Already almost 200,000 calls
Lithuanians fight against Putin’s propaganda with telephone trick
A group of Lithuanians called Russia about 180,000 times. Any number. To just talk. The aim of the action: to counter Putin’s propaganda.
Volunteer Lithuanians have called Russia over 180,000 times. The goal: to talk about the Ukraine war and counter Putin’s propaganda.
At first you were just yelled at. Four, five minutes. By now people would start talking – and for up to three hours. This is what the Lithuanian Paulius Senūta (46) says to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” in connection with the Ukraine war. Together with a friend, IT experts, marketing and PR people, Senūta launched the “Call Russia” project, which works as follows: Volunteers call any number in Russia using a random number generator.
The Lithuanians not only want to tell and pass on information from a Western perspective, but also to change the opinion of the Russians. Senūta: «In the first days of the war, everyone here did something. Our idea was just to call.” It is clear that everyone in Lithuania has ties to Russia. The country finally belonged to the Soviet Union until 1990. “And that’s why most Lithuanians also understand Russian.”
Senūta and his acquaintances were undeterred by the initial anger on the other end of the line. Even after ten months of war, they still ring their neighbors’ bells. So far, around 51,000 callers have tried their luck, a Russian number has been dialed around 180,000 times, and around half as many calls have taken place. In total, the group has downloaded around 40 million Russian phone numbers from the Internet – and they should all be contacted.
“They think we have no idea”
Most of the calls are still coming from Lithuania and the other Baltic countries, says Senūta. But also from exiled Russians all over the world. According to the “Süddeutsche”, some of those called want to keep in touch afterwards, write messages and call back. Senuta says: “We are constantly being asked where the front is actually now, what the losses are in the Russian army, what it really looks like in Ukraine.” Even if the people followed the Kremlin in justifying the war, they didn’t believe the military reports.
“We worked out a conversation technique with psychologists.” You have to have an honest interest, be able to listen and endure contrary views. “They think we have no idea and just don’t understand Russia.” Over the past twenty years at least, the West has built up an enemy image that only wants to humiliate Russia. “And in fact, most Europeans and Americans know far too little or nothing at all about the Russians.”
Almost a year later, the activists don’t see their goal. But Senūta is confident. And he should have reason to do so, because the following telephone stories about the war are currently making headlines: As reported by the “New York Times”, for example, Russian soldiers at the front call home and talk about their misery. Criticism of the abilities of the military superiors rained down, even the Russian President Vladimir Putin (70) was cursed. There is also a hotline for Russian soldiers who want to give up: the Ukrainian government has set up a number that seems to be successful, as the “Spiegel” reports. (twa)