Some voices rise on Russian television to admit that the army is suffering heavy losses in the context of the Ukrainian counter-offensive. A change of tone which remains however limited.
Russian propaganda undermined? For the past few days, excerpts from Russian television channels have been circulating on social networks. We see journalists and guests expressing their concern about the situation of the Russian army in Ukraine, and even questioning the validity of the war waged by Russia in Ukraine. A very rare speech on the Russian antenna since the start of the conflict in February. They are worried about Russian losses following the counter-offensive launched by Ukraine a few weeks ago.
“What is certain is that the situation is very difficult, but it cannot be simple, it is a special operation, there are deaths. We now understand how serious it is and that there are obstacles,” for example, Russian presenter Vladimir Solovyov said on a state channel on Wednesday.
Vladimir Solovyov is however “one of the faces of Kremlin propaganda”, explains the American State Department, the equivalent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on his site.
A limited change of tone
Others go further. Julia Davis, American journalist and creator of the Russian Media Monitor, a Russian propaganda analysis project, noted another excerpt from the NTV television channel. In A program broadcast Friday, Boris Nadezhdin, a former member of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, suggests ending the war.
“It is absolutely impossible to beat Ukraine with these resources and these methods of colonial warfare,” he said, citing “contract soldiers, mercenaries, no mobilization.”
“A strong army opposes the Russian army with the support of the most powerful countries in the economic and technological sense,” he adds. The former member of the Duma suggests “peace negotiations to end the war”.
These few nuances, however, do not represent a “change in general tone” on Russian television, according to Joanna Szostek, lecturer at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and specialist in Russian political communication. In fact, Boris Nadezhdin is immediately contradicted on Russian television by Sergey Mironov, a member of the Duma, for whom “the Nazi regime of Zelensky must be destroyed”.
“The main national channels try to ignore the successes of Ukraine. They constantly talk about the Ukrainian bombardments on Donetsk, for example”, reports the lecturer to BFMTV.com.
“It is not possible to fully cover losses”
But on social networks and in Telegram channels, some military experts are angry about the human losses of the Russian army and “want someone to be held responsible”, according to Joanna Szostek.
The Ukrainian army said on Monday that it had taken back 500 km2 of territory from the Russians in two weeks of counter-offensive in the region of Kherson, in the south of the country. In this context, “it is not possible to fully cover the losses” Russian on television, explains the researcher. At the end of August, the United States Department of Defense estimated that Russian losses amounted between 60,000 and 80,000 soldiers. However, the figures vary widely depending on the source.
However, the greater the defeats, the more difficult it will be to hide them, underlines Joanna Szostek. If so, the Russian media “will talk more and more about the territories they still control”, she predicts.