Ukrainian journalist Daria Meshcheriakova, in an interview for The Geopost, spoke about the situation in Ukraine and Russian propaganda.
Meshcheriakova is among the Ukrainian journalists who came to Kosovo after Russia attacked Ukraine.
Among other things, in the interview for The Geopost, she said that Ukraine is going through the same war that the Albanians and Kosovo have gone through.
“But what I see now, that Ukraine is going through the same war as Albanians and Kosovo did.”, said Meshcheriakova.
Regarding the Russian propaganda, she stated that it is the same as the Serbian one and that both use the same mechanism and the same lies.
“They’re using same mechanism, same tools, same lies.”, she said.
Below you can find the full interview of Daria Meshcheriakova for The Geopost:
The Geopost: How is the situation in Ukraine?
Meshcheriakova: Thank you for inviting me and it’s very hard to say how it is now, the only thing I can confirm is that there is no safe place in Ukraine right now, because Russia has decided just to terrorize Ukraine and they’ve been shelling small towns and villages, big cities, civilians and purposely, because they want to threaten Ukrainians to force the government, to force the president to surrender.
I left Kyiv in early March because Russia was shelling it intensively and it was very scary.
Since then, Kyiv is more or less safe, I would say, but it’s a little bit too soon to come back because I see every day that civilians die in all regions of Ukraine, also in Kyiv, and my parents live in the occupied area.
On one side, I’m happy that the Ukrainian Army is bombing them, the military bases, but on the other hand, I’m very concerned because my parents live right next to those military bases and when the weapons detonate, you never know where it will fly and where it will land, so basically the situation is very complicated because I see how Europe is tired of the war in Ukraine, but we do not have the chance to get tired of this war.
The Geopost: How is it to be neighbor with Russia?
Meshcheriakova: You know, as a person who grew up in the Russia, I spent my childhood in Russia because my dad is originally from there.
We live kind of on the border with Russia, and I always felt that arrogance towards my nation from my family, Russian family.
I grew up with them, we ate at the same table we slept in the same bed, but now they call me Nazi, because they watch too much TV. And I saw this development of their propaganda throughout Putin’s presidency, how my relatives became more and more aggressive towards us, anytime we arrived, it was only 150 km or something, once we cross the border, the Russians were like so arrogant towards us, first they said to us, you are stealing our gas, then why do you learn Ukrainian language, I said because it is the language of my country. Oh, forget about it, nobody will need it, you should stick with Russia.
And then in 2014, it was beyond, they became so aggressive that we cut ties with our Russian family. There were just a couple of people in my dad’s family, who were still in touch with him, but in February 2022 we even stopped contacting them because they said that the war was fake and that I was making up the shelling and it was not Russia, and then my parents to stop talking to all my Russian family.
So basically, it’s very hard to live in such a matrix, so to say, when people do not even realize what is happening, they just watch TV and they don’t have money to leave the region. They live all their lives in the same village in the same City in the same region and they do not believe that some other life exist.
When I went to study in Germany, all my Russian family said like the European Union will fall apart soon, so forget about the European Union. And they didn’t believe that life in the European Union was fine, and that people were kind to me, not as they have imagined, if you’re foreigner nobody cares about you, that was not true.
So, it’s very hard to live with such a neighbor, because you cannot get rational with them, they are always irrational, they are not analytical and they are very, very arrogant and aggressive towards Ukrainians.
The Geopost: How Russian propaganda is using the Ukraine crisis and invasion to make more propaganda?
Meshcheriakova: I don’t even know how to make more propaganda because what they have been doing for at least two decades, it’s already too much.
They just lie, and since their people do not want to read something else, this is a drug basically.
They show like these drug dealers on TV. They want more hatred, more excitement, more talks, more aggressive talk, and people, they get more infected by this drug, and they turn on TV just to show more, more fight, more for them is excited because people in Russia, believe me, I spend half of my life in Russia and I know how it is, I’m not talking about Moscow or Saint Petersburg, I’m, talking about small regions of Russia.
Really do not know what to do except for watching TV, and they do believe it, and when I try to ask them questions, nobody knows the answer, but they just try to speak same slogans as on TV, that’s it.
They have so much money, the Kremlin, for propaganda, and the European Union still send them too much money, buying their oil and gas and they can bribe anyone in Europe to talk propaganda and to spread it, they’re very powerful with this.
And if you do not fight it and it’s very hard to fight it, you need more money to fight it, because if they spread one disinformation, just a little piece of this disinformation, you need more resources to fight it because people already doubt. Once you convince them, they have spread ten more pieces of disinformation and the purpose of it is to make you doubt it, and that’s it.
The Geopost: How is Russia and Putin using Orthodox church in Ukraine?
Meshcheriakova: They’ve been using the Orthodox church for a long time, as I remember, even in the Lugansk in 2014, they spread propaganda in the church and they even baptized the guns to go and kill Ukrainians.
Our Ukrainian state tried to fight the Russian Church in Ukraine.
It’s too popular with the eastern Ukrainians, and what I read in the first weeks of the war, that Russia tried to organize terrorist attacks in the church, Russian Church, Russian Orthodox churches, to show that Ukrainians kill their own civilians who’ve just come to pray and they’re innocent and just because they want to pray in Russian church, but thank God they prevented it.
Well, thank God that Ukrainians are not very religious in this case, and not all Ukrainians are Orthodox, that’s why the church is not so influential, but still, people who go to church, they are infected by the propaganda, Russian propaganda, because it’s still, whatever they do, whatever our government does, it’s still pretty popular in the east.
The Geopost: Can you tell us why did you choose Kosovo?
Meshcheriakova: Well, unlike my colleagues, here, we are now six people from Ukraine. It’s not my first time here, for all other journalists is the first time in Kosovo. My first time was in 2011, I studied then in Vienna, Southeastern studies and I learned Albanian there (I still cannot speak well), and I got interested with this situation, worse situation, because I remember that in Ukrainian media, they described it completely different, and I was so curious about it. Like why, why we knew the different story. And I came here, I spoke to many people here and I realized that I was also a victim of Russian propaganda, so to say, and Serbian propaganda.
And then I came back over and over again, to see, to travel here, I’ve been to Mitrovica, this time, I was back to see my feelings, because first time I was in Mitrovica before our war and it felt completely different, and now I was two weeks ago and now my perception has changed about Mitrovica and everything that happened there. I’m not romanticizing it anymore as I did.
So, I was always curious about the place, and I always wanted to be back and to stay here for longer than a week or two, to speak to more people to see how life has changed after the war and what people went through.
But what I see now, that Ukraine is going through the same war as Albanians and Kosovo did.
The Geopost: Can you compare Russian influence in Serbia and Russian propaganda in Ukraine?
Meshcheriakova: Well it’s the same, even when I went to university, it was long time ago, I remember how I prepared one essay on the Russians, Serbian friendship, how it started and everything.
It started like 300 years ago when Russia once helped Serbia in the war against Turkey I believe, and then they just became like Slavic brothers and then this myth was born, and still, they still believe they’re like orthodox brothers and nobody else in the world understand them.
They just have to stick together and spread their disinformation together basically.
Serbia was doing absolutely same what is Russia doing, but fortunately, they do not have so much money as Russians, but the Russians still help them to spread this disinformation.
And unfortunately, it’s absolute the same with a Serbian did and still doing and what Russia has been doing for decades.
They’re using same mechanism, same tools, same lies.
The Geopost: Do you have any message for the Balkan people, for Balkan states, how to protect from Russian influence, propaganda and disinformation?
Meshcheriakova: It is very hard, because Russia has too much money. And they are not greedy, they are greedy to invest this money in education, in medical system, in their citizens, but not war or propaganda? It’s very hard, this is the main task for journalists to tackle this propaganda, you always have to verify your sources, and if you see some news, you have to see where it comes from, and you have to compare it. If you know people who live in that place, it’s better to ask people directly.
But what I see even in social media, Russia is using a lot of bots, you can click on their profiles and they are empty or you can see that the just post and keep posting lots of Russian news and then you can understand that it is just a Russian bot.
And it was a funny story on the day when Russia proclaimed independency of LNR and DNR, and my parents live there, I know everything about the region. And one American “socialist”, as he said “leftist”, he was “oh finally these people are free from this Nazi regime”, and I clicked on his profile and saw that he looked like a “bot”. He was writing that Ukrainians have been terrorizing Russians for 8 years, I said I am originally from there, I am Ukrainian, what else can you say? He replied, leave people to celebrate, and it was 11 in the evening, and he kept sending me photos how they are celebrating independence. And I know there was a curfew, people were not allowed to go outside at that time, and I said there is e curfew, they cannot be celebrating right now.
But you know, for me it was clear, because I know the situation, and people who read it, they do not know it and they start doubting it, that is the problem, and finally I see now that many people in Western media, they already know they are bots and anytime Western media posts something on Ukraine they say “Russian bots, we are waiting for you”. At least they understand. Because even one year ago it was difficult to imagine that for example Germans or Dutch or French people or Americans would distinguish the bots and the real people. So, at least now people learned how to divide this disinformation and normal information. And for people who consume information it’s critical to be analytical and to compare what other sources bring. Not just click on the source and then you open the source and there is nothing, it’s just a made up piece. So it’s better to read papers you trust and then if you doubt it just find a person from there and ask.