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CIA reaches out to Russians opposed to war in Ukraine

Some civilians escape Mariupol
Some civilians escape from Mariupol; Russia introducing the ruble to Kherson 03:24

The CIA is offering Russians opposed to the war in Ukraine a secure way to contact the agency amid concerns for their safety, as the Russian government continues a crackdown on outside information and opposition to the Kremlin's months-long invasion. 

"We are providing Russian-language instructions on how to safely contact CIA — via our Dark Web site or a reputable VPN — for those who feel compelled to reach us because of the Russian Government's unjust war," a CIA official told CBS News. "Our global mission demands that individuals can contact us securely from anywhere." 

The agency on Monday released text-only instructions in Russian on several of its social media channels, including YouTubeFacebook and Instagram, for accessing its dark web site — which has shown value in securely eliciting information from individuals all over the world since it was first launched in 2019.    

Accessing the site requires a browser called Tor, or "the onion router," which protects a user's identity by encrypting their web traffic. The CIA hopes it will help concerned citizens in Russia — as well as Russian soldiers in Ukraine — safely contact the agency with information.  

Western assessments have routinely indicated that Russia's military forces in Ukraine are suffering from low morale, with occasional reports of soldiers refusing to carry out orders or sabotaging their own equipment.  

And while opinion polls in Russia suggest — amid a narrative tightly controlled by the Kremlin — that there is widespread public support for the Kremlin's invasion, U.S. officials are also closely tracking potential fissures among Russian elites, some of whom have seen their fortunes erased by punishing sanctions and have publicly voiced opposition to the war.   

Both Facebook and Instagram have been banned in Russia since the start of the invasion, though individuals have found workarounds to access censored sites with the use of premium, paid VPNs. Recent reports indicate demand for VPNs in Russia has skyrocketed since the Kremlin instituted the ban.  

A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on the volume of engagement it had seen from Russia via its dark web site, or how its analysts vetted identities or information once contact was made. 

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