Outrageous criticism of the Ukraine war on Russian state television: “The situation will get worse for us,” says a retired colonel at prime time, and: “We are isolated, the world is against us.” The moderator tries in vain to hold him back.

The use of atomic bombs against Europe is already newsworthy for Russian state television: At prime time, graphics can be seen on which the flight duration of ICBMs is presented almost proudly. From Kaliningrad to Berlin, for example, it is 106 seconds, to London 202. Such shower scenarios are not only for information purposes, they are also intended to make it clear who the enemy is and how little he has or could do against his own forces. Rossiya 1 is one of those blunt Kremlin propaganda outlets, but sometimes the show doesn’t quite go to script.

“Ukraine will fight to the last man”

On Monday afternoon, retired Colonel Mikhail Chodarenok spoke with moderator Olga Skabeeva about the “special military operation”, as the war against Ukraine is called in Russia. What he had to say was extremely unusual for state TV, because it contradicted almost all official jubilant reports about the allegedly “planned” course of the war: “The situation will definitely get worse for us,” he said, and also provided a reason. Because the morale of the Ukrainian army is enormous, as is their desire to defend their fatherland “to the last man,” as the retired military man said.

He identifies the political situation as one of the biggest problems of the Russian army: “We are completely isolated, the whole world is against us, even if we don’t want to admit it,” said Chodarenok in the one-hour broadcast. A situation in which we are faced with a coalition of 42 states and our resources, both military-political and military-technical, cannot be described as planned, the former colonel continued. His words were also a clear criticism of the state leadership.

The British BBC writes about the extraordinary performance: “The other studio guests were silent. Presenter Olga Skabeeva, who usually defends the Kremlin ardently and loudly, became strangely meek.” A few times, however, she smacks the unruly studio guest and tries to catch his message again. But in vain, Khodarenok sticks to his attitude. The reactions could also have something to do with the fact that the military expert has a credibility that is rather unpleasant for the Russian government. Because already in February he had warned in an essay about the exact course of the war that has now occurred.

“Excessive optimism, mood ignored”

“Now there is talk of a ‘powerful fire blast from Russia’ that could wipe out ‘virtually all surveillance and communication systems and artillery’. Apart from the fact that from a military point of view there is no such thing, nobody can expect the annihilation of an entire state’s armed forces. That would simply be over-optimism. Also, to say that nobody in Ukraine will defend the regime is to completely ignore the situation and mood of the population there. Nobody in Ukraine will greet the Russian army with bread, salt and flowers,” wrote Chodarenok then in the military section of the “Independent Newspaper”.

It is unclear whether the former colonel’s critical appearance was a “PR accident” or whether it served a specific purpose, such as preparing the population for more unpleasant times. But not very unusual. There are always experts who do not join in the chorus of state propaganda . Partly to give the impression of balance in reporting, but also partly to address obvious problems: “You are part of the show. Putin must give the Russians a plausible explanation for the fact that their army has been fighting for 80 days but cannot report any successes”, according to the former head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kyiv, Sergej Sumlenny, in the “Bild”.

Sources: TV Russia 1, BBC, “Independent Newspaper”, “World”, “Image”