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Russian State Media Amplifies Fake Reports of Ukraine Spy Chief’s Death

Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Military Intelligence of Ukraine, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, June 25, 2022. (Valentyn Ogirenko/REUTERS)
RIA Novosti

RIA Novosti

Russian state news agency

“Reports appeared in the Ukrainian media about the death of GUR head Budanov.”


On June 5, Russia’s RIA Novosti state-owned news agency said Ukrainian news outlets reported that Ukraine’s spy chief, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, had died:

“Reports appeared in the Ukrainian media about the death of GUR head Budanov.”

That is false.

There were no such news reports in the Ukrainian media. A Russian state-affiliated channel in the Telegram messaging service fabricated the news report about Budanov’s death, and RIA Novosti repeated and amplified it, even after the Ukrainian government’s Center for Countering Disinformation exposed it.

The “news” was originally published on June 3 by “Ostashko! Important” Telegram channel, owned by Ruslan Ostashko, a presenter on Russian state television’s Channel One:

"Ukrainian media are burying Budanov. ... The farewell will take place in the near future. The workers said that Kyrylo Budanov, who died after the recent missile attack on the GUR, will be buried."

“Ostashko! Important” illustrated that “news” by using a fake screenshot of an article allegedly posted by Telegraf, a Ukrainian news website.

That same day, Telegraf denied it had published such an article, writing that “Russian propagandists” had “begun to spread information” that Budanov was killed in a missile strike:

“Of course, Telegraf has not published information with such content, and therefore such statements are nothing more than a ridiculous fake for the Russian consumer.”

Ukraine’s Center for Countering Disinformation exposed the “Ostashko! Important” post as a fabrication on June 4:

“Russian propaganda, on behalf of the Ukrainian media, is spreading news about the death of Kyrylo Budanov. According to these reports, the head of Ukrainian intelligence ‘died’ from a recent missile attack, and the National Center "Ukrainian House" [in Kyiv] is even preparing for his burial. The news about the 'death' of the head of the GUR is more disinformation from the enemy.”

While the RIA Novosti piece cited the Ukrainian Center for Countering Disinformation’s debunk, it turned the facts upside down, repeating the false news that Ukrainian media had reported Budanov’s death.

Earlier, on May 24, RIA Novosti reported that commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, had been severely wounded:

“The commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny, will not be able to continue his service after being wounded as a result of a Russian missile strike, a representative of Russian law enforcement agencies told RIA Novosti, citing sources in the Ukrainian army.”

The news agency claimed that Zaluzhny “received a closed craniocerebral injury and multiple shrapnel wounds due to a missile attack on a command post near the village of Posad-Pokrovskoye in the Kherson region in early May,” adding that he “underwent a craniotomy in a military hospital in Kyiv.”

On May 25, Ukraine’s armed forces refuted the Russian disinformation by producing a video showing Zaluzhnyi alive and well. In it, Anatolii Shtefan, a Ukrainian army officer, said the video had been recorded that same day.

But that did not prevent RIA Novosti from stating, on June 4, that "it is not clear when and where exactly the video was recorded." It also quoted disgraced ex-U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter as saying that Zaluzhnyi was alive but had been “seriously wounded” in “a Russian strike on a command post in the vicinity of Kherson." previously detailed how Russian state news outlets, including RIA Novosti, have used false and misleading claims by Ritter for anti-Ukraine disinformation and propaganda.