November 30, 2023, 15:30

“Black market weapons”: how russian propagandists shape narratives about Ukraine and spread disinformation

Since the onset of the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine from partner countries, russia has directed its efforts to create disinformation narratives that were supposed to discredit the country in the eyes of the international community. The Center for Countering Disinformation under the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine analyzed the russian disinformation campaign called “Black market weapons,” which was discovered when monitoring the russian and international information space.

This was discussed during an event at BrainHub, country’s main discussion platform, at Media Center Ukraine – Ukrinform.

In its report, the Center analyzed a total of 10,862 messages in Ukrainian, russian and other languages, in the period from February 24, 2022 to October 16, 2023.

Anayit Khoperiya, Head of the Department for Countering Information Threats to National Security at the Center for Countering Disinformation, noted that the main goal of this russian disinformation campaign is to consolidate a permanent narrative among the world audience that “Ukraine trades in provided weapons.” Another goal is to create an image of Ukraine as “the main destabilizing factor for all the hotspots of the world” among the international audiences.

She explained that there are generally three stages to this russian disinformation campaign: ‘warming up’ the narrative – from February 24 to June 2, 2022, preparing for the campaign – from June 2, 2022 to July 22, 2022, and a great increase in inauthentic behavior – from July 22, 2022 till today.

At the start of the campaign, RT channel propagandists created fake news about the “black market weapons,” then russian defense minister sergei shoigu made a statement referencing the RT’s fake report. This in fact launched the campaign and the massive influx of bogus stories, which can still be observed.

The propagandists tried to support their propaganda narratives in every possible way: with various messages from different individuals, including the circle of journalists who are vulnerable to russian propaganda, whose statements essentially gave legitimacy to pro-russian narratives.

In addition to large campaigns, the russians tried to target various audiences and countries during the summer of 2022 and the summer of 2023 with smaller campaigns. Despite the fact that the propagandists managed to affect a number of countries, there were also states that resisted russian informational influence. In particular, these are the UK, Germany, Japan, China, Korea, Finland, Norway and Canada.

“If we analyze the campaigns that our Center has already published and presented – on the “black market weapons,” on the “black transplantology,” on “kidnapping of children,” we see that russia is creating a strategic narrative that Ukraine is, in principle, a “black market” and an “unreliable partner.” And this is what we must work against as hard as possible, because this strategic narrative will continue to develop,” stressed Anayit Khoperiya.

You can find out more about the analytical report “Black market weapons” at the link.

BrainHub is the country’s main discussion platform created by Media

Center Ukraine – Ukrinform. It brings together experts from the state and civil

society sectors. BrainHub hosts intellectual discussions around the issues of

the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. It’s the birthplace of the best ideas

that will become the foundation for the road map of Ukraine’s reconstruction in

all sectors: economy, infrastructure, education, agriculture, security, digital,


Read more: