Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of military operations in Eastern Ukraine on Wednesday evening. Shortly thereafter, Russian forces launched an attack across the nation that continues to rage on as we put together this story.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence website is much like the U.S. Defense Department’s web portal, usually serving up public affairs-tailored content meant to present Russia’s military in a positive light. Here at Sandboxx News, we frequent their Ministry of Defence website to keep active tabs on how Russia presents its aggressive actions domestically and abroad, keeping an eye on their use of framing to justify their actions.
However, shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began, access to the Russian military’s homepage was promptly blocked. Multiple members of the Sandboxx News team attempted to gain access using a variety of virtual proxy networks (VPNs) to no avail.
It’s an interesting decision to block access to Russia’s official defense channels within Western nations Russia clearly hopes to both intimidate and influence in order to deter the United States and its allies from responding to Russia’s flagrant disregard for international norms.
Russia, which has grown infamous in recent years for its use of digital means to manipulate perceptions, has no shortage of avenues to distribute information, including Russian state-owned news outlets that have grown to prominence in the international community in recent years. Russia’s government owns and operates hundreds of news organizations throughout the nation and the world, including TASS, Sputnik and RT—all of which see a great deal of exposure among Western Audiences.
However, choosing to block access to the Russian military’s supposed direct means of contact with the broader world suggests that the Kremlin is taking a more direct approach to managing the narrative, limiting the firehose of information to a more defined stream. It may also hint at Russia’s perception of the threat the U.S. and NATO allies pose to its broader goals, as Putin himself cited the United States by name in his address declaring the new military operation in Ukraine.