Ukraine SitRep: Zelenski’s Propaganda Outlet Is Leading His Decline

In early 2022, at the start of the war in Ukraine, the government of President Zelenski monopolized all television news:

Since the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, the people of Ukraine have had access to a single source of television news — an all-day broadcast packed with footage of Ukrainian tanks blasting Russian positions, medics operating near the frontline and political leaders rallying support abroad.

The show, Telemarathon United News, has been a major tool of Ukraine’s information war, praised by the government officials who regularly appear on it for its role in countering Russian disinformation and maintaining morale.

“It’s a weapon,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said last January of the program, which is jointly produced and broadcast 24/7 by the country’s biggest television channels.

The Telethon, as it is known in Ukraine, became the sole source of news on Ukrainian airwaves. It was partially financed by the Ukrainian regime.  It soon developed into the main outlet for the Ukrainian government to spread its propaganda. It continuously presented alleged Ukrainian successes and derided Russia’s capabilities.

It had deluded many Ukrainians into believing that their country can win the war.

But since the much propagandized 2023 ‘counteroffensive’ has failed people have turned away from it.

A few still hang on. In a recent debate with military officers in Ukraine one pimpled youngster, drunk on Telethon disinformation, asked one of the Ukrainian officers about the ‘bad quality of Russian weapons’.

He received an unexpected response. (I have seen the video of the exchange on Twitter but fail to re-find it.)

Strana, the Ukrainian news service prohibited in Ukraine and Russia, reported the exchange (machine translation):

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military is discussing that at the end of the second year of the war, the Russian army is better armed and equipped than the Ukrainian one. This was stated by the battalion commander of the third assault brigade (one of the main strike forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine) Rollo.

This is how he answered the question of what the average Russian military equipment is and “how much worse it is than ours.”

“The Russian army is no worse than the Ukrainian one, even better. Technologically better equipped, more equipment, better weapons, better equipment than the Ukrainian one. What makes you think they’re worse? This is even some kind of humiliation that turns out to be ours. Like, “f**k you’re fighting the law and there’s nothing you can do?”. But because they are stronger – this is objective, ” Rollo said.

According to him, the Russians not only have better equipment, but also state programs for equipping and providing the army.

“Don’t underestimate the opponent, this is a very serious opponent. More serious than most armies in the world. Treating them like dol***bam and lo*am, that’s what we do, dol***oby and lo*i, if we do that,” Rollo added.

Other commanders advised turning off the telethon at home, which promotes the idea that the Russian army is weak.

(I do not know what “dol***bam” and “lo*am” stand for but they don’t seem to be nice words.)

The third assault brigade is part of AZOV, the fascist organization that has grown exponentially under the Zelenski regime.

If even its ideological deluded officers freely admit that Russian forces are superior to them, imagine how the average Ukrainian soldier on the ground feels about his country’s chances to win the war.

In early March 2022 I had warned that Lies Do Not Win Wars. Ukrainian propaganda, with support from western media,  the neoconservative ISW and the disinformation branch of Britain’s Ministry of Defense, has been full of lies and exaggerations. But the real war is lost on the ground and, over time, its reality seeps in.

The Telethon has lost its usefulness due to the constant disinformation it has spread. Its viewership is down to 10% as the Ukrainian people now get their news from Telegram and tune their TVs to reality shows and other diversions on different channels.

That the New York Times has finally picked up on this can be interpreted as a U.S. government attempt to further distance itself from the Zelenski regime in Ukraine:

Another concern is that Telemarathon has transformed into a public relations operation for Mr. Zelensky, who remains Ukraine’s most trusted political figure but has seen his approval ratings decrease in recent months.

Figures compiled by Mr. Kulias show that members of Servant of the People, Mr. Zelensky’s party, accounted for more than 68 percent of the program’s political guests in 2023, with this proportion rising steadily throughout the year. Servant of the People controls half of the seats in Parliament.

“It’s like a unanimous point of view,” Andrii Khantil, a 41-year-old lawyer, said of Telemarathon on a recent evening near the Golden Gate, a reconstructed gateway that marked the entrance to Kyiv in medieval times. “It’s not really what we need. It’s not helpful.”

This attack on Zelenski’s propaganda outlet comes while there is a new spat between the president and the commander of the Ukrainian force over the additional mobilization of 500,000 men. Zelenski had said that this would fulfill a requirement that the military had made.

General Zaluzny publicly rejected that claim:

In response to recent statements suggesting a potential mobilization of up to half a million people in Ukraine, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Valery Zaluzhny, said that the military command has not formally requested the mobilization.

“The military command has not made a single request [to the authorities] for any figures. The military command continues to perform the function of protecting the state and, accordingly, forms its requests for ammunition, weapons and human resources,” Zaluzhny stated during a national telethon.

“This is done on an ongoing basis, but we do not carry out [such requests] in some separate format by submitting it to the government or the Verkhovna Rada,” he added.

Zelenski’s attempt to pass the mobilization buck to Zaluzny has failed. As the reality of a lost war bubbles to the surface his public ratings will sink to new lows.

Gordon Hahn describes the atmosphere in Ukraine as pre-revolutionary:

Kiev is now gripped by crisis politics. With the Ukraine’s defense lines and army in slow-motion collapse and extreme discontent among top military commanders and across the political elite, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy is fighting for his political and personal survival. More importantly, the stakes could not be higher for the Maidan regime’s coalition of nationalists, neofascist, corruptionaires, new oligarchs, and the occasional republican. Meanwhile, the young Ukrainian state, based on still poorly consolidated quasi-republican institutions and a nationalist ideology, is at risk of disintegration, dissolution, and even disappearance. It surrounded by growing threats: the Russian army, angry Ukrainian soldiers and commanders, Kiev’s financial and economic insolvency and dissipation, popular desperation, and the risk of palace or military coups, even a new ‘Galician’ civil war.

Soon something will break.

The telethon that had helped Zelenski to gain the peoples’ attention and admiration is now leading the path to his decline.

I doubt that he, at the end of this years, will still be the president of Ukraine.