In the runup to December 9 peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, Russian state media is disseminating a fake-news report that alleges that Kyiv plans to force residents from areas of the Donbas region controlled by pro-Russian separatists to migrate and undergo “re-education.”
The allegation comes at a critical moment. The peace talks in Paris between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are intended to advance the chances for an agreement between Kyiv and Moscow to end five-plus years of war in Donbas.
As part of any deal, President Zelenskiy insists that all military forces withdrawal from the region and that Kyiv have control over Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.
That, apparently, has stirred unease among some.
The report cited on Russian and separatist television is based on a file, posted by a user called Joker on the messaging app Telegram, that purports to be an official Ukrainian government document outlining Ukraine’s plans should Kyiv regain authority in separatist-controlled Donbas.
A senior Ukrainian government official has categorically denied that the document is legitimate.
“Russia continues to work with fakes,” the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Aleksei Danilov, said to Donbas Reality, which covers Donbas for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service. “They need to feed off something to have something to say there. It’d be difficult to find something stupider than this.”
The Telegram document, he pointed out, names a Kyiv street that does not exist.
That has not, however, discouraged Russia's state-run Rossia-1 channel or pro-Moscow television channels in separatist Donbas from running with the story.
In these areas, access to alternative points of view about Kyiv’s intentions remains relatively limited. Pro-Moscow or Moscow-financed TV channels dominate the air waves. Ukrainian television channels are only accessible via cable or satellite.
Television in these locations “is far from media,” commented Andrei Dyagterenko, editor of Donbas Reality, on Footage Vs. Footage. “It’s a system of self-presentation by the [breakaway] Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic that just shows the outside world, their Kremlin handlers, that they still exist.”
The “Donbas deportation” story suggests that no reminder is needed.