- Who is the Kremlin at war with in Ukraine?
- Shoigu’s elevator carnage
- A democracy game, Kherson style
- A billion shades of “gray” oil import
Moscow still can’t figure out whom they are fighting Ukraine and is organizing a “game of democracy” in the occupied Ukrainian territories. The Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security has collected the main fakes and narratives of the Russian propaganda of June 8.
Who is the Kremlin at war with in Ukraine?
On January 8, Russian foreign minister Lavrov spoke at a press conference in Turkey. Answering the question “What has Russia managed to sell among the things stolen in Ukraine apart from the grain?”, he said the following: “We are implementing our publicly proclaimed goals: to liberate the east of Ukraine from the pressure of the neo-Nazi regime.”
And on May 29, the same Lavrov accused France of “inciting nationalism in Ukraine.” So apart from the geographic confusion (is it the entire Ukraine or just the Donbas?), Moscow cannot decide who the enemy is, Nazis or nationalists, confusing both themselves and other people.
IN REALITY, Nazism and nationalism are far from the same thing, though the Russian propaganda constantly uses these notions interchangeably.
Nationalism comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, but generally, being a nationalist is not considered a crime in the world. For example, nationalist movements against colonialism, which were once actively supported by the USSR, can be called nationalist.
The Russian BBC service has recently compiled a selection of Putin’s controversial statements about nationalism. For example, he used to call himself a Russian nationalist, as well as Medvedev (the one now appointed the new Zhirinovsky).
Instead, Nazism is an extremist ideology that justifies the need to destroy “inferior” categories of the population and to conquer “living space” somewhere abroad.
And although the Russian dictator himself never publicly admits this, his political course and views have quite a lot in common with Hitler’s textbook Nazism.
A simple comparison of Hitler’s speeches in 1939 and Putin’s in 2022 demonstrates this striking similarity. You can see complaints about the “humiliation” of Germans/Russians, and claims that they “tried to go the peaceful way until the very end.”
We have previously written about this feature of Putinism, which is also called schizofascism: to brand others with the word “fascist” and at the same time to be a fascist yourself.
So, the question about whom the Kremlin propaganda is fighting against has a good metaphoric response: with its own reflection in the proverbial mirror.
Shoigu’s elevator carnage
On June 8, Russian media reported that the first echelon of grain from the temporarily occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol had arrived in the temporarily occupied Crimea.
The day before, Russia’s Defence Ministry said that the Ukrainian army allegedly deployed armoured vehicles and equipped fire positions in grain elevators and granaries in a number of towns in Kharkiv, Sumy and Donetsk oblasts.
Following this statement, the risk of terrorist shelling and missile strikes of Shoigu’s gang on Ukrainian elevators and granaries significantly grows. Now, the grain reserves that the Russian fleet does not let out of Ukrainian seaports can simply be destroyed.
At the same time, Moscow stated: “We cannot interfere with the export of Ukrainian grain, because there are no large grain storages in the occupied territories.”
IN REALITY, it’s a lie. “Currently, there are elevators damaged in Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts (the latter houses the biggest elevator in Ukraine); in Zaporizhia oblast, 10 elevators remain out of 52. As for Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, it will be a miracle if there is anything left. The railway stations destroyed near the elevators make it even more difficult to export grain,” said Inna Vorobyova, an expert at the Elevatorist.com portal. In total, Ukraine has lost about 13 million tons of elevator capacity to date.
As of June 6, 2022, in the Kherson oblast, fights for which are ongoing, elevators store 1,554,600 tons of grain.
And recently, the Russian army destroyed the second-largest grain terminal in Ukraine, in Mykolaiv.
“In light of such reports, the disinformation spread by Putin in order to absolve himself of guilt is becoming even more cynical,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
Putin claims that Russia does not block Mariupol and Berdiansk seaports, and Ukraine can easily export its grain. But in talks with Macron and Scholz, he gives the ultimatum to give access to seaports in exchange for lifting sanctions.
Russia’s envoy to the UN Nebenzia gives propagandists a new argument: “We have reason to believe that Ukrainian grain is not for the needs of the starving, but is loaded into the storage of European countries.” Of course, he does not provide evidence, but the propagandists present these assumptions as a fact, claiming that “European countries have exported so much grain from Ukraine that this year Ukrainians will starve.” All this is a complete lie.
According to Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy of Ukraine Taras Vysotskyi, before the war, Ukraine needed only a quarter of the grain it grew for domestic consumption. This year, the required share would be 40%. The ratio increased due to hostilities, as 3 million hectares of fields were affected.
The grain issue became even more urgent after the recent missile strike by the occupiers on Kyiv, which destroyed the facilities of the Darnytsia Car Repair Plant. “As always, Russia has said it has destroyed military equipment, including tanks. In fact, the plant repaired grain transportation freight cars used for delivery of grains to Ukrainian seaports by railway,” said Ukraine’s representative in the UN Serhii Kyslytsia. “All Putin’s stories about readiness to facilitate the export of Ukrainian wheat, which he happily shares with his rare interlocutors, remain too far away from reality,” he added.
Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the Russian troops stole about 600,000 tons of grain and produce from agricultural enterprises in the temporarily occupied territories, with about 100,000 sent to Syria. This was reported by Deputy Head of the All-Ukraine Agrarian Council Denys Marchuk. According to him, Russia’s actions are aimed at providing food to its regions which are not agricultural. They are also aimed at selling abroad, since Russia can make “tens of billions of dollars” selling stolen Ukrainian goods.
Democracy game, Kherson style
In addition to wins against the elevators, Moscow is also dreaming of electoral wins. On June 8, it was reported that in Kherson oblast (where the occupiers are failing to find enough collaborators to organize everyday life) are already preparing the ground for a pseudo-referendum on possible accession to Russia.
Among other things, they are holding a fake phone “opinion poll.” The questions are manipulative and downright dangerous: about the attitude to Russia, its army, Putin personally, the so-called “special operation.” Knowing Russian methods of working with dissenters, one can guess what awaits those who answer incorrectly.
One of the questions was “Should Kherson become part of Russia, follow the path of L/DPR, or become part of the Republic of Crimea?”
That is, all this Russian “game of democracy” in the occupied territories does not even consider the option that Kherson wants to remain part of independent Ukraine.
IN REALITY, all this provocative and manipulative fuss is about “direct accession into Russia on the basis of Putin’s decree”, “becoming part of the Tavriya macroregion”, “Southern Federal District”, then a referendum, where, Peskov says, “the residents must determine their future,” proves one thing.
The Kremlin simply does not know how to tie the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories to itself more or less legitimately (in Putin’s sense of the word).
The same story is with Zaporizhia oblast, where Russians are quickly sending trains with grain to Crimea, but also removing the checkpoints. So, why is the Kremlin constantly hinting at the Crimean scenario for Kherson and other occupied regions, but postponing it all the time? There are three reasons for this.
- It is unclear whether they will be able to keep this territory in the military sense.
- It is unclear what to do with Ukraine in general. After all, everything will end in negotiations, and pseudo-referendums will not help them.
- It is unclear how to hold this “referendum” so that it does not look like a complete international disgrace. Especially considering that the information war for “liberated” Ukrainians has been fully lost.
According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Rating Group as part of the Portraits of Regions project, 68% of Kherson Oblast residents said they were proud to be citizens of Ukraine. 65% believe that the Ukrainian language should be the only state language.
So, the question is: how to explain what happened during these four years to the residents of Kherson region, who now are supposed to welcome the “Russian world”?
And the question is serious. Russians would buy something like “Kherson residents were scared of the Nazis and the SBU, and that’s why they answered that way.” But what do they do with the international community, which can impose, extend, lift or strengthen the sanctions? And they hurt Putin a lot. And they will hurt him for a long time to come.
A billion shades of “gray” oil import
So far, the Russian dictator has been cheating fate at the expense of huge revenues from oil sales. Russia increased its exports in late May and early June and reached its maximum this year. The total amount of revenues of the Russian budget in the first quarter increased to 7.17 trillion roubles, of which oil and gas revenues amounted to almost 3 trillion rubles.
IN REALITY, there is also some other statistics here. Russia is now transporting oil with tankers. And due to the sanctions, the tanker was of the whole world on Russia has turned into a very gray area. The vast majority of Russian oil tankers are simply hiding their destination.
In the week ending on June 3, they transported 1.88 million barrels per day from the Baltic ports — 29% more than the week before. At the same time, almost 40% of the total volume (880 thousand barrels per day) sailed in an unknown direction, according to Bloomberg.
Export of oil on tankers with switched off transponders became the norm in May, when sanctions against Rosneft, Gazprom Neft and Transneft came into force. However, the volume of such exports was initially modest: 100-200 thousand barrels per day every week.
In June, the “gray” export of Russian oil across the Baltic made an incredible 3.5-times leap compared to the previous week. Therefore, Putin is in a hurry because he has already been informed that from next year, Russia’s oil losses will reach $30-50 billion due to the embargo, which will be gradually introduced over the next 6-8 months.
Therefore, Russia’s future looks really gray. With all its economic, political and legal shades.