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Russian Bloggers Share Old Tank Video To Overstate Ukraine Losses: ISW

Russian military bloggers, an influential faction in Russia’s military and political spheres, are “deliberately amplifying old footage to support the Kremlin narrative” in Ukraine, according to a new assessment.

Military commentators, many of whom have large followings on messaging app Telegram, shared footage on Saturday claiming to show Ukrainian troops being defeated by a single Russian tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest assessment.

Russian military bloggers, or milbloggers, often claim to be on the front lines or have contacts feeding them intelligence from the fighting, and post frequent updates on Russian and Ukrainian operations for their followers. Many tout pro-Kremlin views, but some have criticized how Russian forces are conducting the invasion of Ukraine.

A Ukrainian tank moves down a road near the front line in the Donetsk region on August 15, 2022. Russian milbloggers widely shared footage on Saturday, claiming to show Ukrainian troops being defeated by a single Russian tank, U.S. think tank the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment.
Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images

The Rybar channel, which has nearly 1.2 million subscribers, described the footage on Saturday as an “amazing video” from fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine, a hotspot in Kyiv’s ongoing counteroffensive. In the post, the account said two of Ukrainian tanks and six armored vehicles had been destroyed by a single Russian tank.

But the footage was captured on June 7, and shows “Russian artillery units striking the Ukrainian column,” the ISW said. Widely sharing this footage under the guise of new clips from the front indicates that pro-Moscow sources “are deliberately amplifying old footage to support the Kremlin narrative,” the think tank added.

Russian sources have previously shared old footage to back up reports of Ukrainian armored vehicle losses, the ISW continued.

The instute said some bloggers are “increasingly overstating Ukrainian losses and writing less about Russia’s losses and challenges.”

However, some of these prominent military bloggers could be changing their framing of Ukraine’s counteroffensive to be more aligned with the Kremlin out of fear of punishment after the arrest of Igor Girkin, a high-profile former commander of separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, the think tank said.

Girkin, a pro-war milblogger and former Kremlin security service employee, was heavily critical of Moscow’s handling of the invasion of Ukraine. He was arrested in the Russian capital earlier this month on charges of inciting extremism, which he has denied.

The arrest came as Ukraine pushed on with its counteroffensive, carrying out operations in at least three sectors across the front line on Saturday, the ISW said. Kyiv’s fighters made advances in several areas, including to the southwest of the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut, the think tank added.

On Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its troops had repelled seven attacks by Kyiv’s forces around cities in Donetsk Oblast, and that they had destroyed several Ukrainian ammunition depots.

Russia struck targets with four Iranian-made Shahed drones in the early hours of Sunday morning, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.

Moscow claims to have killed 660 Ukrainian troops over the past 24 hours, with Kyiv saying Russia had lost 480 people during the same period. Newsweek could not independently verify either claim.

On Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Kremlin troops had repelled seven Ukrainian attacks around cities in Donetsk, and that Russian forces had destroyed several ammunition depots.

Newsweek contacted the Russian and Ukrainian Defense Ministries for comment on Sunday.

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