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The Evolution of Changes in Russian Propaganda Narratives

16.09.2022     Author: Admin


While preparing the russian population for war, russian propaganda significantly intensified anti-Ukrainian rhetoric at the end of 2021, directing it to increase contemptuous and hostile attitudes.

In particular, russian propaganda denied the historical facts of the existence of the Ukrainian nation, discredited Ukrainian statehood, and formed the opinion that Ukrainians and russians are one people. At the same time, narratives about the illegitimacy of the Ukrainian government after the Revolution of Dignity and the neo-Nazi nature of its actions with the support of Western special services were promoted.

An important direction of discrediting was theses about the geopolitical exploitation of Ukraine by the collective West. A narrative was formed about the presence of an external threat to russia from the side of NATO and the USA, which plan to use Ukraine as an aggressor against it and therefore "demonize peaceful russia" with accusations of preparations for war.

In the context of statements about the oppression of the russian-speaking minority and the violent displacement of everything russian from Ukraine, a justification was formed for the potential "forcing Ukraine to make peace" on russia's terms. So, the propaganda of the russian federation spread theses about the need to resolve the Ukrainian issue in Donbas by military means.

Anti-Ukrainian hatred, which reached its peak in February 2022, intensified after the invasion. Propagandists en masse declared about the ultra-fast conquest of Kyiv and the inevitable defeat of the Armed Forces during the first three days:

O. Lukashenko: "Ukraine will not fight with us—this war will last three or four days at most. By the time they turn around there and send troops, we will already be standing by the English Channel."

O. Skabeeva: "we will take Kyiv in two days, and then—the fall of the city"

V. Solovyov: "If you think we will stop at Ukraine, think three hundred times. Let me remind you that Ukraine is only an intermediate stage in ensuring the strategic security of the russian federation."



In the first days of the war, russian propagandists reported on the numerous victories of the russian army, the breakdown of the unipolar world under the hegemony of the United States, and russia's rise to a leading position in geopolitics.

Subsequently, their speeches became less and less pathetic, and the lack of a quick victory was explained as follows: "in fact, Ukraine is a large European country, of course, such a territory cannot be captured quickly in a month of "special operation".

After the failed blitzkrieg attempt, the main direction of russian propaganda was the interpretation of the goals and objectives of the so-called special military operation. It turned out that "demilitarization" and "denazification" declared as the goal of aggressive military expansion were not clear to the majority of russians.

To this day, the final goals of the so-called SMO, which were transformed and added to as the situation at the front developed, have never been made public.

In March, the propaganda of the russian federation replicated theses regarding the historical falsity of Ukrainian statehood and the country's inability to exist independently. A narrative about the need for a quick "peace on any terms" was advanced as a result of negotiations with the russian rederation and partial compromises regarding the already occupied territories.

There was the discrediting of Ukrainian refugees in Europe, the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine, "which only prolongs the conflict", and the nuclear safety of Ukrainian nuclear power plants. The discourse on the language issue and the discrediting of the actions of the country's political leadership, military and territorial defense fighters in the regions continued.

A narrative was introduced that "the operation is progressing successfully and exceptionally according to pre-approved plans, and no one expected it to be completed in a few days":

S. Shoigu: "a "mode of silence" is declared for the residents of the surrounded settlements to leave and humanitarian corridors are established, which slows down the russian offensive to avoid casualties among the civilian population";

S. Lavrov: "the terms of the special operation of the russian federation in Ukraine are determined by the order to categorically avoid strikes on civilian infrastructure";

Also, at the first stages of the war, the propaganda of the russian rederation was popular with "scarecrows" about imaginary Ukrainian "neo-Nazis" and American military biolaboratories on the borders of Ukraine with the russian federation:

M. Mikhalkov: "the trajectory of the flight of the infected birds over russia was calculated—this is an absolute fascist attempt to exterminate the Slavic ethnic group as such";

D. Peskov: "there were clashes with mobile groups of nationalists and people from Bandera, who used light cars and trucks, where shock devices were installed, according to the principle of jihadmobiles, only there they are now called banderamobiles."



If at the first stage of the war, the propaganda of the russian rederation considered the struggle with the "neo-Nazi" Ukrainian authorities to be the biggest problem, then later the narratives about the dehumanization of Ukrainians expanded.

In particular, at the beginning of the summer, the most popular narrative was the discrediting of the Ukrainian army with the aim of disrupting the supply of Western weapons. The topics of the world food crisis and the discrediting of Ukrainian energy and nuclear safety due to the terrible state of the infrastructure were also brought up to date.

In order to justify the delay in the "liberation" of LPR and DPR, russian propaganda used the narrative that the russian army is fighting NATO with the Ukraine-anti-russia project for its desire for a just multipolar world.

Thus, the goal of the "special operation" was to "counteract the world hegemony of the United States." In particular, the representative of the russian federation at the UN, V. Nebenzia, stated: "Russophobia has become the main national product of the Ukrainian government. This is a proxy war of the collective West with russia."



And already on September 1, at a meeting with Kaliningrad schoolchildren, vladimir putin stated: "the mission of our soldiers is to stop this war and protect russia itself, because an anti-Russian enclave has been created on the territory of Ukraine, which threatens the russian federation."

At the same time, the successful counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region and the panicked flight of the "second army of the world" once again changed the goal of the "SMO" from "denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine" to "the necessary tactical retreat to preserve the troops and avoid the "cauldron" and "exit to the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions ".

In autumn, the propaganda rhetoric was significantly transformed:

 V. Solovyov: "it's somehow disturbing to me, all the same, it's natural to want ours to only press and only advance, but in life it doesn't happen like that, in life it's important how everything ends";

 M. Symonyan: "the worst thing we can do now is to quarrel with each other. If we are a rich country, why do we collect for "copters" and bulletproof vests? And if they are not rich, and there are no means for this, then why do we feast?"

In the end, the propagandists of the russian federation began to call "SMO" "a war with a country that has infinite human resources and colossal combat experience." In the mass media, theses about the impossibility of defeating Ukraine with available resources, because it is supported by powerful technological states, are updated. Calls about the need to "start fighting for real" became more frequent:

 H. Zyuganov, head of the CPRF: "the war is ongoing and we have no right to lose it, there is no need to panic, we need a full mobilization of the country and completely different laws";

 S. Mironov: "we started the SMO, and now we are waging a real war with NATO, we need mobilization of the economy, the budget, mobilization in the heads";

 V. Volodin, speaker of the State Duma of the russian federation: "if Washington, continuing the war to the last Ukrainian, believes that it will not affect him, then he is very mistaken."

But against the background of the current military defeats, the Kremlin has not yet decided on the possibility of scaling up the aggression against Ukraine. Although they realize that without general mobilization, the russian federation is no longer capable of winning the war in Ukraine, and the declaration of martial law can lead russia to a revolutionary state and to the brink of civil war:

 D. Peskov: "at the moment there is no question of mobilization and martial law in russia, russians are consolidated around putin's decision on a special operation";

 K. Shahnazarov, director, propagandist: "we must admit the defeat in the Kharkiv region and the fact that we are fighting a super-powerful enemy";

 A. Isaev, deputy of the State Duma of the russian federation: "the goal of the war with us is the liquidation of russia as a state, we are fighting for the preservation of our own state, our multinational people, our civilization."

Thus, in six months of the war with Ukraine, russian propaganda narratives about the war have transformed from the confidence that "russian soldiers will soon wash their feet in the English Channel" to the violence of "russia is in danger."


Source: The Center for Countering Disinformation at the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine


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