How Ukrainian Propaganda Pits Russian Teenagers Against Each Other Using Popular Anime Hype

NEW – March 1, 2023

In recent days, even more people have been talking about PMC “Ryodan” in Russia than about PMC Wagner. We found out that the reason for the schoolboy fights was a provocation by the Ukrainian Centre for Information and Psychological Special Operations and the Russian fake-spreader Vladislav Pozdnyakov. Teenagers were deliberately pitted against each other. We will tell you how the movement of fans of Japanese films and the DOTA 2 game turned into a scandalous and even frightening organisation in the eyes of the layman, and what does the Ukrainian Centre for Information and Psychological Special Operations have to do with it.

Summary of the investigation:

▪️ The first fights in the shopping centre began because of the unusual appearance of fans of the Hunter x Hunter anime series, which athletes and football hooligans did not like;

▪ The situation was taken advantage of by bloggers and channels that chased the hype;

▪ The peaceful movement of anime lovers was demonised and made from it the analogue of “Fight Club”, which it was not;

▪ Telegram channels associated with the Centre for Information and Psychological Special Operations began to pit teenagers against each other, publishing provocative comments in groups.

▪ Users of social networks from Ukraine began to spread rumours about an attack of “Ryodan” members on people of non-Slavic appearance. At the same time, calls were sent to groups of anime lovers to avenge the beaten “Ryodan” members;

▪ After several fights, the topic was covered by the media, and the police conducted a series of detentions of children in shopping centres across the country.

“Aviapark” Battle

On February 19, at the food court of the “Aviapark” shopping centre, a group of athletic young people started a fight with anime lovers. The reason for the fight was fault-finding about the appearance of fans of Japanese animation. The video was originally posted in a group dedicated to the confrontation between “youth from Tsvetnoy Boulevard” and “youth of Kitay Gorod”. It quickly became clear that the “Aviapark battle” took place between fans of football clubs and fans of the anime series Hunter x Hunter.

The very next day, more than a hundred people gathered at the food court. A mass brawl took place on all floors of the shopping centre at the same time. The police intervened in the situation. For several days, fights took place not only in “Aviapark”, but also in other metropolitan shopping centres. The topic would probably have died down in a few days. But then the situation was interfered with by fake news, which repeatedly implemented the agenda of the Ukrainian Centre for Information and Psychological Special Operations. They accused harmless anime lovers of creating a formidable structure, almost comparable to a real PMC.

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Storm in a cup from the food court

Before the “Aviapark” battle, few people knew about the “Ryodan” movement, as well as many other anime movements. Its representatives are united exclusively by interests related to anime: clothing style, lifestyle, symbolism in the form of a spider with the number 4 inside.

“We are accused of being some kind of nationalist movements. We are not. We are just a movement of doters (fans of the game DOTA 2), anime lovers and so on,” said the leader of the VKontakte Novosibirsk “Ryodan” group after he was detained by the police.

After he wrote an explanatory note, the guy was released.

A representative of the Krasnoyarsk group under the pseudonym “Kutya Ryodan” said that “We are primarily for justice. For us to be able and have the freedom to express ourselves in the way we want. Wear the clothes we want. We want to have the hairstyle we want. I want every one of us in our city to know this and first of all not to infringe on us just because we may be in the minority, just because we may be weaker.”

Similar thoughts were voiced by the admins of two large “VKontakte” public groups, dedicated to “Ryodan”. The administrator of one of them, Senya Almutov, writes:

“Please understand that the participants of Ryodan are not related to each other in any way, if they have a common ideology, then this is peace + rest, play DOTA to funk (hip-hop genre), sit on Discord (a program for communication) or watch a stream on Twitch. We don’t want conflicts, we don’t hate any groups of people, we don’t incite hostility, and we certainly don’t beat anyone up.”

Inciting inter-subcultural hostility

Who presented the peaceful anime movement as a destructive society, which, according to the media and ordinary people, has become the enemy of both people of non-Slavic appearance and athletes-football hooligans? The trail leads to the Ukrainian Centre for Information and Psychological Special Operations and their Russian followers, who used a hype informational occasion to destabilise the situation in the country.

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On February 22, information about the incident was published on one of Vladislav Pozdnyakov’s Telegram channels under the name “Butilka”. This blogger is known for being the founder of the extremist organisation “Men’s State”. And in addition, he was noticed in the publication of posts that were clearly created according to Centre for Information and Psychological Special Operations guidelines. Pozdnyakov deliberately distributed videos of “showdowns” of representatives of subcultures to provoke new conflicts. On February 22 and 23, the fights of “Ryodan” in Moscow shopping centres made up most of the channel’s content.

On February 23, the same community published information that a certain “PMC Ryodan”, whose participants wear clothes with spiders, was involved in the fight. The thesis is launched that the group members beat up representatives of other subcultures and foreigners. Information was picked up by the entertainment and news Telegram channels “Topor” and “Baza”. At the same time, teenagers were being pitted against each other on social networks: fan groups and national associations write that a certain “PMC Ryodan” declared war on them.

Analysis of comments clearly indicates the “source” of such comments – posts are written from Ukrainian IP addresses. A number of Telegram channels that previously spread fakes about mobilisation in Russia, switched to the topic of “Ryodan”.

The same situation applies to the channel that until February 27 was called “Hypanutye”.

It is obvious that the Centre for Information and Psychological Special Operations started actively inflating the topic. A certain anonymous person hiding on social networks behind Arabic hieroglyphs called for reprisals against “Ryodan” members. As it turns out, this person maybe lives in Mexico, at least he is a member of many local local groups like “Mexico Chat” and “Cancun Flea Market”. On his avatar is Vladimir Zelensky. Provocateurs could also act from the side of “PMC Ryodan”. For example, a certain Kir Chvkredanov, who turned out to be a girl from Kiev and called for killing skinheads. At the same time, none of these sources was previously associated with anime people..

Such an attack could not fail to provoke a reaction: in many Russian cities, the hunt for informal youth associations began – athletes and representatives of national diasporas began to catch people with non-standard hair colour, piercings and tattoos on the streets and in shopping centres. At the slightest suspicion of connection with “Ryodan” teenagers were beaten. By the way, according to sources in law enforcement agencies, many participants in fights on the side of anime lovers have nothing to do with this subculture and have never watched the films of the Hunter x Hunter series.

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By the way, the blogger-faker Pozdnyakov as a result admitted that he specially inflated the topic of “Ryodan” on his resources.

Atomic PMCs

Another version of the “PMC Ryodan” media phenomenon: This is a planned promo campaign for the game Atomic Heart. The published promo video, which appeared on the screen of the Moscow Avenue shopping centre, shows a lot of spiders with “emoticons” on their backs. The announcement emphasises that in order to attract as much attention as possible to the release of Atomic Heart, the world-famous media company Leo Burnett came up with “the greatest promo in history”.

Later, the game developer stated that he had nothing to do with this advertising campaign: “We have nothing to do with this placement, it is not part of the official advertising campaign of the game Atomic Heart.”

How to escape from “Ryodan”?

In fact, “Ryodan” is not a PMC at all. These are ordinary anime lovers who wear spider-themed clothes and strange hairstyles, watch movies, play DOTA, and gather in food courts to socialise. They don’t provoke fights. Their appearance in the media space is an artificially inflated information occasion that was actively distributed by the Centre for Information and Psychological Special Operations and Pozdnyakov, as well as other Telegram channels. There was an active promotion of comments, posts, and provocations that presented the movement of anime lovers as destructive youth. It remains to hope that both sides of the conflict realise that they are being deliberately pitted against one another: “Ryodan” will return to their films, athletes to exercise equipment and horizontal bars, and police officers, juvenile departments and centres for combating extremism on social networks will draw conclusions and allow to avoid repeating the situation in the future.

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