April 9, 2023:
In September 2o22 Russia declared that four Ukrainian provinces (Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, plus Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to the south) were now Russian territory. This was a violation of international laws and agreements that Russia had agreed to. Another problem with this annexation effort was that Russia only controlled some of the territory in these four provinces. There is a fifth province, Crimea, that Russia occupied in 2014 and several years later annexed. Despite not controlling four provinces completely, all this Russian occupied territory amounts to a quarter of Ukrainian territory. .For Russia, that is bad news because Russian occupation forces are suffering from poor morale, lack of training and inability to deal with Ukrainian partisan or the Ukrainian troops massing to stage another offensive to drive the Russians out of Ukraine.
There was more bad news with the four newly annexed provinces was that the Russians still have not managed to extend their national electronic media (radio, TV and Internet) monitoring and censorship system into the annexed territories. The government agency responsible for getting this done, or not, is the MRFC (Main Radio Frequency Center). This organization is responsible for Internet monitoring and censorship as well as doing the same for radio and TV stations. The Russian occupied areas are supposed to be free of Ukrainian commercial media, like cellphones, Internet, TV or radio. Any Ukrainian caught violating this edict is subject to punishment. That did not suppress the continued use of Ukrainian media, nor did efforts to outlaw the use of Ukrainian currency and passports. Meanwhile over a million Ukrainians have been exiled to Russia and over 50,000 children sent to Russia, some to be adopted by Russian couples. Out of all this grew a growing number of armed Ukrainian partisan groups in the occupied territories, making life difficult for Russia officials and Ukrainians who work for the Russians.
MFRC tasks included changing the designation of occupied Ukrainian territory as Russian in the Russian national weather reports. That took months to take care of. Progress in other areas has been equally slow. Getting Russian state-controlled radio and TV service into the annexed territories was not only difficult but not much used by local Ukrainians. The reality is that most Russians in Russia seek some access to Ukrainian media, usually via the Internet, for more accurate news on what’s really happening in Russian occupied areas of Ukraine. The MFRC efforts to impose censorship on media in occupied Ukraine was seemingly accomplished. The reality was that most of the Ukrainians were getting their information from unoccupied Ukraine. Russian censors monitor messages sent via the Internet inside Russia and in other Russian speaking areas. This indicates what popular attitudes are (especially regarding the Russian government) and indicates what censorship or disinformation should be used to deal with that. This sort of thing has been going on in Russia long before the Internet came along, as have disinformation operations. Similar tactics are used against web sites or pages on the Russian portion of the Internet. Implementing this in the occupied territories has proved a challenge. Much of this illegal behavior was taking place in closed (you had to apply for entry)) chat rooms and the dark web (sites that don’t show up in search engines like Google). Manu Ukrainians in the occupied territories preferred to spend much of their time in these difficult-to-censor area. MFRC and affiliated censorship and disinformation bureaucracies were having a lot of problems with these difficult Ukrainians.