Russia’s battle to convince people to join its war is being waged on Telegram

Just minutes after Putin announced his enlistment, the administrators of the anti-Kremlin group Rospartizan announced “mobilization”. motivate its supporters bombed enlisted officers and the Ministry of Defense with Molotov cocktails. They wrote: “Ordinary Russians are invited to die for nothing in a foreign country. “Incite, incite, spread the truth, but don’t be the ones who legitimize the Russian government.”

The Rospartizan Telegram group—Which has more than 28,000 subscribers — posted photos and videos with the aim of demonstrating early action against military mobilization, including burning offices and broken windows at local government buildings.

Other Telegram channels are offering citizens the opportunity to take action that is less direct, albeit much more self-interested — namely, how to flee the country even once the government has set it up. Prohibit the sale of airline tickets nationwide for men between the ages of 18 and 65. Groups advising Russians on how to escape to neighboring countries appeared almost immediately after Putin finished speaking, and some of them adjusted their messages.

One group, offering advice and tips on how to get from Russia to Georgia, is quickly attracted 100,000 members. This group dates back to at least November 2020, according to previously pinned messages; Since then, it has been providing information to potential tourists on how to book spots on minibuses across the border and how to travel with pets.

Following Putin’s announcement, the channel was co-opted by young men to give first-hand accounts of the border crossing this week. Users are sharing their ages, when and where they crossed the border, and what resistance they encountered from border guards, if any.

For those who have not yet decided to get out of Russia, there are still other messages about how to get rid of the military calls. Another channel, set up in short time After Putin’s enlistment trip, crowds found information about where the police and other authorities in Moscow were registering men of military age. It has already amassed 52,000 subscribers in just two days, and they’re tracking photos, videos and maps showing people being assigned enlistment orders. The group is one of many: another Moscow-based Telegram channel doing the same thing has more than 115,000 subscribers. Half of the audience joined in for 18 hours overnight on September 22.

“You won’t see many calls or advice in the age-old media about how to avoid mobilization,” says Golovchenko. “You will see this on Telegram.”

Mr. Golovchenko added that the Kremlin is trying to gain supremacy on Telegram because its current location is a bountiful graveyard for opponents of Putin and his regime. “What is at stake is the extent to which Telegram is able to amplify the idea that war is now a part of everyday Russian life,” he said. “If the Russians start to realize that their neighbors, friends and fathers are being mass killed, that will be very important.”

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