Russia accuses NATO members of running psychological operations in Ukraine

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Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed that members of NATO have deployed specialists to Ukraine in a psychological influence operation meant to disparage Russia.

Lt. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, Head of Interagency Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian Response, accused the United States and France of engaging in the PSYOP activities, according to reporting from Russia state-owned media. Mizintsev said that the foreign operatives are attempting to spread disinformation about Russia and lay the groundwork to accuse its forces of war crimes.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin
(Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

But Rebekah Koffler, author of “Putin’s Playbook” and former DIA intelligence officer focused on Russia, believes the declaration by Mizintsev is an attempt by Russia to launch its own disinformation campaign as a way to cover for potential crimes committed in Ukraine.

“This statement is almost certainly Russia’s own disinformation campaign intended to hide Russia’s hand in the atrocities that have been, are being and will be conducted in the coming weeks by the Russian forces in Ukraine,” Koffler said. “The goal is to blame Ukraine in order to confuse Western audience about who exactly commits brutality in Ukraine.”

Mizintsev claimed that the psychological influence campaign is being run out of non-commercial organizations such as the International Commission for Missing Persons, which was stood up by the United States, with the French government providing members of its military and police to the effort. He went on to say that these specialists would then be conducting investigations into alleged war crimes committed by Russia, which were likely to be biased against Russia.

President Biden

President Biden
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

But Koffler believes that Mizintsev’s statement is a Russian attempt to cause confusion ahead of its offensive, with intelligence indicating that its forces are likely to more heavily target civilians in the coming weeks.

“Intelligence indicates that Russia will escalate the level of atrocities, targeting civilians and employing scorched earth tactics in the next 3-4 weeks as Putin is rushing to wrap up the active combat phase of operations in Ukraine,” Koffler said. “Given Putin’s recent appointment of Gen. Aleksandr Dvornikov to take over command Russian forces, use of chemical weapons cannot be ruled out.”

Koffler noted that Russia runs “disinformation operations” and “strategic deception” hand-in-hand with its military operations, which in this case will be used in an attempt to discredit Western claims of Russian war crimes.

The statement comes as Russian authorities in the contested Donbas region have declared an elevated terrorist threat level, claiming that there is a high risk of attacks by Ukrainian nationalists.

Koffler believes such warnings are part of Russia’s disinformation campaign, opening up the possibility for them to justify an offensive in the region.

Irina Zubchenko walks with her dog Max amid the destruction caused after shelling of a shopping center, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday.

Irina Zubchenko walks with her dog Max amid the destruction caused after shelling of a shopping center, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday.
(AP/Rodrigo Abd)

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“The Russians are probably preparing for offensive operations in Kursk, Bryansk and Voronezh areas, which will be accompanied by brutality,” Koffler said. “These announcements are likely part of Russia’s disinformation operations designed to blame Ukrainians for the atrocities.”

“The conflict is entering its hottest phase as we’re nearing the 50th day of war, and Putin is intensifying his disinformation campaign to preemptively discredit whatever findings Western investigations come up with regarding Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine,” she added.

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