Hacker collective Anonymous has claimed responsibility for broadcasting footage of the Ukrainian invasion on state-run media channels in Russia — showing citizens there the devastation that the Kremlin has been trying to suppress.
The invasion: Since invading Ukraine on February 24, the Russian military has bombed residential areas, and at least 406 Ukrainian civilians, including 27 children, have died in the fighting. The U.N. believes the real death toll is much higher.
To date, over 2 million Ukrainians have fled the country, and many of those who remain are helping with the resistance effort, taking up arms, making molotov cocktails, and even using personal drones to spy on Russian troops.
The Kremlin’s narrative: If you were to ask many Russian citizens what was happening in Ukraine, though, they’d tell you a very different story — one crafted by state-run media.
In this story, there isn’t a “war,” and Russia hasn’t “invaded” Ukraine — it’s launched a “special military operation” to liberate the grateful Ukrainian people from a fascist, pro-Nazi government. The only threat to civilians comes from Ukrainian nationalists, who are using children as human shields.
Russians found guilty of publishing “false information” about the invasion face up to 15 years in prison.
Many people believe this because Russia is pushing the message through its state-owned media channels, while cracking down on anyone that says differently — access to social media has been restricted in Russia, and independent television channels have been shut down or silenced.
Russia has also passed a law that means anyone found guilty of publishing “false information” about the invasion — that is, information that contradicts the state’s story — faces up to 15 years in prison.
Illegal broadcast: On March 7, several of Russia’s state-run news channels, as well as two of its streaming services, began broadcasting footage depicting the devastation in Ukraine, along with an anti-war message.
The big picture: The Russian government’s propaganda game is so strong that some people refuse to believe any counternarrative — even when it’s coming directly from their relatives living in Ukraine — so it’s easy to imagine many will dismiss this footage as fake or doctored.
Still, the Russian population isn’t a monolith, and thousands of citizens have been arrested protesting the war in Ukraine.
Many others are likely somewhere in the middle — not necessarily believing everything that state media is telling them, but also not sure enough about what’s actually happening to challenge their government’s narrative.
Anonymous’ broadcast could sway some in that group to the anti-war side of the spectrum, and that rising dissent — combined with the negative impact of U.S. and European sanctions on Russia’s economy — could perhaps put pressure on Vladimir Putin to end the war.
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