Journalists Looking to Topple Putin Are Targeting Two Types of Russians

Journalists, including a former Russian lawmaker, seeking to topple President Vladimir Putin have created a television station to provide Russians with the truth about the invasion of Ukraine—and there are two groups of Russians they are targeting specifically.

After Putin ordered the invasion, the Russian government cracked down on independent media, leaving the country with only state-aligned outlets pushing a pro-Putin point of view. This means the only news about the war many Russians receive is sanctioned by the government and defends the conflict.

Amid this media landscape, Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of Russia's parliament who cast the lone dissenting vote against the 2014 annexation of Crimea, has teamed up with a group of journalists to start a new television channel, February Morning, with a goal of stopping the war.

In an interview with British publication The Guardian, Ponomarev explained the goals of his news station, which features stories that would otherwise be suppressed in Russia, including those about Russia covering up some of its failures and alleged war crimes.

Journalists targeting Russians to topple Putin
Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of Russia's parliament who cast the lone dissenting vote against the 2014 annexation of Crimea, has teamed up with a group of journalists to start a new television channel, February Morning, with a goal of stopping the war in Ukraine. Above, Ponomarev speaks in Moscow in October 2012. ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP via Getty Images

"Our job at the end of the day is an uprising of the masses," he told the newspaper. "We need individuals to see they are not alone."

There are two groups of Russians primarily being targeted by the television station, he told The Guardian. The first group consists of younger, more liberal individuals who support opposition leader Alexei Navalny. This group may already oppose Putin's war, though authorities have cracked down on dissent.

The second group includes Russia's left-skewing working class, he said. He explained that many of these people may be inclined to oppose the war and can be credited for attacks on military recruitment offices in Russia, according to The Guardian. Ponomarev has claimed "limited" credit for such attacks via information provided by the February Morning media outlet.

Both groups appear to be essential to Ponomarev's goal of toppling Putin. He said in the interview that he would be "proud" if Russia considers him a foreign agent or terrorist. The channel has about 70 employees, including some who even work from Russia despite the possible dangers for those who oppose the war.

One week before its launch, the Russian government blocked February Morning from running within the country. The channel said it was "attacked at the state level" for explaining "what is happening independently, objectively and impartially." It advises Russians to use a VPN to access its content.

In the days after ordering the invasion, Putin signed legislation cracking down on his country's media by criminalizing the spread of any news the Kremlin considered fake.

During the invasion, Russian state television has promoted the war to the Russian people, often becoming a platform for hosts to share potentially hyperbolized speculation about the conflict aligning with the Kremlin's view. Most recently, Russian TV host Vladimir Solovyov claimed there will be a nuclear war that only "mutants" will survive if NATO continues to back Ukraine.

Newsweek reached out to February Morning for comment.