On day 420 of the war in Ukraine, the Russian forces are resorting to information operations to counter their losses and failures on the ground.
Russian Information Operations
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine hasn’t gone according to plan. A campaign that was supposed to last between three days to two weeks has no end in sight 14 months later.
The Kremlin has had to resort to information operations, a Russian specialty, to counter defeats on the ground. Indeed, since the start of the invasion, Russia, through its intelligence services, has relied heavily on information operations to achieve its strategic goals both on and off the battlefield.
One of the approaches the Russian intelligence services use is to create multiple channels, including social media and the press, to spread false or altered information.
“This aims to cloud the source of the information, making it easier for the Russian state to distance itself from the message. It then promotes misleading fragments of the narrative, while masking its vested interest,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
Disinformation is the intentional creation and sharing of doctored information. The most effective disinformation operations hinge on true facts, which offer a veil of credibility and make it harder for the target to detect the false information.
“Russian state actors present manipulated narratives in both orchestrated and opportunistic ways. Their current priorities almost certainly include discrediting the Ukrainian government and reducing international support for Ukraine,” the British Military Intelligence added.
Back in September, Putin officially annexed four Ukrainian provinces (Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk) after a series of sham referenda.
Seven months later, the Russian leader is trying to normalize his illegal annexation. In early April, Putin chaired a full session of his Security Council. The meeting featured Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev giving a report on the four annexed provinces. Kolokoltsev went over the things one would find in a normal society, such as law enforcement and public order.
“The choice of Kolokoltsev as the main speaker is likely an attempt by the Kremlin to portray the situation in those territories as being normalized,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
However, the situation on the ground couldn’t be any different. Large chunks of the four provinces remain in Ukrainian hands, and there is heavy fighting in other parts. Ukrainian partisans, moreover, are attacking the Russian authorities, and most people don’t have access to basic services.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
The Russian forces continue to take losses in Ukraine. Over the last 24 hours, the Russian military and Wagner Group private military company lost more than 600 men killed or wounded, as well as 25 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces. The Russian forces also lost 23 tactical unmanned aerial systems, a rather significant number for just one day.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 183,750 Russian troops, destroyed 308 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 293 attack and transport helicopters, 3,665 tanks, 2,819 artillery pieces, 7,010 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 538 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 5,692 vehicles and fuel tanks, 285 anti-aircraft batteries, 2,276 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 330 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 911 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.