(The Hill) — Millions of people in Russia are turning to the BBC for independent information about the country’s assault on Ukraine as an alternative to Russian state-sponsored programing.
The weekly audience for the BBC’s Russian language news website more than tripled following the invasion compared to its weekly average from earlier this year, the outlet reported, reaching a record 10.7 million people in the last week compared to a usual average of 3.1 million.
Visits to the English-language bbc.com site in Russia were up 252 percent to 423,000 last week alone, the company said.
It added its live page in Russian covering the invasion was the most visited site across the whole of the BBC World Service’s non-English language services, with 5.3 million views.
The new figures come as the Kremlin seeks to crack down on media sources critical of the invasion within its country and control the message Russians are hearing. State-sponsored outlets have been instructed to avoid terms like “invasion” and “war” and have painted the military operations in Ukraine as liberating rather than aggressive and violent.
Independent news reports from cities across Ukraine show bombings of population centers, schools and apartment buildings. Dozens have died in the shelling and fighting since the invasion began last week and more than a half million Ukrainians have fled the country seeking refuge.
“It’s often said truth is the first casualty of war,” BBC Director-General Tim Davie said. “In a conflict where disinformation and propaganda is rife, there is a clear need for factual and independent news people can trust – and in a significant development, millions more Russians are turning to the BBC.”