Russian social media disinformation increasingly includes accusations against Ukrainian women. The disinformation is about female refugees forced to leave Ukraine to escape the war with Russia and women who joined the defence forces, Ukrainian non-governmental organisation Detector Media says in a study of more than 45,000 posts in the Ukrainian and Russian segments of Facebook, YouTube, Telegram, Instagram, and Twitter.
Detector Media, founded 2004 by Ukrainian journalists, is mentioned by Danish non-profit International Media Support as one of its partners.
The Ukrainian study says the disinformation “tries to set up Ukrainian women who left abroad against those who stayed in Ukraine; discredit Ukrainian refugee women in the eyes of citizens of the host countries; normalize sexual crimes of Russians, and; discredit Ukraine’s efforts on the way to gender equality, as an important condition for democratic development.”
“Based on the paradigm of so-called traditional values, the Kremlin spreads gender disinformation to discredit Ukrainian women, creating the image of frivolous women who go abroad for profit, trade their bodies, and are not interested in their war-torn country’s fate.”
“Detector Media analyzed the Ukrainian and Russian segments of social networks to find out how exactly pro-Russian users mention Ukrainian women and what messages about them are most often shared.”
“Pro-Russian users of social networks try to discredit Ukrainian women in various ways, calling them prostitutes spreading sexually-transmitted diseases, claiming that they are after sex and money, etc.”
“Most of the posts in both the Russian and Ukrainian segments of Telegram during the monitoring period were about the departure abroad and foreign life of Ukrainian women, or ” hohlushki”, as often called by pro-Russian users.”
“Many Telegram authors discussed the “moral qualities” of Ukrainian women, calling them names and justifying sexual crimes.”
“On the contrary, Facebook contains many thoughtful posts about the crimes the Russians are committing in Ukraine, such as about the inadmissibility of sexual crimes.”
“Many posts on this social network, as well as on Telegram, also contained various accusations. Still, if only the Ukrainian women were accused in Telegram, Facebook posts included accusations of everyone else. For example, Europeans are not ready to provide solid jobs for female refugees from Ukraine and encourage them to engage in sex work.”
“Similar rhetoric prevailed in Instagram posts. In this social network, many posts also related to sex work topics, such as some Ukrainian women were accused of not being able and capable of anything else, while others claimed that President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to “sell out Ukrainian women abroad.”
“On Twitter, most of the publications were related to controversies regarding sexual crimes that happened in reality or were invented by Russian propagandists. Even before the invasion, agitational propaganda (agitprop) “prepared” Twitter users by accusing the Ukrainian military of sexual crimes against residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.”
“At the end of March 2022, after the liberation of the Kyiv region, there were more allegations of Russian sexual crimes by pro-Ukrainian users on Twitter. The pro-Russian public began to deny the facts of sexual crimes in the occupied territories as fabricated, trying to blur the accusations with claims that both sides of the conflict committed sexual crimes.”
“During the monitoring period, Twitter posts did not contain the topics of rape and rarely spread gender stereotypes.”
“It is noteworthy that the Russian segment of YouTube emphasized the rape of women and the characteristics of the victims. Of course, messages discredited Ukrainian women, but many theses formed a collective portrait of women, regardless of their origin.”
“A lot of content was about how Ukrainian women supposedly having fun abroad and not thinking about their homeland. Ukrainian women on Russian YouTube and other social networks were often called prostitutes. Many messages also referred to the “compulsory mobilization of women”.