Two Russian journalists Yegor Polyakov and Alexandra Miroshnikova, who worked for pro-Kremlin news website Lenta, pulled off the brave act of dissent on Monday, the same day as Russia’s Victory Day parade. The annual parade honours those who died fighting for Russia in World War Two and celebrates the allied defeat of the Nazis.
The journalists pumped the website full of anti-Putin and anti-war articles which labelled the Russian President as “a pitiful paranoid dictator” who caused “the bloodiest war of the 21st century”.
Other titles of articles included: “The Russian army turned out to be an army of thieves and looters”, “Russia abandons the dead bodies of its troops in Ukraine”, and “Russia completely destroyed Mariupol”.
Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Polyakov, 30, said: “We had to do it today. We wanted to remind everyone what our grandfathers really fought for on this beautiful Victory Day – for peace.”
“This is not what Victory Day is about. Ordinary people are dying, peaceful women and children are dying in Ukraine.
“Given the rhetoric that we have seen, this isn’t going to stop. We couldn’t accept this any longer. This was the only right thing we could do.”
Under each article that was published was a disclaimer that the copy had “not been agreed with the editorial leadership” and that “the Presidential Administration will punish the publication for publishing this”.
It added: “In other words, take a screenshot of this now before it is deleted” and stated that all the information was sourced online.
The anti-Kremlin, anti-war articles were swiftly removed from the website and breach the newly passed Russian law that bans attempts to discredit Russian forces and their actions in Ukraine.
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This law includes using the word “invasion” instead of “special military operation”.
Putin’s Victory Day speech which he addressed to the 11,000 soldiers who attended the parade gave the President another opportunity to give his version of events about the conflict in Ukraine.
Putin announced that the invasion of Ukraine was inevitable as the West was “preparing for the invasion of our land, including Crimea. That is absolutely unacceptable to us.”
The now former editor at Lenta, Yegor Polyakov declared responsibility for the material alongside his colleague Alexandra Miroshnikova who both made a “conscious decision” to oppose the war and criticise the actions of the Russian forces.
The colleagues posted a joint letter on the website encouraging readers: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be silent! Fight back! You are not alone, there are many of us! The future is ours!”
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In a statement told to Mediazona, Polyakov stated: “This is not a ‘hack by hackers’ at all; this is our conscious decision, which was made relatively long ago, but it was not possible to implement quickly (I won’t say for what reasons yet).”
As well as declaring the lack of independent media outlets in Russia he told “potential critics…not to forget about humanism” and he revealed that he and Miroshnikova “no longer work at Lenta”.
After the Russian government declared it had been hit by an “unprecedented” wave of cyberattacks in March, it appears the tide has not yet turned.
Alongside the rebellion at Lenta, Russian smart tv users reportedly saw a message appear in place of the usual television channel listings which read: “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands.
“TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”