Over the past few days, the Ukrainian military launched a successful counteroffensive to regain control of the city of Izium and other territory in the northwestern Kharkiv region from Russian occupying forces. The Alliance for Securing Democracy ran a focused search on the Yandex Dashboard from the previous five days to see what news, if any, about Ukrainian gains materialized on Yandex’s news and search functions. The portrayal of recent events ranged from non-existent to neutral, with the occasional article painting a rosier picture for Russians.
We began by examining the articles featured in Yandex’s top headlines in Russia. A targeted search of articles referencing Ukraine in the headline yielded just one article about Izium from Russian state-sponsored outlet RIA Novosti. The article describes how Ukrainian shelling, particularly from “foreign HIMARS weapons,” caused significant damage to the city. The only other noteworthy piece from this tranche of articles was a missive from Russian state-sponsored Lenta purporting that American mercenaries from Academi, the company formerly known as Blackwater, are participating in Ukrainian operations.
Selecting headlines that referenced the Armed Forces of Ukraine yielded similar results. In addition to the articles about Ukrainian shelling of Izium and another piece in Gazeta about American mercenaries, Yandex featured a RIA Novosti article about 300 Ukrainian soldiers allegedly dying in Russian operations around Kharkiv and Donetsk. It also featured an article in Lenta from September 7, early in the Ukrainian counteroffensive, that described Ukraine’s military as unable to “consolidate its gains” around Kharkiv except for some localized areas. Thus far, that prediction has not proven true.
In the regional headlines section of Yandex, we focused on Donetsk, as we thought it might have the most frequent reporting from the front. Of the 82 articles over the last five days, there is next to nothing on Ukrainian gains in the region.
There are several articles touting Russia’s so-called “liberation” of Mariupol and blow-by-blow accounts of fighting around the small town of Lyman (Krasnyi Liman to Russia), not far from Izium. The closest acknowledgement to things going south for Russian and separatist forces is the leader of the separatists in Donetsk Denis Pushilin stating that the situation is ”difficult” around Lyman.
On Yandex’s search function, we scoured the top ten results over the past five days for the search term “Special Military Operation,” the Russian government’s compulsory description of their invasion and occupation of neighboring Ukraine. The top ten results for September 11, for example, include, in fourth place, the official statement of the Russian Ministry of Defense on state-sponsored Channel One describing the decision to pull troops out of the Izium area and regroup. You won’t find anything about Russian territorial losses in the statement, just statements of casualties among Ukrainian and, allegedly, foreign forces. The top ranked search result for September 11 is an “updated” map of hostilities from the previous day that still shows Izium firmly under Russian control.
Explore the Yandex Dashboard here.