One year has passed since Russia started openly fighting in Ukraine, and Ukrainians have responded both on the battlefield and online.
Telegram channels have become invaluable for Ukrainians to exchange updates from the frontlines, combat Russian propaganda, and stay aware of emerging threats. WIRED looks at some of the top 10 best Ukrainian war channels.
As Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian news professionals have found it increasingly challenging to keep up with the information overload. To do this, they must subscribe to hundreds of Telegram channels to select those that provide timely, valuable data.
Third Separate Assault Brigade’s channel on YouTube is one of the best available. Based out of Kyiv and having taken part in virtually every major battle of this conflict, they provide combat footage and updates on any new developments across Ukraine.
Rybar, established in 2018, is another well-known channel. While many media channels adopt similar names and logos to mimic media outlets, Rybar actively participates in the conflict by regularly reporting information on Ukraine’s military units claiming that Russia uses this data for missile strikes against these units.
However, its impartiality remains unknown. The channel also spreads information regarding Russian military personnel who it claims are being attacked and hurt by Ukrainian forces; shell splinters even injured one member in late 2018, and publicly criticized the Russian high command over this decision.
Serhiy Sternenko’s channel, featuring photos from the frontlines and locations of shelling and fake news reports, is another reliable source for updates about Russia’s invasion. Although his subscriber base didn’t increase dramatically immediately following an attack, their numbers have steadily grown. Another good resource is veteran Russian war correspondent Simon Pegov’s channel, which offers insight into Russian soldiers’ tactics, equipment, and perception of how the progress of war unfolds from Russia’s point of view.
Since Russia began its full-scale invasion, Ukrainians have turned to Telegram as a messenger service and an information platform. Many local news channels – particularly independent media outlets – have seen their audiences expand significantly, while new channels dedicated to war coverage often gain popularity through user-submitted photos and videos uploaded directly by users.
Trukha Ukraine, for instance, covered the conflict in southeastern Ukraine extensively before its outbreak and was one of the most-watched channels before and during. Their success during February-March 2022 can largely be attributed to their substantial expansion and use of photo and video content; unfortunately, this Telegram channel lacks traditional newsroom organization and website structures compared with more established news outlets.
Russian aggression has also seen several other Ukrainian channels that focus on the war gain an audience surge, such as channels managed by journalists of TV channel 1+1 like Andrii Tsaplienko, who share news related to the Ukraine/Russia conflict as well as photos/videos from the frontlines.
Personal blogging channels have also gained popularity as they allow rapid information dissemination to a broad audience. Unfortunately, many are located outside Ukraine and don’t necessarily cater specifically to Ukrainian audiences.
Some channels provide only limited coverage of the war yet are still immensely popular because of the specific niches they fill. For instance, Mykola Udianskyi’s (323,000 subscribers) channel specializes in time management and investments, while another posts jokes and memes. Furthermore, two of the most watched channels focus on entertainment by offering music recordings or movies that violate copyright restrictions.
Since Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian news channels have found Telegram to reach large audiences efficiently. Many local and regional media outlets have started channels on the messenger service; numerous private citizens also created tracks focusing on war reporting or donations collection – in some instances these personal channels even surpass official government ones in popularity.
Mykolaiv Governor Vitaly Kim boasts over one million subscribers on his channel. On the track, he posts media reports approved by the army high command and field reports by military combat correspondents – helping inform residents about developments during wartime.
Rybar, an elite channel dedicated to monitoring Ukrainian military forces’ positions, boasts more than 1.1 million subscribers and boasts that Russia uses their data for missile strikes. Established in 2018, its creators possess extensive knowledge of Middle East politics and an understanding of even its subtlest conflicts.
Local channels dedicated to city and regional news have also seen their popularity soar, such as “Trukha Ukraine” (Trha Ukraina>>). This channel currently holds first place among Telegram channels with 2.2669 million subscribers, while Huyovaya Odesa (“Odesa’s News”) stands in last place with 233,000.
Telegram’s platform also hosts channels that promote Russia’s attacks against Ukraine; one such channel is “Mir segodnya s Yurii Podolyaka,” or More Sedition for Yury Podolyak.
The News & Media Category features local channels that have emerged since Russia’s full-scale invasion, such as “TrukhaUkraine” (tora Ukraine). “TrukhaUkraine” currently holds the top spot with 2.269 million subscribers despite not being a journalistic outlet such as a traditional newsroom; instead, it operates via Telegram with a local focus that publishes photos and videos from war-ravaged areas. Other channels in this category often follow suit while lacking traditional newsroom organizations typical for journalistic outlets.
Ukrainians actively subscribed to Tatyana Montian’s channel during the initial days of Russia’s full-scale invasion, as she is an independent lawyer critical of Moscow. Unfortunately, her social media pages were compromised, and she had to publish an apology post hack. Her audience quickly diminished; eventually, they discontinued subscribing altogether.
Millions of Ukrainians turn to these channels for essential information at a time when there is the possibility of internet blocking, but its unregulated nature also poses numerous potential pitfalls. Some tracks do not abide by journalistic standards and disseminate dubious information or even propaganda, while the app allows users to broadcast messages to thousands of people simultaneously. This can be beneficial and detrimental, as its reach ensures any channel filled with falsified or misleading material will reach a broad audience. As such, it’s vital to carefully monitor the quality of information on these channels and follow only those you trust.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, Telegram channels have become the primary news sources for millions of Ukrainians. Notably, this messenger service is free, does not require high-speed Internet, and provides real-time updates. Unfortunately, however, its unregulated platform comes with serious risks: channel owners can remain anonymous while some popular local channels rely heavily on subscribers submitting content instead of having traditional newsroom organizations; some even spread disinformation and propaganda without proper oversight despite having many subscribers – leading them into spreading disinformation as opposed to accurate updates.
Still, some reliable local and regional channels exist, such as Serhiy Sternenko’s and Yevhen Karas’ Telegram channels in Ukraine – Serhiy Sternenko was not among the 100 Telegram channels at the start of the conflict; however, due to their accurate reporting on the Ukrainian army attacks as well as cities already attacked or occupied by Russia – quickly rising the rankings due to reliable coverage that major Russian media outlets don’t provide.
Rybar, which provides coverage in the Donetsk city region, stands out among local channels as an openly pro-Russian but impartial channel. It defended military commander General Alexander Lapin from critics such as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner mercenary company founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, who attacked his leadership.
Numerous Russian Telegram channels aimed at Ukraine also boast substantial ratings, with “Mir segodnya s “Yuriy Podolyak” coming out ahead. Supervised by a journalist from “state media” in Donetsk, this channel features images and more detailed reports than can be found elsewhere from either side.