The news item that raised the Ukrainian ministry’s ire was a tweet by AFP on July 2 reading “Ukraine separatists say they have encircled Lysychansk: agencies.”
Afterward, in a comment section underneath that tweet, AFP News Agency account published an additional text: “#UPDATE. Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia Saturday said they had “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Lugansk region.”
Oleg Nikolenko, a communications officer for Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, later described AFP as “a victim of Russian propaganda.”
“#BREAKING. AFP became a victim of Russian propaganda. It egregiously calls Russia’s invading army ‘Ukraine separatists,’ presenting Russia’s war against Ukraine as an internal conflict – Kremlin is cheering. What next – ‘Ukraine separatists’ fire cruise missiles from the Caspian?” Nikolenko wrote on Twitter.
Since 2014, Russian propaganda has been attempting to promote its own version of Russian military operations in Ukraine, falsely presenting it as “a Ukrainian civil war.” During the 2022 full-scale invasion, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine still uses this method – the trending tag “Ukraine civil war” can be found on a number of social media networks.
Technically, a number of Ukrainian citizens are likely fighting in the Russian army – for instance, residents of the Donbas forcefully mobilized by Russia’s Defense Ministry. But these people are clearly on the side of Russia in a classical “sovereign vs sovereign” type of war.
Moreover, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on July 3 denied Moscow’s claims that it had established “full control” over Lysychansk. In the morning, Serhiy Hayday, head of Luhansk Oblast Military Administration, said the Russians had deployed all the forces they had to capture the city of Lysychansk.
“They’re trying to build their own defensive lines in the city, while also ruining local civil infrastructure,” Hayday said. He said the Russian army is experiencing heavy losses but is continuing to advance.
Earlier, Ukraine’s National Guard denied statements made by Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, who said the Ukrainian army had been encircled in Lysychansk. According to the National Guard of Ukraine, the city is not encircled, and fighting for it continues.