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Inside the Smear Campaign against the National Bank of Ukraine

Inside the Smear Campaign against the National Bank of Ukraine

The information campaign to discredit the National Bank of Ukraine has intensified again. This time around, a number of media outlets with a reputation for being the “septic tanks” of information business have spread a fake “document” alleging that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has criticized the NBU’s actions. The fake has quoted the EBRD as reportedly saying that it has accused the NBU of being selective, of having lost institutional capacity, and of running the financial market in manual mode. The malefactors behind this forgery are trying to assure the gullible part of the audience that the EBRD is dissatisfied with the NBU’s activities, and that the public is losing faith in its independence. 

The EBRD has responded to the fake by issuing a rebuttal saying that the “EBRD does not recognize any such document, and its contents as described by the media outlet do not reflect the Bank’s institutional view of the NBU. 

The EBRD has a long-standing and close relationship with the NBU, whose handling of the Ukrainian economy in wartime it has repeatedly commended. The EBRD looks forward to the continuation of this relationship.” The specific signs that testify to the false nature of the “document” are the absence of EBRD’s identifying attributes on the screen and the lack of evidence of the assessments and conclusions presented in the text. In addition, the “document” gives a detailed account of some issues that are beyond the EBRD’s key areas of assessment. Among other things mentioned in the fake, the EBRD supposedly criticizes the NBU’s measures to cover up “shadow” schemes that gambling businesses have used to evade taxes.

Exactly what is behind this fresh round of attempts to sling mud at the Ukrainian central bank?

First, the new wave of false “compromising materials” comes as a continuation of a smear campaign that started at the beginning of the year and that has aimed to tarnish the country’s main financial institution. In early 2023, channels affiliated with russia were already being used in its PSYOPs and were spreading disinformation about the NBU’s activities. The consistency and coordination of the instances and directions of these misinformation attacks on the NBU are evidence that russia has been conducting a PSYOP against the Ukrainian financial system. That includes unfounded criticism of the NBU’s monetary policy, and efforts to discredit the central bank’s leadership and their decisions to combat illegal gambling. The push to tarnish the NBU’s international cooperation with European financial institutions has been a special focus of the smear campaign. What is noteworthy is that most of the “accusations” are not related to the actual text of the “document,” but are accompanied by screenshots of fake materials that surfaced in previous information attacks on the NBU. Those include personal jabs at the NBU leadership and accusations that the NBU had allegedly established a “shadow” scheme for the exchange of cash foreign currency and had been covering it up. That is, for the purposes of the most recent information assault, the fake “EBRD document” has been used only as an excuse to revitalize and redeploy all of the earlier attempts to defame the central bank.

Second, by systemically attempting to worsen the relationship between the NBU and the EBRD, the kremlin is trying to restrain the progress the Ukrainian regulator has made in harmonizing Ukraine’s laws with EU standards in the context of European integration processes currently underway in our country. After all, both our ability to defeat russia in the full-scale war and our progress toward EU accession largely depend on the sustainability of the Ukrainian financial sector. The EBRD and the NBU have been fruitfully cooperating to introduce a system of insurance against wartime risks and political violence and to design a pilot model of such a system that can be tested in the trade financing segment. These efforts will stimulate the further recovery of the Ukrainian economy. Next year, the EBRD plans to allocate another EUR 1.5 billion to support Ukraine’s infrastructure and economy.

Third, there is a chance that the fake EBRD document with negative assessments of the NBU’s actions was published at the request of gambling businesses that had suffered losses as a result of the NBU’s measures to clamp down on unlawful tax evasion schemes. It is obvious that the fake is intended for the domestic audience and aims to create an unbecoming image of the NBU’s top managers in the hope of generating a need for their replacement.

The latest information provocation is therefore likely to have been initially ordered by an entity involved in illegal gambling and then used by russian propaganda for the PSYOP. Thanks to the timely and coordinated actions of the NBU’s top officials, the EBRD Office in Ukraine, as well as cooperation with journalists from key Ukrainian media, another attempted information attack has been defeated. What is more, this fake delivered a blow to the reputation of all of its participants, and the information platforms that have spread the fake have became even more toxic to the Internet audience. However, the information attacks on the NBU may continue.

  • 22 July, 2023

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