The war for Ukraine’s freedom is not just a war of guns, tanks, drones and guns. It’s also a bitter battle for information. There are a wide range of people on both sides of that battle either spreading misinformation on behalf of the Kremlin or working to expose their lies and talk about the reality of Russia’s brutal war. In this article, we’ve highlighted six of the best from that latter group that are worth following.
One of the best known Ukrainian online warriors is probably Denis Kazansky (or Denis Kazanskyi), who has 587 000 followers on his Youtube channel. Kazanskiy was born in Donetsk and was forced to leave the region because of Russia’s war in the Donbass. However, the Donbass is still very close to his heart so he discusses the reality there on his YouTube channel. He was also one of Ukraine’s representatives on the trilateral contact group for a peaceful settlement of the situation in eastern Ukraine in 2020, prior to Russia’s full scale war, and has written several books on the Donbass (“Black Fever”, “How Ukraine Lost Donbass”). Today he lives in Kyiv and works as a journalist. His Youtube videos are mostly in Russian and mainly devoted to analysing propaganda in the Russian media. Anyone who speaks Russian and is interested in analysing Russian media should definitely follow him.
Grigory German’s analyses are also aimed mainly at Russian-speaking viewers. German is one of Ukraine’s best-loved show hosts, showmen and announcers, having, among other things, voiced characters in the films Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean and American Gangster, which have been translated into Ukrainian. He also has a passion for good food, which was once a main focus of his online. However, his posts to his cooking-themed YouTube channel abruptly ended with the start of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. Today, Grigori German’s incisive analyses and interviews can be enjoyed mainly on ICTV.
Russians themselves are also engaged in this battle. One of those is Roman Abalin, born and raised in Chelyabinsk, Russia. He takes a humorous and youthful take on the absurdity of Kremlin propaganda as NFKRZ (short for No-Fuckers). His YouTube channel has 1.14 million followers, making him by far the most popular of the YouTubers covered in this article. In his videos, Roman describes himself as a “friendly neighbourhood Russian” and focuses mainly on explaining various phenomena of Russian society to his English-speaking audience, drawing heavily on his own personal experience. Although he was forced to leave Russia because of the war in Ukraine, he retains a connection with his homeland and his channel gives viewers a good insight into how new migrants from Russia feel and what issues they are dealing with. More recently, he has found valuable analytical material on Kremlin-backed pop culture phenomena.
Anna from Ukraine
Moving to English language YouTubers, we have Anna from Ukraine who uses her channel to provide daily insights into the realities of life for ordinary people in wartime Ukraine. As a teacher and a journalist, Anna also provides her more than 40,000 subscribers with information on the history, culture and political situation in her country in good English. In one of her latest videos on Russian propaganda and fake news, she warns Western society against the tactics used by Russia. She has dedicated a series of video blogs to debunking various myths created by Russia.
The video production of Operator Starsky on Youtube is quite similar to Anna. He introduces himself on his channel as follows: “My name is Starsky, I am a soldier of Ukrainian Defense Forces, a blogger and a war hipster. I dedicate this channel to the international community that supports Ukraine in its liberation struggle against Russian aggression”. Starsky is a press officer for the Defense Forces of Ukraine who frequently broadcasts live on his channel with 350,000 followers and interacts directly with his viewers and answers their questions. One of the reasons for Starsky’s popularity is his very good command of English, which makes it easy and natural for the international community to follow the channel. Starsky does not directly analyse Kremlin propaganda on his channel, but his candid overview of what is happening in the war is given in a simple and humanly understandable way, thus refuting the false constructions built up in the Russian media.
And finally, an Estonian man who has recently dedicated his YouTube channel mainly to topics related to Ukraine. He introduces himself on his channel as follows: “My name is Artur Rehi and I am an Estonian reservist. I completed my military service in 2018 in the Kuperjanov infantry battalion as a company liaison”. Rehi’s videos are also aimed at an international audience and are technically well made and with a good command of English. He does not talk about Kremlin propaganda in his clips, but he does talk about various war events, to which he adds his own insightful analysis. Rehi’s channel has built up 573,000 subscribers, and he has been featured in an article by the Kyiv Post as one of the top 10 YouTube soldiers supporting Ukraine.