The Tsar Talks about Success. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 12-18 June 2023

Putin's address on the state of Russian economy at the “international” economic forum in St. Petersburg was actively promoted by Russian media last week. In a nutshell, Russia’s leader said that the war had ushered in a new era of prosperity. Russian propagandists also paid a fair bit of attention to Ukraine's counteroffensive insisting that Russian army was as strong as ever.

In addition to that, the disinformation media once again claimed wounded among Ukraine’s senior military command. This time they said it was the Chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov.

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

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

Combat actions

Most of the Russian propagandists’ attention last week was centered around Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

To avoid embarrassing their Ministry of Defense, Russian media avoided mentioning the towns and villages liberated by the AFU. Instead, they reported on the success in repelling the attacks of the Ukrainian army: “The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has reported on repelling the attacks of the Ukrainian nationalists at Vremevka Bulge”, “The Russian army fought off eight attacks of the AFU in Donetsk operations area”.

The propagandists claimed that “all the attempts of the Ukrainian army to wedge into the Russian defenses failed” and reported about Ukrainians turning their tails and fleeing from the Russian military: “Any serious firefights are causing the enemy to flee without trying to hold to their entrenched positions. They abandon their fortifications and run”.

At the same time, the fake factories claimed that the AFU had no regard for their losses and used the “meat rush” tactics: “The attackers come in waves ignoring heavy losses”. They said the tactic was the direct result of the pressure exerted by the United States on Kyiv to fight to the last Ukrainian (this message has been repeated for over a year): “Bending to the will of Washington, Kyiv seems to have decided to fight to the last Ukrainian. What is really sad, one day there will be no more Ukrainians to send into the grinder”.

However, some materials provided a careful and more realistic coverage of Ukraine's counteroffensive. They might be intended to prepare the audiences for the possibility of a retreat and avoid the shock caused by last autumn’s events in Kharkiv oblast. Those materials offered a much more realistic take: in particular, the authors said that Ukraine was still playing safe and its main strategy was probing for weak points in Russian defenses: “The enemy's simultaneous activity in a number of areas is part of a larger plan. The idea of the AFU command is to prick the fortified defenses of the Russian army to find the weakest point, concentrate their reserves and deliver the main blow”.

Such publications led to the conclusion that there was no need to worry since “the Russian army is fully aware of those plans” and is ready to counterattack: “The militants of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have nothing to oppose to a decisive counterattack of the Russian army”.

As usual, last week was marked by a number of Russian fakes. The disinformation media claimed that local members of the territorial defense forces were being ordered to storm Russian positions while the regular army reserves were being held off: “Sadly, the residents of Zaporozhye, who had been mobilized into the territorial defenses forces, are being sent to their death”. Such propagandist claims stem from the actual problem caused by the varying levels of training of different units of the territorial defense forces (TDF) whose members are mostly volunteers. The TDF are part of the Armed forces of Ukraine.

Russian media also claimed that Kyrylo Budanov had been severely injured and was being treated in Germany: “The Chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine was injured in a missile strike of the Russian Aerospace Forces on the intelligence headquarters in Kyiv and is being treated in a Bundeswehr hospital in Berlin”. This fake was personally disproved by Budanov..

Putin's Promise of a Brighter Future

The annual economic forum in St. Petersburg was an important event for Russian propaganda. “St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is the largest of its kind in Russia. This year’s event is being held from 14 to 17 June”.

Russian media argued that the forum had been attracting international attention proving that Russia is not isolated from the civilized world. The organizers really went out of their way to lure foreign leaders with the program of this year's event. However, only the presidents of the UAE and Algeria and the prime ministers of Cuba and Kyrgyzstan made personal appearances while the rest of the “friendly” countries sent their minor officials instead.

The main topic of the forum was “Sovereign Development as the Basis of a Just world: Joining Forces for Future Generations”.

The propagandists quoted Putin's words on Russia's economic successes and his promises of a brighter future: “Russia has managed to leave last year’s difficulties behind and must now lay the foundations of a new economy — the economy of supply and high salaries. Such was statement of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin made on Friday”.

The president of Russia assured that not only will the Russian economy maintain its position in the global economy, it will put all pessimists to shame by showing growth: “In the near future, not only will Russia maintain its sixth position among the world's largest economies: it has all the chances to become even stronger”.

Putin added that Russia's economy will grow while Germany’s will remain in the doldrums.

Also in the News:

The President of the Czech Republic and the former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Petr Pavel said that Russian citizens who had left Russia and were living in the West should come under tighter scrutiny from security services. Although the Czech president referred to the strict monitoring imposed by the United States government against the Japanese during World War II as an example, he did not call for such action saying “That’s simply a cost of war”.

Russian propaganda twisted his statement to portray him as a radical: "The Czech president said that all Russian “dissidents” who had found refuge in Europe should be put in internment camps — exactly what the Americans did to the Japanese in the 1940s”. Furthermore, they accused the Czech leader of racism: “The Czech general is a tough case. He still lives in a world where referring to American experience makes something, even racism, perfectly acceptable”.

Last week, Russian media exploded with news on Germany's first-ever National Security Strategy adopted on 14 June. According to the strategy paper, “today’s Russia is for now the most significant threat to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area’.

While commenting on such a decision, press secretary of the president of Russia Dmitry Peskov stated that the federal government of Germany “brought the de facto situation in agreement with the situation which exists de jure” and that Germany “is shooting itself in the foot by following Washington’s orders”.

Certain so-called experts argued that German politicians were promoting Ukraine’s agenda and trying to consolidate more and more countries within the anti-Russian coalition: “The diplomatic activity in Germany and other Western countries point to a seismic shift in the architecture of global security. They have introduced a 2% defense duty to compensate for the price of weapons sent to Ukraine and replenish their own arsenals. All those efforts are deliberately being presented as anti-Russian to help explain the necessity of such steps to their citizens and secure public support”.

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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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