Hacktivists expose Russian people to the realities of Vladimir Putin’s propaganda war

Masked individual from the hacker collective Anonymous
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Content warning: this article includes an image of dead civilians

It now appears that the Russian military strategy is to lay siege to many of the towns and cities across Ukraine. This follows the targeted and systematic destruction of those towns and cities. That’s regardless of the lives lost, or the displacement of millions of Ukrainians to neighbouring countries. This is a war of terror and attrition. Its aim is to humiliate the Ukrainian leadership and demand total surrender.

Meanwhile there’s a report that an ‘international brigade’ of 16,000 Syrian soldiers are to head for Ukraine to support the Russian invaders.

A ‘second front’?

The Russian people are being fed a diet of disinformation complemented by the shutdown of social media. However, cyber activists are helping to expose Vladimir Putin’s propaganda war to the Russian people.

One online facility enables anyone in the world to send an SMS message in Russian to random-generated phone numbers of people in that country. It cannot be thwarted by the Russian authorities, barring total disablement of the mobile phone networks.

Users can click on the ‘Send’ button in order to send a text. They can then click ‘New Text’ to create a different message. By clicking ‘Copy Text’, text can be copied and pasted in any translation facility to see the meaning of the message before sending.

The facility has the potential for millions of people, globally, to send messages about what’s happening in Ukraine to millions of Russians. Although as with any such facility, the possibility for misuse exists. Especially since there’s no way of monitoring the actual content of messages sent to Russian mobile numbers.

Read on...

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Another online tool that anyone can use is run by Mission Lifeline. This is an organisation that specialises in the search and rescue of refugees. The facility enables anyone to volunteer practical help to refugees, offer accommodation, or donate money.

Declaration of war

Meanwhile, hacktivist network Anonymous has declared outright war on Putin and his henchmen. The group referred to “numerous government websites” it has taken offline:

In another message, Anonymous refers to Russian war crimes and urges Russian people to rise up and overthrow Putin:

Hacking the censors

Meanwhile, hacktivists have taken direct action against Russian government targets and state-run media.

For example, Anonymous claims it hacked the database of Roskomnadzor, a Russian agency that monitors, controls, and censors mass media, leaking 360,000 files.

Roskomnadzor threatened to block the following Russian news outlets: Ekho Moskvy, InoSMI, New Times, Novaya gazeta, Mediazona, and Dozhd. These outlets were accused of publishing “inaccurate information about the shelling of Ukrainian cities and civilian casualties in Ukraine as a result of the actions of the Russian Army”.

Roskomnadzor also blocked Facebook. Apparently this was because the social media facility “blocked the official accounts of several Russian state-media outlets, including RIA Novosti and the Defense Ministry’s television channel, Zvezda”.

More acts of sabotage

It’s claimed Anonymous also hacked a number of Russian state TV channels. The group then provided to the audiences of those channels footage of what’s happening in Ukraine. The channels include Russia 24, First Channel and Moscow 24 as well as streaming services Wink and Ivi.

The video in this tweet appears to show examples of footage Anonymous transmitted via the TV channels:

Further, Anonymous allegedly hacked into the Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB). This tweeted video appears to show hacked FSB data:

And there’s also the claim that Anonymous-affiliated hacking group NB65 closed down the control centre of Russian space agency Roscosmos:

The next day, Anonymous tweeted that it had closed down the entire Roscosmos website:

According to the Independent, the hackers claimed to have deleted confidential files regarding the agency’s satellite imaging and Vehicle Monitoring System. The head of Roscosmos has said that any attack on the agency would be regarded as an act of war.

Anonymous also claims it brought down Belarusian surveillance systems, with over 240 cameras sabotaged:

Thousands of sites hacked

According to CyberSecurity Mag, Anonymous has hacked into around 2.5k websites in Russia and Belarus as of one week ago. They included some high profile sites – for example, on:

February 25, Anonymous breached the Russian Ministry of Defence’s database and posted it online for Ukraine and the world to see.

In the days after that, posts by the account claimed responsibility for disabling websites belonging to the Russian oil giant Gazprom, the state-controlled Russian news agency RT, and numerous Russian and Belarusian government agencies, including the Kremlin’s official site.

On February 28, for several minutes, the websites of state news agencies TASS and RIA Novosti, the daily Kommersant, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia and the magazine Forbes Russia displayed a message calling for an “end” to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On February 26, the websites of the Kremlin, the Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament), and the Russian Ministry of Defense were decommissioned in an attack also claimed by Anonymous on Twitter.

The BBC goes dark

Russia has banned BBC Russia following restrictions on Sputnik and Russia Today in other countries. However, BBC Russia is now utilising the ‘dark web‘, making its Ukrainian and Russian news services available via Tor:

The BBC’s Russian news service will of course give its own slant on what’s happening. It can be accessed here from within a Tor browser. (Instructions on how to use Tor from an Android phone are available here, and instructions for an IOS phone can be found here.)

The BBC has also published a video explaining more about the ‘dark web’. It is used by journalists and whistleblowers, but also for “dangerous, illegal, and unethical” activities.

More war crimes

Meanwhile, there are more claims of alleged war crimes, with shelling of buildings in residential areas in cities across Ukraine.

One of the latest examples, allegedly committed by the Russian military, was an airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol. The attack resulted in at least 17 injuries and three deaths:

This video purports to show the Russian military firing at a civilian car:

In a Google translation, Polish activist Michal Koloziejczyk claims that three children, trying to escape with their father from Irpin, were found dead (warning: graphic image):

Annihilation or revolution

According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), Russia has confirmed its deployment of thermobaric launchers, known also as TOS-1a’s, on Ukraine territory:

The Canary’s Joe Glenton pointed out that thermobaric bombs are held by the US and have been deployed by the UK, but “redefined” by the latter as an ‘enhanced blast missile’.

In February, Putin placed Russia’s nuclear forces on a “special regime of combat duty“.  There are fears from UK and US intelligence that Russia could also deploy chemical and biological weapons.

Knowledge is power

Christopher Chiwis writes for the ultra-conservative Atlantic Council. In an opinion piece for the Guardian he offers a terrifying and pessimistic view on the future directions of the war waged by Russia.

He stated:

there are really only two paths toward ending the war: one, continued escalation, potentially across the nuclear threshold; the other, a bitter peace imposed on a defeated Ukraine that will be extremely hard for the United States and many European allies to swallow.

Arguably, both those scenarios could be refined if not dismissed. Not by the Kremlin or NATO, however, but by the Russian people – provided they have access to the facts about what’s really happening in Ukraine.

But to do that would mean revolution – a real revolution. And not just in Russia.

Featured image via YouTube/News Shorts

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  • Show Comments
    1. The trouble is, Tom Coburg that I do not KNOW about Russian propaganda. What I HAVE known about for fifty years is British media propaganda and when I hear a repetition of the same British media narrative from you as I have been listening to for FIFTY years I am afraid to say I am somewhat skeptical. Putin may be everything that is said about him and Russian propaganda may be dire but nothing could surpass the flowing sewage torrent that I KNOW is British media. So, when a proven liar tells me someone else is a liar I will obviously come to my own conclusions.

      1. Well said!

        Also, stopping us accessing whatever ‘propoganda’ we decide to read or view is the act of authoritarian, and dictatorial thinking, not a freedom-of-speach-loving democracy.

        Linking to Politico is all very well, but I note that even in the linked report, NO EVIDENCE at all is given to prove Western Media claims of Russian propoganda. We are told Putin and Russia are feeding us disinformation, but not shown ANY provable examples. Also, what about Ukrainian propoganda? Where are the fact-checks and corrections to their claims?

        The article you linked to in Politico even goes as far as to offer methods for people to ‘help’ Ukraine by targetting Russian businesses, which is far from staying objective and neutral as good reporting does and should do.

        Peddling other’s disinformation/information with no proof offered is bad journalism, and very reminiscent of the mainstream media’s racist, anti-Russia stance. On the one hand they claim Putin is evil, and that peace should reign in Ukraine, but then also encite others to stoke the flames higher, encouraging the supply of arms, which prolong the suffering for everybody, and send the death-rate of the innocent and guilty soaring alike. None of that makes for peace, and it is abundantly clear to me that there is no end to Western double-speak and hypocrisy.

        It is NOT legal to invade another country, but the countries who villify Russia whilst happily ignoring the 8 years of CIA-funded death and destabilisation in Ukraine (and their own illegal wars and efforts to undermine other nations which led to this) are cognitively dissonant hypocrites.

        Western Media constantly plays down Russia’s concerns, criminally ignoring the very real and historically established facts, and even twisting those established facts and history for the purpose of demonizing Russians. Sanctions against Russia hurt Russian people and businesses … and everyone else too. Sanctions are a method of increasing the pain and suffering for the whole world, which rather neatly co-incide with all the other crap we’ve been subjected too.

        It is always the innocent civilians who pay the price, never those who actually started these things – they are almost always well away from any fighting, goading others to die on their behalf.

        If Putin is a war-criminal, then it is well overdue and high time to apply the same standards to Tony Blair, Bush, and a whole bunch of murderous war-hawks, rather than giving them the highest honours that this nation can bestow on these true war-criminals.

        They are genuine TRAITORS to OUR democracy and nation, and it is they who should be dead or incarcerated, not the likes of Julian Assange, not Ukrainian or Russian citizens, not soldiers, or civil servants – just those who pursued martial and economic conflict above the needs of citizens and society, for peaceful, stable lives.

        I will not jump on the anti-Putin, anti-Russian bandwaggon, it is racist rhetoric being used to encite murder and theft. Russians are innocent, Putin is not doing ANYTHING that the West (Particularly America and the UK) hasn’t already done with arrogant bravado, and great financial/political reward, in FULL violation of international law.

        Ukrainians deserve a peaceful, SAFE, solution, not an illegal invasion either. However it must be noted that the UN’s continual favouritism to the US and UK, and deliberate ignorance of the military action that Ukraine was carrying out on it’s own people (CIA backed for the purpose of regime change and goading Russia), for many years cannot be ignored if you wish to report the truth, and not contribute to the propoganda and lies.

        When the West is ready to admit, and make restitution for, its own ghastly, murderous history, with multi-decades long anti-Russian behaviour, and even its own empire-building efforts, including its own regime-change histories (which completely ignored all International laws, and even their own domestic and business laws) in the effort to demonise others, for the sake of committing wholesale murder and theft, then there may be real peace in the World.

    2. Why do people laud Anonymous as if they are a bunch of saints on a holy crusade. In my eyes most everything they do is cyber terrorism. Today they may hack news outlets and government systems, buts what’s not to stop them, say, hacking into Chernobyl and causing another meltdown just to make Russia look bad?
      Anyone who hides behind a mask isn’t a superhero, just a criminal.

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