Alexei Navalny has called for an ‘information front’ against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the jailed opposition leader claims poll results showing 75% of Russians support the conflict were a “Kremlin lie”.
In a long series of tweets, Navalny called on Western leaders to back a massive social media ad campaign to break Kremlin propaganda about the invasion.
“We need advertisements. Lots of ads,” Navalny wrote. “A broad national campaign against the war will begin with an advertising campaign. Two hundred million impressions per day to reach every Russian Internet user twice. Stories, messages and prerolls. All over Russia, in towns and villages. On every tablet and every phone.
He called on Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Ursula von der Leyen, Mark Zuckerberg and Google Alphabet owner Sundar Pichai to “urgently find a solution to crush [Vladimir] Putin’s propaganda using the advertising power of social networks”.
The ad campaign is said to be a way of circumventing Kremlin efforts to shut down independent media in Russia. Like most independent websites and newspapers, Russian censorship has also blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
It also marks the opposition leader’s biggest foray yet into the complicated question of how much the Russian public supports the war in Ukraine. Poll results, including from the independent Levada Center, showed majority support among Russians for the war.
But critics have cited poor polling techniques, low response rates and other mitigating factors to argue that many Russians are simply too scared to voice their opposition to the war.
Then there are the efforts of pro-Kremlin programming, which has come to dominate TV schedules in recent months as entertainment programs have been pushed back from all major government channels.
“The fact is that most Russian citizens have a completely distorted view of what is happening in Ukraine,” Navalny wrote in messages to his supporters. “For them, Putin is waging a very successful little war with very little bloodshed. Our soldiers are heroes and there are hardly any casualties.
For the same price as a javelin anti-tank missile, he argued, Western leaders could attract 200 million ad views or “at least 8 million views on a video with the truth about what is happening in Ukraine” .
Russia has withdrawn its troops from kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, but is preparing for a new offensive in eastern Ukraine. Putin said Russia’s war “will continue until it is completely over and the goals that have been set are achieved.”