HomeAnalyticsDmitry Tymchuk: Information Resistance report on the liberated territories

Dmitry Tymchuk: Information Resistance report on the liberated territories

The Coordinators of the Information Resistance group have been working in the settlements of Donetsk region, liberated from the terrorists of the DNR [“Donetsk People’s Republic]. The main purpose of the trip was to study the situation in the so-called “liberated raions [districts],” by hearing the reports of the representatives of the “illegal network” of the Eastern Division of the IR in the field, communicating with local residents and journalists of the local media, activists from the local social movements, mid-level businessmen, police officers and representatives of special services, in particular, the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine], intelligence agencies, the military and representatives of the ATO headquarters.

As a result of the work of IR, the Coordinators point out a few highlights regarding the socio-political situation in these regions. In particular, the socio-political situation in the “liberated areas” remains tense and shows a tendency to exacerbation that requires immediate, appropriate action by government agencies.

The main reasons for the negative state of affairs:

1. The lack of comprehensive and purposeful informational outreach by government agencies, targeting the local population, allows the network of the DNR representatives and their supporters in the region to effectively carry out their outreach work.

In particular, the terrorists created a global “information network” in the spreading of rumors, which allows them to reach out to almost every local resident (with targeted work of its representatives responsible for specific areas, neighborhoods and even individual homes). In the latter case, actively making use of “pro-Soviet” and pro-communist minded locals, mostly seniors, in populated areas.

We observed the frequency of the “waves” of rumor, the main thrust of which is to destabilize and demoralize the local population, to intimidate pro-Ukrainian-minded residents and activate that part of the population which is sympathetic to the separatists (according to our estimates, this percentage of local residents numbers from 30 to 70% in different localities). In particular, the main themes of the rumors are the weakness of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard, who allegedly cannot resist the Russian-terrorist forces; the “betrayal” of Russia’s Donbas by Ukrainian authorities; the inevitable “return” of the terrorists and DNR with reprisals against pro-Ukrainian activists; the propensity of Ukrainian troops (primarily of volunteer units and the National Guard) to banditry and looting, committing other crimes; the impending strong social assistance from Russia to the population at the areas controlled by terrorists, etc.

This creates a very negative information environment in the region, with a number of contributing factors. In particular:

a) The locals do not trust official sources of information about the ATO (this refers to official sources in Kyiv, who disseminate information through the mainstream media).

Official sources, in their opinion, previously discredited themselves by giving false reports on the progress of the operation [ATO] (in particular, concealing the massive Russian military invasion in late August of this year, about events in Ilovaisk–about the concealment of losses among the troops and disclosure of clearly inflated losses among the terrorists, a belated recognition of the removal of Ukrainian troops from some sections of the “front” under the onslaught of Russian-terrorist forces since the beginning of September of this year, and others.).

The situation can be corrected with targeted work–the provision of objective information and the formation of a sense of stability in the situation through regular formal and informal meetings of the security forces (from the ATO headquarters) with local activists, members of the public, non-governmental organizations and businesses. Since the people still put the greatest trust in the people in uniforms (in the first place–to the servicemen in the rank of officers), this should be actively used to neutralize the informational work of the DNR in the “liberated areas.”

(…) The ATO headquarters has considerable potential as a structure for educational work (virtually every company of the AFU has an officer for educational work), whose work does not make much practical sense in the context of the AFU participation in active combat. These officials could act as “officers of Public Relations” in the liberated areas, conducting regular meetings with representatives of the public and non-governmental organizations, covering a large part of the population.

Also, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine has a Department of Social and Humanitarian Policy, one of the main objectives of which is to organize cooperation between the army and the public, and to form a positive image of the armed forces within society. We have not found traces of this powerful structural unit of the Ministry of Defense in the “liberated areas.”

b) There is a saturation of the information space with information from pro-Russian and Russian media.

Some local media (if necessary, we can provide the list) do not show loyalty to the Ukrainian government and the ATO forces and conduct a pro-Russian course [of action], although they work in a manner so as not to be directly accused of supporting terrorism (the format of the newspaper “Vesti”). This is due to the fact that these media outlets are controlled by pro-Russian sympathizers (the majority of whom were members of the Party of Regions in the recent past).

Local businesses that are managed or belong to pro-Russian sympathizers, publish the newspapers  (i.e., “factory newspapers”)  that bear signs of pro-Russian and separatist propaganda (for example, just the title of an article in the latest issue of the newspaper of Novokramatorsky Engineering Works says it all: “Donbas–the industrial heart of Russia.” Issue 12 for September of this year).

In Volnovakha [Donetsk Oblast], local residents have ample opportunity to watch DNR TV and Russian TV, which broadcast from Donetsk in an analog format. The “suppression” of the TV signal from Donetsk requires the involvement of units of radio-electronic suppression and electronic warfare of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the area. 

Meanwhile in Kramatorsk, there is the technical capacity to “insert” regional news summaries and commentary into the radio programs that are broadcast in the region because of TV and radio transmission capabilities (by pro-Ukrainian sympathizers). This only requires the permission of the central executive agencies of Ukraine–the above mentioned individuals are ready to take on the task of the newscast production. (…)

c) For the reasons given above, no informational work is currently underway to interpret and explain government initiatives regarding Donbas to local residents.

As a result, the “Law on the special circumstances of local governance in the separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” is perceived by the local population primarily as a “discharge” of the territories captured by DNR and LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic] from the responsibility of Ukrainian authorities to Russia and the insurgents. This greatly enhances the effect of pro-Russian and Russian propaganda.

The main objective of the “information front” should be the forming of beliefs in the local population about the stability of the situation in the “liberated areas,” and the ability of Ukrainian troops to prevent the return of the DNR to these areas. These beliefs should be formed through the media (primarily local, linked to local content), networking between the military structures with the public, the active participation of military personnel in local communities (meeting with students, businessmen, civil servants and employees, joint organization of the various military patriotic activities, the conduct of military parades). It is imperative to demonstrate that these areas are under heavy military guard, which can ensure the safety of civilians.

2. Leaving the managers who actively supported the creation of the DNR and were noted for their cooperation and support for terrorists, in their positions in law enforcement agencies, local authorities, institutions, establishments and enterprises at the local level.

This problem exists in practically all localities in the “liberated territories,” and has an exceedingly negative impact on the situation in the region.

Thus, in Sloviansk, the local pro-Ukrainian minded population and activists are amazed at the fact that the leadership of the local police, who openly support the DNR, remain in office. The official explanation is that  conducting an official investigation against those officials found no corpus delicti in their actions. If this is really true (which raises serious doubts), then it is worth publishing the materials of the investigation, and explaining who, and in what way, conducted [the investigation].

In Kramatorsk, it is the same situation with the leadership of one of the biggest businesses in the city, “Novokramatorsky Engineering Works,” where the terrorists launched the production of mortars issued for the insurgents during the occupation of the city. Moreover, as mentioned above, the management of the plant personnel conducts active campaigning among the plant employees, which contains the signs of separatism and terrorism propaganda. The situation is similar with the leadership of the city police department in Kramatorsk.

Not surprisingly, the local police ignores requests by pro-Ukrainian individuals to respond to the constant threats against them by the DNR activists. For example, in Sloviansk, such threats have become the norm, not only towards the local leaders of pro-Ukrainian social movements, but also towards the employees of the local library, who demonstrate a pro-Ukrainian disposition–in particular, moral and psychological pressure and threats to life and health have increased significantly since the opening of Ukrainian language courses for local residents at the library.

In Kramatorsk, during the local youth initiative to paint the Lenin pedestal in the colors of the Ukrainian flag (local authorities refuse to dismantle the monument itself, arguing a lack of funds, although local activists offer to do it for free), police officers carried out attempts to detain the activists. This was averted only by the intervention of the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine].

Even worse is the fact that those policemen, who arrived at the region locales as part of their business trips “to provide reinforcement” from other regions, quite often exhibited inappropriate behavior. For example,  some of the Kyiv policemen, who arrived to Izyum and Sloviansk wearing uniforms with chevrons of the disbanded “Berkut” unit, strongly criticized the events on Maidan in the winter of 2013-2014 and the current Ukrainian authorities in their conversations with local residents.

All of this adversely affects the foundations of statehood in Ukraine and the authority of the Ukrainian government in the region, as well as destabilizes the situation, suppresses pro-Ukrainian-minded citizens and activists, and helps popularize the ideas of the DNR and LNR. We must immediately demonstrate Ukraine’s ability to protect itself from the enemy within, and [we] should start by giving an objective assessment to the actions of officials (first of all–in local government, local law enforcement agencies and businesses) who actively supported the DNR, and without whose initiative and assistance the terrorists could not have taken control of the towns in the region this spring. (…)


Dmitry Tymchuk, Head of the Center for Military and Political Research, Coordinator of the Information Resistance group 

Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine


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