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Russia's misinformation offensive impedes diplomatic efforts to end the war - Africaflavournews


The Russian assault on Ukraine is not just an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation that is producing horrific destruction and 
civilian torment. It's also the biggest war of the modern misinformation era.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his mouthpieces are weaving the most audacious and fatuous alternative reality surrounding any 21st-century conflict  one that renders current diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the war meaningless and futile.
On Thursday, for instance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed with a straight face after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart in Turkey which, not surprisingly, failed that Russia "did not attack Ukraine."
Not only was Lavrov's claim a lie, as the world knows, it was especially offensive since it came a day after a horrific Russian attack on a children's and maternity hospital in Ukraine that has been widely denounced as a war crime. And it coincided with unfounded claims from Moscow, which were even picked up by China in its efforts to boost Russian propaganda, that the United States had a bioweapons program in Ukraine, which officials in Washington fear could be laying a pretext for Russia's own use of chemical or biological weapons against civilians.
    "Unfortunately, I can confirm that the Russian leadership, including Minister Lavrov, live in their own reality," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNBC on Thursday. "He told me looking in my eyes that the pictures of pregnant women being taken from under the rubble of the maternity house are fake."
    Misinformation warfare has long been a weapon of the Russian state. Moscow spun multiple conspiracy theories about the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in 2014, apparently by a Russian missile system, for instance.
    And Russian state media aired an interview in which two alleged spies blamed for using a nerve agent to poison a Russian defector in England in 2018 absurdly claimed they were in the country to visit a famed cathedral spire in the city of Salisbury.
    But the misinformation offensive has hit a new peak in the war on Ukraine, which Putin falsely justified by saying the country needed to be "de-Nazified" and did not have a right to exist as a state. The phrase was especially egregious given that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II. Russian state media has portrayed Russians as victims of the war and covered the invasion as an attempt to liberate the Ukrainian population even as bombs and missiles rain down on civilians.
    It is an approach that has multiple payoffs for Moscow. It can be used as cover for atrocities and potential war crimes like the attack on the maternity hospital. Misinformation also plays into the Kremlin's false narrative about the nature of the war -- that it is the victim, which is served up to Russians on state media networks.
    The Russian claims might be absurd but they also find an audience among conspiracy theorists on social media and can be used by propagandists, even in Western countries, to cast doubt on the credibility of leaders building a united front against Moscow. CNN's Daniel Dale reported on Thursday, for instance, that videos falsely described as showing Ukrainian "crisis actors" have been viewed millions of times on pro-Russia social media accounts in the last two weeks.

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