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The Russian dictator, a KGB student, admires not only brutal force but also special operations that allow him to harm the enemy and remain invulnerable. He even calls the war against Ukraine a "special military operation", which, according to him, should not only destroy Ukraine but also defeat the West, which Russia cannot directly confront due to a lack of resources.
Therefore, the ability of the Defense Forces of Ukraine to conduct successful special operations is particularly painful for Putin's ego. Such operations undermine the people's trust in him as a leader and harm the international image of the Russian dictator in the eyes of his partners.
As long as Ukraine manages to destroy Russian missile carriers, bombers, and submarines, threaten the residences of its immediate environment, kill Russian generals, and steal valuable Russian military equipment, the Kremlin still has no convincing arguments for domestic and foreign audiences that "the special military operation is on the right track" and Russia's goals in this war will be achieved.
Moreover, one should remember that Putin's image and trust in his policy inside and outside Russia suffered severe damage due to Prigozhin's rebellion. Although the death of Wagner’s founder eliminated the immediate threat to Putin personally, the questions about his ability to control the situation inside the country and manage the war against Ukraine have not disappeared. Therefore, failures and defeats in the confrontation with Ukraine can only deepen these doubts.
Therefore, from this point of view, September was not a very successful month for Putin and his propaganda staff.
Initially, the Kremlin had to put down the informational blaze about the hijacking of a Mi-8 military transport helicopter with valuable military equipment.
The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (HUR MO) reported on this special intelligence operation under the code name "Synytsia" [titmouse] at the beginning of September. The story's main hero (and the anti-hero for the Russian media) was defector pilot Maksim Kuzminov.
An important question arises given the situation how Kuzminov was covered in the official Russian media: if the disappearance of the entire helicopter with the crew in Ukraine’s border strip happened on August 9, 2023, why did the Russian command and special services not take any steps to figure out what happened, and did not take any measures to prevent the Ukrainian publications with its view of the situation?
The following highlighted by the Russians details are particularly interesting:
"According to the first version, the other two crew members did not know about their commander's plans and were shot by the enemy after landing. According to the second one, they accepted the fight and died.
There is also a version in which the commander of the Mi-8 allegedly got lost and mistakenly landed on the territory of Ukraine. However, the distance of more than 100 kilometers from the border and the lack of onboard navigation throughout the flight seemed an improbable coincidence...
Khokhly [Russian derogatory slang word for "Ukrainians"] have predictably got excited, as expected. Moreover, they started bringing up this crap about a half-year preparation campaign, the crew's family in Ukraine, and a helicopter to Kiev [here and forth using Russian transliteration of "Kyiv" from Russian] ...
The crew members’ families and relatives are in direct contact with me almost all the time. All of them are in Russia."
Later, at the end of the day on August 23, other narratives started appearing on the Russian side:
"In mid-August, it turned out that one of the two crew members was found dead. The reasons are unknown. We questioned why only one of the two, but there was no answer.
Obtaining all this information and pushing it where needed, we were waiting for some official announcements, but there were none. Russian authorities decided to give the initiative to the enemy.
We expected this information to be published on August 24, but what happened is something that Khokhly did not expect or did expect, and now are using it to its total advantage.
Regarding the crew members, none of the families were taken to the territory of Ukraine.
What exactly has happened has yet to be quite known. But my thoughts are unpromising."
As it turned out on September 4, the Russian special services should have known in August that the relatives of one of the pilots had left the country long before that. However, the Russians did not take any preventive steps in the information field until HUR announced a special documentary film detailing this special operation.
The news from HUR about Operation Synytsia caught the Russians by surprise. It is evidenced by the flow of messages with two "eternal" questions constantly asked in a difficult situation: "Who is to blame?" and "What should we do?".
The search for the culprits led to the unit’s command where Kuzmichev served. Some say that he should have been calculated and handed over to the FSB a long time ago:
September 5, 2023, 22:24, Summaries of the Novorosiya’s militia Z.O.V. (DPR, LPR, Ukraine, War):
"The most beautiful thing, of course, is the fact that Kuzminov was assigned to perform only "peaceful tasks" - the pilot himself asked for this since he did not want to take part in the combat missions in the special military zone "for moral reasons". Accordingly, instead of dismissing a person from the army immediately after hearing about his "moral considerations" and handing over information to counterintelligence - he was babysat (pilot, white bone) - and he committed treason against the Motherland, killing two of our servicemen. Now it is clear where the attempts to hide treachery come from."
Answers to "What should we do?" are also not very creative. The most widespread ones are "to kill the traitor".
September 5, 2023, 16:40, Golovanov:
"Hey, chubby, remember: Khokly will betray or slaughter you like a suckling pig. They can also sell you on the black market to Russia. Don't forget that there is a sledgehammer."
September 5, 2023, 23:06, ReadovChat, Yulia:
"The traitor Kuzminov (MI-8 pilot) was terminated today; he was shot like a mad dog in Kiev (the available photo evidence is not for the weak ones)."
Propagandists’ motives are clear: it was necessary to immediately remove suspicions of unprofessionalism from the Ministry of Defense of Russia and Russian special services. In addition, Kuzmichev announced that he switched to Ukraine’s side based on his internal conviction that the war brings only harm to the Russian people.
On September 5, 2023, a few more organized and coherent messages appeared explaining the situation in a favorable light for the Russian authorities:
Kuzmichev became a traitor for mercantile reasons: he dreamed of getting rich and was jealous of wealthier peers. This message was supposed to substitute Kuzmichev's confession that he hated the war and did not want to serve in the special military operation.
September 5, 2023, 21:03, NEWS.ru:
"Back in 2017, Kuzminov was extremely fond of aviation, and on his social networks, he showed how he conducted flights in honor of Russia’s honored military pilots. But then something went wrong: throughout the last few years, the young man was crazy about money. His favorite quote, repeatedly published on his social networks, was, "If you want to take revenge on someone or make someone angry, just get rich." The guy also attached great significance to his friends’ financial situation."
September 5, 2023, 22:23, vologda-poisk.ru:
"Kuzminov dreamed of getting rich. In March 2023, he caught the attention of Ukrainian special services and was recruited by its agents. They kept in touch with him for about six months and offered him money, new documents, and security for his family for betrayal. Kuzminov has been trading back and forth briefly, but preparing for the action took him some time. He sold the car and the apartment, sent his mother to Ukraine, and only after that decided to act himself."
Kuzmichev's actions led to the death of two crew members. Russians needed to make the audience "forget" that the whole issue arose as a result of the start of the war against Ukraine.
September 5, 2023, Tsargrad TV: "He betrayed his servicemen twice in exchange for the enemy’s "candies": The helicopter hijacker was revealed by blood stains in the cockpit. Russian citizen Maksim Kuzminov, who became the new "star" of Ukrainian TV shows after the hijacking of the Russian Mi-8 aircraft, was happy to tell the details of his betrayal and how he rejoices for "peace in the whole world." At the same time, drops of blood in the cabin gave away his real face... As military experts note, traces of fire were visible on the outside and inside of the aircraft. There was also blood. A military pilot, the author of the Fighterbomber channel, draws attention to the fact that in the video with Kuzminov in front of the Mi-8, "the cockpit of the helicopter is covered with blood, holes. The video also shows the Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers warn each other about the fuel flowing from the punctured helicopter, which directly means there was fire".
In the meantime, the author of the Telegram channel "Revenge of Good Will" [Месть доброй воли] calls to find out what exactly happened to the helicopter crew. After all, there is a high probability that Kuzminov not only betrayed his country but also betrayed his comrades and even lost them. What did this [censored noun] do with the rest of the crew: chatted to death, poisoned, or shot? Who shot? Those who met them? Or the crew, when they realized where they sat down and who was coming to the helicopter, provided they were alive by this time? Were the stretchers specially prepared for such a case that someone revolted? After all, they knew where the helicopter would land and waited. Whose blood is on the cabin’s floor? Did this pig spill the information when his leg was shot? Or is it the blood of the heroically killed crew? - writes the author. According to his words, justice will catch up with Kuzminov."
Ukrainian special services will kill Kuzmichev. Or Russian intelligence will do it. In this narrative, Russians’ messages are aimed at everyone who might be thinking of doing the same and switching over to the side of Ukraine.
September 7, 2023, Moscow Komsomolets (MK, Московский комсомолец): "FSB Major General Alexander Mikhailov explained MK," how the Russian pilot established contact with the opposing side and what his future fate would be... Of course, he will be in Ukraine for some time needed. But, honestly, as a person and specialist, he does not represent any intellectual or military value. Therefore, it is unclear if they [Ukrainians] will pay him the promised money and let him live peacefully in an "independent" country. The Ukrainians themselves may simply murder him somewhere, so they don’t need to pay him anything. Going for the risk of organizing some special operations to find one freak, on the one hand, would be good so that the others would not be harmed. On the other hand, it should be based on what we will get after this. That's why I think we'll wait and see."
Kuzmichov's mother could have prepared him for a "betrayal". In this narrative, the propagandists encourage their audience to practice denunciations of their relatives and neighbors who criticize Putin and disagree with the conduct of the war.
September 15, 2023, Moscow Komsomolets: "Baza also writes that Kuzminov's mother left Russia at the beginning of the year; she did not explain anything to her relatives and employer. Sources claim that the woman from the very beginning "categorically did not support" the actions of the Russian authorities and was worried about the special military operation, and also suggest that she could have been the initiator of her son's plan to transfer to Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
On September 7, 2023, the Kremlin clarified that further discussion of Kuzmichev's escape was unacceptable.
September 7, 2023, Gazeta.ru: "Dmitriy Peskov, the official representative of the Kremlin, stated during a briefing that comments on the situation with the hijacked Mi-8 helicopter, which Russian pilot Maksim Kuzminov transported from Kursk to Ukraine, are Russia’s Ministry of Defense prerogative. When asked by a journalist how to explain such an oversight in the security system and whether the Kremlin is concerned about this, Peskov said he could not comment on the situation.
Another interesting detail in this situation was the Russian Ministry of Defense's denial that a Uzbek citizen served alongside Kuzmichev, a military man trained in Russia. Thus, it can be assumed that the incident could also expose the facts of the legal participation of service members from the armies of the Central Asian countries in the war against Ukraine.
However, media troubles for the Kremlin did not end with the successful special operation of the HUR. September was the culmination of a lengthy campaign of long-range missile and drone strikes against Russia.
To understand how sensitive the topic of Ukrainian drone attacks on the territory of Russia and the occupied Crimea has become for the Kremlin, it is worth looking at how often the Russian media have been forced to report on "Bavovna" [strikes] since the end of July.
The information situation was constantly complicated by lies about dozens of downed HIMARS, Storm Shadows, and "Ukrainian drones." After each such report, news about damages and losses from attacks from the Ukrainian side appeared again. Even in the Russian media space, the discrepancy in the number of destroyed Ukrainian missiles and drones and the number of Russian targets raised questions about the integrity of the news and the effectiveness of the Russian army and its high command.
Despite this, the Kremlin continued to deny that the Ukrainian attacks were harming Russian troops and its international image, spreading the idea that the US and NATO were behind the Ukrainian attacks.
Below, we provide a concise list of news pieces about "bavovna":
July 29, 2023, NTV: "The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation reported that 7 Storm Shadow cruise missiles were shot down in one day. Igor Konashenkov, the official representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, stated that "2 anti-aircraft missiles of the S-200 anti-aircraft complex, 7 Storm Shadow cruise missiles, and 2 HIMARS rockets were intercepted using anti-aircraft defense throughout one day. "
August 1, 2023, RT in Russian (RT на русском): "Chairman of the Committee of the Federation Council on International Affairs Grigoriy Karasyn noted that the bet on terrorism is an indisputable indicator of the weakness of the Kiev regime’s military component. "All these nightly attacks by unmanned boats on ships of the Black Sea Fleet and desperate launches of drones over Moscow and the Moscow region only bring Zelenskyy's inevitable finale closer. We have to agree with the conclusion of some Western experts," the senator emphasized in his Telegram channel."
August 1, 2023, Izvestia (Известия): "Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin stated that several UAVs were shot down by anti-aircraft defense (air defense). The 21st floor of "Moscow-City" was damaged. The Ministry of Emergencies reported that 150 square meters were destroyed in the IQ tower on the territory of "Moscow-City" after the drone attack. An eyewitness told Izvestia that the explosion from the drone’s fall in "Moscow City" was heard within a radius of 1 km. Employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations organized a headquarters at the site of the fall.
August 1, 2023, RT in Russian: "The RT channel’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, noted that the Kiev regime is trying to commit a major terrorist attack in the capital of Russia, similar to the terrorist attack on the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York. "To try to organize a bloody show in the center of Moscow like 9/11 is their inimitable creative handwriting," she noted in the Telegram channel.
August 1, 2023, Izvestia: "There is a threat after the drone strike on Moscow City. On August 1, 2023, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitriy Peskov, stated that journalists also asked whether the Kremlin sees analogies with the events of September 11, 2001, in New York, when the attack on the "Twin Towers" took place. "No, we don’t," said Peskov. In conclusion, the president's press secretary emphasized that from an expert point of view, only the military can comment on what is happening.
August 1, 2023, Izvestia: "Attacks of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on Moscow must be stopped." It was stated on Tuesday, August 1, by Farkhan Haq, the deputy official representative of the UN Secretary-General.
August 1, 2023, RT in Russian: "The official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Maria Zakharova, said that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy [here and forth using the transliteration from Russian] is throwing shade on the United States by carrying out terrorist attacks against civilian infrastructure, and is blackmailing Washington for even more aid. She announced this in her Telegram channel."
August 2, 2023, Izvestia: "The USA, by its refusal to condemn the Ukrainian attacks on the territory of Russia, has officially justified Ukraine’s terrorist methods." On August 2, 2023, the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Maria Zakharova, commented that "Earlier, on July 25, the Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoliy Antonov, stated that Washington is sponsoring Kiev’s terrorist plans. He emphasized that the United States’ achievements on the chosen path will bring more human suffering and death."
August 2, 2023, RT in Russian: "As Aleksandr Kamkin, a senior researcher at the Center for Comparative and Political Studies of the IMEMO RAS, noted, the main purpose of the drone attacks was to intimidate Russians and sow panic in society. "The goal of any terrorist act is to intimidate, and in this case, to destabilize the situation in Moscow and other large cities, to sow distrust of the authorities among the civilian population. The adviser's statements to Zelenskyy's Head of Office, Podolyak, are aimed precisely at this. But Kiev did not manage to achieve this. Moreover, even though terrorist acts cannot be completely prevented, the Russian air defense and radio-electronic forces operate in a coordinated and efficient manner," said the analyst. Earlier, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev, during a meeting in Petrozavodsk on matters of ensuring the security of Karelia, stated that precisely the Western countries who supervise Ukrainian drones’ attacks on Moscow and other regions of Russia became "sponsors of terrorism".
August 3, 2023, Izvestia: "On the night of August 2, 2023, using an unmanned boat, Kiev officials tried to attack a Russian Navy ship escorting a civilian boat in the Black Sea. It was reported by the official representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov."
August 4, 2023, Izvestia: "There were no casualties or damage as a result of the attack by Ukrainian unmanned boats on Novorossiysk", stated on August 4, 2023, the Governor of the Krasnodar region, Veniamin Kondratiev. "Tonight, and early in the morning, our military repelled the attack of two surface drones in the water area of Novorossiysk. There were no casualties or damage. All necessary special services work on site. I am grateful to our military for their coordinated work," stated Kondratiev on the Telegram channel.
August 5, 2023, Izvestia: "By the end of the day, divers will complete the surveillance of the Sig tanker, which suffered a hole in the engine room area, presumably due to an attack by a Ukrainian drone in the Kerch Strait. The Rosmorrechflot (Росморречфлота) Telegram channel reported on Saturday, August 5."
August 6, 2023, Izvestia: "Ukraine tried to attack objects in the Moscow region with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense reported this on Sunday, August 6. The anti-aircraft defense in the Podolsk region territory destroyed the drone. As a result of the thwarted attack, there were no casualties or damage."
August 7, 2023, Izvestia: "Air defense systems of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation intercepted nine Storm Shadow missiles of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in 24 hours. It was reported on August 7, 2023, by the official representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov."
August 7, 2023, Izvestia: "The Russian air defense system destroyed an aircraft-type drone on its way to Belgorod. It was reported by the Governor of the Belgorod Region, Viacheslav Gladkov, on Monday, August 7, 2023, in his Telegram channel.
August 9, 2023, Izvestia: "On August 9, 2023, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation announced the suppression of a terrorist attack by drones in the sky over the Moscow region by anti-aircraft defense forces."
August 9, 2023, Izvestia: "An explosion on the territory of the Zagorsk Optical and Mechanical Plant (ZOMZ) occurred on the afternoon of August 9, 2023. As a result of the attack, a private company's warehouse with pyrotechnics was destroyed. Presumably, the premises were rented by the Pyro-Ross company. The cause of the emergency, according to preliminary data, was called the human factor, and the Investigative Committee ruled out the version of a drone attack. According to preliminary data, eight people are listed as missing as a result of the explosion on the territory of the Zagorsk Optical and Mechanical Plant (ZOMZ), the head of the Serhiyevo-Posad city district, Dmitriy Akulov, stated on Wednesday, August 9, 2023, in his Telegram channel." At the moment, 60 people have been injured. In comparison, eight people are listed as missing, debris removal is ongoing, the dead have not been found, and one woman died in the intensive care unit of the Republic of Belarus," noted Dmitriy Akulov.
August 10, 2023, RT in Russian: "During a briefing on August 9, 2023, Deputy Director of the Department of Information and Press of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Alexey Zaitsev, commenting on the latest attacks by the Kiev regime using drones, noted that they [the attacks] have no military meaning and are exclusively terrorist in nature."
August 10, 2023, Izvestia: "Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation reported that on the night of August 10, 2023, Russian forces prevented terrorist attack attempts by unmanned aerial vehicles in the territory of Kaluga and Moscow regions, as well as in Sevastopol. Air defense equipment shot down two UAVs near Sevastopol. Another nine drones were shot down using electronic warfare and crashed in the Black Sea waters. There were no casualties or damage as a result of the attacks."
August 10, 2023, Izvestia: "Around 5:30 on August 10, residents of Petelino village in the Odintsovo city district were awakened by a loud bang - a drone was shot down. Parts of it fell on a residential building and broke through the fences of some households, Izvestia’s correspondent, Daria Malakhova, reported from the scene of the events.
August 12, 2023, RT in Russian: "On the afternoon of August 12, 2023, Russian air defense systems shot down three S-200 anti-aircraft guided missiles aimed at the Crimean bridge. At the same time, 20 Ukrainian drones that tried to attack objects on the territory of the peninsula were destroyed during the night."
August 18, 2023, RT in Russian: "The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States of America, Anatoliy Antonov, while commenting on the footage of the strikes by Ukrainian drones on the Crimean bridge, drew attention to the fact that American journalists did not condemn the terrorist act, which victimized two Russian citizens. From the analysts’ point of view, ignoring the crimes committed by Kiev against the civilian population and civil infrastructure of the Russian Federation fits into Washington's general policy of supporting Ukraine."
August 18, 2023, RT in Russian: "On the night of August 18, 2023, the Kiev regime launched a terrorist attack on objects in Moscow and the Moscow region. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, a Ukrainian drone fell on a non-residential building in the Krasnopresnenskaya embankment area after being hit by anti-aircraft missiles. According to Russia’s Ministry of Defense, there were no casualties or fires. The UAV’s debris fell in the area of the Expo Center, but the building was not significantly damaged, said Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin.
August 19, 2023, RT in Russian: "On the morning of August 19, 2023, a Ukrainian copter-type drone carried out a terrorist attack on a military airfield in the Novgorod region. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the UAV was hit by small arms. As a result of the Kiev regime’s actions, one plane was damaged, and no one was injured. In addition, in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, as a result of the operation of electronic warfare equipment, a Ukrainian aircraft-type drone crashed, which the Kiev regime used to attack objects in the territory of the Moscow region. At the same time, on the night of August 19, 2023, the Russian army prevented Kiev’s attack with a re-equipped strike version of the air defense system S-200 on Crimea’s territory. According to the news agency, the Ukrainian S-200 missile was detected in time and shot down in the air by the air defense means. There were no casualties or damage as a result of the incident."
August 20, 2023, RT in Russian: "An electrical substation was damaged in the city of Suja, Kursk Region, as a result of a drone attack, as reported by the emergency services."
August 20, 2023, RT in Russian: "Russia strongly condemns the Ukrainian drone’s attack on the railway station in Kursk, said the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova."
August 21, 2023, RT in Russian: "Two attacks using aircraft-type drones in the Moscow region were prevented using anti-aircraft defense and electronic warfare, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation said. According to the news agency, the first UAV was detected in the area of Pokrovskoe settlement of the Ruz district, and the second one was over the territory of the Istryn district."
August 21, 2023, RT in Russian: "Russia’s Ministry of Defense reported thwarting the Kiev regime’s attempt to carry out terrorist attacks using four drones. It is noted that two drones were shot down by air defense equipment over the Moscow region. Two more, according to the department, were shot down over the Bryansk region."
August 23, 2023, RT in Russian: "Kiev attempted to strike targets in Moscow using three aircraft-type drones, the Ministry of Defense of Russia said. Two UAVs were destroyed using air defense in the air; another device was shot down using electronic warfare and collided with the "Moscow-City" complex building under construction. The Defense Department noted that no one was injured."
August 24, 2023, RT in Russian: "On the night of August 24, 2023, Russian air defense systems intercepted two drones of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Bryansk region and one in Kaluga region, as reported by the Russian Ministry of Defense."
September 25, 2023, Tsargrad TV: "As reported by the Ministry of Defense of Russia, the Tu-22M3 long-range supersonic missile carrier-bomber was the victim of a drone attack on the airfield. Ukrainian saboteurs attacked the Soltsy military airfield with the help of an unmanned copter. The drone was detected by the calculation of external surveillance of the object and destroyed by sniper fire. The drone could have caused even more damage without a timely reaction. However, after being shot down, the drone fell into the danger zone and caused a fire at the aircraft parking lot. The fire was extinguished quickly, but one plane was damaged, and there were no casualties among the personnel. It was reported by the military department in a summary dated August 19. However, after the publication of footage from the airfield, it became clear that it was not possible to save the missile carrier. The plane was destroyed."
August 25, 2023, RT in Russian: "On the night of August 25, the Kiev regime deployed 42 UAVs to carry out a terrorist attack on Crimea. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, nine drones were destroyed, and another 33 were suppressed using EW (electromagnetic warfare) and crashed, not reaching the target. According to the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, no damage to civil infrastructure was recorded. Moreover, at night, a Ukrainian missile of a modified S-200 complex was shot down by air defense in the Kaluga region."
August 25, 2023, RT in Russian: "Russian troops are conducting a special military operation to eliminate Ukraine’s terrorist attacks."
August 28, 2023, RT in Russian: "Ukrainian drone operators, when planning attacks inside Russia, receive West’s information about Russian air defense, as per the Economist article. "They (RT reporters) collect intelligence (often from Western partners) about radars, means of electronic warfare, and air defense," the statement says. According to the article's authors, only 35-40% of drones reach the target's location zone.
August 28, 2023, RT in Russian: "On the night of August 28, over the territory of Moscow region’s Lyubertsy district, a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down by the air defense equipment, as reported by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. As Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin noted, the UAV was flying in Moscow's direction. Air defense forces also destroyed two Ukrainian Armed Forces’ drones over the Bryansk region."
August 29, 2023, RT in Russian: "Two unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed by air defense over the territory of the Tula region, as reported by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation."
August 30, 2023, RT in Russian: "Governor of the Bryansk Region, Alexander Bogomaz, announced the prevention of Ukrainian military’s attack on the TV tower."
August 30, 2023, RT in Russian: "Attacks of Ukrainian drones were recorded last night in several Russian regions, and according to the Governor of the Pskov region, Mikhail Vedernikov, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation prevented the drone attack on the Pskov airport. No victims were recorded. The regional Ministry of Emergency Situations reported that Il-76 military aircraft were damaged as a result of the attack. 65 personnel and 21 equipment units were involved in extinguishing the fire."
August 30, 2023, RT in Russian: "The terrorist activity of the Kiev regime continues; a large number of Ukrainian drones are trying to attack civil infrastructure objects. The press secretary of the President of Russia, Dmitriy Peskov, made such a statement. Peskov added that Russian troops will continue to carry out a special operation to eliminate such threats."
August 30, 2023, RT in Russian: "Russian EW systems detected and suppressed an aircraft-type UAV west of Voronezh, the region's governor, as per Alexander Gusev. The drone in the Oryol region was neutralized by EW means and fell in the territory of the Korsakovsky district.
What conclusions should be drawn from the Russian coverage of the Ukrainian attacks in August?
First, the Russians try to hide the most successful attacks by Ukrainian forces and devise a non-combat cause for such "bavovna" occurrences. In particular, throughout the catastrophic explosion at the Russian military facility, the Zagorsk Optical and Mechanical Plant, Russians published a fictional version of a "fire at a pyrotechnics warehouse". The damage from the attack on military airfields in the Novgorod and Pskov regions was also downplayed.
On the other hand, when the strikes were particularly vexing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov and/or Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reacted publicly to them.
Secondly, as usual, the scale of the attacks was downplayed, and for every "bavovna" report, news about the successes of Russian air defense was invented. On August 28, 2023, the propaganda TV channel RT quoted the British edition of the Economist, in which calculations were made that 35-40% of Ukrainian drones reach their targets on the territory of Russia. If we compare it with Russian news, it is 30-40 times more than what is reported to Russians.
Third, Ukraine's role in the successful attacks was downplayed by shifting the focus to the US and labeling military attacks as "terrorist", even though civilians and civilian objects were never the targets of such attacks.
The Russians continued to use the same techniques in September. Another painful topic for Russian propaganda, in addition to drone strikes, was the landing of Ukrainian troops in Crimea and the continued attacks on the Crimean bridge.
September 4, 2023, RIA Novosti: "Four speedboats manufactured by the USA Willard Sea Force with the Ukrainian Armed Forces landing groups were destroyed, the Ministry of Defense of Russia reported on Monday. The Russian Federation’s Armed Forces had already requested to land in Crimea. Therefore, on August 30, 2023, a Black Sea Fleet aircraft destroyed four ships with a Ukrainian Armed Forces landing group on board. According to the department, the group included up to 59 people."
September 9, 2023, RIA Novosti: "Over the past week, Black Sea Fleet naval vessels destroyed three Ukrainian unmanned boats that tried to attack the Crimean bridge, reported the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation on Saturday."
September 12, 2023, RIA Novosti: "The head of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, called the Ukrainian soldiers sent by their command on boats to land on the Crimean coast as suicide bombers. According to him, the purpose of such actions of the Ukrainian troops, despite the zero effectiveness and senseless casualties, is propaganda photos. Now Russian soldiers are waiting for them, and they [Ukrainians] have no chance to get even a dying photo from Crimea," the head of the parliament emphasized.
However, an absolute fiasco for Russian propagandists was ahead. On September 13, 2023, Ukraine launched a successful attack on the shipyards of Sevastopol. The details and consequences of the strike, namely the damage to the large amphibious assault ship "Minsk" and the submarine "Rostov-on-Don", capable of carrying Kalibr cruise missiles, were carefully hidden by the Russian media. Instead, the Russian propaganda machine started using political threats and accusations of the West again. Moreover, Russian news started spreading posts about the "successes" of the Russian fleet and missile strikes on Ukraine. Only on September 25, 2023, was the defeat of the VDK and a submarine sparsely reported.
September 13, 2023, RIA Novosti: "Kiev attacked the Ordzhonikidze ship repair plant in Sevastopol with ten cruise missiles and Black Sea Fleet naval ships crossing the sea with unmanned boats - air defense shot down seven missiles, damaged two ships under repair, and all unmanned boats were destroyed by a patrol ship "Vasyl Bykov", the Ministry of Defense of Russia reported on Wednesday.
September 14, 2023, RIA Novosti: "The Samum ship destroyed a Ukrainian unmanned boat in the Black Sea, the Ministry of Defense reported."
September 18, 2023, RIA Novosti: "Russian forces at night carried out a group attack with long-range air weapons and drones on storage sites of British Storm Shadow cruise missiles and ammunition with depleted uranium in Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense reported. The strike was also directed at the "Ukrainian Armed Forces’ centers of radio-technical intelligence and training of subversive groups," the military department added. All objects have been affected."
September 25, 2023, TASS: "On September 13, 2023, the Black Sea Fleet’s submarine "Rostov-on-Don" had suffered damages. However, it is not critical and will not lead to a significant time increase for the scheduled repairs. A source in the defense-industrial complex reported this information to TASS.
On September 22, 2023, the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet was destroyed in the center of Sevastopol. The viral video of the missile strikes has spread quickly on social media. There is a déjà vu feeling when looking at pictures of August 2022 and the memes quoting, "Mommy, it's time to leave!" (мамулєчка, пора свалівать!).
In response to a crisis, propagandists have taken the following steps:
- Denial of the seriousness of losses and damage: September 22, 2023, RIA Novosti: "The Russian Air Defense Forces shot down five Ukrainian missiles fired at Sevastopol, but the missile strike damaged the historic building of the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, one soldier was killed, as reported by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation."
- Spreading verbal threats of "tenfold retribution" to satisfy the ultra-racist audience: September 22, 2023, RIA Novosti: "Ukraine must receive a severe response to the missile attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Kiev must get used to the fact that every similar terrorist attack turns will turn against them tenfold. We will retaliate", - told RIA Novosti Roman Shkurlatov, chairman of the board of the All-Russian organization "Officers of Russia". I think today we will again see a missile alert throughout all of Ukraine. I believe the decision-making centers will be hit, but it will not be enough. We are ready to repeat it an infinite number of times because Kiev needs to develop a reflex, like Pavlov's dog. If they get somewhere into our territory [using drones]- it will come back to them ten times more in response to the objects of the enemy's military, critical and dual infrastructure. No sentiments - we respond harshly, in the cruelest way, to such terrorist antics", Shkurlatov said.
- Using military experts to calm down the passive part of loyal people: September 22, 2023, RIA Novosti: "After the Ukrainian attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, we need to strike at Kiev’s decision-making centers: the general headquarters, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, and the administration of Vladimir Zelenskyy, the former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Admiral Vladimir Komoedov told RIA Novosti. At the same time, he emphasized that increasing the number of means to counter such air attacks is necessary in light of the frequent attacks on Crimea. It is necessary to reserve air defense assets, divide them into sectors, and protect the main control and communication centers in Sevastopol and the peninsula as a whole," per the admiral.
- Emphasizing the American participation in the attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters and underestimating the importance of Ukrainian efforts in the effectiveness of the attack: September 22, 2023, RIA Novosti: "American aircraft P-8A Poseidon during the Ukrainian missile attack on Sevastopol barraged over Romania and, most likely, was engaged in identifying the Russian air defense positions and their impact zones, as Igor Korotchenko, a military analyst and editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine, told RIA Novosti. RIA Novosti: "American commercial satellites of the Maxar company in the last few days have photographed Sevastopol twice, according to open data on the company's website."
- Diverting attention from the damage by spreading sensational information about the impact’s consequences, in particular, about the believers’ feelings and their faith in religious miracles: September 24, 2023, RIA Novosti: "Russian writer and screenwriter Ivan Solovyov in a comment to RIA Novosti recalled the symbolic case of a religious icon with the image of the saintly Russian admiral Fedor Ushakov, who survived during a missile attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol. Earlier, the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, reported that the religious icon miraculously survived. According to him, the wooden frame was completely burned, and the saint’s image, painted on the wood, survived and was not destroyed by the fire after the attack of the Ukrainian troops. "The fact that the icon survived is very symbolic. It shows that God and his saints protect our heroic Black Sea fleet, and the enemy will answer for its crimes not only at the earthly court", Solovyev said."
- Blocking and denying any information about the death or losses among Russia’s Black Sea Fleet command as a result of the attack: September 26, 2023, RIA Novosti: "The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation provided no information regarding the alleged death of the Black Sea Fleet commander, Viktor Sokolov, reported the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitriy Peskov. "No, the Ministry of Defense provided no information on this. It is exclusively their [Ukrainians’] prerogative. We have nothing to say," said Peskov, responding to the journalists' request to comment on the reports of the Ukrainian media about the alleged death of the Black Sea Fleet’s commander."
After all, it can be assumed that successful Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory, in particular on Moscow and the surrounding regions, can become a deterrent and a safeguard against massive missile strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure. After all, throughout August and September 2023, the Ukrainian army and its intelligence forces demonstrated the ability to overcome Russian air defense and hit Russia's critical infrastructure.
Repeating such military activities against the enemy in the middle of the winter period will not only undermine the credibility of Russia’s official propaganda. Still, it may also shake Putin's confidence, which has not fully recovered since Prigozhin’s rebellion. There is a reason why the Kremlin does not provide any comments on the most striking and unpleasant news (the escape of Kuzmichev the attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters). Thus, it immediately signals its citizens to "forget" about these events.
Therefore, what should Russian propagandists do in such a situation? Most probably, Russians can only keep coming up with the number of Ukrainian Armed Forces losses. If the Russian media and the Russian Ministry of Defense are to be believed, in August 2023 alone, the Ukrainian Armed Forces lost more than 600 tanks and units of armored vehicles, more than 570 artillery systems, more than 760 units of military vehicles, and ten aircraft.
From this point of view, Putin's appeals to the USA to stop supporting Ukraine in its "lost war" no longer look strange. However, there is also no doubt that such incredible numbers and dictator’s statements are calculated exclusively to reassure the subjects after the spoiled "velvet season" of the SVO.
July 29, 2023, NTV: "The Ministry of Defence added that since the beginning of the special military operation, 457 airplanes, 244 helicopters, 5314 unmanned aerial vehicles, 427 anti-aircraft missile systems, 11021 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 1140 combat vehicles of reactive salvo fire systems have been eliminated, 5652 field artillery guns and mortars, as well as 11951 units of special military automotive equipment were terminated."
September 5, 2023, Arguments and Facts (Аргументы и Факты): "467 aircraft and 248 helicopters of Ukraine’s Armed Forces have been destroyed since the beginning of the special military operation, the press service of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation reports. "467 airplanes, 248 helicopters, and 6409 unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed", per the following message. Moreover, the Ukrainian Armed Forces lost 435 anti-aircraft missile systems, 11653 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 1148 MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) combat vehicles, 6230 artillery pieces and mortars, and 12715 units of special military vehicles.
Screenshot on the main page: Missile attack by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet headquarters in temporarily occupied Sevastopol (Crimea Realiyi/Radio Svoboda)