Tea leaf reading for “Z-Universe” pro-war Russia

One of the byproducts of the Ukraine war was the emergence of the online “Z-Universe,” a massive network of websites and social media accounts named after a popular pro-war icon. It is more active on Telegram, which, unlike Twitter and Facebook, Russia is not banned, all its participants spread pro-Kremlin and anti-Ukrainian propaganda, publish information that may or may not be true, but it legitimizes the war and the killing of Ukrainians.

Universe Z looks chaotic, but it’s actually quite complex – and hierarchical. At the top of the list are Kremlin politicians and officials, such as former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. On the next level are rulers and warlords, such as the head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushlin, or the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. Below are the heads of state media and talk show hosts. And even less so, the class of “analysts” and war correspondents. Below is an army of trolls. Their Telegram channels have tens of thousands of subscribers, but most of them are bots.

In the first days of September, during the Ukrainian counterattack in the Kharkiv region, the Z-Universe went into a state of shock. Not so long ago, in the virtual world, the Russian army was “the second best army in the world” and could take any European capital if it put in enough effort. But, suddenly, the Russian army could not even keep some medium-sized Ukrainian cities.

The first reaction was denial. On September 9, as the Russian army was fleeing the town of Izeum, war correspondent Alexander Coates was still doing what he had been doing throughout the war: providing disinformation. he is happy published Videos of paratroopers landing from helicopters and everyone promised that Eziom would never fall. Three days later, Coates was writing from another location tens of kilometers from Isis.

“Balaklya, Kobyansk and Izyum surrendered. We are withdrawing from most of the Kharkiv region. This is a military disaster,” the newspaper wrote. Zastavni cable Channel. Telegram wrote: “I cannot explain what is happening now on the Izyum front. But there is only one option: tomorrow all those responsible for the failure of the front will be arrested for high treason.” Channel Zevov.

The explosion on the Crimean bridge lowered the morale of Universe Z: “It is no longer clear who is leading the special operation: is it still Russia or really Ukraine?” Wrote single channel.

Then, it’s time to count. Kadyrov accused the commander of the Russian armed forces in eastern Ukraine, Alexander Lapin, of incompetence, and the chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, also accused of nepotism. Kadyrov Wrote: “Useless Labin….if it were up to me, I would have demoted Labin to the soldier, stripped him of his medals and sent him forward to disgrace him with a machine gun.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner mercenary group, echo Kadyrov: “All these bastards should be sent to the front barefoot with a submachine gun.”

Such public stinging criticism of government officials is very unusual in Russia today. However, it is worth remembering that none of these people express their personal opinions. They all have a patron at the top of the Kremlin pyramid. The patron of both Kadyrov and Prigozhin is widely considered the head of the Russian National Guard, Viktor Zolotov.

Obviously, Zolotov decided to use the army’s failures to weaken the position of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had been linked to be Putin’s successor before the war.

Unexpectedly, it seems that some Kremlin officials also joined the attack on Shoigu. Rumor has it that the anonymous Telegram channel Nezygar expresses the opinions of the presidential administration. “The direct agents and mediators of the operation in Washington and London succeeded in dragging Russia into a direct and large-scale military conflict with Ukraine and an indirect conflict with the NATO bloc,” Wrote newly.

All these maneuvers were successful. General Labin remained in office, but General Sergei Surovkin was appointed at his head to lead all military operations in Ukraine. Kadyrov was promoted to the rank of colonel, equal to the rank of Lapin.

Enter Igor Strelkov, a retired colonel of the FSB and awesome awesome From Z-Universe. In 2014, Strelkov led the rebel militants to seize power in Donetsk, then became Minister of Defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic, fought without much success and was replaced by officers of the regular Russian army.

Since then, Strelkov has constantly criticized Russian military leaders. From the first day of the war, he advocated general mobilization, “information mobilization” – that is, national hysteria – and the subordination of the economy to the needs of the army. He called the Russian military leadership “idiots” and called Shoigu a “cartoon field marshal”. It is believed that Strelkov is a spokesman for the leadership of the FSB and officers of the national army.

Nobody from the siloviki – the Ministry of Defense, the FSB, the Russian National Guard – has an eye on the Kremlin throne. They are vying for influence over Putin. However, as did journalist Yulia Latynina pointed out“The battle being fought is for Shoigu’s position, not for Putin’s throne. But whoever will become Shoigu’s successor will also become Putin’s successor.”

Of course, it is difficult to fully understand what is going on in and around the Kremlin, even by analyzing the signals from the Z-Universe. What is clear, however, is that military failures have fueled the power struggle.

All this points to what historian Timothy Snyder points out It is considered Most likely the end of the war. Although the events are unlikely to lead to civil war and armed clashes inside Russia, the logic of a serious power struggle will force the main players to withdraw as many combat-ready units as possible from Ukraine and bring them closer to home.

In the case of Kadyrov, this is Chechnya. While other clans will need to bring their armies closer to Moscow. Then the war will end on its own.

As Snyder points out: “This, of course, would be a very good thing, for Ukraine and the world.”

The opinions expressed in the opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the position of the “Moscow Times”.

Leave a Comment