: :inin Kyiv (EET)

How much does the Russian information war cost?

A year ago Congressman Dan Mike has made a sensational statement:

„Putin has spent more than 9 billion USD on propaganda to discredit Ukraine”

According to Congressman Mike, the Russian president uses propaganda both in Ukraine and in its fight against the Western world.

The war unleashed by Russia on Ukraine has been waged only partly by traditional weapons – machine guns, tanks and cannons. Meanwhile, the information component of the Russian aggression stays behind the scenes of battles.

In the previous scheme we deliberately did not indicate the part of combat support regarding information operations, which are: military signals intelligence systems (radio intercept) and jamming, printery for printing flyers or simulation wireless repeater systems, which sent provocative SMS messages to the Ukrainian soldiers and others.

So now we will try to calculate how much does Russia spend on information operations to support the war in Donbas.

We start off with some clauses: to the Russian information operations conducted in Ukraine we include the whole range of communicative influence Russia makes. We don’t exclude the possibility that we missed some details, since the spectrum of tools of the information influence is quite broad. Our aim is to assess the overall picture of the Russian information war, which is waged within the frameworks of occupation of Donbas, and also the information expansion in Europe.


During blackout in Crimea Russia failed to provide electricity. but provided a car- TVs and projectors with Putin’s speech


We start with the military support of the Russian terrorist troops in Donbas:

a)      the Russian arsenal of electronic warfare which has been spotted in the ATO zone:

three complexes of electronic warfare systems “Rtut-BM” (code: 1Л262Э – for suppressing communication lines and remote control fuses with range of 95 – 420 MHz ) – 70 million rubles each

electronic warfare complex „Krasukha-4” (code: 1РЛ257 – to cover from radar detection and to counter long-range radar detection and control of unmanned aircraft) – 258 million rubles

complex „Borisoglebsk-2” (code: РБ-301Б – for reconnaissance and suppression of mobile system and wireless or radio communications in the range of 1.5 – 1000 MHz) – 500 million rubles .;

b)      tools of radio intelligence spotted in zone ATO:

radio intelligence system «Торн»  – 100 million rubles.;

drone  “Orlan-10” (onboard elecronic warfare complex „Leer-3” – for GSM network jamming) – 336 million rubles.;

c)      means of psychological warfare spotted in zone ATO:

issuing flyers and newspapers – 10 million rubles per year (0,2 million USD)

Support of the pro-Russian ideological movements in the occupied Donbas region

(„Free Donbas”, „Republic of Donetsk”, „Oplot”, „World of Luhansk”, „Novorossiya”, „South-East”, „Economic Union of Luhansk” and others) – about 80 million rubles per year

Support of the regional pro-Russian media:

a)      TV (Luhansk-24”, „Novorossiya TV”, „1st Republican TV channel”, „Oplot TV”, „Union DNR”, „AR-TV” – about 180 million rubles per year.;

b)      internet online channels („1st Republican DNR TV”, „Informbureau”, „Patriotic Forces of Donbas”, «News-Front» and others – about 5 million rubles per year.;

c)      FM radio (“Radio Novorossiya”, “Radio DNR” – about 5 million rubles per year

d)     Relay package for the federal TV channels and radioprograms – 2 million rubles per year

e)      print media (“21st Century”, “Municipal Newspaper”, “People’s voice” and others – about 1 million rubles per year

f)       support of electronic media (lugansk-online.info, novorosinform.org, komitet.net.ua, dnr.today, rusvesna.su. and others) – about 1 million rubles per year

It’s easy to count up that the Russian federal budget’s annual spending on information operations of propaganda to support separatism in the occupied Donbas is approximately 274 million rubles per year (5,5 million USD).

At the same time, the cost of military equipment imported from Russia to Ukraine makes up to 1.4 billion rubles (25 million USD)

In addition to the war in the Donbass region, Russia is waging an information campaign in the European information space. The diversity of the methods of information influence and the scope of their application demonstrate the Kremlin’s intentions to form a pro-Russian audience in Europe and use it as a platform for their own foreign policy interests in the future.

First of all, what should be told about the system of the Russian media influence:

a)      All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK)

(TV channels such as  “Russia-1”, “Russia-2”, “Russia-24”, “RTR Planet”, “EuroNews”; internet-projects  “Russia”, Vesti.ru, Strana Druzey, Digitalrussia.tv, Strana.ru and others) in 2014 has spent 52,9 billion rubles (about 1,3 billion USD). A few months ago in the annexed Crimea, the Crimean Tatar Public TV and Radio Company has been launched by the support of VGTRK. The aforementioned Company includes the channel “Millet” and radio station “Vatan Sedasy”. According to approximate estimates, the budget of VGTRK for 2015 is planned to be about 55 billion rubles, from which 12,2 billion rubles will be spent on the special program called “Formation of an objective image of Russia abroad” and additional 3,5 billion rubles on “ensuring international activities”.

b) The international news agency „Rossiya Segodnya” (TV channel Russia Today, news video agency Ruptly, international web studio Sputnik, RIA Novosty, site Ria.ru and others) has increased its expenditure by 41% compared to 2014. This is connected to the opening of the RT Company’s office in London and the launching of day-and-night channels’ broadcasting in German and French. Besides that, the agency of „Rossiya Segodnya” has also incorporated „RIA Novosti’. According to the official data:

– the budget of Russia Today in 2014 was about 500 million USD

– the budget of RIA Novosti and „Sputnik” news agency in 2014 was almost 4,5 million USD

According to various reports, the estimated overall budget figure of the international news agency “Russia Today” in 2015 is 650 million USD

c) Channel One Russia (“First Channel. Global Network”) runs the „First Baltic Channel” branched to Lativa (“PBK Latvia”), Estonia (“PBK Estonia”) and Lithuania (“PBK Litva”) Besides that, under the contract with the Swedish company „SES”, the First Baltic Channel pays for the signal transmission by satellite and for the connection to broadcast on the Baltic states’ cable television networks. For all these purposes the Channel One received 150 million USD in 2014 from the budget. For 2015 the same amount of money has been allocated for the channel, plus an additional funding of 3,5 billion rubles (64 million USD), which would cover the course difference of the „sagging” ruble.

d) Financing of the Gazprom-media holding (TV channels „NTV”, „TNT”, satellite TV company „NTV Plus”, radio stations „City-FM”, „Echo Moskvy”, „Avtoradio”, 101.ru; publishing office „Seven Days”, cinema studio „NTV Kino”, „Central Partnership”, internet portals Rutube and Now.ru and others) through the Gazprom corporation. At the present time, “Gazprom-Media” is expanding its broadcasting by launching new channels. It is estimated that its annual funding may be about 300 million USD;

e) The National Media Group has positioned itself as a private media holding. It includes: TV channels „Fifth Channel”, „REN TV”, LifeNews TV; newspaper „Izvestiya”, siteт LifeNews.ru; studio „Russian News Agency”. It is financed through its beneficiaries, as „Sogaz” company, „Russia” bank and „Surguntneftgaz”. Channel LifeNews partly owned (49%) by the National Media Group, and receives funding from “Surgutex.” It is estimated that the annual funding for the National Media Group could not be less than 300 million USD.

g)      Russia Beyond the Headlines, an international publishing project of the „Russian Newspaper”, which is published periodically in free printed version, and with electronic supplements to the most famous newsletters in the world in 16 languages ​​(The Washington Post (USA), The New York Times (USA), The Daily Telegraph (UK), Le Figaro ( France), Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), The Economic Times (India), Folha de Sao Paolo (Brazil), La Repubblica (Italy), JoongAng Ilbo (South Korea), China Business News (China) and others). The budgeting of the project is in the framework of the “Russian newspaper” and may be approximately 10-12 million USD.

In general, for the Russian system of media influence the Kremlin spends 2626 million USD.

The Russian tools of network communication play a great role in the information influence:

The Russian social networks, such as „Odnoklassniki”, VKontakte”, „Moi Mir” and also the instant messenger „Agent Mail.Ru” and email service „ICQ” have been entirely incorporated by the Russian internet company group „Mail.ru”. Figuratively, they form a single social Internet platform under „one roof”.

The Mail.Ru Group is controlled by the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov (45% stake), having close ties to the Kremlin.

The estimated funding for the Russian social online platform can be up to 50 million USD.

The Kremlin’s influence through PC softwares and networks is carried out by the following well-known groups:

Kaspersky lab”, operating in the interests of the Russian FSB by „active measures” on the Internet;

project „CyberBerkut”, a group of Russian hackers who upload and spread hacking materials on the Internet. According to several data, the „CyberBerkut” organization is actually a project of the Russian secret services;

the special branches of cyber security of the FSB, MVD, MO and other structures are financed at the expense of their own framework.

The approximate financing of the Russian hackers could be around 100 million USD per year.

In addition, a branch of Internet troll organization also operates in Russia, with the task to make the necessary posts on the social networks. Their offices are placed in different  regions of Russia, in the following settlements: villages – Olgino (Saint Petersburg), Yablonovskiy (Republic of Adygeya), Perekatniy (Republic of Adygeya), Zeleniy Gorod (Nizhegorodskaya region); cities – Belgorod, Ryazan, Khabarovsk, Kaliningrad and others. The most famous of these organisations is the „Internet Research Ltd.” (Saint Petersburg). By average estimates, for the payment of the 3 thousand operators working in social networks in Russia 1800 million rubles (32,4 million USD) is needed.

In general, for the influence through PC softwares and networks 132,4 million USD is required per year.

The Russian system of social formation of public opinion is represented by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), and also by the research agency „Eurasian Monitor”, sociological service „Public opinion Foundation”, analytical center „Levada Center” and other entities.

These structures form the basis for modeling the necessary opinion of the audience through the results of social research.

In Ukraine, the activity of VCIOM and its structures have been spotted in preparation for the “Crimean referendum” in 2014 and “elections” in the annexed Crimea.

To give credibility to the polls, the VCIOM staff has figured out and created a “sponsored institute” called Crimean Institute of Political and Social Research, to which they referred at the announcement of the plebiscite. And in the summer of 2015, in the LC and DNI two sociological research centers appeared almost simultaneously and under the same name (“Special Status”, which also dictates the opinion in the occupied regions).

Activities of these Russian entities forming public opinion are repeatedly spotted also abroad, in the publication of their research results in the local media.

The Kremlin’s approximate budget for conducting “custom social researches” and content of these controlled frameworks in the unrecognized territories could reach about 100 million USD per year.

The social and national foreign influence is implemented mainly through the „Federal Agency of the Commonwealth of Independent States” and „Rossotrudnichestvo” (compatriots living abroad). Its regional offices operate in 80 countries.

The Rossotrudnichestvo is a division of the Russian Foreign Ministry. According to official data, for the foreign „soft power” activities has been allocated almost 330 USD. Thus, it must be assumed that the expenses for 2014 have been similar. Regarding 2015, the Russian government has increased the funding of Rossotrudnichestvo’s projects aimed to promote the Russian language to 2 billion rubles (36 million USD).

In addition, the formation of public, political and business climate abroad is implemented by the institutions of civil society. This is realized through activities of governmental foundations operating as public organizations. The task of these governmental foundations is to familiarize the foreign audience with the Russian culture, history and politics. The main ones are:

NGO „Russkiy Mir” (Russian World) foundation, which popularizes the Russian history, language and culture in different countries of the world. The founders of the Foundation (on behalf of the Russian Federation) are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Science of the RF. The activities of the NGO are extended to all countries of Europe and the CIS. The annual budget for the Foundation’s activities is 750 million rubles, plus funding for the Internet television and radio station “Russkiy Mir” is about 10 million rubles. (15.2 million Dollars. USA)

NGO „Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund”, aimed to improve Russia’s foreign policy image. The Foundation has been established by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The organization supports the media and electronic information resources of foreign countries, providing financial, methodological and organizational support to foreign domestic organizations. The Gorchakov Fund supports the currently active project „Public Diplomacy”, which has been launched in the post soviet countries. The annual budget of the Fund is 55 million rubles (1,1 million USD).

Non-profit organization „Russian Council of Foreign Affairs” on foreign policy and international relations. It has been established by the RF’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Science, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the news agency “Interfax”. This is one of Russia’s tools of public diplomacy and „soft power” in Europe and the world. The main task of the Council is to test the social climate of the elite and people and form the necessary opinion in the interest of Russia’s policy. The annual budget of the Council is about 5 million USD.

NGO „Historical Perspective Foundation”, established to finance the European (Paris) and the US (New York) branches of the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation. The Institute’s activities are focused to propagate Russian ideologies and assist the RF in conducting its foreign policy in matters of international relations, geopolitics, history and media. The annual budget of the Foundation is about 3 million USD.

Thus, Moscow’s annual cost of social and national foreign influence activities is approximately 390.3 million USD.

Influencing the foreign audience through nationalist and ultra-radical movements, conducted by creating a channel of communication between the Kremlin and the leadership of particular European socio-political organizations. These are: „Front National” (France), „UKIP” (United Kingdom) „BNP” (United Kingdom) „AfD” (Germany), „Jobbik” (Hungary), „Latvijas Krievu savieniba” (Latvia), „Ataka” (Bulgaria), „Forza Italia” (Italy) and others. Many of these entities have their own representatives in the national and European parliaments. The Kremlin does not only finance their activities and election campaigns, but their own media organs (newspapers, TV) as well.

Apparently, we may count in the same category the Kremlin’s attempts to spread the Russian biker’s movement (led by the Moscow-based „Night Wolves” organization) abroad. Their obvious goal is to find the like-minded people abroad and create new channels of communication in the interests of Russia’s policy.

According to rough estimates, this support to the Kremlin costs at least 200 million USD.


So, to conduct an information campaign Moscow utilizes a full range of tools of information warfare – military equipment in Donbass and „soft power” elements on foreign audiences.

Consequently, it can be assumed that to conduct information campaign the Russian Federation spends annually no less than 3,5 billion USD.

And if we consider the factor that in the past three years the Russian information machine has been operating in the most extreme mode, it becomes clear what did US Congressman Dan Mike mean. That 9 billion USD mentioned by him completely fits the scheme of Russia’s expenses of its information war.

The information about Russia’s alleged budget cuts to „media support” for 2016 should be understood as a banal populism, for if the Kremlin’s information machine is already running, then it’s just impossible to abruptly stop it. Furthermore, the Kremlin’s projects for spreading propaganda are not suspended but open. “In order to reduce the budget” they have just simply shifted the timing of their completion.

Viacheslav Gusarov, Centre of Military-Political Studies (CMPS), expert of information security, Information Resistance (IR) section.


See also: 10 facts about Russian propaganda

Dmitry Tymchuk

Reserve officer, director of the NGO Center for Military and Political Research, Coordinator of “Information Resistance” (hereinafter “IR”) – a non-governmental project that aims to counteract external threats to the informational space of Ukraine in the main areas of military, economic, and energy, as well as the sphere of informational security.

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