Russian speakers in Ireland are being asked to join a new campaign cold calling more than 40 million people in Russia to tell them the truth about the war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian/Irish businessman Anton Krasun has launched the campaign aimed at breaking through Russian President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine and building an anti-war movement in Russia.
The campaign has built up a database of 40 million Russian phone numbers and is urging Russian speakers to log on to their new online platform, callrussia.org and tell people what is happening on the ground in Ukraine.
‘Russian propaganda machine’
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Mr Krasun said the campaign is trying to reverse the damage caused by a ‘Russian propaganda machine’ that has been in full flow for many years.
“Russians, they really don’t know what is going on for many years – especially right now, when all the social media is blocked and all the proper media outlets are blocked as well in Russia.
“It is very sad all this misinformation and all the lies that are happening in the media space in Russia at the moment.”
He said the Kremlin has “built up a very coherent narrative” about Ukraine over the past decade.
“What they are saying is that there is no Ukrainian identity whatsoever and everyone who calls themselves Ukrainian is a Nazi,” he said.
“So, if you look at the Russian press and media - and I am doing this on purpose just to understand what is going on - they call Ukrainians Nazis if they have their own identity or want to speak the Ukrainian language
“So, all the patriotic movements and all the work Ukraine has been doing to protect its own language and culture is perceived as Naziism and people do believe in this.”
Mr Krasun said Russian people are told that Russian minorities in Ukraine and being undermined by a “Nazi Ukrainian regime” and that Russian forces are there to liberate them.
In recent weeks, he said, Russians are being told that Ukraine is developing nuclear and biological weapons.
“It is all these sorts of lies, claiming this is a special operation just to get rid of this Nazi regime in Ukraine and get rid of all the military potential Ukraine has because Ukraine is a threat to Russian and if Russia didn’t interfere in Ukraine, Ukraine would attack Russia,” he said.
“That is the perception they are trying to bring to Russians – that we had to do this. We had no choice, otherwise Ukraine would attack us. That is what has been shared in Russia news for a couple of weeks now.”
He said convincing Russian people they are being lied to is “like mission impossible” – but insisted the campaign can bring the war to an end.
“Even some of the Russians that live here, when they talk to their parents, they find it very hard to convince them of the reality,” he said. “How bad the situation is in Ukraine and how many innocent people are dying.
“If you think of social media and other news, it is very difficult to change the perception of a person if you have been exposed to this narrative for years.”
He said the only way to reach the Russian people is through human-to-human interaction.
“To simply call people and explain what is going on,” he said. “Maybe appeal to their human feelings rather than politics.
“Not to threaten them with sanctions and tell them their currency is collapsing and they are going to live in isolation etc. but instead to appeal to things like the value of human life – births, kids, children etc.
“Because regular people are dying every day, every hour. They have been bombed, they are hiding in shelters etc. So, it is a universal message.”
Mr Krasun said President Putin “will not stop” unless the people of Russia stand up to him.
“At the moment, we can see that there are some movements happening in Russia in big cities – but it is tiny, it is very small.
“We need millions on the streets, not hundreds of thousands. Once the critical message reaches them, I believe this will stop.”