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New heroes: How Ukraine stands up to Putin in the information war

Der ukrainische Präsident Volodymyr Zelensky vs. Russlands Präsident Wladimir Putin.
PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY VS. PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN.

“I need ammunition, not a ride.” This tweet by Volodymyr Zelensky is already legendary. Instead of accepting the American offer to evacuate him from the war zone, the Ukrainian president says publicly that he would rather have ammunition to defend his country. His words and actions are supported by the majority of Ukrainians. The pictures of Zelensky, always in military camouflage clothing, go around the world. And they stand in stark contrast to the bizarre images from Putin’s office, where he is photographed at absurdly long tables with Western politicians, ministers, and military officials.

Zelensky has become a social web hero in a matter of days and under tragic circumstances. His tweets about arms shipments and talks with high-ranking politicians around the world are widely shared. The digital campaigns are in full swing: The Ukrainian government and NGOs that support the Ukrainian military have now received a total of almost $25 million in crypto donations. Russia, traditionally a strong opponent in cyberwar, has not yet managed to stop Ukrainians from digitally communicating.

“Go fuck yourself!”

And no matter how hopeless the situation in Ukraine is against the overpowering opponent – the stories, pictures, and videos of the courageous, brave Ukrainians in the resistance against the invading army are flooding the web. You see women mixing Molotov cocktails on the street, crowds blocking Russian tanks, even people throwing Molotov cocktails from moving cars at Russian tanks (the ones with the “Z” on them). The radio message from the soldiers on Snake Island, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself!” also went around the world. Contrary to initial fears, the 13 Ukrainian soldiers are not dead but in Russian captivity.

Tweets like this are currently going around the world:

Kyiv Post, an independent Ukrainian media in English, has gone behind Cloudflare’s protective shield to protect against DDoS attacks and uses GoFundMe and Patreon as funding platforms. €45,000 per month are turned over via Patreon, €860,000 have been collected via GoFundMe to date.

The reporters of the Kyiv Post see themselves as the “antidote to Russian propaganda” and make events in the country internationally tangible through the English language. However, with some “reports” the question also arises if the information is actually correct. Thus, the “news” that Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovakia would provide 70 fighter jets to Ukrainian pilots is by no means confirmed.

David versus Goliath

More tanks, more troops, more planes, more money, and then an arsenal of nuclear weapons on top. The fairy tales about the Ukrainians that the Russians would pursue can only be believed by the pliable, the oppressed, or the stupid. Russia, or actually Putin, is the Goliath in the fight. This narrative has influence: there are thousands of Ukrainians who are returning to their country to fight against the invaders – despite the fact that an overwhelming and deadly Russian war machine awaits them there.

Meanwhile, Russia doesn’t seem to have everything under control. Russian state media prematurely announced a victory for Russia in a prepared report on Saturday.

This David versus Goliath narrative has worked for many thousands of years and has continued to be successful in the recent past. Whether deliberately attempted or produced unintentionally, the fight of the obviously inferior against the corrupt and overpowering evil repeatedly triggers great emotions in all of us. Here are some examples:

  • Edward Snowden against the all-powerful NSA
  • Max Schrems against Facebook/Meta
  • Greenpeace against the oil multinationals
  • Gauls against the Romans

Whether used strategically and planned or not: The Ukrainians have won the information war on the Internet for the time being. At least in the West, where people can freely receive the messages, unlike in censored Russia.

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