Russian rhetoric of the channel can be seen by its use of specific manipulative tactics. For example, the authors generally select truthful news, but their slight emphasis shift distorts the accurate picture. The channel also often shares true quotes or information about events but separates them from additional context, warping their perception.
The pro-Russian blogger and public figure's channel was created on February 1st, 2019, and has 7,000 subscribers, with an average reach of publications is 64% of the total number of subscribers.
The channel reposts other propaganda channels and rarely publishes its own posts, which most often discredit the authorities of Ukraine. In general, posts appear seldom, but the channel is still active. Myroslava Berdnyk herself is currently under investigation for pro-Russian propaganda.
The channel has been active since March 13th, 2021, and has 328 subscribers. Publications are usually read by only 27% of subscribers. The channel of the Kharkiv deputy from the Shariy party spreads Russian propaganda, discrediting Ukraine and any of its actions: intimidating the audience, spreading outright lies, and praising Russia. The author publishes mostly emotionally colored publications with disinformation and the narrative that "Ukraine is a failed state."
This is the personal Telegram channel of the leader of the "Opposition Platform — For Life" party, which was banned in 2022. Since the beginning of the invasion, Rabinovich has been in Israel; although at first, he claimed that he was ready to return, the lack of flights to Ukraine prevented this. On February 14th, 2022, he posted that the war had begun, and the West had started it against Ukraine, calling everyone to leave the country.
The Telegram channel was created on September 2nd, 2019. His audience is only 1,641 subscribers, and since August 4th, its number has decreased. The average coverage of the post is 43% of readers.
Rabinovich generally did not change his pro-Russian rhetoric, but the tactics of promoting messages became less aggressive. Mostly, the channel posts entertaining content (memes), sometimes quite ambiguous, with allusions to the current events. The channel also has many reposts from other Telegram channels, mostly news channels, without an evaluation or analysis.
Pro-Russian messages are mostly hidden behind memes, anecdotes, or ambiguous quotes and hints.
Rabinovich is quoted the most in "Ukraine in shock. Lysychansk | Raisin | Lyman / Украина в шоке | Лисичанск | Изюм | Лиман" (almost 216,000 subscribers), "VelichkoLife" (1,200 subscribers) and "tsybulya / цибуля " (almost 23,000 subscribers). Most often, the channel quotes the already mentioned "Politika Strany", "Klymenko Time", and "Vesti".
How to switch sides timely.
Pro-Russian bloggers and media that have changed their rhetoric.
nagliy / наглый
The former presenter of the pro-Russian TV channel "Nash", Max Nazarov, launched a personal Telegram channel, "nagliy" (38,000 subscribers), on July 9th, 2018. Since then, he systematically spread pro-Russian and anti-democratic messages on his channel, criticized Ukrainian media and activists, and promoted the pro-Russian politician Yevhen Murayev and his channel "Nash". On the eve of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he rejected information about a possible Russian offensive, accusing "sorosyata" of inciting panic, criticized the authorities for introducing a state of emergency (February 23rd), and spoke of the Minsk agreements.
During the months of the full-scale war, Nazarov's rhetoric changed; now, he criticizes and ridicules mainly Russians. But from time-to-time old habits come back. For example, he still attacks Petro Poroshenko and his fellow party members, particularly the People's Deputy from the European Solidaruty party Iryna Herashchenko. He also sometimes resorts to anti-Western rhetoric — mostly attacking the United States and American politicians. Despite this, the change in Max Nazarov's position significantly affected his audience, which has fallen by almost 60% since the end of February. Before the full-scale invasion, he had more than 60,000 followers, and now he has 38,000. Along with this, the coverage of his posts reaches 65%. Most often, "nagliy" Telegram channel is mentioned by "Novostnoy / Новоstnoy" (2,300 subscribers), "SHOVISHCHE / СХОВИЩЕ" (17 subscribers) and "Sochnye novosti ot skuki / Сочные новости от скуки" (9,000 subscribers).
Kryuchok / Крючок
Deputy editor-in-chief of the currently banned resource "Strana.ua", Svitlana Kryukova, started her own Telegram channel "Kryuchok" on January 14th, 2019. Now it has 13,000 followers. Since August 2022, the channel has been steadily losing readers and has low attendance rates — only 30% of subscribers read its posts.
Kryukova now hides her once clear pro-Russian position. Most of her posts are reposts about news and current events without indicating her own assessment. The author mainly adheres to emotionally neutral vocabulary and the news format of the text. She spreads a lot of information from Ukrainian authorities and officials. However, her anti-Western views can be traced to remarks like "news from a parallel reality". She also admits hidden criticism of Zelensky, such as "A wise ruler looks for friends among enemies and keeps them closer than friends. But this is not our case."
Kryukova most often cites her own "Politika Strany" and the channel of the adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Anton Herashchenko (more than 55,000 subscribers). Also, Kryukova often referred to Anastasia Tovt’s channel, the journalist from "Strana.ua", which has only 372 subscribers. Kryukova's channel has a lot of self-citation to demonstrate the connections between individual posts.
Her channel is cited the most by "Novostnoy / Новоstnoy" (2,500 subscribers), "Telegrammy ot Valetova / Телеграммы от Валетова" (a Russian channel with an audience of 4,000 subscribers), and "Social Control / Суспільний Контроль" channel (5,000 subscribers).
Lesya iz Strany / Леся из Страны
The personal channel of the pro-Russian journalist, Olesya Medvedeva, "Lesya iz Strany", has existed since June 9th, 2019. Interestingly, the TGStat resource identifies it as a Russian-language Russian channel. Currently, the channel has more than 20,000 subscribers, but since April 2022, there has been a gradual decrease in the channel's audience. The average coverage of the post is 83% of readers.
This channel is cited the most by pro-Russian channels "Novostnoy / Новоstnoy" (2,500 subscribers), "Treason or Victory / Зрада чи Перемога" (over 21,000 subscribers), and "Soyuz bloggerov Ukrainy / Союз блогеров Украины" (almost 3,000 subscribers). The author of the channel most often cites the Telegram channel of the media she worked for, "Politika Strany", the channel of her colleague Max Nazarov "naglyi", and the channel "Treason or Victory" (22,000 subscribers). Medvedeva often reposts videos from her own YouTube channel.
After February 24th, Olesya Medvedeva changed her pro-Russian rhetoric to anti-democratic and oppositional. She allegedly loves Ukraine, in particular, Donetsk (she mentioned this in an ambiguous post dedicated to Ukraine’s Independence Day). The channel's language is quite rude and aggressive towards Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian authorities, and Ukraine's international partners. The author often uses manipulative methods of presenting the information. For example, conducts a survey among readers on ambiguous topics or with manipulative answer options.
People's Deputy from the monomajority, Maksym Buzhanskiy (30,000 subscribers), was a frequent guest on Viktor Medvedchuk's channels and voiced pro-Russian propaganda messages. He has been running his Telegram channel longer than he has been a People's Deputy — since December 18th, 2018. At first, he commented on political events in the spirit of pro-Russian propaganda, but at the end of 2021, he switched to criticism of Russia and the categorical politics of the Servant of the People party with a touch of anti-democratic rhetoric. Now Buzhanskiy spreads news from patriotic Telegram channels and regularly posts screenshots of Russian media with sarcastic comments. The average coverage of posts on his channel is 57%. The main distributors of the Deputy's content are the channel of Max Nazarov, the former deputy head of the Yanukovych Administration, Andriy Portnov (88,000 subscribers), and the former journalist and now the People’s Deputy of Ukraine, who is under the US sanctions, Oleksandr Dubinskiy (52,000 subscribers). In turn, in Telegram publications, Buzhansky refers to Max Nazarov, "Klymenko Time", and the anonymous Telegram channel "Novostnoy" (2,500 subscribers).
Vesti Telegram channel (23,000 subscribers), a product of the "Vesti" edition, owned by the "Multimedia-invest group" media holding, was launched on February 9th, 2019. The publication and the holding are related to the former Minister of Revenue and Duties of Ukraine, Oleksandr Klymenko. Until February 2022, "Vesti" constantly spread pro-Russian messages in the Ukrainian information space, justified Russia’s actions, and discredited the participants of the Revolution of Dignity. The Telegram channel used a little more manipulative techniques than on the publication's pages, including reposts from pro-Russian Telegram channels. However, after the full-scale invasion of Russia to Ukraine, "Vesti" began to mimic pro-Ukrainian publications, and the pro-Russian messages almost disappeared from its Telegram channel. The only thing left from the "Vesti" model of 2021 is the violation of journalistic standards and periodic manipulations on the topic of war. In particular, the Telegram channel publishes shelling videos of the civilians' houses in the occupied territories or the consequences of attacks on them. Although "Vesti" does not write about the involvement of our army in these attacks, this is the precise message of these posts. The edition generally publishes these videos without additional verification or with links to occupational Telegram channels. "Vesti" also tries to legitimize the collaborators and occupation administrations in the territories occupied by the Russians by quoting and spreading their statements.
Such changes had almost no effect on its audience. Although the channel saw a slight spike in subscriptions at the end of February 2022, the audience quickly fell back. Even though the backbone of the publication's subscribers remained, the coverage of posts is extremely low.
Mykhailo Dobkin, a pro-Russian politician from Ukraine, and former head of the Kharkiv regional administration (almost 14,000 subscribers), has been running his Telegram channel since October 30th, 2019. However, he runs it rather passively - with several months' breaks in publications. For example, his last post was published on June 30th, before that - on April 12th. But even with such a small number of posts, it is clear that Dobkin changed his rhetoric and began to support the Ukrainian authorities. Although shortly before the beginning of the full-scale war, he posted that he doubted a full-scale invasion of Russia and accused the authorities of Ukraine of inciting panic and fleeing abroad. Dobkin's channel is often mentioned by Telegram channels "Sochnye novosti ot skuki / Сочные новости от скуки" (9,000 subscribers), "SHOVISHCHE / СХОВИЩЕ" (17 subscribers), and "Novostnoy" (2,400 subscribers). Dobkin’s channel mostly mentions Max Nazarov, Max Buzhanskiy, and Andriy Portnov (88,000 subscribers).
Former presenter of the pro-Russian TV channel "Nash" Angelina Pychyk (4,200 subscribers) created her Telegram channel on February 11th, 2022. The National Security and Defense Council imposed sanctions against the "Nash" TV channel on the same day. Pychyk devoted her first post to this very topic. In addition, she wrote about the then still possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, mocking the statements of world leaders and their warnings. For example, on February 17th, she called the Pentagon chief's statement that "Russia is stocking up on blood and continues to withdraw troops to the borders of Ukraine" an "old American fake." On these topics and coverage of the situation in Kyiv in the first days of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pychyk grew its audience to almost 9,000, but in March, it gradually began to lose it. Currently, she has a little over 4 thousand followers, and the average reach of her posts is 65%.
After the full-scale invasion, she changed her rhetoric, like her colleague from the former TV channel, Max Nazarov, and began to call the Russian military occupiers, posting on her Telegram the consequences of shelling, etc. Angelina Pychyk mainly reposts posts from other Telegram channels, such as official ones (Ihor Terekhov or Vitaliy Kim's Telegrams), or the Telegram channels that mimic mass media ("Ukraine 24/7", "Ukraine now"), cites Russian mass media ("Dozhd" channel), and promotes personal channels (such as the video by the same Nazarov).
KHURSIN / ХУРСИН
Pro-Russian journalist and blogger Yevhen Khursin started a personal channel on May 27th, 2020. His audience is almost 4,000 subscribers, and the number is gradually decreasing. The activity of channel readers is average — 35% of subscribers follow its posts.
Today, the channel does not give the impression of being extremely pro-Russian. Although, for example, the dismantling of the commemorative plaque to the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov from the facade of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv University caused Khursin's disapproval. Channel’s content is diverse — from entertaining videos to political news. The author uses emotionally colored criticism of the authorities, although he posts mainly information from official sources.
Khursin is quoted mostly by the Russian Telegram channels such as "Narodnyi korrespondent / Народный корреспондент" (almost 6,000 subscribers) and "Religion and Politics. Alexander Voznesenskiy / Религия и политика. Александр Вознесенский" (almost 3,000 subscribers), as well as the Ukrainian "Sochnye novosti ot skuki / Сочные новости от скуки" (9,000 subscribers). Khursin himself most often quotes such Telegram channels as "headlines.????????" (over 51,000 subscribers), "Politika Strany", and "Klymenko Time".
KP in Ukraine (added after Fb comments of the channel’s author)
The official channel of the publication "KP in Ukraine" (1,200 subscribers) was created on August 4th, 2021. Its average post coverage is 36%.
"KP in Ukraine" is the former "Komsomolskaya Pravda in Ukraine / Комсомольская правда в Украине". The edition belonged to an oligarch close to Yanukovych, Serhiy Kurchenko. It then came under the control of the Agency for Search and Asset Management (ARMA), which never found a manager for Ukrainian media holding. Despite this, "KP in Ukraine" continues to work. Now the channel description states that it is temporarily run by the editor-in-chief as personal blog.
To analyze the content for pro-Russian rhetoric prompted the citation of the channel. According to the analytics service for Telegram TgStat, during its existence, the channel most often quoted and mentioned the Telegram channel of the pro-Russian edition "Klymenko Time", the Telegram channel "Kulturnaya Prachechnaya / Культурная Прачечная", the channel of the pro-Russian edition "Vesti" and the pro-Russian Telegram channel "Zrada chy peremoha / Зрада чи перемога", which indicates the mail on the mail.ru domain as a contact regarding advertising on the channel.
Next, we analyzed the content of the channel before the beginning of the great war, that is, for the entire time of the channel's existence until February 24, 2022. The analysis shows that the channel supported a generally pro-Russian (or at least joint with Russia) agenda — if not political, then socio-cultural. So, we record posts and shared posts about events in Russian showbiz’ life, for example, about the Russian MuzTV award in 2021 or a post about an interview with the "queen of the Russian detective" Alexandra Marynina, the farewell of the cultural elite with Oleg Tabakov in Moscow or an interview with the Russian singer Serov. The Telegram channel also published an exclusive comment from the lawyers of the Russian rapper Morgenstern when he was banned from entering Ukraine. The channel also quoted Russian officials with information that had no public significance.
The channel shared a post with material that broadcasts a Russian propaganda message about Ukraine's ties to the ISIS terrorist organization. The channel published the material with this caption: "Islamic terrorists use our country as a transit point and a convenient refuge". "Detector Media" wrote why Russia resorts to such tactics, and also debunked the manipulations surrounding it.
We also recorded posts fueling Russian narratives about "external governance", that, they say, Ukraine is governed by someone from outside. For example, writing about the newly appointed US ambassador to Ukraine, the channel noted that the ambassador is a person whose name "for some time has not been associated with the famous financier and billionaire George Soros." Then they refer to a quote from Trump's lawyer Giuliani, where he claims that the four previous ambassadors "were appointed solely under the patronage of Soros." They also speculate on the influence of Soros in the post with reference to publication about the French philosopher who met with the leader of the Belarusian opposition Svitlana Tikhanouskaya, allegedly on the instructions of Soros in the context of the influence on the protests in Belarus at the time.
The channel spread an ironic post with a selection of quotes from the event, where the origins of the conspiracy theory about Soros and foreign governance were discussed. So, in the post it is noted: "our Ukrainian “sorosyata” (they themselves called themselves that!) decided to prove that they are not like that." The authors of the post are ironic, saying that they do not understand why the participants of the discussion are ashamed of such a title.
The examples listed above are some of the similar content that the channel broadcast until February 24, 2022.
The channel has seen the posts distribution by channels that Ukrainian intelligence considers as hostile. For example, the channel spread messages about "insights" from the Telegram channel "Resident / Резидент" or rumors from "Legitimnyi / Легитимный".
After the full-scale invasion, the publication's channel behaves as pro-Ukrainian and patriotic. Posts containing pro-Russian rhetoric have not been recorded since February 24, 2022. There is a shearing of a channel that Ukrainian intelligence considers hostile, but the content of the post is not pro-Russian and does not spread disinformation.
However, it is not worth to share the post of such channels, even if it does not contain manipulations, but simply distributes photos and videos from the events. After all, this is how we indicate to subscribers that this is, apparently, a reliable source, which encourages them to subscribe to a channel that systematically spreads Russian disinformation. Also, sharing increases the citation index of the channel, which contributes to its promotion.
"They came for me." Pro-Russian Telegram channels that stopped functioning.
Pro-Russian politician Yevheniy Murayev (17,000 subscribers) launched his Telegram channel on March 19th, 2020. He did not post on it too actively but periodically published political statements, criticized the government, and sometimes praised Russia. By February 2022, his channel was followed by 10,000 subscribers. However, at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the audience of the Telegram channel began to grow and in May reached 18,000, then had a gradual decline. Interestingly, the channel's subscriber base was growing, even though Murayev published the last post on the second day of the full-scale war, February 25th. His previous post mentioned such a statement: "The West betrayed Ukraine." Thanks to this post and the call for surrender, Murayev got on the Board of Shame. Since then, it has been unknown where Murayev is and what happened to him.
Poluyev-live / Полуев-live
Former host of the "Nash" and "Ukraine 24" TV channels, Volodymyr Poluyev (2,600 thousand subscribers), created a Telegram channel on October 21st, 2019. He was not very active in Telegram, mainly criticizing the Ukrainian authorities during Zelensky's and Poroshenko's times. The red line in his Telegram channel was the topic of sanctions that the National Security and Defense Council introduced against the TV channels he worked for and other pro-Russian figures. After February 24th, Poluyev changed his rhetoric and turned his Telegram channel into a kind of news feed about the course of the Russian-Ukrainian war. He mainly referred to official data from the General Staff, regional administrations, Zelensky, etc. Poluyev published his last post on May 8th. The peak in the number of subscribers, as in most Telegram channels, happened at the end of February - then, Poluyev's audience was more than 4,000 subscribers. However, with the change in his rhetoric, followers started to unsubscribe from Poluyev’s Telegram channel.
Blogger and political PR specialist, Oleksiy Kurakin, created his Telegram channel on November 10th, 2018. In addition to the Telegram channel, he regularly wrote for the "Correspondent / Корреспондент" blogs and often popularized Viktor Medvedchuk.
As of today, there are only 847 subscribers on his channel. The largest two-way citation was recorded with the channel "FRONTovye Zametki / FRONTовые Zаметки" (almost 58,000 subscribers). This channel was also quoted by the Russian Telegram channels "Yuliya Vityazeva / Юлия Витязева" (over 100,000 subscribers), and "Shpaga v almaZah / Шпага в алмаZах" (654 subscribers). Among Kurakin's favorites were "ZeRada" (272,600 subscribers) and "Politika Strany".
The channel stopped functioning on February 28th, 2022. In the author's last post, he says that "the most favorable option for the West, "which is on our side", is to continue the war in Ukraine and turn it into a huge Aleppo. The more destruction and deaths, the more it is possible to demonize Russia, impose sanctions, push it out of world markets, and weaken the Russia-China bond. It's easier to buy a country that has been destroyed to the core as a wholesale product", "Everything that is being "infused" into our brain now cannot be called the truth. 99.9% of information is elements of propaganda and information warfare. From all sides", "Do you need an enemy? He is on TV — from a safe place, telling other people's children how to fight and die properly."
Detector Media closely monitors those who promote Russian propaganda in Ukraine. Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, we have been running the Board of Shame, where we record public support for Russian aggression. Eventually, the running of the list stopped because neither politicians nor media people dared to support Russians and make pro-Russian statements publicly. However, now we are witnessing the return to the information and political space of politicians who called for surrender and supported the invasion, particularly Anatoliy Burmich from "OPZZH". Max Nazarov, mentioned in this article, brought the pro-Russian politician and TV presenter, Andriy Palchevsky, back to the information space. In their conversation, DM’s analyst, Yaroslav Zubchenko, recorded a lot of good old anti-Western narratives. Therefore, we will continue to closely monitor resources and bloggers who are or were previously pro-Russian and do everything to prevent these people from becoming a legitimate part of the Ukrainian media space again.