Russians tuning in to broadcasts of Putin’s Victory Day parade in Moscow were met with a different message than the celebratory WWII programming they were expecting.
Russian satellite television menus were hacked on Monday, leaving viewers faced with program schedules that told them Putin’s war on Ukraine left them with blood on their hands.
“You have the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of dead children on your hands,” said one slogan.
“The TV and the authorities are lying. No to war,” said another.
The Interfax news agency said that the antiwar slogans also appeared on cable television, Reuters reported. In addition, a Russian news website was filled with articles critical of Putin and the war, which were taken down shortly after they were posted.
When TV viewers managed to tune in to the actual programming, they saw President Vladimir Putin compare the war in Ukraine to the Soviet battle to defeat Adolf Hitler.
While there was much speculation that Putin might declare outright war or ratchet up his nuclear rhetoric on Victory Day, his speech turned out to be a continuation of his recent musings on the war on Ukraine. He said that Kyiv was run by neo-Nazis; that NATO was weaponizing territories on Russia’s border; and that Russia invasion was “a preemptive strike at the aggression”—framing the conflict as an inevitable confrontation with a U.S. that is meddling in Russia’s backyard.
NATO denies it was ever a threat to Russia, while Ukraine has called the invasion an imperial-style land grab and dismisses Russia’s claims of Nazi-style genocide as nonsense.
Since the war began, Russia has kept a tight lid on information circulating within the country. The Duma—Russia’s parliament—passed a law in March increasing jail time to up to 15 years for journalists who spread “fake news” about the military—largely understood as anything critical of the Ukraine campaign. The country’s media regulator has also blocked access to many social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to quell any dissent.
Faced with this information crackdown, an array of hackers previously unknown to cybersecurity experts have swarmed Russian companies and government bodies, according to the Financial Times.
“Russia is being hacked at an unprecedented scale by a lower tier of attacker, and there are tens of terabytes of data that’s just falling out of the sky,” Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade, principal threat researcher at SentinelOne, a cybersecurity group, told the FT, adding that the “the breadth of leaks is just breathtaking.”
Those Russians who have access to outside information sources may have seen the Ukrainian military’s own “Victory Day” parade, which mocked the Russian military with a parade of “trophy” Russian tanks taken by Ukrainian forces during the war.
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