Russia Early War Propaganda Campaign in Ukraine Crisis

Russia has a tradition of using propaganda for the mobilization of war. The Kremlin created a political institution back in 1918 also known as commissar which was restored by Vladimir Putin in 2018. This includes the military and political workers (zampolits) and psychologists and their task is to maintain the servicemen and citizens of Russia loyal, motivated and to stabilize their psychology. The new commissars are also following the footprints of their elders, they are ensuring the maintenance of morale, psychological and political of the troops via agitation and propaganda tactics. It will help  the state to align and create a favorable condition in increasing patriotism which also helps in military and militarization of Russian society.

Further it is stated that the main goal of the military-political worker is to mold the mindset loyal to the state, patriotism, statehood and spirituality through various agitations and campaigns among the masses which results in unconditional support to the state and state policies. The theory of zampolits boost up the morale of the troops as well as gain high support of the civilian population in accomplishment of the state missions. In Russia there is this concept that battles cannot be won by technology and machines but they can be win by the high morale, spirit and endurance of the troops.

Keeping the critical role of zampolits in view he Russian soldiers would have to know the reason of fighting and related expected hardship in the battlefield by Feb 24. But in reality none of the above are followed majority of the soldiers learn about the mission the day they cross the border and many of them were disoriented and didn’t know about their whereabouts. They were told that you will be welcomed by the peacekeeper but the massive retaliation and resistance showed by the Ukrainian forces shocked the mentally unprepared troops of Russia. It raised question regarding the Putins war in Ukraine that despite having high military equipment military-political effort was missing in invasion. One the reason was the miscalculation of Kremlin as they underestimated the Ukrainian forces, and Putin did not prepare the military, elites and public. The Kremlin did not provide any thing before the invasion no major effort was made among the soldiers and Putin took for granted the Russian influence over the Ukrainian society in previous years. Second was Kremlin kept in dark everyone none of the senior commanders were aware of the invasion. The west public the intelligence having on Russia with intention to deter Russia from invasion. But the Russian declared it as a propaganda against their state that Moscow is preparing to invade Ukraine. And in fact zampolits played their role in channeling the message among the servicemen and convincing them and kept the them unaware from the planned invasion.

After the second week of the war the Putin regime started working on agitprop which was based on that Ukraine is controlled by the west Russophobic regime and they are indulged in genocide of the Russian population. Therefore the operation is to stop and neutralize the existential threats for the future and main aim is to demilitarize and de-nazify the Donbas region from massacre and genocide. Further to prevent Russia from the chemical and biological invasions of the Ukraine.

Moreover one more thing observed that the unwritten ideology is to reunite Russia, Ukraine and Belarus as a single entity which were disjoint by the historical circumstances. Besides that in mid-march, Putin participated in a cultural event which was filled with propagandist rhetoric with unification of Crimea and posters were posted that “we are Russian and God is with Us” and “for the motherland and for Stalin”.

Initially the Russian military aimed for a quick victory but after resistance they adapted to increase firepower and started hitting defence industrial infrastructure. In wartime adaptation is the biggest challenge for the militaries which is also faced by the Russian military and its zampolits. Zampolits are now in the front to overcome trauma of soldiers and prepare servicemen for the battle files and most importantly create a content depicting the cruelty of Ukrainian forces to increase their own resistance against rivals. A biggest challenge for the zampolits is to explain to their troops why they are at war. They are trying to show the West as an evil that polluted the region and sowing war among the brothers so we need to stop this bloodshed which has the support of the West at backup. This all was done in order to overcome the manpower shortage by declaring war and mobilization.

Russia needs to replace the casualties and they employ contract soldiers to Ukraine at the same time if the wounds and casualties are not welcomed it might create trouble for the Russian administration  and lose morale. Moscow neutralized the opposition and arrested 15000 to prevent anti-war activism. Putin is putting allegations on the west that they are trying to start confrontation within the country by putting sanctions. In response to this the Kremlin is forcing the Tiktoker, entertainment industry, writers, poets, and opinion makers to provide a strong backup to the government to minimize the western influence of people’s mindset. And zampolits are actively behind this to overcome the foreign influence. Criticism of the military is equated with suppression and imprisonment, zampolits are indulged in many projects which show that the majority of the population are in support of war and the course of action taken by the Kremlin and its forces is endorsed by the public. While in many schools they started including material related to the “genocide in Ukraine” to set the mentality of the young generation. They engaged youth movements with a number of one million to establish a militarized patriotic youth. Zampolitics and the military is becoming a central point in formulating state ideology and they will be one of the most powerful in Russian politics.  

Faisal Saleh Hayat
Faisal Saleh Hayat
Bachelors in Strategic studies from national defence University Islamabad