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30 Oct, 2023 14:48

Ukrainians using Instagram to whip up ethnic tensions in Russia – MP

Russia should further restrict access to the social media platform and block VPN services, Sultan Khamzayev has said
Ukrainians using Instagram to whip up ethnic tensions in Russia – MP

Instagram is among the primary tools used by foreign actors to stir up ethnic tensions in Russia, State Duma MP Sultan Khamzayev said on Monday, urging the authorities to restrict access to VPN services in the country. 

Speaking to RIA Novosti about the anti-Jewish riot in the region of Dagestan on Sunday, Khamzayev squarely blamed the incident on Ukrainian intelligence, stating that the unrest had been coordinated from abroad. 

“Yesterday and today I am seeing a massive influx of bots on social networks. I link the activation of pro-Ukrainian bots with yesterday’s attempt to destabilize the internal political situation in Dagestan,” the MP stated.

Khamzayev said that “thousands of copy-pasted massages” were posted on his social media feeds overnight, claiming that it was a part of a Ukrainian effort to discredit those “who have been trying to calm down the youth.”

“The main platform for spreading fakes is not only Telegram. See what people are watching on Instagram. It’s time to turn off all VPNs and put a real ban on using this social media,” he added. 

Both Instagram and Meta (then known as Facebook) were banned in Russia in March 2022 under an extremism law. However, the social media platforms are still de-facto accessible through virtual private network (VPN) services, which remain legal for use in Russia.

The call for further restricting access to social media in Russia comes in the aftermath of the riot in the Dagestani capital city of Makhachkala on Sunday, where an angry crowd stormed the international airport over rumors of “Jewish refugees” allegedly inbound from Israel. The Utro Dagestan (‘Dagestan Morning’) Telegram channel appears to have been the main source of them. The channel has been long exposed as having been set up by Ukrainian intelligence specifically to whip up unrest in Russia.