How Anatoly Shariy became such an odious, influential Ukrainian figure

5 May, 07:35 PM
Anatoliy Shariy is suspected of treason and violation of equality of citizens (Photo:Anatoly Shariy via Facebook)

Anatoliy Shariy is suspected of treason and violation of equality of citizens (Photo:Anatoly Shariy via Facebook)

Anatoly Shariy, whose social media spewed out some the most heinous Russian propaganda against Ukraine, has been apprehended in Spain, Ukraine’s SBU security service reported on May 5.

Shariy is wanted in Ukraine for treason and infringing on the rights of minorities.

NV has compiled a summary of events that led to these charges.

How Shariy was arrested

Anatoly Shariy left Ukraine in 2012, and had since lived in various EU countries, most recently – in Spain. On May 4, he was apprehended by Spanish law enforcement. Local media reported he was taken in custody in Tarragona, in Spanish Catalonia, on an outstanding international arrest warrant.

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“This (operation) was made possible by close cooperation between the SBU, the Office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, and our international partners, in this multi-level operation by Ukrainian law enforcement,” the SBU said.

The blogger-turned-propagandist could now face extradition to Ukraine.

“I’m sure Shariy’s lawyers will appeal as much as they can, so it’s too optimistic to expect him in Ukraine tomorrow,” said Fedir Venislavksyi, a Ukrainian MP.

The SBU reiterated that Shariy engaged in illegal activity that was damaging Ukraine’s national security in terms of information warfare.

“We have grounds to believe that Anatoly Shariy was acting on behalf of foreign powers; every traitor of Ukraine will eventually and inevitably face punishment,” said the SBU.

Shariy was charged in February 2021; his YouTube channel was blocked in Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February 2022.

How did Shariy become so influential in Ukraine?

According to the SBU, Shariy has been facilitating Russian state and non-state actors’ special information operations against Ukraine since 2012.

In this regard, he is accused of the following:

  • Discrediting Ukrainian state policy;
  • Deliberately spreading misinformation about Russia’s eight-year-long war against Ukraine in the Donbas;
  • Attempting to disrupt political and social stability in Ukraine;
  • Inciting internal conflicts on ethnic and religious grounds.

The Russian state media actively drew on Shariy’s activity, using his content to push their false narratives about Ukraine.

YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and his website sharij.net were the primary outlets for Shariy’s content.

Shariy launched his YouTube channel in 2014, and has managed to accrue2.3 million subscribers since then. In June 2019, he registered a political party of his own in Ukraine, that managed to get 2.23% of the vote in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

During Petro Poroshenko’s presidency, Shariy started to gain traction in traditional media, thanks to the support from TV stations owned by Viktor Medvedchuk – a pro-Russian politician, a close personal friend and ally of Vladimir Putin. Shariy, along with other political allies of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych – ousted in 2014 – started to regularly appear on Medvedchuk’s TV channels: Newsone, 112, and ZIK.

Medvedchuk was recently arrested in Ukraine, after breaking the terms of his house arrest in early March.

According to communications expert Maksym Savanyevskyi, Shariy managed to captivate an audience of people who were looking for any confirmation of everything they thought was going wrong in Ukraine. “Shariy became their preacher,” said Savanyevskyi.

In 2019, as his party was campaigning in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, fact-checking watchdogs spent a lot of time debunking the blatant Russian talking points and fake news that Shariy was broadcasting in his videos and posts.

In particular, Shariy engaged in the following misinformation tactics when covering the ongoing Donbas conflict:

  • Presenting destroyed Russian military equipment and armor as Ukrainian;
  • Disputing claims of Russian UAVs being intercepted over Ukraine;
  • Attempting to deny Russia’s responsibility for downing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over the Donbas in 2014;
  • Disputing reports of state-run “demonstrations” in Russia that called for military intervention in Ukraine.

Seven of Shariy’s most incendiary statements

  • People in western Ukraine “are not Ukrainians, half-bloods”

“Actually, you were nobodies prior to 1939. You were f***ing pack animals, sitting in your mountain burrows... Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Poltava have reason to hate (Joseph) Stalin, unlike you. You ought to make a golden f***ing monument to Stalin in one of your villages. And you should pray to it, because you didn’t know civilization until 1939. You didn’t have land. I’m a Ukrainian, and you are not. I’m not saying you’re second-rate, you are simply half-bloods. Third-, quarter-bloods. You are half Polish, half Hungarian, who knows what you really are. Don’t tell people in Kyiv what to do, how to properly love their country, their flag. That’s not your flag – you don’t have one. You’re not Ukrainians.”

  • The war in Donbas was a “civil” one

“I understand that without their (Russian) support these republics (so-called ‘people’s republics’ in Donetsk and Luhansk) would quickly come to an end. But I still think this an internal Ukrainian conflict, it’s a civil war. Yes, I’m calling it a civil war. I think Ukrainians have to deal with this.”

  • Joint Forces Operation to deter Russian aggression made no sense, it was supported by “degenerates”

“These people will be dying and still cursing Putin or someone else; they are ready to endure anything – sky-high prices, everyday lies, their children being sent away to the front lines and returning with missing limbs – they can tolerate all this. What for? I don’t know. The most degenerate ones, perhaps, are enduring it all in the name of joining the EU, for example. People who have at least a single fold in their brains, however straight is may be, realize that joining the EU will take 20, 30, 50 years, perhaps even forever.”

  • Modern Ukraine, in contrast to the Soviet Ukrainian SSR, is “bullshit”

“Everything we have today is simply bullshit. Everyone can see what our (Soviet) republic, that once was a fertile land of abundance, was turned into. Modern Ukraine is represented not by a hammer and sickle, but by a cheap corn cob, sticking out of a couple of Egyptian potatoes. A phallic symbol, with several interpretations.”

  • Ukrainian government is “criminal and hostile to Russia”

“This (Ukrainian) government is criminal and hostile to Russia... There will be a lot of screaming and obscenities after I said this. But I will maintain that I’m fighting against this Kyiv government. By lawful means, following European norms; I’m not breaking (any rules), I have never advocated for a violent toppling of this government”

  • “Large portion of Ukrainians” are “hopelessly thick”

“You can adorn yourself in viburnums, and get a Kobzar (alias of Ukraine’s most celebrated poet, Taras Shevchenko) tattoo on your breast, ... you can make white black, but the fact remains – Ukrainians are not the most productive nation. Nor the smartest, or the most rational. It’s a system. A system of primitive stupidity – deep, ossified, hopeless stupidity of a large portion of my people, who better respond to the stick, as opposed to the carrot. It is with the stick that one can most easily communicate with cattle. You can feed them quality hay – they still won’t work. One application of the stick, though, and they will start working. (They) will keep their heads down and start pulling (the plough). Without the stick, they would only procreate. And eat.”

  • Ukrainian media are a source of “propaganda, hatred, violence, and lies”

“Ukrainian media are no longer media. They have become mass disseminators of misinformation, propaganda, hatred, violence, and lies. Everyday manipulation, lies, and fake news. Working people don’t have time to look for primary sources and scour the internet after work; they turn on the TV and get ‘zombified’, because even these absolutely absurd lies start to make sense if you hear them every day.”

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