Russian propaganda boosts the message that Ukraine is preparing for mass mobilization of women. In that way, they’re promoting a narrative, “Ukraine is losing the war,” – in our report on winter-spring narratives of Russian propagandists, we’ve highlighted messages boosting this narrative as one of the most common in Russian online spaces. This time, we’ve analyzed a fake that propagandists have produced about a spokeswoman for the Territorial Defence Forces, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo. They’ve been boosting a screenshot with an Instagram chat where she seems to be saying that women should serve in the army and that she supports the mobilization of women.

What happened? 

A screenshot of what seems to be an Instagram chat with a spokeswoman of Territorial Defense, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, has been spreading online. In the screenshot, she is asked whether or not Ukrainian women should serve in the army and whether or not one should wait for women’s mobilization, and she says yes to both. 

“Of course, women should serve in the army. I am a woman, and I am a soldier, and this is absolutely normal. This is a positive step towards gender equality,” the spokeswoman seems to reply. 

Fakemakers of the Telegram channel Perviy Kharkivskyi write that this exchange confirms that Sarah’s appointment as a spokeswoman isn’t accidental. Because she is a transgender woman, they write, she is needed to “agitate” women to join the army from a “male” point of view. 

That message was also shared by propagandist Telegram channels “Shaih Tamir,” “Ostashko! Vazhnoye,” “Otryad Kovpaka,” “Zhanna Riabtseva (pryamo iz Gosdumy)” and other resources. Altogether, these posts gained 250 thousand views. 

We fact-checked the conversation on the screenshot and figured out the exchange on Instagram was fake. 


Instagram chat 

We decided to approach and ask the spokeswoman herself about the screenshot. We found the link to Instagram on Sarah Ashton-Cirillo’s X (Twitter) account

We wrote to her on Instagram, asking if the conversation on the screenshot that’s being shared online is real. Sarah said the screenshot is photoshopped. 

“I informed my unit last night of the fake that was making rounds as well as the department of Strat Comm for the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” she commented.  

The spokeswoman also provided evidence of her inquiries to the StratCom and TDF Media Studios team

Also, we’ve found a post on Ashton-Cirillo’s X (Twitter), in which she explains that this is a fake screenshot. 

Mobilization of women

Starting from October 1, 2023, women with medical or pharmaceutical specialties are required to register for military service, according to the relevant order that changes the legislation №313 of the Ministry of Defence of October 11, 2021. 

But, according to the Ukrainian Ground Forces, registration doesn’t mean mobilization of women medics. The registry is meant to help the army collect and organize data about professionals with medical specialties. Such registration is voluntary for women of other professions related to military specialties

In other words, there is no mass mobilization of women in Ukraine

We want to note that Russian propaganda has been sharing fakes about “total mobilization of women” for quite a long time. In July of 2022, the Center for Countering Disinformation debunked one of such fiction stories. 

Conclusion: Fake 

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