The Ukrainian air force has clarified its stance on Telegram channels that inform the public in real-time about Russian missile and drone attacks, after rumors of a ban prompted many to stop publishing information during an air raid alert overnight.
In comments that he has since clarified, Air Force Command Spokesman, Yuri Ignat, on Wednesday warned that administrators of such channels could face criminal liability for publishing certain information.
"Serious measures will be taken in the near future,” he said. “Criminal cases may be opened because some Telegram channels provide real-time information about the movement of UAVs and missiles.
“I want to warn the administrators of these Telegram channels that this is a serious crime against Ukraine – informing the enemy."
Millions of Ukrainians rely on such Telegram channels for potentially life-saving information during air raid alerts. A cottage industry of volunteer groups provide details of missile and drone launches which they use to inform themselves of the threat and whether or not they need to take shelter.
But in the early hours of Friday morning, during the latest drone attack against Ukrainian cities, Ignat’s comments led to some of these channels limiting themselves to vague and largely useless updates.
“What and where is flying is forbidden to tell… keep an eye on the air alarms and do not ignore them,” wrote one.
“Monitor,” who runs a Telegram channel with more than 250,000 subscribers, told Kyiv Post that many of his readers were outraged at a perceived information ban, though he said Ignat’s comments “were taken out of context by the media and information channels on Telegram.”
“I did notice some panic among the civilian population, who are used to providing detailed information in a concise and understandable format,” he added:
This panic was also seen on other social media platforms. “Ignat said not to report on what's flying and where,” one person wrote on Twitter. “Now I don't understand anything about the air threat, I'm panicking from the uncertainty.”
оце Ігнат сказав не пиздіть що куди летить, тепер я нічого не розумію по повітряній загрозі, панікую від невизначеності і тривога від повітряної тривоги зростає в рази.— твіти на дві вподобайки 🇺🇦 (@FollowAwake) March 23, 2023
Another wrote: “Now, many Ukrainians on the Internet are curious about only one thing: who is Ignat, and why did he ban the reporting of missiles and drones' flight paths?”
Зараз багатьох українців в Інтернеті цікавить лише одне питання — хто такий Ігнат і чому він заборонив писати🗿— DanaElena. 🇺🇦🇪🇺🇮🇹🇷🇴🇵🇱 (@danielapruna2) March 23, 2023
Але за словами речника Повітряних Сил треба зберігати інформаційну тишу тепер ретельніше, оскільки кацапи постійно змінюють тактику обстрілів і 👇
But speaking to Kyiv Post on Friday, Ignat insisted there was no ban on the Telegram channels reporting the details they’ve become known for over the last year, but that his comments earlier in the week had been prompted by a number of newer channels that had begun publishing far more sensitive information.
In particular, he said some Telegram accounts had been posting screenshots showing the flight path of missiles or UAVs which showed when and where they disappeared from radars, thus revealing the location of Ukraine’s air defense systems.
"What does the enemy do with this information? He uses it for future attacks,” Ignat told Kyiv Post.
“And thanks to this information, he learns where we don't have the means to detect and destroy missiles and drones.
“Then rockets fly, and people die.”
According to Ignat, these Telegram channels have appeared just recently. Ukraine's military has begun to address them, saying that revealing this information via Telegram channels harms state security.
"Channels use data that they take somewhere from military sources they release sensitive screenshots of radars to the public,” he said.
“They give out more and more sensitive information, more details. What's next? Will they show you where our planes fly?”
Monitor said he appreciated the concerns of the authorities and viewed the comments as highlighting “necessary information hygiene measures.”
“We respected the statement of the Air Force command speaker, fully support this position and do not see this as an attempt to hide the real situation with enemy attacks from the Ukrainians.
“The Monitor team closely monitors that information about threats is published in a format that is understandable to the public, and at the same time meets the requirements for communication during martial law.”
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter
Perhaps all tracks should be published with a suitable time lag, so that they can always shown to terminate 30 - 100 km earlier than the actual location of interception ?
By making such a public statement, are the Ukrainian authorities validating the information on Telegram? Or are they engaging in psychological warfare, sending out false information on Telegram and then making such a public statement? If the reality is as such, they are brilliant in their machinations.