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Kiev and the West have accused Moscow of using information warfare to fuel the separatist movement, first in Crimea and then in eastern Ukraine.“The strategy is to show that there is a lot of unhappiness in Ukraine and to show the Ukrainian authorities are incapable,” said Margo Gontar, the editor and a co-founder of Stop Fake.com, a fact-checking project developed last year that aims to counter Russian propaganda.
The draft has not always been popular among the region’s minorities.
Some in the region say that through a campaign of embellished and often outright fabricated news reports, the Kremlin has tried to paint a picture of frustration and distress among Ukraine’s minority groups living under an unsympathetic far-right nationalist government in Kiev.
The most recent example of this is a mid-March report aired on a popular Kremlin-owned channel claiming that some 10,000 Ruthenians, an eastern Slavic people with a large concentration in Transcarpathia, convened a congress and were demanding autonomy.
CHYNADIYOVO, Ukraine — When Olha Prokup thinks about the war in the east and the number of Ukrainian men who have died there, she is saddened by the human cost the fight against the Russian-backed separatists has taken on her country. But as a member of a minority group, Prokup, 75, doesn’t understand why a year ago, the mostly Russian-speaking region of Donbass began the uprising that led to all the brutality.
“We don’t understand what they were complaining about,” she said, referring to claims by the pro-Russian rebels that the new EU-leaning government in Kiev was oppressing ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine.
As Ukrainian, I can say that Ukrainians never were united among themselves.
The current war is third East-West conflict in last hunderd years.
“If everything appears to be falling apart, an impression is created that Ukraine is not really a working state.” In Transcarpathia, most people seem to have dismissed the provocative reports.
“Less than 1 percent of the population paid any attention to such stories,” said Volodymyr Chubirko, a Ruthenian and the head of the Transcarpathia regional council.
“We see this as a senseless war being fought between two Slavic brethren,” said Elemer Koszeghy, the editor of Karpati Igaz Szo, the oldest Hungarian-language newspaper in Transcarpathia. We would prefer that a peaceful resolution be found quickly.” The local economy — based largely on tourism, timber and cross-border contraband — has taken a beating as the war batters an already faltering general budget.
Inflation and a 70 percent devaluation of the currency mean fewer tourists are arriving to enjoy Transcarpathia’s mountain spas and ski resorts.
Prokup and Zhupan said there was no meeting of thousands of members of the close-knit Ruthenian community in March and no call for autonomy.