Ukraine at D+245: A shaky narrative and poorly coordinated cyber ops.
N2K logoOct 27, 2022

Russia's war effort continues to struggle, as a new internal security coordinator is appointed. Few, internationally, buy Russia's claims that Ukraine is working on a dirty bomb. And Ukraine characterizes ongoing Russian cyberattacks as opportunistic and largely ineffectual.

Ukraine at D+245: A shaky narrative and poorly coordinated cyber ops.

Ukraine's offensive continues, met by local Russian counterattacks, Al Jazeera reports. The Russian counterattacks haven't succeeded in retaking lost ground.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas thinks Russia may be reaching a breaking point, as the country's privileged elites grow increasingly dissatisfied with Moscow's conduct of its war. Politico quotes her as saying, "The people around Putin are also feeling the consequences of this war, and they are not happy with the results.” An essay in Foreign Affairs argues that sanctions against individuals have played an important role in stigmatizing oligarchs and other elites, and that shame and social isolation are undermining the lock-step unanimity upon which an authoritarian regime like President Putin's depends.

Russian internal security gets a new boss.

This morning's situation report from the UK's Ministry of Defence addressed Russian planning for internal security. The problem, which is a national one, is being bucked over to the mayor of Moscow. "On 24 October 2022, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said that Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin will coordinate the ‘development of security measures’ in Russia’s regions. This followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree introducing a new regimen of security alert levels. The greater involvement of regional officials is likely at least partially designed to deflect public criticism away from the national leadership. The Kremlin pursued a similar approach during the COVID-19 crisis. However, it will likely make it more difficult for the Kremlin to insulate Russian society from the effects of the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine." If Mayor Sobyanin sorts it out, suppressing domestic unrest and sabotage as well as Ukrainian special operations, that, from the center's point-of-view, will be fine. If he fails, well, hizzoner will make a convenient lightning rod or scapegoat.

Two current lines in Russian propaganda.

Russian officials continue to assert that Ukraine is preparing a "dirty bomb," a radiological weapon it intends, the Kremlin asserts, to use in terrorist attacks against Russia. The claim is widely regarded as disinformation, especially given the crudely hoked up evidence that's appeared in Russian news channels (like old photos of smoke detectors taken years ago in Slovenia). It's also regarded as a provocation, intended to either cover a Russian false flag radiological operation or to justify preemptive or retaliatory nuclear strikes. The Wall Street Journal quotes some representative commentary. “'If the Ukrainian nuclear blather turns into reality, everything will end more tragically and faster, but there will be no one left in Kyiv to understand that,' state television war correspondent Alexander Sladkov wrote Monday on his Telegram messaging channel."

Why would Ukraine make and use a dirty bomb? They're Satanists, is a Russian explanation gaining currency in official media. The Wall Street Journal again quotes representative commentary. “'We are up against Satanists, for whom nothing is sacred,' Vladimir Soloviev, Russia’s most prominent talk show host, told his audience Monday, charging that Ukraine would use the dirty bomb and the West would respond by attacking Russia."

Mr. Soloviev may simply be doing some hyperbolic headshaking, as is his custom, but the Satanist line is being pushed by more Russian outlets, including TASS. Vice has a good English-language summary of how this story has found legs.

Cyberattacks seen as opportunistic and disconnected from strategy.

Speaking at the Blackberry Security Summit yesterday, Victor Zhora, who leads Ukraine's cybersecurity efforts, said that Russian cyber operations have not succeeded in disrupting Ukrainian infrastructure. That failure is due in part, he thinks, to a lack of integration of cyber ops into Russia's strategy. That failure to coordinate has rendered the attacks opportunistic and ineffective. The attacks continue, but to little effect, writes SearchSecurity in reporting Zhora's remarks.