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How the News is Reported in Russia
February 2010
by Andrei Nesterov

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. REN-TV is a private federal channel and is considered to be one of the last independent television networks in Russia. 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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Final Election Results in Ukraine

On February 14, Russia Channel stated that Victor Yanukovich had been officially elected President of Ukraine, having gained 48.95 percent, or 12.5 million votes, while Yulia Timoshenko received 45.47 percent, or 11.6 million votes. The elections had a high voter turnout of 69 percent, the channel added.

In its commentary, REN-TV quoted Stanislav Belkovsky, the Director of the National Strategy Institute, an independent Russian think tank, as saying that "today, as opposed to 2004, there is no critical mass of people in the Ukrainian elite that would consider Yanukovich's election absolutely unacceptable and there aren't any established groups that would go to great lengths to change the election's outcome like there were at that time." 

REN-TV also broadcast a statement from Aleksandr Lavrinovich, Deputy Speaker of Ukraine's Supreme Council, who said that Timoshenko has no chance of succeeing in court proceedings if she decides to contest the election results, as her arguments are "insignificant."

Russia Channel quoted Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as saying "let's hope that the difficult period in the life of our fraternal Ukrainian people is now behind them, and that it will now be possible to construct normal relations between our states." Putin also said that the events in Ukraine in 2004-2005 were "quasi-revolutionary," since "at that time, the leaders of the 'colorful revolution' took advantage of people's discontent and their expectation of change, but their expectations were not met and people were deceived." 


US Missile System in Romania and Poland

Russia Channel broadcast mostly critical reports regarding the US State Department's decision to deploy missiles in Romania. One quote broadcast was from Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian Envoy to the EU, who stated that "Iran is unlikely to have a missile which is able to reach either Poland or Romania in the foreseeable future." Chizhov said that as a first step, NATO, the US, and Russia should jointly estimate the level of possible missile threats and then elaborate on the development of an anti-missile system together, as Russia has suggested before.

In addition, Russia Channel quoted former Defense Minister of Romania Teodor Atanasiu as saying that "the decision [to deploy the missiles] … is an important step from a military point of view for national security. It's an important step for relations with the US, but it will complicate [Romania's] relations with Europe and Russia."

Similarly, Russia Channel was skeptical of the US decision to deploy Patriot missiles in Poland, stating that "the Russian Defense Ministry has said many times that these missiles are unable to protect Poland from a nuclear missile threat from Iran, but they do threaten Russia's national security."

In another report, Russia Channel emphasized that the Patriot missiles are to be placed "100 kilometers from Poland's border with the Kaliningrad region."


Ministry of Foreign Affairs Day

On February 10, the Russian Foreign Ministry celebrated Diplomatic Worker's Day. First Channel reported that, according to historical documents, on that date in the 16th century, Tsar Ivan the Terrible established the Embassy Department, which is considered Russia's first diplomatic service.

The channel broadcast Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov's speech at a formal meeting dedicated to the celebration. The Minister made a series of statements on the current priorities for the Russian Foreign Ministry, stating that "whichever initiatives we take…they all are united by the aspiration to establish joint cooperation on solving problems."

According to the Minister, one of the priorities for the Russian diplomatic service is "to create favorable external conditions for transferring the economy onto the path of innovative development." Another task is "preventing attempts to distort the history of World War II," which is gaining special importance since 2010 is the 65th anniversary of Russia's victory in the war.

Mintimer Shaimiyev, 73, Steps Down as Tatarstan's President

First Channel reported that Mintimer Shaimiyev, the leader of the Republic of Tatarstan for more than 20 years, agreed to step down because, as he was quoted, he "supports the Russian president's policy laid out in his address to the Federal Assembly," and thinks that it is "necessary to give the younger generation of politicians an opportunity to show their worth." 

Rustam Minnikhanov, the new president of the Tatarstan Republic, is 53 years old. Previously, Minnikhanov served as the Republic's prime minister.

Shaimiyev stated on TV that he would "support the new president of Tatarstan and the traditions maintained by him" and that "the peace between people should be strengthened and preserved." 

In a conversation with President Medvedev broadcast by First Channel, Shaimiyev said that when he served as head of the republic, his "soul was constantly filled with the feeling of freedom stemming from the responsibilities of power…and even with a kind of joy."


Yanukovich Takes Office as New Ukrainian President

In a report on Viktor Yanukovich's first day in office as the President of Ukraine, Russia Channel stated that "Yanukovich's first actions are the complete opposite of [outgoing President] Yushenko's." The channel reported that one of the first decrees the new president signed was dismissing 20% of the presidential administration's staff and cutting his own salary by 50%. In contrast, "Viktor Yushenko and Yulia Timoshenko started their rule five years ago with raising their own salaries as well as the salaries for all state officials almost tenfold."

Russia Channel also mentioned that Yushenko and Timoshenko attempted to make a statement "by ignoring Yanukovich's inauguration as the new president" (neither member of the former Orange Coalition attended) and Timoshenko, as "the head of the government, didn't allocate funds to celebrate the new president taking office."

According to Russia Channel, The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill blessed Viktor Yanukovich at a service in Kiev, wishing the incoming president the ability "to overcome all difficulties - in particular, historical, cultural, spiritual, and others," since "the unity of the people is an essential condition for the country's well-being."

The channel did not report the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who considers his church representative of Ukraine and independent of Russia, had protested Kirill's "meddling" in Ukrainian affairs. 

Ren-TV quoted Boris Gryzlov, the Speaker of the Russian State Duma, who attended the inauguration, as saying that he is "very pleased that Viktor Fedorovich [Yanukovich] set  priorities in his speech – the Russian Federation first, and the European Union only after that." 

However, Ren-TV stated that the new Ukrainian President had mentioned one more priority – to work together with the Parliament, but the Speaker of the Russian Duma made no mention of that. Neither Ren-TV nor the speaker mentioned that Yanukovich has been quoted in many Western news sources that his country will be placed "equally" between Russia and the West.

When reporting on Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko's decision to withdraw the court case regarding violations during the presidential elections, First Channel quoted political expert Vadim Karasev as saying that "she is trying to save face and create an image that she was not defeated. It is not as important to lose the elections as it is to remain undefeated, at least in the political sense of the word, and to hope for new political battles, new elections."

Russia's Mediocre Performance at the Olympics

Russia Channel stated that the Olympics in Vancouver brought the Russian team only 15 medals, including three gold medals, while at the previous winter Olympics in Turin, the Russia athletes won 33 medals.

Many reports were dedicated to the "upset" of Evgeny Plushchenko, who had won the silver medal in figure skating instead of the expected gold. The channel criticized the winner, US skater Evan Lysacek, by saying his routine was not difficult enough, while describing Plushchenko's routine as "extremely complex." The channel said that Plushchenko is the only figure-skater in the world that is able to perform such a "cascade of loops" such as a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

"He has proved again that he is the best," stated First Channel, and reported that no one expected that Plushenko would be awarded only the silver medal. First Channel quoted the Russian figure-skater as saying that "I am not ready to lose to a person who can't even execute a quadruple toe loop." His coach Aleksei Mishin said in a First Channel interview that "the current system of judging doesn't take into account the most progressive, difficult part of figure-skating – jumps and quadruple jumps."

On March 1, Russia Channel reported that President Dmitry Medvedev, at a meeting with leaders of the United Russia party, said that the Russian team's "disastrous" performance is the result of the unsatisfactory work of sport officials who failed to organize the proper training and facilities. "Those who are responsible for the preparation for the Olympics should make a courageous decision and resign," Medvedev said. "If they do not, then we will help them."


Reopening of the Russia-Georgia Border Pass

On March 1, the Upper Lars border pass between Russia and Georgia was reopened after being closed for three years, Russia Channel reported. According to the channel, the border pass was previously closed by Russia's decision to undergo substantial repair work there. The repairs were completed in May 2009 and in September 2009, Georgia completed the reconstruction of the border pass on its side, with $2.5 million in financial assistance from the United States.

Russia Channel also reported that the reopening of the border pass was actively lobbied for by the Armenian leadership, since one-third of its imports and exports were carried through it along the Georgian military route.


Medvedev Announces Interior Ministry Reform

On February 18, Russia Channel reported that President Dmitri Medvedev stated at a meeting with the heads of the Russian Interior Ministry that he would personally control all work to reform the Ministry. The President stated that he had signed a decree on improving the police's work in Russia, namely by such measures as reducing the Ministry's administration staff, toughening the Ministry's stance on  holding policemen responsible for committing crimes, and elaborating and implementing a new plan aimed at eradicating corruption. Also, the president said that he is going to ensure a pay raise for policemen, as well as improvement of their living conditions.

The Russian President's initiative took place after a series of crimes involving police officers resulted in many citizens' deaths. The most notorious crime happened in April 2009, when police Major Denis Yevsyukov started firing at customers and employees in a supermarket in Moscow, killing two people.


Rechnik Demolition Scandal Continues

On January 21, the Moscow authorities started demolishing houses in the village of Rechnik, which is located in the western outskirts of Moscow. According to the media, Rechnik's residents were given plots of land there 52 years ago by the government, solely for gardening purposes, but the owners and their families have since built cottages there for permanent residency. Since the residents were never able to officially register the houses due to bureaucratic difficulties, the authorities are considering this misappropriation of the land.

The legal proceedings initiated by the government of Moscow ended in a verdict to demolish the houses, claiming they were illegally built. The move caused scandal because, as First Channel reported, the residents of the village disagree with the court's decision that the land in the village does not belong to them - "they believe that the residents were simply forgotten when the land was documented as federal property in 2006." First Channel reported that Rechnik residents tried to protect their property by organizing a 24-hour-a-day watch, but many were subsequently detained by police.

Later in February, after 20 houses were demolished in Rechnik, First Channel reported that the demolishing was, in fact, performed illegally.

On February 4, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev intervened in the situation, requesting the General Prosecutor's Office to investigate the situation in Rechnik and look into whether the village residents were, in fact, entitled to own their houses.




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