As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine progresses, there’s a dark undercurrent of waning public support — and it’s even coming to tightly controlled state television. In the first days of the bloody war, he promised the public a quick victory due to the superiority of the Russian army. Instead, the Kremlin’s offensive has been plagued by heavy losses and equipment shortages, to the point where state-run TV pundits are publicly considering seeking aid and assistance from other pariah states – including Iran and North Korea.
Russia has reportedly engaged in discussions with Iran to purchase their military drones, due to its severe lack of drones of its own. During Thursday’s state television program 60 Minutes, military expert Igor Korotchenko suggested that North Koreans could help rebuild damaged Ukrainian regions and join Russia’s military ranks. Talk of legalizing foreign fighters alongside Russian forces is a recurring theme in state media, and for good reason: everyday citizens are less than thrilled at the prospect of going to war or dying for Putin. That doesn’t sit well with top pro-Kremlin propagandists like state TV host Vladimir Solovyov — twice officially recognized by Russian President Vladimir Putin for services to the Motherland.
During his show on Thursday, The evening with Vladimir Solovyov, the host complained: “It pisses me off that our society doesn’t understand that there’s a critical moment going on right now. Either we stand up, build and reach another level, or simply cease to exist.” His guest, political scientist Alexander Kamkin, agreed and proposed a “cultural special operation” in Russia.
The Kremlin’s tight control over information released to the public has failed to limit access to outside sources, with tensions rising to such a boiling point that on Monday during Solovyov’s show, convicted Russian agent Maria Butina suggested jailing her in parents whose children use VPNs to access foreign countries. media. The host was also disappointed with the lackluster involvement of the younger generation in Putin’s war, complaining: “People who are planning to join [the military] they are mostly the same age as me, some are a little younger… This is the generation that grew up with Soviet films, Soviet literature and values. But with the very young people I talk to, they faint if they cut their finger — and they see it as their democratic values… Special military operation is our Rubicon. I have a feeling that many here still can’t understand it.”
Writer Zakhar Prilepin, who is wanted by Ukraine’s SBU security service on charges of “participation in the activity of a terrorist organization” for his involvement in Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, added: “We really need volunteers, we don’t hide it . We need to replace displaced staff. Meanwhile, the subject of death is hushed up. The theme of annihilation is limited. In a society motivated by comfort, you cannot talk about death. Everyone is expected to go to war, win and come back alive. He better not go in the first place. Let me remind you that the Imperial Army Map is included in simple language: if you have three opponents, go to war and advance, kill all three. If you have ten, then stand up for yourself. If your death has come, then you die. It is written very clearly: “Soldier, death is part of your job. It is part of your duty and part of your contract with the government.’ The same principles were adopted by [Joseph] Stalin, who had an Orthodox Christian education.”
Prilepin recited the lyrics of an old Soviet song, entitled “In the woods at the frontline”: “If you have to lie on the ground, at least you have to do it only once.” He argued: “The soldier was told openly: go fight. If you must die, you must do it only once… This is part of your duty as a citizen, as a soldier, as a warrior, as a Russian. Today, we protect everyone: the government, the mothers, the military, everyone. We barely got our governors to put up murals [of the fallen soldiers]… Everyone is afraid of upsetting society.”
Prilepin openly worried that in the event of total mobilization, the younger generation would choose to flee to neighboring countries rather than join the fight: “The government assumes that in Russia, there are always 1 million men ready to fight. As for the rest of the country, we try not to worry them… We have discussed difficult issues, which may lead to World War III and the same mobilization that we are trying to avoid at the moment… It is difficult to talk about total mobilization, because i suspect an overwhelming flood of people will suddenly pour into armenia and georgia. The borders should be closed. I’m talking about our new generation.”
Solovyov suggested changing the rules protecting conscripts from participating in combat: “You know what surprises me most of all? That the conscripts in our Army should not fight… So what should they do in the Army?” He complained that not many volunteers have joined the battle: “We have 150 million people. How many are fighting in Donbass?” The state TV anchor proposed a massive government-sponsored propaganda campaign, glorifying participants in Russia’s so-called “special operation” in film and television, in song and poetry.
Gone are the days when state television propagandists predicted that other countries would flock to Russia’s side to join the battle against Ukraine and the West. During Thursday’s show of The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, political scientist Sergey Mikheyev summed up the current mood in Russia: “About these constant discussions about what we can offer the world, the world can be killed… He doesn’t have to offer anything to anyone. We are special, we have to build ourselves.” Solovyov agreed: “We are Noah’s Ark. First and foremost, we must be saved. We ourselves!”