/ HOW THE NEWS IS REPORTED IN RUSSIA, APRIL 2012
How the News is Reported in Russia April 2012 by Andrei Nesterov editorial support by Margaret Godwin-Jones
The two largest state-run television stations in Russia are First Channel and Russia Channel. Most Russians get their news from one of these two stations. SRAS's Andrei Nesterov compiled the following synopsis of how major events were covered by news reports on these two stations. This news review is part of SRAS's monthly "obzor" publications. For more reviews, see the newsletter for this corresponding month. If you would like to request that a story be covered here, inform our editor.
We are now providing weblinks to the related stories from the Russian broadcasters when available online! If no link is available, the material was covered in broadcasts, but not posted (or at least not found by us) online.
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April, Week 5
Bombs Explode in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine
On April 27, First Channel reported on explosions in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, where 29 people were injured. First Channel stated that, “according to official reports, there were four explosions, but scared city residents claim there were about 10.”
The first explosion occurred at a tram stop at 11:50, Kiev time. Luckily, the tram driver managed to close the tram doors, which saved many people, and as a result, only seven were injured. Twenty minutes later, an explosion occurred near the Opera and Ballet Theater; 40 minutes later, one more occurred near the movie theater, and after that, near the community college.
Panic struck, and people started reporting new explosions: four more on city streets, another at the mall, and two more at a marketplace. Russia Channel reported that all the explosions were in a line along the tram route on Marx Prospect, “as if the criminal was riding a tram and leaving explosives near the tram stops.”
First Channel reported that a terrorist attack already occurred in Dnepropetrovsk in November 2011, when a bomb exploded near a mall, killing three people. Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov stated that “some people want to destabilize the situation in the country.”
Grigory Surkis, the chairman of the Ukrainian Soccer Federation, stated that the explosions were meant to upset the European Soccer Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Ukraine in June, 2012. Meanwhile, a representative for the Union of European Football Associations stated that the European Soccer Cup-2012 would not be canceled after the explosions in Dnepropetrovsk.
In another report, First Channel stated that authorities published composite pictures of three suspects, aged 30 to 45. The Ukrainian president announced a $250,000 reward for information about the criminals.
Thousands Pray Together for "Protection against Blasphemy"
First Channel reported that Russian Orthodox believers in several Russian cities held public prayer vigils on April 22, where they prayed “that their faith would be protected,” and that God would “enlighten those who profane sacred places,” and, finally, “for the good name of the church.”
The vigil came on the heels of several church scandals. A Russian, feminist punk-rock band called "Pussy Riot" staged an impromptu protest performance inside Christ the Savior Cathedral, which is the center of Russian Orthodoxy, on February 21, praying to the “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin,” through song, to “chase Putin out.” Although Russian news stations did not mention it in these reports, the church is also reeling from a scandal where bloggers caught a Photoshop mistake on the Church's website. After the Patriarch denied wearing an expensive designer watch, a reflection of the watch can be seen on a table in a photograph on the church's website. However, the watch is not visible on the Patriarch's wrist. The church has claimed that it was a "mistake" of the woman who runs the site for them.
The biggest prayer group, with 60,000 participants, occurred in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.
The public prayer in Christ the Savior Cathedral started with a religious procession, lead by Patriarch Kirill. Sacred items, which had been recently damaged by vandals, were brought to the cathedral. They included about 30 icons, which were cut into pieces by a man with an axe on March 6 in Veliky Ustyug, as well as a cross from a cathedral in Nevinomyssk, which was cut with a knife by a man, who then beat a clergyman. The Patriarch pledged never to restore the sacred items, allowing them to be reminders of those who would harm the church.
On April 12, a woman set fire to a cathedral in Krasnodar, and on April 16, a young man wrote obscenities on the walls of a cathedral in Khabarovsk. First Channel stated that these events are the manifestations of an "anti-church campaign," and the public prayer demonstrated the emergence of believers as a new political force: people who are “loyal to the authorities and respect the state as an absolute value.”
In addition, First Channel reported that in the city of Kronstadt, a cathedral dedicated to sailors has been restored. After the 1917 revolution, the cathedral was transformed into a movie theater. Funding for the restoration work was donated by a foundation, where first lady Svetlana Medvedeva is a trustee. President Medevedev attended the opening ceremony of the cathedral.
Oleg Shein, the candidate for A Just Russia in Astrakhan’s mayoral elections, has been on a hunger strike for the past 30 days to protest what he claims were rigged elections, reports First Channel. Several people from his staff have also been on a hunger strike for more than a month, requesting that the election results be thrown out. Shein had not initiated legal proceedings, however, the channel stressed.
First Channel stated that while 30 days of a hunger strike could cause death, Oleg Shein looks energetic, and quoted him as saying that he manages to survive because he is a vegetarian, and never drinks alcohol or smokes.
Oleg Shein claims that the elections were rigged, pointing to video footage from polling stations as evidence. First Channel quoted Oleg Dupak, the public prosecutor for the Astrakhan region, as saying that the violations on film “could not have influenced the election’s outcome,” while Shein claims he won the elections. The State Duma task force agreed with the authorities’ version, that Mikhail Stolyarov’s victory of 30 per cent more votes than Shein could not have occurred through these violations.
A group of opposition politicians came to Astrakhan from Moscow, and held a rally in Shein’s support. Meanwhile, a rally of 5,000 was held in Astrakhan in support of Shein’s electoral opponent. According to First Channel, Oleg Shein did not indicate when he would end his hunger strike.
Russia Channel quoted Astrakhan regional governor Aleksandr Zhilkin as saying that “the vote margin of 30 per cent allows me to say that the elections were fair." Additionally, the governor promised to personally feed the protester in order to save him from death.
Sergey Shoigu Appointed New Governor of Moscow Region
Russia Channel stated that appointing Sergey Shoigu, the Minister of Emergency Situations, to the post of Governor of the Moscow region demonstrates the “high authority” Shoigu enjoys. He "performed very well in his post as Minister," the chanel stressed, stressing that he had led a variety of rescue operations, and transformed the Ministry from a small committee into a powerful institution of 300,000 people.
First Channel quoted Shoigu in his first interview as governor as saying that key problems for the Moscow region include the low quality of motorways, a lack of kindergartens, as well as occasions of people being cheated when purchasing apartments. Shoigu did not express his attitude towards President Medvedev’s plan to expand Moscow’s city limits, paid for at the expense of the Moscow region, saying that first he needs “to look into the issue.”
Republicans in Presidential Race Call for Toughening US Policy Towards Russia
First Channel reported that some opponents of Barack Obama in the presidential race mentioned the issue of a “Soviet threat,” referring to contemporary Russia. First Channel quoted Rick Santorum, a presidential candidate from the Republican Party, as saying that the incumbent President’s agenda is about “retreating, and allowing others — Russians, Chinese, Iranians – to control the situation,” because “American is no longer protecting itself and its allies.”
Mitt Romney, the Republican favorite for the nomination, “went even further,” First Channel stated, as he called Russia “a thorn in the side” of the USA, as Russia, he said, always receives concessions from the USA, but blocks US efforts in the UN. Romney stated that Obama’s policy towards Russia can be described as: “We give – Russia gets.”
President Medvedev commented on these statements, saying that “this resembles Hollywood (movies),” and advised the US presidential candidates to recall that “it’s the year 2012, and not the mid-70s.”
First Channel stated that high-flown statements, such as “the Russians are coming,” are aimed at the most conservative Republicans, whose support Romney is lacking. The channel also mentioned The Washington Times newspaper, which runs several articles in every newspaper issue accusing President Obama of “betrayal,” due to his allegedly pro-Russian policy.
Critics of Barack Obama pointed to a recent incident, when the press overheard President Obama whispering to President Medvedev that Obama “will have ‘more flexibility’ if he's re-elected.” Obama’s critics interpret this as weakness of the US president towards Russia.
Russia Channel quoted Mitt Romney’s harsh statement that Russia is “without question, our number one geopolitical foe.” Romney justified his statement based on Russia’s support of Syria and Iran, which are “the worst regimes in the world.”