How Russian Propaganda Responds to HIMARS: An Overview of Kremlin Telegram Channels

After US President Joseph Biden signed a decree on the delivery of another package of military aid to Ukraine, propagandist Telegram channels doubled down on disinformation narratives on this topic, at the same time admitting that the American HIMARS rocket launchers deliver more — and more accurate — strikes. 

One of the main ideas of Putin’s henchmen on Telegram was that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had indeed become stronger with Western weapons, but still not strong enough to take over Kherson.

  1. In this regard, the aggressor propaganda promoted the message that Ukraine would attack Crimea first, and then Russia’s border areas. Ukraine would allegedly be able to deliver high-precision strikes in the deep rear of the Russian group and even reach large cities. However, according to propagandists, Russia has the most modern anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence systems that can shoot down the majority of launched missiles. And if such strikes are indeed to be carried out targeting the territory of Russia, an irrevocable moment may come when Putin orders to strike back.
  2. Some authors urged not to panic, because “the West supplies weapons irregularly and in small quantities.” Others called for urgent consideration of new methods of war. For example, it is advised to disguise weapon storages and store weapons in smaller quantities in different locations, and to move them regularly. Equipment at airfields should not be placed one unit next to another, but “hidden in a pocket” between equipment under repair and in storage. It is also encouraged to build shelters to mask equipment. It is proposed to form units which would “hunt down” Ukrainian air defence systems, MLRS, Tochka Us and long-distance artillery. And to blow up bridges over the Dnieper to complicate supplying weapons to the east of Ukraine.
  3. Another idea of the propaganda is that increasing supplies of weapons is meant to test Russia’s response.  This is what they wrote: “The White House is checking how much it would take for Russia to actually respond to the actions of the US. By autumn, deliveries of missile systems and combat aviation should be expected from the West”; “August and the first months of autumn will be decisive for the entire West and the course they have chosen. The closer winter gets, the more desperate the actions of European and American politicians in relation to Russia will be, and the level of aggression will grow.”
  4. Discussing the prospects of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the channels admitted that with the weapons transferred by the West, it would indeed be possible. If the UK trains 12,000 soldiers, they say, this will be 3 complete brigades: “These brigades cannot capture Kherson. And in the Donetsk direction, they will only drag out the inevitable end,” “They can attack Transnistria, or they will strike at the Russian military in Kharkiv oblast with access to the border, and even … reach the territory of Russia.” But before the end of their studies, the West must experience economic problems and a drop in living standards, so “attitudes towards Ukraine and Russia may change,” the channel writes.
  5. There is also another message: to definitively secure the territory of Russia, Ukrainians should be pushed back from the border for the distance of long-range weapons. This means occupying the whole of Ukraine. They come to this conclusion while also saying: “Ukrainian missile operators and artillery have already carried out several strikes on our decision-making centres. Effective ones. Those are small but important centres. I am not writing here where it happened, when, and what the damage was.”

In general, the activity of the channels and their reach have decreased. This correlates with the operational pause at the front. The propagandists cannot brag about new “victories,” so for a week now, they have been presenting the capture of Lysychansk as an achievement: Russia cracked down on the Armed Forces of Ukraine, forcing them to flee and leave many weapons behind. The channels wrote about the exhibition of trophy weapons in the city. However, the prominent stockpiles of weapons and the fact that the Russians were unable to capture the soldiers themselves indicate that the image of a triumphant victory is a product of Russian propaganda. 

In addition, the channels accused Western countries of Russophobia and aggression. This message was provoked by the tangible military aid of Western countries to Ukraine. Commenting on the use of HIMARS in Ukraine, one of the channels wrote: “There is a war between Russia and the united Europe and the United States. They keep pumping Ukraine with as many weapons as possible. … Western MLRSs are supplied en masse, to be followed by air defence systems and aircraft. Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are currently training in EU countries; these will be entire corps provided with everything necessary, including equipment.” The author concludes that the war of the West against Russia has been going on since 1941, and that this war is for Russia’s natural resources.

By blaming the West, the Russians are probably trying to shift the blame for the aggression, creating the image of a collective threat against Russia.

The channels continued their attempts to discredit the Armed Forces of Ukraine and to glorify the Russian army. The main focus was on the Russian strike on a high-rise building in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk oblast, which propaganda presented as a successful operation to destroy a military target. 

Propagandists recognized the possibility of a Ukrainian counteroffensive, but downplayed its potential scale and significance.

At the same time, the search for “traitors” and criticism of the authorities in Russia continues. The channels highlighted the public indignation at the performance of the B2 band at a football event in St. Petersburg, when they were booed by fans. The channels repeatedly called for cancelling the concerts of this band because of the singer’s anti-war statements. After the incident, the channels subjected the organizers of the concert to devastating criticism. They also quoted Ukrainian media, which reported that B2 supported Ukraine in the war against Russia. 

The monitoring focuses on 54 selected pro-Kremlin Telegram channels

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