Monitoring of the media coverage across the Russian Federation (March 13-20)

The Non-Governmental Analytical Center  team of Ukrainian Strategic Studies continues to monitor various Russian media, comparing general Russian trends and popularity of the news related to the Russo-Ukrainian war in different regions during the last week.

Last week, Russian news were primarily dominated by propaganda-style news about the swift occupation of Mariupol, Lukashenko’s demands to Zelensky, and NATO snipers killed in Ukraine. However, there are no victory pronouncements about Ukraine’s quick capitulation. And again the news about Lavrov thinking that sanctions will «make Russia stronger».

In Kostroma, there are four top-news about the death of Sergei Sukharev, chief of Kostroma Airborne Regiment, as well as three contract paratrooper servicemen.

Tatarstan news are filled with internal issues: likely punishment for VPN usage, social media limitations, and default possibility. Of course, so-called «experts» deny the 1998 scenario, but the discussion itself is a sign of people’s fear of the future. Yesterday’s top-news was about Ukraine’s treatment of captives. The main theme is «better die as a hero than get captured». The news describes captives being starved, tortured, and killed before comrades’ eyes, and how Security Service of Ukraine did not let them call their families. However, all the facts come from the 2014-15 war in Donbas. Obviously, it is not possible to hide losses anymore and people are afraid to die when fighting, therefore there are attempts to scare them with captivity horrors.

In Bashkortostan, top news is about the funeral of Vladimir Losev, a sniper, and Gimir Gimaletdinov, a soldier. Another important story is the mobilization of 35 years old men who have served before in Ufa. This is a hidden mobilization that the Kremlin is forced to conduct.

Vladimir – top news is about the funerals of practically all management of local Rosgvardia (SOBR and OMON) that died in Ukraine. Many commentators are shocked: there were no such losses in 30 years.

In Vladivostok, popular articles analyze what products will disappear after the sanctions. There is information spreading about the death of Solobon Togono from Duldurga village, Agin-Buryat Okrug of Zabaykalsky Krai. By the way, before 2008 Agin Okrug was a separate region in Russia among three national-territorial formations of Buryat people.

In Buryatia, top messages are about servicemen who died in Ukraine. They even call particular locations: 23 years old paratrooper Vladislav Samkov has been shot near Mariupol. Officially, there are 16 dead men from Buryatia. The top economic news is about local people adopting a subsistence economy, being afraid of economic catastrophe.

Even in the sparsely populated Murmansk region, the top news is about the death of three soldiers of 80th Motor Rifle Brigade. Another popular story is about the death of deputy commander of Black Sea Fleet Andrey Paliy who used to serve in the North Fleet.

In Nizhny Novgorod, there is a popular news story about the death of six local servicemen. It has an interesting title: «Six soldiers from Nizhny Novgorod have died during the “Operation Z” in Ukraine». It seems there is a hidden irony over the “Operation Z” that is not allowed to be called a war, only the special operation.

The Far-East Magadan has its own problems: the top story claims that sanctions will not disrupt air connections – the only type of connection to the region. Other popular news articles offer possible solutions to the sugar shortage.

Chechnya: news articles are filled with stories about Kadyrov and his claims about Ukraine. Among the recent ones is an interview where Kadyrov talked about making Ukrainian nationalists behave in a proper way. According to his information, Ukrainian nationalists allegedly were beating their own people, and Kadyrov’s men have been protecting the latter. Many articles are dedicated to sending more Kadyrov’s men to fight in Ukraine. Also, they allegedly captured a Security Service of Ukraine officer, who revealed plans about preparing a terrorist aсt in Lviv. And Kadyrov promised to enter Kyiv in a «Bandera armored vehicle». However, among that kind of news there was a story saying that from March 14 to 20 no casualties occurred in the North Caucasus armed conflict.

Kursk: just a few news about the war. The only one that touched Ukraine was about the 8th anniversary of the «return of Crimea». Another article: the regional administration denying that conscription age students were banned from leaving the region. There is a claim that such information is spreading because of the war in Ukraine.

Belgorod: main stories are about collecting humanitarian aid for people of Donbas and Ukraine in Belgorod region. There are mentions that the region is preparing for getting refugees from Ukraine. Another story tells about a Ukrainian citizen taken by the Belgorod hospital after being wounded by Ukrainian soldiers. There is information that unknown people attached flyers with threats to cars with Ukraine’s registration numbers, and even broke glass on one of them. The news also reported that 259 Belgorod airport employees left for vacation.

Voronezh: on March 19, there was information that «DNR» and Russian soldiers were allegedly fighting Ukrainian nationalists in Mariupol city centre. The claim came from the Russian Ministry of Defence. Also, it says that «LNR» has occupied 90% of the Luhansk region. The same article talks about destroying large quantities of Ukraine’s military equipment. Other news talk about the aid for «LDNR» and evacuated Ukrainians. There is a lot of news about the fighting. For example, propaganda stories describe pushing out Ukrainian soldiers and Kyiv suburbs as well as capturing Ukraine’s equipment left behind by the army. Allegedly, the equipment will be given to «LDNR». It talks about taking a Ukrainian command post, and 61 Ukrainian soldiers who voluntarily surrendered (most of them are higher officers). Also, the occupants talk about hitting an «intelligence training centre» in the Zhytomyr region. There is no such news in the Ukrainian media, however, they tell about shellings of villages in the Zhytomyr region from grads, and air bombings of civilians. From economic news: the Voronezh government claims that there is sufficient stock of sugar and it will show up on the grocery shelves soon.

Rostov-on-Don: in the Rostov region, a grain reserve is being stocked to fixate the bread prices. No other news related to the war or the economic situation.

Sverdlovsk region: in response to sanctions: Russia closes free-visa trips to South Kurils for Japanese. Among war news: a regional parliament member proposed sending prisoners to war in Ukraine.

Vologda: economic news claim that 75.5 tons of sugar are supplied to the region’s stores weekly. Also, there are stories about reciprocal sanctions against Great Britain, and the aid to Russian businesses under sanctions.

Krasnodar: top news is about a man fined 30 thousand rubles for spitting on a banner with a letter «Z». Also, there are articles about demonstrations in honor of the «return of Crimea». And generally popular Russian stories about delivering 15 tons of sugar to the local fairs.

Samara: news about the demonstrations for the «Russian spring» and the «return of Crimea». Also, Turkish «Chitir Chicken» is allegedly about to replace «McDonald’s» that left the Samara region.

Hence, news about Russian war losses as well as economic issues are getting more popular. The situation is particularly critical in Volga areas (Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, and neighboring Nizhny Novgorod region), where people are told about horrors of being captured by Ukrainians; however, the media nudge some irony and the regime critics. Negative war expectations are displayed in the Far East (Buryatia, Magadan). Meanwhile, the propaganda machine is more active in the regions near Ukraine’s border. But it has to denounce fears related to the possible mobilization and lack of products too.

Yurii Oliinyk, Head of Research Programs, NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions», PhD in Political Sciences

Mykhailo Kubliy, PhD in Historical Sciences

English adaptation: Oleksandr Chupak

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