Russia will likely use propaganda in an enormous attempt to interfere in Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election, the country’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said in a Dec. 29 interview with Kyiv-based news agency Interfax-Ukraine. “Ukraine actually has a common information field with Russia, and the (Russian) intervention will be colossal,” Avakov said. The minister added that Russia won’t interfere physically, but will certainly intensify its propaganda activity in Ukraine to achieve its goals. “They are already trying to show maximal activity in propaganda and then to see if we will ‘break our heads’ ourselves,” Avakov said. But Ukrainians should resist propaganda. “We, as a mature democratic society, should show wisdom and not give them that pleasure,” Avakov said.
With the presidential vote scheduled for March 31, the subject of potential Russian interference — something familiar both to Ukraine and, increasingly, countries around the world — is becoming a greater concern for Kyiv.
Avakov thinks that the creation of a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent from Moscow — a move deeply unpopular with the Russian government — might serve as an excuse for Russian President Vladimir Putin to interfere in Ukrainian political affairs come election time.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is scheduled to receive a document granting canonical independence from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on Jan. 6 — Christmas Eve in Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
Avakov painted a dark picture of what such interference might look like.
“Somebody somewhere seizes a church, burns it down, and, God forbid, people die,” he said. “Then, Putin…personally arrives in a helicopter and start screaming that people, the clergy, and the Russian world are dying.”