Ukrainian Soldiers Are Receiving 'Propaganda' Texts
Journalist Julia Kirienko has revealed the text she received whilst she sheltered with Ukrainian soldiers two miles from the front.
The phones of Kirienko, and everyone around her, started buzzing over the noise of the shelling.
"Ukrainian soldiers," it read, "they'll find your bodies when the snows melts."
Such text messages are the norm to the Ukrainian forces, who are fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.
Soldier of the Donetsk People´s Republic in his muddy trench close to the frontline of Zaitseve, Ukraine. Image: PA
"This is pinpoint propaganda," said Nancy Snow, a professor of public diplomacy at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.
Associated Press found that the messages are 'almost certainly' being sent through cell site simulators, used to track suspects' mobile phones.
The messages, which have been sent since 2014 when the conflict first began, say things like "Leave and you will live" or "Nobody needs your kids to become orphans."
Sometimes the texts are made out to be from a member of their own side. in 2015, Ukrainian soldiers serving in Debaltseve were sent messages that appeared to come from comrades, saying their unit's commander had deserted.
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Another series of texts warned Ukrainian forces they were being annihilated. "We should run away," they read.
"They were mostly threatening and demoralizing, saying that our commanders had betrayed us and we were just cannon fodder," said Roman Chashurin, who served as a tank gunner in Debaltseve.
While Ukrainian military and intelligence services haven't spoken out about the phenomenon, Associated Press reports that the government and telecommunications officials are well aware of what's happening.
A father walks with his son along the burnt wreckage of a Ukrainian Armed Forces T-64 'Bulat' battle tank in 2014. Image: PA
Though a new tactic, widespread text messages aren't new to war zones. Islamist group Hamas sent menacing texts to random Israelis during the 2009 conflict over Gaza.
Snow argues that cell site simulators 'sharpen the ability of the propagandist to tailor their messages to a specific place or situation'.
She added: "There's just something about viewing a message on your phone that just makes people more susceptible or vulnerable to its impact."
Soldiers have said that they typically brush them off, despite these comments.
"I can't say that it had any influence on us," said Chashurin. "We were even joking that they must be so afraid of us the only thing they can do is to spam us with these texts."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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