By Batko Milacic for the Saker Blog
“The same pilot who shot down six Russian warplanes, he was nicknamed the ‘Ghost of Kiev”. “A column of scorched Russian equipment near Konotop”. “Snake Island recaptured”. Such messages have quickly gone viral on Russian-language telegram channels, which are a major source of information for the world media. The impression is that Russia has already lost the war and its last reserve are Kadyrov’s 10,000 guards, an army of absolute evil, who lined up outside the Chechen leader’s gloomy palace, preparing to be sent to Ukraine. Well, it also looks like Russia has lost the war, the war of fake news.
The first time Ukrainian telegram channels were caught in a lie was on the morning of February 24, just a few hours after the war broke out, when they started spreading photographs of the first Russian tanks knocked out by the Ukrainian military. It soon transpired, however, that the snapshots had been taken in Syria and were several years old, yet the unverified information about Russian losses had already been picked up by the media. The fact is that the Russians had unwittingly played into the hands of the Ukrainian PR people. The Russians advance in mobile, self-directed columns. Therefore, if a vehicle breaks down (the cruising range of a tank or infantry fighting vehicle is several times shorter than that of a civilian jeep), they simply abandon it, because they have to move fast. Before long, the photos of the abandoned tank or APC appear on Ukrainian messenger services and in social networks as a “destroyed tank of the invaders.”
The authors of such posts seem totally unperturbed by the presence in the photo of local people, busily draining fuel that miraculously survived in the tank of the blown up armored vehicle! This, however, pales in comparison with the footage where “the same pilot” is shooting down a Russian Sukhoi fighter jet over Kiev. This time, serious publications checked the video only to find out that the whole thing was not even a montage, but a recording taken from a computer flight stimulator.
Meanwhile, the Russians keep mum since the combat zone on their side is off limits to journalists. The Defense Ministry spokesperson, General Igor Konashenkov, gives short briefings every few hours. However, he does not show prisoners and photos of the scorched Zmeiny Island, nor does he invite journalists to log on to a closed telegram channel, where photos of destroyed Ukrainian hardware are constantly posted. Sadly enough, such a resource simply does not exist. The world even learned about the destruction of the Ukrainian air defense system from the Ukrainian media, which somberly showed burned launchers and radar antennas. As for the Russians, they had apparently been too shy to showcase their success.
As a result, the world believes that Russia is losing the war. And this despite the fact that a mere 12 hours after the invasion, fresh water started flowing again to Crimea through a canal blocked in 2014, and the fighting was already underway in Kiev itself. Moreover, if, according to the Ukrainian media, thousands of Russian soldiers have already been killed, then who is now storming Mariupol and encircling Kharkov? What is the reason for such a public relations failure? The reason is mentality! Concerned about secrecy and distrustful of the media, the Russian authorities keep journalists away from the war zone, forbid their military to use cellphones and do not care much about the effectiveness of their own press center. Russian generals want to take Kiev and defeat those whom they call “Ukrainian Nazis” in Donbass. They know how to fight a modern, mobile war, but they are not intent on working with the media. As a result, all we see is just a handful of videos from the “Russian side” posted by volunteers from the unrecognized Donetsk republics. Not so the Ukrainian authorities, who have mastered the art of modern-age military propaganda and are already reaping its fruits. For example, on the evening of February 25, Ukrainian Prime Minister Shmyhal was about to place $12.5 billion worth of war bonds on the stock markets. These bonds are liquid all right, because the media is chock full of stories about a successful Ukrainian rebuff to the aggressor.
Unfortunately, what we have in this war now is, on the one hand, a stream of boastful fakes, and complete silence on the other. Well, the Russian proverb says that “silence is golden,” and the next few days will show if it is really so!