Shortly before a possible withdrawal of the Russian army from occupied Cherson in southern Ukraine, Kremlin propagandists are also preparing for one of the greatest defeats since the beginning of the war. The presidential administration has prepared several propaganda manuals for employees of state media, as reported by the independent Russian exile medium “Meduza”, citing sources close to the Kremlin.

Kyiv is ready to “kill tens of thousands of its own and foreign soldiers” to prove to the West “the combat capability of its terrorist groups” and thus get new weapons. In doing so, the Kremlin is deliberately exploiting the Russian narrative that Ukraine is a terrorist state supported by the West. “Zelenskyj wants to arrange a bloody show for the West,” says the handout for Kremlin reporters.

In a second manual, the state media should then argue with historical comparisons. The presidential administration recommends referring to a speech by the Russian historian Anatoly Torkunov. In a meeting with Putin, Torkunov compared the battle for Kherson to the Battle of Poltava under Tsar Peter I (June 1709). On the territory of today’s Ukraine, the tsar was able to decide the Great Northern War against Sweden for Russia. Torkunov therefore said that Tsar Peter also withdrew to Poltava – and was then able to win the war.

Moscow further accuses Ukraine of planning a “terrorist attack” on the Kakhovka dam on the Denipr River and “simply washing away” civilians as well as the Russian military. Ukraine and Russia repeatedly accuse each other of wanting to destroy the dam. Russian media have already reported Ukrainian attacks, but this has not yet been officially confirmed.

There is no mention of their own war crimes. “Russian troops are scrambling to save the lives of civilians and military personnel,” the online media quoted the handbook as saying. Moscow began so-called forced evacuations as early as mid-October and called on civilians to leave the city. According to eyewitnesses, the city is now more like a ghost town.

The Russian occupiers in Cherson, southern Ukraine, are under increasing pressure. The troops are currently trying to hold their positions on the east side of the Denjpr – but are struggling with supply difficulties. Again and again the Ukraine shells a bridge over the river to slow down Russian supplies. Putin’s commander Sergey Surovikin announced “difficult decisions” at the end of October, which observers interpreted as an indication of a withdrawal from Kherson.

Ultimately, according to “Meduza”, this decision rests with President Vladimir Putin. According to Kremlin sources, Russian authorities would view the surrender in Kherson as an “undesirable” but “likely” front-line scenario. The manuals seem to have already been written.