Lenta.ru briefly filled with anti-war, anti-Putin content Two employees claimed responsibility for the protest
On the morning of May 9, anti-war articles filled the homepage of the Russian pro-government outlet Lenta.ru. Journalist Ilya Shepelin first called attention to the protest, posting screenshots of the articles on his Telegram channel.
The articles have since disappeared from the website, but they’re still available on the Internet Archive. According to the archived files, about 20 articles published by Lenta.ru’s editorial board on May 8 and 9 were replaced with articles that had different titles, including:
- “Vladimir Putin has turned into a pathetic, paranoid dictator” (headline visible on the archived version of the site’s homepage)
- “Russia is abandoning its soldiers’ corpses in Ukraine” (archived version)
- “The Defense Ministry lied to the relatives of the people who died on the Moskva cruiser” (archived version)
- “Putin’s closest associate wants to take Russia back 100 years” (archived version)
- “Zelensky turned out to be cooler than Putin” (archived version)
- “Putin has unleashed one of the bloodiest wars of the 21st century” (archived version)
- “The Russian elite turned out to be pathetically weak-willed” (archived version)
- “The Russian authorities have prohibited journalists from saying anything negative” (archived version)
- “Russia completely destroyed Mariupol” (archived version)
- “Russia is threatening to destroy the entire world” (archived version)
- “‘It’s easier to hide economic failure with a war.’ Putin needs to go. He’s unleashed a meaningless war and is leading Russia into oblivion” (archived version)
All of the articles were accompanied by a message:
Disclaimer: This material was not approved by the leadership, and the presidential administration is going to rip them a new one. In other words: TAKE A SCREENSHOT NOW before they delete it.
In the article titled “The Russian authorities have prohibited journalists from saying anything negative,” the authors claim the Russian presidential administration “made journalists who work for government-controlled media stop using words and phrases that could cause ‘social unrest’ or ‘create a negative environment.” As a result, the Russian media has begun employing its own form of newspeak: for example, the word “bang” is used instead of “explosion,” and “negative growth” is used instead of “decline in GDP.”
Since the war began, the article says, the term “fired” has been replaced by the phrase “released from work” in the Russian media, while “war” has been replaced by “special military operation.” According to the article’s authors:
“The Russian media are unable to call the war, which has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians, a war. Cities destroyed, civilians and their children killed, residential buildings bombed, the genocide of the Ukrainian people — according to the Kremlin-pressured Russian media, all of these things amount to a “special military operation” and a “liberation.”
The article titled “It’s easier to hide economic failure with a war” says that the protest was the work of two Lenta.ru employees: Egor Polyakov, head of the outlet's Economy and Environment sections, and Alexandra Miroshnikova, an editor for those sections.
“We’re searching for work, lawyers, and, most likely, political asylum! Don’t be afraid! Don’t be silent! Fight back! You’re not alone — there are many of us! The future is ours! Fuck war. Peace to Ukraine!” the journalists wrote in the article.
Egor Polyakov confirmed to Meduza that he and Alexandra Miroshnikova were responsible for replacing articles that had already been published on Lenta.ru with the anti-war materials. “This was by no means a case of ‘hacking’ — this was a decision Alexandra and I made a relatively long time ago, but we weren’t immediately able to carry out the plan. I can’t say at this point what the reason for that was,” said Polyakov. According to him, he and Miroshnikova are currently outside of Russia. Polyakov said that his access to Lenta.ru's content management system had already been revoked.