— We supposed [that our media could be blocked], but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. They began to pressure not just big media, but everyone, indiscriminately. Apparently, they have some algorithm for keywords.
After the blocking, we got together for a meeting and decided to just remove the word «war»: give up something small in order to save something big and continue to work. Having done so, we sent a notification to Roskomnadzor and the Prosecutor General’s Office. But there has been no response, and we are still blocked.
On March 13, our VKontakte [Russian social media] group was also blocked in Russia. Other social media belonging to Meta were also blocked during this time, not just our accounts. Without a VPN, our media is only available in Telegram in Russia now, and traffic collapsed several-fold everywhere except for Telegram.
Telegram has become the main social media — the number of subscribers to our channel
has doubled. We have a small local media outlet, so the numbers are also small: before the war, we had 1,100 subscribers, now we have 2,200. At the same time, reach has increased 5–8 times, and on some days, it’s even 15 times higher.
All of our advertising projects collapsed due to blocking. I am now in negotiations with only one telecommunications company that agreed to work with us in Telegram.
We stopped renting our office and working with freelancers. We are now five and a half people, and by half I mean myself. So we work as a small team writing news, posts, reporting on the ground.
At the end of April, we decided to launch a print newspaper. It all started with a joke — we realized at one of our briefings that it was impossible to break through the overwhelming propaganda. But we had to do something to reach our audience. We decided to get back to samizdat — after all, this is what Soviet dissidents did, why don’t we do it too?
We made a two-page A4 newspaper and called it Vestnik Zvezdy
. We selected the layout and the design in such a way so that it looked like a mediocre quality press product, similar to materials usually put in mailboxes. The idea of Vestnik is to give a tool for communication with family and friends when words or energy are missing.
All information in the newspaper is taken from official sources and media that are not blocked. Then we just place accents there showing the picture [of what is happening in Ukraine] differently from the way it is presented on TV. For example, at the end of March, the Ministry of Defense endlessly enumerated the «successes» of the Russian army, naming dozens of villages no one knows. But if we take cities, only Kherson was under control. And remember, they planned to [gain control of] Kyiv in three days. The word «only» does not contradict the facts, but puts an important emphasis. We have already issued six such newspapers.
We’ve never invited anyone to spread this leaflet, it just happened [by itself]. Three Perm residents were detained in the city center while distributing the newspaper. The first-instance court sitting took place already: the trial was postponed for two people, and one girl was found guilty of discrediting the Russian armed forces and got a 35,000-ruble fine. Her lawyer is now filing an appeal to the regional court, but most likely to no avail.
We understand our responsibility and are going to announce a fundraising campaign to help her pay the fine. I feel that we will collect the necessary amount, as I see people’s reaction: they are writing to us and supporting those who are not afraid to take part in pacifist activities.