How the CIA is working with anti-Putin Russians to secretly gather information
Hacker (Photo: Shutterstock)

The CIA is working under Vladimir Putin's nose with Russians trying to circumvent his attacks on Ukraine, according to a report in The New York Times

The New York Times reported Monday that the US's international intelligence agency is using the dark web upload details in a way to bypass any of the Russian monitors. They're also using social media platforms like YouTube to explain to Russians how they can use private networks and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt information.

"The instructions, written in Russian, are meant to be relatively simple to follow," said the report. "Russians are told to use a VPN to contact the CIA They can also download the Tor browser, which allows users to access the dark web and submit information anonymously, without either the agency knowing where it came from or Russian security services knowing someone was contacting the Americans."

CIA spokesperson Susan Miller explained that they're working to ensure that any Russian who wants to help the "unjust war" can do so "safely." The report also indicated they're using other means to push out information, but didn't disclose them.

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Tor browsers protect the identity of those using it using encryptions bouncing through various different way-points around the world making it difficult to trace.

For the past months, anti-Putin Russians have protested in whatever ways they could. Putin responded by passing new laws that effectively outlaw using the words "war" or "invasion" to describe the attacks on Ukraine. Thousands of Russians have been arrested for what they're calling "fake news" that opposes the Russian military.

“The Kremlin is wiping out all options for dissent to ensure that brave anti-war protesters do not return to the streets,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “When President Putin goes after such a fundamental right – the cornerstone of democracy – with such totalitarian tactics, he is dispensing with any pretense that his government has any respect for rule of law, human rights, or democracy.”

Russian Channel One producer Marina Ovsyannikova staged her own protest in March, uploading a video to her Twitter account before she appeared on air with a poster saying that the government was lying to people about the war. She now faces 15 years in prison.

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After Ovsyannikova was arrested, Channel One colleague Zhanna Agalakova also quit her job as the Europe correspondent for the Russian state television outlet. Two other journalists at Channel One's rival station NTV left as well. One of those was 30-year veteran reporter Vadim Glusker and Lilia Gildeyeva who has worked for the channel since 2006.

On Twitter, people post comments like "Russians, you can stop this war." But as Maya Volf, a producer for Russian YouTuber Ilya Varlamov explained, they can't. "Even just getting information and sharing it with others is really dangerous for us and our families. For example, my husband is in Turkey right now because I am afraid for him."

Meanwhile, the hacker group Anonymous has worked on several fronts to stop Putin propaganda from being distributed to Russians. They also say that they've hacked at least 700 gigs of data from the Russian Ministry of Culture.

Read the full report at the New York Times.