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3 Apr, 2024 14:06

Ukraine spreading anti-immigrant hate in Russia – The Times

Kiev is “leveraging” the recent Moscow terrorist attack in an attempt to sow discord, an official has told the newspaper
Ukraine spreading anti-immigrant hate in Russia – The Times

Ukrainian information warfare specialists are using last month’s terrorist attack near Moscow in an effort to play on the emotions of Russians and incite ethnic hatred in the country, The Times reported on Tuesday.

The massacre at the Crocus City Hall concert venue just outside the Russian capital claimed over 140 lives. The suspected perpetrators, who were apprehended by Russian law enforcement, are all nationals of Tajikistan.

The public outcry over the slaughter of civilians by the apparent radical Islamists is being used by Kiev to spread discord in Russia's multiethnic society, Andrey Kovalenko, head of Ukraine’s Centre for Countering Disinformation (CCD), told the British newspaper.

“[The attack] provoked a split between nationalities in Russia and of course it’s very beneficial for us to support any national splits there and to fuel them,” the official said. “We leverage what we can.”

CCD employees are infiltrating Russian Telegram channels to “amplify” messaging that increases tensions between Slavic and non-Slavic ethnicities as well as anti-immigrant sentiments, the report said.

Ukraine has previously claimed to be the victim of Russian ‘psyops’ on a massive scale. President Vladimir Zelensky told foreign journalists in February that his government was being targeted by an information warfare plot dubbed ‘Maidan-3’.

Russia is familiar with Kiev-linked incitement on social media. Last October, false claims on Telegram in the majority-Muslim Dagestan Republic led to a riot in the city of Makhachkala. Agitated locals broke into an airport expecting a flight from Tel Aviv to land there. The disturbance was fueled by anti-Israeli sentiment, as the Jewish state was bombarding Gaza in the wake of a deadly incursion by the Palestinian group Hamas. Over 20 rioters and police officers were injured in the resulting clashes.

The Telegram channel accused of triggering the violence was founded by Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian MP who fled to Kiev in 2014 after being charged with embezzlement. He also serves as the spokesman for Kiev-backed militant groups that seek to topple the government in Moscow, such as the so-called Russian Volunteer Corps.