Hours after saying that “psychological special operations” based in Kyiv would be under attack, Russia appears to have launched a missile strike on Kyiv’s main TV tower.
The strike comes after much commentary around the “information war” going on in parallel with the ground war in Ukraine.
In some sense, that war began long before Russian troops began firing on Feb. 24. The United States and other Western nations, in publicizing accurate information about Putin’s plans to attack Ukraine in the weeks and months before the invasion, made clear that should an invasion occur, Russia would be the aggressor.
Since then, the Ukrainians have managed to spread stories — some of which have been unfounded or exaggerated — about their country’s heroes. The story of Snake island, where soldiers supposedly told a Russian warship to “fuck off” rather than surrender, has both resonated as a war slogan and been partly debunked — though it was reported that the soldiers were all killed, they are still alive.
The Kremlin gained a reputation for being a master manipulator of information after conjuring up a rebellion in Ukraine in 2014 and meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. But in this fight’s early days, Ukrainian officials appear to have found a way to gain the upper hand, keeping morale among their people relatively high and persuading European diplomats to provide military aid.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that it was targeting “psychological special operations” infrastructure in Kyiv, as part of its effort to “block information attacks on Russia.”
Ukraine’s security establishment also seems to perceive information warfare as a crucial part of the conflict.
After reports emerged from the city of Kherson on Tuesday that besieging Russian soldiers told locals that Zelensky had surrendered the country’s military, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov warned that Russia was preparing an “informational-psychological operation.”
“At the start, they plan to block communications,” he wrote. “Then, they will send fake messages en masse about how Ukraine’s military and political leadership have supposedly capitulated.”
Hours later, the missile hit Kyiv’s main TV broadcasting tower.
One video posted on Instagram showed charred bodies lying in front of a building near the tower’s base. Ash and embers floated down from a sky clouded with smoke, as emergency workers evacuated people.
Russian state and media websites have been down periodically since the invasion began.
“Since the beginning of the special military operation, the amount of information attacks on multiple state institutions of the Russian Federation has increased multiple times,” the Russian Ministry of Defense’s message said, adding that Kyiv residents should evacuate areas near military and security offices.