Kremlin’s five key theses about the Minsk agreements on Ukrainian social networks
The Minsk agreements are the cornerstone of the peaceful settlement of war. At least, this is what pro-Kremlin users mention on social networks. The issue of agreements in the Russian interpretation is indeed one of the critical issues in the Kremlin's disinformation campaigns, including constant accusations to Ukraine regarding its non-compliance with the Minsk agreements. However, Russian mercenaries regularly break the silence in the war zone, violating all agreements. According to Ukrainian experts, the Minsk agreements, in the form in which they were adopted in 2015, need to be clarified and updated. Kremlin prepared many traps for Ukraine.
Detector Media noticed an increase in the number of messages about the Minsk agreements by investigating the Kremlin's misinformation on Ukrainian social networks. In the context of Russia's potential military offensive against Ukraine, propagandists increasingly talked about these agreements. Moreover, sometimes they even contradicted themselves. Detector Media analyzed more than 14,000 messages on Ukrainian social networks to better understand the Kremlin's tactics in promoting the Minsk agreements.
Sources: Ukrainian segment of Facebook, YouTube, Telegram, and Twitter. By Ukrainian segment, we describe posts of profiles, pages, groups, and channels that are located in Ukraine or have indicated their location in Ukraine.
Period of analysis: February 1-14th, 2022.
Read more about the research methodology here.
Here are the key theses of pro-Kremlin pages and channels on Ukrainian social networks.
- "If the Minsk agreements will not be fulfilled, the war will erupt"
Propagandists claim that the Minsk agreements are a path for problem resolution in Ukraine. They suggest that Ukrainians stop whining about the agreements’ imperfections and start implementing them. Otherwise, Ukrainians will face war. One of the pro-Kremlin authors writes: “Zelenskyi did not make a peaceful decision regarding Donbas. He is a criminal and pushes his soldiers for bloodshed, encourages Ukrainian banderovtsi (from "Bandera", "укробандеровцев" in Russian) to be the first ones to fire on Donbas, violating the first silence and not performing Minsk agreements on his instruction. These are facts, and he will not be able to prove it wrong."
Ukrainian authorities are accused of preparations for war. Propagandists say it is easier for Ukrainians to fight than fulfill their obligations and keep the peace. Several anonymous Telegram channels of the self-proclaimed republics regularly repeated the message that non-fulfillment of agreements makes Ukrainians - terrorists, as Ukraine violates peace and provokes war. Therefore, we can see a lot of speculation about peace and human lives. For example, “the peace has no price because human life is priceless. If the Minsk agreements are not fulfilled, then this means a renunciation of a peaceful settlement."
Meanwhile, propagandists almost immediately said that Ukraine would lose in the event of war. For example, the following messages are mentioned on YouTube: “If Zelenskyi will not unfreeze the Minsk agreements and will not choose the path of Minsk communiqué, then war will be the only path for him, and this war will probably be short." Propagandists warn that in such a case, the new agreements will be much tougher: "In the case of a military defeat, Zelenskyi will not have another option except for signing new agreements which would be tougher than Minsk, and we will regret that we did not fulfill the old ones".
The position of pro-Kremlin pages and channels on Ukrainian social networks can be summarized in one statement: "Overall, in this game, the third option is not given: execution of Minsk agreements or war". In addition, they mentioned a precise date by which Ukraine must fulfill the political part of the agreements - May 1st, 2022. From this day, Russia will start paying social benefits to those who live in the occupied territories. Authors of this post claim that such an order from Putin gives a deadline for Ukraine and the West: "After this, there will be other possible steps, including recognition of ORDLO, and a more intense integration of the occupied territories into the economy Russia, which has already intensified over the last six months».
- "The West and Russia have conspired against Ukraine to force the launch of Nord Stream-2 and implement the Minsk agreements"
This is yet another portion of "external management" from pro-Kremlin pages and channels of Ukrainian social networks, this time in the context of the Minsk agreements. This anti-democratic rhetoric prevails in most articles about the Minsk agreements. Conspiracy theories that pro-Kremlin pages and channels are spreading strike in detail and intrigue. The key thesis is a conspiracy. However, people, states, and organizations allegedly behind this conspiracy are constantly changing. The most popular version is that the "collective West" countries led by the United States have conspired together. "For more than one and a half hours, the grandfather Biden forced a patriot who is trading TV series with Russia to compromise and fulfill Minsk agreements. However, this information cannot be found in the press releases… The United States, especially Biden, who forced Petro Poroshenko to sign the Minsk agreements, is also forcing Ze."
Propagandists even used Putin's phrase about the "beautiful girl" that the Russian president mentioned during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron to demonstrate this "conspiracy". They claim that the "Western" media allegedly agreed that "these were words addressed to Ukraine" to discredit Putin and make an elephant out of a fly. "This way, Zelenskyi had to parry and respond to this stupid question at a press conference with Macron."
This is followed by reports from the American media about the dates of Russia's offensive. Propagandists mention USA’s direct blackmail of Zelenskyi. Furthermore, Biden gave Zelenskyi three months to implement the political part of the Minsk agreements. If he does not agree to it, the propagandists claim that a real massacre awaits the Office of the President of Ukraine. According to "insiders" of pro-Kremlin correspondents, the United States allegedly has information about the offshore companies of Serhiy Shefir and Kyrylo Tymoshenko, which will allegedly be dealt with by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On the other hand, propagandists say that Zelenskyi is not blackmailed. On the contrary, the USA wants to "pay him off". In particular, they claim that EUR 1.2 billion that Macron brought after the meeting with Putin – is a part of the "Ukrainian greater deal". This is the payment for Kyiv's consent to fulfill the political aspects of the Minsk agreements. According to propagandists, with this money, Volodymyr Zelenskyi will "pay for the gas purchase and gifts for his voters in the form of mobile phones and direct distribution money", which will help him save his ratings. Also, according to the pro-Kremlin pages and channels, Kyiv will be flattered by Macron's new agreements "formula", which will not differ significantly from the Minsk agreements but will be a rebranded version of it. The new name of such a formula will help "sell" it to Ukrainians.
We often find a broader context in these messages: they are allegedly forcing Ukrainians to the Minsk agreements, a new program of cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, and the launch of Nord Stream-2. We see an unprecedented message of Russian disinformation: Russia collaborates with the United States. Russians are so eager to discredit Biden and the United States that they are willing to admit that they (Biden and USA) are also engaged in this "external management": "Information campaign in the Western media and the military training have been agreed upon in the big deal between Biden and Putin. The main purpose is to pressure Ukraine and enforce Ukraine’s President to implement the Minsk agreements".
- "Poroshenko is Kremlin’s agent"
One of the most popular and unexpected pro-Kremlin thesis is that Petro Poroshenko is allegedly conspiring with V.Putin. At first, there were reports that the fifth president of Ukraine signed the version of the agreements that Ukrainians are currently dissatisfied with. Interestingly, the propagandists are trying to impose the authorship of this thesis on "Ukrainian nationalists". By this, they mean that this is not their argument, and they just reshare it. Propagandists call to bring Poroshenko to justice, saying that he should be "facing court and imprisonment for state betrayal". It often comes in the rude form: "It mesmerizes me to see how this bastard is yelling that performing Minsk agreements is a crime!”.
Conspiracy theories are visible in this thesis too. Several anonymous Telegram channels claim that the political asylum that Putin offered Poroshenko is a condition for a secret agreement between the Office of the President of Ukraine and Russia. It mentions that Zelenskyi has already agreed to implement the Minsk agreements, but realizing that such a decision will meet public’s opposition, particularly the "patriots", he decided to discredit their leader.
- "China wants Ukraine to fulfill Minsk agreements in Russian interpretation"
In general, China is increasingly mentioned in the rhetoric of pro-Kremlin pages and social media channels. In fact, they explain that China is one of the key stakeholders in these negotiations. After all, on the one hand, there is Russia, which is trying to create an alliance with China. On the other hand, the United States wants to maintain world leadership. For this reason, propagandists often claim that Ukraine is just a bargaining chip for the United States: "Biden is ready to "donate" Ukraine to make Putin take a neutral position in America’s conflict with China." At the same time, they reiterate that China and Russia are partners. Therefore, China will support Russia. Consequently, it will agree to the agreements in the Russian interpretation. In support of this thesis, the propagandists disseminated a statement by the Chinese Foreign Minister, which urges to return to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
- "Weapon assistance to Ukraine from its allies violates the Minsk agreements"
The propagandists have their own interpretation of the Minsk agreements. Thus, in continuation of the thesis that Ukraine is preparing for war ordered by the "West", the propagandists decided to tie the incoming military aid to the Minsk agreements. A number of anonymous Telegram channels claim that the weapons that Ukraine receives as a sign of support from partner states are a direct violation of the Minsk agreements. Almost every news statement about the planes with military aid from Great Britain, the USA, Canada, the Czech Republic, and other allies of Ukraine has been accompanied by theses about violations of the Minsk agreements. Yet, in reality, such military assistance has nothing to do with the Minsk agreements.
Overall, we see that propagandists are trying to confuse Ukrainians about the Minsk agreements as much as possible. It is not so easy to understand the details of these agreements, so the propagandists add new actors and their own interpretations as much as possible to make it harder to understand what is betrayal, victory, or compromise. In addition, the number of conspiracy theories and so-called "insiders" is worrying, as most of them are aimed at discrediting Ukraine's international support.