Conflict & Justice

Big Brother strikes again: Ukraine protesters get creepy text message


This screengrab from the Facebook account of Ukrainian Spilno TV shows a text message sent by the government to protesters in Kiev, warning them "you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance."

Paging George Orwell.

In a scene reminiscent of the dystopian novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four," Ukrainians standing near the site of protester clashes with police in Kyiv received a creepy text message from the government early Tuesday.

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"Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance," it read.

The phrasing echoed a new law that had just gone into effect making participation in a protest a violent crime punishable by prison, according to The New York Times.


Not likely. But no one's fessing up just yet.

The interior ministry denied involvement.

Three Ukrainian cellphone companies — Kievstar, MTS and Life — also denied sending the text or providing location data to the government, with Kievstar suggesting it may have been the work of a "pirate" cellphone tower in the area.

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Regardless of who sent them, the text messages appeared to have little effect on protesters.

Just three hours later, riot police who pushed past barricades of burned buses were met by crowds in ski masks and bicycle helmets, carrying sticks and ready to fight.

"I think these texts are stupid and are targeting people who are easily scared. They are not going to scare off the people who are already protesting," Yuri Maslovsky, a 38-year-old from Kharkiv who travelled to Kiev to take part in the protests, told The Guardian.

Hundreds have been injured during the unprecedented violence in the center of Kyiv, with demonstrators hurling Molotov cocktails and stones at security forces, who retaliated with stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas.