A war veteran takes a hard line on Russian warfare. “The scourge of this war is total lying at all levels,” he writes. Reports were embellished, lies about the true situation at the front. He was “stunned”.

The Russian military leadership has a growing credibility problem. Reports of false information about the situation of Russian forces in Ukraine are increasing. “The scourge of this war is total lying at all levels,” a former war veteran told the Russian leadership on Telegram’s Veterans Notes channel.

He recently read a report about a unit in Ukraine where he was on site for two weeks. “I was stunned, to say the least,” he writes, because the report did not reflect the actual situation of the unit. “Sometimes you get the impression that all military commanders at the academies were only trained to write nice reports,” he concludes.

The company commander would present his commander with a report describing the actual situation of the unit, the veteran says. Given the lack of equipment, morale, sluggish progress and increasing numbers of wounded and dead from Ukrainian attacks in most sectors, these are likely to be rather poor.

But to make sure the report wasn’t too bad, the commander would make corrections before forwarding it to the regimental commander. Then the same game: He presents his division commander with an even more embellished report. “As long as we don’t defeat the lies, we won’t win anywhere, in principle,” concludes the veteran.

British historian and military expert Chris Owen shared the veteran’s description on his Twitter account. As early as September 2022, he wrote that the Kremlin leadership would constantly get a “prettied up and false picture of the true situation at the front” from its subordinates through a “culture of institutionalized lying”.

Officers and company commanders would cover up the actual position of the troops. As early as September there were units that were “officially” 87 percent intact. In fact, it was only 10 percent.

Ever since the war began, there have been repeated reports that Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin was being “misinformed” (US journalist Peter Alexander, citing sources within the US administration) about how things were really going on the battlefield. Advisors are too afraid to tell the absolute ruler the truth. The political scientist Sabine Fischer speaks of a “vertical power system” in which information does not penetrate to the top link in the chain.

Of course, the “institutionalized lies” also exist as a means of propaganda. Most recently, a reporter uncovered a fabricated “retaliation” for the devastating New Year’s Eve attack on a military barracks in Makiivka. The Russians claimed there were 600 dead Ukrainians. You only met an empty school.

Most recently, the Kremlin also enraged the Russians with embellished death tolls for the New Year’s Eve attack on military accommodation in the Donetsk region and also blamed the rocket impact on the victims with an apparently false justification.

A high-ranking Russian parliamentarian has already demanded that the army “stop lying”. The Defense Ministry’s reports would remain unchanged despite severe setbacks, he criticized. Since the beginning of the war, the Department of Defense has rarely acknowledged backlash by its troops.