Russian News Monitor: January 28-February 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 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 Tell (Channel One), Evening with Vladimir Solovyov (Russia 1), News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselev (Russia 1).

Monitoring period: January 28 – February 3, 2019

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

The main topics of the week related to Ukraine covered in the Russian talk shows included the announcement of Petro Poroshenko’s reelection campaign, new sociological data about the pre-election period, and Ukrainian policy toward Russia and The Donbas. The speakers broadly discussed particular candidates. Commentators described the majority of Ukrainian politicians as stupid, deceitful, corrupt, and thirsty for war. Moreover, commentators attempted to discredit the election process itself as rigged and meaningless, since the winner will be either appointed or controlled by the United States.

Message:Number of programs in which the message was mentioned:
Ukraine is under the external control of the West11/14


Russia must annex the Donbas / appoint their President in Ukraine7/14
Ukrainian election in 2019 will be rigged6/14
Russia, in fact, wants to help Ukrainians5/14
There is a civil war going on in Ukraine5/14
Ukraine is on the verge of collapse5/14
Ukrainians / Ukrainian politicians are silly and primitive4/14
Nazism and anti-Semitism are flourishing in Ukraine4/14
A nation of Russophobes is cultivated in Ukraine4/14
A totalitarian, repressive regime has been established in Ukraine3/14

Commentators on the Russian talk shows called for an increase in the Kremlin’s interference in Ukrainian matters. They actively urged the Kremlin to issue Russian passports to residents of The Donbas, to integrate The Donbas region into Russia, or even to install their own president in Ukraine, as the United States allegedly did in Venezuela.

As a justification for this call, the speakers referred to one public opinion poll, conducted by a little-known sociological company (Seetarget), according to which 59.2 percent of Ukrainians are ready to give up the occupied territories in exchange for peace. Pro-Kremlin outlets appear to be the only outlets sharing the results of Seetarget’s research, casting doubt on the organization’s credibility. Featured guests on the show who supposedly represented the Ukrainian point of view also offered to exchange Crimea for The Donbas: “You leave the The Donbas. We forget the question of Crimea, for a while.”

Reality, of course, differs from the narratives presented in these Russian talk shows. According to a survey by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, only 10 percent of Ukrainians are ready to accept the separation of the occupied territories for the sake of peace in eastern Ukraine. Only 16 percent are ready to exchange Crimea for The Donbas. Moreover, the Ukrainian authorities strongly oppose such scenarios.

The shows also portrayed Ukraine as a military danger to Russia. Commentators claimed that NATO wants to use Ukraine for itself and that the construction of a NATO military base is already underway in Ochakiv. In fact, an operational center is being created for the Sea Breeze exercises.

The hosts and guests of the shows also tried to discredit Ukraine at large. For example, a commentator declared that the American Orthodox Church did not recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. While this is true on the surface, commentators failed to mention the American Orthodox Church’s ties to Russia.

Commentators brazenly stated that Ukrainian candidates will look like “fifty idiots” during the presidential debates, and that they do not even know how to write. They claimed that Ukrainian citizens will in effect choose their own gravedigger during the presidential election.

One piece of semi-disinformation was also spread in the shows: allegedly, 10 million Ukrainians will die of starvation “one way or another.” Although the number is ten times smaller, unfortunately there are starving people in Ukraine—those who live in the eastern territories of the country attacked and under control by Russia.