The Blast interviewed Igor Novikov, former advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to hear his unique perspective on the current crisis in Ukraine. Novikov, who has a degree in law from the London School of Economics and Political Science, brings a unique set of technological, entrepreneurial, and policy perspectives to the dialogue of innovation in Eastern Europe.
In the fifth article in our series about Ukraine, Novikov discussed how the world is watching the war play out on social media and Ukraine’s Internet access.
Igor Novikov Says It Is ‘Unlikely’ Russian Forces Will Shut Off Kyiv Internet & Phone Services
Fortunately, Internet access in Kyiv has been pretty consistent since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in late February. Novikov said that he was thankful that the Russian military forces did not have the technology to “mute” phone or Internet services, although some regions in Ukraine have been cut off from the Internet, phone services, electricity, and heating.
“At the moment, we have broadband Internet,” he said. “When they move into a city or a town, they blow up the cell reception towers and use some sort of Soviet tech equipment to cut off the telephone lines, but that’s pretty much it. Most of the country has Internet. So does Kyiv.” He added that it’s “unlikely” that Russian forces will be able to cut off Kyiv from the rest of the world.
Igor Novikov Says That The Ukraine Crisis Is ‘The First Social Media War’
Igor Novikov says that people around the world are watching “the first social media war” play out in real-time.
“I did an experiment,” he said. “I heard an explosion nearby in Kyiv. I went on Twitter and it was reportedly literally ten seconds later. Social media in that sense is incredible and it shines that spotlight on everything that’s going on, so it’s also incredibly useful. You can plan for your safety on social media.”
“It’s also really scary because Russians are executing Ukrainian civilians based on their digital footprint as well, so Russian soldiers capture a town, the first thing they do is they ask you to show your phone and if you said anything bad about Russia, they see you as a threat and they just shoot your point-blank. Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening.”
“The news that we get is incredibly negative,” he said. “There’s nothing positive about war. Nothing can prepare you for the cumulation of barbarity and the sheer horror of what’s going on but it’s those little grains of positive sand that you come across along the way. There’s an anecdote, or there’s a funny meme or a story that happened on the front lines, or words of support from a celeb you love… it makes a h— of a difference for the country.”
“Reach out to anyone who’s anyone and get them to say something about Ukraine,” he continued. “Get them to talk to the people directly. You know, it takes thirty seconds to record the video but it could literally save somebody’s life and probably more than one.”
Igor Novikov Talks The Important Of Moral Support & Slipknot’s Corey Taylor
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Novikov also touched on how important it was for the people of Ukraine to see support, especially from celebrities. He gave a specific shout-out to Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, who he had asked to make a public statement in support of Ukraine.
“It’s really important to get moral support,” he continued. “Kudos to Corey Taylor from Slipknot. I reached out to him and it was just a coincidence. I was driving by some soldiers and my P.A. was with me and she’s a huge Slipknot fan and they started talking about Slipknot and they were like, ‘Well, did they say anything about Ukraine?’ and we checked it out and they didn’t, so I was on NBC that night, and I was like, ‘Corey, if you can do it, that’d be great.” And he did it, literally, in like, two hours.”
“That video goes viral in Ukraine,” he added. “A lot of soldiers who are metalheads actually kind of… sending each other that video saying, ‘Slipknot are with us. There’s no way we’re going to lose it. And that’s going to save somebody’s life in the literal sense because a motivated soldier will protect a mom and her kid way better than a demotivated one.”
“Also, it’s important for civilians,” he added.