“Distracting mobiliZation”. The review of the Russian media scene in August — September 2022
Please read the report for the first half of August here.
Українською текст читайте тут.
The Kremlin is trying to compensate for the loss of the strategic initiative by producing terrifying and “magnificent” info cases. The attacks on Crimea were meant to overshadow the assassination of Daria Duhina, the retreat from Kherson region and the defeat at Kharkiv region — the “partial mobilization” announcement, as well as promises to conduct a show “tribunal for Azov members”, followed by the prisoners’ exchange, are fading away in comparison to the threats to intimidate and then to exterminate all the enemies to Russia by a nuclear weapon strike. And the most important fact — there is no need to do anything after it. The constant change in the population’s feelings of fear, relief and anxiety ensures steady ruling.
“Bad is good, we need much-much worse!”
Apparently, long before the invasion, Dmytro Bykov and Mykhailo Yefremov had anticipated how the Russian authorities would respond to bad news during the war. There is not anything strange in that — the quality of the Russian propaganda for internal consumption is identical to “the heroic deeds of the world’s second army”.
On February, 24th, by making all the Russian society a partner in the crime of the aggressive war and genocide, the Kremlin involuntarily attributed the agency to it. Indeed, when the nation is united around a certain idea, as the “classics of the global revolution” used to teach, such an idea is turning into a material force. The war, i.e. its reflection in the media, was “the central event” in their everyday life: the attachment of “z-stickers” and standing in lines at night time in superstores to purchase some Western brands had become the grotesque-style symbols for the new national unity.
In August, following the successful Ukrainian attacks on the military objects in Crimea, the Russian authorities experienced firsthand how it felt when the reality had suddenly broken the pattern of the “Russian military television” and the explanations about “the acts of the good will” were not convincing for anyone any more. It seemed that all the unity had been blown away — the majority froze, choosing between the massive memes about “we need to get out from here” or the loud calls “to conduct mobilizations” and “punish the Ukrainian terrorists”.
In the eyes of the common Russians, the authority had suddenly appeared helpless. Such an image for the Kremlin against the background of the economic hardship, the gap between the official statements about “the victory” and the unofficial flow of negative news from the front lines started to remind the atmosphere at the end of 1980s in the USSR. The death of Mykhailo Horbachov in the midst of the messages about the offensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Kherson region only enlivened the publications flow, comparing the situation “then” and “now”.
But, Putin’s team had already repeatedly faced such challenges over the past 22 years. Generally, the Kremlin is aware of two simple methods how to make Russian stop thinking badly about the authorities. Firstly, one should simply pretend that nothing wrong has actually happened and “normal life” still goes on. It worked well in the times of high oil prices and generous give-aways just before the elections. Secondly, the people can be scared to death, kept in the constant anxious mood, accompanied by the feeling of uncertainty about the nearest future. In this case the authority seems to be the only “island of stability” that is vital to stick to.
The Kremlin chose the other way when on August, 20th, Daria Duhina’s car exploded in Moscow suburbs.
The death of the Russian propagandist’s daughter caused by either “a mercenary for “Azov” and her 12-years old daughter (“Some experts suppose that Vovk’s 12-years old daughter, Sofia Shaban, could have been an active participant to the terrorist attack. She could have put an explosive under Daria Duhina’s car. It is no longer a secret that the children in Ukraine are taught to hate Russia and everything that is Russian since the kindergarten” 26/08/2022 Vkpress.ru) or the British Special Forces (“We have already informed that a British trace can be followed in all the acts of terror in Crimea. All these three emergency situations in Crimea are the links in one chain. Not only Sevastopol — the explosions on the Navy Day — but also Saky — the ammunition depot — and Maiskе in Dzhankoi district — all have been committed by sabotage and reconnaissance group, the British Special Forces”. The law enforcement agencies also suspect that there is a trace of foreign commandos in Daria Duhina’s assassination as well. Everything is just thought through and planned too well” 26.08.2022 Vkpress.ru) was supposed to convince the common Russians that currently any of them could be an object for “the terrorist attack” from Ukraine. The propagandists somehow decided to equal Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Stepan Bandera to add some more persuasiveness. Perhaps, the name of OUN(b) [Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (Banderivtsi)] leader and his followers should scary the common Russians the same way as Osama bin Laden’s name used to terrify the West. Alongside with that, Putin’s ultra-supporters started to intimidate people with “threats” on behalf of the millions of their compatriots with the Ukrainian origin and the Ukrainian refugees who had been called the victims of “the Kyiv regime” during all the previous months.
31/08/22 “Tsargrad TV”
“The Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group is a new force, trying to destabilize the situation in Russia. The assassination of Daria Duhina has demonstrated how dangerous they are. But, of course, Kyiv will not stop at this point, sabotage and reconnaissance groups, that entered the Russian territory with refugees’ flow or recruited out of the citizens of our country, pose a real threat which cannot be ignored...
Both we and our leaders should understand that the special operation in Ukraine, apart from our fighting in the front lines, has already moved into another dimension. And this move is caused by the Kyiv authorities, headed by Zelenskyy.
They have started to fight by the same methods, used by Stepan Bandera after the Great Patriotic War when we had been fighting with different saboteurs for 15 years more. So, Zelenskyy has not invented anything novel here. And, to our great regret, similar terrorist acts, sabotage and assassinations are committed on the Russian territory. This cannot but alarm the residents of our country...
If I am not mistaken, almost three million six hundred thousand Ukrainians are now present on the territory of our country. And you should not think that all these people love Russia and are ready to die for it. Unfortunately, among them there is a large stratum of those, who hate Russia. And the Security Service of Ukraine is recruiting the members for sabotage and reconnaissance groups among those people”.
There were also attempts to portray Duhina as an image of a “saint martyr” who suffered for “the Russian idea” itself.
28/08/22 “Zvezda” TV channel
“The target for the assassins of a Russian journalist Daria Duhina was no one else but her. Her father, a philosopher and a political expert, Aleksandr Duhin, is sure about that. He shared his ideas in a documentary “What was Daria Duhina killed for?” a clip from which was published at “Channel One” web site”. “Every single resource was used to kill her and, basically, there was not mistake. She was targeted. For the Russian idea, for the religious idea, for the Orthodox idea, for the idea of power, for the protection of our people, of our state”, said Aleksandr Duhin”.
All in all, the suggestion of fear, distrust to a certain category of the compatriots based on their ethnicity, the identification of one person’s death with the threat for the whole society was making an impression of a well-aimed information operation, called to divert the attention from the bad news about Crimea and Kherson region.
While the media were building up “sensational” details and reasons of Duhina’s death, the statement about the need for general mobilization was tested in the Russian media scene. As always, it was done by the method of official rebutting and denials, as well as the application of the word “mobilization” in other contexts, not related to military.
On the contrary, the Russians were being convinced that the war was waged by military professionals and volunteers only, who were signing extremely beneficial contracts and getting high wages for participation in combat. And the volunteers with zero experience were having compulsory and continuous training. And additional forces were only required by the Russian army “at other lines”.
Such a distraction from the preparation to real mobilization was ongoing for almost a month, from August, 25th, and up till September, 13th.
Occasionally the news published the statements from these or those politicians, whom the foreign press considered to be “hawks”, positioning themselves as the supporters of the war with the West. The words about the necessity for mobilization were immediately rebutted by the high-level speakers.
20/08/22 “VK Press Krasnodar” Information Agency
“Alexander Khodakovskiy, also known as “Scythian”, is “Vostok” DPR brigading commander. During Soloviev Live broadcast he told that presently the Russian army jointly with allied forces was managing with limited forces for five month. At the same time, the mobilization was not planned”.
“Aleksandr Borodai, an MP, representing Rostov region, expressed some comments in relation to his previously articulated initiative to introduce general mobilization of the Russian population and a martial rule in the border areas.
The politician’s statement provoked excessive reactions in the social networks, so he decided to explain what he really meant. While talking to RostovGazeta periodical, Borodai has reminded that a number of the Russian regions, having common border with Ukraine, were already affected by the military actions that, correspondingly, was calling for adoption of the necessary measures.
The politician emphasized that regions far from border still continued to live peacefully, but the latest events had shown that the Motherland was in danger.
According to Borodai, the speed of the peace-keeping special operation in Ukraine “slowed down”. “And we need the victory to be maximally fast. The more we slow down this process, the more benefit we bring to our opponents in the West”, emphasized the MP”.
26/08/2022, “RIA “Novosti””
“The Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on the expansion of the regular number of the Russian army. Since 2023 the army will have been expanded for 137 thd people.
Why is the Russian army being expanded? A military expert Alexander Khrolenko told RIA Novosti that the expansion of the army is required to prevent the defensive capacity from decreasing at all the other Russian borders during the special operation.
“Our army is compact enough. Its minor part, as to say, 130-150 thd people are solving the tasks of the special military operation. Apparently, here the military and political country leaders have reached a conclusion that, for the successful task solution under regular operating circumstances, without any kind of mobilization, we have to have a military reserve”, believes the expert.
KP.RU military observer Viktor Baranets considers the army expansion to be directly related to the special operation. “Military actions in Donbas and in Ukraine have already shown that the professional core of the army has to be expanded. And not thanks to cooks and accountants. It is because of these units, the Armed Forces number makes up as much as 2 million people and when you need to go to war, it appears that there are not enough combat units. Actually, a number of military (people with epaulettes) is two times less than the army’s total number”. In his opinion, 137 thd people, mentioned in the decree, shall be combat units. Is the conscript soldiers’ number going to grow in 2023? According to an expert Khrolenko, the army expansion is not going to influence the drafting of conscript soldiers, as “Tolk” reports. “We do not need an extra hundred thousand of young people, who know how to do nothing. We need an additional hundred thousand of professionals, motivated by corresponding wages in the Armed Forces, social package, accommodation, etc.”
26/08/2022 “RT in Russian”
“To take a proactive position”
During the conversation with RT, an MP, the Hero of Russia, Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov connected the present decree on the increasing of the Armed Forces number in the Russian Federation to the growth in military threats. According to the MP, international situation destabilization has become the consequence of the USA and its allies’ policy. “The collective West policy is becoming more and more intricate and aggressive towards the Russian Federation and the civilians in Donbas. We should adopt more active measures in counteracting it. We need to address (external threats — RT) bravely and adequately and, in better scenario, take a proactive position”, said Shamanov.
In his opinion, it eventually makes sense to increase the number of the Russian Federation Armed Forces to 1.5 mln people, keeping in mind the fact that currently the Western countries are actively increasing the military spending and intend to significantly expand the staff of their armed forces.
Shamanov believes that in the nearest possible time the Russian Federation governing bodies have to develop a set of measures for the presidential decree urgent implementation. “Under the current condition Russian needs decisive political and military solutions. The resources for this are available”, emphasized Shamanov.
At the same time, as the Director of the Center for military and political research at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) Aleksey Podberyozkin has explained in the commentary to RT, the drafting of servicemen will be performed only on the contractual, i.e. voluntary basis.
“The decree of the President shall not be viewed upon as the beginning of some sort of mobilization. The other type of legal basis is necessary for this. The initiative is aimed at planned increase in the Armed Forces due to the drafting of contract servicemen. I think they will be prepared and motivated staff members”, emphasized Podberyozkin.
Vladimir Shamanov notes that Russia is not going to follow the Ukrainian way, where untrained recruits are sent to the front line as cannon fodder. In the MP’s opinion, the citizens, recognizing all the importance of their military duty implementation, should have a chance to participate in military actions upon having necessary training.
As the experts, asked by RT, believe there is a demand for serving in the Armed Forces and participation in the special operation within the Russian society. However, not everybody who is seeking service manages to get into it.
In relation to this, the volunteers’ movement is now spreading wide in Russia. Chechnya has become one of the training centres for those men, who have decided to take up arms.
The recruits training is deployed at training camp of the Russian Special Forces University in Gudermes. There they are all having a crash course in arms and tactics. According to the leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, motivated men of various nationalities are coming to the republic.
“All represent very different nationalities. And when you ask them a question “Why do you need this?”; they reply “To protect my Motherland”, previously had told Kadyrov to Channel One.
Aleksandr Mikhailov believes that Vladimir Putin’s decree regarding the increase of the Armed Forces number shall lead to a system creation for a truly massive training of the new military units. More than that, they will serve not only the special operation zone.
“Of course, the people are needed in the special military operation zone, but, as I find it, the Supreme Commander thinks at a greater scale. Russia has the rear, the state boundaries, directions in the Central Asia, in particular, within the framework of the CSTO. As the events in Kazakhstan in January showed, Russia needs to maintain the forces for the fast peace-keeping missions in our so-called southern underbelly”, emphasized Mikhailov.
During the conversation with RT, the Associate Member of the Military Sciences Academy Serhei Sudakov has also stated that the number of military threats for Russia and its partners has grown significantly. At the same time, as the expert says, the increase in the Russian Federation Armed Forces number does not stand for “the militarization” of the society and economics.
“The Cadets of the Krasnodar Higher Military Aviation School named after the Hero of the Soviet Union Serov at the oath taking ceremony
RIA Novosti © Vitali Tymkiv
“Russia possesses the financial potential to painlessly provide decent wages and equip 137 thd men with everything needed. “Naturally, here one cannot do without the increase of military spending, but I see no reasons how they can cause tension for the economics”, noted Sudakov.
According to him, the Russian society will support Putin’s decision to increase the army’s number. Also, the military service in “trouble spots” will be performed only on the contractual basis”, added Sudakov.
“The most important thing is that the level for the special operation support is extremely high. The Russian citizens are truly united around the idea of Ukraine’s denazification and the counteraction to the NATO. The Russian leaders possess a legitimate carte blanche to take decisive measures in this direction”, concluded Sudakov”.
“Russian military office refuted the information that mobilization is allegedly being carried out in the country. Such rumours appeared in a number of foreign media some time ago...
Matviyenko called the regions of Ural Federal District (UrFO) to support the enterprises without waiting for stagnation. The Speaker of the Federation Council (Sovfed) noted that currently the additional “all-round mobilization” would be required to prevent from the decrease in population income and unemployment growth...
The authorities of Belgorod region purchased clothes for the mobilized. Belgorod Governor's Office explained why it was necessary to separately buy the clothes “to be used for working during the mobilization period”. The uniform purchase cost the regional budget 231.9 thd roubles. “It is a typical story: once a year, twice a year, the uniform is bought for internal mobilization training of the government members. There are many people liable for military duty. They have these regular trainings”, informed the government press service. We can add that earlier the fakes about the mobilization start in the Russian Federation have been published on the Internet. Among them, there was a message that it is supposedly to start on May, 9th”.
“The mobilization is not an issue in Russia right now. This was claimed by the Press Secretary for the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday, September, 13th. By doing this he again replied to the reporter’s question whether the issue of the partial or general mobilization was considered in Russia.
A day before the Member of the State Duma Committee on Safety Mykhail Sheremet had made a statement to URA.RU about the need for mobilization in the Russian Federation. According to him, the special military operation for Donbas protection would not bring the corresponding results without general mobilization.
The same day the Head of the Federation Council Committee on the State Sovereignty Protection Andrei Klimov noted that in Russia there were no signs for the need to organize military mobilization and declare a martial rule. He also emphasized that the question about possible mobilization in Russia was mostly asked by foreign journalists. According to him, the opponents of the Russian Federation had wanted the mobilization to start and martial rule to be declared in Russia for a long time.
The situation in the public space changed on September, 13th, perhaps, under the pressure of news about “diverting manoeuvres” and “success” of the Russia army at Balakliia, Kupiansk and Izium. The review of the things, that happened in the Russian media during the Ukrainian offensive on September, 7-12th, call for some separate attention and a text. Here we will just concentrate on the results of the defeat and the ways of reacting to it.
The first to save the Kremlin from the critical comments because of the defeat in Kharkiv region were its long-time satellites — the Communists, expressing their gratitude for the regional elections results. In the State Duma the Communist Party leader Hennadii Ziuhanov compared “the victory in Donbas” to “historical survival of Russia” and called for the general mobilization.
“There is a crucial difference between the war and the special operation. You can stop the special operation and you cannot stop the war even if you want to. It (the war — "Kommersant") has two outcomes: the victory or the defeat. The issue of victory in Donbas is the issue of our historical survival. Everyone in this country should assess the current situation realistically”, said Mr Ziuhanov.
Before the start of the plenary session in the State Duma, the Communist Party leader spoke to the press and made a statement about the need to mobilize the resources. “Any kind of war needs a response. First and foremost, it requires the maximal mobilization of strength and resources. It calls the society to unite and strictly determine major priorities”, noted Hennadii Ziuhanov”.
Then Chechen satrap Ramzan Kadyrov reacted to the flow of bad news. He called all the Russian governors to organize “self-mobilization” when each of 85 “federal constituent entities” would mobilize the volunteers to create an 85-thousand army. But, during the following five days, the majority of Putin’s emissaries either kept silent, or claimed that the imaginary limit of 1,000 volunteers had been crossed long ago. Even more, the observation article in the court “Kommersant” paper contained an idea that the governors did not want to make extra efforts without the authorities’ order.
“Additions are expected from the regions.
Thanks to Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a new term has been coined for the Russian mass media active vocabulary — “self-mobilization”. Last week he called the heads of constituent entities to find at least a thousand of volunteers for the special operation in Ukraine, so it could have resulted in forming “massive force” of 85 thd new combatants. As “Kommersant” has found out, this idea is mostly approved in regions, but not every governor is ready to agree with the calculations, proposed by the Chechen colleague.
“There is no need to wait till the Kremlin declares martial rule or, on the contrary, sit and wait for the SVO (special military operation — "Kommersant") in Ukraine to end. Today the head of each Russian federal entity has to demonstrate the readiness to assist the state”, posted Ramzan Kadyrov on Telegram on September, 15th, trying to explain the meaning of the word “self-mobilization”. In his opinion, each governor “is quite capable to preparing, training and equipping at least one thousand of volunteers”. “For each separately taken federal entity it is not such a bug number, I would even say that it is minimum”. But, on the scale of the Russian Federation, this is a massive military unit of 85 thd people, almost an army”, added the Chechen leader.
The drafting to the regional volunteering battalions has been ongoing since spring. At the beginning of August, “Kommersant” reported that more than 40 of such units were created at least in twenty Russian Federation entities. The Chechen authorities are among the leaders here: local law enforcement agencies employees have been actively participating in combat since the first days of the special military operation and Ramzan Kadyrov himself regularly informs about the staffing and the sending of all new divisions to the front line.
The Crimean leader Serhei Aksyonov was among the first who responded positively to the initiative. According to him, the peninsula “has already drafted over 1.2 thd “volunteers” and is forming two more battalions, which are fully “equipped with protection, connection and intelligence means”. “All the special military operation tasks will be accomplished”, assured Mr Aksyonov, using the rhetoric of the first persons of the country.
The response of the border Kursk region head Roman Starovoit was also fast. According to him, the region has already sent over 800 volunteers to the front line, including the forming of logistic support battalion “Seim”, and the drafting to “mobilized human resource, meant for protection of Kursk region boundaries, as well as remediation of emergencies and natural disasters” is ongoing. “The recruits will be specially trained and also correspondingly equipped”, promised the Kursk governor.
Radiy Khabirov, the head of Bashkiria, where two battalions with a total amount of 1.3 thd volunteers had been previously formed, told “RIA Novosti” that the idea of “self-mobilization” in the regions was “totally correct, as the main task of each one and everybody today is to support the special military operation”. And Yurii Zaitsev, the newly elected head of Mari El, promised that soon other 250 people would join the already formed battalions of more 500 men “ in the interest of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation”.
However, not all the regional leaders have taken Ramzan Kadyrov’s arithmetic so easy to their hearts. For instance, the head of Chuvashia Oleh Nikolaev told “Kommersant” that “in general, additional mobilization will, of course, do no harm” but “it is important to organize it on the volunteering basis only”. According to him, there are “relatively high” interests towards the service within the republic and “several hundreds of people” have already joined Chuvashia battalion “Atal”. Governor's office also added that the republic is meeting the limit of a thousand volunteers, as “Atal” is not the only one military unit where volunteers from Chuvashia serve.
The heads of Khakassia, Udmurtia, Kuzbass, Magadan and Kirov regions supported the initiative in one or another way. The Krasnodar Krai administration informed “Kommersant” that over 2 thd of their residents had already participated in the combat that is why the governor Veniamin Kondratyev was not going to express his comments on this topic. And the press service of Leningrad region government explained to “Kommersant” that the region “fulfilled the set tasks on the volunteers drafting long ago” and, in connection to this, the head of the region Aleksandr Drozdenko “does not think it is feasible to comment on the statement of the Chechen Republic leader”.
“Rostov region self-mobilized long ago, since the first days of the special military operation”, stated the governor Victor Holubev’s press service, having reminded about the sending of “approximately 700 of volunteering Cossacks to Donbas”. The head of Nizhny Novgorod region Hleb Nikitin told that at the moment “over 400 people” joined the volunteering tank battalion named after Kuzma Minin and “they are sent to the special operation zone by units”. “In the defence and safety issues the region will keep to the necessity to implement the military authorities instructions”, added the governor. Similar number of volunteers went to the front line from Samara region.
“Kommersant” did not succeed in getting the commentary from the head of Dagestan but, according to the source in the republic’s government, approximately 1 thd of his compatriots went to serve at the special military operation zone as volunteers. In St. Petersburg, Tatarstan, Perm, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad and Belgorod regions, the governors’ representatives did not respond to questions of “Kommersant” and the head of Buryatia redirected them to the military.
The head of “St. Petersburg Politics” Fund Mikhail Vinohradov thinks that so far the governors have not been taking Ramzan Kadyrov’s words as direct order from the Kremlin. “It is not a secret that similar work (on the volunteers drafting — "Kommersant") has been done by the governors even earlier that is why they have preferred to at least wait for the instruction verification at the federal level. The sings that it will be received are not observable so far”, believes the expert.
So, in this way the Russian authorities partially admitted that all the volunteering ways of army reinforcement have been exhausted, while the country’s “historical survival” is at stake. That is why there are no ways other than mobilization and for all those, who doubt it — there are approved amendments to the Criminal Code, criminalizing the service avoidance in times of mobilization.
Let us note this straight: there has always been and still is an alternative for the Russia authorities. It will be enough to declare the stopping of war and start withdrawing the troops from Ukraine. More than that, it should not be so hard for Putin to announce “the victory” in “the special military operation”. Spontaneous protests and meetings “for the war” in the regions would have been even less populous than against the mobilization.
But, in this case, the regime would have lost its weapon of coercion and fear. Its effectiveness was proved by many kilometres of long lines at the Russian borders, made of those, who wanted to escape personal participation in the war. The mobilization can be viewed not only as the way to reinforce the army after terrible losses in Ukraine but also as the filtration tool for the Russian society. It would be much easier for Putin to fight with a potential opposition if the majority of disloyal Russians are going to choose to emigrate instead of fighting for their rights. And all the rest will be simple grateful for not getting to the war. No wonder that just after the declaration of “the partial mobilization” Putin went to Valday for vacation . In reality, when 90% of the Russian population is worried about their future and life, and the remaining 10% of the regime guards are afraid of losing the favour, one can forget about the colour revolutions and palace upheavals.
And it will remain the same until the Ukrainian troops create new unpleasant news for the Kremlin.