Russian News Monitor: February 11-17, 2019

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 Presidential elections. 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, or 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 Tell (Channel One), Evening with Vladimir Solovyov (Russia 1), News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselev (Russia 1)

Monitoring period: February 11-17, 2019

Number of programs partially devoted to Ukraine (share in the total number): 11/21

The main topics of the week related to Ukraine included the anniversary of the Minsk Agreements and the confrontation between the police and activists following the rally for the murdered activist Katya Handzyuk. Through the prism of these events, the TV shows declared that Russia did not violate the Minsk Agreements and that Nazism prevailed in the Ukrainian government.

MessageNumber of programs in it was mentioned:
Nazism is flourishing in Ukraine10/11
Ukraine is under the external control of the West7/11
There is a civil war going on in Ukraine6/11
Ukrainian elections in 2019 will be rigged and should not be recognized5/11
Ukraine is doomed to split5/11
A nation of Russophobes is cultivated in Ukraine4/11
A totalitarian, repressive regime has been established in Ukraine3/11
Ukraine is on the verge of collapse3/11
Ukrainians and Russians are one people3/11
Ukrainian government is aggressive towards the residents of the Donbas3/11

On February 9, during a confrontation between protesters and police near a Kyiv police station, one of the law enforcement officers shouted “Down, you Banderite!” as he detained an activist. The head of the city police later apologized for the officer’s expression, calling it inadmissible. Other top law enforcement officials expressed similar opinions about the incident. The Russian shows used the censure of the officer who used the expression as evidence of an alleged toleration of Nazism in the ranks of the Ukrainian government. For example, guests and presenters of Time Will Show fumed at the alleged plan to only punish the policeman who shouted the phrase about Bandera. In fact, the authorities have prepared charges for another person who hit the protester lying on the ground. In addition, Russian shows emphatically claimed that the “Nazis” who “stormed” the police station went unpunished. In fact, authorities served four of them with charges. Moreover, the police temporarily detained 40 of the protesters and launched an investigation into hooliganism, seizure of state buildings, and threat of violence against law enforcement. The protesters claim, on the other hand, that they did not storm the building but only demanded the return of their confiscated belongings.

As for the Minsk Agreements, the shows stated that Russia has no role in the Agreements and therefore cannot violate them, contrary to the position of US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker. However, Russia is clearly both a party to and in violation of the Minsk Agreements through the presence of Russian heavy weapons and soldiers in Ukraine, by organizing illegal elections in The Donbas, by blocking the exchange of prisoners, and by the supply of humanitarian aid.

At the same time, the shows accused the Ukrainian authorities of violating the Agreements and neglecting the residents of The Donbas. Evening with Vladimir Solovyov warned the inhabitants of The Donbas that the authorities in Kyiv may escalate the conflict and even carry out “cleansing.” In reality, Petro Poroshenko has repeatedly stated that only a diplomatic solution will restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The shows also repeatedly denigrated Ukraine. Commentators called the country “a terrible absess,” claimed that Ukraine “appeared accidentally,” and said that when they hear the word ‘Ukraine’ they want to wash their hands and ears.” The show’s participants described Ukrainians who took part in the Revolution of Dignity as “Darwin Award Winners” and called “political Ukrainians” “genetic garbage and shame of the Ukrainian people.”

Once again, we see that Russian TV shows continue to discredit Ukraine and the Ukrainian authorities instead of focusing on the legitimate dimensions of the upcoming presidential election or its candidates.