On December 31, an election campaign will officially begin in Ukraine, while the Russian media are all set to penetrate Ukraine's information space to sow destabilization and discord, also keeping in mind the need to beef up certain attitudes in Russia toward a neighboring state, which Kremlin claims has gone rogue, says Alexander Morozov, a researcher at University Karlovy, Prague.
The Kremlin’s strategic interest lies in any form of destabilization, which would ultimately nullify the political results of the Revolution of Dignity, the author wrote for Delfi.lt.
The major stream of negative news about Ukraine flows from large media hubs: Izvestia Newsroom, producing information for the entire political bloc of Kovalchuk Brothers' National Media Group; FAN and Yevgeny Prigozhin's group of websites; Russia Today, RIA, and Sputnik; Channel 1, Rossiya TV channel; a large group of "pre-Donbas" resources, including Regnum, Tsargrad, Svobodnaya Pressa, Vzglyad.ru and others, according to Morozov.
It should be emphasized that the small number of readers of each individual resource plays no role in assessing the scale of general penetration. The thing is that the system has been created to promote certain news and headlines through news generators and email services.
The over-exaggerated picture of "economic disaster" in Ukraine works well for the Russian audience (“it's even worse there, in Ukraine!”), while “fascism in Ukraine” is designed to shift the assessment of news consumers from the Kremlin’s own ideology. The goal is to exploit the plot of the election campaign today and the first half of 2019 – before the elections to the Rada – to create a "failed state" perception along three lines: the failure of Ukraine's economic policy, "religious war", and promotion of neo-Nazism.
Any scenario of developments accompanying the elections, which could be interpreted as a shift from normal democratic election practice, the Kremlin will successfully interpret in its favor:
- Strengthening the role of the army and security agencies to the detriment of civilian authorities;
- Weakening the legitimacy of the president-elect and thereby reducing their mandate to continue structural reforms and focus on the “Eurochoice”;
- Destabilization, which will allow the Kremlin to snatch from under Kyiv's control more territories (Mariupol, Odesa);
- Any squabbles around the parishes in connection with the formation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine;
- Mass riots of those disagreeing with the count of votes; and
- Shock developments in critical infrastructure affecting people's lives.
The Kremlin is shackled by sanctions and its own continuously deteriorating position in the international arena. But Russia has a powerful media machine able to pump across Eastern and Central Europe on a daily basis a flow of visual news aimed at delegitimizing Ukrainian democracy, its institutions, and its ability to adapt to European policy standards. The normalized atmosphere of presidential elections, and then the elections to the Rada, is of great importance not only for Ukraine, but also for the entire region and for all countries of the post-Soviet transit.
From the perspective of the development of Ukrainian society along the European path, the presidential elections of 2019, taking place in the context of an apparent aggravation of “hybrid war” and the increasingly aggressive Kremlin, are important, first of all, as evidence of maintaining the balance between the inevitable militarization and the development of the civil sector, and the balance between the interests of the national security and democratic freedoms.
It would be highly valuable to demonstrate that the Ukrainian elections are not only held in line with European standards of electoral procedures, but also prove to be real competitive and free, with results recognized by all political forces, including those who have been defeated.
To ensure Ukraine's further movement toward Europe, the very atmosphere of elections is extremely important that would indicate a growing political culture. The “winner takes all” model must be completely ruled out, where the loser is subject to any repression. Presidential elections should also create the conditions for the formation of a stable “majority coalition,” which is an important guarantee for preserving Ukraine’s main political course, regardless of the pressure of volatile circumstances.
The Kremlin's main goal is to present in the global political arena the image of a destabilized Ukraine, and thereby show that all post-Maidan development of Ukraine has come to a catastrophic halt, thereby nullifying the whole Euromaidan Revolution and all the forces that have made possible an important separation of Ukraine from the environment where the Kremlin pursues their hegemonic policies, considering themselves "masters of Eurasia.