Russian News Monitor: February 18-24, 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 2019 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 Show (Channel One), Evening with Vladimir Solovyov (Russia 1), News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselev (Russia 1)

Monitoring period: February 18-24, 2019

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

The main topics of the week related to Ukraine include the fifth anniversary of the shootings during the Revolution of Dignity and the international orientation of Ukraine. Russian propagandists insisted that the West is using Ukraine rather than supporting it and claimed that the Revolution of Dignity was an illegal coup which lead to the collapse of the country.

MessageNumber of programs in which the message was mentioned
Nazism is flourishing in Ukraine8/11
Ukraine is under the external control of the West6/11
A nation of Russophobes is cultivated in Ukraine6/11
There is a civil war going on in Ukraine4/11
A totalitarian, repressive regime has been established in Ukraine4/11
Ukrainian election in 2019 will be rigged3/11
Ukraine is socially split3/11
The Revolution of Dignity was a coup3/11
Ukrainians and Russians are one people2/11

Commentators on Time Will Show called the Maidan “the first separatist formation in Ukraine,” while those on Evening with Vladimir Solovyov referred to the protest movement as the funeral banquet for Ukraine,” the “establishing of the American colonial regime,” and the “revolution of shit.”

The shows’ participants espoused many conspiracy theories about the Ukrainian revolution. Allegedly, the government ordered the snipers who fired on the Maidan protesters to kill a hundred people, because it is a favorable number for political technology. However, 107 people died in the protests, and only eighty-four of them during the shootings of February 18-20, 2014. The commentators also claimed that some of the participants handed out tea infused with illegal drugs during the Maidan, and that unsuspecting old women who drank the infusions are still in drug rehab clinics. In fact, the protesters adhered to a strict, self-imposed no-drug code during the demonstrations.

In addition, commentators on all of the talk shows referred to the events of 2013-2014 in Ukraine as a coup. This lie is among those most frequently repeated by the Kremlin about the protests in Ukraine. In fact, Viktor Yanukoych’s backtracking and refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU prompted the initial protests. The spontaneous revolution at first primarily sought not to overthrow the government but to redirect the values and vector of the country’s development. It thus became known as the Revolution of Dignity.

The Russian television shows also promoted the idea that Crimea and The Donbas “moved away” from Ukraine independently in response to the Maidan. In reality, Ukraine and most of the international community disagree: the UN maintains that Russia continues to occupy Crimea, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe regards Russia’s presence in The Donbas as an occupation.

In the world of the pro-Kremlin propagandists, Nazism, which supposedly overtook Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity, motivated the territorial “split” of the country. Commentators on Time Will Show claimed that the UEFA Champions League has even imposed fines on Ukrainian fans for the “nationalist” slogan “Glory to Ukraine.” In fact, despite Russian protests, the European Football Association has allowed Ukrainian fans to put this phrase on their t-shirts.

The programs also maligned Western support for Ukraine. The shows’ participants suggested that the United States and Europe simply use Ukraine for their own objectives against Russia. Commentators on Time Will Show claimed that President of the European Council Donald Tusk spoke in the Verkhovna Rada on behalf of “anti-Russian and pro-American Europe.” Discussions on Evening with Vladimir Solovyov declared that Ukraine had already removed the prohibition of foreign military bases on its territory from the Constitution. Unsurprisingly, the reality is exactly the opposite: the parliament removed the clause which allowed foreign military bases on terms of lease.

Evening with Vladimir Solovyov captured the leitmotif in all of the shows: The ideas of Maidan did not work. This strategic narrative, one we have covered before, is key to the pro-Kremlin disinformation machine. In fact, most of the demands put forward during the Revolution have been realized: Ukraine has advanced in the Corruption Perceptions Index and Press Freedom Index, and 70 percent of Ukrainians believe that the events of Maidan should be honored.