Ukrainian teens use social media combat Russian President’s invasion of Ukraine

From Behind Enemy Lines: stories from the Russian – Ukrainian War


Editor’s Note: The Hillsboro Globe is highlighting how ordinary citizens have chosen to fight Putin.  From IT specialists who have turned to paramilitary hacking to farmers who use stealth to steal military weapons to fight the war. It is our goal to provide articles that add to the hourly news reports published by Associated Press and other news outlets.

If there is a common element that is universal among young adults it is the powerful effect of social media when used to combat social injustice. Horrific events like school shootings and the death of George Floyd validate that teens and young professionals can play a significant role in bringing. justice to a wrong that might otherwise not have been given as much publicity. In what might be called the most internet-accessible war to date, young professionals have taken to using their skills as internet influencers and social media creators to wage their own war on social wrongs.

An excellent example of how a professional has taken their talent and turned it into cyber warfare to fight for her county is Solomiia Shalaiska is a Ukrainian young professional who crafts video editing, motion design for corporate videos, infographics, media promotions explainers, and YouTube content.

Shaliaska is a Kyiv-based graphic designer who told the Washington Post recently she felt helpless until she started posting pro-Ukraine rally images on her Instagram page  ENTERHERVOID WHICH she previously used for art and design. One recent post has gone viral demonstrating how one person can affect the morale of an entire country, if not the world. The post asks its audience to consider the scale of Ukrainians’ heroism against the vast bully of a neighbor, Russia. As of March 18, the post has accrued over 105, 545 likes on Instagram.

Social media posters who support Ukraine especially want to humiliate the Russian government as it has interfered with countries and their sovereignty for years. Real-time videos across Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter have attacked Russian propaganda and rallied to support the democratic country Ukraine. This is especially embarrassing to Russia which has long been a leader in internet hacking and thinks of itself as a cyberwarrior. Russia has interfered with United States elections, is the home to many ransom-seeking hackers who kidnap corporate data, and has used the internet as a disinformation propaganda machine.

Anti-war media created by Solomiia Shalaiska, a Ukrainian graphic designer

Solomiia Shaliaska told the Post, “It’s very important to [strengthen] the national spirit in Ukraine, that’s why people are doing memes and encouraging images,” she said in an Instagram message. People “should have sources where they can find ” more than Russian propaganda.”

Young professional Ukrainians are not the only internet influencers speaking out against Putin’s invasion. Many Russian influencers are braving the risk, which could be death, to speak out against the war. Influencers who have everything to lose at the hands of a Russian regime are defying the recently enacted policy to jail for up to 15 years anyone, journalist, or social media influencer if he or she speaks out against the war.

Russian influencers have adopted the black square on their Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok accounts. Some have the hashtag #notowar while others just use the black square. A recent Guardian article listed influencers who have braved the risk of jail or worse. “The risk for Russian influencers and journalists who speak out against the Russian dictator is obvious – those who don’t toe the government line can find themselves arrested or worse, as those being arrested for protesting on the streets in Russia know well.

Accentalk, a Ukrainian teen podcast

But considering their reach, a well-timed statement to millions on Instagram or TikTok can inflict considerable reputational damage to Putin’s claims of unity behind his cause” says Roman Kolodko, chief operating officer of eastern European influencer marketing agency Mediacube which represents a number of Russian and Ukrainian creators. Kolodko spoke as he fled Ukraine for Poland. “Many big influencers are in Ukrainian cities that have been and are being attacked right now, and they need to spread their word”. Many influencers have overnight changed their Instagram feeds from the typical beautiful image to becoming on-the-ground reporters often from behind any lines.

 Elena Mandziuk, a Russian travel blogger showed her million of followers how to make Molotov cocktails on her Instagram stories. Mary Furtas, a Ukrainian entrepreneur with nearly 55,000 followers, pivoted her profile to post overtly political pleas on 19 February. On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, like Prytula, she posted a similar red square.

Whether Russian or Ukrainian, the common thread amongst young influencers is righting social injustice and valuing humanity over greed. This is a value that has rung true with many Americans and has united a US Congress that less than 6 months ago it was unfathomable to think there would ever be real bi-partisanship in the future.