Ukrainian journalist Iryna Synelnyk says that Serbia is helping Russia with fighters and propaganda, while emphasizing that the situation in Ukraine is difficult.
Synelnyk, who is staying in Kosovo because of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, in an interview with The Geopost, tells about the challenges she has faced as a result of Russian propaganda.
How is the situation in Ukraine now?
War that began by the Russian federation 2 years ago is lasting now, and so in my country nobody cannot feel safe and nobody knows what will happen next moment, next time. Last six months I lived in Ukraine, my native city is Chernihiv located in the North of Ukraine and near Russia and Belarus. My region has two borders with aggressive states and so every day the villages near border russian army shells and these ukrainian villages are empty now. Because local people left their homes because living there is so dangerous. In my city the situation is so so, but in August the Russian army launched a big rocket attack on the city centre of Chernihiv. It was a beautiful day. It was a religious festival so many people were on the street. As a result seven people were killed including a 7 years old girl, and nearly 200 people were injured. And now life in my city is as usual. Local people go for walks, or meet with friends, care about children but next moment, next minute everything can change. And so living in Ukraine is dangerous now. We hope for better. We continue our fight but war is continuing.
How do journalists and experts fight disinformation that comes from Russia?
First of all I would like to think that Russian propaganda is part of the political and state system in the Russian federation and for so many years they have launched different topics about Ukrainians, disinformation, manipulation and sometimes fake news. For example they attacked our right to exist. They say about genocide to Russian speakers in Ukraine or developing biological kind of weapon, it is old story, but they use them for different plots it is very funny for us but local people in Russian federation they believe in this story and I need to say that Russia state media and controlled by Kremlin, media has shared fake news so many years and I have experienced when I was in occupied six weeks in 2022 I watched Russian TV it was terrible experience. Because I understand it is a real lie, but this real lie is on TV. Ukrainian journalists and Ukrainian experts try to fight this Russian propaganda. Sometimes it is successful, sometimes maybe not because information war is a part of a big war against Ukraine, we understand it, and first off all now we have different project that fight Russian propaganda for example “Fake Stop” or project “Behind the news” they are working now and debunked different Russian myths about Ukraine about this war. And I think that media literacy is very important in war because not only journalists, not only experts but everyone needs to know about primary sources of news and it is very important for me. I know some NGO which deal with Media literacy for children and adults, and maybe very important thing is Ukrainian “IT army” that fights against Russia propaganda, this army is as a movement of different people such as scientists, computer scientist, and hackers form Ukraine and abroad, and they aim at this mission to help Ukraine win this war against Russia and they have launched cyber-attack to state media in Russia and other site which are runned by Kremlin.
I saw your website was hacked and changed news and cloned your website in Russia.
Maybe it was not hacked but it was cloned our site media, where I am working, I have been working for so many years for UNAIN Ukrainian Independent Agency of news and this summer I knew about some articles, I did not write it, and I was surprised that here was my name. Topic of this article was very strange. They are not clear for Russian propaganda but some messages there were about these narratives for example: “Ukraine is a black market for trade of children or Ukrainian corruption or other situation on the frontline. I did not write it and when fact checkers sent me a link for this material I was very shocked and surprised. Because this site had the same colors, visuals as the real site of my media. And I asked the police and security service of Ukraine, national Ukrainian association of journalists and these pages were blocked but I know that appears new. And I know now that information attacked me and other Ukrainian journalists. It was a part of a big campaign of disinformation by Russian propaganda and it is called “doppelganger”.
How do you see Russian propaganda in Balkan?
I think that countries which are supporting Russia or allies of Russia are using the same propaganda, for example Serbia and I know that some of Serbian people fight against Ukraine now and I know some Ukrainian people who are living in Serbia now, and that they repeat the same messages that share Russian propaganda. And it is a very similar situation, and I think the main target of propaganda in the Balkans especially in the Western Balkans is Kosovo. I need to say that before coming here I did not know true information about the war in Kosovo about the independence of this country and I realize now that everything I knew about this country it was based on Russian propaganda messages, and I think that we need to fight with strong enemy as Russia and its allies and I think that critical thinking and media literacy is our superpower in this fight.
Thank you very much for this interview!