The full NSDC report “Evidence of the Russian Armed Forces Involvement in Combat Actions in Donbas” can be downloaded here.
Donbas locals and mercenaries from Russia now account for less than half of personnel in the units fighting in the Donbas with Ukraine. These units are led by Russian officers, names of some of them are known, said Olexandr Turchynov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC), as reported by the council’s press service.
“During the summer of 2015, there have been dramatic changes in the nature of Russia’s participation in military operations in eastern Ukraine. The armed forces of Ukraine are now confronted not with mixed groups of Russian regular military and terrorists, as it has been since the beginning of the occupation, but structured military units of the regular army of the Russian Federation,” he said in a statement.
According to Turchynov, the military leadership of the Russian Federation has completed “the creation of a powerful formation based on two army corps prepared to conduct active offensive operations” in the Donbas.
“The management and logistics of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps is performed by a specially created 12th Reserve Command of the Southern District of the Armed Forces or the Russian Federation (with headquarters located in the city of Novocherkassk, Rostov oblast of the Russian Federation). The main command and staff positions in these army corps are occupied by cadre officers of the Russian Federation,” said Turchynov.
“The enlisted personnel is formed up to 40% with inhabitants of the occupied territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, as well as with contract soldiers and mercenaries from Russia, who received combat experience during the war in the east of Ukraine and in the hot spots of the Russian Federation. The size of the two corps is up to 35thousands people,” he said.
“Additionally, in the occupied territories, there is a military reserve consisting of 21 tactical groups of the Russian Armed Forces (15 battalion and 6 company groups) ofmore than 9,000 people. Further 53 tactical groups of the Russian Federation Armed Forces (39 battalions, 14 Working Capital) numbering 50.5 thousand people areconcentrated at the eastern border of our country,” said Turchynov.
In his opinion, “characteristics of the formation and operation of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps indicate that for their creation the Russians have chosen the model tested by Germany during World War II and known as the “Waffen SS.”
“Waffen SS” were the military units of SS during World War II. German leadership staffed them with volunteers from the occupied countries, while they were led by cadre officers of the German SS.
Turchynov believes that this experience has been adopted by the General Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces for fighting in Eastern Ukraine.
“We have basic data on the generals and officers of the Russian military making up the leadership of the Russian occupation forces. The materials on them have been transferred to the General Prosecutor’s Office to open criminal cases,” he said.
According to the NSDC, “the command of the entire formation of the Russian occupation troops is carried out by Colonel General Andrei Nikolayevich Serdyukov, the Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander of Russia’s Southern Military District (cover surname for documents – ‘Sedov‘).”
“The command of the 1st Army Corps as of the beginning of August 2015 was carried out by Major General Alexei Vladimirovich Zavizyon, seconded from the post of Chief of Staff of the 41 Army of the Central Military District of the Russian Armed Forces, who uses the cover surname for documents – ‘Pilevin‘,” said Turchinov.
“The commander of the 2nd Army Corps is Major General Yevgeny Valeriyevich Nikiforov (cover surname for documents – ‘Morgun‘), seconded from the post of Deputy Commander of the 58th Army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Also, here, there was a rotation. Until recently, the corps was headed by Lieutenant General Sergey Sergeyevich Yudin, the Chief of Staff of the 20th Army of the Western Military District of the Russian Federation Armed Forces,” he adds.
Turchynov asserts that in the occupied territories “a large number of heavy weapons and military equipment is concentrated, echelonized accumulation of large numbers of mobile mechanical repair shops and amounts of ammunition is conducted, which should provide for active offensive operations and, according to the plan of the Russian General Staff, will be supported by the entrance into the territory of Ukraine of additional units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
Wonderful news and one that should be followed in every country intimidated by Russia.
Counter-propaganda should include denying pervasive propaganda sponsored programs from countries actively seeking to use propaganda for political gain.
Yes, this is an encroachment on freedom of the press, but limiting state-sponsored, certified propaganda should be justification.
Any and all countries targeted by Russian propaganda should pay heed.
The Russian state-funded propaganda mouthpiece Russia Today (RT) will not be able to open a representative office in Latvia, reports Espreso TV, August 28, citing the Baltic online publication Delfi.
The Latvian Registry of Enterprises has denied permission to the Russia Today “International Information Agency” to register a representative office in the country. According to the Registry, the documents submitted by Russia Today contradict the Constitution of Latvia as well as several other laws.
The National Council of Electronic Media in Latvia points out that the goal of the Russia Today Russian state news agency is to spread biased information in the information space to support the interests of Russia’s foreign policy. The application for the registration of RT was submitted April 29.
As previously reported, on Thursday, August 28, the European Service of Foreign Affairs announced that it was launching a rapid-response team to counter the destabilizing influence of Russian propaganda. Representatives from Latvia will participate in the project, which will be fully operational by the end of September.
By pretending to be real news, RT is much better than your grandfather’s Soviet propaganda.
In trying to create a likeness of Soviet power, Vladimir Putin is doing one thing demonstrably better than the Kremlin masters of old: propaganda. During the Cold War Soviet outlets like Pravda would disseminate outlandish claims so crass and obviously false that even true comrades turned the page or flipped the channel (and there were a lot fewer channels then). Today the Kremlin-funded RT, with its lineup of conspiracy cranks, slanted reportage and ceaseless assaults on Western institutions, has ended end up as the most-watched network on YouTube. Backed with budget approaching $450 million in 2014, RT now acts as the tip of the Kremlin’s information warfare machine, an agglomeration that seeks to undermine both notions of journalism and faith in the workings of liberal democracy.
This is the new reality that I helped research while working with Columbia Journalism School’s “ RT Watch” project. For the better part of 2015, the project compiled RT’s output, attempting to examine how, or whether, RT deserves its reputation as a bulwark for Kremlin-friendly programming. Alongside a group of other Columbia graduate students, we watched, read, and consumed RT for hours a day, months on end. We piled our findings—the deceits, the distractions, the direction RT takes—over at the RT Watch blog, along with assorted social media accounts. As one observer said, we watched RT so you didn’t have to. After subsuming ourselves in the entire RT gestalt, I’d like to share some of the things I found.
The Moscow-based outlet—first created in 2005 and originally named Russia Today—does away with the mothballed propaganda of claiming the sunshine of socialism while bread and butter disappear amidst the reality of Soviet stagnation. “Mock journalism” is a more apt description of its technique than propaganda because, at its core, this is what RT offers: a trivialization and “truthiness” version of journalism. Just as Putin’s Kremlin has gutted meaning from prior political terms, RT ignores the inherent traits of journalism—checking sources, relaying facts, attempting honest reportage. But RT’s model creates a concerted mask of traditional journalism with all the trappings. Rather than push the transparent propaganda of its Soviet forebears, RT mixes and matches straight news with flippant falsehood, keeping viewers off-balance, keeping audiences muddled and confused and unsure of their footing. The outlet’s mantra—“Question More”—applies only in select cases, and only as it pertains to Western claims. If you’re looking for critique or criticism of Kremlin decisions, you won’t find them on RT. Instead, you’ll find “ experts” lacking in expertise, conspiracy theories without backing, and, from time to time, outright fabrication for the sake of pushing a pro-Kremlin line. The outlet offers a “ pseudo-diversity of opinions,” as another researcher found.
Hosts range from demure to shock-jock, something familiar to anyone who has studied Fox News’s approach. Chyrons scrawl the bottom of the screen. Programming comes pinned as “investigations” and “reports” and “analysis.” Much as the Kremlin boasts the desiderata of democracy—a presidency, a parliament, a “dictatorship of the law”—so too does RT claim all the requirements of a legitimate news outlet.
“RT is completely different,” George Washington University Associate Research Professor Robert Orttung, who helped write a recent research paper into RT’s methodology and reach, told me. “Russia’s current goal is to undermine as much of the Western world order as possible. … RT tries to do anything it can to convince Western audiences that their leaders are taking them in the wrong direction.”
But it doesn’t take long while watching or reading or consuming RT to realize that the outlet’s media credentials stand as hollow as, say, the Kremlin’s claims that Crimea remains rightfully Russian.
RT didn’t start this way. When the Kremlin first breathed life into Russia Today in 2005, the outlet’s claimed motivation was to share a Russian viewpoint with its audience. According to Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan, Russia Today would provide “a perspective on the world from Russia.” Gone were the bleary-eyed suits bleating about of fishery successes in Murmansk or applauding Tashkent’s cotton output. In stepped fresh-faced anchors, clean lines, swift camera swings. The cynicism enveloping Soviet news—transparent propaganda to audiences near and abroad—evaporated. Russia Today galloped out of Moscow, joining the clamor of international outlets vying for viewership.
And then something shifted. In 2009, the outlet—still funded and backed by the Kremlin—shifted its name to RT, dropping any outlying pretense of a Russian affiliation. As Simonyan clarified a year later, “Who is interested in watching news from Russia all day long?” In lieu of Moscow-centric programming, the outlet broadened, expanding content and viewership alike. Skirts shortened, and legs lengthened. Graphics morphed from informational to inflammatory. Hosts didn’t share the news, but screamed it, demeaned it, wailed along with guests about conspiracies and cloaked enemies aiming for you and your dearest.
Six years on, RT seems to have found a model that works—and with spin-offs in French, German, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese, RT can offer its palette to the predominance of global audiences. And while the Kremlin utilizes other branches in pushing its fabrications—including Russia Direct, Sputnik and Russia Beyond the Headlines—RT remains “the largest and most visible of these branches,” one that “attempts to undermine Western credibility and unity,” according to Orttung’s recent scholarly analysis.
If RT pumped conspiracy and fabrication at all hours, the station would be easy for most to dismiss. But RT has perfected a method in which it injects anodyne, actual reportage into its lineup. In breaking news, for instance, RT remains a reliable source. The outlet’s perfected an amalgamation of the real and the fictional, the news alongside Newspeak, leaving viewers off-kilter along the way.
RT has also tapped into a vacancy on the American Left, allowing the Occupy crowd an arena to voice their complaints. Indeed, RT was one of the few outlets willing to cover the Occupy movement from start to finish. For that, a swath of America—liberals-cum-socialists, anti-globalization and hard-left environmentalist types—has helped inflate RT’s numbers. (There’s a reason Glenn Greenwald is one of RT’s biggest backers, after all.) Look back to the aforementioned “ expert,” Alexander Pavic, for instance. If we’re to believe Pavic, Ukraine is currently witnessing a “full revival of Nazism and fascism” in the country. RT has only continued pushing the notion that Nazis run Ukraine, ignoring the reality that far-right political parties remained sidelined in both parliamentary and presidential elections. But far leftists aren’t the lone fringe to whom RT caters. While perhaps less prevalent, far-right viewers, the kind who would view Putin as a bulwark against Western progressivism, find a welcome audience on RT, eager to air their own conspiracies. To wit, RT has become a bastion for those who see no evidence of global warming, or who believe the federal government remains minutes away from introducing FEMA re-education camps. Much as the Kremlin caters to fringe populists on both ends of the political spectrum, so, too, does RT seek to co-opt crowds beyond the scope of mainstream political discussions in the US.
Take the outlet’s recent coverage of the Jade Helm military training exercise in the United States, which has caused conspiracy mongers on the internet to suggest it could result in martial law in America. RT’s framing of the exercise comes drenched in conspiracy, screeching about the government’s scheming. One clip saw the field correspondent citing the fringe conspiracists at InfoWars, discussing how “the acronym for the ‘Helm’ could be the ‘Homeland Eradication of Local Militants.’” And then, after the FBI arrested a trio in North Carolina plotting to booby-trap American soldiers, one RT host caterwauled about a coming civil war: “Our military, and our government, are so out of control that not even our own citizens trust them,” the host said. “Jade Helm 15 might be just training exercises, but there’s no doubt it’s started some kind of war, and this time it’s between America and itself.”
Just as Washington seeks to counter Putin’s model of illiberal democracy, so journalists should seek to counter RT’s contempt for the profession. That doesn’t mean banning the outlet. That doesn’t even necessarily mean registering RT with the Department of Justice, as one lawyer familiar with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) recently told me may come to pass. Rather, at its core, the best rejoinder to RT’s mock journalism may be—nothing. Let it alone. Let it collapse under the weight of its own increasing absurdity. Because if there’s one silver lining in all the chaff RT have tossed into the media sphere in the West, it’s that Moscow’s self-defeating policies have made RT’s job—convincing Western audiences that Nazis run Ukraine; convincing viewers that an imperial NATO was set to gobble Crimea— that much more difficult. Recent numbers out of the Pew Research Center, showing strikingly negative views about Russia, attest to as much. But banning the outlet only gives RT more oxygen to claim persecution. Let a decimated ruble, a capricious Kremlin and RT’s former employees—those who’ve atoned, those who’ve recanted—demolish the outlet.
All the while, other outlets must refocus on the trappings of actual, veritable journalism. RT’s managed to warp values and threaten viewership, but Western media outlets pushing responsible journalism can’t sink to RT’s level. Just as Putin continues challenging the core premise of liberal democracies, RT seeks to unwind the basic tenets of modern journalism. But so long as outlets retain their core responsibility—their core adherence to responsible journalism—RT and its model will ultimately, and necessarily, fail. Just as its Soviet forebears collapsed under their own farce, we can, to steal Trotsky’s line, watch RT follow them into the dustbin of history.
In an update to a 2012 RAND report on information operations (IO) in Afghanistan, this Perspective describes the continuing challenges of IO doctrine integration and harmonization and the establishment of measures of effectiveness for IO within the Department of Defense. Despite recommendations made in the 2012 report, little progress has been made in these areas, which will have an even greater negative impact as the United States reduces the number of troops in theater and as resources to combat the enemy’s propaganda offense remain limited.
While there have been some tactical IO successes in Afghanistan, little progress has been made in the area of doctrine integration and harmonization and the establishment of measures of effectiveness in the five years since the previous study period ended (2010).
This deficiency will have an even greater negative impact as the United States continues to reduce the number of troops in theater and as resources to combat the enemy’s propaganda offence remain limited.
The Department of Defense should implement the recommendations made in RAND’s 2012 report, U.S. Military Information Operations in Afghanistan: Effectiveness of Psychological Operations 2001–2010, especially those regarding integration and harmonization of IO doctrine and the establishment of measures of effectiveness for IO.
Russia’s food fight with the West continued this week when Rosselkhoznadzor, the country’s food and agriculture watchdog, confiscated and destroyed 1.6 metric tons of German supplies intended for BMW‘s motor racing team.
Authorities of the Tver and Pskov regions confiscated and incinerated the food, which included 836 kilograms of fruit and vegetables, on the Russian border on Tuesday because it lacked the correct documentation, according to a press release on the watchdog’s website.
The food was intended for drivers taking part in the 11th and 12th rounds of the German DTM motor races, which are being held in Moscow this weekend.
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
According to the Russia’s state news agency, which reported the news this week, the German team always bring its own food to events and the DTM races are famous for offering authentic German cuisine.
Read MoreRussia’s burning Dutch flowers in sanctions war
Russian authorities have cracked down on imports of Western foods in reaction to sanctions placed on the country. These sanctions were enforced following Russia’s incursion in neighboring Ukraine in 2014.
Earlier this month, Russian authorities were criticised for broadcasting the destruction of 30 tons of confiscated cheese, despite rising poverty in the country as poor citizens struggle Russiawith the increasing price of food.
Today the office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko released via Twitterimportant details about the organization and structure of Russia’s occupying army in Southeastern Ukraine. The order of battle (ORBAT) information is clearly derived from a lot of intelligence, especially SIGINT (I say this as someone who used to do ORBAT intelligence for a living: this is well done).
Since most of my readers know neither Russian or Ukrainian, I’m passing on what Kyiv has released today in English. The translation isn’t great but it works. I’m providing comments below since most normals are not well acquainted with the nuances of Russian military organization.
Russian Military Command, South-East Ukraine (Novocherkask):
Commanding Officer (CO): GenCol A N. Serdyukov 
1st Army Corps (“Donetsk People’s Republic” Military), HQ: Donetsk
CO: GenMaj A.V. Zavizyon 
2nd Army Corps (“Luhansk People’s Republic” Military), HQ: Luhansk
CO: GenMaj Y. V. Nikiforov 
The organization of the 1st and 2nd Corps, no surprise, corresponds exactly to the standard tables of organization and equipment (TO&E) of Russian Ground Forces. There are several maneuver brigades (“motor rifle” is the Russian term for mechanized in NATO parlance) supported by independent regiments and battalions. As Kyiv has announced, the 35,000 troops belonging to “DNR” and “LNR” forces are bolstered by 9,000 reservists. While some forty percent of the troops are locals, the rest are Russians plus a few mercenaries and foreign volunteers.
The senior command staff are exclusively Russian officers assigned to the 1st and 2nd Corps — officially they are “not there” of course — while the operation is run, logistically and command-wise, from neighboring Russia.
To anybody with a decent memory, this closely resembles the relationship during the 1992-95 Bosnian War, when the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), while consisting largely of local rank-and-file troops, had most of its command, and nearly all of its financing and logistics, coming from neighboring Serbia and its military — which, in practice treated the VRS as merely as an extension of itself, as in fact it was.
Needless to add, the “DNR” and “LNR” militaries would not last twenty-four hours without constant command and logistical support from Putin’s military. They are an extension of Russian Ground Forces and should be treated as such by the West. It’s time to end, once and for all, any fiction about “rebels” — these are Russian-controlled forces, led by Russian officers, supplied with Russian guns and ammunition, that are waging war inside Ukraine.
Kudos to Kyiv for putting this important information out there as an aid to understanding what’s really going on in their country.
1. AKA Sedov; GenCol is a Russian “three-star” rank.
2. AKA Pilen; GenMaj is a Russian “one-star” rank.
3. AKA Morgun; GenMaj is a Russian “one-star” rank.