Ukraine’s military reported that a large convoy of Russian supply trucks crossed the porous eastern border without authorization on Sunday. Moscow claims that the convoy, reportedly the eighth since August, is bringing only humanitarian supplies like food and medicine. But that’s almost certainly untrue. Reuters reports:
Months of fighting in Ukraine’s separatist regions have left many without sufficient food and medical supplies. Russia has regularly dispatched shipments of aid, a move which the pro-Western Kiev government has denounced as cynical.“The lion’s share of humanitarian supplies find their way to the rebels partly in the form of food, but mostly it is ammunition, equipment and other things for combat operations,” Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a televised briefing.
The Kremlin has a habit of issuing denials, no matter how implausible, of actions that it finds inconvenient to admit to on the world stage. During the Crimean annexation, Moscow firmly denied that any of its troops were in the region until afterward, when it said so openly and without acknowledging the about-face. When a huge influx of Russian troops including tank columns rolled into Donbass in August and changed the tide of the war completely, Putin insisted that the soldiers were acting of their own accord, as they were “on leave.”This propaganda, put forth largely on state-run television, has proven remarkably effective at guiding public opinion, especially at home. In fact, according to a recent independent poll, more than half of Russians do not believe that their soldiers are fighting in the ongoing shooting war in eastern Ukraine. This is a testament to just how good the Kremlin’s so-called “political technologists” are at manipulating reality for the huge swaths of the Russian population who get their news from state-run media, primarily television. This ability to control perceptions is a linchpin of Putin’s strategies, and it’s impossible to understand his boldness and power without it.