An important component of the Kremlin’s wars is information, that is, propaganda and censorship, through which Russia essentially zombies its own population and influences the inhabitants of the occupied territories.

It should be noted that the necessary result has been achieved for years, which is why today most Russians criminally support the genocide of the Ukrainian people, which is actually carried out by the Kremlin. After the occupation of Crimea, Russia began actively zombieing the local population of the peninsula, imposing its narratives on it.

First of all, they concern the myth of alleged “hatred” of Russian-speakers in Ukraine, allegedly “crime” of the political regime in Kyiv, allegedly “historical belonging to Russia” of Crimea, and so on. Such myths are widely used by the aggressor-controlled media operating on the occupied peninsula.

However, after the large-scale Russian invasion of mainland Ukraine and the beginning of the so-called “military special operation”, the Russian invaders’ propaganda in the occupied Crimea intensified considerably and military censorship was introduced.

Its task is first of all to force the Crimean residents to take up arms and go to war against other Ukrainians. The Kremlin also wants to gain “full support” for the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine to rule out any attempts to intensify protest movements on the peninsula.

Relevant facts were investigated by experts of the Association of Reintegration of Crimea.

It should be noted at the outset that the media of the occupied peninsula began to spread military rhetoric a few weeks before the invasion of Ukraine. In particular, the number of articles and stories about a possible war has increased sharply, some of which were prepared by Russia’s federal channels. Interviews with various “military experts” about how “adversary” Ukraine is and how it “should be treated” have increased significantly [1].

It should be emphasized that during this period, experts record an increase in support for military action in Ukraine by the population of Russia itself, which was planned by the aggressor to be reflected in the Crimea. Probably this was the result of the Russian propaganda, the task of which was to “prepare” the Crimean residents for the beginning of the war.

However, looking ahead, we note that the level of this “support” did not increase, and then disappeared altogether, especially after the disclosure of the atrocities committed by the occupiers in Ukraine. Thus, after a week of war, the Center for Defense Strategies reported a sharp increase in the number of Crimean residents who condemn the Kremlin’s aggression and do not want to fight against Ukraine. This jeopardized the Kremlin’s criminal mobilization plans, which planned to actively use the population of the occupied peninsula in the war against Ukraine [2]. The number of Crimean citizens who condemned Russia’s policy towards Ukraine and began to declare their position publicly has also increased.

This situation forced the self-proclaimed “government” to intensify propaganda and impose strict military censorship. Immediately after the invasion, locals saw numerous billboards with Putin, on which he criminally “convinces” the Crimean residents of the “need for demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine”. Such billboards appeared in the most crowded places of Crimean cities and highways [3].

However, in response to such “advertising” of the war, numerous anti-war graffiti made by local activists began to be noticed on the streets of the occupied peninsula. For example, on Miroshnyka Street in Kerch, unknown individuals depicted a crossed-out “Z” symbol used by the occupiers to mark their military equipment. Similar inscriptions were seen in different parts of the city [4].

The activity of the Crimean residents gave impetus to the anti-war movement on the peninsula, which, in turn, has already allowed to obtain certain results. Thus, the Crimean “military enlistment offices” of the aggressor began to record numerous absences of “conscripts” and refusal to participate in the war. Even in the so-called “people’s militia” of Sergei Aksyonov, there was a strong panic [5]. The situation is the same in the occupiers’ military units, stationed in Crimea. In order to prevent such sentiments, the Kremlin has resorted to the usual repression, which should intimidate Crimeans and force them to “fully support” war crimes in Ukraine.

In particular, in early March, there were numerous searches of Crimean activists with the seizure of computers, checking social networks and so on [6]. The Kremlin’s propaganda has also begun to sow panic among the local population, claiming that Ukrainian troops are planning to liberate Crimea. To prevent this from happening, the aggressor’s “special operation” is allegedly needed [7].

It seems that this propaganda had a greater effect primarily on Crimean collaborators than on ordinary Crimeans, because it was the aggressor’s henchmen who began to sell real estate on the occupied peninsula en masse and leave it.

The cynicism of the Kremlin’s propaganda is striking, as after the publication of the atrocities of the Russians in Bucha, the self-proclaimed “authorities” began to intimidate local men who refuse to participate in criminal “mobilization”. In particular, there are statements that in case of refusal to fight, in Crimea “allegedly the same thing can happen as in Bucha and Kramatorsk” [8], allegedly as “revenge”.

However, propaganda is not limited to this. For example, Crimean collaborators proclaimed the “We do not abandon ours” campaign and in fact forced locals to cling to their vehicles with the infamous letter “Z”, which was also posted on public transport. There are facts of dismissal of public transport drivers for refusing to take part in this action.

Admittedly, in the first week of the large-scale war, the propagandists in the Crimea were significantly confused, but later “gained momentum”. Yes, today they are actively using “administrative resources”. In particular, representatives of the “budget sphere”, especially educators, were forced to actively post on social networks in support of the “special operation” and the Kremlin’s criminal policy in general. This is done on the instructions of Crimean collaborators.

The situation is complicated by the fact that almost all Ukrainian information resources and other independent platforms on the peninsula are blocked. This applies to a number of social networks, which are not accessible even through VPN services [10]. The total information blockade allows to spread outright fakes among the Crimean residents. For example, about “escape of Volodymyr Zelensky from Kyiv”, about “laboratories with biological weapons” and others. Moreover, in the Crimean media, the occupiers constantly convince the population that you can not come across fakes only by watching “Russian channels” [11].

A very interesting strategy: to recommend what these fakes are spreading. To date, more than thirty Ukrainian Internet resources have been blocked in Crimea, but this is probably just the beginning, as Russia is introducing the term “media agent”, which will certainly include all media outlets unfavorable to the regime [12].

Frankly, similar trends began a year before the large-scale war, when the Crimean Human Rights Group found that 27 Crimean providers were deliberately blocking Ukrainian information resources [13]. Quite a pathetic step by Crimean collaborators, who simply have nothing to oppose to the true information that can reach the Crimean residents. Although the latter suffer the most from such an information blockade.

Citing military censorship, the self-proclaimed “government” of the Crimea is hiding information about the actual number of Crimean residents killed in the war. Despite the fact that someone is buried every day in different settlements of the peninsula, the invaders continue to underestimate the number of dead and wounded [14].

Prohibitions have also been imposed on the Crimean media on the use of the term “war”, which must cover events using the term “special military operation”. For non-compliance with these requirements, honey producers face quite large fines. In addition, the Kremlin provided a list of sources from which the Crimean and Russian media are obliged to obtain information [15]. Moreover, journalists are actually faced with a choice: either to work under such conditions, or to emigrate both from the occupied peninsula and from Russia. Otherwise, they are threatened with repression and criminal prosecution [16].

It is worth noting one characteristic detail. From the first day of the war in the occupied Crimea, all entertainment programs disappeared from the air. He was replaced by numerous “political talk shows” and TV programs about the special operation and its “historical significance”. Russian films about the Great Patriotic War are broadcast on television over the weekend. The intensification of propaganda shows the fear of the Kremlin regime and Crimean collaborators to lose control of the occupied peninsula.

And there are curiosities, which are probably subconsciously created by the self-proclaimed “powers” of Crimea. Thus, a billboard with the image of the “Russian warrior-liberator” was placed in the city of Simferopol in front of the cemetery [18].

One element of propaganda for the war on the occupied peninsula is forcing local Kremlin puppets to make loud statements in support of the “special operation” and Putin. These appeals are constantly heard in the pro-Russian media and it is noteworthy that some of these puppets have Ukrainian roots. The following collaborators are worth mentioning: Yuhym Fiks from Volyn Region, Oleg Shapovalov from Dnipropetrovsk Region, Valentyna Lavryk from Vinnytsia Region and Yanina Pavlenko from Chernivtsi Region [19].

We should pay special attention to the issue of military propaganda among children and youth of the occupied peninsula. This is a very dangerous practice, given the future risks. In previous articles, we have already written about the “Unarmy”, which is undoubtedly an element of Kremlin propaganda. Today we should focus on propaganda in the conditions of open war, ie after the “official” large-scale invasion. In particular, the practice of “teaching special courses in Crimean schools” has been introduced on the peninsula, in which students are not only taught to use weapons, but also form a so-called “Russian civic identity” and a favorable view of Russia’s history and “military achievements” [20].

Note that such courses are almost compulsory for children who “receive general secondary education”. That is, from an early age, it is not love for the Motherland that is formed, but hatred for the whole world. Even the coronavirus pandemic did not hinder mass military propaganda.

Such a criminal policy of the occupiers has a basis, because since 2014 Russia has been doing everything to educate Crimean youth in the spirit of hatred for Ukraine. In particular, in September 2014, teachers forced students to take out Ukrainian textbooks and portraits of Ukrainian poets and writers. Also, Crimean students do not study the history of Ukraine at all, and are almost deprived of teaching in the Ukrainian language. There is only one Ukrainian-language school left on the peninsula in Feodosia, but it exists rather to create the illusion that the occupiers are allegedly “not violating the rights of the Ukrainian-speaking population”. But it also has no lessons in the history of Ukraine [22].

It should be noted that since the beginning of the war, propaganda among students of Crimean schools has only intensified. In particular, as it became known, the classroom in most schools consists of four main blocks. In the first, the teacher notes that Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians are supposedly “one nation”. In the second block, teachers cite alleged “facts” that Ukraine allegedly “never had independence”. The third block is usually devoted to clarifying that truthful information is contained only in the “Russian official media”. The last block is devoted to justifying the military invasion of Ukraine [23].

Orphans and children deprived of parental care should be included in a special risk group. Due to their insecurity, such children are fully aware of Russian military propaganda. According to experts, they develop tolerance for war and violence as a means of resolving political and ideological conflicts [24]. Moreover, the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and the authorities can only record these offenses [25].

However, the Kremlin leadership is accustomed to ignoring world-renowned norms and pursuing policies that are clear only to it, including in the occupied territories. The facts of threats from the occupiers who call Crimean youth and Crimean students studying in higher educational institutions of Ukraine cannot be explained otherwise. They demand “immediate return” and arrival at the fake Crimean “military enlistment offices” [26].

In conclusion, it should be noted that the intensification of military censorship and propaganda during the Russian war against Ukraine is not accidental. The Kremlin uses these tools to solve several important tasks.

First, the aggressor wants to see “unquestionable support for aggression and violence by the local population” in the occupied territories. Tens of billions are spent to achieve this goal. Most likely, the Kremlin leader himself is not confident in his actions and wants to assert himself at the expense of others.

Secondly, Russia plans to involve Crimean conscripts in the war with Ukraine as criminally as possible. That is, it is a question of replenishment of human resources which the Kremlin methodically loses in Ukraine. This is contrary to international humanitarian law, which prohibits the mobilization of people from the occupied territories.

Third, the Kremlin is using propaganda and censorship to create the necessary consciousness among young people, who are supposed to be recklessly following the orders of the Russian “government”. However, the intensification of anti-war sentiment on the peninsula shows that common sense prevails, not the mantras of propagandists that are heard on TV.

It is worth noting that Crimeans are Ukrainians who are accustomed to freedom of speech and reliable information in the media, and it is quite difficult to deceive them. However, Russia’s policy on children, due to which the aggressor is persistently forming an anti-Ukrainian position, is a matter of concern. Therefore, the Ukrainian authorities must do everything possible to prevent this.