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In brief: Trying to report on the war in Ukraine to Russians in their home country is a challenging feat, given the media restrictions Putin has put in place. But Finland's biggest newspaper has found a creative method of delivering information: a Counter-Strike map.
To highlight World Press Freedom Day, Finish paper Helsingin Sanomat said it commissioned two well-known map designers to create a new map for Counter-Strike: Go based on an unspecified war-torn Slavic city. It's named "de_voyna," a reference to the Russian word voyna, meaning war, a term that is illegal to use in Russia when referencing the invasion.
The map contains a hidden room that can only be found using the spectator cam. Within the room are Russian-language stories and headlines, as well as images, from Helsingin Sanomat related to the war in Ukraine.
The room also includes a map showing the locations in Ukraine that Russian soldiers have attacked, along with a table listing the number of Russians who have been killed (70,000). One of the stories is about Yuriy Glodan, whose family was killed by a Russian missile while he went grocery shopping.
Russia refers to its invasion of Ukraine as a "special military operation." Anyone who contradicts the Kremlin or spreads "false information" can face up to 15 years in prison. Combined with Russia banning access to media content produced outside of the country, many Russians don't see what's really happening in Ukraine.
Counter-Strike: GO is very popular in Russia, played by around four million people, most of whom are young men. And it's one of the few Western services still available in the country.
"As we have been widely concerned about the press freedom situation and freedom of speech in Russia, we decided that maybe it's possible to find some new channels to provide Russian audience with some reliable, independent journalism for example about the situations in Ukraine," Helsingin Sanomat's editor-in-chief, Antero Mukka, told Reuters.
Mukka also said that the newspaper had not asked Valve for permission to create the map, though it's hard to imagine that the company will object. "If some young men in Russia, just because of this game, happen to think for a couple of seconds what is going on in Ukraine then it's worth it," he said.
News that Counter-Strike is being used to get news stories about Ukraine to Russians comes a few days after reports of Ukrainian soldiers using a Steam Deck to control a machine gun turret.