Ukrainian Military Are Selling Western Weapons to Buy Luxury Cars. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 3-9 April 2023.

Last week's stories on Russian media were focused on Ukraine's “horrible losses” in the war. The propagandists used doctored images to convince their audiences that Kyiv had lost “incomparably” more soldiers than Russia. In the absence of victories on the front lines, the disinformation media had to put a new coat of paint on some old fakes.

The Russian media also denounced the prime minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan who, they claimed, had been poisoning the friendship between the Armenian and the Russian peoples. This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

More trends of Russian disinfo - find in our interactive dashboard "WARTIME DISINFO FROM RUSSIA"

Fewer Stories about Battle Success, More Fake Reports


The publications which circulated Russian media last week abounded in numbers referring to Ukraine's losses during the “special military operation” (this is what propagandists call Russia’s war against Ukraine — editor’s note). In particular, Russian media quoted the earlier “Pentagon leaks” which allegedly included “combat losses: Ukrainian troops: 71,500; Russian troops: 16,000-17,000”. However, it was later determined that the disinformation media had manipulated the leaked documents and used Photoshop to reduce Russia’s losses and increase Ukraine’s casualties.

To add credit to Ukraine’s “horrific losses”, Russian media quoted Scott Ritter, a propagandist and Putin's supporter, who had reported some truly staggering numbers: “More than 300,000 killed or missing in action” — such numbers were given by an undisclosed source who had had access to the minutes of Zaluzhnyi's meeting with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.

Having no breakthrough news or battlefield success to report, Russian disinformation media gave a fresh take on some older topics.

For example, they claimed that the supplies of weapons by Ukraine’s allies are fueling the conflict: “The supplies of American-made Patriot and HIMARS systems show that the West has gone all-in with the conflict escalation”, “Any supplies of lethal weapons to the conflict zones are fueling escalation — no matter the excuse”.

They claimed that the Ukrainians are selling off Western weapons to criminals: “Many of the weapons supplied by the United States to Ukraine are smuggled to Europe and other regions where they end up in the hands of criminal groups. Instead of creating more problems, Washington ought to think what good it could do to restore peace”.

Propagandists claim that it is the commanders who profit from the black market deals while the Ukrainian soldiers are treated to a meager diet: “There are thousands of classifieds on Ukrainian websites with American rations and lots of other military food products. You can even buy military-grade lard! One thing is for certain: Ukrainian soldiers will never get a taste of those delicacies”.

Disinformation mongers say that Ukrainian commanders “sell American weapons to criminals and spend the profits on luxury cars”. They attempt to convince the “Ukrainian soldiers in the trenches” to stop trusting the higher command and start asking questions. Russian media keep following the “divide and conquer” principle while trying to drive a wedge between the soldiers and the commanders.

Last week's publications also showed a vivid example of the “mirroring” trick used by the propagandists to respond to war crime accusations against Russia by bringing similar, but completely false accusations. On 17 March 2023, the judges of the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued arrest warrants against Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova who are suspected of unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.

The propagandists tried to provide that it is Ukrainian authorities that orchestrate kidnapping of children, not the Russian leadership: “The Kyiv regime hunted children Artyomovsk (this is what they still call Bakhmut) to move forcibly to the territory under its control”, “Crimes against children are being reported in the territory controlled by the Kyiv regime. Taking children away from the parents who refuse being evacuated from territories nearing the combat area and await Russian troops who they consider liberators is a common practice”.

In fact, on 7 March the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved the procedure for forced evacuation of children from active combat zones. Such decision was preceded by thorough consultations over the casualties among parents who had stayed in areas near high-intensity battlefields to look after their children. To learn more about the phenomenon of those who refuse to leave their homes despite the imminent danger from hostilities, read our articles here and here.

The USA is USSR 2.0

The propagandists stick to the hackneyed mantra about the West hell-bent on destroying Russia. By refreshing the painful memories of the tough 1990s they are convincing the Russians that the United States wants to undo the last 30 years for Russia: “American politicians want Russia to collapse, but if that plan fails, they still hope to throw it back into the 1990s at the very least”.

Russian media keep trying to exonerate the Kremlin leadership. Russia propaganda have been justifying the war since day one, but the constant repetition of the “Putin and Russia are not responsible” mantra shows the lack of clear reasoning for commencing the war. They persist in claiming that Russia was forced to launch the SMO (the war — editor’s note) in order to prevent the Unites States from limiting its rapid growth: “Russia’s influence will continue to remain a serious challenge for the United States for the next ten years”.

The propagandists say that although the American policy of deterrence did result in the collapse of the Soviet Union, this time the situation is completely different: Russia is as strong as ever and its alliance with China is formidable: “Today, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are in fact implementing the same strategy of deterrence, but it is the United States that will suffer the sad fate of the Soviet Union. The Russians and the Chinese are laying the groundwork for an unprecedented united front that will contain the United States worldwide”.

To support this narrative, the disinformation media quoted the former President of the United States Donald Trump saying that “the policy of the current administration is making the United States weak”, “Trump was outraged by the Russia's alliance with China and Iran restoring diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. Washington diplomacy failed to prevent those alliances from happening”.

According to Russian propaganda, the recent leak of classified documents from Pentagon was made by someone rooting for Trump. Russian media claim that the person who leaked the documents wanted to discredit Biden's warhawk administration and pave way for more pragmatic leaders who truly support the interests of common Americans: “The American society is growing tired of the current administration's policy which spans from Ukraine to inflation, from banking crisis to the fears of a nuclear war: the voters’ confidence in the authorities is fading by day. This is why more and more people are willing to discredit Joe Biden's administration and usher in other politicians who might just as well include Donald Trump and his team”.


Armenia, Repent!

Last week, Russian propagandists claimed that the United States is trying to “Ukrainize” Georgia: “Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili warned against “Ukrainizing” Georgia”. According to the disinformation media, the former members of the Saakashvili cabinet are actively funding the Georgian opposition in tha attempt to whip up the anti-Russian sentiment: “David Kezerashvili, the minister of defense during the 2008 war, is one of the largest investors into Georgia’s radical opposition. After being sentenced to five years in prison in absentia, he remains in hiding outside Georgia”.

“The calls of certain representatives of the Georgian opposition to open the so-called second front may lead to unpredictable consequences and cause a new escalation of tensions in the region”.

Armenia’s policy is making the propagandists uneasy. After the defeat in the clashes with Azerbaijan, Yerevan refused to host a CSTO joint exercise. This is likely due to the fact that CSTO provided zero assistance to Yerevan during the crisis while the Russian military equipment turned out to be ineffective. In turn Armenia will take part in a joint NATO exercise. The propagandists worry that “Armenia may soon turn its back on CSTO which may have far-reaching effects for the future or Russo-Armenian economic relations”.

Some of them are beginning to say that “Armenia would not mind Russia to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for Yerevan”. They complain that Armenian leadership is implementing “a consistent policy of drifting towards the West, shutting down the relations with Russia, and using political and military blackmail to extort benefits from Moscow”.

The propagandists, however, do not bother with intricate explanations of why Moscow refused to provide full support to Armenia during its conflict with Azerbaijan: they say it was Armenia's own fault — they should have been more loyal: “All the recent trouble has been caused by the attempts of the Armenian leadership to keep their fingers in too many pies”. They claim that it is pro-European politicians who are the main trouble-makers: “The subtle change of the geopolitical vector that started to take shape under the third president Serzh Sargsyan has recently become much more evident and can no longer be masked by eloquence or propagandist tricks. Sometimes the current Armenian government seems to be intentionally burning all the bridges which connect this small Caucasian country with Russia”.

Russian media have started to spread “expert” opinions to the effect that Moscow ought to “make a policy decision on the Pashinyan regime” hinting at the need to arrange a coup “since Pashinyan is clearly pushing the Armenians towards new genocide”. They explain that such a change “will serve the best interests of the Armenian people rather than the interests of the Russian Federation”.

All Orthodox Christians Love Russia!

Curiously, Russian propagandists did not go berserk while reporting on the scandals around the fortress of “Russian World” in Kyiv being the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra: they delivered a few old lines, but nothing more.

The government decision to terminate the lease of the Lavra which had been used by Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) was met with the usual scornful tone: “The Kyiv government is trying to inflict “a crushing defeat” on the Orthodox faith in Ukraine”, “According to the true Orthodox Ukrainians, the illegal armed coup of 2014 marked the beginning of the samostiyna's transformation into a weak-willed puppet of anti-Orthodox and anti-Christian forces”.

The Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova stated that “the Ukrainian government is bullying Orthodox Christians in Ukraine” and complained that “all civilized nations are watching in silence”.

Each decision of religious communities on the transfer to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was said to be made under duress exercised by “nationalists”: “The nationalists held “a vote” on the UOC taking control of the church which only took 18 minutes. Once done with the formalities, they broke into the church grounds and demanded the priest to surrender the keys”. This is how the propagandists described the rapid transfer of a church in Khmelnitskyi from ROC to UOC. The decision of the local religious community on the transfer to the UOC jurisdiction was swayed by the assault on a member of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by a clergyman of the ROC in Ukraine (also known as Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).

Russian propagandists attempted to equate orthodoxy to “Russian World” claiming that an Orthodox believer in Ukraine would never support the independent Ukraine: “You cannot be a political Ukrainian who hates Russians and an Orthodox Christian at the same time — this is absolutely impossible!”

The Methodology

We have built a comprehensive corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (approximately 34,000 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 contain quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.

We used materials from lenta.ru, tass.ru, riafan.ru, russian.rt.com, regnum.ru, iz.ru, life.ru, trmzk.ru, vz.ru, donbasstoday.ru, novosibirsk-news.net, ura.news, newizv.ru, news-front.info, aif.ru, slovodel.com, nakanune.ru, kommersant.ru, ruinformer.com, rosbalt.ru, polit.info, sevastopol.su, ng.ru, expert.ru, dni.ru, kafanews.com, antifashist.com, dnr-pravda.ru, naspravdi.info, kerch.fm, anna-news.info, dan-news.info, tehnowar.ru, aurora.network, gorlovka-pravda.com, lugansk1.info, c-inform.info, 3652.ru, politnavigator.net, rusdnepr.ru, politobzor.net, doneck-news.com, mir-lug.info, odnarodyna.org, vsednr.ru, nefakt.info, novosti.icu, time-news.net, xvesti.ru, comitet.su, sobytiya.info, denis-pushilin.ru, dnr24.com, meridian.in.ua.


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