Good soldiers are ideally trained extensively in battle, fed well and given the best equipment possible. But if they lose their morale, nothing else matters.
Destroying Ukrainian morale appears to be the aim of Russia as they allegedly use psychological tactics on Ukrainian soldiers.
“It is part of hybrid war to keep us in tension all the time,” said a Ukrainian information minister in response to the text messages now terrorizing them, including messages urging soldiers to flee or be killed.
While no source of the texts has been identified, it “reeks of the same playbook the Russian government has used in recent days to try to use cyber-operations to sow confusion and doubt in Ukraine in advance of an invasion,” according to a report.
One text alerted Ukrainians that ATMs weren’t working, in an effort to induce panic. But the messages were deemed fake, according to Ukraine’s police forceGovernment websites and banks in the Ukraine have also been pummeled by DDoS attacks, a cybersecurity agency confirmed.
All this comes as Russia recognized two breakaway territories in Ukraine. And these tactics suggest the Kremlin is about to ramp things up even more, said Steve Hall, a former CIA chief of Russia operations.
Threatening text messages from Russia is not new, and was first noticed after fighting increased in eastern Ukraine in 2014. That’s when Ukrainians began receiving messages their soldiers were being decimated.
Later, similar messages came in 2017:
“Ukrainian soldiers, they’ll find your bodies when the snow melts…” messages warned.
Such tactics harken back to the days when leaflets were dropped on enemy soldiers filled with disinformation. “This is the old script that the Russians used — and that all militaries used,” said Hall.
“You’re always going to prepare the battlefield with some sort of propaganda efforts. Whether you’re dropping leaflets behind enemy lines… now it’s much easier these days you just go on the internet and send these leaflets in electronic format… you’re preparing the battlefield, you’re preparing the battlespace so that you soften resistance.”
Such strategies raise the question whether a counter-operation might be initiated, urging Ukrainians to stand strong for their independence and keep resisting Russia, or if the technological advantage in that region stands squarely with the Kremlin. Only time will tell.