Ukraine Day 892: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Journalists from Ukraine’s Hromadske TV report automated bot attacks on social media following public criticism by the Ukrainian military.
The rise of Kremlin-style trolling in Ukraine must end | Katya Gorchinskaya
Ukraine's media community has been left shellshocked after the killing of prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet in a car bomb attack last week. Although no motive has been confirmed, his friends and colleagues say his death is linked to his reporting, offering further evidence of the increasingly dangerous conditions in which many of the country's reporters work.
The ATO Press Center announced earlier this month that Hromadske’s Nastya Stanko and Yulia Polukhina from Russia’s independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper were to be barred from receiving Ukrainian military accreditation.
According to the military, the journalists recorded footage that exposed Ukrainian positions in the Avdeyevka industrial park.
Hromadske’s Katya Gorchinskaya wrote in The Guardian yesterday that the footage had never ended up being aired by her network.
But Novaya Gazeta did publish the video. What is notable is that the building in which the journalists were filming is one that is familiar to any regular observer of the conflict. Dozens of TV crews have broadcast footage from this same position. However what appears different is that the warren of shelters on the floor of the factory building is shown. This is not usually the case.
The crew observed the death of a Ukrainian soldier, killed when the position came under fire from Russian-backed fighters. One of the criticisms made by the ATO Press Center was that the soldiers’ faces were not blurred.
But while the removal of the journalists’ accreditation could have been defensible on these grounds, the response went further.
As soon as the statement on their Facebook page appeared, something strange started to happen. In the first five minutes, the statement was shared more than 360 times. Within an hour, it became the most popular post on the joint staff’s press page. And then, almost all the activity suddenly stopped.
The join staff page was created in July 2014 at the height of the conflict in east Ukraine to inform the public about daily events on the frontline. It is managed by the press service, and a typical post gets just a few dozen likes and shares.
But the post about Hromadske spread like a forest fire. Reposts trashed our journalists, attacking their reputations and slamming their work.
At some point we realised it was an organised attack. A source told us it was the work of three groups of trolls and a bot farm. Though we don’t know who commissioned the attack, we do know that their position was strongly pro-government.
The technical team at the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an independent investigative journalism NGO, also analysed the unusual traffic and confirmed that click-farming did indeed take place. Deeper analysis is currently under way.
It was a shocking revelation. Has the government unleashed a troll army against independent journalists? Is a country at war with Russia using Kremlin-style tactics of lies and manipulation? But why would they?
One answer is that Hromadske’s journalists see too much. They see trenches that are waist deep, not nearly deep enough to protect the fighters. They see understaffed units, the sloppy work of press officers and attempts to stop journalists from reporting the real problems on the ground.
The use of such tactics is a worrying development as reports from the front line are in desperately short supply. Very few reporters operate in the conflict zone at the moment and international attention has shifted away despite the ever-rising death toll.
Coming in the wake of the debacle surrounding the release of journalists’ accreditation data by the Myrotvorets (Peacekeeper) website associated with an MP an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, and a spate of attacks on journalists in Ukraine, the revelation of the use of automated social media attacks only further tarnishes Ukraine’s reputation as an environment for reporters at a time when they are most needed.
— Pierre Vaux
One Ukrainian soldier was killed and another wounded yesterday.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed fighters conducted 44 attacks over the course of the day.
The ATO Press Center reported that a fire-fight between Ukrainian and Russian-backed fighters on the edge of Avdeyevka lasted for almost an hour.
Lysenko claimed that Ukrainian intelligence had detected the movement of heavy artillery towards this section of the front line, saying that this indicated that an intense artillery barrage would be mounted in the coming days.
The ATO Press Center reported that a firefight between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed fighters on the edge of Avdeyevka that began at around 11:30 yesterday had lasted for nearly an hour.
Colonel Lysenko claimed that Ukrainian intelligence had recorded the movement of heavy artillery towards this section of the front, saying that this indicated an upcoming heavy artillery barrage.
The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) announced that one Russian-backed fighter was killed.
Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the armed forces of the DNR, said that the fighter was killed by Ukrainian fire yesterday.
The DNR claims that Ukrainian forces fired on separatist-held territory 108 times over 24 hours, using mortars, as well as BMP infantry fighting vehicle cannons and lighter weaponry.
— Pierre Vaux