This is a regular weekly report by Detector Media, a partner of the Ukrainian Election Task Force, offering exclusive content covering the three main Russian state TV talk shows, particularly these shows’ coverage of Ukraine and the 2019 presidential election. Kremlin-backed media outlets often generate disinformation narratives that are then spread throughout Ukraine as well as Western Europe and the United States. We have identified these TV shows as the main amplifiers of the key disinformation narratives that the Kremlin’s propaganda machine seeks to circulate in the public domain. The messages spread in these shows are further multiplied by the wide network of hundreds and thousands of print, TV, radio and online outlets, as well as via the social media, which target consumers of the Russian-language information ecosystem, including Ukrainians. Indeed, the audience is not limited to within Russia’s borders but also extends to Ukraine itself.
According to the research of Detector Media, 5 percent of Ukrainians, roughly 1.4 million citizens, receive information about the events in Ukraine and the world from Russian TV channels. Some 67 percent of those who receive information from Russian TV channels inhabit Southern and Eastern Ukraine.
Programs included in the monitoring: Time Will Show (Channel One), Evening with Vladimir Solovyov (Russia 1), News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselev (Russia 1).
Monitoring period: April 22-28, 2019
Number of programs partially devoted to Ukraine (share in the total number): 16/21
The main topics of the week devoted to Ukraine on the Russian television shows were as follows: the result of Ukraine’s presidential election, the adoption of the Ukrainian language bill, and Vladimir Putin’s decision to offer Russian passports to residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine. The Russian TV shows repeatedly insisted that Ukraine is pursuing a “policy of genocide towards the residents of the Donbas” (7), while Russia “is implementing human rights” (1).
|Message||Number of programs in which the message was mentioned|
|Ukraine is under the external control of the West||13/16|
|Ukraine is split ideologically and historically||9/16|
|There is a civil war in Ukraine||9/16|
|A nation of Russophobes is being brought up in Ukraine||8/16|
|Nazism flourishes in Ukraine||8/16|
|Ukrainian authorities deliberately cut off the occupied territories||8/16|
|Ukraine is ruled by oligarchs||7/16|
|Ukraine should take the first step to reconcile with Russia||5/16|
|Ukrainians and Russians are fraternal peoples||4/16|
|Ukraine is on a rapid decline||3/16|
Through their discussions of the passport issue in eastern Ukraine, the Russian talk shows hinted at the Kremlin’s intentions. A guest on Time Will Show (9) stated that in the event of a threat to Russia’s “new citizens,” “we will stand up for them by all possible means. And the Russian Federation has all the means necessary for this.” In another episode of Time Will Show, the commentator described (2) Putin’s offer of Russian citizenship to Ukrainians in the Donbas as “a kind of a referendum for the status which residents of the Donbas really want to have.” During Evening with Vladimir Solovyov (2), an expert predicted that eastern Ukrainians, once they receive Russian passports, “will be waiting for the next logical step, that is, the return of their native Donbas to the native Russia, to the homeland.” At the same time, all the commentators denied any wrongdoing in Putin’s passport scheme (9). Both Ukraine and the European Union, however, called the announcement an attempt to legitimize the unrecognized republics in Donetsk and Luhansk and to aggravate the ongoing conflict. The host of Time Will Show (10) was indignant that Hungary may issue passports to Ukrainians, saying that EU members “are perceived as landlords in Ukraine.” In fact, the Ukrainian authorities dismissed the Hungarian consul and initiated criminal proceedings against him in response to the passport scandal.
The shows’ participants discussed extensively the status of the Russian language in Ukraine. The host of Time Will Show (8) asserted that Russian is the native language of half of Ukraine’s population. In fact, 68 percent of Ukrainians consider Ukrainian to be their mother tongue, another 17 percent consider both Ukrainian and Russian equally native, and only 14 percent think that Russian is their sole mother tongue. A guest on Time Will Show (2) claimed that according to the new Ukrainian law, “attempts to recognize the existence of other languages in the territory of the country are qualified as actions aimed at the dismantlement or the overthrow of the Constitutional order.” In reality, the bill only introduces restrictions on the use of other languages in films, television, book publishing, and other media. A commentator on another episode of Time Will Show (3) stated that the new law stipulates that “it is prohibited to speak Russian in public places,” and “provide(s) for the creation of a post of language inspectors.” In fact, the bill does circumscribe personal communication, and legislators removed the initiative on “language inspectors” in October 2018.
The talk shows again interpreted the result of the Ukrainian presidential election as the failure of Ukrainization. The host of Evening with Vladimir Solovyov (1) claimed that 73 percent of the Ukrainian electorate opposed the sentiments behind Petro Poroshenko’s campaign slogan of “army, language, and faith” by voting for Volodymyr Zelenskiy. A commentator on Time Will Show (5) stated that the one region Poroshenko won in the election only voted for him because “stoned Nazi dumbasses” live there. As we have already written, more than half of Ukrainians actually supported Poroshenko’s stances on language, the defense sector, and religion.
The Russian television shows continued to deny that Moscow bears no responsibility for Ukraine’s woes: “The issuance of Russian passports to residents of the DPR and the LPR is an exclusively humanitarian mission. After all, when Poroshenko was president, the Ukrainian authorities deprived them of everything…While others think about territories and expanses, Putin, as always, thinks about people,” the host of News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselev (2) said. Kiselev, along with the hosts of the other programs, neglected to admit that Moscow’s aggression spawned the war and humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine.