Ukraine at D+609: Troll amplification.
N2K logoOct 26, 2023

Russia and Ukraine prepare for a winter war against the energy sector. Hackivists his propagandists' Spotify pages. A campaign of coordinated inauthenticity amplifies Mr. Musk's intemperate tweets.

Ukraine at D+609: Troll amplification.

"Ukrainian forces marginally advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast and continued offensive operations near Bakhmut on October 25," the Institute for the Study of War reported. "Geolocated footage published on October 24 indicates that Ukrainian forces made further marginal advances west of Robotyne. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces also achieved unspecified partial success west of Verbove (9km west of Robotyne). Ukrainian Ground Forces Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Volodymyr Fityo stated on October 24 that Ukrainian forces are conducting offensive operations near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut)."

Russian forces continue to attack toward Avdiivka, where their losses are reported to have been heavy. Ukrainian forces estimate Russian losses at around 2500 over the past six days. (Casualties are notoriously difficult to count, and so such estimates should be viewed with caution.)

President Zelenskyy says Ukraine expects Russia to conduct a bombardment campaign against energy infrastructure over the winter.

Chechen leader faces religious tensions.

The strongly nationalistic, Russian Orthodox tone official propaganda has taken over recent months is said, the ISW claims, to have begun to alienate the Chechens, whose troops who've provided a significant augmentation to Russian combat power. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is attempting to position himself as a staunch Muslim, and this has grown increasingly difficult to reconcile with President Putin's posturing as a defender of the Orthodox faith. Both men have consistently invoked the name of G*d while enacting the service of Moloch, but that's not a basis for an interfaith coalition.

North Korean ammunition reaches Russian bunkers.

"Despite Russia’s official rejection of recent reports, it is almost certain that North Korean munitions have now reached ammunition depots in western Russia," the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) wrote this morning. "These depots support Russian military operations in Ukraine. If North Korea sustains the recent scale and pace of military-related shipments (more than 1,000 containers over the last several weeks), it will be on course to become one of Russia’s most significant foreign arms suppliers, alongside Iran and Belarus."

It's not known what the DPRK is getting in return, apart from fraternal solidarity. "It is currently unclear what Russia has agreed to provide North Korea in return," the MoD adds. "It is unlikely the full package has been finalised; it was highly likely one of the primary discussion topics during recent senior level Russian visits to North Korea. It will likely include a mixture of financial compensation, other economic support, the provision of military technology, and cooperation on other high technology areas, such as space."

Ukrainian hacktivists deface Russian artists' Spotify pages.

The Record reports that Ukrainian hacktivists (and in this case they appear to be freelancers, not an organized auxiliary) compromised the Spotify pages of Russian artists who've been prominent supporters of President Putin's regime and its war against Ukraine. They replaced the artists' profile picture with a blue and yellow banner and messages urging Russia to "Stop war in Ukraine." The hacktivists did some coup counting in Telegram channels. Spotify, which suspended its news service into the Russian market last year in protest of the war, ("We are deeply shocked and saddened by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine") but which still has Russian users, said it had restored the defaced pages. Official Russian opinion seems accurately represented by singer-songwriter propagandist Grigory Leps, one of the artists whose page was hit. Leps said, through a spokesman, "Spotify is not at all interesting to us, it is an enemy platform, we are on our own. Therefore, it’s not at all interesting what’s happening [there].” Mr. Leps has been under US sanctions since October 2013 for his work as a money mule for the Brothers' Circle criminal gang. The EU sanctioned him last year over his involvement with the war effort.

Troll amplification.

Early this month the polymathic American tycoon Elon Musk began, for obscure reasons of political commitment, posting rude Internet memes mocking Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. WIRED reports that Russian accounts on X, the platform Mr. Musk renamed from Twitter, have flocked to Mr. Musk's posts (and news reports about them) giving them the greatest amplification they're capable of. It's a program of coordinated inauthenticity, Researchers at Cardiff University say the troll accounts have the usual marks of inauthenticity: "low or zero follower numbers, a lack of identifiable personal details, [they] mostly just reply to other accounts’ posts, and produce anti-Ukraine and anti-Zelensky messaging, which mirror wider Russian narratives."

It's worth remembering the vital support Mr. Musk's Starlink gave Ukraine when Russian preparatory cyberattacks took out Ukraine's ViaSat modems in the opening hours of the war. Starlink enabled Kyiv to restore connectivity that it's generally maintained ever since. Weigh that contribution against his present posturing.