We’re going to regularly break down how Russia is selling the war at home, as TV and other propaganda outlets create a distorted reality of what’s happening and who is responsible. Today, we look at how Russia describes Ukraine’s counteroffensive to retake occupied land.
In the version of the war in Ukraine that runs on Russian state media, the Ukrainian military is completely outmatched.
Splashy battlefield supercuts show victory after victory for Russian troops over Ukraine’s forces. Dead Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield mix with explosions seen through blurry night vision. Pundits brag over footage of burning Western-made tanks.
That’s how Russian state media has portrayed the invasion since the beginning: a persistent string of victories, downplaying setbacks and losses. Now, state-run programs are not only claiming that Ukraine is making no ground, they were also asserting that Russia was achieving one of its original objectives of the invasion: the demilitarization of Ukraine.
These clips from state TV, taken before the mercenary march of Moscow and Vladimir V. Putin’s accusation of treason against an erstwhile ally, show how Russia’s state media argues that Ukraine is losing its ability to fight back — despite receiving dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, extensive training for its troops, and billions of dollars’ worth of aid from the United States and Europe.
Mr. Putin made the argument in a meeting with influential military bloggers and war correspondents, saying that American-made Bradley vehicles and German-made Leopard tanks “burn nicely.”
Videos and photos verified by The New York Times show several Bradley fighting vehicles and German Leopard tanks have been abandoned by Ukrainian troops or destroyed by Russian forces, but the Ukrainian tank crews have generally survived, and many of the damaged vehicles can be recovered and repaired, U.S. and Ukrainian officials say.
But Mr. Putin’s remarks were rebroadcast, at length, on the flagship political show “News of the Week,” which said the world was “looking at images of Western equipment burning” and praised Mr. Putin for his candor in speaking to the nationalistic media figures.
“During all his appearances, Putin inspired confidence and offered detail into Russia’s actions, demonstrating that he knows the facts,” said the host, Dmitri Kiselyov.
A day later, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, expounded on the claim in his own statement to reporters. “Ukraine was heavily militarized when the special operation began. And, as Putin said yesterday, one of its goals was the demilitarization of Ukraine,” he said. “In fact, this objective has largely been carried out, because Ukraine uses less and less of its own weapons, and uses more and more weapons systems supplied by Western countries.”
And in the aftermath of the mercenary mutiny, as Mr. Putin sought to project an image of control again, he gave a speech that returned to these talking points, claiming that Ukraine had lost dozens of tanks and more than 100 armored vehicles.
Sarah Kerr and Natalie Reneau contributed production.