Belarus at gunpoint: Russia sets up information warfare units

Information army is available in Russia, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told journalists. According to him, the information warfare units created are even more effective than those that existed before and were called ‘counter-propaganda’. Does this mean the Kremlin is unleashing another information war?

‘We have modern military equipment and fully qualified army personnel’ – the Russian leadership lays special emphasis on the country’s defense capability at every occasion. However, the fact of information forces existing was not officially confirmed. Very few people knew about it until the Defense Minister finally discovered the secret during his speech in the Duma.

“Now we need special propaganda. We should not only have a good knowledge of the enemy army, but also prepare for the work with local population,” notorious Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the LDPR faction, said.

“Information operations forces have been created. They are much more efficient than those you mentioned. Propaganda must be healthy and sensible,” Sergei Shoigu answered.

The world could see how Russia was ‘working’ with the locals during the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas. According to experts, it is the pro-Kremlin media that were behind the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

“Not nuclear missiles are the most powerful weapon of the Kremlin, but their TV that zombifies people. The war in Donbas was possible only due to the help of television. But that happened on the spur of the moment; now they have decided to create a state propaganda machine,” says military journalist Arkady Babchenko.

Until now, the Kremlin has denied information about the existence of cyber units in the Russian army. In January, Russia was reported to be one of five countries which spend big money on espionage, cyber attacks and information warfare. According to Zecurion Analytics, Russia’s information army includes about one thousand persons and the Kremlin allocates $300 mln for its activities.

“First of all, this is very bad news for Russia’s closest neighbors. After the outbreak of war in Donbas the Baltic countries and Poland started to increase their defense power as part of NATO. The armed conflict in Ukraine has escalated again. Moscow-Minsks relation are becoming tense – gas, oil and food wars have broken new ground. It is obvious that it will not be quiet on the information front either,” says political analsyst Alyaksandr Klaskouski.

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It is an open secret that the Kremlen has been waging an information war against Belarusians for long, which is proved by pro-Putin analysts’ comments. For example, Leonid Reshetnikov, Head of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISI), denies the sovereignty of Belarus.

“What would you like to be proud of? Of Polish nobles and Litvin princes? How can you be outraged by my words? I say that Belarus and Ukraine is part of great Russia!” he said.

Statements like that were voiced by pro-Kremlin officials in the run-up of the war in Donbas. But many people in Europe thought nothing of them at that time.