Oleg Zhdanov is the most popular “military expert” in Ukraine. If his predictions had come true, we would have won the war in 2022, and the US would have given Ukraine all the needed weapons. Analysis

Yuliana Skibitska
Kateryna Kobernyk
Oleg Zhdanov is the most popular “military expert” in Ukraine. If his predictions had come true, we would have won the war in 2022, and the US would have given Ukraine all the needed weapons. Analysis

Kateryna Bandus / «Бабель»

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, military analysts have become the most welcome guests on Ukrainian television and YouTube. They comment on the events at the front, predict when the war will end, a counteroffensive will begin, and Ukraine will receive help from the West. The most famous and most popular of them is Oleg Zhdanov. Since the first days of the full-scale invasion, he has regularly commented on the war on his YouTube channel and beyond. Zhdanov is significantly ahead of all his competitors — his channel has 270 million views and almost a million subscribers. Videos with him on other channels, where the blogger is invited every day, only in June 2023 gained 608 million views. Zhdanov comments on almost everything — from events at the front to geopolitics and the earthquake in Turkey. Many people listen to him, but Taras Chmut, the head of "Return Alive" foundation calls him "a fake person who does not know what he is talking about." We have collected Zhdanovʼs most resonant forecasts — and using these examples, we show why this expert should not be trusted.

Oleg Zhdanov is 57 years old, he used to be a military officer. Little is known about his biography. Born in Dresden, Germany, studied at the artillery school in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine. Then he served in the Western group of Soviet troops in Germany, and from 1992 — for five years in the 331st self-propelled artillery regiment. From 1997 to 1999, he taught at the National Defense Academy of Ukraine, then worked in the Main Directorate of Missile Forces and Artillery. From 2004 to 2007, he served in the main operational department of the General Staff. In 2007, he retired from the army with the rank of colonel. In 2015, he ran for the Kyiv Regional Council from Samopomich party, but did not pass.

After 2014, Zhdanov periodically appeared in the media as a military expert. He had his own column on the Apostrophe website, where he analyzed military and political news. Zhdanov was called an expert of Radio Liberty, Pryamiy TV channel, and Obozrevatel news website. It became especially popular at the end of 2021, when the world seriously discussed the risks of a full-scale war.

Zhdanov did not believe in the great invasion of Russia and actively denied it. In an interview with Radio Liberty in November 2021, he said that the ground operation of the Russian army from Crimea is a "shot in the foot" because the Ukrainian military will simply "grind" the Russians on the isthmus. This prediction did not come true — in February 2022, the Russian army went on the offensive in this direction and quickly captured the south of Ukraine.

Two days before the big invasion, the blogger convinced that the main task of Russia is not to start a full-scale war, but to return Ukraine to the Minsk process. On February 24, when this forecast also turned out to be wrong, Zhdanov said that Ukrainian intelligence knew about the date of the start of the offensive. And in September 2023, he already claimed that war with Russia was inevitable.

Zhdanov constantly made predictions about the date of the end of the war and was constantly wrong. On March 21, 2022, he assumed that this would happen in a few months — in the summer. In September 2022, Zhdanov gave a new forecast — in the worst case, the victory will be in the summer of 2023. In April of the following year, the date was moved to the end of 2023.

And since September 2022, he has convinced that the war will not last long (that is, less than two or three years) — Russia will not have enough forces and resources. Even in January 2024, Zhdanov said that Russia had run out of offensive potential. This also turned out to be a mistake — at the end of the second year of the war, Russia went on the offensive.

In 2023, Zhdanov commented a lot on the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and here too he miscalculated. In March, he stated that Russian propagandists are already preparing Russian society for defeat. In April, he predicted that the counteroffensive would collapse the front and the Russian army would retreat chaotically. In August and September, Ukraine will reach the Azov coast. In October, when the military and the Ukrainian authorities already publicly admitted that the counteroffensive had failed, Zhdanov traditionally changed his rhetoric.

"I believe that the result [of the counterattack] is positive. Why? Because I would not look now at the square kilometers of advancing deep into the enemyʼs defenses, I would look at the losses the enemy is suffering," the blogger said.

Zhdanov is constantly wrong in matters of international politics. At the end of 2023, he predicted: the next year will be victorious for Ukraine thanks to the support of the USA and Joe Biden personally, for whom Ukraineʼs victory in the war will be the main trump card during the presidential elections. Because of this, the US will resume arms deliveries (including aircraft) already in the winter of 2023/24. When this forecast turned out to be wrong, Zhdanov radically changed his mind and on February 27, 2024, he announced that CIA Director William Burns, who visited Kyiv on February 22, brought a plan for the surrender of Ukraine. The New York Times wrote that Burns was indeed in Kyiv, but the article did not mention the surrender.

The prediction about Chinaʼs role in the war also did not come true. The blogger said that Beijing will actively encourage Kyiv to negotiate peace, but the Peopleʼs Republic of China has chosen a different policy — its leadership prefers not to have contact with the Ukrainian authorities at all, instead consistently helping Russia in the war.

Zhdanov also didnʼt guess about the course of the war at the beginning of 2024. At the end of December 2023, he said that in 2024, Ukraine is planning a large-scale counteroffensive.

"No one will step on the same rake a second time [referring to a counteroffensive in 2023]. The offensive will be carried out according to NATO methods: with fire support from the air and fire damage with the help of missile forces," the blogger explained.

When it finally became clear that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were not planning to advance, Zhdanov once again radically changed the forecast and declared on February 24, 2024, that this year would be the year of defense for Ukraine.

"We are going on the defensive in order to inflict maximum damage on the enemyʼs army and to preserve our troops as much as possible for further military operations," the "expert" predicts.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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