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ISW: Russian nationalists reject Moscow's attempts to silence war criticism

by Abbey Fenbert August 28, 2023 6:25 AM 2 min read
The main building of the Russian Defense Ministry, outfitted with anti-aircraft systems, in February 2023 amid Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)
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Right-wing Russian bloggers dismissed the state's attempts to quell critique by publishing videos of well-equipped front-line soldiers, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote on Aug. 28.

On Aug. 25, multiple Russian commentators complained that units of the 205th Motorized Rifle Brigade – the same brigade that blew up the Kakhovka Dam in June – lacked sufficient artillery support. They claimed that soldiers "were suffering significant casualties under Ukrainian artillery fire on an island in the Kherson direction" and that their commanders  ignored repeated calls for additional artillery.

In response, Russian state media released footage on Aug. 26 allegedly showing five soldiers of the 205th in new uniforms. In the video, the soldiers ask Russian bloggers to stop harming the brigade's operations by complaining about artillery shortages.

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The soldiers add that military commentators who want to aid Russia's invasion can volunteer to "fight on the front lines" themselves.

However, the bloggers weren't convinced. According to the ISW, several writers "claimed that the video was clearly staged to deflect criticism from the brigade’s leadership," and by extension, the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Russian Defense Ministry has often equated criticizing Russian military command in Ukraine with harming military operations at the front. The ministry has "consistently tried throughout the full-scale invasion to silence criticisms in the Russian information space," the ISW said.

This has brought pro-war Russian nationalists into conflict with the government over the war in Ukraine.

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