2 February 2023, Thursday, 23:47
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Olesya Yakhno: War Extends Beyond Ukraine

Olesya Yakhno: War Extends Beyond Ukraine

Russian propaganda has been changing over the past few months.

Ukraine launched several strikes on Russian air bases. UAVs hit objects near Kursk, Ryazan and Saratov.

How do the successes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine affect the narratives of Russian propaganda?

Ukrainian political scientist and journalist Olesya Yakhno told Charter97.org about this.

— Russian propaganda talked about "Kyiv in three days", and "nuclear strike". There is a defeatist attitude sometimes. What's that supposed to mean?

— It seems that it is better not to exaggerate nuclear talk and defeatist attitudes in Russian propaganda. We are experiencing the usual logic of the war of the autumn-winter period.

Russia has been using standard rhetoric about nuclear threats for some time and will continue to do it. Although we see that the West is trying to involve China in this issue more and more, which is absolutely correct. I believe that none of the neighbours of the Russian Federation wants to be in a situation of using nuclear weapons, anywhere.

The military logic is that Russia suffers losses at the frontline, and Ukraine goes on a counteroffensive, gradually returning its territories or preparing them for this return: military depots are destroyed and logistic routes are cut, as well as important for Russia locations.

Russia, reacting to a military defeat, is absolutely predictable in launching missile strikes on Ukraine's critical infrastructure in order to complicate the situation as much as possible and cause the greatest harm in the winter period.

It seems to me that there is not much difference between a nuclear threat and defeatism.

Ukraine did not allow the conquest of Kyiv and returned the Kharkiv region and Kherson mostly. There are fierce battles in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the east, and in the Bakhmut.

It is obvious that further, the war may intensify in the Black Sea coastal area, since there are too many interests there, including economic ones. The war is now at the stage where Russia has not won, Ukraine has not lost, and is gradually moving to the stage where "Ukraine has not won yet", but "Russia has not lost" either.

Kyiv is not in vain asking the West for help in protecting the sky, for air defence systems. After all, at the moment the Ukrainian sky is the most vulnerable. In recent days, there have been air raids in virtually all regions. Ukraine found itself in a partial blackout again.

Now, judging by the speeches of Western leaders and studies, it is predicted that the war will reach the level of attempts to destabilize the situation in other states. This is already happening indirectly: missiles hit Poland and Moldova. These are all manifestations of war.

— Are the rhetorics of Russian propagandists changing after the strikes on air bases in the Russian Federation?

— It is a great success for us when something happens at Russian bases where there are missiles and weapons. This suggests that Ukraine is trying to eliminate the sources of the Russian Federation for waging the war as much as possible or preparing a counteroffensive.

I will say that Russian propaganda is changing markedly. This has been happening for several months now. Even Putin's speeches are changing and other speeches of the other Russian officials. Now, attention is focused on the fact that Russia allegedly is at war "not with Ukraine, but opposes the 'collective West'". In fact, it is the West that is "so bad" and immediately goes to the "fight against Satanism" and so on.

Russia is trying to scale itself by scaling the image of the enemy, saying that it is “not Ukraine that they can lose, but the entire mighty West,” which “ganged up on the Russian Federation”.

It is necessary to explain the mobilization to the Russians. Obviously, the citizens of the Russian Federation are not dreaming of going to the frontline and dying there for an unknown reason when sitting on their sofas and watching TV. Therefore, they will be told that the West “wants to destroy Russia”, “rob it by imposing sanctions”, etc.

This is not necessarily a convincing explanation. However, the "special operation", as it was presented in Russia at the beginning, has switched to open war, since mobilization is underway, and the Wagner PMC is riding across the Russian Federation and gathering Russians. In fact, they can justify their losses in the Russian Federation in any way they like, there are standard rhetorics: we left on our own. Sometimes they are palming off defeats as victories.

In my opinion, Russian propaganda will continue to focus more and more on the West. Therefore, it is not in vain that countries do not exclude the risk that the Russian-Ukrainian war may go beyond Ukraine not only in a hybrid sense and affect other states.

— The leading propagandist of the Russian Federation, Margarita Simonyan, ran into a wave of criticism from the Russians for her post with threats to the West. How is the perception of propaganda changing among the Russian people?

— Here we have components focused on internal and external audiences.

I am 100% sure that the further, the more Russians will oppose the war. This does not mean that they are for Ukraine, but it is one thing to defend their territory when the enemy comes, and another to go to a foreign state and die for no reason.

As for Simonyan's post, where she threatens the West. I read a forecast by Western analysts. It follows from the analysis that the risks of Russian strikes or attempts to undermine objects that are located in the West are not exaggerated. In addition to nuclear threats, there is a possibility that Russia may try to transfer the war to the territory of Western countries.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of information about Russian citizens being detained when they launch drones over strategic objects, for example, in Norway. Also, in addition, there were deliberate explosions at the Nord Stream gas pipeline and there are a lot of undersea cables accessible to the Russian Federation.

Returning to your question, Simonyan's post is still propaganda, but also in some way the real risk that Russia will react to Ukraine's success in the war.

The West is providing Ukraine with air defence systems very slowly. Although, everyone understood perfectly well that the Russian Federation would destroy Ukrainian infrastructure in the winter. Western countries are very afraid that Russia will consider them participants in the war because of the supplies, and will extend the war beyond the borders of Ukraine and not only in a hybrid war but also in combat operations.