Putin has brainwashed their Russian parents into war. They hope this website will save them

‘Like we are victims of Russian aggression, they are victims of Russian propaganda’

Bevan Hurley
Saturday 12 March 2022 14:00
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Man shares call with Russian father who doesn't believe there's war in Ukraine
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When Russian forces began shelling his home city of Kyiv, Misha Katsurin was confused why his father Andrei hadn’t called to see if he was safe.

After four days he phoned Andrei, who works in a monastery in a small town near the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, and described that Russian forces were indiscriminately bombing civilian areas.

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“He didn’t believe me, he started to argue and tell me that in reality Russia was saving Ukraine from the Nazis,” Mr Katsurin told The Independent.

“It was like a conversation with the deaf.”

Mr Katsurin, 33, made an emotional post on Instagram about the conversation, which quickly went viral receiving more than 135,000 likes and shares.

Hundreds commented on the post about their own experiences trying to talk to relatives in Russia who were in denial about the reality of the brutal invasion.

“I realised that this problem is much bigger,” he said.

So Mr Katsurin created the website Papapover, which translates as Papa Believe, which offers a step-by-step guide on how to speak to Russians who have been indoctrinated by years of misinformation and continue to maintain total loyalty to President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s really hard when the people closest to you don’t believe you. It’s very hard to keep calm,” Mr Katsurin told The Independent.

“My father is a kind person. He is against killing other people. I don’t blame him. Like we are victims of Russian aggression, they are victims of Russian propaganda.”

Mr Katsurin says the key to dismantling that belief system is patience. “Each of us need to talk from a position of love. To say ‘we don’t want to argue’, and to speak with compassion rather than anger.”

Since launching his website Mr Katsurin said he had been flooded with stories of Ukrainians trying to convince some of their 11 million Russian relatives of the truth about the invasion.

Since the war began, Russia has criminalised independent media, banned social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram, and filled the airwaves with lies.

Just as Russian military forces have stepped up their bombardment of Ukrainian cities in the face of stiff resistance, the information war has taken a disturbing turn in recent days.

The Kremlin has claimed that Ukraine is developing chemical and biological weapons - which the US Government believe is a false pretext for Russians to use them.

“We are so afraid of this,” Mr Katsurin said. “This is what they use as a provocation to use biological and chemical weapons themselves.”

One of the country’s chief propagandists, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, this week insisted there had been no invasion after meeting the Ukrainian foreign minister for peace talks.

After the Russians bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Lavrov claimed it was used as a military base by the Ukrainian Azov Battalion and other “radical” groups.

The Russians have also falsely claimed that images of wounded women and children were paid actors.

Mr Katsurin said the only means left to convince the Russian people of the atrocities being committed by their army was for people with relatives and friends to call them.

“Right now relatives are the only channel of information to them. So the only way to connect with them is for relatives to call them and explain what is going on.”

Misha Katsurin with his two young children. They escaped to Hungary with his wife when war broke out

Before the war began, Mr Katsurin ran several restaurants in the Ukrainian capital.

Now, his 250 employees are living in underground bunkers and working to feed the military and civilian population of Kyiv, which is being threatened on all sides by advancing Russian forces.

He escaped the city and took his wife and two young sons to safety in Hungary. He has since has relocated to Ternopil in western Ukraine where he is working with a team of IT experts to produce information “war projects”.

His Papa Believe website is one of these, he said. The others he isn’t able to speak about.

Mr Katsurin agrees his tech-savvy compatriots have been highly effective at sharing their stories and harnessing the sympathy of the world, and are grateful for the support they have received.

But without Nato imposing a no-fly zone to halt the Russian artillery and aerial attacks, he fears his country could be overrun.

“We appreciate all of the help of the West, of the media, of the weapons, all the love that everybody is sending here, but we need Nato to close the skies.

“There is no peaceful way out of this.”

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