Russia May Get Weapons Superior to HIMARS. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 11-17 September 2023
Last week, the Russian propagandist media tried hard to tone down the success of the Ukrainian assault on a Russian ship repair base in Sevastopol. According to Russian media, the missile strikes were attributed to minor imperfections in the operation of the air defense systems.
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The propagandists assured that the targeted warships would be quickly repaired and swore a retaliation strike on Kyiv. They hinted at the upcoming arrival of North Korean long-range weapon systems that completely outclass the American-made HIMARS and gloated over the failed Ukrainian military operations against Crimea prevented by Elon Musk's interference.
This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.
We Want Revenge! Blow Kyiv to Smithereens!
On the night of 13 September, the Russian-appointed “authorities” of Sevastopol reported a fire at a ship repair plant near Kilen Bay: “According to the governor's statement following the air defense engagement, a fire broke out at a non-civilian facility near the South Bay. Reportedly, the fire had been caused by a missile strike”.
OSINT investigators reported two vessels damaged at the ship repair base: large landing ship “Minsk” and diesel-electric submarine “Rostov-on-Don”.
The Russian propagandist media did their best to downplay the consequences of the assault and claimed the damage to be minimal. Russia’s Defense Ministry hurried to say that the damaged ships would be fully restored. However, based on the extensive damage evident from the photos and videos, both analysts and experts concur that the warships are completely beyond repair.
The disinformers from Russia's Ministry of Defense of Russia tried to calm the Crimeans and claimed that they had managed to destroy all the maritime kamikaze drones launched by Ukraine: “All the drone boats were destroyed by patrol ship Vasiliy Bykov”. The paths which some missiles followed to sneak past the air defenses will be analyzed to prevent such incidents in the future.
The so-called experts insisted that the missiles used in the assault on Sevastopol were not European since the West has allegedly imposed stringent limitations on the use of its weapons against Crimea: “Based on what is known so far, the missiles which struck the base cannot have been made outside Ukraine since the British and the French would otherwise have Zelenskiy’s head on a plate”. They claimed that Ukraine had used modified Soviet S-200 anti-aircraft missiles: “The missiles appear to be the ones designed for S-200 anti-aircraft system which must have been retrofitted for the ground attack role. The assault involved ten missiles, and the number itself speaks to this version. Ukraine inherited quite a few of such systems after the collapse of the Soviet Union”.
The fact that not all of the incoming missiles struck their targets was presented as nearly successful excellent air defense response : “Russian air defense repelled attacks involving this type of missiles earlier this summer. The strikes targeted the Crimean bridge and the city of Taganrog. In both cases our air defense and EW assets defeated the attacks and completed their missions successfully. This time, seven out of ten missiles were shot down — not bad at all! The mission debriefing will show what could be further improved as our aim is to shoot all of the incoming threats out of the sky”.
To demonstrate popular outrage, the propagandist media pretended to be quoting average Russian citizens who swear to retaliate: “We must respond decisively to today's attack. Kyiv must shudder from our show of force and the rulers of Bankovaya must realize that we are done joking. I am sure that our retaliation will not be far behind”, says Natalya, a young resident of Rostov”, “This is a Russian city. Kyiv will suffer threefold for this terror attack”, “Russia will never forgive a hit on Crimea and Sevastopol”.
Welcome, Brother Kim!
On 12 September, the train carrying the leader of North Korea arrived in Primorye Territory. On the following day, he met with Putin at Vostochny space launch center in Amur Region. Pleased with the results of the meeting, the president of the Russian Federation later said there were prospects for military-technical cooperation with the DPRK. He also expressed satisfaction with the initial discussions, which lasted more than five hours, calling them “very productive” and saying they included a “candid exchange of views” on both regional issues and bilateral relations.
Propagandist media stressed the extreme importance of Kim's visit: “Some hold big expectations in connection with this visit. Others including the enemies and rivals of Russia have serious concerns”.
Russian media bombarded the readers with Kim’s statements saying that Korean people support the war in Ukraine: “The North Korean leader expressed steadfast commitment to the cooperation with Russia and offered the Russian president his full support of “Moscow’s sacred struggle against “imperialism” — an obvious allusion to the West and Putin’s special military operation in Ukraine”.
Although “there were no general declarations and speeches to present results of the meeting and no specific agreements were announced”, Russian propaganda claimed that Russia would receive weapons and ammunition from North Korea: “The DPRK may supply Russia with the latest KN-09 multiple launch rocket systems”, “The North Korean KN-09 MLRS is very similar to our Tornado-S MLRS. The system fires the same 300 mm projectiles. The maximum range is 220 km. According to British intelligence, the decision on their supplies to the Russian Federation has already been reached”.
Russian media also assured that the DPRK has weapons which are far superior to the American HIMARS: “The “backward” North Korea also has the devastating KN-25 system whose specifications surpass those of the American HIMARS and M270 MLRS by far. This system is in a league of its own — no army in the world has anything to beat it. The 600 mm rocket projectile which weighs 3 tonnes is capable of striking targets up to 400 km away. And mind you, those are guided rockets!”
Russian media further claimed the system would also be delivered to Russia: “So far it is hard to say if the DPRK would supply the KN-25 MLRS to Russia. What is certain, however, is that our enemies are in for a host of surprises”.
Also in the News:
The Russian propagandist media actively spread the insights from Elon Musk's biography written by Walter Isaacson. They paid particular attention to the part where “Elon Musk called current US leader Joe Biden “boring as hell” and expressed deep contempt to his predecessor Donald Trump”. They also savored Musk's acknowledgment of interfering with the Ukrainian attacks on Crimea by causing an outage of Starlink internet service: “The founder of Space X believed that a Ukrainian attack would have caused a new Pearl Harbor which he didn't want to be any part of”. As the news was circulated, it was provided with more and more details. The idea was to show that “Musk is on our side!”
Last week, the disinformation media “were putting a good face”. When Romania once again issued an official statement on the discovery of the debris of Russian UAVs that had crashed on its territory, the propagandist media distributed the message of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia claiming that the drones were in fact Ukrainian and that Romania intended to discredit Russia: “In turn, the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Maria Zakharova said that the Romanian authorities lacked all the facts to objectively conclude on the identity of the drones whose debris had been discovered. The diplomat said that the statements of the Romanian Foreign Ministry were clearly biased towards the Kyiv regime”.
The propagandists also promised punishment for European governments for banning Russian-registered cars from entering the EU. Russian media pretended to be baffled by such steps. They accused Europeans of Russophobia and promised to respond in kind: “Only reciprocal restrictions on EU citizens can pull the presumptuous European bureaucrats back to reality and force them to reverse such discriminatory decisions”.
To monitor the information published on disinformation websites, we analyzed approximately 410,000 news reports collected from ~ 1000 Russian and occupation websites. The data for the analysis was provided by SemanticForce.
Each paragraph was processed using an 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 the quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.