Russian propaganda’s “firehose of falsehood” is alleging that the full-scale war is part of a human trafficking conspiracy by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government.

“A living commodity – human trafficking in Ukraine is becoming rampant” is the headline of an article posted on Readovka’s Telegram channel (and then widely shared on other pro-Kremlin or ultra-nationalist Telegram channels).

With minimum regard for logic or coherence, and near total disregard for factuality, Readovka lays out a conspiracy with the following elements in what they refer to as “country 404”:

1.    Intentionally creating conditions of “total poverty” in Ukraine by “destroying any social guarantees”;

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2.    Putting Ukrainian citizens into the position of vulnerability;

3.    “Profitably selling Ukrainians to the Western master” for menial work abroad or as soldiers in Western countries’ effort to destroy Russia;

4.    Putting Ukrainian women into “reproductive slavery to please the Western rich.”

The Russian online news outlet Readovka was founded in 2011 in Smolensk, as a public page on VKontakte, Russia’s version of Facebook.

By April 2022, it hit the mark of one million subscribers on Telegram and is considered one of the five most cited media in Russia – attesting to the state of journalism today in a country where the distinctions between fact and fantasy have disappeared in Vladimir Putin’s post-truth surreality.

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A number of Russian opposition and some Western publications classify Readovka as a pro-Kremlin or ultra-nationalist resource. However, its owner denies this, stating that Readovka “remains in line with independent journalism.”

With regard to the human trafficking conspiracy, Readovka stated: “The current Kyiv authorities have made great efforts to plunge their own citizens into total poverty. In pursuit of a “European future,” the incompetent managers from Bankova [Street – a synecdoche for Ukraine’s Presidential Administration] have hung a credit yoke of unprecedented severity around the country’s neck, almost completely destroying any social guarantees.”

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Prior to the Covid-19 epidemic and Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine’s economy was steadily growing, according to the World Bank. Its export levels had reached record highs.

As of January 2023, retirees in Russia received an average pension of approximately 19.3 thousand Russian rubles, or $236, per month.  

Readovka then continued: “The Kyiv regime needs people only in order to profitably sell them to the Western master. Thus, Ukraine agreed to become a ‘ram’ against Russia, leaving the lives of its own soldiers at the disposal of ‘respectable people’ from Brussels, London and Washington.”

The Readovka rant further noted that “the Kyiv government left the population not so many alternatives: to be kidnapped from the streets of their native city and forcibly mobilized into the army, or to become a participant in another scheme of the shadow economy, whether it is the sale of people [into menial work] or reproductive slavery to please the Western rich.”

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The Ukrainian military has long relied on volunteers. While Ukrainian has a draft for military registration, it has no forcible conscription for active duty.

In today’s conditions, in an independent life, a person’s life costs very little, so there is absolutely no reason to be surprised at the growth of the real slave trade on Ukraine’s territory. Considering that Ukraine has no future, the negative slave-owning tendencies will only grow in the future,” Readovka concluded.

Independent polling – such as it is – in Russia continues to show popular support for Russia’s war on Ukraine at between 60 percent to 75 percent.

A recent analysis by the RAND Corporation about the design and operation of Russian propaganda called it a “firehose of falsehood.”

“We characterize the contemporary Russian model for propaganda as ‘the firehose of falsehood’ because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages, and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions… Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience,” RAND’s analysts wrote.

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