A blog claiming to be that of the disgraced former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has appeared on the well-known Ukrainian news site Korrespondent. Media analysts say the blog is part of a new mass-media campaign aimed at spreading pro-Russian messages relating to reestablishing ties with the country.
Yanukovych fled to Russia in February 2014 and is widely blamed by Ukrainians for ordering the killings of 100 protesters at the end of the EuroMaidan Revolution. The ousted president is wanted in connection with the killings, and an arrest warrant was also issued for him by a Kyiv court on Jan. 9 concerning the kidnapping of the late head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The blog first appeared on Dec. 29, 2016 and has since been posting daily. Social media accounts claiming to be the former president also appeared on the same day on Twitter and Facebook.
Maxim Minin, the editor of Korrespondent, told the Kyiv Post that “they are still trying to ascertain whether the blog is real or fake,” and said that they would assess whether the publication of the blog, if it is real, violates any Ukrainian laws.
Minin said that blogs are uploaded without the permission of the editors.
So far the account claiming to be that of Yanukovych has blogged about a bizarre range of topics. From an attack on Russian deputy Igor Ponomarev for being a CIA agent, to saying that former journalists-turned deputies, Sergii Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayem, staged and designed the protest movement to seize power. The account also wrote that the journalists covered up the involvement of Serhiy Lyovochkin, the former Head of the Presidential Administration, who is now a parliament deputy, in the bloodshed.
Korrespondent was a popular news site and magazine known for its more independent coverage until it was bought out in November 2013 by UMH Group, controlled by Yanukovych ally Serhiy Kurchenko. Since then, it has been viewed as his puppet publication.
Detector Media wrote on Jan. 10 they see the blog in the context of a recent large increase in pro-Russian messages in the Ukrainian media by Ukrainian politicians, trade unions and factories over the past four months. One of the main narratives calls on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to reestablish ties with Russia for the sake of the economy. Detector Media wrote that several fake factory websites have been set up with the apparent purpose of persuading the Ukrainian public that there is an urgent need for the country to restore ties with Russia, or risk economic collapse.
Diana Dutsyk, executive director of Dectector Media, told the Kyiv Post that if the blog were fake “we would have heard it by now.” Dutsyk said that the timing of blog is also signficant because it appeared on the same day as an op-ed by oligarch Victor Pinchuk calling for a deal with Russia published in The Wall Street Journal.