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Ukraine targets Russians in information war, kyiv says – POLITICO

Kyiv’s “IT army” is fighting a battle for eyeballs in Russia, Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov has said.

Our ability to reach the citizens of the Russian Federation to tell them the truth increases every day,” Fedorov said Wednesday at POLITICO’s Tech 28 event in Brussels.

Before the war, Fedorov said: “We are directing our efforts on Ukraine. But as long as there are Russian tanks on Ukrainian territory, we will increase our ability to reach Russian citizens.”

Fedorov, whom POLITICO named the No. 1 “rule breaker” in its annual ranking of the 28 powerful players behind Europe’s tech revolution, said, by contrast, Russia had abandoned its goal of reaching a wider audience.

“We have already won the information war with Russia,” the 31-year-old said. Fedorov, a former digital marketing executive who turned his ministry into ground zero in the digital war against the Kremlin. “Because today Russia is only targeting domestic consumers to impose their false narratives on them, but they can’t do that with the rest of the world.”

He continued: “When Russian tanks entered Ukraine, we started the battle on the cyber front.” The government works closely with the private tech sector in their operations, Fedorov added: “We give them targets, we talk to them, we try to protect them in cyberspace… It’s actually a true army which has been formed.”

Ukrainian IT companies are “heroes as much as our armed forces who are defending us at the front” at the moment, the firms “continuing to operate in the basements, in the bomb shelters”.

Asked if there was a risk that Ukraine’s army of computer engineers and volunteer hackers would go too far – for example, harming ordinary Russian citizens with cyberattacks – Fedorov said: “I don’t see any risk for the democratic world. There is of course a huge risk for the Russian Federation. We will do our best to stop Russia and show the Russian public that their troops are killing our civilians. “

Fedorov, who has taken to social media to call out companies that continue to operate in Russia, said he would only rest when “all digital and technology companies leave Russia and stop cooperating with Russia”. which he says would set the country back decades: “When companies leave Russia, GDP drops and the country cannot fund the army.”

Probing whether there is a risk, if all Western internet and media companies leave Russia, of harming the country’s opposition activists, Fedorov said: “I am not afraid of this. As long as there is Wi-Fi Internet in the Russian Federation, their opposition and our [Ukraine’s] information societies will manage to bring the truth to the citizens of the Russian Federation.”

He added that Russians could still access free information using virtual private networks, or VPNs. “You can’t stop technologies as long as there is access to Wi-Fi”, said Fedorov. “We will continue to communicate the truth, because we must break the propaganda.”

Fedorov, who convinced SpaceX founder Elon Musk to give Ukraine access to his commercial Internet network of Starlink satellites, said more than 11,000 terminals were now operating in Ukraine.

“Starlink supports Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and IT infrastructure…Even if there is no fixed Internet, thanks to generators, using Starlink we can restore any connection in Ukraine”, said Fedorov. “Many medical hospitals use Starlink.”

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