Russia spook power shifts from FSB (former KGB) to GRU (military intelligence); why Putin’s propaganda effort did not work all that well in the “independent” Donetsk and Lugansk “republics”

Still traveling for work, but don’t miss these two items:

(a) According to the Times [of London] on their radio channel, the FSB (the former KGB) has been losing influence with the Kremlin over the Ukraine war debacle and favor is now shifting to its traditional archrival, the GRU (military intelligence directorate).

(b) The Telegraph (paywalled version; cached copy here) discusses a recent Ph.D. thesis from somebody at Cambridge U. about the Puttanesca’s propaganda stronzeria effort in the Donetsk and Lugansk “republics”.

Vladimir Putin’s “nonsense and half-baked” propaganda in Ukraine’s Donbas region after the 2014 invasion failed to convince local residents, a Cambridge academic has found. 

The Russian president’s government launched a rampant disinformation campaign and fully-fledged propaganda in the eastern Ukrainian region after 2014, in a bid to win the hearts and souls of the largely Russian-speaking population. 

But Dr Jon Roozenbeek, an academic from the University of Cambridge, believes the Russians failed to do this, because they took the wrong approach. 

He posits that in order to truly fester hatred against an enemy and for it to lead to meaningful actions, there needs to be an element of “us versus them”. However, Russia’s disinformation campaign focused too intently on crafting the “them” and not the “us”, he believes.

The Kremlin repeatedly parroted the line that Kyiv was run by far-right extremists and that the Russian presence in the so-called “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk was a “de-Nazification” mission. 

Dr Roozenbeek believes this was the crux of the Russian plan and worked to an extent. However, the whole scheme unravelled because of a lack of an “in-group” story – the “us” to rival the “them”.

“Eight years of Russian propaganda have failed to provide a convincing alternative to Ukrainian nationhood in eastern Ukraine,” said Dr Roozenbeek.

“The Kremlin’s decision to favour outgroup animosity over in-group identity building, and its vast overestimation of the extent to which its lies about non-existent Ukrainian ‘fascists’ promoted pro-Russian sentiment, are key reasons why the invasion has been a strategic and logistical disaster.”


The Kremlin was trying to brainwash Donbas residents with a sense of Russian identity centred around the idea of “Novorossiya” or “New Russia”, a hangover from the Russian Empire era. But, a lack of effort and impetus meant it never caught on in Donbas, said Dr Roozenbeek.

“Despite the importance given to constructing identity and ideology after the Russian-backed takeover in Luhansk and Donetsk, including as directed by the Kremlin, very little in-group identity was promoted,” said Dr Roozenbeek.

“What identity-building propaganda I could find in Donbas after 2014 was vague, poorly conceived, and quickly forgotten. Political attempts to invoke Novorossiya were cast aside by the summer of 2015, but such weak propaganda suggests they didn’t stand much chance anyway.”

“Putin has severely underestimated the strength of Ukrainian national identity, even in Donbas, and overestimated the power of his propaganda machine on the occupied areas of Ukraine.”

Read the whole thing.

(c) Also in the Telegraph, Roland Oliphant looks at the port of Odessa becoming the new focus for Russian attrition warfare, [cached copy here] and at the grave consequences this could have for the world’s food supply.

(d) meanwhile, in Israel, the top news story of the day is the shooting of an al-Jazeera journalist. during an anti-terror operation in Jenin. The “Palestinians” and the IDF are blaming each other: most tellingly,

In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid asked the PA to conduct a joint autopsy to determine the cause of death, an offer that was apparently rejected out of hand. Israel’s defenders used that as further proof that the Palestinians had no interest in getting to the bottom of the incident, preferring to milk the tragedy for all its worth.

7 thoughts on “Russia spook power shifts from FSB (former KGB) to GRU (military intelligence); why Putin’s propaganda effort did not work all that well in the “independent” Donetsk and Lugansk “republics”

  1. The other reason the Donbas propaganda didn’t work was that the rulers and their enforcers basically stole everything they could and trashed everything else. And then, to add insult to injury they forced conscription of basically every male into forces fighting the rest of Ukraine. Said conscripts are equipped with very little, sometimes even a Mosin Nagant not even an AK-47, and sent off to be ablative meat shields against the dug in Ukrainian defenders.

    You can see how this might fail to inspire loyalty to Moscow

  2. Oh, for the Love of Life Orchestra. Since when is the death of a professional propagandist dug in with irregular, out-of-uniform troops a “tragedy”?

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