Six Months of russian Propaganda. Key Statements
Civil Network OPORA has explored the public discourse of the occupying state in six months of the war against Ukraine, with the help of War Speeches online tool.
Most of all, the propaganda focused on justifying expansion and colonial policy. The prevalent narratives were about the "fight against the Nazis," "protection of the people of Donbas," "multipolar world order" a. o.
The russian side resorted to aggressive but also primitive propaganda to disrupt the supply of Western weapons. The kremlin did not forget to play around Ukraine's refusal to negotiate – our state would have to unilaterally fulfill the aggressor's ultimatums, in particular regarding their territorial claims.
Also, significant effort of the propaganda machine included the implementation of the policy of blackmail and terror. After six months of full-scale war, many of the aggressor's messages have been standardized. However, to achieve concessions, russia still applies a criminal blackmailing practice.
How the official positions of the russian side changed and what narratives were produced by the occupiers – read more in OPORA's article.
Unsuccessful "special military operation": transformation of goals and objectives
After February, 24, 2022, kremlin has embarked on clarifying the goals and objectives of the "special military operation".
The russian side did not expect a tough resistance from Ukraine, so they assumed a jet mode to produce disinformation that built up into a tangle of overwhelming propaganda. The propaganda was supposed to justify the colonial policy and aggressive expansion of the criminal regime of the russian federation.
The root causes of the full-scale war were the concepts obscure to many, such as the "denazification" and "demilitarization" of Ukraine. However, it took less than a week for the russian military and political command to get a moment of clarity and to realize their errors in judgement. Then they saw that it was not going to be a smooth sailing through the Ukrainian land.
Straight away, the "everything-goes-according-to-plan" narrative emerged in the public space, which now, six months into the confrontation, appears less and less often.
"The operation is developing successfully, strictly in accordance with pre-approved plans," putin said in early March.
At the same time, peskov immediately entered the public space. He said, "the information that the "SMO" was to be completed in a few days is not true."
Justifying the planned nature of the "special operation" to their own citizens, the rf leaders have never informed the public about the timeline set in the SMO plan or about the current state of achieving the declared goals. Instead, they rather continued to make new goals.
As to the stories about the development of Nazism in Ukraine, russian propaganda extended their confabulations.
"During the "special military operation," the russian army faced nationalist groups rather the regular army of Ukraine," putin justified the deaths of russian soldiers.
Also, in early May, in an interview with the Italian TV company "Mediaset", sergei lavrov said that "when russian troops take captive the fighters from Ukrainian nationalist battalions, we immediately see who they really are: they all have tattoos in the form of swastikas, distinction marks of the Waffen-SS divisions, quotes from Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf"."
lavrov himself became so over-enthusiastic with Nazism that he called the Jews the most fierce anti-Semites. "There is a bad sheep in every flock, as we say," he said about the presence of Nazism in Ukraine where the President is of Jewish origin.
"The "Ukronazists" do not mind some most sophisticated tortures and reprisals. Suffice it to mention the shocking findings of nationalist battalions of civilians tortured to death, and their mutilated bodies had the Nazi swastikas branded on," lied the russian ambassador to the United Nations, vasily niebienzia .
The fight against the imaginary Ukrainian neo-Nazis has become part of the unproven but officially established rhetoric of the highest officials from the russian federation regarding the justification of aggressive actions against Ukraine. However, Nazism was transformed along with another narrative, such as the functioning of bio-labs in Ukraine.
"On the borders of the russian federation, the USA "grow" neo-Nazis and ultra-radicals, create dozens of biological laboratories for the needs of Pentagon, they conduct experiments aimed at creating biological weapons," lavrov said.
At the same time, the russian leaders promoted the idea of protecting the people of Donbas and the russian-speaking population. They focused on this after the first stage of the "SMO", and the stage completion was marked by the withdrawal of russian troops from Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions. sergei shoigu called these events a stage, and lavrov identified them as a "goodwill gesture". In reality, it was about heavy casualties and the inability to fight on nine operational fronts.
The protection of the people of Donbas turned into a mantra, which included the following elements: coup d 'état of 2014;
- 8 years of genocide in Donbas;
- killings of civilians;
- sabotage of the Minsk agreements.
In addition, the rf did not forget to emphasize the territorial threat for the russian territory.
"Our soldiers and officers prevented the real threat that is already looming over our Homeland. With their courage, determination, and heroism, they prevented a large-scale conflict that would otherwise unfold on our territory, but according to scenarios built by others," said putin about Ukraine's purported offensive against russia.
However, the "liberation" of the eastern regions of Ukraine was getting delayed, so russian propaganda launched the narratives about the "opposition to the West", "Ukraine is an "anti-russia" project", "NATO expansion to the east", "the intention for the multipolar world order". All of them provide for a longer period of achieving the "SMO" goals and cover the failures, because losing to "khokhols" will mean the collapse of autocracy.
"Russophobia has become the main domestic product of the Ukrainian authorities and the key export commodity of Ukraine. Today it is not a war in Ukraine, as you say. This is a proxy war of the collective West with russia," said vasiliy niebienzia at a meeting of the UN Security Council.
The eastward expansion of NATO has also become a well-established rationale for russian intervention, as it allegedly posed a threat to the russian federation. At the same time, the accession of Sweden and Finland to the Alliance did not cause much indignation among russian geopoliticians.
"russia has no problem with those states. Therefore, in the sense of an immediate threat to russia because of the expansion to these countries, there is no threat," – we quote putin's words at the CSTO summit in the kremlin.
As it turned out, the actual reason for russia's dissatisfaction with the expansion of NATO was the probable accession of Ukraine.
"The possible accession of Ukraine to NATO could lead to a territorial dispute between the russian federation and a NATO member-state. This is the difference from the Sweden's and Finland's accession to NATO,"– said dmitriy peskov, making it clear that NATO could become a real obstacle to the territorial expansion of russia.
The ultimate goal of "SMO" over the six months of the war was to confront the hegemony of the United States and to go for a multipolar world, "which contours are dynamically shaped".
"In the multipolar world of the 21st century, there should be no place for inequality, discrimination between states and nations. Therefore, our country supports the practical implementation of the basic international legal principle of sovereign equality of states and the right of everyone to their own model of development," argued vladimir putin at the St. Petersburg law forum, justifying the "special operation" and russia's isolation.
However, on September, 1, the goals of the "special operation" have changed yet again. At a meeting with schoolchildren, the commander-in-chief of the russian army, vladimir putin, said that the russian military in Donbas protect russia.
"And the mission of our soldiers and of Donbas militants is to stop this war, to protect people. And, of course, to protect russia because on the territory of today's Ukraine they began to create an anti-russian enclave that jeopardizes our country. Therefore, our guys who are fighting in combat are protecting both the residents of Donbas and russia," putin said.
It is not clear, though, what the occupation of parts of Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson, and Mykolaiv regions has to do with the declared goals.
"Today, the geography is different. It is much more than the DPR and LPR, it is also Kherson region, Zaporizhzhya region and a number of other territories, and this process is ongoing, and it continues consistently and persistently ", – lavrov attempted to explain the expansion of the geography of the "SMO".
Against the backdrop of active changes and refinements of publicly declared "SMO" tasks, we can draw an obvious conclusion about russian rhetoric – this is a multilevel propaganda aimed at manipulating the mass consciousness of citizens, publicly justifying war crimes and audacious violations of international law.
Negotiations as a way to annex Ukrainian territories
During the negotiation process, the occupiers tried to make the Ukrainian side dependent on the unilateral fulfillment of their demands. This indicates the desire of the russians to seize the territories without losses or even implies the unacceptability of a diplomatic scenario for the rf. The negotiation process was characteristic of the occupier's ultimatums and russia's constant violations of humanitarian corridor agreements.
sergei lavrov stated in an interview with Al Jazeera that the requirements of russia are to ensure the "legal rights of all peoples of Ukraine", recognition of Crimea as part of russia and independence of "DPR" and "LPR" within administrative boundaries (apparently, within the two regions). The aggressor's politicians have not changed their positions, at least the public positions, but only added to them or threatened with a new, more complex negotiation process.
"Delaying the negotiations will lead to new requirements for Ukraine. At the same time, we do not abandon peace negotiations. But those who refuse should know: the further, the more difficult it will be for them to negotiate with us," putin said.
"The completion of the "special military operation" depends on the consistency of the Ukrainian position and the extent to which Kyiv will be ready to go on the terms of russia. russia has been and remains ready to solve the Ukrainian problem diplomatically – on our own terms," said dmitriy peskov.
"I do not see any possibility that they will be allowed to take the chance and resume the negotiation procedure," sergey lavrov threatened.
At the same time, the russian side is trying to shift all the blame for the breakdown of the negotiations to Ukraine and the United States, who are allegedly interested in continuing the hostilities.
The leader of the russian group, vladimir medinskiy, said that russia has never refused to negotiate, including at the highest level.
russia's negotiators cannot ignore the facts of genocide and war crimes in the de-occupied territories of Ukraine, which played a role in Ukraine's reluctance to negotiate with terrorists.
Even putin admitted that after the situation in Butcha the rhetoric of the Ukrainian side changed: "the position of our negotiators from Ukraine on further settlement radically changed after the situation in Butcha. They departed from their former intentions to take off the table the issue of guaranteeing the security of the territory of Crimea, Sevastopol, and the republics of Donbas."
Despite constant threats and the narrative "Ukraine must understand the terms and conditions of russia", the occupiers desperately need a temporary freeze on the war.
Half a year of aggression ends with the following statement by a member of the negotiating group, leonid slutskiy: "If the Ukrainian side declares that they are ready for negotiations at any level, in any format, then we will discuss and respond."
kremlin, impersonated by peskov, also indicated that they were ready to negotiate – but only "about how the conditions of russia will be fulfilled" to end the war.
In response, we can recall the clear position expressed by Volodymyr Zelenskyi on the Independence Day of Ukraine: "Ukraine does not trade its lands, its people, and does not seek understanding with terrorists."
Memo "How to (not) disrupt the supply of weapons to Ukraine"
"If someone intends to intervene in the current developments laterally and poses threats to russia on a strategic level, our response to counter strikes will be lightning-quick and fast," putin said to russian MPs in St. Petersburg, but about 50 countries supply weapons to Ukraine to protect its sovereignty. Of the EU member states, there is only Hungary and Austria that do not supply weapons to Ukraine.
"russia will respond adequately to attempts to supply Ukraine with air defense systems and aircraft," the Ministry of Defense of the russian federation pointed out, but the list of types of Western weapons supplied to Ukraine is expanding every day.
After unsuccessful attempts to intimidate the West, the reflections of the russian side about the militarization of Ukraine were a big part of the aggressor's propaganda. They immediately stated that convoys with foreign weapons for Ukraine would become "legitimate targets for the armed forces of the russian federation".
However, the so-called destruction did not end with success, and the russian side began to employ a new narrative – "The West is protracting the conflict with the supply of weapons" and "The West is fighting russia to the last Ukrainian person."
"The west, which pumps Ukraine with weapons, bears direct responsibility for protracting of the Ukrainian crisis, for the deaths of civilians, as well as Ukrainian servicemen, who are being thrown to the frontlines as cannon fodder by corrupt Ukrainian top leaders. The West can only prolong the agony of the Kyivan russophobic neo-Nazi regime," said vasiliy niebenzia.
Primitive russian propaganda also mentioned civilians who are allegedly being exterminated by Ukrainian nationalists with the help of Western weapons.
Allegations of shelling of civilian cities with 155 mm shells began immediately after allegations of the supply of M777 howitzers. An illustrative and at the same time terrible example of propaganda was the murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war in Olenivka, which, according to the occupiers, was done by the "HIMARS" system.
At the same time, russian politicians accused Ukraine of corruption and getting weapons on the "black market".
"We know that much of it comes from warehouses directly into the hands of smugglers, and then through well-established channels – to global #blackmarket of weapons. Such information is almost openly published on the relevant web resources," said dmitriy polansky, the representative of russia to the UN.
However, russia failed to disrupt the supply of weapons. The Ukrainian military and political command proved their reliability in the preservation and use of weapons, so the kremlin began to share messages about the destruction of Western weapons by the russians but never provided any reliable evidence.
"In total, as a result of attacks of russian troops on military facilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, 33 American howitzers M777, five launchers of the Harpoon anti-ship missiles were destroyed. There were also six launchers and more than 200 HIMARS missiles," said Defense Minister sergei shoigu, but thereby he showed what kind of weaponry really creates trouble for the aggressor.
According to shoigu, the "special military operation" debunked the myth of the "super-weapon" that the West supplies to Ukraine and that can dramatically change the situation on the battlefield. However, six months of war for some reason end with a halt of the russian offensive rather than for any other reason.
"In the course of the special operation, we strictly adhere to the provisions of humanitarian law. Strikes are carried out with high-precision weapons at the objects of the military infrastructure of the Armed Forces of Ukraine such as control points, airfields, warehouses, fortifications, and objects of the military-industrial complex. At the same time, we do our best to avoid casualties among civilians; it certainly slows down the pace of the offensive but we are doing it deliberately," General shoigu unexpectedly said at the meeting of defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on August, 24.
If not propaganda, then blackmail
Unsuccessful on the diplomatic and military fronts, the russian side focused on the policy of terror and blackmail to achieve concessions in the war. russia deliberately committed a number of crimes and blamed Ukraine, along with its Western partners, for all the problems.
The terror of the Ukrainian people through rocket fire at civilian objects was explained by the russian political and military leaders throughout the war by the established narrative such as that Ukrainian military were hiding behind the civilians.
"The Ukrainian army and "nationalist battalions" that use neo-Nazi patches and swastikas continue to use civilians as human shields," said sergey lavrov.
The massacres of civilians are also justified by the alleged destruction of a large number of generals, foreign mercenaries, and nationalist battalions. Such rhetoric of the kremlin was found during the terrible shelling of Vinnytsia, Kremenchuk, Kharkiv, Chaplyne, Mykolaiv and many other places.
In terms of achieving the goals, such actions proved ineffective because after the massacres Ukrainian society is set only to punish war crimes. At the same time, the label "terrorist state" hangs over russia.
In addition, the russian side decided to provoke a food, energy, and nuclear crisis. Although food blackmail has not fully succeeded due to the pressure of the international community, nuclear and energy blackmail continue.
The russian propaganda machine has been thinking about the nuclear crisis for a long time. Back in April, maria zakharova said: "Provocation at nuclear power facilities, first of all, at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, which is under the control of the russian federation, is not excluded. The leaders of Ukraine are seriously considering the strikes at the radioactive waste storage facility at the former enterprise "Prydniprovskyi Chemical Plant" in the settlement of Kamianske, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast."
The provocative acts at the Zaporizhzhya NPP became the quintessence of pre-planned nuclear blackmail. "What is happening these days at the Zaporizhzhya NPP is the culmination of the criminal actions of the Kyiv regime against the nuclear infrastructure and the personnel servicing these facilities, which for months has remained without any international response," – this is how vasiliy niebenzia tried to accuse the Ukrainian troops of shelling the ZNPP when he spoke at the meeting of the UN Security Council.
The russian side has never departed from threatening with nuclear weapons but they still declared the statements about the inadmissibility of its use, because "such war will have no winners." At the same time, the kremlin does not allow changes in the external course of the nuclear power.
"There is no way to change the policy of a foreign country, much less a nuclear power", "do these states and individual politicians believe in the possibility of international tribunals against the country with the greatest nuclear capacity?", – dmitry medvedev confidently argued.
Similarly, energy blackmail was observed in the rhetoric of russian politicians back in April.
"Attempts by Western countries to push out russian suppliers, to replace our energy resources with alternative supplies will inevitably affect the entire world economy. The consequences of such a step can become very painful – first of all for the initiators of such a policy," vladimir putin threatened.
Half a year into the war, gas prices in Europe crossed the mark of $3,500 per thousand cubic meters due to the reduction in gas supply by the aggressor. However, russia considers itself a reliable supplier that guarantees Europe's energy security. Even the exception to the sanctions on the transfer to russia of the gas pumping turbine did not stop the gas blackmail.
A kremlin spokesman, peskov, said that "it is important for Gazprom to obtain legal documents stating that this turbine is not sanctioned. Words alone are simply not enough in this case."
In turn, dmitriy medvedev called on the citizens of Europe to take decisive action and said that they would feel warmer with russia: "Go ahead and act, European neighbors! Don't be silent. Demand from your morons to answer. And we'll hear you. The benefit is obvious – in winter, you will feel warmer and more comfortable in the company with russia than in splendid solitude with the turned off gas stoves and cold radiators. "
Half a year of solid propaganda
Tracking the official rhetoric of the occupier state for six months showed permanent propaganda, inconsistency, and mood swings in the positions of russian politicians. Through disinformation and blackmail, the propaganda machine of the rf has been trying to get at least some gains or concessions. And while the russian side are building an illusory world with a multipolar world order for the domestic audiences to consume, Ukrainians are relentlessly destroying the enemy and defending the sovereignty of their state.
Original article: Ukrainska Pravda