Russian propaganda spent the last few years building up an image of the Russian army as the “second in the world” that “will take Ukraine in three days.” There was a new deluge of propaganda in just a few days when the Ukrainian military began to liberate Russian-occupied settlements in Kharkiv Region quickly.
At first, the Russian propagandists tried to deny the success of the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) and said there was no counteroffensive. But they soon had to change their rhetoric.
While on Sep. 9, Kostiantyn Sivkov, deputy head of the Russian Academy of Rocket and Artillery Sciences, proposed to “stop listening to the ‘warlords’ who spread treason.”
In addition, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, went onto Twitter to deny “there is no counteroffensive of Ukrainian troops in the Kharkiv region.”
However, panic was spreading among those Russian occupiers. They were the first to leave their positions: the mobilized soldiers from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic and the Russian Guard. The horror show happening to Russians in Kharkiv Region resulted in some propaganda channels solemnly promising not to publish entertainment content.
Serhii Markov, who considers himself close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, shared his next piece of logic on Sep. 10, when he said that “bad things should be hidden from the people because they need healthy feelings.”
While Ukrainian troops were covering kilometers in Kharkiv Region, the silence of the Russian Ministry of Defense had already become unsightly. In the meantime, its minister disabled the possibility to leave comments and discussions on its pages on the Russian VKontakte and Odnoklassniki social networks. But the administrators forgot about RuTube. So, users took advantage of this opportunity and began leaving angry comments about what was happening in Ukraine.
Ultimately, the ministry came out with its official position. Spokesman General Igor Konashenkov explained the panicked flight of the “second army in the world” as follows: “To achieve the goals of the liberation of Donbas, an operation was carried out to collapse and organize the transfer of the Izyum-Balakliya group of troops to the territory of the Donetsk People Republic.”
The grand goal of the “special operation,” namely “denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine,” has once again been reduced to the infamous “access to the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk Regions.”
Of course, no one believed this nonsense. Angry hysteria began, which even reached the point that “this is a cultural and administrative catastrophe, which consists of the destruction of the total spiritual and intellectual superiority of Russians over Ukrainians, sewn into the body of our culture.”
There was news on Sep. 10 that Putin had called an emergency meeting of security forces. However, Putin pretended nothing unusual was happening in Kharkiv Region, and the principal issues now were the provision of housing for military personnel and the election of municipal deputies.
Propagandists hoped that some decisions would be made unofficially: at least the legendary “strikes on Ukrainian decision-making centers.” But there was nothing like it.
Instead, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Armed Forces, when his army was almost in real time losing its positions, opened a sambo school and a Ferris wheel (which broke down shortly afterward).
Russian military journalists began to report that the army was escaping, not even in combat vehicles, but in ordinary buses, explaining it was “a necessary tactical retreat to save troops and to avoid a ‘cauldron.’”
Of course, at the same time, they could not admit that the “second army in the world” was fleeing from the Ukrainians, so a fairy tale was invented immediately, not just about individual foreign mercenaries but NATO forces too.
On the evening of Saturday, Sep.10, the fireworks remained the last main intrigue in the Russian information space. In the light of the disgraceful things in the Kharkiv Region, Serhii Mironov, who leads the A Just Russia faction in the Russian Duma, spoke in favor of its cancellation. But that was in vain. There was a firework display, and this was already perceived as open bullying.
But later that evening, Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov decided to call the horrors in Kharkiv “a great retreat,” A suggestion was made not to panic and continue working for victory.
Great defeats and retreats in the history of Russia were mentioned, after which, of course, there were victories. And the first thing that came to mind was the war against Napoleon, the Battle of Austerlitz, the retreat, and the abandonment of Moscow.
It seems that Russians have begun to understand that the Russian military has been thrown to certain death in Ukraine, and the “second army in the world” has turned out to be inept.