Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Technology of the Russian information war in the election campaign of Petro Poroshenko

Just like five years ago, Ukraine once again found itself in a position of its historical development. The historicism and tragedy of the present is that the social gap created between society and the authority has not only not been overcome, but has deepened even more. Therefore, the Revolution of Dignity, which was aimed at overthrowing the kleptocratic regime of Yanukovych, has not been achieved. Yanukovych fled from the country and the kleptocratic regime remained. Yanukovych's place was taken by the President Poroshenko who considerably improved this regime, made it legitimate and more functional, more perfect in obtaining super profits by means of the power. Over the past five years President Poroshenko has clearly proved that the more power you have, the more profits from this power you will get. So according to the electronic declaration of Petro Poroshenko in 2018, his income increased 95 times in just one year.[1] But it turns out that the richer the President, the poorer the country. Ukraine has become the poorest country in Europe over the five years of Petro Poroshenko's presidency.

And now, at the end of the cadence of Poroshenko's presidency, not only his personal monopoly power was threatened, but also the existence of the most kleptocratic regime in the country. Therefore, not only the corrupt government, but also the entire kleptocratic community in Ukraine stood up for him, having turnt the presidential election campaign into a rigid and uncompromising information and psychological war against opponents of the kleptocratic political regime in Ukraine.

To achieve victory in this war, Poroshenko chose the technology of the Russian information war, conducted by Vladimir Putin against Ukraine. But if Putin uses this technology against Ukraine and the West, Poroshenko uses this strategy against his own people, splitting Ukrainian society into his own and enemies. Thus, consciously or not consciously Poroshenko and his powerful team become an ally of Russia in its hybrid war against Ukraine, creating a situation of chaos and hostility in the country, which is one of the tasks of the Russian hybrid war.

Observing this tendency, well-known Ukrainian journalist Leonid Shvets noted that the technology of the election campaign of Petro Poroshenko for the post of head of state once again shows the unwillingness of political elites to take responsibility for their own country. On his Facebook page, Shvets criticizes the election campaign of the current President, noting that the trolling of opponents and the setting of Poroshenko as the sole leader is very similar to the method of establishing the power of Vladimir Putin in Russia, where experts in the field of propaganda create an information environment, extremely inconvenient for the opposition and the electorate, which has not decided. According to him, "if this technology works in Russia, in Ukraine it once again characterizes the unpopularity of the President and demonstrates what methods his team uses».[2]

Characterizing such rigid technologies of information war a well-known Ukrainian expert in the field of information operations, doctor of political sciences Alexander Litvinenko notes: "Rigid technologies are used only in exceptional cases, because after a certain critical point of the recipient’s rigid propaganda it is difficult to predict, and sometimes almost impossible." Such case which forced the team of the President to apply such rigid technology of information and psychological influence became presidential elections, which threatened preservation of the monopoly power of Petro Poroshenko and the existing kleptocratic regime in the state.

The basic rules of rigid scenarios of information and psychological impact are the following postulates: it is necessary to influence emotions, not rational thinking; psychological pressure during the election campaign should be constant-advertising and trolling should affect the recipient all the time; the use of suggestive technologies, which are very effective, because they make it possible to directly affect the subconscious of the person; the orientation of the propaganda company to a clearly defined target audience as supporters of Poroshenko and his opponents.

According to one of the ideologists of Putinism Gleb Pavlovsky, with the help of such rigid technology "it is possible to create a situation of 37-year (Stalin`s period in USSR) in nonviolent way, at least for the individual, due to the fact that different layers in his/her head will begin to mix and he/she will agree with the real, not even realizing when this moment began, being convinced that he/she is free." In the information society, such information and psychological impact is considered to be the most effective tool that provides unique in its impressive power opportunities for hidden management of the behavior of voters, manipulation of public consciousness in own interests. Such information and psychological impact is considered by Russian scientists as war because it uses violence as coercion and subordination[3]. The peculiarity of the use of violence in such a war is that it is carried out by the impact of information on the human psychics. Consequently, such influence is actually a violence against people's consciousness. The technology of such a rigid impact can be qualified as a weapon, which kills the rational behavior of people, which is actually the process of their zombification.

Such a technology of Putin's propaganda and disinformation was necessary for Petro Poroshenko to form in the public consciousness of Ukrainian voters a virtual distorted image of the incumbent President as the ideal head of state, a talented Supreme commander who will protect the country from Putin and from Russian military aggression, which made Ukrainians “richer” and the country prosperous and the Armed Forces of Ukraine the most powerful in Europe. This virtual representation of the President and the current government has nothing to do with reality, because the distrust to the President and his government from the Ukrainian society ranges from 70 to 83%[4].

These virtual views do not perceive the terrible state in which Ukraine found itself over the 5 years of Petro Poroshenko's presidency, the fact that Ukraine has become the poorest country in Europe and occupies one of the first positions in the world in terms of corruption. This upside down world in the mind of the supporters of Petro Poroshenko has rather successfully described by the famous Ukrainian political analyst Sergei Gaidai. "Taking the patriotic "hypnosis" of the owner of the Bankova str. (Presidental office), we do not want to lose the illusion that we are on the right side of the barricades. We're deaf and blind when suddenly stumble upon the criminal nature of our government. We do not notice its business ties with Russia, participation in oligarchic corruption schemes. We do not want to see its cooperation with Mr. Medvedchuk, who communicates with the Kremlin. That over the 5 years Petro Poroshenko has been building his personal "Russian world" in Ukraine, dressed in the embroidery of Ukrainian patriotism. We will give it him another five years and there will be no difference between Kyiv and Moscow ", reports "Радіо НВ" . As Putin uses the principle of no alternative: "Putin is Russia, and Russia is Putin" and Petro Poroshenko deprives voters of another alternative: "Either I or Putin".

Petro Poroshenko is trying to use the mobilization effect of the war in his election campaign. As Putin uses this effect of war against Ukraine and West to mobilize and consolidate Russian society, so Poroshenko uses this effect of war with Russia, which he and the Ukrainian authorities do not officially recognize to mobilize his supporters and discredit those who give their votes to another candidate. All these other voters are associated with an external enemy – Putin and Russian aggression. The internal enemy is his competitor the oligarchy competitor - Kolomoisky. All this technology of producing hatred and fear is concentrated on one opponent-the candidate for the post of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Exactly Zelensky is presented as a protege of the Kremlin, which is both a "puppet" of Putin and Kolomoisky.

Thus, the main naratives used by Petro Poroshenko in his information campaign against Zelensky and his supporters is the narrative of "Russian revenge" and "threats from Russia" and oligarch Kolomoisky as one of the representatives of the Ukrainian oligarchy headed by President Petro Poroshenko himself.

It becomes obvious that Petro Poroshenko is an ally of Putin in the Russian war against Ukraine and Ukrainian society, because his election campaign contributes to the achievement of the Kremlin's goals in the Russian-Ukrainian war splitting the country. "The policy of fear of enemy attack. A stable symbiosis of two presidents, when it is profitable for both to maintain the image of the enemy. For Putin it is Ukraine, which fells under the United States. And for Poroshenko it is Putin, the Kremlin and the war in eastern Ukraine. All competitors of our President are enemies and agents of the Kremlin. Everyone who criticizes him is the "fifth column". There is no alternative. Either he, or Putin will attack! And religion has now become a matter of state. And getting Tomos is the main event in the history of the country. The clan-feudal economy, as in the "Russian world", is much more profitable for our President Poroshenko than the economy independent and creative. The oligarchs and former owners of life remained. Now they have a new patron – one and the main oligarch in the presidential chair," informs "Радіо НВ"[5].

Therefore for the sake of preserving his own power, Petro Poroshenko is ready to "sow hatred and discord among those citizens who previously chose him, without thinking about the consequences for the people. After all, the antagonism and hatred towards each other, which are formed today, will make it known in the future, when Poroshenko will be remembered, like Yanukovych. For fun»[6].


[1] Доходы Порошенко за год выросли в 95 раз!



[3] Манойло A.B., Информационно-психологическая война: факторы, определяющие формат современного вооруженного конфликта. — Киев: Материалы V Международной научно-практической конференции «Информационные технологии и безопасность», вьіп. №8, 2005 г., с. 73-80. 

[4] Рівень довіри до суспільних інститутів та електоральні орієнтації громадян України. 

[5] Ibid.