“Radio “Death”: what Russian propagandists tell the Ukrainian military

“Radio “Death”: what Russian propagandists tell the Ukrainian military

On April 22, around half past five in the evening, the Russians hit the television tower in Kharkiv with a rocket. The upper part of the tallest building in the city fell. At the same time, neither the employees of the TV centre nor other civilians were injured. However, the digital broadcast of Ukrainian TV channels in Kharkiv has disappeared. Nevertheless, the fall of the tower did not provoke the informational ‘Apocalypse’ in the city: people can connect to cable or satellite TV, and the Internet and mobile communication also work. But the situation is worse in the north. There, instead of the Ukrainian signal, enemy voices are breaking through – Russian radio and television. Realna Gazeta listened to one of those radio stations – “Radio Zhizn” (Radio “Life”) – for several days.

Acoustic weapons from the Belgorod region

Russian radio stations could be heard in the north of Kharkiv Oblast even before the start of the full-scale invasion. Since 2022, the Russians have created several radio stations specifically for Ukrainians, and now through them, they call on the military to surrender, and civilians not to resist the invaders. “Radio Zhizn” transmits the signal from the territory of the Belgorod region to the Luhansk region and Kharkiv region. You can listen to it both in the traditional way and on the Internet. There is some Russian and English-language music, and after each track, there are calls to surrender.

The creators of FM weapons from the Belgorod region decided not to worry too much about live broadcasts and simply turned on pre-recorded propaganda. Thus, the listener is offered a “news” block, which quotes mainly the Western press for credibility. But there is a nuance: either pro-Russian publications, pro-Russian speakers, or words taken out of context are quoted. This tactic is successfully used by propagandist Olga Skabeyeva, whose Telegram channel publishes quotes or excerpts from Western politicians or analysts, but only those who do not believe in the victory of Ukraine or serve the informational needs of Trumpist Republicans.

For example: “Moscow no longer doubts: Kyiv will have to sign the capitulation,” writes the Serbian media “Politika”. Then a new historical period will begin for the former Ukraine — for those who will return home. A common future with Russia is the only option for Ukrainians.” The thing is that the Serbian “Politika” is a pro-Russian publication that spreads Kremlin narratives. The same publication quoted the Luhansk “military expert” Andrii Marochko, who justified the attack on the television tower in Kharkiv. Apparently, there were military translators on the tower, and after its destruction, communication deteriorated so much that the Armed Forces began using aerostats to raise relay antennas.

“Radio “Death”: what Russian propagandists tell the Ukrainian military
A screenshot of the propaganda website

Here is another example of figurative cutting of quotes: “The growth of the Russian economy this year will be equal to the indicators of the USA, Japan and France,” “Radio Zhizn” quoted the French publication Le Figaro. However, there is a nuance again. The article goes on to name the price of such a “Russian miracle” — the transition to the military economy using rapidly depleting reserves. Therefore, the forecasts for 2024-2025 are “less favourable”.

“Bad news” about Ukraine “Radio Zhizn” also broadcasts on the telegram channel of the same name to a modest 2 thousand subscribers. “The United States has declared that they can no longer transfer air defence funds to Kyiv due to unprecedented losses,” propagandists claim, referring to a tweet by American billionaire David Sachs. He really did write “It should have been better to protect expensive equipment” and called for “peaceful negotiations“. However, entrepreneur and investor David Sachs has repeatedly spread pro-Russian narratives before that. For example, he is convinced that Ukraine is involved in the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall near Moscow. So, the propagandists quote another useful “expert” for Russia.

As for the Patriot, according to the Military Balance 2024 guide, the US currently has 480 launchers. And this is without taking into account installations of other types that are also used in Ukraine.

“Radio “Death”: what Russian propagandists tell the Ukrainian military

FM propaganda. What narratives does the radio spread?

The messages of the Belgorod radio turned out to be more viable than the rest of the propaganda because they were not invented but based on existing anti-Ukrainian narratives. Thus, the phrase “none of the sons of deputies went to serve” can be heard not only from propagandists but also from Ukrainians dissatisfied with the mobilisation. On Radio Zhizn, it was only reinforced by other similar messages such as: “TCC are thieves and violate the Constitution” or “Ukraine has abandoned its citizens abroad.” Although there are more familiar messages for Russian propaganda such as “Ukraine is the property of Western masters” and “the West is fighting Russia with the hands of Ukrainians.”

The topic of mobilisation is one of the most sensitive in Ukrainian society today. Russian propagandists use disinformation and out-of-context statements to disrupt mobilisation in Ukraine. They are searching the Ukrainian information space for videos where it seems that TCC employees are brutalising men and accompanying them with comments that Ukraine sends people to their deaths. The message “mobilisation equals a death sentence” is an exaggeration. Many specialities in the military do not involve fighting at the front line or participating in combat operations at the point of attack. Also, mobilisation is not a sentence or a synonym for mutilation, as propagandists suggest, it is a necessary measure to protect one’s land from the invaders.

Recently, Russian Telegram channels spread a fake video in which an employee of the Zhytomyr TCC allegedly “buried” a petitioner. Propagandists claimed that this is how the military commissariat workers try to intimidate men who refuse to go to the front. However, the video turned out to be a Russian-made fake, with which propagandists tried to discredit TCC collaborators.

Along with the tagline “Get your life out of Zelenskyi’s clutches — join the Russian army,” the radio broadcasts “letters” in Ukrainian, allegedly from the mother of a Ukrainian soldier. According to the plot, the “mother” “wept all her tears” for her military son. Propagandists exploit the usual message for Moscow about “two nations who have quarrelled”, “war of politicians” and soldiers who are “driven to the slaughter like cattle, like sheep”. The “Letter” ends with the curses aimed at Zelenskyi and claims that “war is not necessary.”

“Radio “Death”: what Russian propagandists tell the Ukrainian military

On Radio Zhizn, such “biting” blocks usually end with songs with the lines “Motherland, faith and family — this is my Motherland,” or a song about going out into the field with a horse.

We cannot disagree with the fact that war is unnecessary. But it will stop as soon as the Kremlin gives the order to stop it. Propagandists soak up the main point: Ukraine is fighting for its survival and not to repeat the fears of Buchi and Mariupol. Laying down arms will only mean loss of freedom and harsh Russian occupation with torture chambers, infiltrations, and illegal prisons. By ceasing resistance, Ukraine will not be able to count on a just and stable peace and will only postpone the full occupation. At the same time, the motivation of the Russian military is money. The average salary of a Russian contractor on the front line is 220-250 thousand rubles (approximately 92-105 thousand hryvnias) per month. For depressed regions, where there is no work, and marginal people, hung with loans, this is a unique opportunity to earn money. That is why the aggressor country can still find people willing to join the army.

Going “to slaughter” and “meat assaults” is a typical stamp of Russian propaganda, which reflects the Russian reality. It is the Russian conscripts and their wives who complain about sending untrained soldiers into battle and prisons for those who refuse to go into battle. Russian propagandists take everything negative that happens in Russia and attribute it to Ukraine. The tactical victories of the Russian Federation at the front are won with gigantic sacrifices. Moscow, which has a much greater human potential, can afford to pelt the enemy with the bodies of soldiers.

Special attention is given to the adoption by the US Congress of a bill on the allocation of almost 61 billion dollars of aid to Ukraine. The propagandists first claimed that there would be no help, but now they claim that there is no help. Radio Zhizn broadcasts narratives like: “Western aid will only increase the number of dead Ukrainians” and “The aid allocated by the US to Ukraine is actually given as a loan, so this package is a debt bondage.”

“Radio “Death”: what Russian propagandists tell the Ukrainian military

The loan from the US is another case when propagandists do not want to go into details, otherwise the fake will fall apart. Ukraine will indeed receive a loan of 7.85 billion dollars of direct financial assistance to the state budget. However, already after the US presidential elections in November, the American authorities can write off half of this loan, and from January 1, 2026 – write off all the debt.

This is followed by a mention of corruption in Ukraine, which “only grows during the war”, and apparently “almost every fifth person stole something during this war”. It is quite strange to hear accusations of corruption from Russians, for whom bribery is almost a national sport. For example, the other day a court in Moscow seized the real estate, assets, and bank accounts of Timur Ivanov, the Deputy Minister of Defence of Russia, who is suspected of receiving a particularly large bribe. The arrested official took part in the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome, the monster temple of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and the “restoration of Mariupol”. He is a corrupt person who was involved in billion-dollar transactions, and he was detained only in the third year of a full-scale war and only because of the redistribution of spheres of influence in the Russian Federation.

From time to time, “Radio Zhizn” repeats the instructions for the surrender of prisoners of war for Ukrainian servicemen. It is accompanied by an emotional text in Ukrainian about the inevitable defeat. The text is peppered with Kremlin messages about deliberately sowing enmity between peoples, traitors on Bankova Street, the division of the people based on language, and Zelenskyi’s goal to destroy as many Ukrainians as possible.

“Radio Zhizn” also found a place in the broadcast to accuse Ukraine of shooting down a plane with Ukrainian prisoners. “It was Zelenskyi who gave the order to shoot down the IL-76 plane with the captured soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who were going home on board,” propagandists claim. It is followed by the history of Ukraine, invented by the Kremlin, with the “gifted” Independence and Ukrainian women who go to serve Polish lords. The text block ends with a call to surrender: “Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, drop your weapons. We guarantee you life, we guarantee that you will be able to see your family later. Live, not die for Ukraine.”

“Radio “Death”: what Russian propagandists tell the Ukrainian military

The message to civilians is in Russian and contains threats such as: “Don’t let your cities turn into a second Mariupol, where the Ukrainian military used local residents as human shields.” The occupiers intimidate with “responsibility” for the assistance of the Armed Forces and resistance to the invaders. Propagandists present the occupation of the territory as an inevitable fact. The mention of Mariupol is generally the peak of Russian cynicism. After all, it was the Russian army that attacked the city from water, land, and air. It was because of the Russian invasion that Mariupol was destroyed, as were Bakhmut, Soledar and Avdiivka.

“The liberation of Ukraine from the power of the Kyiv junta is inevitable. With the arrival of Russia, everyone who acted to the detriment of his fellow citizens… will be held accountable. Actions such as denunciations of people who speak Russian or sympathise with Russians will not go unanswered,” the scarecrow reads. Ukrainians are suggested to follow themselves, because “punishment will inevitably catch up with everyone who helped the Kyiv junta to organise the genocide of the Russian population.”

But the cherry on the cake is the “Daily formation of the Red Army”. This is what propagandists call a completely fictional text about the events at the front that allegedly happened this week. Everything is here: thousands of fascists killed, dozens of destroyed warehouses with ammunition, destroyed “Khaimars”, a burned-out MiG-28 aircraft, and AASM Hammer aerial bombs, which the valiant Russian air defence forces shoot down in bunches. We will leave this fragment below for familiarisation.

Beware, Russian propaganda!

Interestingly, the calls to surrender here contrast with the aggressive glossary about Ukrainians. Yes, Ukraine here is the “Kyiv regime”, “junta” or “banderland”. Ukrainian soldiers are “Hitlers who died by the thousands for the billions of Zelenskyi’s gang”, “nationalists”, “Banderivites”, “foreign mercenaries”, “fritzes”, “frogs”, “Zelenskyi’s rams”, “Natsyks” or “freaks”.

“Radio Zhizn” has its website, where there are instructions on surrender for military personnel in Russian and English. There is an instruction for civilians, which advises not to trust the Ukrainian mass media and not to go to “state shelters” to “not be taken hostage by the Ukrainian military.” Civilians are urged to transmit information about the movement of Ukrainian troops through a bot on the radio website.

How can Ukraine respond?

The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, the Security Service and various units of the Armed Forces also have similar bots through which information about enemy movements can be transmitted. However, it has not yet reached the point of broadcasting to the occupying audience.

The Dim TV channel was supposed to become a broadcaster for the occupied Ukrainian territories, but it did not cope with this task. Currently, in the occupation, it can only be watched on the Internet via a VPN, like any other Ukrainian channel.

In 2014 and 2022, immediately after the seizure of Ukrainian territories, Russia stopped broadcasting Ukrainian channels and radio stations. It was still not possible to restore the Ukrainian signal to TOT. Moreover, the Russian signal is targeting unoccupied Kharkiv Oblast, Kherson Oblast, Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk Oblast.

The role of media for the military is now performed by ArmiyaTV. The TV channel, which was created by the military for the military, has pages on social networks and YouTube. However, it does not carry out counterpropaganda on Russian territory and does not call on the Russians to lay down their arms.

More than a year ago, the Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War launched a 24-hour hotline and a Telegram bot, where servicemen of the Russian army can report their desire to surrender. As of December 2023, more than 30,000 applications were received from those willing to surrender.

Ethereal frequencies do not tolerate emptiness and are quickly filled with new voices. Russian propaganda misinforms and stresses the residents of the frontline areas. Skilfully made propaganda also puts pressure on the pain points of Ukrainians and plays on their fears and anxieties. A project like “Radio Zhizn” plays the role of a repeater that strengthens anti-Ukrainian sentiments and manipulates and intimidates.

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