An article in The Telegraph has attracted the attention of the Russian media. The piece, written by the British newspaper’s senior diplomatic correspondent Roland Oliphant and published on July 5, was headlined “Ukraine needs a victory before autumn to silence Western doubters.” Its sub-headline read: “Volodymyr Zelenskyy is running out of time to shore up support, with some believing his country’s battle against Russia is futile.”
The Russian media pieces about the Telegraph article had nearly identical headlines:
“Telegraph: The West will cut aid to Ukraine because of the futility of supporting Kyiv,” Gazeta.ru’s headline read.
“The Telegraph: Western countries may curtail the program of support for Ukraine due to the failures of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” read the headline in the state-owned Federal News Agency.
“‘Western support for Ukraine is useless’,” read the headline on the Rambler.ru news site, with the sub-headline: “Telegraph: The West will cut aid to Ukraine because of the futility of supporting Kyiv.”
All of those Russian media reports misquoted and distorted the piece in The Telegraph in a way that fits Kremlin anti-Ukraine propaganda, thereby misinforming Russian readers.
The Kremlin’s persistent false narrative is that the West will cut support for Ukraine.
Since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the West has demonstrated unprecedented unity in aiding Ukraine and taking tough measures to weaken Russia’s military and economy. It has provided Ukraine with military equipment, personnel training, humanitarian aid and diplomatic support.
Most recently, Western leaders promised during the June G7 Summit in Germany that they would continue to support for Ukraine.
“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” said the G7 statement signed by the leaders of the United States, U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan.
According to Ukraine Support Tracker – a dataset created by the German KIEL Institute for the World Economy – the Western aid for Ukraine is increasing, not shrinking.
The United States alone has committed to providing Ukraine with military, humanitarian and financial aid worth more than $42 billion.
Countries with smaller economies, like Estonia and Latvia, have dedicated up to 10% of their GDP to supporting Ukraine.
In his July 5 article, Telegraph senior foreign correspondent Roland Oliphant stated that recent Russian territorial gains in Ukraine have been “costly, bloody and slow” but brought Russia “almost no strategic advantage.”
“Russia’s initial plans for a grand battle of encirclement in Donbas to destroy the Ukrainian army have failed,” he wrote. None of that was included in the Russian news reports that cited his piece.
However, Oliphant also stated that Russian forces “are still advancing and the Ukrainians are still retreating,” adding that “[w]ith the exception Russian retreats from Kyiv in March and from Kharkiv in May, the grinding battles of attrition have ended almost entirely in Russia’s favor.”
Ukraine’s recent battle-field losses and shortage of professionally trained military personnel are playing “into an even more important battle for international opinion,” Oliphant wrote, with “plenty of influential voices in Western capitals … who still believe Western support for Ukraine is futile.”
“Until and unless the Ukrainian army begins to put encirclements around the Russians, the self-proclaimed realists will feel vindicated - and their calls for a cease-fire and settlement in Moscow’s favor will gain influence with governments. So, Ukraine needs a victory - and in short order,” Oliphant wrote.
Indeed, Oliphant’s piece was, if anything, a call for increased Western military aid to Ukraine. He wrote that “Ukraine must win the war and the West must do all it can to help do so.”
The Russian media, however, seemingly cherry-picked and mistranslated certain parts of the Telegraph piece, rearranging them in a way that better fit Moscow’s propaganda narratives.
Russian media outlets regularly distort Western media reporting.
In early June, Russian media outlets put their spin on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation story about the situation on Ukraine’s eastern front lines and the mood of Ukrainian troops there.
Ukrainian servicemen shared their despair and frustration with CBC war correspondent Neil Hauer, complaining about the lack of proper weaponry and their feeling of being abandoned under relentless Russian bombardment.
The CBC piece was headlined: “‘In this war, the ordinary infantryman is nothing’: Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas feel abandoned and outgunned”. Russian media stories about the CBC were all a variation of this headline: “CBC News: servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine spoke out about the betrayal of the leadership.”
In May, Polygraph.info described how Russian and Chinese media distorted a Canadian sniper’s story about the war in Ukraine.
His account appeared in an article published in the Canadian newspaper La Presse under the headline “War is a terrible disappointment.” The Canadian sniper, who volunteered to fight against Russian forces in Ukraine, described the horrors and frustrations of war, including having to scrounge for food, weapons and ammunition. He also recounted an incident in which two inexperienced Ukrainian conscripts were blown up by a Russian tank.
But Russia’s state-owned RT and China’s state-owned Global Times cherry-picked the La Presse account, saying it described “looting, profiteering and desertion.” They exaggerated the sniper’s more nuanced remarks, turning them into an attack on the professionalism of the Ukrainian military.
“Over many years, Russia has fabricated a set of false narratives that its disinformation and propaganda ecosystem persistently injects into the global information environment,” the U.S. State Department wrote in a January 2022 fact sheet on Russian disinformation.
“These narratives act like a template, which enables the Kremlin to adjust these narratives, with one consistency – a complete disregard for truth as it shapes the information environment to support its policy goals.”
After launching a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February, the Russian government criminalized independent reporting about its war there, banning and expelling independent media outlets.
“These new laws are part of Russia’s ruthless effort to suppress all dissent and make sure the population does not have access to any information that contradicts the Kremlin’s narrative about the invasion of Ukraine,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch.