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Russian users flood White House Instagram upon rapper’s urging

Alyza Sebenius
Bloomberg

When the Russian rap star Timati took issue last week with the White House’s description of how World War II ended, he called on his fans to set the record straight. Since then, a torrent of Russian language comments have flooded the White House’s official Instagram page, proudly pointing out the Soviet Union’s role in the allied victory.

On May 8, the White House posted a video on Instagram commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe with a caption celebrating that “America and Great Britain had victory over the Nazis.”View this post on Instagram A post shared by The White House (@whitehouse) on May 8, 2020 at 12:40pm PDT

Rusian rapper , singer Timati poses as he arrives for the World Music Awards in Monaco in this May 27, 2014, file photo.

Timati, whose full name is Timur Yunusov, commented on the video with a reminder, in Russian, of the country’s role in defeating the Nazis – a fact that is “core to the Russian identity,” said Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at the firm Graphika Inc., which studies social media.

The same day, Timati also wrote an Instagram post to his 15.5 million followers with an image of the White House post and a caption suggesting they “go to the White House page and leave our thoughts in the comments.” A number of Russian celebrities and influencers with similarly vast social media followings took him up on the suggestion, Nimmo found, posting patriotic messages about Russia and its contributions in the war.

The sentiment created a “moment,” among a large number of apparently authentic Russian users, according to Nimmo. These users have flooded all photos posted by the White House Instagram account in recent days with Russian language messages that echo similar sentiments.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks with Russian performer Timati during a meeting with supporters in Moscow in this March 5, 2012, file photo.

One user, for example, commented on a White House post with the lyrics to “Katyusha,” which is Russia’s “ultimate” patriotic war song – as popular there as Glenn Miller’s U.S. wartime hit “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” Nimmo said. “Katyusha” is an endearing short form of the name “Katya” or “Ekaterina” and the nickname of the main type of Russian missile battery used in the war, he added.

Instagram is currently looking into the posts to see if they violate the platform’s policies, which prohibit fake accounts or those designed to mislead, said a spokeswoman for parent company Facebook Inc. However, she added that users are allowed to speak freely and in an organized manner.

White House spokesmen didn’t respond to requests for comment on the Instagram reaction.