On Russian VK, the Ukraine whistleblower scandal has played out very differently

10th October 2019

The scandal that is kicking off impeachment proceedings for US President Trump is one of the hottest topics for both the news media and the US public. 

But because the scandal started off in Ukraine, there is a whole other side of the conversation that is developing on VK, Russia’s largest social network. Volumes were of course not as large as on Twitter. 

twitter vk mentions trump zelensky call impeachment pulsar trac

On Pulsar TRAC, we can analyze data from VK, and thanks to our multilingual team, we managed to gather some insights about the Russian reaction to Ukraine’s role in the story, and compare them to the US, Twitter-based reaction. 

Because there were so many posts throughout the story, we zoomed in on reactions on Friday 27 September, amounting to about 80,000 posts and engagements on both networks, the vast majority of them on Twitter. 

This was the day after an anonymous whistleblower had flagged that Trump and Zelensky’s July call had some questionable content discussing Trump’s possible 2020 election Joe Biden, causing the White House to release a transcript. Speculation about impeaching the US President was building, especially given the supposed involvement of his current attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Here's how people felt 


What do people care about? 

Splitting the mentions out between Twitter and VK according to feelings about the scandal, we get a very different view of people’s perspectives.

On Twitter the main feeling being stated was upset, showing that people in the US were worried about what the scandal could lead to, whether they are Trump supporters or not.

But on VK, users seemed to disregard the scandal, saying they didn’t think it was a big deal. In fact, there was no sign of people on VK being upset at all!

What part of the Scandal drew people's  attention?

While Donald Trump has been in the public eye for a long time, Zelensky, the former comedian who was elected president of Ukraine in May, has mainly entered the news cycle’s consciousness due to this scandal. Some of the biggest topics around their call, then, focus on its implications.

Much of the focus on Twitter is on the transcript of their phone call, as well as the hunt for the whistleblower who started the scandal. On VK the specifics of the conversation are more about the concept of impeachment as a result of the scandal. 

Here’s the whole conversation:

topics trump zelensky call ukraine usa election pulsar trac


And the division between Twitter and VK:

topics twitter vk trump zelenksy call ukraine whistleblower pulsar trac

We can see priorities are very different in both counties, although the most engaged posts for both VK and Twitter are engaging with a more post-truth slant on the topic. Here are some of the most engaged posts on Twitter:



And here are some of the top posts on VK:

screenshot vk trump ukraine screenshot vk trump zelensky ukraine

The most engaged tweets include observations about the details of the situation - high engagement may be because these are new nuances to people engaging who are looking to hear a damnation of Trump, or in the case of one of the tweets a way to absolve him.

But on VK, concern is about Zelensky’s reputation and how he will look both compared to Trump, and to the rest of the European Union, as well as the dramatic potential of Trump being impeached.

What next?

This story has already developed into many different directions, with different actors coming to the forefront as it develops. Here’s who was being discussed the most during the period we analyzed:

trump zelenksy biden giuliani whistleblower impeachment ukraine pulsar trac