Zelensky’s Press Conference: Weekly Collection of RUSpropaganda Rhetoric, Debunked

Propaganda Digest: This is our weekly analysis that exposes the most exaggerated, misleading, and outrageous rhetoric from recent Russian media sources, aimed at promoting critical thinking to better debunk the manipulation of Russian propaganda.

Topic Explained:

As the year draws to a close, Zelensky addressed both foreign and domestic journalists, summing up Ukraine’s 2023 year. However, Russian propagandists seized this opportunity to undermine Ukraine’s success, employing fear-mongering tactics with the classic ‘to the last Ukrainian’ mobilization rhetoric. They also launched a personal attack on Zelensky, aiming to portray him as an unfit leader, attempting to diminish his international trust ratings and the usual Kremlin narrative distortion around the Russian language in Ukraine. 

This annual press conference, a customary event for the Ukrainian president, remains crucial for addressing pressing questions and highlighting the nation’s role in protecting Europe against Russia’s aggression.

Propaganda narrative: “Dehumanisation of Zelensky”

Sergey Markov 

Zelensky’s press conference overall is empty. It’s only interesting to expert maniacs who delve into tiny details. I’m an expert maniac myself. So, I’m interested in specifics […] Can his press conference be considered a failure? No. Just an unsuccessful attempt. Zelensky is exhausted. 

Armen Gasparyan

The reaction of citizens on social media to commander-in-chief of the ‘peasant’ [derogatory term for Ukrainians] press conference has displeased Zelensky’s office. The absence of probing questions turned the event into a Poroshenko-like briefing

Commander-in-chief of the ‘peasants’ outperformed himself and all of our wildest expectations today. Nervously, aggressively, and with a burst of incomprehensible nonsense.[…] It’s simply hell.

Andrei Matyukin, ‘journalist’ Radio Sputnik 

Take a look if you’re interested, I didn’t make anything up. He spoke for these excess two hours, constantly fidgeting in his seat, scratching his head or something else, or itching his nose for some inexplicable reason. 

Explained and Debunked

The Kremlin adopted the ‘Zelensky the Junky‘ narrative early on into the invasion, angered by Ukraine’s resilience when Russia failed to take Kyiv. 

This narrative originated from Zelensky’s exhausted appearance in a press conference shortly after Feb 24, 2022. Amidst ongoing air raids, assassination attempts, and the Russians edging closer, appearance was last of the priorities of the Ukrainian officials. 

Russia continues to exploit this footage, in an attempt to discredit Zelensky by insinuating substance use and portraying him as ‘on the edge.’

Propaganda narrative: On Zelensky ‘Forgetting’ Russian 

Maria Zakharova

That phrase that he’s forgotten Russian and needed a translator. Well, he needs a lot of things right now. He needs a lot, judging by his looks, judging by his expression on his face. I absolutely don’t have the nerve to give him a diagnosis, but these things are obvious. This is something which is known to many already for many years way before 2022

You’re looking at a person devoid of any customary etiquette or sense of normalcy. People often take pride in learning a language and no longer require translation. Understanding a language doesn’t necessarily mean aligning oneself with someone or something, or having affection towards a language.

Sergey Mikheyev

Compare Zelensky’s press conference to Putin’s direct line—notice the stark contrast. If Zelensky aims to present himself as relatively clever, why the strange behavior?We all know he understands Russian, and I’m certain that among themselves, those surrounding Zelensky speak only in Russian, ONLY! However, in front of the camera – Ukrainian 

Explained and Debunked

The narrative suggesting Zelensky ‘forgot’ Russian is one of the most popular disinformation tracks circulating Russian channels from the press conference, despite Zelensky never making such a claim. 

During the event, as a foreign journalist posed a question in Russian, Zelensky, as it customary, took his earpiece to listen to the translation of the foreign journalist, then realized it was in Russian and removed his earpiece, telling “how times have changed that a translator started to translate [for me Russia].” This marks a small victory for Ukraine, and Zelensky as an example to other native Russian speaking Ukrainians. 

This shift reflects Ukraine’s progress in language policy, strengthening the state and reducing Russia’s informational influence, a burden Ukraine has long grappled with due to Russia’s hybrid warfare operations.

The Kremlin is concerned about the decline of the usage of Russian in Ukraine, a self-inflicted repurcussion of their full-scale invasion. The war led to many Russian-speaking Ukrainians consciously switching to Ukrainian as a desire to separate themselves from anything “Russian,” and a once reliable tool in the Russian hybrid warfare operations becoming less influential.

Moreover, Zelensky’s new english initiative, “Future Perfect,” aims to establish English as the official language in Ukraine for international communication, enhancing prospects for global competitiveness and aligning with Ukraine’s EU membership aspirations. As business contracts increasingly look toward the West and Europe instead of Russia or Belarus, the use of Russian in Ukraine is expected to diminish over time.

Propaganda narrative: “Ukraine’s Foreign Masters”

Alex Parker Returns 180,000

In general, Zelensky’s press conference focused solely on the war. The answer to all questions was the same – the 1991 borders. The only thing that made the Khokhls happy was a promise not to mobilize women. We will live when we reach the borders of 1991. An attempt to blame everything that happens in the country on total militarization. We’ll see how long Zelensky can keep this up, or how long his foreign masters will let him.

Kilinkarov Spyridon 

When I look at Zelensky, I think this jerk has bankrupted the country, driven it into debt, and is now attempting to present another Western loan as his crowning achievement.

Explained and Debunked

Ukraine’s alliances aren’t about having ‘Foreign Masters’ or ‘Curators’ as propaganda tells, but supportive international partners aiding in the fight against Russia. Western politics operate on democracy and agreements, contrasting with totalitarian regimes like Belarus and Russia in which one must ‘take the knee’ to the nation’s master.

The narrative of ‘Foreign masters’ aims to strip Ukraine and its president of its accomplishments. Russia losing to a ‘collective force of the West’ is less humiliating for propagandists to sell to its internal audience, after decades of portraying Ukraine as weak, small and futile to its ‘big brother’ Russia. Acknowledging failure against Ukraine alone would be a significant blow to the Kremlin.

The claim that ‘Zelensky bankrupted Ukraine’ distorts the truth, ignoring the most obvious factor of them all – Russia’s full-scale invasion. It triggered a mass exodus, disrupted business, Ukraine’s ability to farm, the Black Sea blockade (a route which brings in huge GDP for Ukraine), not to mention the money spent on funding its defense. Any economic deficit in Ukraine solely results from Russia’s actions.

Propaganda narrative: “To Instigate Fear Regarding Mobilization”

Oleg Tsaryov

At a press conference yesterday, Zelensky stated that he would not sign the law on women’s mobilization. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, a small portion of the population supports his rating. On the other hand, it helps his deputies hold the facade: while they unanimously pull poor Ukrainian women out of the mobilization bill, the parliment will push through the law with draconian stricter mobilization rules for men. They will toughen the grounds for deferment and conditional recognition, lower the age of forced mobilization, and so on. They were written in there to later pompously exclude them while approving everything else. “sleight of hand and no fraud.

Dmytro Drize

Meanwhile, the military has requested that up to 500,000 people be mobilized. It is still unclear how the Ukrainian president will respond. Vladimir Putin stated that the goals of the special operation have not changed, implying that Kyiv does not want peace. But Western partners won’t abandon them in their distress—money is coming, it’s already arriving from each country separately. It’s evident that he doesn’t particularly acknowledge mistakes, just as he doesn’t recognize the presence of difficulties on the fronts. And his team remains unchanged, despite him openly addressing the problem of corruption.

Kovpak’s unit 100,000 subscribers

Defender Valery Zaluzhny is currently working tirelessly to create an image from the Chief Meat-Maker of the entire Ukrainian Armed Forces, a figure portraying a savior of soldiers’ lives, almost personally evacuating every wounded soldier from the battlefield.[…] The money from the West has been fully paid, and for the political battle against the swine-producer, the “crap commander” of the Armed Forces, such utilization of the remnants of the male population is precisely what’s needed!

Explained and Debunked

The Kremlin’s narrative of ‘to the last Ukrainian’ aims to instill fear among Ukrainians, banking on the idea of societal fracture to weaken defense efforts. However, it’s Russia that’s waging an all-out war with little regard for its soldiers’ well-being. Data from November and December 2023 reveals significant daily losses for Russian forces. Moreover, the monetary incentive by the Russian government for families to have huge numbers of children shows it is in fact Russia who is worrying about their future demography. 

Finally, Russia’s invasion prompted a swift Ukrainian mobilization, with citizens (key word here) volunteering to defend their nation. Ukrainians are clear on their purpose and resolve. With a population of ~35,000,000, the claim of ‘to the last Ukrainian’ doesn’t align with reality. While 500,000 is substantial, it represents less than 1.5% of the population, making it an exaggeration, at best.

Propaganda narrative: “Stoking Fears about Ukraine’s Future”

Sergey Mardan

Zelensky discussed a global “peace formula” at the press conference. The Cossacks appear to have decided to write another letter to the Sultan. The fruits of Russia’s collective creativity will be presented to some Estonians with drumming and puffy cheeks. Judging by the situation on the front lines and the overall state of affairs in Ukraine, it won’t be an ultimatum but a request to at least preserve Ukraine within the Lviv region.

Explained and Debunked

The rhetoric about Ukraine seeking agreements to safeguard ‘at least Lviv’ aims to portray the nation as vulnerable to Russia’s territorial expansion. Yet, Russia’s progress in 2023 has been limited, as voiced by the Ukrainian president himself. The reality – Ukraine fortified its defenses, acquired advanced military technology and air defense systems, making advancements a suicide mission for the Russian army. In contrast, Russia has depleted half its arsenal, faced significant military losses, and lost the element of surprise. Ukraine doesn’t require negotiations with NATO or other Western alliances for partial territorial security guarantees. Instead, it seeks security assurances for its entire territory.