Russia has been preparing the residents of the Crimea for a full-scale war against Ukraine for years – research

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Even before the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia was preparing the media landscape in Crimea for escalation and splitting Ukrainian society through propaganda in the Russian media.

Human rights activists and researchers discussed this topic at a press conference and presentation of the research “Hate speech in online media outlets covering events in Crimea” on June 6.

The authors note that the research was completed in early 2022, but the full-scale invasion thwarted its presentation.

In the research, we recorded many calls for the extermination of Ukrainians in the Russian media. Given the atrocities of the Russian occupiers, which they have been committing on our land since February 24 and until today, those calls pursued one goal: informational preparation for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Ukrainian people,” said Crimean Human Rights Group researcher Iryna Siedova.

The authors analyzed 11 Russian-language online media outlets that wrote about Crimea, including RIA Krym, KP Krym, Krym. Realii, Russkaya Vesna, and others for the period from December 2020 to the end of May 2021.

The materials were searched, in particular, with the help of keywords that express hatred for Ukrainians: “banderovtsy”, “malorossy”, “svinomovnye”, “ukrofashisty”, “khokhly”, “ukropiya”, “Khokhlostan” and others.

In total, the analysts found 560 publications containing manifestations of hate speech. That is, the media materials contained filthy words, direct insults, dehumanization (for example, “these are not people, but animals”). There were also calls for violence, the division of society on the friend-or-foe principle, disrespect and contempt for another group or culture.

Most publications analyzed on ten of the eleven sites selected for the research contained hate speech, particularly against Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, as well as strong anti-American rhetoric.

In addition, these media outlets use manipulative and covert hate speech to influence the audience’s beliefs. This is done to avoid legal liability, which is provided for by the legislation of many European countries,” says candidate of psychological sciences, expert psycholinguist Yulia Krylova-Hrek. “It has become possible to prove and substantiate the presence of psycholinguistic manipulations through the psycholinguistic analysis of media text. In particular, manipulations are the violation of the causal relationship, the logic of coverage of events, the substitution of concepts in the materials.” Krylova-Hrek adds that Russian journalists often consciously use methods and techniques that affect the emotional and sensory processes of a person and block areas of rational thinking. Also, the media often cover the situation one-sidedly and deliberately create a negative image.

The analyzed media, the researcher notes, actively use such words as “fascists”, “Nazis”, etc., and also substitute concepts, for example, when the word “nationalists” is deliberately replaced with the word “Nazis” due to their phonetic similarity.

Dangerous trick is the polarization of society by dividing the Ukrainian citizens on the principle of good (friends)-or-bad (foes). These Russian media consider the representatives of western Ukraine, patriotic, pro-Ukrainian citizens, the Ukrainian-speaking population, and people who supported the Revolution of Dignity to be bad. This is aimed at escalating the conflict within society and splitting it,” Yulia Krylova-Hrek comments.

In addition, publications often use the thesis of denying the state sovereignty of Ukraine and Ukrainian national identity. Yulia Krylova-Hrek notes that such theses aim to engrave on the audience’s minds the idea that Ukrainians are an ethnographic group of Russians, Ukraine is an artificial state entity, and the Ukrainian language is a regional dialect. There are also such phenomena as Banderophobia and Ukrainophobia which act as “scarecrows” for readers of Russian-language content.

Finally, the researchers comment that the full-scale Russian invasion and tragic events currently taking place in Ukraine testify to the effectiveness of Russia’s media influence and shift the hatred disseminated by the Russian media for eight years to the battlefield.

In particular, according to Tetiana Pechonchyk, Chair of the Human Rights Center ZMINA, the monitoring of hate speech in Crimea in 2014-2017 showed that Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars were the main targets of hate speech in the media landscape of the occupied peninsula with three-quarters of all recorded manifestations of hate speech directed precisely against Ukrainians. “This spiral of hatred has been unraveling for many years and has led to a new wave of the war of aggression against Ukraine,” she added.

The full text of the research “Hate speech in online media outlets covering events in Crimea” is available here.

Watch the video from the event here.