Russian propagandist and political scientist Alexei Fenenko said in a live television broadcast that the invasion of Ukraine was only a “rehearsal” to prepare for a wider conflict with countries inside the NATO alliance.

“For us, the war in Ukraine is a rehearsal for a possible bigger conflict in the future,” Fenenko said during a segment with state-run television channel Russia One.

Fenenko is an associate professor at the Moscow State University’s world politics department and a researcher at the Institute of International Security Studies.

“And that is why we’ll test and go up against NATO weapons and will see on the battlefield how much stronger our weapons really are compared to theirs.”

“This may be a learning experience for our future conflicts,” Fenenko added on the talk show 60 Minutes before host Olga Skabeyeva interrupted him, saying, “it’s a scary experiment.”

Fenenko’s outlandish claim is the latest addition to Russia’s attempt to twist the narrative surrounding the Russo-Ukrainian war. The conflict has caused the Kremlin devastating losses of soldiers and military equipment, as the Russian forces are now facing a counter-offensive in the eastern region of Ukraine. Recently, the Russian propaganda for beginning the war regarding NATO expansion and the supposed Nazi regime of Zelensky had shifted to claims that Russia is actually fighting the US and NATO on Ukraine which is merely using Ukraine as the battleground. This shift seems to be aimed at Russian civilians who may not be buying into the original story that Russia was liberating Ukraine from Nazis.

The latest report from the Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces put the total number of Russian casualties at over 29,000 troops since the start of the invasion on February 24.

The recent report also claims that over 1,200 tanks, 3,000 armored vehicles, 204 aircraft, and 170 helicopters from the Russian armed forces have been destroyed in the conflict.

A report by the Kyiv Independent also reports similar figures, with 29,000 dead Russian troops, 1,293 tanks destroyed, 3,166 APVs, 204 planes, and 170 helicopters.

While these figures cannot be verified, they can’t be far off given the absence of Russian successes on the battlefield. Western estimates still put Russian casualties in the thousands. Furthermore, a recent report by the British Defense Ministry claims that the Russian army has lost about a third of its invasion force. This does not include the number of wounded, missing, and those who surrendered.

Despite growing evidence of its failures on the ground in Ukraine, Moscow continues to churn out a constant stream of propaganda and misinformation to put the development of Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation in a positive light.

In another outrageous claim, the Kremlin said that a brand new laser system, part of Russia’s secret weapons, is already deployed in Ukraine. One of the weapons, Zadira, was supposed to be able to burn military drones flying overhead, and Russian forces are already using its first prototypes. However, the claim drew criticism from Ukrainian and US officials who said they had seen no evidence of such new weapon systems.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky likened the laser to German wonder weapons, adding that these attempts “indicate the complete failure of the invasion.”

In another statement, the Ukrainian President warned that the ongoing conflict will soon “hit everyone.”

“Russian aggression was not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone,” Zelensky said. “To the destruction of our freedom and our lives alone. The whole European project is a target for Russia.”

Conflicting Propaganda Statements

One retired Russian military commander who appeared on a state broadcast warned that Ukrainian soldiers should not underestimate the might of the Russian military and economy despite its poor showing on the battlefield in the four-month-old war.

“The Russian Federation has not yet committed even a tenth of its military and economic potential.. so be careful what you wish for, gentlemen!” former air defense commander Mikhail Khodaryonok said.

He then proceeded to boast about the quality of Russian military arms and attacked the fragility of weapons sourced from the West.

“When a country buys Western-made equipment, it sometimes stops working or malfunctions right in the heat of battle…. our arms are different in their reliability – you get exactly the weapons described.”

While SOFREP has seen some reports suggesting occasional problems with malfunctions in Stingers and Javelin missiles, the dozens of photos and videos of burned-out Russian tanks with missing turrets tend to prove Western weapons are functioning very well in battle. These weapons are also in the hands of troops recently trained in their use and in actual battlefield conditions as well. Here’s a photo of a Russian tank with its turret blown off, possibly destroyed by a Javelin, NLAW, Panzerfaust-3, or one of Ukraine’s modded anti-tank weapons:

Russian T-80U tanks destroyed in Zaporizhzhia (Arslon Xudosi). Source:
Russian T-80U tanks destroyed in Zaporizhzhia (Arslon Xudosi/Twitter)

Oddly enough, SOFREP also reported on Khodaryonok last week, where he blasted and criticized the Russian government and military on the Rossiya Network, stating that they were doing horribly bad in Ukraine. He also said that Ukraine’s morale was very high and that they “intended to fight to the last man” and had mobilized a Western-trained army equipped with modern weaponry.

“But the Lend-Lease [Act] will kick in soon, and the opposition of one single [US] senator will be overcome quickly. Considering that European assistance will start working in full, we need to treat these million Ukrainian soldiers as reality in the nearest future – we need to consider this in our strategic calculations.”

“We are in full geopolitical isolation, and that, however much we would hate to admit this, virtually the entire world is against us. And it’s that situation that we need to get out of,” he added.

The former commander’s conflicting statements fueled suspicions that Khodaryonok was given a stern talking-to by Putin, being intimidated or coerced to change his prior statements. The inability of Russians like Khodaryonok to speak candidly about the flaws and faults of the Russian military and its leadership is probably why its faults and flaws exist in the first place.