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In early March 2014 the StopFake.org site was launched in Ukraine to identify and debunk Russian disinformation that was specifically targeting Ukraine.   Journalists, editors, IT specialists and others came together as volunteers to tackle this critical element of modern hybrid warfare.  At that time Ukraine faced both the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of a Russian invasion of Donbas, after then-president Viktor Yanokovych fled following the shooting of over one hundred demonstrators in Kyiv during the Maidan revolution.

The recent escalation in violence in Donbas has again been preceded and accompanied by an increased amount of disinformation in pro-Kremlin media.  This has been reported by the EU East StratCom Task Force, who have tracked the upsurge of hate-speech and aggressive rhetoric in a number of discussion programmes on Russian TV.

After months of limited coverage of Ukraine in world news, the renewed fighting around the town of Avdiivka has thrust the story back into the headlines. This is a town I visited in April 2016 as part of a project to document the impact of the war with Russia in Donbas...

On 6 April 2016, a non-binding referendum was held in Holland on the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine. 61.1 % voted against the agreement, 38.1% voted for it. The turnout was 32.2%. The vote was a setback for Ukraine and a victory for Moscow, whose opposition to the agreement had led to the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine and ultimately to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin has turned its disinformation machine on those who are investigating the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July of 2014, using state employees, state-run media, and the state-run, though unacknowledged, “troll factory” of fake Internet accounts.

The primary goal of the media attacks has been to undermine the credibility of citizen journalist group Bellingcat, an independent researcher into the crash. The attacks have followed a pattern which could be termed "vilify and amplify". 

As Washington investigates alleged Russian hacking of U.S. political systems, Russian propagandists are also at work across a wide front aiming a firehose of falsehoods at ill-informed audiences, foreign and domestic. A recent RAND study reveals how this disinformation – intentionally false – leverages psychological vulnerabilities to sway audiences. U.S. leaders should raise public consciousness about its nature and dangers.

William Courtney and Christopher Paul write for USNews.com.