Thursday 17 March 2022 > français
We are Squad 303, an international group of programmers coordinated from Poland. The name comes from a British Royal Airforce Unit made up of Polish pilots who helped win the Battle of Britain in WWII.
We created tools that enable anyone, anywhere to message validated Russian cell numbers and e-mail addresses. You can find them here: www.1920.in. They can be used from all devices. The name 1920 is a reference to the Soviet-Polish war of 1919-1920 in which outnumbered Polish forces defeated a Soviet invasion at a great human cost.
We circumvent Vladimir Putin’s digital censorship and make sure that Russian people remain connected to the world and the reality of what Russia is doing in Ukraine.
Due to our growing international membership around the globe we can operate 24/7.
Beyond the official efforts, teams of computer programmers have also begun striking out to stir up Russian rage. One group, squad303, named for an air squadron that tore through Nazi warplanes during World War II, has built a website that shows a randomly selected Russian citizen’s email address, phone or WhatsApp number — as well as a pre-written message a visitor can send to strike up a conversation from their own accounts.
One of the group’s programmers in Poland — using the name of Jan Zumbach, one of the squadron’s ace fighter pilots — said he now works alongside more than 100 volunteers from Estonia, France, Germany, the United States and other countries, broken into teams devoted to software development, cyberdefense, social media and a “help desk” to get new messengers onboard.
Millions of messages, some of which have showed photos of the war or tallies of civilian deaths, have been sent in less than two weeks to the Russian numbers, according to the programmer, who said their database includes tens of millions of phone numbers and email addresses taken from hacked Russian databases. The team has raced to expand its infrastructure, growing from one server earlier this month to 16 servers today. Other mass-distribution operations are currently in the works, he said.
The project is all-consuming, he said, and he’s getting about three hours of sleep a night. But he said he remembers how important outside information from Radio Free Europe was to his parents during the 1980s, when they took part in the Solidarity labor movement that shook the Soviet Union. He hopes his work today will have a similar impact.
“We do not expect instant rewards or instant replies. It’s a process,” he said. “Every single text message sent to a person in Russia is a tiny bridge between two people.”
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