Moscow, Russia – Russian volunteers are being sought to reinforce separatist forces in eastern Ukraine over social media networking sites such as VK, the Russian-language equivalent to Facebook which has hundreds of millions of subscribers.
Pinned to the top of a VK page titled “Army of the DPR”, which refers to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of the two rebel-governed areas, is a post providing both Russian and Ukrainian contact numbers, as well as relevant street addresses in the city of Donetsk.
The page has nearly 27,000 followers.
Another post is of an old World War II poster that says careless chit-chat helps the enemy, with a warning against revealing the details of operations and military positions – and a call to disable geolocation on phones.
“If you are drunk – do not write or call anywhere!” the post says.
More recent posts on the page include a recruiter, apparently from Donetsk, looking for men aged 18 to 55 to serve.
Perks include a stable allowance of up to 36,000 roubles ($474) with bonuses for drivers and gunners, career growth, three meals a day, two vacations a year and the “opportunity for free education in higher educational institutions of the DPR”.
Several similar adverts posted on Tuesday seek recruits for the “security battalion” and “artillery corps”.
The recruiters’ pages are either set to private or reveal scant personal info.
The social media activities come as more than 100,000 Russian soldiers are massed at the Ukraine border. Western powers fear Russia is planning to invade its much smaller neighbour, eight years after the 2014 conflict that saw Moscow annex Crimea and back separatist fighters who now control the DPR and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).
Russia denies it is planning an attack, but is increasingly frustrated by Washington and NATO’s refusal to heed its security demands – chief among them a promise that the military alliance will never allow Ukraine membership.
Moscow says Ukraine should be a buffer state, but Western powers fear Russia wants Kyiv in its sphere of influence.
Another VK page, Humanitarian Volunteers of Novorossiya (as the separatist region is sometimes called), with 7,000 followers, does not call for fighters but calls on subscribers to send watches, antennas, electronics, clothing, medical supplies and even chairs to the front line.
“Back in December, the administrator of a military-themed community on VK sent me a recruitment announcement that he was asked to publish. [In the end] he did not post the ad to the group’s page, [as] this was contrary to his beliefs,” said Lilia Yapparova, an expert on Russia-backed mercenaries and correspondent for the independent Russian news site Meduza.
“Such announcements are not the main, and far from the only, way to recruit fighters,” she told Al Jazeera. “People are being sought both through the channels of the Union of Donbas Volunteers and through a whole network of recruiters – usually respected veterans from various Russian law enforcement agencies with combat experience.”
The Union of Donbas Volunteers (SDD) is an organisation that provides Russian citizens who fought in the Ukraine conflict with social and financial support, including prosthetics and rehabilitation programmes.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify who set up the pages that look to recruit fighters.
Yapparova believes that the Russian-centred recruitment networks described above, as well as representatives of the breakaway Donbas republics, are behind the online ads.
“According to my [contacts] among the mercenaries, people are now being sought not so much to ensure a virtual ‘Russian offensive’, but to strengthen the front line from the LPR and DPR themselves, whose armed forces in their current state are unlikely to withstand a full-scale conflict,” she said.
“But no one, except maybe the Kremlin and the White House, knows how far the preparations for the war should be taken ‘seriously’.”
AJ Contrast wins One World Media Award – Al Jazeera English
Al Jazeera Digital’s innovation studio site highlights challenges women with disabilities face in navigating megacities.
Al Jazeera’s immersive storytelling and media innovation studio, AJ Contrast, has won a top prize at the One World Media Awards in London.
One World jurors conferred the win in the Digital Media category for AJ Contrast’s interactive site, Inaccessible Cities.
The project brings audiences into the experiences of three women with disabilities as they struggle to navigate their cities – Mumbai, Lagos and New York.
Winners were announced across 15 categories during a ceremony in London on June 16.
The One World Media Awards recognise excellence in unreported stories from the Global South that “break stereotypes, change the narrative and connect people across cultures”.
Inaccessible Cities added the award to numerous other wins so far this year in the Drum Online, Gracie, New York Festivals and Telly Awards.
More than one billion people – 15 percent of the global population – experience some form of disability. Many live in urban areas.
The Inaccessible Cities site begins with a simple question: “How would you get around a megacity if you couldn’t walk, see signs or hear cars passing by?”
“It’s a great honour to be recognised by the One World Media Awards,” said Zahra Rasool, head of AJ Contrast.
“Our aim has always been to highlight unreported stories about the people most impacted by inequality, often in the Global South.
“With Inaccessible Cities, we wanted to show how a lack of accessible public transport and infrastructure impacts people with disabilities – especially women – from fully and independently participating in society.
“Our aim is to continue inspiring a new standard for digital news content that’s fully inclusive of people with disabilities and to bring awareness to their challenges.”
In keeping with AJ Contrast’s emphasis on collaboration, the team worked closely with journalists with disabilities, local talent and the women who are the subject of the interactive experience.
“We are very proud of our AJ Contrast team,” said Carlos van Meek, Al Jazeera’s director of Digital Innovation and Programming. “Despite the production challenges brought on by COVID-19, this driven, talented team has continued to innovate and set the benchmark for immersive storytelling.”
Other Al Jazeera Digital teams made the One World long list, including the AJLabs series Visualising the Afghan War and two films by short documentary unit AJ Close Up – Russia’s Banned Youth and Norway’s Afghan Sons.
The Al Jazeera English broadcast channel also was long listed in the News category for the 101 East documentary India’s COVID Warriors. Jurors evaluated a record number of entries from 96 countries.
The complete list of One World winners can be found in the One World Media winners’ gallery.
Toronto politician accused of homophobic social media posts resigns from city council – blogTO
Rosemarie Bryan, a newly appointed city councillor for Toronto’s Etobicoke North district, resigned from her position just hours after several homophobic tweets were surfaced from her social media account.
Tonight, Rosemarie Bryan has resigned the City Council seat she was appointed to today.
— John Tory (@TorontosMayor) June 25, 2022
Rather than have an election to fill the open seat, the convention is for the departing city councillor to recommend his or her replacement and as we learned this week, the current city councillors basically agree to the recommendation without any proper vetting or due diligence.
All was fine and well until a number of anti-2SLGBTQ+, Islamophobic and anti-Asian social media posts were surfaced by local journalist Jonathan Goldsbie.
— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) June 24, 2022
Councillors quickly realized they might have been a tad too hasty to back the appointment which was done through a simple vote. Only two councillors voted against confirming Bryan.
“I want to state unequivocally that had I seen these posts before the vote, I would have never supported Rosemary,” wrote councillor Buxton Potts in a tweet.
Many of the councillors who voted for Bryan now admit the process needs to change and that the confirmation of replacement councillors has relied too heavily on the recommendation of the departing one.
It’s customary for council to support the choice of the councillor who resigned their seat since they won the election. This dates back a long way and certainly needs to be re-examined.
— Mike Layton (@m_layton) June 24, 2022
In this case, no councillors appeared to do any due diligence that could have possibly surfaced the social media posts before Bryan’s appointment was confirmed.
This process certainly demands a rethink of the way the appointment process works.
— Mike Layton (@m_layton) June 25, 2022
Some of Bryan’s old posts include shared content from Tucker Carlson and statements from preachers that claim “homosexuality is wrong” and that “divine order is needed in  churches,” along with comments of approval from Bryan that had, at one point, clearly supported these messages.
These posts are not acceptable for a Toronto City Councillor.
I totally disagree with any homophobic or transphobic views. I absolutely support our 2SLGBTQ+ residents. City Councillors are expected to set an example when it comes to consistency with our shared values.
— John Tory (@TorontosMayor) June 25, 2022
Bryan’s social media posts were first uncovered by Goldsbie on Friday night when he tweeted that City Council’s newest member is a person who has “repeatedly shared anti-LGBTQ content on Facebook” which, the discovery shocking enough on its own, was found at the start of Pride weekend.
Councillors began to weigh-in just moments after Goldsbie’s revelation, regretting not digging enough earlier to uncover what would later make a huge difference.
I want to state unequivocally if I had I seen these social media posts prior to City Council I would never have voted for Rosemarie Bryan. I am glad she resigned. The system for Cllr vacancies needs to be changed. #Ward24 #TOPoli https://t.co/b28hbZ1YjK
— Paul Ainslie (@cllrainslie) June 25, 2022
Bryan issued a statement late Friday stating she was “so devastated” that past social media posts she made “are now being thrown against” her decades of commitment to the community.
Breaking – The interim Ward 1 city councillor appointed by Toronto city council this afternoon has resigned after @goldsbie flagged Facebook posts that appear to be homophobic pic.twitter.com/LZtYsq12zR
— David Rider (@dmrider) June 25, 2022
Bryan claims she will “remain committed to helping [her] community in every way that [she] can.”
Many people are still upset at the fact that Bryan was ever appointed in the first place.
People are also critiquing her “apology” or lack thereof, saying that the only apology issued was an apology about the fact that she was discovered.
Mayor John Tory tweeted that he has now “asked City officials to review the overall appointment process ahead of future Council appointments.”
Newest council appointment resigns after controversial social media posts surface – CityNews Toronto
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- Newest council appointment resigns after controversial social media posts surface CityNews Toronto
- Newly appointed Toronto councillor resigns after controversial social media posts resurfaced CTV News Toronto
- Toronto politician accused of homophobic social media posts resigns from city council blogTO
- Toronto’s newest councillor resigns hours after she was appointed Global News
- View Full coverage on Google News
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