‘Paranoid dictator’: Russian journalists fill pro-Kremlin website with anti-war articles | Russia
Two Russian journalists working for a popular pro-Kremlin website filled it with anti-war articles on Monday morning in a rare act of dissent as the country celebrated the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.
Articles on Lenta.ru called President Vladimir Putin a “pitiful paranoid dictator” and accused him of waging “the bloodiest war of the 21st century”.
“We had to do it today. We wanted to remind everyone what our grandfathers really fought for on this beautiful Victory Day – for peace,” said Egor Polyakov, 30, one of the two journalists.
During his annual address to 11,000 soldiers in the Kremlin on Monday morning, Putin sought to justify his invasion of Ukraine, linking the current fighting to Soviet victory in World War II.
“That’s not the purpose of Victory Day,” Polyakov told the Guardian in an interview. “Ordinary people are dying, peaceful women and children are dying in Ukraine. Given the rhetoric we’ve seen, it’s not going to stop. We could no longer accept this. It was the only good thing we could do.
Polyakov, who works as a business journalist in Lenta, said he and his colleague Alexandra Miroshnikova published more than 40 articles criticizing the Kremlin and its actions in Ukraine. The articles have since been deleted, but are accessible via a web archive tool.
Lenta, one of the largest sites in the country with more than 200 million monthly visitors, is part of the relentless propaganda machine used to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Lenta is owned by Rambler, a media group that was acquired in 2020 by Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, which is state-owned and subject to US and UK sanctions.
The titles of articles written and published by Polyakov and Miroshnikova on Monday morning included “Vladimir Putin lied about Russia’s plans in Ukraine”, “Russian army turned out to be an army of thieves and looters” and “The Russia abandons the corpses of its troops in Ukraine.
Polyakov said each article came from “information available online”, which he said he was generally not allowed to use given the outlet’s “editorial stance” and strict censorship rules that criminalize actually independent reporting.
Polyakov and Miroshkina also posted a personal letter on the website, which urged readers: “Do not be afraid! Don’t be silent! To defend oneself! You are not alone, there are many of us! The future belongs to us!”
It is the first major act of protest seen in Russian state media since Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova burst onto the evening news set in mid-March shouting: “ Stop the war. No to war.
Pointing to recent laws introduced by Russia aimed at stifling anti-war dissent, Polyakov said he was now “worried” for his safety. Russia has passed a number of laws making spreading “false” information about the Russian military an offense punishable by fines or prison terms of up to 15 years. Russian authorities have already charged 46 people under these laws, 14 of whom are currently behind bars.
“Of course I’m scared,” Polyakov said. “I’m not ashamed to admit it. But I knew what I was doing, what the consequences might be.
In another development, the Rutube video platform was taken down by pro-Ukrainian hackers on Sunday night, while local TV menus were hacked, with program descriptions on smart TVs replaced with a message saying “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is in your hands. Television and the authorities lie. No to war.
Since the start of the war, state media have been frequently targeted by pro-Ukrainian hackers.