Days after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, Andrei Shestakov opened a set of information in a WhatsApp group chat for historical past lecturers like himself in his city in east Russia.
The information – which Reuters reviewed and include dozens of pages of paperwork and displays in addition to video hyperlinks – are directions on find out how to train teenage college youngsters concerning the battle. It is unclear who shared the information to the group chat, however most of the paperwork carry the crest of the schooling ministry in Moscow.
The fabric consists of lesson guides stating that Russian troopers combating in Ukraine have been heroes, that Ukraine’s rulers made widespread trigger with individuals who collaborated with World Battle Two Nazis, that the West was making an attempt to unfold discord in Russian society, and that Russians should stick collectively.
Mr Shestakov stated he leafed by the information throughout one in every of his classes. The slim-built 38-year-old stated that earlier than changing into a trainer in January he had spent 16 years as a police officer. However he had rising doubts lately, he stated, about whether or not Russia’s rulers have been dwelling as much as the values they professed about democracy, influenced partially by outstanding Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
He determined to not train the modules to his pupils on the Gymnasium No. 2 college the place he labored in Neryungri, a coal-mining city in japanese Siberia, some 6,700 km (4160 miles) east of Moscow.
As an alternative, Mr Shestakov instructed his pupils concerning the contents of the instructing information and why they have been traditionally inaccurate, he instructed Reuters. As an illustration, he stated he defined that the supplies claimed Ukraine was an invention of Bolshevik communist Russia but historical past textbooks mentioned Ukrainian historical past going again centuries.
He went additional. On March 1, he instructed pupils throughout a civics class he wouldn’t advise them to serve within the Russian military, that he opposed the battle in opposition to Ukraine, and that Russia’s leaders exhibited components of fascism even whereas saying they have been combating fascism in Ukraine, based on a signed assertion taken by police and reviewed by Reuters.
Within the following days, the native police and the Federal Safety Service, referred to as the FSB, summoned Mr Shestakov for questioning, based on the March 5 signed assertion about his classroom feedback. He stated he has not been charged in relation to these feedback. The FSB and native police did not reply to requests for remark.
A court docket did high quality him 35,000 roubles (about $420) on March 18 for discrediting the Russian armed forces after he re-posted movies on-line of interviews with Russian troopers captured in Ukraine, based on a court docket ruling seen by Reuters.
He stated he give up his job final month as a result of he believed he can be fired anyway for his public opposition to the battle, he instructed Reuters. The native schooling authority and the schooling ministry did not reply to requests for touch upon Shestakov and the instructing information. When Reuters reached the college by cellphone, a lady who recognized herself as performing head trainer stated she declined to touch upon Shestakov’s case and ended the decision.
Lecturers throughout Russia have obtained the identical or comparable instructing guides, based on two trainer’s union officers, two different lecturers and social media posts from two colleges reporting they’d taught the modules.
Olga Miryasova, an official with a commerce union referred to as Trainer, stated regional schooling authorities circulated the instructing information Shestakov obtained to a number of colleges across the nation. Reuters was unable to find out independently what number of colleges obtained the modules. One of many lecturers stated they obtained a distinct instructing pack from the one Shestakov did, although it contained comparable content material.
The initiative exhibits how the Russian state — which has been intensifying its grip on the mainstream media — is now extending its propaganda effort concerning the Ukraine battle into colleges because the Kremlin seeks to shore up help. Because the battle began, many Russian colleges have posted pictures on social media exhibiting pupils sending messages of help to troops combating in Ukraine and standing in formation to spell out the letter “Z,” a logo of help for the battle in Russia.
Lecturers who disagree with the battle at the moment are becoming a member of the ranks of opposition activists, non-governmental organisation campaigners, and impartial journalists in feeling the stress of the Russian state, with fines, prosecutions, and the prospect of forfeiting their jobs. President Vladimir Putin in early March signed into legislation laws that makes the unfold of “pretend” details about the Russian armed forces, an offence punishable with fines or jail phrases of as much as 15 years.
Even earlier than the invasion, the Kremlin had been tightening the screws on its opponents utilizing a mixture of arrests, web censorship and blacklists.
The Kremlin did not reply to requests for remark about its dealing with of opposition to the battle, the instructing information and Shestakov’s case.
Russia’s Training Minister Sergei Kravtsov instructed a parliamentary committee in March that his ministry had launched a nationwide drive to debate Russian-Ukrainian relations with pupils, amid questions from youngsters concerning the scenario in Ukraine and sanctions.
The Kremlin has stated it’s implementing legal guidelines to thwart extremism and threats to stability. It says it’s conducting what it calls a “particular operation” to destroy its southern neighbour’s army capabilities and “denazify” Ukraine and stop genocide in opposition to Russian audio system, particularly within the east of the nation. Kyiv and its Western allies have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for battle, and accuse Russian forces of killing civilians.
WEST’s ‘HYBRID WARFARE’
The instructing information that MR Shestakov obtained says it’s geared toward pupils aged between 14 and 18 years. It includes detailed lesson plans for lecturers, hyperlinks to movies of speeches by President Putin and quick movies for example the teachings.
In keeping with the instructing supplies, the West is waging data warfare to attempt to flip public opinion in opposition to Russia’s rulers, and that every one Russian individuals want to face agency in opposition to that.
One lesson plan explains Russia was combating a cultural battle in opposition to the West which had destroyed “the institute of the standard household” and was now making an attempt to foist its values on Russia.
It says that because the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had carried out an anti-Russian coverage. “There have been assaults on the Russian language, our widespread historical past was falsified, battle criminals and legal teams from World Battle Two have been changed into heroes,” based on the doc, which refers to Ukrainian nationalists who made an alliance with Germany throughout that battle.
One other lesson says that the West is deploying “hybrid warfare” — a combination of propaganda, financial sanctions, and army stress — to attempt to defeat Russia by fomenting inside battle. “That’s exactly why they urge us to attend unsanctioned demonstrations, they incite us to interrupt the legislation, and attempt to scare us,” it reads.
“We should not succumb to provocation,” the doc says.
The modules embody a sport the place pupils have 15 seconds to resolve if an announcement is true or false. One assertion reads: “The organisation of protests, provocations of the authorities and mass gatherings are an efficient means of resolving a hybrid battle.” In keeping with the lesson information, the right reply is “false.”
Reuters discovered social media posts from a faculty in Samara, on the Volga river, and a faculty in Minusinsk, southern Siberia, exhibiting slides from the identical displays getting used.
Danil Plotnikov, a math trainer in Chelyabinsk, the Ural mountains, instructed Reuters he had been requested by his bosses to show comparable content material however from a distinct instructing pack than the one Shestakov obtained; Plotnikov did not determine who the bosses have been. Tatyana Chernenko, a math trainer in Moscow, stated colleagues in different colleges instructed her they’d been requested to show comparable modules however they’d not been taught in her college.
The lecturers Reuters spoke to stated that some areas and colleges pushed the teachings more durable than others. Not one of the 5 lecturers stated they’d heard of circumstances the place lecturers have been explicitly ordered to show the modules. They stated it was normally framed as a request, or a advice by a faculty or regional schooling authorities.
Some had stated no, and confronted no consequence, stated Daniil Ken, chair of an impartial lecturers’ commerce union referred to as Lecturers’ Alliance. Others didn’t train the teachings however instructed bosses they’d, stated Ken. He added refusing was a danger, with lecturers not figuring out if their head lecturers would stress them to give up.
Ken stated his union has heard from about half a dozen lecturers every week who say they’re quitting as a result of they did not need to promote the Kremlin’s line – one thing Reuters wasn’t in a position to independently confirm.
Shestakov wears his hair shut cropped and practices sambo, a martial artwork developed within the Soviet military. He stated his profession within the police included a one-year stint within the inside ministry particular forces, an arm of legislation enforcement whose officers at the moment are combating in Ukraine. The inside ministry did not reply to a request for remark.
By 2018, when he was a neighborhood officer working with juvenile offenders, he had a political awakening, based on Shestakov. He stated he began watching movies put out by Navalny, the opposition determine who’s now in a Russian jail, alleging corruption by Kremlin leaders.
“I grew to become an actual opposition individual,” Shestakov stated.
He stated when the battle in Ukraine began, the pictures of casualties disturbed him and he spent hours watching movies of the combating on social media.
Beneath a pseudonym, he re-posted the movies of interviews with Russian troopers captured in Ukraine to the feedback part of a neighborhood media outlet that has about 5,200 subscribers, based on Shestakov and the March 18 court docket ruling seen by Reuters.
The court docket stated his actions have been a violation of a legislation forbidding the discrediting of the Russian armed forces.
Shestakov stated he suspects the FSB has in current weeks been eavesdropping on his cellphone conversations, although he didn’t have proof of that. He additionally stated that he has seen individuals he recognises as undercover FSB officers 3 times in current days. The FSB did not reply to requests for touch upon whether or not it’s monitoring him.
Now, Shestakov plans to go away Russia as a result of he says he fears additional penalties from authorities. He would be a part of tens of 1000’s of Kremlin opponents who’ve additionally fled the nation since Putin started cracking down onerous on opposition in 2018.
He stated he deliberate to go to Turkey, except the authorities bar him from leaving the nation.
Staying and dropping his public opposition to the battle was not an possibility for him, Shestakov stated. “It will likely be onerous for me to maintain my mouth shut,” he stated.