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The Centre for Strategic Communication has identified a network of ZOV/Pravda websites aimed at Ukrainian and foreign audiences (in particular, English, Polish, French, and Hispanic). We have analyzed these web pages according to three aspects: technical, content, and contextual to expose the Russian trace in this case. The sample of the analyzed resources included: Pravda EN, Pravda FR, Pravda ES, Pravda PL, Zov Kiev, Zov Kharkov, Zov Odessa, Zov Dnepr, Zov Donetsk, Zov Gorlovka, Zov Lvov, Zov Rovno, Zov Vinnitsa, Zov Poltava, Zov Sumy, Zov Nikopol.
Key network indicators
All ZOV websites are based on the .ru domain. Websites that mimic allegedly Ukrainian local media contain ZOV in their name, which is a direct reference to the symbolism used by Russia in its war against Ukraine. For foreign audiences, a different name — Pravda is used, but the websites themselves reproduce the design of those containing ZOV in an identical way. In addition, the names and the materials themselves contain the transliteration of Ukrainian cities from the Russian language, such as: Kiev, Lvov, Rovno, etc.
Among social platforms, resources have links only to Russian platforms, such as VK (banned in Ukraine since 2017) and Telegram.
Most of the published news contains links to Ria Novosti, TASS, Ukraina.ru, RT, and other Russian propaganda resources. Since the publications on these websites mostly refer to Russian propaganda resources as sources, the narratives and messages respectively duplicate the propaganda ones.
Involvement in Russian disinformation campaigns
These propaganda resources have repeatedly been noticed in spreading Russian disinformation campaigns. The Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security has already written about the dangerous messages spread by the web pages of the ZOV network.
For example, in March 2023, the monitoring offices of the Centre recorded an active promotion of the message about the “advantages of Russian captivity” and stories about the allegedly low morale of the Armed Forces of Ukraine: “being in the Armed Forces of Ukraine is bad, captivity is good.”
The message was based on the material of the propaganda project “Mom, I’m fine” launched in autumn 2022, which published a video with Ukrainian prisoners of war.
In addition, this network was involved in other information operations of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. In July, Russian propaganda resources began to distribute “social advertising” with the slogan Take Ukraine Back. The video was shot in Ukrainian with Russian subtitles, with Ukrainian flags regularly appearing in it. So, the video is obviously aimed at the Ukrainian audience.
Another example is a fake that allegedly “phone scammers from Ukraine defrauded Israelis of USD 30 mln.” On November 4, Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov in his Telegram channel spread a news story with a video from the supposedly Israeli media company The Times of Israel. On November 4-5, a post about this was actively disseminated in the pro-Russian Telegram channels Ukraina.ru, VOBLYA, Kovpak Detachment, Sheikh Tamir, as well as on the web resources Komsomolskaya Pravda, ZOV Berdyansk.
Another example is “graffiti with Elon Musk and Zelenskyy in Germany.” On October 6, the Open Ukraine Telegram channel spread a photo of supposedly new graffiti on one of the bridge supports in Germany. It depicted American businessman Elon Musk kicking the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This post was shared by other propaganda resources, such as: RUSSIAN SPRING, ZOV Kiev, DD Geopolitics, GREAT RUSSIA – THIS COUNTRY WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!, DREAM, There is no Nazism in Ukraine.
Analysis of the network of ZOV/Pravda websites indicates a carefully planned system of propaganda tools aimed at Ukrainian and international audiences. These resources, disguised as allegedly Ukrainian local or foreign media, actively reproduce Russian propaganda, spreading disinformation and manipulating society. Their materials, citing Russian propaganda sources and actively involved in information operations, clearly demonstrate attempts to influence public opinion and distort reality through the direct spread of lies and speculation.