May 9 is a big holiday in Russia. It’s a celebration of the day the Soviet Union defeated Germany in World War II. There are massive parades, family gatherings, and—of course—televised speeches from political leaders. On Monday, as Russians across the country turned on the TV to watch a show or catch Putin’s latest remarks, they were met with something they didn’t expect: anti-war messages.
On both satellite and cable channels, the message scrawled in place of both station names and channel descriptions. “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their murdered children is on your hands,” the message said. “The TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”
As of this writing, no one knows how the messages made it onto the cable and satellite TV channels. It appears to only be affecting Smart TVs and the messages have largely been removed though no explanation was given for the hack and no one has taken credit.
The Kremlin has long had a powerful hold on Russia’s television and print media and things have only gotten worse since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Western websites have been banned, independent news sources have been threatened, and new laws have made it impossible to talk about the war in anything approaching an objective sense.
Anti-war messages in mainstream Russian media are scarce and often come in the form of hacks. Hackers have taken over TV stations and news websites multiple times in the past few months to display anti-war messages. RT went down in the days after the war began and Moscow blamed the hacker group Anonymous.
Right now, Russian TV is no longer displaying anti-war messages, but other media organizations are still having trouble. Rutube, a popular YouTube alternative, is currently down and a holding page says it has been attacked.