Russian television viewers tuning in for content celebrating the country’s “Victory Day” over Nazi Germany this week were instead forced to reckon with its own military invasion.
On Monday, hackers reportedly took control of Russian smart TV schedule listings, essentially turning the listings into a bulletin board of explicitly anti-war public shaming. BBC Monitoring’s Francis Scarr provided a brief video clip appearing to show the hacked listings on Twitter.
“On your hands is the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and their hundreds of murdered children,” the statement allegedly reads. “TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”
Later on that day, BBC Monitoring reportedly found anti-war messages posted on the website of pro-Russian publication Lenta, only this time the statements reportedly arose internally, from two members of the publication’s staff. The slogans, which have since been deleted, reportedly included the phrases, “Vladimir Putin has turned into a pitiful dictator and paranoiac,” “War makes it easier to cover up economic failures,” and “Zelensky turned out to be cooler than Putin,” amongst others. The reporters responsible for the posts reportedly told the Latvian-based independent news site Meduza they had re-located outside of Russia and worried they may need new jobs or even political asylum.
This isn’t the first time rogue hackers have tried to screw with the Russian news sites. Accounts allegedly associated with the hacktivist collective Anonymous have previously claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Russian movement and news sites, including attacks on RT News. The supposed Anonymous affiliated accounts went as far as to declare, “cyber war” against Russia. Though it’s particularly difficult to verify claims made by groups invoking the “anonymous” moniker, Security Discover Co-Founder Jeremiah Fowler told CNBC last month, “the timeline matches perfectly.”
“We know for a fact that hackers found and probably accessed these systems,” Fowler said. “We do not know if data was downloaded or what the hackers plan to do with this information.”
Those anti-war hacking efforts come as Russian officials claim they’ve experienced an “unprecedented” wave of attacks since its invasion. Ukraine, on the other hand, may have experienced 237 different operations conducted by at least six Russian-linked cyber threat groups, according to recent Microsoft research.
Russian dissidents at odds with their government’s now three-month-long military escalation have gone lengths to voice their opposition. Back in March, a prominent state media journalist interrupted a live broadcast with a large sign reading “NO WAR.”
Around the same time, Russian cosmonauts famously boarded the International Space Station wearing uniforms matching Ukraine’s flag colors, a gesture many saw as a public display of support for the country.
Still, even with those flickering signs of resistance, currently available polling suggests Russians, en mass, still overwhelmingly express support for the war. A discouraging March poll from The Levada Center found some 81% of Russian respondents supported Russia’s military actions.