The Russia-Ukraine war

Research and data analysis by the CssC

Analysis on Russian Military Bloggers

To what extent are the pro-Russian military bloggers on Telegram united in assessing the actions of the Russian generals?

Military bloggers have become an important part of the media landscape, covering the war for the Russian audience, and their popularity also affects discussion in mainstream media about the management of the war, thus indirectly affecting the decisions on the battlefield. Therefore, understanding the “digital arena” of milbloggers is essential to comprehending the dynamics of reciprocal influence between media discussion and political behavior. In this short post, we decided to look at how unified the coverage of the activities of the military command by the authors of these telegram channels is. However, this is only a preliminary analysis.

Read the full analysis here

Data Overview Russia-Ukraine War

Some of our graduate and PhD students created an interesting overview of data sources on the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The data is kept up-to date and available for download in SVG, PNG and CSV format. 

Visit the dashboard here

The Russian View of the Conflict

We analysed the new headlines for the query "Ukraine" (“Украина” in Russian) in the main Russian search engine Yandex for the period of March 4 to March 10.

The Yandex News service was criticised in Russia for artificially inserting articles in the news section exclusively from state-controlled media (directly or indirectly). Independent media are not displayed on Yandex.

This analysis provides us insight into how the Russian government is framing the conflict in Ukraine for its audience.

The role of cyber-attacks in the invasion of Ukraine and the possible US and EU response

As the global public has probably noticed, in this Russian invasion of Ukraine, cyber-attacks of varying intensity and form have been widely used. The mainstream media were quick to point to the destructive effects of such attacks, in Ukraine and beyond, even when, in reality, there had been no cyber-attack. The Biden administration even alluded to the possibility of launching retaliatory cyber-attacks against Russia, only to quickly retrace its steps. The reasons for such confusion and possible misunderstandings are, quite simply, the consequence of two factors: one is the difference between the strategic and tactical levels of cyber-attacks, the other is the different "attack area" of Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU in the cyber domain.

Strategic vs. Tactical cyber-attacks
At the tactical level, cyber-attacks have become an integral part of "electronic warfare" (EW), i.e. the ability to impede or otherwise obstruct the adversary's communications. Russia has extensively used cyber-attacks to make communications between Ukrainian forces difficult, bordering on impossible, by hindering their coordination on the battlefield, and has done so with great success.
Otherwise, a cyber/attack-based strategic response by the US and its allies against banks, infrastructure, and the power grid in Russia would be almost the equivalent of a small-scale attack with nuclear weapons or an air raid with conventional but large-scale explosives. It would be impossible for Russia not to consider such an act as a real attack against Russian soil and not 'respond in kind' against US or allied territory, with serious consequences for all civilians.

A different area of attack
Clearly, the "area of attack" (i.e. how many sensitive targets are there) for Russia, the US and the EU is very different. Russia could attack the American and European economies and companies, while staying well away from sensitive energy and infrastructure or strategic-military targets, and still manage to cause "quite a headache" for the US and EU. Conversely, the Americans and Europeans do not have the same embarrassment in choosing targets in Russia, i.e. targets that can be hit sufficiently "painfully" to give Russia reason to slow down its aggression, unless the allies decide to hit the 'sensitive' targets referred to above. But this would lead back to the previous situation with a dangerous escalation also outside cyberspace. So, not an easy situation for the West in the cyber domain.

Giampiero Giacomello
Center for Computational Social Sciences – CSSC
University of Bologna

Significant Cyber Events Dataset by the CSIS and CssC

The CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) maintains a list of "Significant Cyber Incidents" on its website, reporting major cyber-attacks. The full list is available for download (PDF or Word).

Oltion Preka and Giampiero Giacomello, of the Computational Social Science Center (CssC), worked with Python's Pandas, Open Refine and some regular expressions to "transform" the list of events into a CSV file so that it is easier for interested scholars to perform (basic) quantitative analysis on those events.

In agreement with the CSIS, we make the CSV file available for download here. Please cite the source upon use.