The Kremlin hides aggression behind reconciliatory rhetoric

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After the spring pause the Russian TV reminds viewers about ‘heads’ of ‘DPR/LPR’ and their main task ‘to protect Donbas people’ from the Ukrainian Army. It looks like the ‘Ukrainian matter’ will be actively played by the authorities on the threshold of the parliamentary election meaning to have a temporary ‘victory of TV-set over the fridge’. Overview of Ukrainian events coverage by Russian TV-channels in June 2016.

Main focus points of central Russian channels in ‘Ukrainian topic’ (Channel One, Russia, NTV, TV-Tsentr, REN-TV)

  • Events in ‘DPR/LPR’: 47 stories and news (where 22 about shelling, diversions and attacks by Ukrainian military).
  • Point of view of the Kremlin and MFA about ‘the Minsk process’: 17 (where 9 are dedicated to Putin’s direct speech).
  • Coverage of statements and actions of Nadiia Savchenko: 15 (where 7 are about direct talks with the ‘DPR/LPR’).
  • Demonstration of "extremist" actions and statements of Ukrainian nationalists and politicians: 14 (where 4 about torturing of separatist sympathizers as "proven" by the UN representatives).

Based on the observations of the Russian TV channels, it can be said that June saw a significant shift in emphasis in the Ukrainian topic coverage. If the spring focused on political developments in Ukraine, with the summer the proportion of subjects and news dedicated to the separatist quasi-states of ‘DPR/LPR’ has increased dramatically.

They remind viewer who is Aleksandr Zakharchenko in different ways: here he is reading an opus of Zakhar Prilepin ‘about real causes of Donbas war’, there Iosif Kobzon congratulates him at his 40th anniversary, later he is telling about an attempt on Motorola near ‘children hospital’.

And again, ‘topical and important subjects’ of shelling by the Ukrainian Army and sad outcomes: ‘water cut-off in Gorlivka’, ‘hospital damaged’, ‘two boys got killed by current as a result of shelling’.

And in late June the viewer was told about a repulsed attack of Ukrainian military and Right Sector fighters at Debaltsevo. But the Russian reporters never showed any syncs of ‘winning insurgents’ or any video on site of ‘won back territories’.

As an alternative, a "killer doctor" from Yenakiyevo was shown to Russians. This was a resuscitator Aleksandr Chernov (Channel One, "Russia", 20.06.2016, citing UkrLife.tv) who, according to him, used his skills to finish off wounded separatists. And two days later the RF Investigative Committee said they initiated criminal proceeding against this Chernov in Russia. However, "Moskovskiy Komsomolets" found out that Chernov was a mere liar and impostor, striving for popularity and not very sympathetic to "junta". Most likely, this is the case of deliberate information provocation for propaganda on the occupied territories of Ukraine.

Among other phony provocative messages from Ukraine, the following ones are worth mentioning:

  • Witness behind bars. About a hundred of Russians are tortured in Ukrainian prisons ("Russia", "Vesti", 06.02.2016).
  • Arson attempt on the office of "Inter" TV-channel in Kyiv ("Russia" alludes to connection between arsonists with the fighters of Azov nationalist battalion, 02.06.2016).
  • Poroshenko compared with Pinochet ("Russia" quoted Franz Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of the committee of the Defense and Security Federation Council, 06.03.2016).
  • Ukraine called to "return" Krasnodarskiy krai and Kursk (NTV quoted selectively P. Zhebrivskyi, the head of the Donetsk civil-military administration, 07.06.2016).
  • Right Sector promised to make a "blood bath" at the gay parade in Kyiv (NTV, 07.06.2016).
  • The rights of Orthodox followers may be limited by law in Ukraine (about capturing of churches of Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate and draft bill against the church, according to Channel One, 13.06.2016).
  • ‘DPR’ intelligence reports of killings of Popasna locals by Ukrainian Army soldiers (NTV, 18.06.2016).
  • Poroshenko to pull down protests by the National Guard ("Russia" quoted Franz Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of the committee of the Defense and Security Federation Council, 19.06.2016).
  • Poland began to use the slaves from Ukraine ("Russia", "Vesti", 21.06.2016).
  • Poroshenko tried to scare Russia with aviation ("Russia", "Vesti with Dmitry Kiselev", 26.06.2016).
  • Saakashvili: in Ukraine it’s worse than in "Putin's Russia" ("Russia", "Vesti", 26.06.2016).

Though Zakharchenko, Plotnitskiy, Pushylin and Motorola, all put together, were far beyond Nadiia Savchenko in terms of attention from the leading Russian TV-channels. She also overshadowed all Ukrainian politicians and nationalists on Russian TV.

TV-channels paid most of their attention to the Savchenko’s statement to have direct talks between Kyiv and ‘DPR/LPR’ separatists. All in all, the Savchenko coverage worked as infotainment and looked more like media coverage of a rock-star.

TV channels concentrated on her shocking behavior and filthy language addressed mainly to Ukrainian politicians and foreign governments that give weak support to Ukraine.

But there is an impression that all the stories about the ‘DPR/LPR’, Savchenko and situation in Ukraine were just a backdrop for the next portion of messages from the key player of the country. On occasion of the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg and the meeting of Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives of the RF Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Have Russians heard anything new from Vladimir Putin? In our opinion, the answer is no. Russian President again cited a "coup d’état in Ukraine" in a succession of events starting from the USSR collapse, going through the "turbulent 1990s", the war in Chechnya, the economic crisis, to the NATO expansion and the "color revolutions". All of this, according to Putin's version, confirms the West’s hostile policy against Russia. And when the Russian authorities "had to, just had to, take measures to protect certain groups of population" the West responded with sanctions and NATO reinforcement.

As regards the situation in the Donbass, Putin repeated the old thesis that this is Ukraine that does not observe the agreement: does not adopt changes to the Constitution, does not grant special status and amnesty to separatists.

The support to the RF President’s point of view not only by the French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy but also by Ukrainian deputy Yuriy Boiko is symptomatic. And on June 30, Putin once again shared his recipe of ‘normalization of relations’ between Ukraine and Russia.

Eventually, the viewer following the ‘Ukrainian topic’ would have only one conclusion: Russia strives to inhibit itself about Ukraine with weak and incompetent government where even the well-known ATO veterans are ready to reconcile with ‘DPR/LPR’. So the viewer would have only one question: when would Russia finally stop looking to the West and put things right in the neighboring country? We believe the Kremlin is to answer in August-September, just before voting.

 

 

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