Kadyrov Pledges to Hold Bakhmut if the Wagner Boys Run. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 1-7 May 2023.

Last week, the founder of Wagner PMC Yevheniy Pryhozhyn made a surprise move by threatening to pull back his forces from Bakhmut. The disinformation media scrambled to shift the focus onto Ramzan Kadyrov who had promised that his Chechen fighters would replace the Wagnerites and help to hold the city. The Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev once again claimed that the West is plotting to destroy Russia with the help of none other than gender diversity.

Russian propagandists also claimed about the staging of a “color revolution” in Hungary to overthrow the “independent” Viktor Orbán.

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


Follow the trending topics of Russian disinformation on our interactive dashboard“Disinformation about the War in Ukraine”

Kadyrov Vies with Pryhozhyn for Media Attention

Last week, Russian propagandist media focused on two major topics.

One was the drone attack on the Moscow Kremlin for which Russian propagandists hurried to blame the Ukrainian government: “Two UAVs have attacked the Moscow Kremlin. The explosion of one of the drones over the Senate Palace was captured on many cameras. Russian law enforcement agencies have classified the incident as terror attack and attempted assassination of the head of state”. They quoted Russian officials threatening the perpetrators with punishment for the act: “The Deputy Head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev urged to respond by launching a massive strike on the personnel and equipment of the Ukrainian army”, “Following the incident, the Deputy Head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev threatened to eliminate the president of Ukraine”, “In turn, the Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin urged to recognize “the Nazi Kyiv regime as terrorist organization”.

The other major topic revolved around the founder of Wagner PMC Yevheniy Pryhozhyn and the leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov. On 5 May, Yevheniy Pryhozhyn stated that “Wagner PMC is awaiting the combat order to abandon the city” unless the mercenaries are provided with sufficient supplies of ammunition. This bombshell of a statement was too loud for the propagandist media to drown out forcing them to respond with all sorts of excuses and shift the focus onto Kadyrov’s courageous Chechen fighters who, they said, were ready to replace the Wagner mercenaries.

Interestingly, certain propagandists tried to exonerate Yevheniy Pryhozhyn: “The chief Wagnerite is on the attack. However, the attack is becoming two-pronged since the Ministry of Defense has taken a decidedly hostile stand. While such dedication deserves a fair amount of respect, the questions still remain”. All this time the disinformation media have been building a positive image for Pryhozhyn and his mercenaries portraying them as the heroes of today's Russia. Turning this ship around to criticize Wagner PMC is no small feat.

In particular, the disinformation mongers present Pryhozhyn and his private army as the main deterrent for America’s military power: “In the recent years, Pryhozhyn's enterprise has risen to challenge America’s military power for the first time in history ... and it may as well put an end to the West’s monopoly over military operations”.

To calm down the Russian public, the propagandist media actively quoted Kadyrov saying his Chechen fighters were ready to replace the Wagnerites in Bakhmut: “According to Kadyrov, the members of “Akhmat” special forces team are ready to take over the positions currently held by Wagner PMC in Artyomovsk (the name Russian media use to refer to Bakhmut — editor’s note)”. The propagandists used Kadyrov's statements to tone down the disappointment at Pryhozhyn’s ultimatum. They kept repeating that “Chechen special forces are ready to reclaim the city. According to the leader of Chechnya, the Ministry of Defense has been developing a new strategy for the operations in Artyomovsk to account for the AFU tactics and their assets in the area”.

The propagandists even tried to shame the members of Wagner PMC saying that Chechen fighters were known to be able to fight effectively even with limited supplies of ammunition: “That being said, the head of the Russian region admitted that Chechen units had also experienced shortages of ammunition. For example, on one occasion, the Ministry of Defense had assigned only one tank instead of the five required to complete the mission as planned”, “the commander of “Akhmat” special forces team ... said that although ammunition is often in short supply, he “never stated it publicly on the internet and used the internal channels to inform his superiors in an appropriate manner”.

Gender Diversity Menaces Russia

Propagandist media keep educating their audiences — Russian first and foremost — about the reasons for Putin's war against Ukraine. They said it was meant to keep the world multi-polar: “The countries of the West may lament about the so-called “unprovoked aggression” for as long as they want, but there is nothing they can do to prevent a new world order from taking shape”, and preserve Russia’s constitutional order which is being allegedly threatened by the actions of the West: “The collective West employs terrorist and extremist organizations to instill fear in Russians and undermine our constitutional order”.

The disinformation media are certain that the enemy is trying to dismantle Russia from within with the help of pseudoscience: “Western nations are trying to undermine the unity of Russia with the help of fake theories that have nothing to do with science”.

The Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev stated that “entire institutes in the United States and in Europe are tasked with generating wild pseudoscientific theories”.

According to Patrushev, the idea of gender diversity is one of such theories which, he claims, is one of the threats to the Russian identity: “The West is imposing the idea of gender diversity upon Russian people in an attempt to destroy the foundations of our national identity.

To counter the threat, he urged to defend Russian culture and history. ‘The Western propaganda machine fails upon encountering the honor, dignity, determination and the steadfast moral values which are the signature traits of our people”.

Nikolai Patrushev has frequently been mentioned in our weekly monitoring reports before. It was Patrushev who has been spreading claims about the American bioweapons being used against Russians, Poland's plans to divide Ukraine and other ridiculous nonsense in the Russian media space.

Also in the News:

The prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán got another week of propagandist praise: “Hungary pursues an independent policy and does not want to dance to the American fiddle”, “The politician opposes the EU's anti-Russian policy and its supplies of weapons to Ukraine”. The praises followed the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) which, according to the propagandists, aspires to the role of a thinktank of Hungary's conservative forces.

The propagandists argue that Hungary is under the threat of a “color revolution”: “There has been a spike of activity of Western-sponsored movements which might attempt to start a “color revolution”. They claim it is the Americans who are pulling the strings: “The American ambassador to Hungary is playing a central part in the planning, and the EU is also in it. They want to overthrow Orbán and replace him with someone who is less independent and more malleable”.

Now that everyone can see that the propagandist predictions about Europe freezing up without Russian energy resources were false, the disinformation media have switched to the subject of “droughts and fighting for the access to water resources”: “In the recent interview for IA REGNUM, the scientific director of the Institute of Water Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences Viktor Danilov-Danilyan said that the EU would have to resort to very serious economic measures to survive through the imminent crisis caused by extreme heat and droughts”.

According to the propagandists, the water shortages have been caused by the EU’s environmental policy: “The shortages of water which may cause conflicts in Europe are the result of the “short-sighted and irresponsible” green environmental agenda in certain countries. Such was the conclusion of the expert consultant of the Financial University under the Government of Russia Denys Denysov”.

The disinformation media convinced their audiences that the monopolar world is history, and that the United States will have to make way for the new global players: “The United States is sinking into the Middle Ages. Forget about the American dream: today it is only a specter of a long-gone past. We are witnessing the demise of the monopolar world, and the Western dominance or the Americano world is nearing its end”. The propagandists are certain that it is Washington's loss of influence that is causing conflicts around the world: “We all have a unique chance to watch the “hegemon” collapse which might cause unthinkable misery for the mankind”.


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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