By Brendan Cole


Nov 9, 2023


The Russian General Staff is making decisions based on maps that do not reflect the battlefield reality, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said, citing Russian military bloggers.

The claims about the discrepancy in maps followed questions among the pro-war Telegram channels as to why Russian troops were not striking frontline areas where large concentrations of Ukrainian forces were thought to be.

The U.S.-based think tank said that Russian milbloggers have routinely criticized Moscow’s commanders throughout the chain of command “for delivering false and overly positive reports to their superiors.”

The milbloggers have also “identified the Russian General Staff as fostering this widespread institutional dishonesty,” the think tank added regarding the maps which “differ from tactical reality.”

The Telegram channel Roman Alekhin, for instance, said that Russian personnel on the front had access to a genuine map, while the commanders in the Russian General Staff have one “on which there are completely different layouts.”

Russian commanders had been incentivized to make the gains that matched the more optimistic maps of the General Staff, which preferred positive reports from its frontline commanders, Alekhin said.

“So they are driving the fighters to bring the real map closer to the General Staff map,” said that post, which added that the General Staff is demanding “more and more positive reports” and that its false map “is improving much faster than we are actually catching up with it.”

“Embellishments are the most important enemies at the front,” it said next to a screengrab of a post by milblogger Romanov Light, who noted that despite the buildup of Ukrainian air defenses and weapons on the east bank of the Dnieper River in the southern Kherson region, “everyone demands we fly there.”

Another milblogger, Dva Mayora, said there had been previous cases of Russian battalion and regiment-level assault operations that aimed to comply with inaccurate maps but this was the first time he had heard of an operational imperative to comply with a different General Staff map. “It is impossible to make appropriate decisions based on unreliable data,” the blogger posted.

The ISW think tank also noted in its Wednesday update that Ukrainian forces are continuing their counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut. Russian sources said that Kyiv’s forces had also conducted assaults near Robotyne in the western Zaporizhzhia region, on the southern sector of the front.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Reuters NEXT conference in New York by video link that his forces have a battlefield plan for next year for future advances in southern and eastern Ukraine, and particularly in the Kherson region.