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What has been achieved? Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is about to mark 100 days. Meduza sources say the Kremlin told state media ‘not to focus attention’ on this fact.
Tomorrow, June 3, will mark 100 days since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On the eve of this milestone, sources tell Meduza that Putin’s administration has “asked” state-controlled and pro-Kremlin media outlets “not to focus attention” on the duration of the “special military operation.” Meduza’s sources say this is an attempt to elide the fact that Russian troops haven’t been able to make significant gains after more than three months of war.
Vladimir Putin’s administration has “asked” the editorial staff of state-controlled and pro-Kremlin media outlets “not to propagate the theme” of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine marking 100 days, and “not to focus” their audiences’ attention on the duration of the war.
These instructions were handed down on June 2, the eve of the Russian invasion entering its hundredth day. Four separate sources told Meduza about the Kremlin’s request: one from a state-controlled media outlet, one from the Moscow Mayor’s Office, one from a pro-Kremlin publication, and one from Putin’s administration itself.
Indeed, online broadcasts covering the “special military operation,” as well as the pro-Kremlin tabloids Komsomolskaya Pravda and Moskovsky Komsomolets only mention the current date. The Russian state news agency TASS also makes no mention of the invasion’s duration. Nor is this mentioned in news releases on the state-controlled television stations Channel One and Rossiya 1, or on the main pages of RIA Novosti and the Russian edition of RT.
“Emphasizing dates related to the war may make Russians think about the aims and success of the invasion,” said Meduza’s source in Putin’s administration.
“When talking about milestones, questions always arise: what has been achieved by this date? It’s been like this since Soviet times, when there were five-year plans, plans for them, and so on. It turns out that right now there’s almost nothing to show by this date,” the source told Meduza. “You could say that some settlements have been taken, but their names don’t tell people anything. Is this a lot or a little? Are the aims of the ‘operation’ close or not?”
Kremlin officials also “don’t want to recall” that the invasion is already three months old. Citing the results of closed sociological studies, Meduza’s source close to Putin’s administration underscored that many Russians already think that the “special military operation” is being dragged out.
This is indirectly supported by the results of publicly available polls. A survey conducted by the sociological research company Russian Field in late May, found that 39 percent of respondents living in Russia were “tired” of news about the war.
“Nothing is known about its aims, other than the ‘denazification’ and ‘demilitarization’ of Ukraine. People don’t understand these words, but they see that the fighting has been going on for a long time. Before the ‘operation’ they were told that Ukraine is a weak state. But now it’s turned out that it’s impossible to defeat quickly,” a Meduza source close to the Kremlin pointed out.
In a comment to Meduza, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the notion that the “special military operation” is being dragged out. “The timing for operations like this can’t be well-defined,” he maintained. Asked about whether there were instructions from the Kremlin concerning media coverage about the duration of the war, Peskov did not respond.
Earlier, National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said that Russia “is not chasing deadlines” in Ukraine. In turn, lawmaker Vladimir Shamanov, the former Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Airborne Troops, said that in his opinion, the “demilitarization” of Ukraine “may take five to ten years.”
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As the third month of the invasion drew to a close, the rhetoric used by propagandists on Russian state television increasingly pushed the idea that “Russia isn’t really at war with Ukraine, but with NATO and the West.”
“Perhaps the time has come to admit, possibly, that Russia’s ‘special operation’ in Ukraine has finished. In the sense that a genuine war has begun. What’s more, it’s World War III. We’re forced to demilitarize not just Ukraine, but all of NATO,” state television host Olga Skabeeva recently said on the popular talk show “60 Minutes.”
Russian officials are also throwing their support behind this propaganda narrative. “The global anti-Russian campaign launched by the Americans and their satellites convincingly proves that Ukraine has become a pretext for waging an undeclared war against Russia,” proclaimed Nikolai Patrushev during a meeting of the National Security Council’s scientific council on May 17. He then asked the council to “assess the parameters of this war, its features and characteristics, in comparison with the Cold War.” A few days earlier, Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke about Western countries declaring a “total hybrid war” against Russia.
Citing closed sociological studies, Meduza’s source close to Putin’s administration said that talking points about a confrontation between Russia and the West are “more understandable” to Russians. Publicly available polls appear to support this claim. For example, according to a recent survey published by the state-controlled pollster VTsIOM, 40 percent of Russian respondents said that the purpose of the “special operation” is to “prevent NATO from establishing its bases on the territory of Ukraine.”
“If the battle is with all of NATO — a very strong adversary — and not with Ukraine, then people understand that there’s no reason to expect an early victory,” explained Meduza’s source close to the Kremlin.
There is no independent data upon which one could plausibly make the claim that Russians support an open confrontation with Ukraine (or the West). Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, a number of sociological surveys have shown that the majority of Russians support the “special military operation.” However, many experts underscore that given the influence of state propaganda, censorship, and repressions, these studies are unlikely to reflect real public opinion.
Translation by Eilish Hart
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