Russian Federation’s Disinformation Campaign Aimed to Justify Invasion of Ukraine, Several Speakers Stress
Advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited by law, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Nderitu told the Security Council today, stressing that these acts represent potential triggers for the commission of atrocity crimes.
“The prevention of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is a legal obligation for States under international law,” she stressed. The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide — which emerged from the shadows of the Holocaust — identifies as punishable offenses conspiracy to commit, direct and attempt to commit genocide.
In a wide-ranging debate on “incitement to violence leading to atrocity crimes”, organized by Albania, as Council President for June, Ms. Nderitu said that even before the start of the conflict in Ukraine, her office was working with the United Nations country team to support intercommunal dialogue.
She said that, because determination of the commission of genocide can only be made by a court of competent jurisdiction, she could only but reiterate the call to end the war, ensure protection of civilians and accelerate diplomatic efforts to make both possible. The Council must do its part by proposing a road map that considers that “peace itself is a process that is not indifferent to injustice”.
Liubov Tsybulska, Head of the Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security, underscored that “Russia wants to destroy Ukraine”, both literally — by killing and raping — and in a broader sense, eliminating its culture, language and history. She recounted Ukraine’s struggle for survival against the Russian Federation’s attempts at conquest — detailing mass famines; the murder and torture of Ukrainian writers, artists and architects in the 1930s; and the mass deportation of Ukrainian dissidents in the 1960s.
“This is exactly what is happening now,” she stressed. While such crimes are “the modus operandi of the Kremlin”, the current war is extraordinary, with the Russian army demonstrating “barbarity that is difficult to imagine in the twenty-first century”. She urged the Council to understand that the threat exists not only for Ukrainians but for the entire world.
Along similar lines, Jared Andrew Cohen, CEO of Jigsaw and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that, for the war on Ukraine, there are more hours of footage uploaded to YouTube, TikTok and other platforms than there are minutes of the conflict. “Like land, air and sea, the Internet has become a critical domain to occupy during war.”
Nowhere has this been more evident than Ukraine, he said, where the Russian Federation has deployed distributed denial-of-service, or “DDoS”, attacks that have taken down connectivity by 15 to 20 per cent, and on many occasions, dropped Internet connectivity to zero. His team’s research confirms the ability to leverage disinformation to motivate violence, he added, noting that Russian propaganda that Ukrainians are “Nazis” likely dehumanized Ukrainians in the eyes of Russian soldiers, leading to the many war crimes now alleged against them.
In the ensuing debate, several delegates evoked the calamitous consequences of inciting one group of people against another, with many recalling tragedies endured during the Second World War, in Rwanda in 1994, in Srebrenica in 1995 and in Myanmar more recently. Leading the discussion, Albania’s delegate spoke in his national capacity to recall how, in the early 1930s, the Nazis used virulently anti‑Semitic newspapers to incite Germans into persecuting Jews. On the eve of the invasion, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin described Ukraine as an “artificial creation of the Bolsheviks”, he said, stressing that “what begins with dehumanizing words ends in bloodshed”.
Lithuania’s representative, speaking also for Estonia and Latvia, said that for years, Ukraine has been a target of Russian disinformation campaigns, aimed at justifying an invasion. “If there is no clear and strong international response to stop it, the aggression against Ukraine will be just the beginning,” he warned, a point echoed by Slovakia’s delegate, who said that the pretexts under which Moscow invaded Ukraine resemble past patterns of framing a targeted group as an existential threat in order to present war as defensive and inevitable.
In turn, the Russian Federation’s delegate blamed Ukraine’s propaganda for pushing that country into Nazism. He denounced the demonizing of his country, as well as hatred of everything Russian, introduced year after year, with support from the United States and other Western allies. After the 2014 Maidan coup, the Kyiv regime incited violence against Russian-speaking inhabitants of Ukraine, dubbing all those against it as terrorists, separatist puppets and monsters.
The United States delegate, meanwhile, strongly rejected Moscow’s efforts to distort history, noting that the General Assembly rejected its false narrative on Ukraine and neighbouring countries. Pointing out that some have ignored that the Russian Federation illegally invaded its neighbour, he urged the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its forces and embrace diplomacy.
China’s representative countered, urging certain countries to stop forcing others to take sides. The cold war mentality, the logic of hegemony and bloc politics “have long outlived their usefulness”, he added.
Offering a word of caution, Ukraine’s delegate warned delegates not to be deceived by Moscow’s anti‑fascist rhetoric, denouncing it as “another manifestation of aggressive mimicry”. Noting that, a week ago, President Putin claimed that “the former Soviet Union was historical Russia”, he asked: “What is next?”
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Kenya, Ireland, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and India.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:47 p.m.