Russian News Monitor: February 25 – March 3, 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, 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 25 – March 3, 2019

Number of programs partially devoted to Ukraine (share in the total number): 14/21

The main topics of the week devoted to Ukraine included the following: the national selection for the annual Eurovision Song Contest; publication of the journalistic investigation into embezzlement in the defense industry; arrival of the USS Donald Cook guided missile destroyer in Ukraine; and consideration of the law on language. The programs also spread disinformation that President Petro Poroshenko seeks to escalate the conflict in The Donbas in order to retain power without the presidential election. The shows’ commentators also pushed the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. The terrorist leader of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” Dmitry Pushilin stated during Evening with Vladimir Solovyov that “Integration processes with the Russian Federation are our goal.”

MessageNumber of programs in which the message was mentioned
Nazism flourishes in Ukraine13/14
Banderites are splitting Ukraine and imposing their ideology on the majority of people12/14
Ukraine is under the external control of the West8/14
Ukrainian authorities are preparing armed provocations for the period of the elections7/14
Ukrainians and Russians are one people6/14
A totalitarian and repressive regime has been established in Ukraine6/14
Ukrainian election in 2019 will be rigged5/14
The nation of Russophobes is being brought up in Ukraine5/14
American missiles might be deployed in Ukraine4/14
There is a civil war in Ukraine4/14

Kremlin-backed television increasingly pushed the idea that President Poroshenko plans to organize an escalation in The Donbas and institute a new martial law, in order to stay in power, or at least to divert attention from news topics which might show him in a negative light. Propagandists who took part in the program Evening with Vladimir Solovyov used the fact that the Ukrainian delegation left the meeting of the humanitarian group in Minsk as “evidence” of such an escalation: “In response to the proposal to sign the spring truce the Ukrainian delegation…left.”

In fact, the diplomats left the meeting after representatives of Russia and the separatists refused to exchange prisoners on all the proposed conditions and began to insult Ukraine. The possibility of the deployment of American missiles in Ukraine and Russia’s response to such actions was also discussed several times during the show. During Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, the commentator declared—without any evidence—that there were already weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine: “Small nuclear charges….They already have this. Just as unmanned strike aircrafts.”

The shows once again heavily used pseudo-Ukrainian experts who claim to convey “the official position of Ukraine”—despite the fact that they have no such mandate and in fact only provide assistance to the Kremlin’s propagandists. In Time Will Show, the “Ukrainian expert” stated that the Western partners “have been saying since the times of Yanukovych that we need to urgently unhook two cars–Crimea and The Donbas–because they are too much of a burden.” According to the “Ukrainian expert,” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made similar suggestions; in reality, they never declared anything like this in public. On the Russian talk shows, commentators said the following directly to the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) terrorist group: “We ache to do everything at once, so that there would be business in Donetsk, so that people would have Russian passports…so that people would feel that Russia stands by them and that Russia will never betray them.”

Ten of the fourteen programs about Ukraine mentioned the national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest—a scandal arose because of several contestants’ ties to Russia; the shows used this scandal to illustrate the supposed “Nazi” and “totalitarian” policy of the Ukrainian government. Participants of the Russian TV shows expressed outraged over the question posed by the host of the National Selection to the “Anna-Maria” duet, whose parents live in Crimea—“To whom does Crimea belong?” The programs dubbed this instance an “interrogation,” a manifestation of a “sect,” or “inquisition.” No one mentioned that the performers’ mother works for the Crimean administration and possesses the Russian state award for the “Liberation of the Crimea.” On Time Will Show, one of the participants misquoted one of the judges of the Ukrainian contest mistranslating the phrase “our country is at war” as “you have a war ahead of you.”

TV show commentators expressed outrage over the Ukrainian language bill and claimed that it will result in the prohibition of Russian language, as stated during Evening with Vladimir Solovyov. In reality, there is no such restriction in the bill; it includes only the requirement that publishers publish 50 percent of their output in Ukrainian.