As Russia’s war against Ukraine enters its second month, the grim picture of destruction and suffering breaks through state-controlled television. Before the invasion, military experts predicted a swift takeover of Russia’s peaceful neighbor within minutes. Now that reality is setting in, they grimly suspect it will take several decades to conquer freedom-loving Ukraine.
State television announcers have tried in vain to paint a rosy picture of the Kremlin invasion, but cracks are beginning to show. On Thursday, with screens showing dramatic images of devastated Mariupol, state television presenters flashed behind them 60 minutes, Olga Skabeeva and Evgeny Popov tried to point out the “positives”. They noted that Russia promised to pay some Ukrainians from the “affected” areas compensation – 10,000 rubles each, which is just $100.
“What do we do now? What’s our plan? Everything is bad, nothing works?”
To make matters worse, Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia could end up in places like Russia’s Sakhalin island in the Pacific, where there are freezing temperatures and barren landscapes. After discussing news reports about ongoing relocations, Evgeny Popov helpfully pointed out: “But on Sakhalin, salaries are the highest in the country!”
The chorus of concerned voices in Russia’s state media blamed the failure of their country’s information warfare on the fact that the Kremlin’s propaganda channels were banned in Ukraine. State television expert Nikolai Starikov suggested: “If we talk about the organizers of the infowar, I am convinced that their place is on the same bench where Nazi criminals are tried.” The hosts, who for years baiting for a war against Ukraine on false pretenses watched nervously without comment.
State Duma Deputy General Vladimir Shamanov – former commander of the Russian Airborne Forces – accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of being a “war criminal” for not surrendering to Russia. Shamanov argued, “He has the right to say, ‘Stop this war,’ lay down your arms and save all people.” This bizarre, inverted narrative is intended to hide the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who civilized world considered a war criminal is solely responsible for beginning and continuing his unprovoked invasion of a neighboring country.
Political scientist Vitaly Tretyakov concluded: “The situation is serious… We must admit that there was no psychological breakthrough in our operation, in which the opposite side would lose its will to resist… Resistance from the Ukrainian side does not stop nor weaken either.” Tretyakov pointed out pointed out that despite attempts to portray Zelenskyy as a drug addict in the Russian media, Zelenskyy was perceived by the West as the leader of a country under attack. He also questioned the wisdom of “liberating” Ukrainians who apparently do not want to be “liberated” and vehemently hate seeing Russian troops on their territory. Tretyakov noted the steadfast determination of Western leaders to “squeeze” the Russian economy by imposing punitive sanctions.
Hostess Olga Skabeeva was visibly shaken by the depressing realities revealed by Tretyakov’s remarks. She snapped: “So you’ve sprinkled the ashes all over your head but what do we do now? What’s our plan? Everything is bad, nothing works?” Skabeeva angrily asked if Tretyakov had anything to offer apart from criticism. After pointing out that societies tend to tire of military operations fairly quickly, Skabeeva argued, “If you’re tired, that doesn’t mean everyone else is tired.” Visibly annoyed, she repeatedly yelled at Tretyakov, impersonating his support for questioned the Russian military, telling the expert that his comment “smacks of something inappropriate.”
“It can be clearly predicted that we will have to stay in Ukraine for 30-40 years.”
If Skabeeva counted on other experts to lighten the mood in the studio, she was badly mistaken. Military pundits continued to pound nails in the coffin of popular delusions about the expected outcome of Putin’s war in Ukraine. On Thursday, military expert Igor Korotchenko called for using military force to stop all protests and “interning” vocal opponents of the Russian armed forces. Korotchenko demanded that all Ukrainian flags and symbols be destroyed and replaced with Russian and Soviet flags. He also demanded that Ukrainians who fled to NATO countries be denied the opportunity to return to their country.
In January, experts on the same show estimated that Russia could overtake the entire neighboring country in 11 minutes. Their current predictions have shifted from minutes to decades for Russian forces to achieve Putin’s goals in his senseless war against Ukraine.
Korotchenko surmised, “It is obvious that the process of denazification of Ukraine will take at least 15-20 years.” He predicted that Russian troops would have to remain on Ukrainian territory, with the Russian military in command of the entire country for the foreseeable future: ”Whether that will last 15, 20 years or longer, time will tell.”
General Shamanov was even more pessimistic, fiercely assuming that it would take at least two generations of Ukrainians to “re-educate” before they would welcome or tolerate Russia’s dominance. He also pointed out that Russia’s one-million-strong armed forces are insufficient to meet such a challenge and called for a massive increase in the country’s military power. Shamalov concluded: “Today it can be clearly predicted that we will have to stay in Ukraine for 30-40 years.”