NATO Is Running Out of Weapons. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 19-25 June 2023

Last week, the attention of Russia media was largely focused on Ukraine's counteroffensive. Their main goal was persuading Russians that Ukraine’s operation was a flash in the pan. However, the breaking news at end of the week made the propagandists change their tune. The chief of Wagner PMC attempted a military coup so the Kremlin’s information spin doctors focused their efforts on threatening the conspirators and rallying Russians around Putin.

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”

The Defiant Pryhozhyn

On 23 June, the latest interview of the leader of Wagner PMC Yevhen Pryhozhyn hit the internet. In the interview, Pryhozhyn criticized Russia’s top military command Russia and blamed them for the setbacks in Ukraine. A while later, Pryhozhyn published a video which, he claimed, showed the aftermath of a strike on the mercenary base launched by the Ministry of Defense of Russia. After that, the chief of the private military company announced the “the march of justice” which soon led to the capturing of the military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don. Having bagged their first victory, the conspirators set off for Moscow.

Pryhozhyn’s activity at the end of the week ranked him third among the politicians most frequently mentioned on Russian media.

For a while, Russian media remained baffled and did not offer any meaningful response until the Russian president’s address on the day after Pryhozhyn's insurrection: “In the emergency address to the nation, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin called yesterday’s events an act of treachery. According to President Putin, “excessive ambition and the strive for personal gain led Prigozhin down the path of treachery””.

The official propaganda termed Pryhozhyn's actions as “mutiny” and called on the public to demonstrate active support of Putin: “Russians must stand as one with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin”, “This is the time when every person who loves Russia and wishes it a bright, happy future must show their true colors”.

Russia media threatened Pryhozhyn and his supporters with severe punishment and promised prosecution by the Russian authorities: “The Prosecutor General's Office promised to provide a proper legal evaluation of the man's actions. He could be sentenced to imprisonment for a term from 12 to 20 years”. However, those threats never materialized.

On June 24, the chief of Wagner PMC suddenly announced a halt of the march on Moscow.

For more information about Pryhozhyn's “crusade”, read here and here.

Pryhozhyn's mutiny caught the propagandists by surprise, and they struggled to explain it at first. They had to improvise, and some of their theories will certainly make it to our following monitoring reports.

For example, some propagandists claimed that the mutiny had been orchestrated by the West: “The mutiny, which was organized by the local agents of the West, is clearly intended to undermine Russia’s unity”.

The propagandists also worried about Kyiv’s support of the rebels: “In the interview with “Izvestiya”, political analyst Aleksandr Asafov expressed concerns about Kyiv’s support of the mutiny attempt in Russia” since it might plunge Russia into revolts and maidans: “The support of the attempted mutiny in Russia by the Kyiv regime “is a clear warning about the future we might be facing”.

The Dreams of Western Arms Depletion

While describing Ukraine's counteroffensive, Russian media have been painting the picture of a complete disaster. They actively quote Western experts politicians and politicians out of context and present their opinions in a manner that suits the needs of Russian propaganda: “Colonel Markus Reisner of the Austrian Armed Forces: the coherent action and the military superiority of the Russian army have stalled the AFU”, “The German government is shocked by the disastrous performance of the Ukrainian troops during the counteroffensive in the area of Russia’s special military operation”.

According to Russian media, Kyiv has been suffering tremendous losses both in personnel and equipment as the Russian military fights hard for each inch of ground: “It has become absolutely clear that when our soldiers stand strong, the enemy has no chance of advancing”.

Kremlin's information minions are telling scare tales about the mobilization of the Ukrainian population and connect it to Ukraine's counteroffensive. They claimed the Kyiv had been forced to announce general mobilization to compensate for the heavy losses in the front lines: “General mobilization has been announced in Ukraine's capital: all those eligible for military duty were instructed to appear at recruitment offices within 10 days”, “In the part of Kherson oblast controlled by the Kyiv regime, the men who come to humanitarian aid centers are being drafted to the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU)”.

In fact, martial law and general mobilization were declared in Ukraine a long time ago — at the beginning of the full-scale war. The mobilization in Ukraine has remained unchanged except for the announcements from certain territorial recruitment and social support centers (TRSSC) reminding about the continuing mobilization in Ukraine and the need for all those eligible for military duty to appear at their local TRSSCs voluntarily or being summoned to update their personal details.

The disinformation media avoid publishing news about the advancement of the Ukrainian Defense Forces while the loss of positions is explained by mishaps which are nothing but temporary: “The action in several positions which have become the focus of the enemy’s efforts has been quite dramatic. Sometimes the luck is on the enemy's side, and they may capture a position or two without any chance of holding onto it under the shelling of our artillery which forces them to retreat. We come back, rebuild, and wait for the next attack.”

The propagandists argue that even the loss of positions is good for Russia as it exhausts Ukraine and hampers its liberation efforts: “They might force us to leave that tiny bit of land tomorrow, but there will be one more position just like that and many more... If they waste so many resources and so much time on each position like that, they might not last very long”, “The death of a large number of NATO-trained troops and the destruction of their equipment will cripple Ukraine's army”.

Russian propagandists keep their fingers crossed for the depletion of the stocks of NATO weapons maintained by Ukraine's Western allies: “The supplies of ammunition to the Ukrainian Nazi regime have emptied the European warehouses of the Alliance. There is simply nothing to send”, “NATO members seem to have reached the limits of their capacity of providing mass supplies of weapons”. European countries have indeed sent much of their stocks of artillery rounds to Ukraine, but the plans to ramp up production are already in motion with ample funding. Furthermore, the United States has been assisting in arranging supplies of artillery ammunition from their allies outside Europe. Avoiding the “shell hunger” is a challenge for both Ukraine and Russia, but Russian propagandists avoid writing about their problems pretending they do not exist.

Also in the News:

The president of Belarus Oleksandr Lukashenko once again accused the West of orchestrating a coup in his country: “The representatives of Western countries openly admit training nationalist groups to overthrow the legitimate government of Belarus”. The so-called “experts” claim that Kyiv is planning to insert sabotage and reconnaissance groups (SRG) into Belarus: “It appears that the enemy may attempt to insert SRGs into the territory of Belorussia to spread panic among the local population and then attempt a coup d’etat”.

Certain experts are convinced that such groups are being trained in Poland: “As we have said before, the Polish and Western special services are training militants, extremists and terrorists on Polish soil to wage military operations in Belarus. We know it for a fact!”, “They force Belorussian fugitives into military training and send them back to Belorussia at gunpoint instead of offering them asylum”.

The Russian embassy in London criticized the latest plans of the British government to keep Russian assets frozen until Moscow pays compensation to Ukraine.

Russian diplomats called this initiative stealing and accused Britain of violating international legal standards: “From now on, Britain’s illegal actions, which violate the fundamental international legal standards, are aimed, among other things, at coercing our country into paying some sort of “compensations” to the Kyiv regime.

The propagandists argue that the West used the the war in Ukraine as a formal pretext to introduce anti-Russian sanctions for their own gain: “The conflict in Ukraine was used by Western countries as a formal pretext to introduce illegal unilateral restrictions intended to hamper Russia’s economic development and contain it geopolitically”. They are convinced that “the British government used the special military operation to justify bolstering pressure “in breadth and in depth” across the board”.

As usual, the Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev continues frightening the public with American biological warfare programs. According to Patrushev, ”American biowarfare programs may be aimed at breeding viruses to target individuals of specific race”.

The Ministry of Defense of Russia shares similar concerns. The chief of Russia’s radiation, chemical and biological protection force Igor Kirillov said that “Within the nearest future, Pentagon intends to move all the incomplete military biological programs from Ukraine to other countries of the former Soviet realm and Eastern Europe such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States”. He further claimed that “the US and its NATO allies are conducting large-scale military biological experiments to develop effective methods of using pathogens of infectious deceases”.


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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