Russia Claims to be Fighting the Bundeswehr. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 18-24 September 2023
Last week, Russian media trumpeted the alleged confession of a German serviceman after his Leopard tank had been knocked out by the Russian forces. Such reports seem to be part of a bigger plan to convince their readership that Moscow is fighting against NATO troops. The disinformation media argued that Moscow had never betrayed the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. They vigorously denied all the claims of Russia’s isolation and insisted on a worldwide support of Putin's war.
This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.
The War is Full of Miracles
Last week's reports on Russian propagandist media were full of “miracles”.
Firstly, Russian media argued that the Ukrainian offensive was bound to become a “total disaster”. The disinformers claimed that the only motivation Ukrainians still have is the promise of bounty: “As long as there is a glimmer of hope that every combatant is entitled to their share of the bounty, the Ukrainians will keep on fighting”. As Ukraine has allegedly almost run out of human resource, “Western nations want to force Ukraine into negotiations with Russia” to avoid a disgraceful defeat: “Once the violent phase of the SMO is over, Zelenskiy will put out a white flag and announce capitulation”.
Follow the trending topics of Russian disinformation on our interactive dashboard “Disinformation about the War in Ukraine”
Secondly, Russian propaganda found proof that “God is on our side”: On 22 September, Ukraine launched a missile strike on the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol. The propagandist media had to bow to the number of eye witnesses of the attack and admit the fact that the missiles had reached their target.
After the assault, the Russian-appointed “governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev” stated: “The icon of Fyodor Ushakov was found intact amid the debris from the earlier AFU attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol”. They said it was irrefutable proof that God himself supports Russia’s war: “He further added that Fyodor Ushakov had never lost a battle and for that reason he still remains the patron saint of Sevastopol providing spiritual protection for the region and giving confidence in a new Victory”.
To keep the faith strong, Russian media suggested organizing a religious procession: “He also suggested holding a religious procession with the miraculous icon on 15 October, the remembrance day of holy righteous warrior Fyodor Ushakov, through all the townships of Sevastopol”.
And thirdly, Russian media reported on the destruction of a German military unit in Zaporizhzhia oblast: “Russian reconnaissance elements operating in the front lines knocked out a Leopard tank which had been delivered to Ukraine. The crew did not survive, but before the driver died from the wounds, he confessed that they were not mercenaries, but in fact members of the Bundeswehr — the crew was from the same company", “it turns out that once your pop open a German tank, you may just as well find a bunch of German, not Ukrainian soldiers. And those are not mercenaries, mind you: they are German servicemen”.
The story relies on the fact that Russian military have excellent command of German: “Since the recon team leader was fluent in German, he made no mistake of what the wounded driver of the German tank repeated several times”. Conveniently, there were no other witnesses of the event except the Russians: “The German soldier died in the arms of the Russian reconnaissance operatives”.
Such tales dished out by the Russian propaganda were intended to convince the Russians that NATO members are sending their troops to Ukraine in addition to equipment.
On 19 September, Azerbaijan announced that it had launched “local counter-terrorism activities” in Nagorno-Karabakh. Within hours the so-called government of Nagorno-Karabakh capitulated, and Baku restored complete control over the territory.
Russia did nothing to assist its ally, Armenia. After losing the war with Azerbaijan in 2020, Yerevan sought to prevent Nagorno-Karabakh from coming under Baku’s full control and bargained for autonomy for Armenians in one form or another. Some regions of Karabakh remained outside Azerbaijan's control, and their status quo was supposed to be ensured by Russian peacekeepers.
The propagandists insisted that Russia had not abandoned the Armenians, and that it was the prime minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan who was the culprit: “Commenting on the deterioration of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev got back at the prime minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan for flirting with NATO... According to Medvedev, the man kept the office after losing the war, but instead of admitting the mistake, he decided to blame Russia for the defeat”. For more information about the efforts of the Russian propaganda to prove Russia’s loyalty to the Armenians read here.
Russian media bombarded the readers with reports on protests in Yerevan to prove that Pashinyan was a traitor: “On the evening of September 20, several thousand people gathered in the square in front of the government building in Yerevan. They shouted slogans demanding the resignation of the prime minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan due to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh”.
Russian media also tried to avoid any news on the rallies in front of the Russian embassy in Yerevan where the protesters hurled obsenities at the Russian leadership.
The propagandists insisted that despite the “anti-Russian government” in Armenia, Russia retains influence in the region: “As far as Russia is concerned, we should keep in mind an extensive influence framework in Armenia which enables us to interact with both the current government of the country and the opposition”.
Russian media also gave a lot of attention to the deaths of Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh: “Ilham Aliyev apologized and expressed deep condolences regarding the tragic death of servicemen of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh on 20 September”.
The Russian government and propagandist media had stomped their feet at the threats to Russian peacekeepers and soldiers. For example, they claimed deliberate crimes against Russian peacekeepers in 2008 when Russian launched a war against Georgia. In 2015, after the downing of a Russian plane by the Turkish defense forces, Putin imposed sanctions on Turkey and declared that Allah had deprived the Turkish leadership of its mind.
This time, instead of responding with guns blazing, the reaction was limited to spreading news about the apologies of the Azerbaijanis and the punishment of the guilty: “The commander of the Azerbaijani armed forces whose subordinates were involved in the death of Russian peacekeepers has been removed from duty. The authorities have already detained the prime suspects”.
Also in the News:
The Russian propagandist media kept repeating “Western politicians are obsessed with the sense of impunity and their desire to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia” like a mantra. Furthermore, they claimed that “the majority of the world's population support Russia and its special military operation in Ukraine”. This conclusion followed the statement of the American journalist Jackson Hinkle: “He said that it is only the West and the United States that claim to be “the arbiters of truth and global policemen”. “However, ... the West is but an empty shell which claims to still have power”.
Russian media kept speculating about the post-war world order. In particular, they said that the USA could withdraw from the European continent to fight China: “The United States is shifting the focus of its influence to the Pacific Ocean leaving both the Middle East and Europe to meet their fate”.
At the same time, they were worried about the American efforts to reduce Russia’s role in the UN Security Council: “The United States continues to advocate for changes to the UN Security Council aimed at expanding it with the help of its allies thereby significantly reducing the role of Russia and China”. Still, they reassured that Moscow and Beijing would not let this happen.
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.