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On May 10, 2024, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine reported an attempt by the Russians to break through the border in the Kharkiv region. In the evening of the same day, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine informed:

"In the direction of Slobozhansk, the enemy conducted five attacks in the Krasne, Morokhovets, Oliynykove, and Gatyshche settlements of the Kharkiv region. Russia carried out airstrikes in the areas of Hlyboke, Lukyantsi, Ohirtseve, Vovchansk, Vilcha, Lyptsi, Slobozhanske, Sosnovyy Bir, Ukrainske settlements of the Kharkiv region."

Since then, most of these settlements have been appearing daily in the news and reports about hostilities in the Kharkiv region. On May 11, the villages of Pletenivka and Strelecha were added to the list of settlements in Kharkiv Oblast in which or near which hostilities continued. The next day, Pilna, Bugruvatka, Starytsya, and Tyche also appeared on the list.

According to the Deepstate Map’s update on the morning of May 15, in the north of the Kharkiv region near the border with Russia, the Russians occupied two areas with an area of about 133 square kilometers. The "grey zone" between the occupied and unoccupied territories is another 56 square kilometers. The most extensive depth of Russia’s invasion across the border is about 7 kilometers.

Although the area occupied after May 10 is commensurate with the regions of some Ukrainian cities, one should not forget that the Russians occupied the border zone, where several thousand people have lived. For example, more than 6,000 people lived in Vovchansk, the only city the Russians are trying to occupy in this direction. 5,900 people were evacuated on May 13, and on May 15, another 300 people had to be evacuated. In addition, evacuations take place from settlements located seven kilometers from the contact line. Even if the Russian troops advance there, there is hope that as few civilians as possible will suffer from the horrors of war.

We analyzed 266 publications in 25 Telegram channels provided by LetsData. The request contained the names of settlements in the Kharkiv region, which were mentioned in the reports of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from May 5 to 14. Detector Media analyzed how pro-Russian Telegram channels manipulated threats of hostilities on the Kharkiv region's border with Russia before and after the Russian [full-scale] invasion.

"The offensive will happen in less than...". Kharkiv region in pro-Russian Telegram channels up until May 10

From May 5 to 9, the pro-Russian Telegram channels that we analyzed contained ten messages with mentions of Kharkiv Oblast and its settlements, which later became news topics. On May 5, they discussed the scale of the destruction of the region's energy infrastructure after the next Russian shelling, and on May 6, they discussed the construction of fortifications in the frontline regions.

"Everything is good only on paper; in reality, it all boils down to the distribution of budget funds by companies affiliated with the Bankova... Social networks are full of videos of the Ukrainian military, who say that they have to fight in an open field, so they have to retreat into dense buildings under the pressure of the enemy so that they at least have some support in the defense," claimed a pro-Russian Telegram channel with almost 127,000 subscribers.

Later, pro-Russian Telegram channels spread reports about the victims of the new shelling of Kharkiv. They predicted a Russian attack in the Kharkiv region. On May 8 and 9, pro-Russian Telegram channels reported that the Russians were withdrawing troops to the borders near the Kharkiv and Sumy regions. It hinted that a Russian offensive might happen there. The head of the Kharkiv OVA, Oleh Synehubov, the commander of the Ground Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Pavlyuk, and the deputy chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence, Vadym Skibitskyy, were cited in the confirmation of this. The authors of the Telegram posts indicated mid-May as the date when this [offensive] could happen.

Kharkiv region in pro-Russian Telegram channels after May 10

"Now, let’s have peace negotiations"

From May 10, most of the messages in the analyzed Telegram channels related to the discussion of which settlements Russians have occupied. They also discussed the purpose of Russia’s attack.

On May 10, the most frequent message was that "the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation seek to push the Ukrainian Armed Forces 10 km back from the border and create a buffer zone in the Kharkiv region." Pro-Russian Telegram channels referred to Reuters as a source of information.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech about the state of affairs in the Kharkiv region was distributed to 28,000 subscribers on the Telegram channel: "Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a new wave of offensives by the Russian army... His appearance is lousy. His face is ready for a surrender."

This was not the only message about forcing Ukraine to peace through an offensive. On May 7, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, said that Russia should "take the closest [Ukraine’s] territory — necessarily Odesa and Kharkiv — then force Zelenskyy to sign the necessary papers" in May. His words were spread, in particular, by a Telegram channel with 236,000 subscribers.

On May 15, pro-Russian Telegram channels circulated a quote by Russian President Vladimir Putin from an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

"We want a comprehensive, stable, and fair settlement of this conflict by peaceful means. We are open to dialogue regarding Ukraine, but these should be negotiations that take into account the interests of all the countries involved in this conflict, including our interests," Putin said, trying to once again present Russia as a victim of the "hostile" West.

"Ukraine tempts Russians to attack"

On May 11, the Telegram channel with a million subscribers spread a rumor from its "sources", stating that Ukraine could "tempt the Russians not to stop there if they see that Zelenskyy has not sent [military] reserves to stop the breakthrough in the Kharkiv and Sumy directions."

On the same day, the same Telegram channel reported that the Ukrainian military's preparation for the Russian offensive had harmed the Armed Forces of Ukraine. According to it, by withdrawing their troops, "the Russians forced the Armed Forces of Ukraine to reveal all their prepared maps with a little force used, and with the help of drones and high-precision missiles, they destroyed dozens of units of heavy equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."

At the same time, pro-Russian Telegram channels failed to mention that this offensive is not easy for the Russians. It is confirmed by both the squared areas they captured and the footage of the destroyed Russian equipment.

"The "predecessors" and "servants of the people" are to blame for bad fortifications"

From May 12, the authors of posts in pro-Russian Telegram channels began to promote the idea that Ukrainian politicians are to blame for the Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, who neglected to monitor how money was being spent on the construction of defense fortifications in the region.

"It is the second offensive on Kharkiv in 2.5 years of war. Yatsenyuk was never sent to jail. The [border] wall was also never built. But they spent 2.7 billion hryvnias. The readiness of this "wall" was already reported under the current government a month before the war," reported the Telegram channel with 6,500 subscribers.

The Wall project, also known as the European Wall, is an initiative to build defensive fortifications on the border with Russia and along the demarcation line in the Ukrainian territories occupied by the Russians. The project was launched in 2014. Its expected cost was 4.1 billion hryvnias. The actual costs of its implementation reached 2.7 billion. In July 2018, prosecutors of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office completed a pre-trial investigation in the case of embezzlement of funds for the project’s implementation. In June 2019, the case materials were sent to the court with accusations against officials and contractors in this initiative. Although ex-prime minister Yatsenyuk was accused of involvement in the embezzlement of funds, criminal prosecution eluded him. In April 2023, Yatsenyuk's press secretary Olha Lappo reported that the court recognized the wording that "Arseniy Yatsenyuk stole money from the Wall project" as "unreliable and defaming the honor, dignity, and business reputation" of the politician.

Pro-Russian Telegram channels presented "Yatsenyuk's wall" as an argument for all new defense fortifications that appeared at the border and frontline territories after 2022.

"How pathetic are the excuses for the lack of fortifications around Vovchansk, where street battles have already begun and when the city is surrounded? It seems to have been built, but not so densely, says the head of OVA, Tamaz Gambarashvili. In two years, concrete fortifications were not erected, and mines were not installed. Is it a deliberate theft or sabotage during wartime?' — commented the Telegram channel with 44,000 subscribers on May 13.

"Perhaps because Kharkiv OVA poured multimillion-dollar contracts into their avatars’ fake companies," said another Telegram channel with 42,000 subscribers.

Another Telegram channel claimed that in some places in the bordering areas of the Kharkiv Oblast, contractors had not built anything since March 2024.

The topic of defense fortifications became the main one used by the pro-Russian Telegram channels' authors to explain Russia’s [military] advance in the Kharkiv region. On May 14, a Telegram channel with 44,000 subscribers published a story about the "eternal return" to the 2022 state of affairs: corrupt authorities stole money, the Russians broke through, "the first line of defense was not prepared: mine-explosive barriers, anti-tank ditches, and concrete "dragon teeth" were completely absent."

Oleh Synehubov explains that fortifications are lacking along part of the Kharkiv region's border because they could not be built due to Russian shelling.

"Moving forward, there will only be "retreats to more advantageous positions" due to new Russia’s offensives."

On May 14, pro-Russian Telegram channels spread the words of the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, from an interview with the NYT, that "the offensive in the Kharkiv region will continue for another three to four days, after which it is expected that Russian troops will make a powerful turn in the Sumy direction." According to the administrators of Telegram channels, which have 25,000 and 236,000 subscribers, their goal is to "sow panic" in another region of Ukraine.

In pro-Russian Telegram channels, Budanov's position was presented precisely as an intimidation, without reporting what the Ukrainian military is going to do with the existing and possible Russian advances in [Ukraine’s] border regions, which were deoccupied in 2022. Regarding this, Budanov said, "Now our task is to stabilize the line of contact and then try to push them back across the border."

Meanwhile, pro-Russian Telegram channels continue to report their plans to advance on Kupyansk or Kharkiv, which are detached from the current situation on the front line. Pro-Russian Telegram channels claim that the occupation of Vovchansk "creates an acute tactical problem to the supply of products to Kupyansk", even though Vovchansk is located seventy kilometers north of Kupyansk. There is no direct highway between the cities, and their advancement path is also crossed by water.

"The attack on Hlyboke village is connected with the plans of the Russian Armed Forces to advance to Kharkiv to bombard Ukraine’s Armed Forces grouping stationed there with barrel artillery. For this purpose, the Russians intend to seize the village of Lyptsi and strengthen their positions there, enabling them to bind the main forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which are in Kharkiv," reported the Telegram channel with a million subscribers.

Oro-Russian Telegram channels present their messages about the advance towards Kharkiv as an announcement of further shelling of the million-population city.


For two weeks, the topics DM has analyzed in the "Kremlegram" column are Russia’s messages or actions, in which they try to get concessions from opponents by threats or force. Last week, there were threats to use nuclear weapons against those NATO member states that would support sending their troops to Ukraine. The Russians present threats with nuclear weapons and raising stakes as a means to "cool down the "hot heads" in Western capitals." This week, the Russians were threatening to occupy new territories in Ukraine as an "invitation to dialogue" about peace on Russia's terms. The Russians have used threats against victims of aggression or counterparties before. In April, Detector Media analyzed that Russians mainly use threats to force concessions when it benefits Russia.

Illustration and infographic credits: Natalia Lobach

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