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Why did Putin destroy Russia's independent media? The Russian authorities explain.

Source: Meduza

On March 3, at the direction of Russia’s Education Ministry, schools throughout Russia held an open lesson called “Peace Defenders,” where children got the chance to learn all about the “liberation mission in Ukraine.” This week, it was the parents’ turn: “Informational Manipulation: How to Protect Your Children,” an online meeting for parents, was held across the nation on March 10. Meduza has obtained copies of the presentation itself and the lesson plan that was given to teachers. We give a rundown of the main talking points below.

How misinformation works: a guide from the Russian authorities

1. Ukraine is using information warfare to create the illusion that it’s under threat.

Russian parents were told that when other countries use information warfare, it’s difficult to maintain balance and not become a victim — and thus a vector for the chaos. All it takes is a few actors to create the lies, and then the people do the rest.

The parents were then given an example of this kind of “information warfare.” According to the foreign media, they were told, 13 people were killed during the course of Russia’s operation on Snake Island in the Black Sea. The parents were then shown a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talking about the soldiers’ deaths — immediately followed by the "true story" on a segment from the Russian state-owned television channel Russia 24. According to the Russian version of events, the Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island voluntarily surrendered and were taken safely to Sevastopol, where they were given food and medical care. Meanwhile, the curriculum holds, a short but misleading video clip from an early moment in the standoff on Snake Island went viral in Ukraine.

2. Ukrainians are only resisting because they believe Russia wants to take their land — and this has lead to unnecessary casualties

It’s this idea — that Russia wants to annex Ukrainian land — that’s provoking so much armed resistance in Ukraine and preventing a peaceful resolution, according to the presentation. Regular Ukrainians, the Russian parents were told, don’t understand what they’re fighting for or whose interests are being served.

The lesson went on to say that information attacks from Ukraine and the West are intended to oppress Russians on the basis of nationality — and that hatred of Russian people is being welcomed and supported by the West. While harassment due to one’s nationality seemed until recently to be a thing of the past, the parents were told, Russians are now being fired and suspended from their jobs, among other things, just because they’re Russian.

3. The USSR always supported peace — unlike Europe and the U.S.

To illustrate this supposed historical fact, the lesson took parents back to 1956, when Israeli troops invaded Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Two days after the invasion, British and French troops began bombing Egypt as well. The UN quickly condemned the aggression and organized peacekeeping forces; the USSR echoed the condemnation (as did the U.S.).

A slide from the presentation that lists American wars since 1950

After the crisis, Washington announced it was distancing itself from the USSR. The presentation noted, however, that the USSR had been advocating for peace, though its leaders preferred not to interfere in intraregional conflicts. This was held in contrast to the American approach of solving problems by force.

4. Ukraine has a lot to gain by posing as a victim and scaring its citizens

The Ukrainian government’s ongoing psychological attack is intended not only for Ukrainian citizens who are involved in the conflict, went the presentation, but also for all future potential “judges” of the war — including the European community. An important element of this process, parents were told, is fear-mongering.

“Haven’t you seen Zelensky’s address to his people?” they were asked. Then they were given an example of the supposedly hyperbolic language used when a Ukrainian nuclear power plant caught fire after being shelled by Russian troops: “Europe's largest nuclear power plant is ‘on fire’ due to a ‘hailstorm of shelling during the Russian siege,' increasing fears of a ‘nuclear catastrophe.’" The lesson then likened this “intimidation” to media reports from 2014, when Ukrainian journalists “trumpeted” claims of Russian aggression in Luhansk and Donetsk. Meanwhile, according to the presentation, “brutal, inhuman crimes against civilians continue to be organized on behalf of the world community, and the shocking video evidence is blocked [in the West].”

5. The information war’s main victims are women and children

The main goal of Ukrainian information attacks, parents were told, are women and children. Why? Because their “emotions prevent them from thinking critically about the situation,” while social media has a constant hold on their attention, “luring them in” with the promise of communication.

6. Ukrainian hostility towards Russia starts in the classroom (and surprise: it’s NATO’s fault)

Reaching the youngest generation has always been an important part of information warfare, parents were told, because this guarantees the “acceptance and maintenance” of a given message far into the future. All you have to do is take a look at other former Soviet countries’ education systems, such as Ukraine’s, where new national heroes like Stepan Bandera are allegedly being used to promote new ideologies.

It was exactly this kind of farsighted information warfare, went the lesson, that laid the groundwork for NATO to install their preferred leader in Ukraine decades after the Soviet Union’s fall.

7. Dangerous news agencies and social networks are being “temporarily suspended” in Russia — to protect the children, of course

Because so much of a person's psychological development occurs in childhood, the parents were told, and worldviews are impossible to change later on, the Russian government has decided to temporarily suspend certain information platforms. After all, the consequences of interference in children’s psyches “can be fatal.”

Story by Sasha Sivtsova

Abridged translation by Sam Breazeale

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