Saturday, December 2

Belgorod as an example of propaganda war, article by Jesús A. Núñez Villaverde

In a hybrid war, like the one taking place in Ukraine, the conventional clash between armed forces is only one of the fronts to consider. In an information society like the one that defines our days, the propaganda war -together with cybernetics, economics and diplomacy, among others- acquires more and more relevance, seeking to convince locals and strangers both of the benefits of those who decide to execute it and of the evils of the opponent. The destruction of eight fuel depots belonging to the Russian public company Rosneft, near Belgorod, is a good example of this.

Located on Russian soil some 40 km from the border with Ukraine, these tanks -with a total capacity of 2,000 m3 each- represented an important asset for the supply to the region and for the development of Russian military operations in the donbas. According to the Russian version, what happened is the result of a Ukrainian attack carried out by two Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters, flying at a low level so as not to be detected by Russian radars, in an action that, if confirmed in those terms, , would be a bold example of the operational capacity of the Ukrainian forces. For its part, kyiv neither admits nor denies its participationimitating what countries like Israel have provided so much revenue in their attacks against some of their Arab neighbors.

Elucidating who has finally been the executor of the destruction is not an easy task. It is not so extraordinary that Ukraine has managed, on a round trip flight of no more than 25 minutes, such a coup, once again making a fool of a Russian army that would show his inability to defend against incursions on their own soil. In Belgorod already last week there was the mysterious explosion of several ammunition depots that, now, could end up being acts of sabotage or the action of an infiltrated Ukrainian commando without leaving a trace.

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But there is also room for hypothesis that it is a false flag action, carried out by Russia, with the intention of providing itself with new arguments to redouble the military effort against its neighbor, galvanize its population and its troops and tarnish the image of kyiv on an international scale. In this case, however, it is still somewhat shocking that Moscow decides to punish itself eliminating a fuel that it needs daily, when it had other alternatives – falling missiles or projectiles in an unpopulated area – less self-damaging to denounce a Ukrainian aggression and it does not seem that it now needs new arguments to attack Ukraine more than a month after the start of the invasion.

The history of wars is full of cases that challenge our most solid convictions and force us to consider even what may seem irrational at first glance. And to avoid getting completely lost in the attempt to interpret what is happening and to assign responsibilities, it is necessary to assume that all the combatant actors plan and execute war propaganda in which the fundamental thing is to try to determine who says what, to whom and with what intention. At the moment, especially in Western opinion circles, it is being assumed that everything that Moscow presents is false and, conversely, everything that kyiv broadcasts is true. As if we had not learned anything from what happened in the war in Iraq and so many others in which reality has been recurrently distorted.

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