School children force fed Putin's propaganda as Russian media hides Ukraine truths

3 March 2022, 12:41 | Updated: 3 March 2022, 15:19

Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has shocked the world
Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has shocked the world. Picture: Alamy/Twitter

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Russia is misleading millions of its citizens in a state-sanctioned campaign of disinformation that includes schoolchildren being given classes on Vladimir Putin's "liberation mission" in Ukraine.

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Today children throughout the country were given a virtual lesson on "why the liberation mission in Ukraine is a necessity", according to the country's education ministry, also known as the 'Ministry of Enlightenment'.

Viewers were taught "about the danger Nato represents to our country" and "why Russia stood up for the protection of the civilians of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics", when the reality is far different.

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Children also learned "how to distinguish the truth from lies in the huge stream of information, photos and videos that are flooding the internet today", a statement from the Russian ministry said.

Russia's efforts to hide the truth

It comes as Russian state media downplays or ignores completely the destruction of major Ukrainian cities, deaths of civilians and significant loss of Russian troops.

It instead gives the impression the country's presence is limited to protecting Russian-speaking regions while insisting anything contradicting this narrative is fake news being spread by the West.

Pro-Kremlin Russian TV stations loyally repeat Mr Putin's propaganda that the invasion is a "special operation to defend the people's republics" and Russia is not the aggressor, while astonishingly accusing Ukraine of war crimes against its own citizens.

Mr Putin has justified his assault with false claims that Ukraine is run by "neo-Nazis", despite the fact President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish and lost family in the Holocaust.

Millions of Russians have been trying to access western media in the last week in order to get an accurate picture of developments.

Independent news in Russia shut down

The country's leading independent radio station, Echo of Moscow and the website of TV Rain, an independent streaming television channel, have been blocked from reporting on Russia's invasion.

Social media sites have been restricted, preventing users in Moscow and St Petersburg from seeing devastating photos of the suffering in Ukraine.

Mr Putin's government has also been relentlessly cracking down on anti-war protests since the invasion began, with almost 7,000 people detained so far in as many as 50 cities, according to the human rights project OVD-Info.

Young children and an elderly woman who survived the siege of Leningrad in the Second World War are among those who have been arrested for taking part.

Television fake news

Television channel NTV, owned by Kremlin-controlled firm Gazprom, is reportedly focusing its coverage on events in the Donbas region, and omitting the destruction of cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv.

The channel accuses Western media of disinformation, saying it has produced "a million fakes" about Moscow's "special operation".

Meanwhile on state-controlled Rossiya 1, top war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny says: "The offensive in the DNR is inexorably rolling on in the direction of the borders of Ukraine's former Donetsk Region. Motivation among troops is through the roof. Many haven't been home for eight long years."

However, footage on the ground shows soldiers weeping after being sent into war and pleading to be sent home to their mothers.

Also on Rossiya 1, one of Russia's most popular channels, a presenter says that aggression in Ukraine comes not from Russian forces, but from "Ukrainian nationalists" who "use civilians as a human shield".

And a presenter on Channel One, another popular state-controlled channel, announces that Ukrainian troops "are preparing to shell residential houses" in "acts of provocation against civilians and Russian forces".

Russia has also targeted TV towers in Ukraine in an effort to suppress the spread of information, with an assault on the tower in Kyiv killing five people including a cameraman.

War rages on

It comes as Kherson, a port city of 280,000 people, has become the first major city to fall as Mr Putin's forces claimed last night to have taken complete control there.

The mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, confirmed Russian soldiers were in the city and came to the city administration building.

Meanwhile, Russian forces have pressed their bombardment of the country's second-biggest city, Kharkiv, while the huge armoured column threatening Kyiv appears to be stalled outside the capital.

A senior US defence official said the immense convoy of hundreds of tanks and other vehicles appeared to be stalled roughly 16 miles from Kyiv and had made no real progress in the last couple of days.

It has been plagued with fuel and food shortages and has faced fierce Ukrainian resistance, the official said.

Russia also pounded Kharkiv, a city of about 1.5 million people, in another round of aerial attacks that shattered buildings and lit up the skyline with balls of fire.

At least 21 people were killed and 112 injured over the past day, said Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration.