Anti-Western sentiments have been intertwined with anti-democracy opinions in Ukraine. The Russian propaganda machine amplified that the West – Europe, the U.S., NATO and international institutions, precisely, are not helping Ukraine in its fight against the new coronavirus. According to fact-checkers from Ukraine World, some narratives regard NATO and the EU as old-fashioned/archaic organizations. Considering the poor performance of the Western “allies” of Ukraine, pro-Russian and opposition leaders start reaping the benefits in.
Pro-Russian local media & Public figures
Pro-Russian oligarch controlled media such as 112 Ukraine or Newsone frequently broadcast anti-Western narratives that are grounded by the opinions of pro-Russian commentators or public figures. For instance, Mykhailo Pohrebynskyi is a vocal pro-Russian political commentator for these kinds of media. He is a proponent of the idea that democratic countries are not effective in dealing with coronavirus:
“There are big doubts that liberal democracy and globalism should be the model for most people living on our planet. These ideas have effectively died after the coronavirus pandemic.”
“EU interest in Ukraine will fade away in the coming years” – Pohrebinsky
The anti-Western narrative is also explored to propagate the idea that Ukraine has a bad image and poor potential for the EU: “The EU will rather seek a way to end the confrontation with Russia since Russia is a country that has tremendous resources while Ukraine is an eternal applicant”, according to Pohrebinskyi
Vadim Rabinovich, a Ukrainian renowned oligarch who is also one of the leaders of Opposition Platform-For Life, is another outspoken pro-Russian supporter. In his interviews he stresses that Kyiv should stop flirting with its strategic partners – NATO, the U.S., and the EU – entities which promise a lot, but perform poorly. Instead, he suggests, it is necessary to ask for help from countries that can offer real aid. He is a frequent guest speaker for Newsone and 112 Ukraine TV channels, which are allegedly controlled by the leader of the Opposition Platform – For Life, Viktor Medvedchuk.
“We have been moving madly towards NATO and the EU for six years, destroying our economy, our medicine, and supplying our specialists to all of Europe. And today we can’t get anything in return! ” Rabinovich underlined.
Pro-Russian websites such as strana.ua stresses that the West did not offer any concrete help in the fight against coronavirus – even though the IMF offered financial help it is only to help maintain the Hrivna and reduce the negative effect of the economic lockdown.
The narrative is appealing to those viewers who supported anti-Maidan positions and are unsatisfied with the post-Maidan Ukrainian vector in politics. It targets a pro-Russian audience and suggests that Ukraine should rather seek ways to a conciliation with Russia.
Ukraine received assistance from the United States that amounted $ 15.5 million to combat COVID-19. Additionally, the United States has invested nearly $ 5 billion in total assistance to Ukraine over the past 20 years, including almost $ 362 million in health care. The EU offered Ukraine over €190 million for immediate and short-term needs such as building community resilience through assistance to vulnerable people, transition to online education, fighting disinformation and strengthening cultural diversity and creativity online.