Russian News Monitor: March 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 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: March 11-17, 2019

Number of programs partially devoted to Ukraine (share in the total number): 12/21

The main topics of the week devoted to Ukraine were as follows: rallies of nationalists against Petro Poroshenko, the election race and candidates’ chances, and the cultural policy of Ukraine. Through these topics, propagandists on Kremlin-backed television shows have been trying to spread myths about violence and the “Nazification” of Ukraine.

MessageNumber of programs in which the message has been mentioned
Nazism flourishes in Ukraine10/12
Candidates’ gangs will influence the results of the election in Ukraine10/12
Ukraine is under the external control of the West9/12
There is a civil war in Ukraine8/12
Ukrainian election in 2019 will be rigged7/12
Ukrainians and Russians are fraternal peoples6/12
The nation of Russophobes is being brought up in Ukraine6/12
Ukraine is split ideologically and historically5/12
Russia played a key role in the creation of Ukraine5/12
Ukrainian authorities are preparing armed provocations for the period of the elections4/12

The TV shows deliberately attempted to frighten viewers by describing the alleged radicalization of Ukraine. During Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, a commentator warned viewers that “if you speak incorrectly, you will be approached by bandits who will beat you, they will rape your wife and burn your house.” On Time Will Show, propagandists insisted that a fear of retribution dissuaded potential protesters from holding rallies in support of the Russian language in Ukraine. In fact, only 2 percent of Ukrainians believe that the Russian language is insufficiently protected.

To reinforce the image of Ukraine as a dangerous and violent country, guests on 80 percent of the shows devoted to Ukraine claimed that an armed conflict between candidates’ supporters will follow the presidential election. On Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, commentators claimed that the Ukrainian authorities tried in 2014 to “clean out” The Donbas by force by supporting the formation of volunteer battalions a month before the official outbreak of hostilities. Propagandists failed to mention that threats made by Kremlin-controlled separatists coincided with the formation of the volunteer battalions.

Finally, during Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, the host criticized Ukraine’s domestic policy as repressive and portrayed it as a direct opposite to that of Russia, where no one beats and arrests” Ukrainians. In fact, about seventy Ukrainians are currently imprisoned in Russia and occupied Crimea for political reasons.

The Kremlin-backed television shows also covered the cultural policy of Ukraine. The host of Time Will Show claimed that any discussions of a Russian cultural occupation of Ukraine are “rubbish.” In reality, Russian tsars at the end of the 19th century outlawed the Ukrainian language and were paying officials for “success in Russification” of Ukraine. In the ’70s, the Ukrainian SSR implemented a large-scale transition to the Russian language in the fields of education, science, and politics. On the same program, propagandists said that the artist and poet Taras Shevchenko is “a symbol of this unity of the Russian and Ukrainian languages.” In fact, the author consistently criticized Russia and called on Ukrainians to resist Russian oppression, such as in these lines: “Muscovites are foreign folk, they do not treat you right.”

With just two weeks left until election day on March 31, we expect to see increased accusations against the legitimacy of Ukraine’s presidential election.