Kadyrov Blames Russian Generals for Defeat. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 26 September – 2 October

Russian propagandists seemed to have mixed feelings about last week's events as their jubilant reports on the occupation of Ukrainian territories were punctuated by whining about “negative progress” of the war in Ukraine. Some propagandists tried to sugarcoat Russian military defeats while others did not hold back their criticism of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

Russian media also found the main culprits of the explosions that had torn apart Russian submarine gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea and published false reports on more and more countries pulling the plug on Ukrainian refugee support.

This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

“Azov is Ours!” Occupants’ Reasons for Capturing Ukrainian Territories

Last week, the Russian media space was dominated by news reports on the annexation of Ukrainian territories by the Russian Federation. The signing of some worthless pieces of paper by Putin to formalize the occupation of Ukrainian territories was called a “landmark” and “historic” event for Russia. The news writers did their best to create a convincing image of total happiness: “Russian flags and banners adorn the Svobody Square in Mariupol and Stroiteley Avenue in Mariupol”, “the residents of Luhansk are putting up Russian flags on buildings, storefronts, and restaurants in a show of support for the referendum results”, “the people of Kherson are rallying in support of reunification”, “Novaya Kahovka has voted decisively for joining Russia”, “thousands of people from remote areas are flocking to Kherson to celebrate a historic event”, “performers share the stage performing well-known patriotic songs such as “Katyusha” and singing along to “Ofitsery”.

The propagandists shamelessly claimed that “the results of the referendums held in DPR, LPR, and Kherson and Zaporozhye oblasts were a total surprise for all the skeptics and a sobering wake-up call for the Kyiv regime”.

Kremlin's media troopers rushed to assure both the Russian population and the people in the occupied territories that those decisions of the Russian government were for their own good. The main idea was that “Russia is rightfully reclaiming the land to restore its historic borders”. They also assured that “the government will provide security in the new regions and rebuild the infrastructure which was devastated by the Ukrainian military”. They did not disdain to use the most exotic of arguments to justify the annexation: “Azov Sea is becoming our inland sea. This offers Russia a major strategic advantage due to new possibilities for bolstering security and promoting shipping, recreation and fishing”, “the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol whose roadsteads never freeze allow transshipment and export of grain even in the winter cold”.

Of course, they blamed the Ukrainians for losing their land since “they did not learn from their mistakes in the past. They chose the path of hatred and strife against the will of their own people and now they are ripping what they sowed”. As a final word of advice, they said that “Zelenskiy ought to shoot himself out of shame for such failures”.

Russian disinformation sources claimed that the residents of the “newly annexed” territories had been left behind by the Ukrainian government so Putin made a noble gesture by lending them a shoulder in times of need: “... even the biggest skeptics who have been sitting on the fence can clearly see that whatever happens to them is just collateral damage for Ukraine. Hardly anyone in Kyiv is saying […] “Those are our people, we care for them. We are sending them good vibes!” Today all the regime […] cares about is the territory”.

Russian media also tried to spread fear among the Ukrainians who hadn’t fled the occupied territories claiming that Ukraine would never forgive them for staying: “Ignore the public statements of Ukrainian politicians and president Zelenskiy himself: Russian military and politicians must remember that Ukraine has already signed a death sentence for them and their families. The only way to avoid this gruesome fate is to inflict a crushing defeat on Ukraine and bring the Ukrainian political and military command and their subordinates to justice”.

It Was All Lapin's Fault! Kadyrov vs Generals

Russian news writers brought increased attention to the failures of the Russian army in the battlefield. The somber tone of those reports made those failures look like something that might ruin the annexation party: “This is just history repeating. The reasons for the withdrawal from Kharkiv oblast are quite clear: it was a combination of personnel shortage, mistakes in organizing the defenses, and reinforcements arriving too late”.

Some propagandists tried to spin the defeat by praising tactical achievements of the Russian military, but the attempt was rather lackluster: “If not for the Krasniy Liman miracle, the Kharkiv debacle would not have been the last”, “the garrison of Krasniy Liman overwhelmed the AFU offensive group”.

The propagandists convinced the readers that combat losses and surrendered towns had little, if any, effect on the situation in the army: “Our soldiers have once again proven themselves. Keeping morale high is the key to achieving success in the battlefield”. As usual, they kept reminding that Ukraine's victories are entirely owed to NATO support: ”According to our intelligence, Polish and Romanian citizens as well as those from other European countries are fighting among the Ukrainian ranks”.

Russian mass media threw harsh accusations against the decisions of the Russian top brass: “What our boys did was beyond bravery — this will go down in history books! And what about the generals? Did they realize what had happened? Do they even care about anything except their status and privileges?”, “the reserves that had been sent to join the counter-offensive were only able to provide cover for the retreating Liman garrison”. Meanwhile, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov showed defiance by lashing out at the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and certain Russian generals: “”Lapin is a half-wit!”: Kadyrov showed no mercy for the military commander who had allowed the loss of Izyum and Krasniy Liman”, “Lapin’s incompetence isn't as frustrating as his friends in the General Staff who keep turning a blind eye to his blunders. If the decision were mine to make, I would demote Lapin to private, strip him of all his decorations and send him into the trenches with a Kalashnikov to let blood wash away the stain of his disgrace”.

Turns out Poles Planned to Destroy Russian Gas Pipelines back in 2021

On the night of 26 September “Nord Stream 1” and “Nord Stream 2” gas pipelines experienced multiple pressure drops due to explosions which have already been classified in the West as acts of sabotage. European experts suspect that Russia may have had a hand in the ruptures of the pipelines which run on the Baltic seabed, but no conclusive evidence has been presented so far. While Europe is left guessing, Russia hurried to point the finger at the USA for this horrific “terror attack in international waters”: “a group of American battleships were on station in the Baltic sea from the beginning of BALTOPS 22 exercise until 23 September — those assets were more than capable of executing the attack”.

Their motivation was clear: “undercut the European Union who had started to challenge the United States”. The Americans are sparing no expense “to bring Europe to ruin by sinking it into turmoil. They are pushing the situation to the extreme, and when Europe gets hit by hunger strikes and protests, they will drain the EU dry by luring both businesses and qualified workers to the US”. According to Russian media, “the evil plan to take control over Europe” will result in “making EU states more malleable and compliant”.

Blaming Poland for acts of sabotage was yet another line of “defense”. The propagandists claimed that the Poles had been hatching plans for attacking Russian gas pipelines for a year: “The Polish Navy ships played a major role in 2021 NATO maritime-focused exercise staged in the Baltic Sea. For reasons unknown, the exercise area was in close proximity to the one where the Fortuna, a civilian vessel, was laying the pipes of “Nord Stream 2”. The Fortuna, which was just minding its business, seemed to draw a particular interest from Polish military ships and aircraft. While its military assets were harassing the Fortuna, Warsaw went hysterical in the Western press scaring the world with nonsensical claims that the pipeline would be equipped with some kind of Russian espionage equipment. As usual, these allegations were entirely baseless, but the whole situation was quite unpleasant to say the least”.

Also in the News

Russian media continued portraying Ukraine as a victim of “the collective West” which “does not care how many Ukrainians die. They don't even raise an eyebrow when Ukraine loses territories”. The propagandists shared vivid details of Western plans to gain control over Ukrainian resources: “Western politicians are drooling over the fertile Ukrainian land, the Dnieper waters, the remnants of Carpathian forest, and the infrastructure which is still intact”.

They defended the Russian-controlled CSTO for ignoring Armenia’s request for assistance in the military conflict with Azerbaijan: “Why would any of the CSTO members enter the fray by sending their troops if Armenia did not even call for general mobilization during the clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh? Instead, Nikol Pashinyan addressed Russia and the West asking to defend his country”, “according to the Treaty, the participating states will provide the necessary assistance including military, in the event of an act of aggression against any of the participating States. Azerbaijan and Armenia are engaged in an armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh which has no legal status of a part of sovereign Armenia. It simply does not qualify as a valid reason for a military intervention on behalf of CSTO participant States”.

Again, Russian media revisited the subject of Europe's tiredness of Ukraine and its reluctance to help Ukrainian refugees. ”The People of Germany are suffering from hordes of Ukrainian refugees”, “Lithuania has almost ran out of capacity for providing Ukrainian refugees with temporary shelters: all it can offer are abandoned schools and similar buildings without central heating and sewerage”, “political and economic problems in Georgia mean uncertain future for the Ukrainian refugees staying in Georgia. Landlords are refusing to admit them while the locals are vexed by the scale of financial support provided to the migrants”, “the locals are simply tired of Ukrainians, and their criticisms are growing louder”.

The Methodology

We have built a corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (almost 22,000 news items) for our weekly disinformation monitoring report. Each paragraph was processed by the algorithm which defines its topic automatically. The resulting topics (i.e. groups with similar content) were short-listed by the topics relating to the war or its consequences for Russia. The number of mentions of a certain topic was then counted for each publication. Our conclusions are based on the respective findings and the quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.

We used materials from tass.ru, riafan.ru, lenta.ru, russian.rt.com, aif.ru, life.ru, slovodel.com, news-front.info, kommersant.ru, ruinformer.com, politnavigator.net, donbasstoday.ru, sevastopol.su, politobzor.net, naspravdi.info, antifashist.com, kafanews.com, anna-news.info, lugansk1.info, c-inform.info, dnr-pravda.ru, dni.ru, rusdnepr.ru, 3652.ru, comitet.su, odnarodyna.org, vsednr.ru, time-news.net, xvesti.ru, sobytiya.info, doneck-news.com, meridian.in.ua, dnr24.com

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