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Weekly Bulletin #1. MEDIA INSIGHTS — War on Ukraine (4-9 May 2022)

24.05.2022 Source: MEMO 98

The Slovakia-based media-monitoring organization MEMO 98 has launched monitoring of Russian Federation state TV channels First Channel, Russia 1, Russia 24, NTV, online sources Smotrim.rugazeta.runews agencies Ria Novosti, Interfax, RBC, newspapers Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Argumenty i Fakty and independent international media to evaluate how those news outlets are covering the war in Ukraine and anti-war/peace protests. What does state media propaganda tell Russians about these topics, and how does it compare to the portrayal by independent media outside the country?

Between May and October 2022, we will be issuing a weekly newsletter containing the results of our TV and online monitoring, looking at the main propaganda narratives detected on Russian state television during the week as well as the coverage on Russian online media. This will be complemented by news from independent international media sources to distribute these insights outside the country. The newsletter will include main spotlights from Russian and international news coverage focusing on relevant information, key propaganda and disinformation narratives, statistics, quotes, interviews, expert opinions, independent views, as well as other pertinent developments.

You can subscribe here to the public newsletter Media Insights – War in Ukraine, which will be issued weekly.

Main Events and Updates

  • From May 4-9th, the main events were connected to the war in Ukraine and the May 9th Victory Day holiday, which commemorates the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, and the corresponding speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin. This event was reported very differently by the Russian and international media, as evidenced in different sections of our newsletter. Other disinformation narratives and topics in the Russian media during the monitoring period included criticism of German Chancellor Scholz by the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, the reunification of Ukraine with the “native Russian” lands, the inhumane treatment of civilians by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the military support from the West being useless, and Russia’s military advantage despite threats from NATO.

  • The international media reports include the May 9th celebrations and analysis of Vladimir Putin’s speech, the international military support to Ukraine, the situation in Mariupol and other topics.

  • The other sections include the Russian Union of Journalists and Media Workers call for support of imprisoned Russian journalists, some of whom were arrested in connection with their coverage of the war in Ukraine, such as Maria Ponomarenko. We also included celebrities who protested the war, such as U2’s Bono who gave a surprise performance at a downtown Kyiv metro station giving renditions of hits such as Sunday Bloody SundayDesire and With or Without You. 

Photo of the Week 

Quotes of the Week 

Putin noted that "today our servicemen, like their ancestors, are fighting shoulder to shoulder for the liberation of their native land from Nazi filth." [RIA Novosti, 8 May 2022]

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Nazis had been expelled in 1945 and Ukraine would not allow anyone to "annex this victory." Very soon, he said, Ukraine would have two victory days to celebrate (what was then the Soviet Union lost 27 million lives during World War Two, with Ukraine accounting for eight million of them).” [BBC, 9 May]

Media Insights

What were the main narratives on Russian state media?

Undiplomatic language

Mr. Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany since 2014, throughout his mission has behaved as if the Ukrainian embassy in Germany is the highest authority in the country. His attacks on Berlin have long become the talk of the town. This time, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, became the subject of humiliation from Melnyk. The ambassador did not like the fact that Scholz refused to go to Kyiv. “Playing an offended liverwurst is not very state-of-the-art,” Melnyk announced[Argumenty i Fakty, 4 May]. The First channel also covered the story saying that the Ukrainian Ambassador called the German Chancellor an "offended liver sausage". Announcing the news, the news presenter said: “And now we are moving on to Berlin. The story is about a boor (referring to Melnyk) who is the Ukraine's Ambassador in Germany who called the Chancellor (Scholz) an "offended liver sausage". And Andrey Melnyk even emphasized later that he has nothing to apologize for. Ivan Blagoy (TV’s correspondent in Berlin) was trying to figure out why do they tolerate such things in Germany, and the deeper he delved, the clearer it became: the answer was far beyond diplomacy.” [First Channel, 8 May]

Ukraine will disintegrate soon / Reunification with the native Russian lands

Talk show host on the Russia 1, Vladimir Solovyov, discussed with studio guests a topic of Ukraine, asking "which parts of remaining Ukraine will join the EU?", promoting a narrative that Ukraine will disintegrate soon. [Russia 1 – Evening with Vladimir Solovyov4 May]

The authorities in the Kherson region, which has been under the control of the Russian Armed Forces since mid-March, want the “primordially Russian lands” to return “to their historical course." This statement was made by the deputy chairman of the military-civilian administration of the region, Kirill Stremousov. Russia emphasizes that the status of the region will be determined by its inhabitants. The Russian State Duma deputy Kazbek Taysaev suggested in an interview with Gazeta.Ru that a referendum on the accession of the Kherson region to the Russian Federation could be held soon. [Gazeta.ru, 7 May]

Stremousov added that Ukraine as a state within its current borders would no longer be preserved. The Russian military forces, during a special operation to demilitarize Ukraine, took control of the entire Kherson region in the south of the country and the Azov part of the Zaporozhye region. Military-civilian administrations have been formed in the regions, broadcasting of Russian TV channels and radio has begun, and trade ties with Crimea have been restored. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

The inhumane treatment of civilians by the Ukrainian Armed Forces

"In Mariupol, the Russian military reopened a humanitarian corridor for civilians who remain at the Azovstal plant. According to the evacuees, the radicals (referring to Ukrainian soldiers) are in no hurry to let the civilians go and hide behind them using them as human shields." [NTV, 5 May]. The Ukrainian command throws its soldiers "like meat," a surrendered soldier said in a video published by the Russian Defence Ministry. "In general, I hate them - they were thrown like meat," the prisoner of war said. He stressed that the Russian military treats Ukrainian prisoners of war "in a humane way". [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

Ukrainian units took firing positions at a school and a kindergarten in Kramatorsk, said Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the National Center for Defense Control of the Russian Federation. "In Kramatorsk, Donetsk People's Republic, at school No. 20 and kindergarten No. 87, units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are stationed and firing positions are taken. At the same time, civilians (residents of nearby houses) have been forcibly kept in the basement, and all roads to the buildings are mined," the general said. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

In the building of a children's hospital in Kharkov, the militants took over, forcing out the staff and seriously ill children”, said the head of the National Center for Defense Control of the Russian Federation, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

Ukrainian troops attacked a boarding school in the Petrovsky district of the city of Donetsk, the headquarters of the territorial defense of the Donetsk People's Republic said. "Ukrainian Armed formations attacked a boarding school in Donetsk. As a result of the shelling, the surface of school No. 28 in the Petrovsky district was damaged," the headquarters' Telegram channel said. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]. Ukrainian troops also fired on the building of a kindergarten in Gorlovka, all windows were damaged, the headquarters of the territorial defense of the DPR said in a statement. [RIA Novosti, 8 May].

According to First channel, the terrorist tactics of the Nazis at Azovstal in Mariupol seem to be used by other units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Ukrainian militants at the Azot plant in Severodonetsk have also shielded themselves with civilians. This strategically important triangle of Rubizhne - Severodonetsk - Lysychansk is also a huge centre of the chemical industry, including dozens of enterprises with huge stockpiles of chemicals, and also burial grounds. Our Ministry of Defence has repeatedly reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine may be preparing various provocations here. And today it became known that on the territory of "Azot", nationalists deployed heavy weaponry. They are holding more than a thousand people in the underground of the enterprise using them as human shields. The channel also reported that the neo-Nazis have filled the tanks with chemically hazardous substances (ammonia, ammonium nitrate, nitric acid) in order to blow them up immediately in case they are forced to abandon their positions. The implementation of this cynical crime will result in the chemical contamination of air, terrain and water sources. At the same time, there is a particular danger of potent poisonous substances entering the Seversky Donets River, which is the main source of drinking water for Eastern Ukraine and the Donbas republics. [First Channel, 8 May]

Military support from the West is useless

The Ukrainian army cannot maintain, or repair the military equipment provided by the United States, rendering it useless, the former US intelligence officer Scott Ritter said in a column for RT. [RIA Novosti, 8 May].

According to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Armed Forces destroyed US weapons and equipment delivered to Ukraine, as well as AFU units near the settlement of Soledar. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

NATO keeps threatening, but Russia has military superiority

According to journalist Benjamin Norton, NATO plans to encircle Russia and China through the new military agreements with Asia-Pacific (APAC) countries. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]. Commenting on the same topic on his Telegram channel, the head of Roskosmos Dmitry Rogozin said that NATO countries would be destroyed by Russia in a nuclear war in half-an-hour, but urged Russia not to allow it. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

The US representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in an interview with CNN, spoke disparagingly about Victory Day in Russia, saying Russians "have nothing to celebrate" on May 9th. "They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow. They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians. They have not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing NATO, they have only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state around the world. So what they are celebrating tomorrow is their lack of success.[RIA Novosti, 8 May]

According to a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, 96-year-old Nikolay Kraposhin, who lives in Luhansk, the Russian special operation must end. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

The Russian Defence Ministry has launched on its website a section on the desecration of historical memory in Ukraine. The ministry said that the section describes the battles of the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War over the cities of western regions of Ukraine, about the heroes of the Red Army who performed feats in these battles, about the historical memory, which is preserved by warriors' graves and memorials in their honour, and about the crimes of the Ukrainian authorities, who have been trying to erase this fraternal memory of the people by all means. [RIA Novosti, 9 May]

What did independent media say about the main topics?

May 9th celebration & Putin’s speech

Putin said that Russian forces in Ukraine were fighting for the future of their motherland, in his annual address marking the victory over Nazi Germany in WWII. Despite rumours he would make a major announcement, his speech focused largely on defending Russia's invasion. During his speech at a military parade (which was more modest than in recent years) in Moscow's Red Square, Putin said that “Russian troops in eastern Ukraine were defending the motherland." He also spoke of Ukrainians as fascists, repeating his false claim that the democratic government in Kyiv was run by neo-Nazis. Defending the motherland had always been sacred, he said, referring to the eastern region which is now the main focus of Russia's assault: "Today you are fighting for our people in Donbas, for the security of Russia, our homeland." He also made unfounded allegations against NATO and Ukraine and described the invasion as a pre-emptive rebuff: "They were preparing a punishing operation in Donbas to intrude on our historic lands. In Kyiv, they were saying they might get nuclear weapons and NATO started exploring the lands close to us, and that became an obvious threat to us and our borders."

There had been speculation that Russia's president may be considering a change of military strategy, with either a full declaration of war, rather than the current so-called special military operation, or a mobilisation of Russian men to boost the armed forces. Instead, he said he was signing a decree for families of the dead and wounded in Ukraine to receive special support. There was no mention of the speech of Mariupol where a small group of Ukrainian forces continue to hold out in a maze of tunnels under the Azovstal steelworks. To date, Russia has been able to claim only limited success by fully occupying only Kherson.

During a meeting later in the day with the father of a serviceman killed in eastern Ukraine, he said everything was going according to plan and the "result will be achieved". Parades took place in 28 Russian cities involving 65,000 people, 2,400 pieces of military hardware and more than 400 aircraft. In a separate message marked May 9th, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Nazis had been expelled in 1945 and Ukraine would not allow anyone to "annex this victory." Very soon, he said, Ukraine would have two victory days to celebrate (what was then the Soviet Union lost 27 million lives during World War Two, with Ukraine accounting for eight million of them). [BBC, 9 May]

"Ideology far from reality" is how German media commented on Putin's speech

The celebration of May 9th and the speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin received increased attention from the German media this year. Analyzing live on the Phoenix channel the speech of the Russian president, a professor at the University of Bonn, political scientist Andreas Heinemann-Grüder, noted that Putin did not formally declare war on Ukraine, as many expected, and again changed the explanation of the reasons for the Russian attack on the neighboring country. “Interestingly, he didn’t even bother listing the previous excuses. He didn’t talk about genocide, denazification, or the demilitarization of Ukraine, and the topic “we need to protect ethnic Russians” didn’t play any role. It was more about the return of "historic territories."

When asked by the host why Putin made such an obvious emphasis in his speech on the Donbas, and not on the whole of Ukraine, Professor Heinemann-Grüder replied: “It seems that the Donbas has now become the decisive target of the war, and they (the leaders of Russia. - Ed .) no longer pursue the ultimate goal of decapitating Ukraine from its political leadership, or completely destroying Ukrainian sovereignty." At the same time, the expert clarified that it seems to be about the Donbas in the expanded sense, including, apparently, the Kherson region.

The Russian leadership, according to the expert, is sending a signal that "we have limited military goals." By doing so, it may be trying to convince the West to influence Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky so that he compromises on the Donbas issue, because "then the war can end." Andreas Heinemann-Grüder believes that the addressee of this signal is not Zelensky, but the West, with which Moscow is going to negotiate a new demarcation line, since "for Putin, Ukraine is just a US satellite, that is, a puppet that does not act independently."

“In the Kremlin’s narrative, history is now repeating itself. Russia will again have to save the planet from fascism, which this time came to this world in the form of Ukraine,” the commentator of the weekly Der Spiegel noted ironically. Russia, which, in a life-and-death struggle, opposes the morally corrupted West." Regarding the cancellation of the air part of the parade in Moscow and other Russian cities, Der Spiegel refers to some commentators who believe that the Kremlin was trying at all costs to avoid embarrassment or accidents. After all, the publication adds, "the reputation of the Russian armed forces has already been severely undermined due to failures and losses in Ukraine." [Deutsche Welle, 9 May].

Military support to Ukraine

US president Joe Biden signed the Ukraine lend-lease act into law, expediting military aid. The bill will speed up the sending of military aid to Ukraine, as the Eastern European country goes into its third month of fighting off a Russian invasion. Biden vowed the United States will continue to support Ukraine “in their fight to defend their country and their democracy” against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war. [Washington Post, 9 May].

All women and children have been evacuated from Azovstal, according to Iryna Vereshchuk on the current state of the humanitarian operation.

The last Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol vow to fight ‘as long as we are alive’

As the last civilians were evacuated from Mariupol’s embattled steel plant, the leaders of the remaining Ukrainian fighters holed up there took to Zoom to issue a defiant message: They will fight to the end. Russian forces continued to besiege the steel plant into Sunday with airstrikes; artillery bombardment; tank, drone, and sniper fire, as well as infantry assaults, the fighters said. [Washington Post, 8 May].

Russian Personalities/Organisations against the war

What were the main narratives on Russian state media?

Undiplomatic language

Mr. Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany since 2014, throughout his mission has behaved as if the Ukrainian embassy in Germany is the highest authority in the country. His attacks on Berlin have long become the talk of the town. This time, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, became the subject of humiliation from Melnyk. The ambassador did not like the fact that Scholz refused to go to Kyiv. “Playing an offended liverwurst is not very state-of-the-art,” Melnyk announced[Argumenty i Fakty, 4 May]. The First channel also covered the story saying that the Ukrainian Ambassador called the German Chancellor an "offended liver sausage". Announcing the news, the news presenter said: “And now we are moving on to Berlin. The story is about a boor (referring to Melnyk) who is the Ukraine's Ambassador in Germany who called the Chancellor (Scholz) an "offended liver sausage". And Andrey Melnyk even emphasized later that he has nothing to apologize for. Ivan Blagoy (TV’s correspondent in Berlin) was trying to figure out why do they tolerate such things in Germany, and the deeper he delved, the clearer it became: the answer was far beyond diplomacy.” [First Channel, 8 May]

Ukraine will disintegrate soon / Reunification with the native Russian lands

Talk show host on the Russia 1, Vladimir Solovyov, discussed with studio guests a topic of Ukraine, asking "which parts of remaining Ukraine will join the EU?", promoting a narrative that Ukraine will disintegrate soon. [Russia 1 – Evening with Vladimir Solovyov4 May]

The authorities in the Kherson region, which has been under the control of the Russian Armed Forces since mid-March, want the “primordially Russian lands” to return “to their historical course." This statement was made by the deputy chairman of the military-civilian administration of the region, Kirill Stremousov. Russia emphasizes that the status of the region will be determined by its inhabitants. The Russian State Duma deputy Kazbek Taysaev suggested in an interview with Gazeta.Ru that a referendum on the accession of the Kherson region to the Russian Federation could be held soon. [Gazeta.ru, 7 May]

Stremousov added that Ukraine as a state within its current borders would no longer be preserved. The Russian military forces, during a special operation to demilitarize Ukraine, took control of the entire Kherson region in the south of the country and the Azov part of the Zaporozhye region. Military-civilian administrations have been formed in the regions, broadcasting of Russian TV channels and radio has begun, and trade ties with Crimea have been restored. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

The inhumane treatment of civilians by the Ukrainian Armed Forces

"In Mariupol, the Russian military reopened a humanitarian corridor for civilians who remain at the Azovstal plant. According to the evacuees, the radicals (referring to Ukrainian soldiers) are in no hurry to let the civilians go and hide behind them using them as human shields." [NTV, 5 May]. The Ukrainian command throws its soldiers "like meat," a surrendered soldier said in a video published by the Russian Defence Ministry. "In general, I hate them - they were thrown like meat," the prisoner of war said. He stressed that the Russian military treats Ukrainian prisoners of war "in a humane way". [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

Ukrainian units took firing positions at a school and a kindergarten in Kramatorsk, said Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the National Center for Defense Control of the Russian Federation. "In Kramatorsk, Donetsk People's Republic, at school No. 20 and kindergarten No. 87, units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are stationed and firing positions are taken. At the same time, civilians (residents of nearby houses) have been forcibly kept in the basement, and all roads to the buildings are mined," the general said. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

In the building of a children's hospital in Kharkov, the militants took over, forcing out the staff and seriously ill children”, said the head of the National Center for Defense Control of the Russian Federation, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

Ukrainian troops attacked a boarding school in the Petrovsky district of the city of Donetsk, the headquarters of the territorial defense of the Donetsk People's Republic said. "Ukrainian Armed formations attacked a boarding school in Donetsk. As a result of the shelling, the surface of school No. 28 in the Petrovsky district was damaged," the headquarters' Telegram channel said. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]. Ukrainian troops also fired on the building of a kindergarten in Gorlovka, all windows were damaged, the headquarters of the territorial defense of the DPR said in a statement. [RIA Novosti, 8 May].

According to First channel, the terrorist tactics of the Nazis at Azovstal in Mariupol seem to be used by other units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Ukrainian militants at the Azot plant in Severodonetsk have also shielded themselves with civilians. This strategically important triangle of Rubizhne - Severodonetsk - Lysychansk is also a huge centre of the chemical industry, including dozens of enterprises with huge stockpiles of chemicals, and also burial grounds. Our Ministry of Defence has repeatedly reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine may be preparing various provocations here. And today it became known that on the territory of "Azot", nationalists deployed heavy weaponry. They are holding more than a thousand people in the underground of the enterprise using them as human shields. The channel also reported that the neo-Nazis have filled the tanks with chemically hazardous substances (ammonia, ammonium nitrate, nitric acid) in order to blow them up immediately in case they are forced to abandon their positions. The implementation of this cynical crime will result in the chemical contamination of air, terrain and water sources. At the same time, there is a particular danger of potent poisonous substances entering the Seversky Donets River, which is the main source of drinking water for Eastern Ukraine and the Donbas republics. [First Channel, 8 May]

Military support from the West is useless

The Ukrainian army cannot maintain, or repair the military equipment provided by the United States, rendering it useless, the former US intelligence officer Scott Ritter said in a column for RT. [RIA Novosti, 8 May].

According to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Armed Forces destroyed US weapons and equipment delivered to Ukraine, as well as AFU units near the settlement of Soledar. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

NATO keeps threatening, but Russia has military superiority

According to journalist Benjamin Norton, NATO plans to encircle Russia and China through the new military agreements with Asia-Pacific (APAC) countries. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]. Commenting on the same topic on his Telegram channel, the head of Roskosmos Dmitry Rogozin said that NATO countries would be destroyed by Russia in a nuclear war in half-an-hour, but urged Russia not to allow it. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

The US representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in an interview with CNN, spoke disparagingly about Victory Day in Russia, saying Russians "have nothing to celebrate" on May 9th. "They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow. They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians. They have not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing NATO, they have only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state around the world. So what they are celebrating tomorrow is their lack of success.[RIA Novosti, 8 May]

According to a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, 96-year-old Nikolay Kraposhin, who lives in Luhansk, the Russian special operation must end. [RIA Novosti, 8 May]

The Russian Defence Ministry has launched on its website a section on the desecration of historical memory in Ukraine. The ministry said that the section describes the battles of the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War over the cities of western regions of Ukraine, about the heroes of the Red Army who performed feats in these battles, about the historical memory, which is preserved by warriors' graves and memorials in their honour, and about the crimes of the Ukrainian authorities, who have been trying to erase this fraternal memory of the people by all means. [RIA Novosti, 9 May]

What did independent media say about the main topics?

May 9th celebration & Putin’s speech

Putin said that Russian forces in Ukraine were fighting for the future of their motherland, in his annual address marking the victory over Nazi Germany in WWII. Despite rumours he would make a major announcement, his speech focused largely on defending Russia's invasion. During his speech at a military parade (which was more modest than in recent years) in Moscow's Red Square, Putin said that “Russian troops in eastern Ukraine were defending the motherland." He also spoke of Ukrainians as fascists, repeating his false claim that the democratic government in Kyiv was run by neo-Nazis. Defending the motherland had always been sacred, he said, referring to the eastern region which is now the main focus of Russia's assault: "Today you are fighting for our people in Donbas, for the security of Russia, our homeland." He also made unfounded allegations against NATO and Ukraine and described the invasion as a pre-emptive rebuff: "They were preparing a punishing operation in Donbas to intrude on our historic lands. In Kyiv, they were saying they might get nuclear weapons and NATO started exploring the lands close to us, and that became an obvious threat to us and our borders."

There had been speculation that Russia's president may be considering a change of military strategy, with either a full declaration of war, rather than the current so-called special military operation, or a mobilisation of Russian men to boost the armed forces. Instead, he said he was signing a decree for families of the dead and wounded in Ukraine to receive special support. There was no mention of the speech of Mariupol where a small group of Ukrainian forces continue to hold out in a maze of tunnels under the Azovstal steelworks. To date, Russia has been able to claim only limited success by fully occupying only Kherson.

During a meeting later in the day with the father of a serviceman killed in eastern Ukraine, he said everything was going according to plan and the "result will be achieved". Parades took place in 28 Russian cities involving 65,000 people, 2,400 pieces of military hardware and more than 400 aircraft. In a separate message marked May 9th, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Nazis had been expelled in 1945 and Ukraine would not allow anyone to "annex this victory." Very soon, he said, Ukraine would have two victory days to celebrate (what was then the Soviet Union lost 27 million lives during World War Two, with Ukraine accounting for eight million of them). [BBC, 9 May]

"Ideology far from reality" is how German media commented on Putin's speech

The celebration of May 9th and the speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin received increased attention from the German media this year. Analyzing live on the Phoenix channel the speech of the Russian president, a professor at the University of Bonn, political scientist Andreas Heinemann-Grüder, noted that Putin did not formally declare war on Ukraine, as many expected, and again changed the explanation of the reasons for the Russian attack on the neighboring country. “Interestingly, he didn’t even bother listing the previous excuses. He didn’t talk about genocide, denazification, or the demilitarization of Ukraine, and the topic “we need to protect ethnic Russians” didn’t play any role. It was more about the return of "historic territories."

When asked by the host why Putin made such an obvious emphasis in his speech on the Donbas, and not on the whole of Ukraine, Professor Heinemann-Grüder replied: “It seems that the Donbas has now become the decisive target of the war, and they (the leaders of Russia. - Ed .) no longer pursue the ultimate goal of decapitating Ukraine from its political leadership, or completely destroying Ukrainian sovereignty." At the same time, the expert clarified that it seems to be about the Donbas in the expanded sense, including, apparently, the Kherson region.

The Russian leadership, according to the expert, is sending a signal that "we have limited military goals." By doing so, it may be trying to convince the West to influence Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky so that he compromises on the Donbas issue, because "then the war can end." Andreas Heinemann-Grüder believes that the addressee of this signal is not Zelensky, but the West, with which Moscow is going to negotiate a new demarcation line, since "for Putin, Ukraine is just a US satellite, that is, a puppet that does not act independently."

“In the Kremlin’s narrative, history is now repeating itself. Russia will again have to save the planet from fascism, which this time came to this world in the form of Ukraine,” the commentator of the weekly Der Spiegel noted ironically. Russia, which, in a life-and-death struggle, opposes the morally corrupted West." Regarding the cancellation of the air part of the parade in Moscow and other Russian cities, Der Spiegel refers to some commentators who believe that the Kremlin was trying at all costs to avoid embarrassment or accidents. After all, the publication adds, "the reputation of the Russian armed forces has already been severely undermined due to failures and losses in Ukraine." [Deutsche Welle, 9 May].

Military support to Ukraine

US president Joe Biden signed the Ukraine lend-lease act into law, expediting military aid. The bill will speed up the sending of military aid to Ukraine, as the Eastern European country goes into its third month of fighting off a Russian invasion. Biden vowed the United States will continue to support Ukraine “in their fight to defend their country and their democracy” against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war. [Washington Post, 9 May].

All women and children have been evacuated from Azovstal, according to Iryna Vereshchuk on the current state of the humanitarian operation.

Maria Ponomarenko is one of the 18 Russian journalists currently behind bars. Providing coverage of protest actions, Ponomarenko had been repeatedly fined for participating in such actions and for voicing protest sentiments. On April 24, she was arrested on charges of public dissemination of false information about the actions of the Russian armed forces and for publishing a post about the Mariupol theatre bombing. She is now facing up to 10 years in prison. 

Aleksandra Skochilenko, artist, ex-member of the Bumaga media team, St Petersburg. Skochilenko had replaced a few price tags at a shop with anti-war pamphlets. For doing this, she was charged with public dissemination of deliberately misleading information about the use of the Russian armed forces (Art. 207.3, Part 2). She is facing a potential 10-year jail sentence. Skolichenko is being held in St Petersburg’s Preliminary Detention Jail No5. 

Mikhail Afanasyev, Novyi Focus newspaper editor-in-chief, Khakassia. Afanasyev has been charged with public dissemination of false information about the state of the Russian armed forces (Art. 207.3, Part 2, Para “a”) for publishing information about 11 officers of the National Guard Special Task Force refusing to go fight in Ukraine. He is facing up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Afanasyev continues to be held in detention.

Sergei Mikhailov, founder of Listok media outlet, Gorno-Altaysk. Mikhailov is being prosecuted on charges of public dissemination of deliberately misleading information about the state of the Russian armed forces (Art. 207.3, Part 2, Para “d”) for re-posting articles covering the developments in Ukraine in his edition’s Telegram channel. Mikhailov continues to be imprisoned.

Anti-war/peace protests

As reported by various Western media, there were small anti-war acts and protests in Russia on May 8th. The programme guides of smart TV users were hacked with an anti-war message saying, "The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their murdered children is on your hands. TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.” The message was said by social media users to have appeared on Sunday night ahead of Victory Day. The hack affected viewers of channels transmitted by MTS mobile operator, NTV Plus, Rostelecom and Wink. Three of the providers are owned by the Russian government while MTS is owned by billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov. [Independent, 9 May]

The front page of news website Lenta was also sabotaged with 10 detailed stories with headlines including "Russia leaves the corpses of its soldiers in Ukraine." [Washington Post, 10 May]

On May 9th the Pulitzer Prizes board honored the journalists of Ukraine with a special citation “for their courage, endurance, and commitment to truthful reporting” during Russia’s invasion and “propaganda war.” “Despite bombardment, abductions, occupation, and even deaths in their ranks,” the Pulitzer board wrote online, “they have persisted in their effort to provide an accurate picture of a terrible reality, doing honor to Ukraine and to journalists around the world.” [Washington Post, 10 May]

Anti-war messages in Russia published by people on Telegram

Celebrities against the war

The Irish rock star and U2 frontman gave a surprise performance at a Kyiv downtown metro station giving renditions of hits such as Sunday Bloody Sunday, Desire and With or Without You. Bono also sang alongside a local serviceman who called on the world to support Ukraine amid continued Russian attacks on the country. [BBC,9 May]