Special military operation

A banner of the Russian Ministry of Defence with the phrase "special military operation"

"Special military operation"[a] (also "special operation", and abbreviated as "SMO" or "SVO"[b] for специальная военная операция) is an official term used by the Russian government and pro-Russian sources to denote the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[1][2] It is widely considered to be a euphemism created to minimize and obfuscate the true nature of the full-fledged war started by Russia, and to claim Russian victory in the operation no matter the results.[3][4][5][6]

The expression appears prominently in the public address by President of Russia Vladimir Putin titled "On conducting a special military operation", which the Russian leader released on 24 February 2022.

The term "special military operation" has also been widely used in Ukrainian media, generally written in scare quotes, which highlight the psychologically artificial nature of the expression, and applied in the context of describing Russian actions negatively.[3]


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  1. ^ "Do not call Ukraine invasion a 'war', Russia tells media, schools". Al Jazeera. 2 March 2022. Archived from the original on 31 July 2023.
  2. ^ Abdul, Geneva (13 March 2023). "Russia-Ukraine war: Xi to visit Russia as early as next week; Moscow says it could agree to shorter Black Sea grain deal – as it happened". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2023. "Special military operation" has been Russia's preferred term for the invasion of Ukraine which it launched on 24 February 2022
  3. ^ a b Spišiaková, Mária; Shumeiko, Natalia (2022). "Language and politics. On the border between linguistics and political science VII" (PDF). Political Euphemisms and Neologisms in Online Media Content: Amid the War in Ukraine (in Slovak). University of Economics in Bratislava: 372–388. ISBN 9788022549875. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2023.
  4. ^ Ilyushina, Mary (22 December 2022). "Putin declares 'war' – aloud – forsaking his special euphemistic operation". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 22 December 2022.
  5. ^ Faulconbridge, Guy (8 June 2023). "In Russia, the talk is of 'war' - even from Putin". Reuters. Archived from the original on 25 July 2023.
  6. ^ Pifer, Steven (10 March 2022). "Russia vs. Ukraine: How does this end?". Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Archived from the original on 17 March 2022. On February 24, Vladimir Putin launched the Russian military on what he termed a 'special military operation,' his euphemism for a massive invasion of Ukraine.

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