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Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Answers Ukrainian Students’ Antipropaganda Appeal

Tom Baimforth
The Kyiv university students who last week released an appeal their Russian counterparts to question the Kremlin line have received an answer -- from the ranks of pro-Kremlin youth group "Set," or Network, the new, rebooted version of moribund pro-Kremlin group "Nashi."

The pro-Moscow youth group "Set, " or Network, has responded an appeal by Ukrainian students to their Russian counterparts to question the Kremlin line.

Kyiv university students last week released an impassioned video appeal to their Russian counterparts to question the Kremlin line. They called on Russians to stop the "information war, " the "lies" that Ukrainians are fascists, and to acknowledge that Russian soldiers are dying on Ukrainian soil.

The Ukrainian students have now received an answer -- from the ranks of pro-Kremlin youth group "Set, " or Network, the new, rebooted version of moribund pro-Kremlin group "Nashi." 

On February 1, Russian university students from the exclave of Kaliningrad -- all members of Set -- posted a video shot in the same format as the Ukrainian original: several students talk to camera one by one against a background of epic, moving music under falling snow. 

Their message closely follows the Kremlin line: it attacks Ukraine's pro- European Euromaidan protests as a "coup, " decries the February 2014 ouster of former president Viktor Yanukovych, defends Russia's subsequent annexation of Crimea, and zeroes in on civilian deaths in the country's east. 

WATCH: Russian students respond to an antipropaganda plea from their Ukrainian peers

The video doesn't comment on the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine, while it maintains the West is imposing sanctions on Moscow because Russia is the "only country fighting for democracy." 

"We have heard you, " begins the first student, as fellow activists stand in the background holding a blue banner with the "Network" logo. "There is a civil war in your country. Ordinary citizens are dying -- children, old people, women. You ask us to lift the information curtain. Let's do it together so that no one has any doubt." 

The next activist reiterates claims of a strong neo-Nazi presence in Ukraine, pointing to marginal ultranationalist group Right Sector and "Banderovtsi, " the derogatory term for followers of Stepan Bandera, the controversial World War II-era Ukrainian nationalist who fought against both Soviet and Nazi forces and who is considered a Nazi collaborator in Russia.  

'Polite People'

The activist zeroes in on a horrific fire in the Odesa Trade Union building in May that killed dozens of pro-Russian activists. 

"Our forebears never lost historical ties, " the activist says. "We were and will be brotherly nations. Nothing can break our blood ties. You say that Banderovtsi, Right Sector, Nazis are fairy tales. But do you really think that the victims of Maidan, the Trade Union building in Odesa, and the bombed cities of Donbas are fairy tales?" 

"Do you think these are all smoke screens? Please, brothers, reflect on this." 

"A year ago, an unconstitutional coup took place, " begins the next. "You call Viktor Yanukovych, the president elected by the people, a dictator who usurped power. You talk of total outrage at the same time as thieves and criminals are in the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] and the country is headed by an oligarch who was once in Yanukoyvch's team, " a reference to President Petro Poroshenko, the owner of Ukraine's biggest chocolate maker who held ministerial positions in previous governments. 

One of the activists claims Crimea would have gone the same way as war-torn Donbas had it not been for Russia's "polite people, " the slang term for the soldiers without insignia who seized control of the peninsula in February allowing Moscow to hold a vote on the territory's secession to Russia which was widely unrecognized by the international community. 

"Let's have a look at what's happening in Donbas. This bloody chaos created by those who seized power in Kyiv also awaited the residents of Crimea. But they didn't want that fate and they held a democratic election under the protection of polite people."   

One of the activists casts Russia as a lone force for democracy in the face of the West: "We understand perfectly well why Europe and the United States are imposing sanctions on Russia. It is because Russia is the only country that is really fighting for democracy." 

Some of the group's activists are former members of Nashi's militant wing "Stal, " which gained infamy for such stunts as displaying an exhibition of effigies of human rights activists impaled on spikes.   

Last year, the group painted a series of pro-Kremlin murals in Russian cities, lauding the annexation of Crimea. They also made a teaching prop to help children learn the alphabet that was effusive in its praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The alphabet learning aid goes: A is for Anti-Maidan; B is for Berkut -- the now disbanded Ukrainian 

WATCH: The original video by Ukrainian students

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