Instead of commenting on the food and service in Russian restaurants and cafes, some users have started posting online reviews of Russian actions in Ukraine to try to smuggle information past the tight control of the state media.
Russia’s communications regulatory agency has accused 10 local media outlets of falsely portraying what Russia calls a special operation to demilitarize Ukraine. Russia took radio station Ekho Moskvy off the air on Tuesday over coverage of the invasion.
But online comments on platforms like Google Maps and Afisha.ru, a widely used lifestyle and entertainment website in Russia, are harder to grasp, especially as internet users turn to online tools like VPNs to get around social media restrictions.
In a review of one of Moscow’s most popular seafood restaurants on Afisha.ru, one user wrote: “Deploying troops to Ukraine is a war, not a special operation. Russian soldiers are killing children and civilians!!!!”
Another wrote: “It was a beautiful place! But Putin ruined our mood by invading Ukraine. Revolt against your dictator, stop killing innocent people! Your government is lying to you.”
Russia rejects the term invasion, saying its actions are not intended to occupy territory, but to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and capture what it considers dangerous nationalists.
The identity of the authors behind the online comments could not be verified.
The numerous reviews led Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin to say foreign online users were carrying out a “psychological information attack”, saying most of the information came from bots.
“Please don’t fall for the calls of provocateurs. They are designed to undermine the city’s governance and create an atmosphere of chaos,” he said. “They’re trying to divide us.”
A Twitter account linked to the international hacking collective Anonymous, which has announced plans to attack Russia’s online presence, has urged people to write reviews on Google Maps about what’s happening in Ukraine.
Online users in Russia also recommended a strategy for posting photos of Ukraine in reviews for popular eateries.
“Write in the text about the war and include a photo of destroyed houses, victims and people in shelters,” wrote one Instagram user.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)