Numerology, astrology, tarot: pseudoscientists are predicting the outcome of Kremlin’s war in Ukraine


“Putin is dragging his feet with the war, why does he need that?” a woman asks, her fingers covered in chunky rings as she tosses cards over a zodiac-printed tablecloth. She pulls three out of the deck: a man sitting on a throne, a cup with an eye and a blue globe. “He wants to create a catastrophe, some sort of collapse. He wants to see danger in the world” — the video continues. 

It’s one of dozens of “prognoses” on Valentina Koltsova’s YouTube channel. Her 60,000 followers watched her predict the future president of Kazakhstan, describe the character of Belarusian President Lukashenko’s son and give details about Putin’s mysterious illness. 

Valentina, who never shows her face in the videos, is a tarot reader. Tarot readers, numerologists, astrologists — in Russia, Ukraine and beyond have been making headlines with their forecasts about the future of the conflict, often contradicting each other. Their videos and posts are getting millions of views. They are being interviewed by prominent outlets and TV channels, giving their pseudoscientific claims wide exposure.

A Ukrainian numerologist Vladislav Gritsay predicted that Putin’s life might end in August, concluding that this month will be critical for Ukraine’s victory. When I type his name into YouTube, dozens of videos pop up. Almost every week, a TV channel or a popular blogger invites Gritsay to comment on the fate of Crimea, Putin’s demise and Ukraine’s victory.

Many are looking at the stars to get a glimpse of the future, according to Angela Pearl, an astrologist based in Australia, who has received thousands of requests for her analysis since February 24. Pearl, who is of Ukrainian origin, posted a 25-minute video on the topic that has been viewed over 2 million times. In it she describes the cause of the invasion: “[what happened was] the reunification of two planets responsible for war. Mars, which is the planet of war, and Pluto, the planet of death.”

Numerologists refer to Pythagoras, and astrologists calculate their predictions on actual planets to sound scientific — but the meanings they attribute to the facts are arbitrary. It’s not surprising that the war seems to have triggered a fascination with predictions, said Barry Markovsky, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of South Carolina. “It would stand to reason that we might see an upsurge in times of war, pandemic, or political discord. And basic economics tells us that the more desperately people desire to quell their anxieties, the more they’ll pay for it — even if it’s ambiguous double-speak.”  

Infodemic news:

As monkeypox cases multiply, so do the disinfo and conspiracy theories surrounding the virus. Last week, a pediatrician turned TikTok star talked to us about how myths around the disease are turning political in the U.S. — but it’s happening not only there. Last Friday Igor Kirillov, chief of the Russian Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Troops mentioned a “strange coincidence” that in his opinion could point to the origins of monkeypox. 

He pointed to “at least four U.S.-controlled biolabs” in Nigeria, where the first cases of the virus were detected a few weeks ago and added that “a scenario for countering an outbreak caused by a new strain of monkeypox virus” was being discussed months before the first case was detected at the Munich Security Conference in 2021. Those claims have since been debunked

Meanwhile in Europe, as Covid-19 cases continue to decrease and countries open up for tourism and lift restrictions, disinformation surrounding the vaccines continues. In France, a physician named Christian Perronne claims that he has been witnessing a “sterility epidemic” among vaccinated women and men across the country. 

Links to an old video of Perronne filmed at a conference in Marseille have been making its way around social media, amassing hundreds of likes and shares. In it he also accuses the French government of covering up the issue — a claim that has been since debunked by the Health Ministry on request of the French press agency AFP.

The physician’s declarations are unfounded: several analyses, including a recent one by a scientific publication Human Reproduction have found there to be no negative effects of vaccines on the reproductive system.

As per another misleading clip, those are not the only long-term side-effects of vaccines. A video warning about jabs causing strokes and menstrual cycles disorders, filmed by an IT researcher named Emmanuelle Darles, has gone viral on francophone Twitter and Facebook. 

“We have warned of historic and unprecedented increases in certain diseases, including a 1,788% increase in menstrual cycle disorders, 732% more strokes in 2021, due to, or potentially caused by these injections,” she says in the clip, referring to Covid-19 vaccines.

Though the numbers are not plucked out of the air, they are misleading. Darles’s calculations are based on data from the U.S.-based Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), where anyone can report an adverse effect from vaccination. The organization mentions on its website that its “reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness.”

What we’re reading:

Warehouse-like buildings, filled with perfectly aligned identical beds, patrolled by men in plastic shields and white suits — does that remind you of something? “Fangcang” or China’s makeshift hospitals that were being built at a shocking speed as the world watched in 2020, have become part of the country’s daily life in 2022. In this fascinating piece Manya Koetse takes a tour of “fangcang”’s history, closely examines its image on social media and takes a peek into its future.  

Brazil used to have one of the best vaccination programs in the world, but Covid-19 threw the country back decades. Across the world, childhood immunizations dipped as the pandemic hit — but in Brazil things were made worse by president Bolsonaro, who has been one of the central figures in coronavirus-related disinformation. Al-Jazeera’s Megan Janetsky and Marcia Reverdosa dig deep into the issue in their feature.