The Atlantic

Ukraine’s Election Is an All-Out Disinformation Battle

Ahead of the presidential election, the campaigns themselves have become combatants in the information war. That’s exactly what Russia wants.
Source: Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Support for this article was provided by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

KYIV, Ukraine—“Everything,” Dmytro Zolotukhin tells me, “is going like they wanted.”

Slumped in a chair in a café here in the Ukrainian capital, Zolotukhin wasn’t talking about the campaign of Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian who is favored to win the country’s presidential elections this weekend, or the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko. No, they are the Russians. Moscow has used Ukraine as a disinformation laboratory for years—and Zolotukhin is one of the men charged with fending them off.

The Kremlin stands accused of interfering in elections the world over, driving division in societies through an array of tactics, chief among them online disinformation. Using fabricated or misleading news stories and fake accounts, Russian operations have sought to sow doubt in the democratic process. Ahead of European Parliament elections next month and the American presidential contest in 2020, Putin’s online armies are auditioning their tactics in Ukraine.

Kyiv isn’t just the laboratory

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