Kremlin elites are fighting over how best to control their Ukraine war narrative, says the Russian foreign ministry’s top spokesperson

  • The Kremlin’s leaders can’t agree on Russia’s narrative on the Ukraine war, a top official said.
  • Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry’s press director, said there’s a “battle” among Kremlin elites.
  • “I’ve said that we do not have a single voice of the state,” Zakharova said on Saturday.

A senior Russian official on Saturday hinted at infighting amongst the Kremlin’s top brass, saying that Moscow’s leaders can’t agree on how to communicate Russia’s narrative on the Ukraine war. 

“There is a battle going on, including among the elites,” said Maria Zakharova, director of the Russian foreign ministry’s press department, per Russian news outlet Business Gazeta. 

Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry’s top spokesperson, made that statement at a panel with Russian tech entrepreneur Igor Ashmanov and other pundits.

Ashmanov suggested that the Kremlin create a Stalin-era information bureau that would control the war narrative and paint a unified picture of the invasion, Business Gazeta reported. But Zakharova shut down Ashmanov’s proposal, saying that the Russian government doesn’t currently have a unified stance on how they should talk about the Ukraine war. 

“I’ve said that we do not have a single voice of the state,” said Zakharova. 

Zakharova added that the foreign ministry — which she speaks for — isn’t authorized to talk about events on the ground in the war. She also admitted that Russia’s defense ministry “either cannot or does not” want to discuss the conflict, per Business Gazeta.

She did not call out any officials by name.

Zakharova’s latest comments are a rare admission that there’s been infighting among the Kremlin’s highest-ranking officials, wrote the Washington-based research group Institute of War.

“Zakharova’s statement is noteworthy and supports several of ISW’s longstanding assessments about deteriorating Kremlin regime and information space control dynamics,” the think-tank wrote on Saturday.

“It is unclear why Zakharova — a seasoned senior spokesperson — would have openly acknowledged these problems in a public setting,” it added.

It said Zakharova’s public statements further show that Russian leader Vladimir Putin has given up control of the Russian information space to “a variety of quasi-independent actors.” Russian military bloggers who support the invasion have been increasingly critical of the Kremlin for its military failures.

Zakharova separately denounced the Institute of War’s assessment of her statement in a message on her Telegram channel on Sunday, though she did not provide any information to debunk its analysis.

Instead, she called the assessment “nonsense” and an “info attack,” accusing Western analysis groups of producing “fakes” or misinformation about the war. Zakharova did not give further clarification on her own comments about potential discord within the Kremlin’s top ranks.

Representatives for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment outside regular business hours.