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How the News
is Reported in Russia
April 2014
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.

According to the Public Opinion Foundation, one of Russia's major polsters, 88% of Russians get their news from television broadcasts. 43% believe that the news is objective, 37% believe it is not. 43% believe that journalists distort facts "often." 35% believe that, in certain conditions, this is justified. 60% believe that news blackouts are justified in certain conditions.

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April, week 1

NASA Needs Russia, US Encourages Propaganda

Russia Channel, in a wide-ranging report on the state of US-Russia relations, reported that all NASA employees received internal instructions neither to go to Russia, nor to invite Russian colleagues to the USA. Even communication via phone or email is prohibited, except with Russian specialists who maintain the International Space Station.

Russia is important for NASA as it is in charge of transporting all personnel to the International Space Station. In addition, Russia provides engines for US space rocket Atlas V, and supplies MI-17 helicopters for Afghani security forces. Therefore, space exploration, the operation in Afghanistan, and the situations in Syria and Iran are areas where the USA continues to cooperate with Russia, as it is impossible to cope with these challenges without Russia’s help, Russia Channel stated. 

Meanwhile, according to Russia Channel, the USA has been encouraging propagandists from Ukraine’s Maidan. The Ukrainian singer-turned-politician Ruslana recently visited the USA, stating at a speech at a convention that “we must stop Putin.” However, more than half of Americans don’t want any US interference in the situation in Ukraine, stated Russia Channel, quoting the results of a recent survey conducted by Reason magazine.

President Obama’s approval rating has fallen to a record low of 43 percent, the channel continued. This is due to a number of factors, including failing to close down Guantanamo prison, unsuccessful health care reforms, and the Snowden scandal. In addition, Americans are frustrated that the USA has spent billions on developing democracy in Ukraine, Russia Channel quoted Scott Riccard, a former employee at the National Security Agency, as saying that the US’ actions towards Ukraine were intended to further NATO expansion.

The Situation in Ukraine

First Channel reported that the situation in Eastern Ukraine has deteriorated drastically. After pro-Maidan activists hoisted a flag with the slogan “Russia, good-bye!” on a city government building in Donetsk, protesters stormed the building and raised the Russian flag in its place. There were attempts to capture government buildings in Lugansk and Kharkov, which means that “anti-Maidan protesters are paying back the new authorities with their own coins – capturing buildings, taking away shields from policemen, and hiding their faces with masks.”

First Channel stated that Kiev’s Maidan is the place where all major decisions are made these days in Ukraine, and that Maidan inhabitants are “at any moment ready to sweep away everything and everybody on the path to a new life.”

Meanwhile, Russia cancelled all discounts for natural gas exported to Ukraine, raising the price of gas to 485 USD per thousand cubic meters. Less than one month ago, on March 31, Russia supplied gas to Ukraine at 268 USD per thousand cubic meters. First Channel quoted Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller as saying that one of the reasons for the price increase is Ukraine’s failure to pay for natural gas that has already been supplied. First Channel sarcastically stated that Ukrainian authorities intend to begin purchasing natural gas from Europe. Europe, however, will also require payment, and “nobody in Europe will be willing to deal with such an unreliable customer.”

Gazprom has also questioned Ukrainian authorities’ idea to obtain gas from EU countries. There is no technical capacity to do reverse gas deliveries, the channel said; in practical terms, this means that Ukraine will retain part of the gas intended to supply European countries. However, Ukraine is not entitled to do this, Russia Channel stated.

In another report, First Channel reported that the Foreign Ministers of Russia and the USA met in Paris for negotiations over Ukraine. The channel quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying that Russia insists on making Ukraine a federative state, without affiliation to any military alliance or official association with the EU. In addition, Foreign Minister Lavrov demanded recognition of Crimea as part of Russia. No specific agreement was reached at the negotiations.

Victor Yanukovich, Ukraine's exiled president, gave an interview to the Associated Press and Russia's NTV Channel on April 2, saying that if Ukraine opens its markets to the EU, it will mean the "complete disappearance of Ukrainian manufacturers," as they are not competitive enough.

Other news

First Channel

No Police among Snipers
Militants Removed from Kiev
Tycoon for President
Russia Integrates Crimea
Crimea and the Germans
New Russian Citizenship Law
Deficit in Cancer Medicine
First Channel’s Fundraising
Women at Work, Men at Home 

Vesti Nedeli

Crimea’s Historical Significance
Crimean Tatars
Pro-Russian Uprisings
The Cost of Maidan
Barricades in Maidan
Investigating “Snipers”
Pro-Russian Protests in Donetsk
Massacre of Armenians in Syria
Militants Attack from Turkey
NATO’s Activities
200 Years since Napoleon
Author and Comedian Turns 80 

April, week 2

Putin's People’s Front to Investigate Corruption

The People’s Front, established by an initiative of Vladimir Putin, has offices in almost all of Russia’s regions, and recently opened offices in the Crimean cities Simferopol and Sevastopol.

Activists from the People’s Front have started keeping track of instances when officials bargained away municipal property or favored their cronies in procuring government contracts. For example, according to Russia Channel, a former school building in the Kemerovo region was sold for 650,000 rubles (18,300 USD) while the actual price is estimated to be 27 times higher. In the Orel region, a cultural center was sold for the low price of2 242,000 rubles (6,800 USD).

Meanwhile, government officials spend enormously huge sums on their own needs; for example, in the Amur region, authorities in the Sovobdensky district purchased a Japanese SUV for 3.5 million rubles (98,500 USD). Activists demanded that the district governor sell the SUV and purchase a cheaper vehicle. President Putin called on the activists to continue working on these pressing social and economic issues in Russia.

First Channel reported that the People’s Front had uncovered 300 "shady tenders" held by regional governments since September 2013. In Siberia, People’s Front activists are challenging exorbitant utility bills, and have uncovered the fact that the heads of house management companies use revenues to enrich themselves by purchasing luxury cars and sending their children to foreign schools. 

Events in Ukraine

First Channel stated that eastern Ukraine has chosen Russian as its official language and Russia as its closest partner and that the people in the East “don’t want to accept the future being imposed by the Western regions” of Ukraine.

Events in eastern Ukraine are developing rapidly, as locals realize that joining the EU would undermine industries, such as coal-mining, and they would therefore lose their jobs. In addition, the economy has already been undermined by cutting ties with Russia, which is problematic since military plants in eastern Ukraine rely heavily on purchases made by Russia. This has resulted in “people hitting the streets, fighting for their salary, for the possibility to work and to support their families.” 

Meanwhile, Russia has stated that making Ukraine a federation is the only way out of the political crisis. First Channel stated that Ukraine can only maintain its territorial integrity by giving more independence to its regions. There are 27 countries in the world with a federation government, including Russia, India, and Brazil.

First Channel stated that Ukrainian authorities are currently obsessed with "spy-hunting" and "making absurd accusations towards Russia," such as Russia’s intention to capture the hydropower station in Kherson or to open a “corridor” through the Russia-Ukrainian border to let in Russian troops. According to First Channel, this information warfare is aimed at generating hatred towards Russians.

Russia Channel stated that the German state channels ARD, ZDF, and DeutschlandRadio, which are paid for by German taxpayers, are lying about the situation in Ukraine. Additionally, these channels fire reporters who have different opinion, such as Ken Jebsen, who was fired from ARD in 2011 for questioning the official version of the 9/11 attacks in the USA. The majority of German media promote the same opinion regarding events in Ukraine, and as a result, they have lost the public’s trust, Russia Channel reported.

Meanwhile, former President Victor Yanukovich made a statement about the events in south-eastern Ukraine. He stated that “the Kiev clique gave a criminal order for the use of force against the people of south-eastern Ukraine,” while “a broad dialogue and search for consensus” is needed for Ukraine today, First Channel reported. Yanukovich called on Ukrainian soldiers and policemen not to follow their new commanders’ orders .

Russia Channel reported that protests are spreading across south-eastern Ukraine, with protests unfolding in more and more cities in the region. In the Donetsk region alone, protests spread across 10 cities. Flags of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic have been raised over government buildings captured by protesters.

On April 12, US Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and requested that Russia stop its “incitements” and “remove its people from south-eastern Ukraine.” In response, Lavrov asked Kerry to provide any concrete proof of “Russian agents” in Ukraine.

First Channel reported that Russian reporters are being barred from entering Ukraine.

First Channel also reported that Crimea's new constitution, as part of the Russian Federation, would allow it to begin to leave peaceably and restore basic services such as land and car registration, essential for those purchasing real estate and cars. 

Russia Channel quoted President Putin as saying that Ukraine did not pay anything at all for the natural gas it consumed in March. The amount due for that month was 540 million USD. “This situation cannot be tolerated,” stated the Russian President, adding that Gazprom cancelled all its discounts that it had previously offered to Ukraine, raising the gas price from 268 to 485 USD per thousand cubic meters.

Russian authorities sent letters to the heads of 18 European countries that purchase natural gas from Russia, explaining the situation with Ukraine’s failure to pay for gas Russia had supplied. Russia Channel said that this lack of payment resulted in Russia subsidizing Ukraine for more than 35 billion USD over the past four years. The Russian President insists that ministers from the EU states meet to discuss this issue, as “Moscow is no longer willing to wait” until May 7, when Ukraine is expected to fail to pay for gas again.

Other news

First Channel

Protests Spread in Ukraine
Ukrainian Army’s Operations
Russia Can’t Subsidize Gas
Ukraine’s Presidential Candidates
Foreign TV Investigates Snipers
Interim Governor of Sevastopol
Direct Line with Putin
Interview with French Politician
Countries with High Obesity Rates
Special Operation in Donetsk
UN Security Council to Discuss Ukraine

Vesti Nedeli

Slavyansk as Symbol of Resistance
Presidential Candidates Assaulted
Uprisings in Lugansk
Odessa against Maidan
How Ukraine Affects Transnistria
CIA Director’s Secret Meetings
Russophobia in Lithuania
Crimea’s New Life
History of Sevastopol
Prosecute Gorbachev?
Celebrating Palm Sunday
Celebrating Passover

April, week 3

Direct Line with President Putin

First Channel reported that the 12th direct line with President Putin lasted almost four hours, during which the President managed to answer 85 questions. Most questions were about the crisis in Ukraine.

Putin denounced Ukrainian authorities for sending protests leaders in Eastern Ukraine to prison and for deploying army units in the south-eastern regions. Putin also stated that the different political forces in Ukraine should come to some kind of agreement. He added that there are no Russian military units, special services, or instructors in Ukraine, but said that Russia should do everything to help the Russian-speaking population in south-eastern Ukraine protect their rights.

Regarding Ukraine’s failure to pay to Russia for supplied natural gas, President Putin said that Russia would wait one more month, and then it will begin requiring payments in advance.

President Putin stated that Russia does not intend to return to the Iron Curtain of the Cold War era, but emphasized that Russia is not willing to build good relations with the West by sacrificing its interests. He pushed for removing double standards and lies from international policy. 

In answer to questions about incorporating Crimea into Russia, President Putin said that Russia had never planned annexation or any military operations in Crimea, but once threats and oppressions were looming in Crimea, Russia had to decide what to do. “Then the decision was made to support the people of Crimea,” First Channel stated. He assured viewers that Russia will solve all issues in the Crimean banking system and provide timely payments to state sector workers and pensioners in Crimea.

After questions regarding Ukraine, other common questions to the President concerned high prices for food, and low salaries, pensions, and stipends. President Putin requested that local authorities later report on how the issues asked about in the direct line had been resolved.

Developments in Ukraine

Ukrainian authorities are instigating radical nationalism in Ukraine, stated Russia Channel, by letting radicals occupy buildings in the center of Kiev and keep their weapons. Meanwhile, radicals have taken it to the extreme, even beating candidates for the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine.

On April 17, the Ukrainian Border Service confirmed that it had introduced an entry ban for Russian men aged 16-60. A stricter ban is in effect for Crimea: in addition to men, women aged 20-35 are not allowed to enter the territory.

First Channel reported on the negotiations held in Geneva between the US, Russia, Ukraine, and the EU on April 17. The channel reported that each country interpreted the outcome of the negotiations differently. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Ukrainian authorities to disarm illegitimate military units and declare amnesty to all protesters, except those involved in major crimes. US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed hope that Russia would demonstrate a serious attitude and convince pro-Russian separatists to disarm. Ultimately, the declaration made after the Geneva talks did not involve any mandatory obligations for any party.

Other news

First Channel

Radical Nationalists in Slavyansk
Patriarch: Pray for Peace
Turmoil in Eastern Ukraine
Promises from Ukraine
Gabriel García Márquez Dies
Leader of LDPR Insults Reporter
Prices Rise for Imported Products
Did Cyber Virus Cause Crash?

Vesti Nedeli

Truce in Slavyansk Ends
USA Causes Trouble
Clashes in Eastern Ukraine
Luhansk Can Protect Itself
Nationalist Feelings in Ukraine
Donetsk Republic Established
Relatives of Ferry Victims
US Drone Kills Militants, Civilians
Artist Defends Russia
McCain’s Provocative Statements
Gas, in Reverse from EU
Crimea Celebrates Easter
Competition in History
Gabriel García Márquez Dies 

April, week 4

Developments in Ukraine

Russia Channel reported that April 26 marked the 28th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. Despite all the lessons learned from that disaster, the Channel stated that the situation in Ukraine is once again similar to that of Chernobyl, but this time, it’s a "political Chernobyl."

In a prime example of this political Chernobyl, only ten days after an agreement on disarmament was signed in Geneva, First Channel reported that activists in Kiev have refused to take the first step: to give up their weapons. According to the agreement, “all illegal armed groups must be disarmed. All illegally occupied buildings must be returned to their rightful owners. All streets, squares, and other public places in Ukrainian cities that are being illegally occupied must be evacuated.”

In response to criticism, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andrei Deschitsa stated: “If you read the agreement carefully, it only refers to vacating roads, squares that are being illegally occupied by protesters. As far as I know, the activities in Maidan [Kiev’s central square] are legal.” On the other hand, First Channel reported that Kiev, along with the US, believes that the "illegal protests" mentioned in the Geneva agreement are the ones taking place in south-eastern Ukraine.

First Channel added that at the talks, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Deschitsa was mostly absent, and that the US performed the bulk of negotiating on Ukraine’s behalf. When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was told Ukraine's Minister believed Ukraine could not be turned into a federation, Lavrov’s response was, “And who is that, exactly?”

In another report, First Channel described the West’s double standards and hypocrisy towards the situation in Ukraine. Washington is calling the armed conflicts by Ukraine’s military in eastern Ukraine legal, despite the fact that they are in direct violation of Ukraine’s constitution, which forbids using the army to limit citizens’ rights and freedoms. Moreover, the same activities that in Maidan were referred to as “peaceful protests” are being called acts of “terrorism and separatism” in south-eastern Ukraine by opponents of federalization.

First Channel quoted Edward Shtadler, one of Austria’s representatives to the EU’s Parliament, in describing the situation between Russia and NATO. According to Shtadler, it is time for Europe to remember the promises it made to Russia after Germany’s unification 25 years ago. Russia was promised that NATO would not encroach on any former Warsaw Treaty members. Despite this, Russia remained silent when Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria joined NATO. But now, after announcements by NATO’s General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in which he stated that he would like to see Ukraine and even Georgia join NATO, Russia has decided that "enough is enough." Shtadler added that “even America would never allow Russia to return to Cuba or allow Russia’s appearance in Canada or Mexico,” so why does no one understand that Russia also does not want to see the countries around it encroached upon by international organizations, Shtadler concluded.

Life in Crimea

The people of Crimea are living a double life, reported Russia Channel: on the one hand, they’re thrilled to be part of Russia, but on the other, they’re facing the harsh reality of what that entails, including difficult obstacles imposed by Ukraine. The most recent reality that Crimeans have to face is the loss of their water supply from Ukraine.

Russia Channel stated that shutting off Crimea’s water supply was a way for authorities in Kiev to take revenge on Russia. The authorities don’t care that their actions are affecting simple Tartars, Ukrainians, and Russians living in Crimea. Water is being imported into some cities and towns by car, or else people are collecting water in buckets with which to cook and wash.

Crimea’s water is supplied though the Dnieper River. It accumulates in a region near Crimea, then is sent through an irrigation system to Crimean fields, which have become quite fertile over the past 50 years. Now, Crimean authorities believe that if the temperature gets up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), Crimea will face a severe drought.

Ukraine has no legal reason to cut off the water supply, reported Russia Channel. Crimea has been paying for the water, and has recently agreed to pay international rates. Kiev, however, has not been responding to Crimea’s inquiries. Instead, according to Russia Channel, they are simply dumping the extra water into the sea. And yet, the international community has been silent.

According to First Channel, Ukraine has claimed that Crimea has no right to the water, which flows through the northern-Crimean Channel, because there is no relevant contract. Moreover, the water that Crimea already received was acquired illegally. This situation presents a big problem for Crimea, which receives 85 percent of its water from Ukraine. Russia has proposed building a factory to desalinate water, but even if this project was begun now, it would not be done until next year. First Channel added that this is an especially bad time for troubles with water in Crimea, since the tourist season will begin soon.

All is not lost, however, for the people of Crimea, as Russia Channel reported. On April 21, President Putin signed an executive order decreeing rehabilitation for all peoples and nationalities of Crimea: Armenian, Bulgarian, Greek, Crimean Tartar, and German, to name a few. This decree added that the state will work to support their revival and development.

One reason for this decree was to undo some of the damage caused by deportations under Stalin. 2014 marks 70 years since deportations began for various nationalities. Some ethnic groups were threatened after publicly speaking or singing in their national language. Some groups chose to leave willingly, knowing they were next to be deported. President Putin’s decree will now ensure, according to Russia Channel, that no one will be prosecuted for celebrating their heritage. Asan Khurshutov, an activist for the National Movement of Crimean Tartars, stated: “In 23 years, Ukraine has not issued any law, even a flawed one, which would have begun the process of restoring rights to the Crimean Tartars. What Ukraine couldn’t do in 23 years, Russia was able to do in 23 days.”

In another report, Russia Channel stated that the difficult and unpleasant topic of deportation is familiar to other groups of Russia’s people, specifically Chechens. Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya’s government, said the Chechen people can empathize with the history of the Crimean people, and even with events that are occurring in Crimea today. Chechens also faced deportation 70 years ago, and when given the choice of joining Russia or going their separate way, Chechens also voted in a referendum to be a part of Russia. “So I think that they [the Crimeans] studied the history of Chechnya when holding their referendum,” stated Kadyrov.

Other news

First Channel

Dealing with Slavyansk
Leaders in East Threatened
Residents of Western Ukraine
More Self-Defense Rights
Russia’s “Green Card Marriages”
Anniversary of Moscow Theater
Sanctions on Russia 


Vesti Nedeli

Forcing Slavyansk into Submission
US “Actors” in Kiev   
Soccer Fans Attack Activists
Miners Join Protests
Putin Visits Media Forum
US Destroyer Leaves Black Sea
Free Speech in Russia
Shale Gas Bad for USA
Remembrance for Armenian Genocide
South-Eastern Ukraine’s Ultimatum 


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