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Russia Uses Ex-UN Weapons Inspector's Ukraine Misinformation for Domestic Propaganda     

Local residents take a photo with Ukrainian serviceman as they celebrate after Russia's retreat from Kherson, in central Kherson, Ukraine, November 12, 2022. REUTERS/Lesko Kromplitz
Local residents take a photo with Ukrainian serviceman as they celebrate after Russia's retreat from Kherson, in central Kherson, Ukraine, November 12, 2022. REUTERS/Lesko Kromplitz
Scott Ritter

Scott Ritter

former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer and U.N. weapons inspector 

“Russia is winning. This war is finished.”


On April 18, Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency quoted former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter’s comments during the “U.S. Tour of Duty” YouTube program, streamed on April 15.

RIA Novosti’s translation of Ritter’s comment, re-translated back into English, reads:

“Russia is winning. This war is finished.”

While the Russian translation wasn’t 100% precise, it accurately captured the essence of his claim, which is false.

Over the past 12 months, Ukraine has liberated more than half of its territory seized by Russia in February-March 2022.

Prior to its full-scale invasion of February 24, 2022, Russia had occupied approximately 43,133 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory, including “all of Crimea and about one-third of both Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.”

Within weeks, Russia captured another 119,000 square kilometers — or about a fifth of Ukrainian territory., some 603,500 square kilometers, according to the CIA World Factbook. — occupying a total of some 162,000 square kilometers.

From April to November 2022, however, Ukrainian forces pushed Russian troops out of northern Ukraine, launching counteroffensives in the east and south, recovering 74,443 square kilometers of occupied territory or about 63% of Russia’s latest gains and 46% of its total occupied territory, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

Thus Ukraine took about 63 percent of the territory that Russian forces captured after the start of the full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, or about 46 percent of all Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine.

Virtually no major territorial shift has occurred since November, leaving the front fairly stable.

Russian use of Ritter’s misinformation

Ritter made more or less the same claim a year ago, during an interview with the United National AntiWar Coalition on April 6, 2022, in which he said:

"Russia has won this war. I believe they are in the process of completing one of the most stunning military victories in modern history.”

The following day, April 7, 2022, RIA Novosti cited those comments by Ritter.

Even at the time of Ritter’s earlier comments in 2022, they were demonstrably false, as Russian troops had been retreating from the northern Ukrainian regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy since late-March of that year. According to a CNN analysis based on exclusive data from the Institute for the Study of War and published in September 2022:

“[B]y April 8, Russian authorities had withdrawn from the northern fronts, saying they would refocus on winning territory in the east. Within a matter of days, Russia gave up about 40% of the gains it had made since the start of the invasion.”

On April 7, 2022, Russian media called footage of Ukrainian civilians found murdered in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha a "provocation" that had been "staged" by Kyiv.

RIA Novosti quoted Ritter as saying those civilians were killed by Ukrainian police, not by Russian forces:

“These people were killed, not by Russians but by Ukrainians. … These people were killed on April 1 by the Ukrainian National Police.”

RIA Novosti’s citation of Ritter’s Bucha comments — already debunked by and others — also appear to be from the National AntiWar Coalition interview, which was posted to YouTube on April 14, 2022.

Russian troops controlled Bucha from March 5-31, 2022. As of October 31, 2022, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights had documented the killing of 73 civilians in Bucha by Russian forces and was working to verify another 105 alleged killings.

Convicted sex offender

In 2001 and 2009, Scott Ritter was the target of a police sting operation for sexual assault charges and was convicted in 2011 of sexual offenses involving a minor. Ritter “exchanged sexual messages with a detective posing as an underage girl and masturbated even after the undercover officer stressed during the chat that she was a minor,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on April 15, 2011.

Ritter was sentenced to up to 5.5 years behind bars but was released on parole after 2.5 years in prison.

Friend of the Russian Foreign Minister

In a speech to the Russian State Duma on February 15, 2023, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cited Ritter approvingly in Western coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war:

“In Russia, before sharing an assessment from the screen or on social media, we present what our opponents think to show their side of the story. … You will not see this in the West, or very little of it. There are just sporadic voices that get through: Former Pentagon advisor Doug Macgregor and Scott Ritter, whom I know well.”

Ritter's Ukraine misinformation is useful not only for Russian propaganda. Chinese state media amplify Russian disinformation by frequently "giving space to Russia's messengers," including Scott Ritter, a "frequent contributor to Sputnik and RT," said Bret Schafer, a senior fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, during a briefing at the U.S. State Department's Press Center in April 2022.

Ukraine's Center for Countering Disinformation, which is part of the country's National Security and Defense Council, placed Ritter on its list of "Russian propagandists" in 2022, Newsweek magazine reported last July.