Russian News Monitor: March 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 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 18-24, 2019

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

The main topics of the week devoted to Ukraine on Russian television were as follows: the fifth anniversary of the occupation of Crimea; consideration of the draft law on the Ukrainian language; the statement made by Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko about the list of “protected persons” allegedly given to him by the US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; and a meeting of Ukrainian politicians with the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller. Russian propagandists used these and other topics to depict a landscape of degradation and chaos in Ukraine.

MessageNumber of programs in which the message was mentioned
Ukraine is under the external control of the West11/14
Nazism flourishes in Ukraine9/14
The nation of Russophobes is being brought up in Ukraine9/14
Ukrainian election in 2019 will be rigged8/14
Ukrainians and Russians are fraternal peoples7/14
There is a civil war in Ukraine5/14
The authorities are imposing a certain ideology on Ukrainians5/14
There is no state in Ukraine4/14
Ukrainian authorities are preparing provocations for the period of the elections3/14
A repressive regime has been established Ukraine3/14

The annexation of Crimea was the main topic on this week’s shows. On Time Will Show, Russian propagandists promoted the idea that Russia defended Crimea from falling victim to the current situation in Ukraine. This claim, of course, ignores the reality that the annexation of Crimea helped to spawn Ukraine’s current situation. Left unsaid on Russia’s propaganda outlets is the fact that Russia’s illegal seizure of Crimea disenfranchised several millions of Ukrainian citizens from voting in the presidential election on March 31.

While presenting the seizure of Crimea as legitimate, the propagandists also actively accused the Ukrainian authorities of attacking their own people in the country’s east. For example, on Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, a guest said that Petro Poroshenko “brought war” to The Donbas. In fact, the anti-terrorist operation began two months before the current president’s inauguration and after the Russian-backed separatists declared their republics in eastern Ukraine. This reality contradicts another of the propagandists’ statements, namely that the Ukrainian army entered The Donbas to mandate “what language people must speak, what church they must go to, and what history they must honor.” In fact, the Ukrainian military entered The Donbas to liberate the territories seized by pro-Russian separatists. In addition, participants on Evening with Vladimir Solovyov greatly exaggerated the number of Russians in Ukraine. According to the commentator, there are “more than 12 million” Russians in Ukraine.

The actual count, based on March 2017 data from the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center, is about 2.5 million, about 6.3 percent of Ukraine’s population. Separate attention should be also paid to Russia’s denial of its obligations under the Budapest Memorandum. On Time Will Show, one of the guests said the Memorandum contains no provisions about the inviolability of Ukraine’s borders. The document, in fact, addresses this issue in the very first section: “…to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

The propagandists also claimed that Petro Poroshenko is a protégé of the US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, even though he became president two years before her appointment. On Time Will Show, commentators stated that Ukraine is souring economic and gas relations with Russia because of “politics, momentary sentiment, and the enrichment of oligarchs.” In fact, energy independence from Russia is a pillar of Ukraine’s national security. Also on Time Will Show, a pseudo-Ukrainian expert stated that Ukraine has already started developing nuclear weapons. That, simply, is not true.

On Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, the participants directly articulated what they expected of Ukraine: “We can only be interested in the widely understood pro-Russian Ukraine. We will not even talk with Banderites and with those who consider themselves to be pro-American and pro-Western. Therefore, we are interested in those who openly say: neutral Ukraine with equality is bilingual and federal.”