Alexei Navalny has called for an "information front" against Russia's invasion of Ukraine as the jailed opposition leader asserted that poll results showing 75 per cent of Russians support the conflict were a "Kremlin lie".
In an extended series of tweets, Mr Navalny called on western leaders to support a massive social media ad campaign in order to break through Kremlin propaganda regarding the invasion.
"We need ads. Lots of ads," wrote Mr Navalny. "A huge national anti-war campaign will start with an advertising campaign. Two hundred million impressions a day to reach every Russian internet user twice. Stories, posts and prerolls. Across Russia, in cities and villages. On every tablet and every phone."
He called on Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Ursula von der Leyen, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, the head of Google owner Alphabet, to "urgently find a solution to crush [Vladimir] Putin's propaganda using the advertising power of social media".
The advertising campaign would be a way around the Kremlin's efforts to shut down independent media in Russia. Along with most independent websites and newspapers, the Russian censor has also blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
It also marks the opposition leader’s biggest foray yet into the complicated question of how widely the Russian public supports the war in Ukraine. Polling results, including from the independent Levada Centre, have shown majority support among Russians for the war.
But critics have cited poor polling techniques, low response rates and other mitigating factors to argue that many Russians are simply too afraid to voice their opposition to the war.
Then there are the efforts of pro-Kremlin programming, which has come to dominate television schedules in recent months as entertainment programmes have been pushed off all the main government channels.
‘Completely distorted view’
“The fact is that most Russian citizens have a completely distorted view of what is happening in Ukraine,” Mr Navalny wrote in messages passed to his supporters. “For them, Putin is waging a small, very successful war with very little bloodshed. Our soldiers are heroes and there are hardly any casualties.”
For the same price as a javelin anti-tank missile, he argued, western leaders could attract 200 million ad views or “at least eight million views on a video with the truth about what is happening in Ukraine”.
Russia has pulled its troops back from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv but is preparing for a new offensive in Ukraine’s east. Putin has said that Russia’s war will “continue until its full completion and the goals that have been set are fulfilled”. – Guardian