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Events in Belgorod Oblast cause information shocks in Russia

Tuesday, 23 May 2023, 05:26
Events in Belgorod Oblast cause information shocks in Russia

The Russian information space has responded to the events of 22 May in Belgorod Oblast with panic, factionalism and incoherence, which it usually demonstrates when it experiences significant information shocks, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Source: ISW report

Quote: "Some milbloggers fixated on the fact that the RDK [The Russian Volunteer Corps – ed.] and LSR [The Freedom of Russia Legion] are comprised of mostly Russians and labeled them traitors to Russia, baselessly accusing them of working under the GUR [The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine].


Several milbloggers additionally speculated that the attack was a purposeful information operation intended to distract from the recent Russian capture of Bakhmut and to instill panic in the Russian information space in advance of a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist milblogger Igor Girkin remarked that he has long warned that such cross-border raids may be part of a wider Ukrainian counteroffensive strategy. 

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin took advantage of the incident to accuse the Russian government and its bureaucratic inertia of contributing to the attack and criticized the Russian Ministry of Defence for being unable to strengthen Russian borders and defend Russia.

The first observed line of Russian defensive fortifications notably runs 2km in front of Gora Podol, and the suggestion that RDK forces managed to penetrate the defensive line emphasizes the weakness of such fortifications at least when not fully manned by well-prepared and well-equipped soldiers."

Details: According to ISW, since most Russian pro-war bloggers responded with relatively different concerns, anxieties and anger, and the information space did not accumulate around one coherent response to the situation, this indicates that it took Russian commentators by surprise.


  • On 22 May, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion said that they had crossed the border and were "liberating" settlements in Belgorod Oblast from the current Russian government: they started with the villages of Kozinka and Gora-Podol, but they are seeking to "liberate" the whole of Russia.
  • Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod Oblast of the Russian Federation, said that a "sabotage and reconnaissance group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine" had entered the territory of the Grayvoron district.
  • Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov assured that Vladimir Putin had been informed of the border breach in Belgorod Oblast, but that work was already underway to oust and destroy the "Ukrainian saboteurs".
  • Andrii Yusov, spokesman for Ukraine's Defence Intelligence, has described the events taking place in Russia's Belgorod Oblast on 22 May as the creation of a "security zone" to protect Ukrainian citizens. He also added that only Russian citizens are taking part in it. 
  • Mykhailo Podoliak, advisor to the head of the President’s Office of Ukraine, stressed that Ukraine is not directly related to the events that transpired in Russia's Belgorod Oblast on 22 May.
  • The Russian media have reported a strike on the FSB [Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation – ed.] office in Belgorod, Russia, with explosives allegedly dropped on the building.

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