Russian Propaganda Spreads Panic over Alleged Coup in Ukraine Again

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This article was first published by (North Macedonia), within the framework of Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Project.

Disinformation is circulating in the region regarding Ukrainian special forces being dissatisfied with the Ukrainian Army’s new leadership and their subsequent preparation for a coup. As has previously been the case, the disinformation comes from the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti. This time, the news agency is using an alleged voice message from a member of a secret Telegram group as its source. Neither the authenticity of the voice message nor the identity of the sender can be verified

Author: Matej Trojachanec

Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, a well-known source of disinformation and propaganda, is fearmongering yet again. This time it claims that special forces from the Ukrainian Armed Forces are preparing a coup against their President Volodymyr Zelenskyy because they were dissatisfied with the change of command of top army officials, more precisely, the dismissal of the number one person of the Ukrainian Military Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

Our specialists gained access to a chat with different kinds of enemy special forces such as the marines, intelligence, special SBU forces [Ukrainian Security Service], as well as various nationalist battalions. These specialists are highly qualified and are obviously not happy with the change of command. They are seriously discussing options on taking down the current government and the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, states the announcement of RIA Novosti.

After the publication from RIA Novosti, many regional media outlets quickly took over its content – Serbia (123), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria (123), as well as other countries. These are some of the headlines:

BREAKING NEWS! Russian spies urgently warned Zelenskyy! A coup may happen at any moment, someone a million times worse coming into power?!
Sputnik discovers: the Ukrainian Army looking into the possibility of taking down Zelenskyy
PUTSCH IN THE MAKING? Ukrainian special forces are taking down Zelenskyy

Ukraine offered no official announcement or any kind of response in response to these articles, probably because this is not the first time that panic was spread about the preparation of a “putsch” against Zelenskyy.

According to RIA Novosti, Russian special services gained access to a Telegram group and the content of some of its voice messages. According to Sputnik, one of the voice messages was sent by Maxim Shevtsov, commander of an intelligence group of the 80th Separate Air Assault Brigade of Ukraine:

If people do not come to defend Zaluzhnyi, if the Army does not come to defend Zaluzhnyi, then the rat [Zelenskyy] will blast [fire] all of them… Let’s take down this green rat and install Zaluzhnyi! In fact, Zelenskyy is the one that needs changing, not Zaluzhnyi. This rat thinks his rating is zero, while Zaluzhnyi has a higher rating, so [Zelenskyy] attempts to fire him, says the person who is allegedly Shevtsov on the audio recording.

It should be stressed that the messages were sent by a member of the group and that the authenticity of the recorded messages and the identity of the speaker cannot be verified. In addition, a single soldier expressing dissatisfaction does not mean there exists an actionable plan for a putsch.

Such (dis)information is no news. Every time rumors circulate about differences of opinion of the Ukrainian leadership concerning a given issue, the media speculates that such a dispute will be the final nail in the coffin for the Ukrainian leadership and that a coup will follow.

Such was the case last February when the Serbian media outlet “Srbija Javlja” reported:

Zelenskyy made a fatal mistake: He is being threatened with a coup!

Last November, shared the news:


Last Summer (21.08.2023), the Serbian media outlet “Pravda” reported:


Last Spring (06.03.2023), Macedonian media outlet Infomaks published an article with the following headline:

Is Zelenskyy being threatened with a putsch? Conflict with Zaluzhnyi over Bakhmut!

If one were to only read the headlines of these articles, one would get the impression that the Ukrainian leadership is on the brink of collapse. But if one were to read the articles, one would quickly realize that they are either analyses or articles with clickbait headlines taken from suspicious sources.

What preceded this “putsch”?
As always, such news aims to create panic and fearmongering, especially among Ukrainians. But what wider context preceded this news?

Firstly, last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France had “no limits” in its support for Ukraine, culminating in the signing of the long-term support and security agreement between France and Ukraine.

Additionally, Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov, officially visited Turkey. During the visit, as reported by MIA, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Ukrainian counterpart discussed, among other things, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, or the agreement on the grain export corridor and the search for sustainable peace in the region. According to the French newspaper “Le Mond”, Zelenskyy also visited the shipyard Tuzla, where corvettes are being built for the Ukrainian Navy.

Both events are without a doubt important for Ukraine, bearing in mind the fact that two years after the conflict, the Ukrainian Army is facing a severe shortage of ammunition, amidst a growing “Ukraine fatigue”, or a lack of will of some countries continue providing financial aid for Ukraine. Additionally, there is ”fatigue” among European citizens, considering the social welfare, housing and new jobs provided for Ukrainian immigrants, at a time of high inflation and unemployment rates within the general population.

Another source of pressure is the US Congress stalling on providing financial aid for Ukraine. However, Congress’s stalling could merely be an overture to what is to follow, depending on the results of this year’s US presidential elections. As stated by Hungarian President Viktor Orban, following his meeting with former US President and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump:

He [Trump] will not spend a dime for the Ukraine-Russia war. That is why the war will end, because it is obvious that Ukraine cannot stand on its own two feet.