Ukrainian Women on the Front Lines: Organ Harvesting and Chemical Warfare. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 13-19 March 2023.

Last week, Russian media were busy guessing where the Ukrainian offensive would commence. The propagandists called the situation no less than ‘dire’, but fear not, the people of Russia: the offensive is bound to fail anyway! The fake factory really pushed the envelope with the tales about “chemical witch squads” who have allegedly been planning provocations on the front lines using chemical and biological weapons.

They also convinced the audiences that the arrest warrant issued against Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court is a worthless piece of paper. 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”

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“Chemical Witch” Squads of the AFU

The attention of Russian media last week was largely focused on the future offensive of the Ukrainian army. Naturally, the disinformation media stressed that Russia’s victory was inevitable: “The objectives of the Special Military Operation are being accomplished”, “The prevailing opinion among American military experts, which is also shared by the White House, the Pentagon, and the CIA, is that Russia is having the upper hand, and the biggest question how much, if anything, will remain of Ukraine in 3-5 months’ time”.

However, they are still guessing as to what will be the target of the upcoming AFU offensive: Crimea, Donbas or the Azov region. They were already weighing the options for defending the Crimea and the Kerch bridge: “It would be safe to assume that the offensive against Melitopol and Berdyansk might include another strike on the Crimean Bridge with the intention to cut off the peninsula from mainland Russia. Whatever the skeptics say, they have such capabilities”, “The United States is eying Crimea as a future military base”.

In an effort to soothe the audiences, the disinformation media convinced their audiences that the Ukrainian offensive would be a damp squib: “Even the attempt to launch a large-scale offensive in the south will not bring any significant gains for the AFU. They can only dream of marching into Crimea”. The propagandists claimed that the offensive was doomed due to the lack of resources: “The AFU are in a pinch, but their allies are in no hurry to supply the weapons they need. All they say is that the weapons that the AFU have been asking for are on the way— just sit tight!”.

They claimed Russian army would fight to the death and would not surrender the occupied territories: “Our army will make a stand in Donbass, the Azov region and Crimea, and they shall not give up without a fight!”. This is so similar to the earlier claims that Russia is forever to stay in Kherson or Kharkiv oblast.

Some commentators on Russian media are beginning to smell danger: “The danger is real. There is a lot of talk about a spring counter-offensive which is most likely to start in the south and head towards Zaporozhye”, “The AFU intend to make a dash for Melitopol: the city is less than a hundred kilometers away from their current positions. The Ukrainian army is completely capable to mount such an attack”.

The disinformation media also ran fake stories on a total mobilization of women in Ukraine who, they claimed, are being sent to the front lines: “Recruitment offices have redoubled their efforts to mobilize women who are being sent into the fight. They are especially keen to recruit chemists, vets and bioengineers”.

They even came up with a plausible explanation: “The increased activity of the recruitment offices is due to the lack of reserves for assault units. Such units are normally manned with male recruits whose numbers are dwindling”. According to their version, the female chemists will be tasked with “provocations using hazardous chemicals”. The propagandists even coined a name for such units: “chemical witches”. Curiously, the mobilization of female biologists has a different rationale: “As far as biologists are concerned, the draft may have a much darker side. There have been rumors about the common practice of harvesting the dead and the wounded brought from the battlefield for organs”.

The USA Cannot Touch Russia

While the Russian ship is taking hit after hit in Ukraine, the propagandists keep telling stories about Moscow’s formidable stand against the USA and being their only thing that prevents Washington's global domination. Last week, the disinformation mongers ran stories about the downing of the American MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black sea claiming it to be yet another victory over the USA: “Russia denied the USA any and all the chances to save face. What happened is clear to everyone, but the USA do not have any actionable evidence against the Russian Federation”, “The United States… only respect the iron fist. Now that they have lost their drone, they might become more receptive to what Russia has to say”.

The disinformation media also convinced the audiences that Russia’s withdrawal from the New Start nuclear arms control treaty with the United States was a strong move. “America’s goal today is forcing Russia into observing the terms of the New Start and allowing the United States unlimited access to keep tabs on our strategic nuclear capabilities”.

In the opinion of Russians, halting Russia’s participation in the treaty which provides for mutual control over nuclear arms is a demonstration of force: “We must respond equally. If the USA considers the entire globe their own playground, we must uphold our national interests within our the borders of our sovereign state and show that we shall not be bullied. ... What has happened is an ideal situation for Russia to mark its territory by sending a clear message: “You do not belong here!”.

At the same time, Russia hopes that Washington will reconsider its position and recognize Russia's interests: “Many times in the American history did Washington change political course guided by its own interests rather by those of its allies following the principle “you are either with us or against us” since “political success outweighs moral concepts”, “Despite all the talk about “unwavering support” from the Biden administration, there are internal limitations for American military losses which the Iraq war helped to reinstate”.

The propagandists claim that sooner or later the United States will have to accept Russia’s invitation to the negotiations table as American resources have their limits: “The decision to play several geopolitical games simultaneously is causing loss of control while American strength and authority are overhyped”. Furthermore, they say that Washington is not able to defend its allies: “This conflict is causing many countries to wake up to a horrifying reality. Although the USA still remains the world’s biggest power, it can no longer guarantee the security of its vassals. Everyone is on their own now”.

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Also in the News:

The propagandists took offense to Denmark's refusal to allow Russia access to the investigation of Nord Stream explosions. They called Denmark an American puppet which dances to the tune of its master.

The disinformation media also tried to tone down the bombshell news on the issuance of the arrest warrant against Putin by the ICC, but there was no way to ignore it. The Russian media responded with curt remarks to the effect that “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it”, “The entire idea is outrageous and unacceptable! Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC”.

The popular political expert and propagandist Serhii Markov came up an extravagant explanation saying that the arrest warrant results from a conspiracy of pedophiles against Putin: “It turns out that the arrest warrant issued by the ICC judges against Putin was orchestrated by a group of pedophiles from Britain. In particular, the warrant against Putin on the grounds of “abduction of children” was issued by ICC Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan KC in exchange for release on parole of his brother, a convicted sex offender Imran Ahmad Khan. Imran is no ordinary pedophile. He is also gay of all matters. And a Member of British Parliament … this is where those bizarre accusations of Putin's alleged involvement in the abduction of children are coming from. It is the pedophiles who are pointing fingers”.

Russian mass media assured that the Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov is in good health and discouraged any rumors about his illness: “I am absolutely fine”, he said. The medical device that he had been seen wearing was called “a rosary beads gadget”: “Kadyrov responded to the rumors that claimed that he was wearing a monitoring device on his finger to keep track of his condition. According to Kadyrov, the true purpose of the gadget was to help count his prayers”. They said that the West should not place high hopes on Kadyrov dying any time soon.

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

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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