Russian News Monitor: March 4-10, 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: March 4-10, 2019

Number of programs partially devoted to Ukraine (share in the total number): 12/17

The main topics of the week devoted to Ukraine on Russian television included the following: the election race and the chances each candidate has of winning; the conflict between the journalist Dmytro Gordon and politician Iryna Farion; the anniversary of the death of the UPA leader Roman Shukhevych; and the message of Marie Yovanovitch, US Ambassador to Ukraine. In the background of all these events, propagandists imposed messages about the rise of Nazism in Ukraine, repression of dissent, and aggression in Ukraine.

MessageNumber of programs in which the message was mentioned
Nazism flourishes in Ukraine8/12
Ukrainian election in 2019 will be rigged8/12
Ukrainian authorities are preparing armed provocations for the period of the elections7/12
Ukraine is under the external control of the West7/12
Ukrainians and Russians are fraternal peoples7/12
A totalitarian and repressive regime has been established Ukraine6/12
Ukraine is split ideologically and historically5/12
There is a civil war in Ukraine5/12
Ukrainian authorities are imposing a certain ideology on citizens4/12
Ukraine is becoming a nation of Russophobes4/12

Russian talk shows have been once again actively accusing Ukrainians of Nazism. For instance, they were discussing the glorification of Stepan Bandera, leader of Ukrainian nationalists during World War II, whom Kremlin propagandists call a Nazi. Commentators on Time Will Show described the situation as such: “Bandera is becoming the new binding force of Ukraine, “Bandera is, de facto, a new deity.” In fact, only 36 percent of Ukrainians (according to the survey conducted by the Rating group) have a positive attitude towards this figure.

The host of Evening with Vladimir Solovyov also manipulated the rhetoric of modern Ukrainian nationalists: “The complete banderization of the country is the goal of Ukrainian nationalists. They promise to kill everyone who disagrees with this.” In reality, this is a very marginal view. The commentator on Time Will Show resorted to a similar bending of facts: “The Swedes expressed their concern about the growth of nationalism and Nazism in Ukraine.” In fact, only one Swedish “writer and doctor” voiced such an opinion. The host of Evening with Vladimir Solovyov also dehumanized Ukrainian servicemen, calling them “Bandera’s offspring.” A guest on one of the episodes of this program claimed that the glorification of the “Nazis” in Ukraine is “a threat to humanity.”

Guests of the Evening with Vladimir Solovyov program also distorted Ukrainians’ perception of another similar historical figure–Roman Shukhevych: they claimed that the anniversary of his death is listed as a date to be commemorated (this is not the case) and that the entire country celebrated it (in reality, there were only a few rallies).

In addition, commentators on these Russian TV shows discussed alleged repression in Ukraine. For example, the host of Evening with Vladimir Solovyov claimed that the election video of one of the presidential candidates was undemocratically banned from being broadcast. In fact, the commercial did not comply with several laws. While on air, the Time Will Show program’s commentator said that you would be hard-pressed to find a country in which the attitude towards journalists is worse than in Ukraine. According to the ranking of the Reporters Without Borders, 79 countries rank lower than Ukraine—including Russia itself, which holds a significantly worse score than Ukraine.

The propagandist Vladimir Solovyov claimed that the Security Service of Ukraine was “threatening the safety of the children” of Svitlana Driuk, a soldier from the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic,” who defected to Ukraine. In fact, the former separatist agreed to work for counterintelligence, provided that her children would be transported to the unoccupied territory.

The situation in the east of Ukraine is regularly subject to manipulation by Kremlin-backed propaganda. On Time Will Show, an alleged viewer from the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” claimed that The Donbas had never been a part of Ukraine. The facts are that dating back as far as the 15th century, The Donbas was colonized by the Ukrainian Cossacks, and the Russians arrived there en masse only in the 20th century. A representative of the separatists who appeared on Evening with Vladimir Solovyov stated that not a single presidential candidate of Ukraine made any campaign promises to attempt negotiations with the residents of The Donbas. In reality, there are at least two such candidates among the ten candidates leading the ratings. During Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, a pseudo-Ukrainian expert said that Russia is the enemy of Ukraine, because “Americans say so.” Unfortunately, the commentator neglected to mention the fact that Ukraine approved this by law, and the UN recognized the fact that Russia is occupying Crimea.