From "Trukha" to Gordon: the most popular channels of the Ukrainian Telegram

From "Trukha" to Gordon: the most popular channels of the Ukrainian Telegram

20 Вересня 2022
1322

From "Trukha" to Gordon: the most popular channels of the Ukrainian Telegram

1322
Which channels are in the top 100, how did they gain an audience, and which of them should and should not be trusted?
From "Trukha" to Gordon: the most popular channels of the Ukrainian Telegram
From "Trukha" to Gordon: the most popular channels of the Ukrainian Telegram

Українською текст читайте тут.

According to the July survey of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), television has lost its lead to the Internet as the most popular source of information. Telegram messenger is in first place among Internet sources. Every sixth respondent to the KIIS survey gathers their information there. As an information source, this messenger is ahead of Facebook, YouTube, and even Viber, the most popular messenger in Ukraine.

Detector Media started to record the intensive creation of new Telegram channels from the beginning of spring 2022, notably when Russia massively launched occupation channels. Therefore, we decided to investigate the key changes in the Ukrainian segment of Telegram and analyze which channels are most popular among Ukrainians.

Methodology

The object of the study: the content of hundreds of channels with the largest number of subscribers in the Ukrainian Telegram segment. With the help of machine learning and elements of artificial intelligence, Detector Media analyzed more than 50 thousand posts from these Telegram channels.

Sources: Ukrainian Telegram segment. The key criterion for assigning a channel to a segment is its content, that is, whether it is aimed at Ukrainians. Learn more about defining segments here.

Analysis period: January-August 2022.

The methodology can be found here.

Is Telegram another platform for disinformation, or is it a tool of Russian propaganda? 

Telegram is gaining popularity in Ukraine and the world, with over 700 million monthly active users. Moreover, Telegram entered the top ten most downloaded applications in the world. The creation of Russians Nikolay and Pavel Durov promises its users complete freedom, security, and anonymity. However, the more the platform's popularity grows, the more questions arise about how Telegram functions and its connections with Russian special services.

On the one hand, Telegram was key in coordinating protests in Belarus. On the other hand, the platform enabled ISIS to communicate and self-organize. Moreover, there is an assumption that the coordination of terrorist attacks and the recruitment of recruits were also simply carried out by the terrorists on Telegram.

The platform’s politics are blurred. That is, one does not know what actually happens after filing a complaint about the Telegram channel or how many complaints it takes to block the channel. Moreover, the platform does not respond to disinformation in any way. The structure and functions of the messenger allegedly encourage the creation and dissemination of disinformation. Detector Media described this in more detail here.

The fact that the Durov brothers, who once created VK, are Russians should also be alarming, especially considering that Russia is waging a full-scale war against Ukraine. However, questions about the Durovs' relationship with the special services — whether the Russian security forces continue to pressure them and whether the special services were able to take control of the messenger — remain unanswered. The financial component of the service has been opaque for a long time. Only in 2021, Telegram tried to create a financial exchange for selling Telegram channels and presented the possibility of advertising. In 2022 a paid premium version for users was introduced. However, how much money it brings to Telegram and whether it is financially sufficient for its functioning remains unknown.

In light of this, since Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine began, Telegram has become a pivotal platform for searching for the news. Yet, Telegram, like other messengers and social networks, is not a source of information but a platform where anyone can post this information. Therefore, when people say that they read something on Telegram, it can mean that they learned it from the official Telegram channel of the President of Ukraine or a source with an anonymous contributor in the chat room of the residential complex.

In addition to the usual ability to exchange messages, Telegram has groups and channels to which users subscribe. Groups have similar functionality as the messenger’s interface. Their users have the same rights to write messages as other group users. Instead, only its author or administrators add to the channels. Channel subscribers can only respond to messages with emojis or comments if the channel's administrator provides this option.

Channels, where the author can send an unlimited number of messages to subscribers and remain anonymous, have become the primary source of receiving news on Telegram. According to the data reported to Detector Media by Telemetrio, a company that researches Telegram’s audience, during the period between February 23rd and July 23rd, 2022, the average number of subscribers of a particular Telegram channel in Ukraine has doubled: from 9 thousand to more than 18 thousand subscribers.

It is essential to understand that it is almost impossible for a third-party user to estimate the demographics of Telegram channels. Telegram claims that it does not collect information about users and does not store it on servers, thus ensuring the promised security and privacy. However, it is difficult to trust this, and there are regular confirmations that this is not the case. For example, the data analytics service, TgStat, added information about where the channels’ subscribers are from. Information about the geography of traffic is provided to the service by Telegram itself. Telemetrio claims that data on the language distribution of the channel’s subscribers are also provided by Telegram, which once again confirms that the service collects such information, stores it, and even transfers it to third-party companies.

Another problematic question is to which country’s segment the channel belongs: whether it is from Ukraine for Ukrainians, Russia for Russians, or Russia for Ukrainians. In 2021, Detector Media asked the TgStat service for an explanation of how the segment is defined. The service replied that the owner of the channel could indicate it themselves. However, Telegram does not have such a function for the channel owner, so it was probably about the TgStat service itself. Then we contacted the owners of several non-anonymous channels and asked if they mentioned such information on the TgStat platform. Most of them did not even know about such a platform.

In 2022, we have once again reached out to TgStat. This time, the company claimed that TGStat moderators determine the channel's location based on its language and positioning. Allegedly, they do it manually, but TGStat did not explain more about the evaluation criteria. Once again, they only said that the channel's author could determine which geolocation [of the channel] will be specified. Telemetrio says that the schedule of language distribution of the channel's subscribers is obtained from Telegram. Still, the country of origin of the channel is determined by Telemetrio "using an algorithm, while conducting manual moderation in parallel." They also did not specify the criteria, citing confidentiality.

Even though both services said that they manually check Telegram channels and have well-developed algorithms, in practice, it becomes evident that these algorithms will not correct the misunderstanding of the context of Ukraine-Russia relations. Even in Ukraine's top 100 Telegram channels list, we recorded several Russian Telegram channels aimed at Russians. For example, one of such channels is the channel "Mir segodnya s "Yuriy Podolyak" (2.24 million subscribers), which the TgStat service put in first place in the rating. Since Detector Media does not know the TGStat’s evaluation criteria, we can only assume that the channel "Mir segodnya s "Yuriy Podolyak" was assigned to the Ukrainian segment exclusively since he often writes about Ukraine, and claims that he is from Sumy, because by all other criteria, including vocabulary, the channel (and the author) is Russian. Telemetrio included the Russian Telegram channel "War with Fakes" (707,000 subscribers) to the Ukrainian segment, which is actively reposted and promoted by the Ministry of Defense of Russia. This channel uses debunking to spread Russian propaganda: it takes true facts, claims they are fakes, and announces the "Russian version" of events instead. In addition, both services assigned occupation channels that openly support Russia to the Ukrainian Telegram segment; some of them contain "Z" in the title, one of the symbols that Russian propaganda uses to denote its troops in the war in Ukraine.

For this reason, Detector Media independently formed a list of the 100 most popular Telegram channels in the Ukrainian segment. It includes channels aimed at Ukrainians, including a pro-Russian channels network administered by Russian special services.

The most popular Telegram channel in the actual Ukrainian segment is "Trukha⚡️Ukraine", which has 2.71 million subscribers. It first appeared at the end of autumn 2019. Until spring 2022, it specialized in the news from/about Kharkiv. Mostly, the channel disseminated criminal news, occasionally - news from the Kharkiv region, and even less often - information about events in Ukraine. By the end of January 2022, using such content, "Trukha⚡️Ukraine" gradually increased its followers base from several thousand to tens of thousands of subscribers per month.

The peak of the channel's popularity occurred after February 24th, 2022. Administrators of "Trukha⚡️Ukraine" were ahead of traditional media and official sources due to the promptness of publications about the situation in the city, which the Russians were trying to occupy. With the growth of the audience, "Trukha⚡️Ukraine" is trying to satisfy the need for news, the creation, and distribution of which is the duty of mass media. The channel began to inform less and less about Kharkiv events and more about national and international events. Administrators of "Trukha⚡️Ukraine" strive to report on the news as quickly as possible, so they spread a lot of manipulations. This gives Russian propagandists a reason to accuse Ukraine of spreading fakes. "Trukha⚡️Ukraine" does not refute the information but simply updates the message the channel’s audience has already read and is unlikely to return to read again (texty.org.ua wrote about it in detail).

How has the structure of the most popular Telegram channels in Ukraine changed?

During the monitoring of one hundred Telegram channels, we divided them into eight categories - "mimicking the mass media" (37%), "local audiences" (19%), pro-Russian channels (10%), "state communication channels" (12%) , "bloggers/volunteers" (8%), "politicians/officials", "other" (5%), and actual media (4%). On the positive side: Ukrainian authorities’ resources prevail over the pro-Russian channels on Telegram among the first hundred most popular channels. At the same time, this distribution shows that Telegram users prefer the so-called "alternative sources of information", which significantly outweigh the classical mass media. This situation is further aggravated by the fact that 77% of channels from this rating are anonymous. Ukrainians in Telegram often prefer unverified, anonymous channels that spread photos/videos from the front and places of shelling, (pseudo) news content, and political "insides". Some of this content is produced by channels managed by the Russian special services.

At the same time, the number of subscribers is often not a guarantee of the Telegram channel’s popularity or the broad reach of its posts. Although Volodymyr Zelensky's Telegram channel (Zelenskiy/Official, 1.02 million subscribers) is currently in 10th place in terms of subscribers, its posts reach 770 thousand people. The President's channel also has the highest citations in the Ukrainian segment, according to TGStat data — more than 5,000. In general, the citation rating is usually headed by the official government channels. For example, the channel of the Office of the President (234,000 subscribers) holds the second place, it is followed by the channel of the Security Service of Ukraine (425,000 subscribers), the Verkhovna Rada channel (263,000 subscribers), the channel of the Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov (FEDOROV, 154,000 subscribers), and State Special Communications’ channel (43,000 subscribers). Significantly, the last two channels are not in the top 100 according to the number of its subscribers.

In general, the audience of Telegram channels is heterogeneous. In particular, the difference between the channel in the first and last positions [of the first hundred] is more than two million subscribers. According to TGStat data as of September 2nd, the channel "Trukha⚡️Ukraine" is in the first place and has 2.269 million subscribers; and "XUA-war photos" («XUA-фото войны») is the last – 233,000.

In general, during February-March 2022, the structure of the Ukrainian segment of Telegram changed a lot: users began to subscribe more to the channels of official authorities and representatives of local self-government. For example, the head of the Mykolaiv region, Vitalyi Kim, launched his channel on February 24th, and in a few weeks (by March 13th), it gained about 690,000 subscribers. During this time, Volodymyr Zelenskyi's audience grew by 1.25 million (84%).

At the same time, anonymous channels from the Ukrainian top 100, which try to pretend to be mass media, local, and pro-Russian channels, continue to gain its subscribers base. In a month, they gained between 1.7 and 4%.

Temporary request for official information. Telegram channels of the state bodies

Among the hundred most popular Telegram channels, as many as 12 are run by state bodies or local self-government. Moreover, among the 20 channels that gained the most subscribers in Telegram between February 23rd and July 23rd, 2022, 4 belonged to representatives of state power and another 7 to local self-government. According to Telemetrio, some of them increased their audience by 26 times.

As of today, the trend towards an increase in the number of subscribers of high-ranking officials and state bodies’ channels has changed to the opposite. Between July 25th and August 26th, politicians from the top 100 Telegram channels lost almost 12% of subscribers, and government bodies lost nearly 3%.

The first two places in this category are occupied by the Ukrainian and Russian versions of Ukraine's image platform "Ukraine NOW" (956,000 subscribers) and "Ukraine NOW [Russia]" (664,000 subscribers) Telegram channels. These channels work as news media and broadcast pro-Ukrainian messages or officials' announcements.

Among the top Telegram channels aimed at Ukrainians, "Security Service of Ukraine" (SBU) (426,000 subscribers) and "Azov — Mariupol" (389,000 subscribers) channels stand out. Respectively, they report on the work of the SBU and the well-known regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine.

A similar strategy of informing about one's work and publishing officials’ statements were chosen for the channel of the Office of the President of Ukraine (235,000 subscribers). Meanwhile, the Telegram channel of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (263,000 subscribers) covers a broader range of topics, informing about events in Ukraine and broadcasting the position of representatives of other authorities. A change in approaches to maintaining the pages of the Verkhovna Rada in social networks happened at the beginning of a full-scale invasion. Humorous posts, memes, and information that resembled posts from the unofficial channels rather than from the official communication channels of the government began to appear more often on its Telegram channel and Facebook page. A priority change also occurred in the basic standards — the emphasis shifted from reliability to efficiency. These changes eventually led to the fact that the pages of the Verkhovna Rada have been caught spreading fakes and unreliable information several times. In particular, this was the case with details about the cancellation of the external high-school examination. Verkhovna Rada has returned to a more measured approach in its social networks.

Among the local authorities, in the first hundred most popular Telegram channels is only the resource of the Kyiv City State Administration (485,000 subscribers). In addition to news reports about Kyiv, it notifies about air alarms in the city. Due to the Russian invasion, Telegram channels that inform about shelling threats have a separate niche related to distributing official information related to military actions. There are as many as five of them: Civil Protection Alerts (480,000 subscribers), ‼️SIREN. DNIPRO‼️ (334,000 subscribers), Map of air-raid alerts ❗❗❗ (326,000 subscribers), Air-raid alerts (233,000), DSNS POLTAVA SIREN (225,000 subscribers).

Ukrzaliznytsia’s [Ukrainian railways] (323,000 subscribers) channel also belongs to one of the most popular Telegram channels of the state institutions. It is currently posting news about its operations. In the first months of the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukrzaliznytsia’s Telegram channel informed about train schedules and possibilities for evacuation.

Still soothing? Telegram channels of politicians, officials, and their advisers 

Only the channels of President Volodymyr Zelenskyi (1.02 million subscribers), Secretary of the Zaporizhya City Council, Anatoliy Kurtev (216,000 subscribers), and the head of Mykolaiv regional administration Vitalyi Kim (656,000 subscribers) have entered the top 100 channels in Ukraine. Zelenskyi's channel mainly publishes his statements, general country information, announcements, and other official information.

Kim and (shared with the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration) and Kurtev’s channels mostly publish messages about air alarms, reports for the day on Mykolaiv/Zaporizhia routes, and repost statements of the President and other high-ranking officials. Kurtev also publishes videos with announcements. At the same time, the videos with the head of the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration, which at one time became the key to his great popularity, are now almost absent on Kim's channel. Along with this, there are at least six channels on Telegram with a name similar to "Vitalyi Kim / Mykolaiv Regional State Administration". Some of them stopped being updated in March-April, others in July. However, their existence may indicate attempts to use Kim's name to promote fraudsters’ interests. Although this channel, like many other means of state communication, has been verified by the messenger, it is worth paying attention to the correct spelling of names and namings. It is even better to visit the government channels by following the links from official websites.

The other two Telegram channels in the top 100 belong to advisers — Office of the President of Ukraine (OPU), Oleksiy Arestovich (446,000 subscribers), and Minister of Internal Affairs, Anton Herashchenko (558,000 subscribers). These channels are verified by Telegram but are rather personal blogs than official means of communication of the OPU or the Ministry of Internal Affairs. For example, Arestovych mainly shares his thoughts on the situation in Ukraine and the world, responds to criticism of himself, and promotes a video blog he runs with a Russian politician and former lawyer, Mark Feigin. Instead, Herashchenko's channel can be compared to the one that posts photos/videos of the aftermath of Russian military attacks, news, reactions, and memes about events in Russia and their army. He launched it only on February 14th, 2022, but built up a large audience in almost a month using such content. Although Herashchenko does not position this channel as an official resource of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, many mass media (especially at the beginning of the full-scale invasion) took information from it and published materials "referencing the adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs." Moreover, Herashchenko was repeatedly criticized for spreading information that could play into the enemy's hands. In particular, in March 2022, the State Emergency Service called on him to stop publishing the exact coordinates of the attacks used by the enemy. In June, he shared a fake that Russia had launched a missile attack on the Beskydy Tunnel in the Carpathians.

Toxicity zone. The Pro-Russian Telegram channels

Among the hundred most popular Telegram channels aimed at Ukrainians, there are ten openly pro-Russian Telegram channels:

  1. pro-Russian bloggers;
  2. anonymous channels publishing manipulative analytics and fabricated insiders;
  3. channels that pretend to be media and publish news under the pretext of Russian propaganda;
  4. pro-Russian media.

Pro-Russian bloggers. Anatoliy Shariy's (706,000 subscribers), Tatyana Montyan (511,000 subscribers), Sheikh Tamir (332,000 subscribers), and Dmitriy Vasilets (317,000 subscribers) channels are at the top. Two from this list — Shariy and Vasilets — were accused of supporting Russia. Shariy has a long list of accusations and suspicions, including in other countries, but one of the main ones, received in 2021, is for treason, for which he is being extradited from Spain. Vasilets was previously arrested on charges of aiding Russian militants, suspected of aiding the separatist TV channel Novorossiya TV. Detector Media’s special project "The Board of Shame" reveals more about his actions after the full-scale invasion.

The only name (more precisely, a pseudonym) that is little known to the mass media is Tamir Sheikh. This blogger launched a Telegram channel in 2020, where he published videos and posts (humorous) and promoted his courses and a sports blog on YouTube. In his few mentions in the media, Maksim Shikhaliyev (the blogger's actual name) has been called a "propagandist of sports and a healthy lifestyle." Over time, Shikhaliyev switched from a healthy lifestyle to a propagandist’s career who criticizes the Ukrainian government and the collective West (or specifically the USA), and instead of previously posted funny videos came the reposts from Russian channels, statements of Kremlin propagandists, and other attributes of pro-Russian bloggers.

Tatyana Montian, a former lawyer whose Telegram channel Ukrainians have intensively subscribed to since February 2022, can also be included in the category of pro-Russian activists. During the first days of the full-scale invasion, her social media pages were hacked, and apologies were published on her behalf. Montian warned subscribers about the hack, but subscribers still unsubscribed en masse — the channel lost almost 50,000 subscribers in the first weeks of March. At the same time, at the beginning of March, she launched a new Telegram channel, which is currently in the top 100 with more than 500,000 subscribers.

The "Telegram empire" of Russian intelligence, which the SBU has previously exposed, is represented in the top 100 by "Legitimnyi" (Легитимный) (675,000 subscribers) and "Resident" (601,000 subscribers) channels. Previously, Detector Media had already investigated the network of Telegram channels administered by the Russian special services. However, a preliminary analysis of Russian disinformation in Telegram indicates that the network is much more extensive. For example, the "ZeRada" (271,000 subscribers) and "First War News" (First Новости Войны) (481,000 subscribers) channels can also be traced to this network.

The pro-Russian channel "Politics of Ukraine" (240,000 subscribers) gained and then lost its audience the fastest. It launched at the end of March and gained 620,000 subscribers rather quickly, but then the audience began to decrease sharply - during this time, the channel lost almost half of its subscribers. Since the channel is private, it is difficult to analyze what exactly caused such changes.

Pro-Russian media. "Novoye Izdaniye" (380,000 subscribers) and "Politika Strany" (248,000 subscribers). "Novoye Izdaniye" is a resource owned by a couple of bloggers, Anatoliy and Olga Shariy. They launched it after the Shariy.NET news agency was blocked. Shariy often reposts publications from their Telegram channel; this is also done by Russian groups and channels from the pro-Russian network, for example, Legitymnyi. After the full-scale invasion of Russia, "Strana.UA" changed its rhetoric to a more pro-Ukrainian one. Still, we constantly record pro-Russian messages on the channel: "Ukraine abandoned Donbas, and the West abandoned Ukraine," "severe economic consequences of sanctions for Europe", and "bad weapons for Ukraine". It can be assumed that this is a disguise for the needs of the time, meaning that the channel pretends to be pro-Ukrainian to promote the not-so-obvious but still Russian propaganda messages more effectively.

Detector Media is preparing a separate study in which we will analyze the pro-Russian Telegram channels in the Ukrainian segment in more detail.

Not so easy for the traditional mass media in Telegram

Only four Telegram channels belonging to mass media entered the top 100 at the end of July: TSN (868,000 subscribers), UNIAN (776,000), "Suspilne Novyny" (301,000), and "Ukraina 24" (404,000). In August, the Telegram channel "Ukraina 24" dropped out of the rating. The reason for it is that it stopped being updated on July 11th. The last post of "Ukraina 24" was a statement by Rinat Akhmetov about the exit of the investment company SCM from the media business. Since July, the channel has lost about 5,000 subscribers.

Instead, other Telegram channels of mass media are maintaining their audience from the end of February 2022. On the eve of the full-scale war, all Telegram channels of the media, which are in the top 100 or have the highest level of compliance with professional journalistic standards, according to the Institute of Mass Information, recorded a sharp surge in the number of subscribers. For example, from February to March, TSN's audience grew by almost 563,000 people (88%), "Ukrainska Pravda" - by 107,000 (86%), and Suspilne - by 182,000 (95%).

Ukrainians most intensively subscribed to popular and/or quality media on February 23-27th, when there was the highest threat of Internet blocking. Later on, the increase became more gradual. Most media channels are verified by Telegram, but not all of them. This poses a potential threat because many channels in Telegram try to mimic well-known brands and use similar names or logos. In particular, one of these channels — "UKR INFORM ???????? News" (255,000 subscribers) — is in the top 100. It mimics the Ukrainian state information agency "Ukrinform". However, before subscribing to the channel, it is worth checking whether the account is verified; if not, it is better to visit the channel from the official website of the media and not search through Google or messenger itself.

Following the footsteps of "Trukha⚡️Ukraine".
Local Telegram channels want to replace mass media
   

Breaking news is increasingly becoming the key to popularity on Telegram. More than half of Telegram channels from the top 100 have chosen this strategy. 37 Telegram channels, including Trukha⚡️Ukraine, inform about all the most important events. The same approach was chosen by some of the local Telegram channels, which made it into the top 100 Ukrainian Telegram channels.

At the same time, it would be an exaggeration to claim that every local channel can enter the top 100 of Ukrainian Telegram as soon as it starts publishing national news. Most of the 19 local Telegram channels on this list were quite popular in their region by the end of February 2022. Their current popularity happened because they were the primary news sources about cities already occupied or attacked by the Russians: Kherson, Odesa, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, or Kyiv.

There are two other ways to increase popularity, which are used by the Telegram channels that mimic the media. First, choose a name similar to the name of a well-known media. The creators of the no longer publishing "Ukraine 24/7" (704,000 subscribers) channel followed this path.

The second way is to add to its naming the references to a relevant topic for the society. For the last six months, such a topic has been war. The channels "Ukraine Now: news, war, Russia" (1.56 million subscribers), "Top News | (War, Ukraine, News)" (1.05 million subscribers), "Good evening, we are from Ukraine ????" (474,000 subscribers), "BDSN | War 2022 | News" (418,000 subscribers), "XUA-war photos" (234,000 subscribers), and others. Even though the latter channel mainly posts photos and videos from the sites of shelling or war zones, its content is often used by pro-Russian Telegram channels. According to TGStat, "XUA-war photos" was most often mentioned by "Resident" (212 mentions), "Nablyudatel" (124), "ZeRada" (96), "Spletnitsa" (91), and "Legitimnyi" (67). It should be noted that "XUA-war photos " occasionally posts manipulative stories. Pro-Russian Telegram channels often take photos or videos and distort their context, thereby resorting to manipulation and promoting pro-Kremlin messages to the Ukrainian audience.

"Sex and the City", success, and the news. Telegram channels of bloggers and volunteers

Given that pro-Russian bloggers were excluded, eight channels of Ukrainian opinion leaders were among the top 100 Telegram channels in July. Most of them report the news, such as "Lachen writes" (855,000 subscribers), "Aleksey Shevtsov" (262,000 subscribers), Sternenko (240,000 subscribers), Yevhen Karas (223,000 subscribers), "Tsaplienko_Ukraine Fights" (215,000 subscribers), "Dmitryi Gordon" (221,000 subscribers). The last channel also works as a platform for distributing publications from the online media "Gordon".

Activists Serhiy Sternenko and Yevhen Karas post news content on Telegram and their reactions to information related to the Ukrainian government, Russia, and the war in general. Notably, Sternenko’s channel grew gradually, without sharp jumps at the beginning of a full-scale invasion. He continues steadily gaining subscribers — about 38,000 people subscribed to his channel in August alone. On the other hand, the Karas channel’s smooth increase in subscribers began at the beginning of spring 2022.

The journalist of the TV channel "1+1", Andrii Tsaplienko, on his Telegram channel, often shares news related to the war and Russia, as well as photos and videos of the consequences of shelling or events on the front line. His channel rapidly gained subscribers in February-March 2022. In particular, only in the last week of February the audience grew by about 120,000. The promotion of the channel was also influenced by traditional mass media, which periodically take the journalist's content for publication.

The "Lachen writes" channel appeared in early 2022. The fact that its author lived in Dnipro might have played a significant role in the promotion of the channel as it could quickly deliver news about the situation in the city and region and rapidly report and interpret international news. The channel's creator, Ihor Lachenkov, also raises funds to help the military.

The "Aleksey Shevtsov" channel belongs to the video blogger Oleksiy Shevtsov. Both on his YouTube and Telegram channels, he mainly discusses international news.

Sofia Stuzhuk’s Telegram channel (288,000 subscribers) tells about her life, upbringing of children, and romantic relationships of the blogger, Sofia Stuzhuk, about whom we once wrote in detail. The blogger did not condemn Russian aggression at the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Stuzhuk was criticized in the Ukrainian segment of social networks for remaining silent and trying to keep her Russian subscriber base. On the 25th day of the full-scale war, she broke the silence calling it a "terrible nightmare", but still did not call Russia an aggressor. Yet, her silence about the war and the criticism from the Ukrainian community did not affect the number of subscribers on her Telegram channel.

"Mykola Udianskyi official Channel" (340,000 subscribers) posts about time management, investments, and ways to achieve economic success.

Jokes and channels with copyright infringements. Entertainment Telegram channels 

All Telegram channels included in the "other" category (5%) can be classified as entertaining: two post jokes, memes, and anecdotes, and three distribute music and videos violating copyright. For example, two Telegram channels published music recordings, almost all of which were Russian. Another channel launched in the summer of 2022 mainly posted movies violating copyright and Russian dubbing. All of these channels, except for "Bozhe, Yake Konchene!" (951,000 subscribers, "Боже, яке кончене!"), gained their audience fairly evenly throughout all months. Unlike most other channels, the full-scale war did not affect these channels’ audiences.

What do the hundred most popular Telegram channels
targeting Ukrainians during the full-scale war tell us?

Despite the messenger’s Russian origins, Ukrainians use Telegram a lot. One can see that the official sources of communication have increased their audiences — channels of administrations and councils, heads of cities, regions, and state bodies. Telegram also has many channels run by the Ukrainian military, where they publish footage of numerous Russian atrocities that would have been blocked on any other social network.

Local channels which post about the events of cities or regions are also popular. However, many of these channels were popular even before the war. In general, it can be seen that the demand for local information on Telegram is growing, as before the full-scale war, mostly such channels as "Huyovaya Odesa" («Хуёвая Одесса») were in high demand. In most cases, these channels are anonymous. With equal probability, they can be administered by a person with pro-Ukrainian views or a "comrade major from Russia". If the channels provide 90% true and 10% false information, it is difficult to see it with the naked eye and without systematic monitoring. In addition, local channels often publish news, although they are not media and do not know about the standards of journalism. Such materials can be manipulative due to their authors' lack of professional skills.

On the other hand, among the top 100 channels, there are several pro-Russian bloggers, pro-Kremlin media, and channels administered by Russian special services. Moreover, the phenomenon of anonymous Telegram channels helped the company become a key platform for spreading Russian propaganda, as provided by numerous studies conducted by Detector Media.

Despite the significant presence of official communication channels in the Ukrainian Telegram segment, we can see from the structure of the top 100 list that Telegram remains a zone of anonymity and alternative sources of information. Therefore, we would like to remind you again that a source you should trust cannot be anonymous, especially in times of full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine and on a platform developed by Russians.

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