After the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian President tightened his grip on the information that the Russians receive about what is happening to the brotherly people of Ukraine.
Putin publicly stated that he launched the operation in Ukraine to “de-Nazify” the country – the Ukrainian “Supreme Leader”, Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky, would be.
The Kremlin also claims that they are not attacking civilians in Ukraine, but recently a number of attacks on civilians have been documented, including the bombing of the Mariupol Theater where – according to Ukrainian authorities – more than 1,000 people took refuge. It is currently unclear whether the theater was a deliberate target, or if it occurred as a result of an accident.
For Russians, it has become very difficult to obtain reliable information about what is happening in Mariupol and other cities of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has taken several steps to ensure that Russia is not told the truth of what is happening in Ukraine.
A new law passed earlier in March means that those who spread “false news about Russia’s special military operation” in Ukraine He faces up to 15 years in prison. Russian media can use only official information from the Russian Ministry of Defense. Nor may a war be referred to as “war” or “invasion”.
The law led to several protests among journalists in the Russian media. One of the most famous is the Russian journalist Marina Ovganikova, who earlier in March cut off the broadcast from the state TV channel Kanal 1, with a sign with the following caption: “No war. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you.”
She was then caught, fined 30,000 rubles, just over 2,500 kroner at today’s exchange rate. She also resigned from her job at Channel One after the incident.
Few young people support the war
It’s unclear how many Putin supporters support the war in Ukraine, but according to Harvard Swan Pekin of the Department of Defense Studies, there is reason to believe that many Putin supporters support the president’s narrative.
Bækken holds a Ph.D. in Russian Studies and has conducted research, among other things, on militarism in Russia. Dagbladet tells what are the defining common characteristics of supporters of the president who has been in power in Russia since 1999.
Putin often has base support in the population that is regularly measured at just under 70 percent. The proportion is higher among those who live outside large cities, those with low education, and the elderly. There is a higher percentage of those who buy this package. Among the critics, there is a predominance of those who live in big cities, young people and women in particular. This is the main impression, Bækken tells Dagbladet.
This is also shown in a survey conducted by an independent opinion polling organization in Russia, discussed by Washington Post. The organization was not named for fear of reprisals from the Russian authorities.
The poll, conducted between February 28 and March 1, showed that 58 percent of Russians support the invasion of Ukraine, while 23 percent oppose it. 46% of respondents said they fully support the invasion, while 13% support it partially.
According to the survey, support for the war was significantly lower among young people. In the 18-24 age group, 29% supported the war, while 39% opposed it. In the 66+ age group, support for war was 75% higher.
Arrested with blank marks
Putin’s narrative is carried by Russian state media, especially television channels, which after the invasion of Ukraine came under full state control, according to Bergen University fellow, Johann Berg-Kalsas. She researches digital media in Russia.
In the state-controlled media, the focus has been on framing Russia’s actions as rationally and morally required. He said that to defend its people, and primarily its existence, Russia had no choice but to intervene in a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Kalsaas to Dagbladet earlier in March.
The largest source of information for Russians is state television channels, which are used by more than 60 percent of the Russian population, according to the independent Russian polling organization Levada Center.
But the numbers have changed a lot in the past eight years, according to Peking. He says that in 2014, television was the main source of news for 90%. Thus, there is a decrease of 30 percentage points.
Thomas Kent, a professor at Columbia University, is an expert on Russian media. He notes that surveys show that the credibility of the state-controlled media is low for many people. He also believes that there is a difference between where older people get their news from.
Young people often get news from social channels, as in many countries. Many people try to live away from “politics” and do not follow political news closely. But in this situation, I imagine there is a lot of interest in the war, Kent told Dagbladet earlier this month.
The protests subsided
It is not clear what most Russians think about the war in Ukraine, and what information they receive about the war. But since the invasion began, there have been a number of demonstrations in the country, especially in major cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
According to the human rights organization, so far more than 15,100 people have been arrested for participating in the demonstrations OVD information. At the start of the war, a large number of them were arrested, while there have been relatively few new arrests in recent weeks.
Several videos also showed people standing with blank banners, being arrested.
Professor Ger Flick of the University of Oslo has conducted research in Russian and Ukrainian politics, history, culture, and society. He says that on 6 and 7 March, about 5,000 people who participated in the demonstrations were arrested.
– After that, the protests subsided, Flick tells Dagbladet.
It is believed that the manner in which the Russian authorities cracked down on the demonstrators may have had an impact on the number of people participating in the anti-war protests.
– There has recently been a steady containment by the regime against the protests. Flick says it can be a deterrent for those inclined to protest.
Pekin of the Department of Defense Studies also shares the same view.
– There are certainly millions of people who are staunchly opposed to war and you will not find them on the streets. This is because it is illegal to participate and has dire consequences. Arrest and other consequences, such as stigma in the local community. Then you will be flagged as someone who is not “patriotic,” and that will have consequences for the way people talk about you, and for job prospects, says Pekin.
When the war began and many took to the streets to protest, Peking thought the demonstrations would develop into something bigger.
– At first it was a shock to many, and many of them were deeply indignant and walked out. But it is not easy to maintain an immediate response over time. I was hoping this was a snowball effect, but it didn’t happen in the first place, says Beckin.
Social media blocked
Something that may be important for Russians to understand what is going on in Ukraine is social media and alternative news sources. Putin and the Kremlin know this well, too.
Putin, among other things, has banned Meta and Twitter in the country, but the social media Telegram is still available. The cables are not censored by the Russian authorities.
However, Bækken notes that he is being asked how many Russians will use it in the short term.
– I think most of the people who have now switched to Telegram are the same people who were already looking for alternative news. I don’t want to believe that the classic Putin supporter from the village, years ago, suddenly started looking there. They have the same broadcasts they’ve always had. In addition, Putin supporters also use many social media, Pekin says.
The Ukrainians can influence the Russians
Ukraine and Russia have had strong relations with each other since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and each other is referred to as “the two brotherly peoples”. The New York Times An estimated 11 million Russians have Ukrainian relatives.
Geir Flick believes that relatives can play an important role in changing the Russians’ view of war.
It is clear that it is becoming more and more difficult for the Putin regime to explain why it went to war against a people it called “the brotherly people” a year ago. Narrative cracks. Flick says people are noticing.
The Defense Studies Department schedule believes that Putin’s narrative is self-deprecating.
Leaking information that also shows the Russians that things are not looking right. Many people don’t believe in state television, but the problem may be that they don’t believe in alternative news outlets either.
He also says that relatives and returning Ukrainian soldiers can influence the Russians.
More people go home injured than coffins and they will tell. Even if an attempt was made to put a lid on it, it would spread. It is a type of information that many people trust. It takes time before things like this work, Pekin says, and it also causes war fatigue among the population.
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