The army of volunteers randomly calling the Russians to

The army of volunteers randomly calling the Russians to expose Putin’s lies about the war

by Elena Tebano

Activists of Call Russia, a Lithuanian NGO: “Talking to each other is a way to end the war”

A very special “army” has been deployed against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which wants to use words to defuse the war. It was founded last March by Lithuanian writer and advertising expert Paulius Senuta, 46, along with a group of IT experts, and is made up of volunteers, mostly Lithuanians but also Russians living abroad: a total of 51,000 people. “Armed” with a random number generator that has created a database of 40 million phone numbers, they call Russia without knowing the identities of those who answer, trying to talk about the war in Ukraine. “Direct talks are a way to spread the truth and end this war,” Call Russia explains on its website. “In the first days of the war, everyone here in Lithuania did something. Our idea was to call, »says Senuta in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung. To date, 180,000 calls have been made by Call Russia volunteers. In about half of the cases, conversations ensued: “People want to talk,” he adds.

This is already proof that something has changed. In March, when the volunteers began giving the Russians a different view of the invasion of Ukraine than the pro-government media (since all other media had been silenced by Vladimir Putin’s regime), people continued at the other end of the spectrum Telephones were anything but inviting. Most of the time, they shouted, cursed at the strangers who called them, or simply repeated slogans of Russian propaganda and accused the volunteers of being paid agents of Western intelligence. The phone calls were mostly very short, a few minutes at most. Now they have lengthened and can even last two or three hours.

They are never easy. The volunteers have developed a method of interviewing psychologists to continue the interview. “It just takes a conversation where you feel like you’re making someone doubt what they hear every day on state media for you to feel like it’s worth it,” Lidia, one of the volunteers, one 30 year old Russian immigrant living in Huddersfield, England. It happened to her with a woman named Natalia, who initially accused the Western media of wanting to discredit Putin. However, he later admitted to knowing people in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro who had witnessed the killing of women and children. Lidia noticed that Natalia’s certainty about the war was crumbling.

Many of the people who speak to volunteers are primarily looking for information. “We are constantly being asked where the front is, how high the Russian army’s losses are, how things really are in Ukraine,” says the Lithuanian writer and publicist. Even those who share Putin’s motivation for the invasion no longer believe him. And more and more doubts about the victory promised by the regime: “People are losing faith that they can win the war.” Senuta has concluded that many Russians would like to protest the president’s decisions. But they are afraid of it. The consensus was further undermined by the extraordinary leverage that Putin sought to deal with the enormous loss of soldiers in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Call Russia volunteers are determined to do their part to ensure that the war against Ukraine is no longer supported by the Russians. One call after the other. “Of course, I can’t change a stranger’s worldview in an hour – says Senuta –. But people are starting to think.”

(This article comes from the newsletter il «Punto — Rassegna» ​​​​​​of the Corriere della Sera. To receive it you can subscribe here)

Jan 2, 2023 (Modified Jan 2, 2023 | 7:34pm)