- Russian news site Lenta.Ru was briefly filled with headlines criticizing Vladimir Putin on Monday.
- The site’s sudden shift from its usual pro-Kremlin rhetoric was the work of two of its journalists.
- They said they posted more than 40 headlines to combat Russian propaganda on Victory Day.
Two Russian journalists working for the popular pro-Kremlin news site Lenta.Ru flooded the outlet’s home page on Monday with dozens of headlines criticizing President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lenta.Ru was briefly filled with messages such as “Vladimir Putin lied about Russia’s plans in Ukraine” and “Putin unleashed one of the bloodiest wars of the 21st century,” as seen in an archived version of the webpage.
Journalists Egor Polyakov and Alexandra Miroshnikova told independent Russian outlets Mediazona and The Insider that they posted 40 to 45 news facts, cases, and stories about the war that state media have tried to silence in their country.
Polyakov, a business reporter, told The Insider that their short takeover of the site wasn’t a “hacking by hackers” but a “conscious decision” by the two of them to combat Russian propaganda. “I believe that all opponents of the war now need to unite, regardless of their views,” he said.
Polyakov said both he and Miroshnikova no longer work at Lenta.Ru and weren’t in Russia when they meddled with the site, per The Insider.
Citing an unnamed Lenta.Ru correspondent, The Insider reported that panic had ensued among the company’s staff after they discovered the slew of headlines on the website. On Monday, the site’s chief editor, Vladimir Todorov, told state media agency RIA Novosti that his organization couldn’t comment on the hiccup.
While Lenta.Ru is not state-owned, it receives around 190 million visitors a month, according to web traffic analyzer SimilarWeb.
“We had to do it today,” Polyakov told The Guardian. “We wanted to remind everyone what our grandfathers really fought for on this beautiful Victory Day — for peace.”
“Ordinary people are dying, peaceful women and children are dying in Ukraine,” Polyakov said, per the outlet. “Given the rhetoric that we have seen, this isn’t going to stop. We couldn’t accept this any longer. This was the only right thing we could do.”
Victory Day, which falls on May 9, is Russia’s annual celebration of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. This year, Putin used the occasion to again baselessly frame the war in Ukraine as a war against Nazism.
In a separate development on the same day, hackers replaced Russian state TV schedules with an anti-war message that read: “On your hands is the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and their hundreds of murdered children. TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”