The United States and Ukraine have thwarted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to distort the narrative of his brutal war, but they are still working to present the Russian people with a more accurate picture of the Kremlin’s invasion.

Putin is intensifying his two-decade crackdown on information while the Russian military loses thousands of lives and fails to capture key cities. The Kremlin has shut down Russia’s last three independent media outlets, barred major social media platforms, enacted new laws punishing journalists who defy its propaganda, and insisted on referring to the conflict as a “special military operation.”

As a result, the Russian public has limited access to information that contradicts Putin’s anti-Ukraine, anti-Western narrative. It’s a safety net for Putin in the event of a backlash against the war and Western sanctions, which have crippled Russia’s economy.

For Ukraine and its Western allies, breaking through Putin’s propaganda bubble is a critical strategic goal. They’ve tried a variety of overt and covert tactics to reach ordinary Russians, ranging from encouraging the use of software that bypasses internet filters to holding government briefings for TikTok influencers. Independent voices still operating in Russia, as well as voices from the West and direct appeals from Ukrainians, are hoped to persuade the masses that the war next door is being lied to them.

Many Western companies have abandoned their operations in Russia. However, quietly, US officials have urged internet service providers to stay, calculating that Russians require the ability to access outside information on the internet. Celebrities who are already well-known in Russia, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, have used social media platforms like Twitter and Telegram to share messages and videos condemning the war’s atrocities.

To undermine Putin’s ability to carry out his war plans, the Biden administration has continued to declassify intelligence findings about them. The US is also increasing funding for its traditional means of reaching Eastern European audiences, with the US Agency for Global Media, which oversees Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, receiving $25 million this month.

However, TikTok has banned new uploads and livestreaming from Russia as of this month. Russia completely banned Facebook and Instagram on Monday as part of a new crackdown. Meanwhile, Russians have had difficulty accessing Twitter. The BBC Russian service, Deutsche Welle, and Meduza, a Latvian website, have all been suspended by the Kremlin. On Tuesday, the international news channel Euronews announced that it had been denied permission to broadcast in Russia.

Using a privacy-protected “onion” service, some social media platforms and news organizations have worked around the bans and government surveillance. Users in Russia can access a version of Twitter by downloading the Tor browser, which allows users to access sites on the “dark web.” Onion websites have a.onion suffix instead Russian authorities, on the other hand, have had some success in blocking those sites.

It’s difficult to say whether any of these efforts are successful, but research from other countries suggests that these types of information barriers are just difficult enough to discourage people from persevering.

Another issue is reaching out to those who do not want to be reached, which is also a problem in the United States. Despite numerous efforts to debunk voter fraud myths, millions of people in the United States, for example, believe the 2020 election will be rigged.

It’s a climate of disinformation that the Kremlin enjoys and has aided in spreading through influence operations against Russia’s adversaries. Russian state media continues to repeat false and unsubstantiated claims about Ukraine’s government, claiming that it needs to be “de-Nazified.” It has lied about Russian military attacks on civilian targets and the destruction of entire communities.

According to Thomas Rid, a disinformation expert and professor at Johns Hopkins University, the United States “doesn’t really have a great track record” in combating false narratives.

Zelenskyy was well-suited for an information war when he was elected president. He was a showman who created a successful production company and played a president on television. Ukraine became the focus of former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment shortly after he took office, an international story that Zelenskyy’s team used to prepare for global information challenges.