How Ukraine Is Winning the Propaganda War

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It took Ukrainian officials two months to acknowledge that the story was a myth. “The ghost of Kyiv is a legend of superheroes, whose character was created by Ukrainians,” the Ukrainian Air Force Command said on Facebook on April 30. “Please don’t fill the information space with fakes!”

The ghost of Kyiv was an early lesson for Ukrainian officials, says Laura Edelson, a computer scientist at New York University who investigates political communication. “I think they withdrew on that kind of thing. When you talk in Western Europe and North America, you need to be perceived as reliable,” he says. “There was a pivot from telling the story of this legendary fighter pilot to telling the stories of everyday Ukrainians.”

Ukrainian propaganda must speak to multiple audiences: the Ukrainians themselves, the English-speaking world and also the people of Russia. At the national level, morale is crucial to the country’s success in a brutal war. People need to feel that they are defending more than just their piece of land, Edelson says. “You have to be defending your common identity. You have to be defending your sense of self,” he added.

Fostering resistance will be even more crucial if Russia tries to hold referendums in the occupied territories, says Paul Baines, a professor of political marketing at the University of Leicester School of Business. “This is a way of trying to ensure that people in these areas do not vote in these fake referendums,” he said of Ukraine’s communication strategy. In late April, Fedorov posted a video in the Telegram combining the Banda campaign brand with images of the then Russian-occupied city of Kherson. “In Kherson, residents are once again going to a rally to tell the occupants that there will be no ‘referendums,'” Federov wrote. “Thank you for your courage.”

But domestic communication must also align with international messages: that if Ukraine had better weapons, it could beat Russia, and that democracy in Europe depends on the country’s success. “It simply came to our notice then [the information war]sanctions depend on it, ”says Jon Roozenbeek, a disinformation researcher at Cambridge University.

That’s why Banda’s courage campaign was launched around the world, with ads in English changing the word courage for the word courage. The word bravery, with the letter Band and flanked in blue and yellow, has been shown in New York Times Square and it was the backdrop for a speech by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, in May.

Since the launch of the Banda campaign, the idea of ​​everyday heroism as a reinforcement of morality has become a commonplace in Ukraine, with deputies and civil society groups echoing the message. “Each volunteer project has its own mission and goal, but they all tell stories of how Ukrainians fight, which sets an example for others and inspires them to join the fight or continue to fight,” said Nataliia Mykolska, co-founder of Data Battalion. an open source database that collects photos and videos of the Russian aggression.

“I don’t think Ukraine will win this war just because of the campaign of bravery, far from it,” Baines says. “But it is part of the puzzle of how they ensure that the West continues to give them weapons and that their own people resist Russian efforts to seize their sovereignty.”

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