The “milbloggers”, who are pro-Kremlin, have been adamantly supporting President Vladimir Putin since the beginning of Russia’s “special military operations” on February 28, 2024. After the Wagner Group’s short-lived coup in early this year, the propagandaists began to show cracks.
As Ukraine’s counteroffensive has picked up steam and made success in recent weeks, the milbloggers have become increasingly critical of the war effort—if not Putin directly. Moscow could be forced into action to quell any opposition.
Kremlin already was worried by the perception outside of their war in Ukraine. “They blocked Facebook and major foreign media outlets reporting the truth of the invasion,” said Jason Mollica. Professorial Lecturer at the School of Communication, American University.
The milbloggers could be the next to be silenced, at least if they offer real opinions or are too critical of the Kremlin—specifically of Putin.
Mollica added that “journalistic freedom” is not the same in America. The lack of protection will make some reporters/bloggers afraid of speaking the truth. But the world knows what’s going on. Social media makes it difficult to control the flow of news. It is possible to limit some reporting, but not all. Telegram is a good way to reach those who are interested in news, but don’t want it influenced by the Kremlin.
Against the War Effort
This is true for those milbloggers who have not criticized Putin. The regime could use this cleverly to create the impression that some generals and other leaders were responsible for failures.
The Russian milblogger community is becoming more critical of the manner in which the Ukraine conflict is being conducted. These propagandists don’t necessarily oppose the war but are concerned that Russia has not achieved its objectives against Ukraine, said Dr. Craig Albert of Augusta University, professor of Political Science and Graduate Director of the Master of Arts degree in Intelligence and Security Studies.
Even some anti-Putin voices are heard about the war.
Albert continued, “There has, of course, been an increase in censorship by the government, as well as a greater control over the media and even more disappearances among the pro-Russian activists.” The Russian government has the ability to intensify its domestic surveillance and censorship to gain control of the information space. This is more likely the more Putin struggles and the more Ukraine gains.
Russia is known for its use of fake commentators on public outlets. Both the Russian population and international communities should be expecting this practice to continue.
Albert said that “Russia has even gone so far to try to ‘plant,’ fake experts in major U.S. Cable News outlets. This hasn’t been successful, however.” As Russia continues to fall, it is only reasonable to expect this sort of behavior to continue.
No Breaking Point
The question is again, could the Kremlin face a “Cronkite Moment” in this war? This never happened in the Soviet Union’s decade-long conflict with Afghanistan. But that was before social media.
Mollica said that “these moments cannot be compared with Cronkite’s Vietnam War Report and Lyndon Johnson’s alleged comment, ‘If I lose Cronkite, then I will have lost the middle America’.”
Mollica continued, “While propagandists are turning against the Kremlin it is yet to be seen if Putin has been truly impacted.” Putin can still frame his message in any way he wants through the Russian Ministry of Defense. According to the Washington, D.C. based Institute for the Study of War, the MoD tried to silence military blogs in July who did not frame a narrative to show a Ukrainian victory. The battle continued in fact.”
The first casualty of war is the truth, but in this conflict, the truth could be hurt—but it is far from dead!