Ukrainians Confront Russians With Gruesome War Images | #socialmedia | #education | #technology | #infosec

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Images that the Kremlin doesn’t want Russians to see flash up every few minutes on a Ukrainian channel on the Telegram messaging app called Look for Yours.

In one, the body of a man in camouflage uniform lies rigid in a snowy field, with mangled flesh and blood where his face used to be. “Unidentified,” reads the caption.

The channel and a website, run by officials from Ukraine’s interior ministry, focus on what Kyiv sees as a Russian vulnerability: morale on the home front and in the ranks of the military. For days at the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian officials denied they were facing significant popular resistance and said no Russians had been killed.

A sign reading ‘No War’ hanging over Nevsky prospect, the central avenue in St. Petersburg, Russia, was removed on Tuesday.



Photo:

Dmitri Lovetsky/Associated Press

Some pictures and videos on Look for Yours depict gruesome scenes of charred corpses and twisted bodies amid wrecked vehicles. They also show videos of prisoners and identification documents of the captured and dead.

“Unfortunately, it’s not possible to recognize the person in every photograph,” says Viktor Andrusiv, a Ukrainian interior ministry official, speaking in Russian in a video on Look for Yours. “Those are the horrors of war launched by your president.”

The Ukrainian channel shows videos of Russian prisoners, including several saying that their commanders abandoned them and that they had been sent to Belarus for military exercises last month not knowing that they would be invading Ukraine.

Russia has long paraded Ukrainian prisoners on state television. On Sunday, it showed what it described as the interrogation of a Ukrainian soldier taken prisoner.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says that under international law, combatants must treat captured or killed soldiers humanely.

A Russian army column close to the border with Ukraine, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia in late February.

“They must be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity,” said an ICRC spokeswoman. “We call on all sides to handle the dead with respect and refrain from displaying dead bodies on open sources as it causes additional pain to their families.”

Vadym Denysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian interior ministry, said Ukraine wasn’t violating the rights of the dead or prisoners, whom he said were being treated well and receiving medical care if needed.

He said the government initiative was aimed at helping Russians find and get in touch with relatives in the military who had been sent into Ukraine. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has opened a hotline, called “Return Alive from Ukraine” for Russians looking for relatives.

The Russian Defense Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Russian President

Vladimir Putin

has told Russians that they are liberating their neighbor from a hostile Western-backed government that is holding ordinary Ukrainians hostage.

Tracks left by the Russian Army close to the border with Ukraine in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

That stance has become harder to maintain as Ukraine’s military has battled tenaciously and ordinary citizens have joined the fight, causing the Russian offensive to stall and casualties to mount. On Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry said for the first time that service members had been killed.

“Unfortunately there are dead and wounded among our comrades,” said the ministry’s spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov. He said Russian losses were significantly lower than those on the Ukrainian side.

Ukraine estimates that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers have died in combat and more than 200 have been taken prisoner. Those figures couldn’t be independently verified.

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Since the beginning of the new, full-scale invasion last week, senior Ukrainian officials including President

Volodymyr Zelensky,

have repeatedly appealed to Russians to protest against the war.

The online efforts take a more pugnacious tone.

On the Look for Yours website, Mr. Andrusiv, the interior ministry official, appealed to relatives of Russian soldiers. “Do everything you can to end this war, and so that your children, husbands and sons don’t die in our country,” he said.

In one video, a blindfolded man speaks on a cellphone proffered by his captors.

“Mum, I’m a prisoner in Ukraine,” he says.

“How can it be?” a female voice responds.

The interior of a destroyed Russian Army military vehicle on a road in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Monday.



Photo:

VITALIY GNIDYI/REUTERS

Russia has long tried to obscure the extent of its military operations in Ukraine, which included its seizing of Crimea and direct military interventions in eastern Ukraine with unmarked troops in 2014 and 2015.

Authorities at first denied any involvement, then suggested any Russian soldiers there were on vacation. When Ukraine captured a unit of paratroopers, Russian officials said they had got lost and strayed over the border.

This time, Russian media has played down the invasion and fighting, using Mr. Putin’s euphemism of a “special military operation” aimed at halting what they falsely portray as a Ukrainian assault.

Some parents of Russian conscripts and professional soldiers sent into Ukraine have started a campaign to locate their sons, having lost contact with them since the invasion started.

Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv came under heavy shelling; a nearly 40-mile-long convoy of Russian armored vehicles inched closer to Kyiv; delegations from both sides returned home with plans to meet again. Photo: Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Reuters

The Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee, a Russian nongovernmental organization, has been fielding calls at its branches across the country from relatives seeking information about their loved ones.

“I’ve lost count of how many people have called,” said Svetlana Golub, the organization’s head. “A mother might call, then a grandmother, then a father, then the nephew, friends and everyone else. Our hotline is inundated, and we try to speak with everyone and listen.”

Nina Ponomareva, the Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee director in the southern city of Volgograd, said she has received at least 10 calls a day since the start of Russia’s invasion.

One woman, a Ukrainian citizen, visited her office over the weekend to request assistance locating her son, who used to call her daily from his base in Crimea but had gone silent since Wednesday.

Write to James Marson at james.marson@wsj.com and Matthew Luxmoore at Matthew.Luxmoore@wsj.com

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