Restaurants and bars across Russia are getting flooded with five-star “reviews” on Google and other websites harboring messages about Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Ukraine, as part of an effort to cut through the Kremlin’s stream of propaganda and relay uncensored information about the neighboring war to the people of Russia.
“5,800 Russian Soldiers died today, 4,500 yesterday. Stop your aggression, don’t let your kids suffer, if you go to war you will not come back,” read one review left on the Google page of a downtown Moscow eatery called Romantic.
“Please listen, your government is lying to you,” read another review, one of dozens of anti-war messages posted to the page of White Rabbit, an upscale restaurant near Moscow’s Smolenskaya Square. “Russia has declared war on Ukraine and your young soldiers are confused and dying. The entire world is watching. Please stop the war.”
The restaurant review campaign appears to have picked up steam after a Twitter account purporting to be linked to the vigilante hacking group Anonymous instructed followers to “Go to Google Maps. Go to Russia. Find a restaurant or business and write a review. When you write the review, explain what is happening in Ukraine.”
“If you don’t know what to say,” the Twitter account suggested, “here is an example text: The food was great! Unfortunately, Putin spoiled our appetites by invading Ukraine. Stand up to your dictator, stop killing innocent people! Your government is lying to you. Get up!”
Many across Russia seem to have already heard the anti-war pleas from the world over, with thousands having marched in protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities last week. The demonstrations, however, have been met with harsh crackdowns from Russian police, who have reportedly detained more than 2,000 protesters since the onset of the invasion last week, according to Russian rights watchdog OVD-Info.
Other creative protest methods have come from hackers who infiltrated Russian state news website TASS, which was suspended by the European Alliance of News Agencies for “not being able to provide unbiased news.”
On Monday, the homepage of the website was changed to show a message condemning Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine. “Dear citizens. We urge you to stop this madness, do not send your sons and husbands to certain death. Putin makes us lie and puts us in danger,” it read.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, casualties among both Russian and Ukrainian troops continued to rise through Tuesday, as Russia launched an aerial bombardment targeting a television tower near the site of a famed Holocaust memorial in Kyiv, all part of Putin’s efforts to take control of the capital city. The second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkhiv also suffered heavy bombing on Tuesday as pro-Russia Belarusian troops arrived to take part in the onslaught.
The attacks coincided with reports that an increasingly “frustrated” Putin is planning to carry on with a “devastating” attack to “crush” Ukraine after facing setbacks in his plot to swiftly take control of the Ukrainian capital.
On Tuesday, dozens of diplomats walked out on two UN virtual meetings with Russian Foreign Defense Minister Sergey Lavrov, sending a clear message in protest of Putin’s full-scale assault on Ukraine.