I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the time to actually type up my notes from the nightly news on Channel One. So here’s me doing some catching up on this project.
The news broke about Crimea’s referendum questions being set and the voting itself being resceduled for March 16. Sevastopol (a city in Ukraine that has a special status, similar to Kiev) also announced a referendum on the same topic to be held on 16.03. Both the city and Crimea want to join Russian Federation. Obviously, this was reported both by the Western and Russian media.
As in previous days, lots of footage of pro-Russian rallies in eastern Ukraine. One woman was shown with a banner “Russia, save us from genocide”. Another protester in Donetsk was filmed complaining about the beginning of political repressions (with regard to the “people’s candidate” Mr. Gubarev being arrested).
IMHO, both the genocide poster and the repressions claim are awfully hysterical and were singled out for the broadcast to influence viewers’ opinions and only escalate the narratives of fascism and ultranationalism as being the new government’s ideologies. The state TV knows very well how vulnerable viewers’ sentiments are to these narratives (these vulnerabilities being rooted deeply in the history of the Great Patriotic War, a.k.a. World War II), and it exploits these narratives without remorse.
Similarly, a major theme that emerges in almost every broadcast is the allusion to the countries of former Yugoslavia, particularly to Kosovo, as in “NATO came there, and see what happened!”; of course, ethnic cleansing is not even mentioned.
The rest of that evening’s broadcast centered on the international negotiations (Lavrov seemed extremely annoyed and demanded that the Feb. 21 agreement is acknowledged by the new government), the EU summit on the situation, where first measures were taken against Russia (suspension of G-8 preparations and talks about vise-free travel between EU and Russia), and why the West will not push for further sanctions (because global interdependency and they need Russia). Also a segment on informational war was run, with Channel One accusing Western media of lies and deceptions; but that’s not new at all.
Finally, there was more footage of pro-Russia protesters crying “Who else can save us?”, which nicely played into the very measured creation of Russia’s image as a savior. Agency of the people of Ukraine was nowhere near to be found; televised victimisation works better for propaganda purposes.
On Friday the news began with footage from the Moscow rally in support of Ukraine; 65,000 people were reported to have gathered at the rally; no mention of the anti-war protest that the opposition held the same day.
Once again, people were filmed inviting Crimeans to stay with them, as in “Crimean refugees” that Russia claims to be accepting by thousands amid looming humanitarian crisis. The only “confirmation” of this was provided by RT and ITAR-TASS. Hmm…
Russia announced that it “will support Crimea’s free and democratic choice”, and officials promised that the Consistution will be rewritten in order to allow for certain procedural laws on an outside entity joining Russian Federation to be passed, these laws being particularly tailored to Crimea.
No comment was made with regard to Russia’s stand on supporting the rest of Ukraine’s free and democratic choice that came to life on the ground in Maidan.
An official compared Russia to Scotland after the West said that Crimea’s referendum was illegal and its results will not be legitimate, questioning why is it that Scotland’s referendum is not claimed to be illegal, too.
Visa bans against selected Russian officials approved by the U.S. were not mentioned.
Gazprom threatened to stop gas shipments to Ukraine altogether, now.
And, as usual, a large part of the broadcast was devoted to further helping the leading narratives of the past weeks sink into Channel One’s viewers’ psyche. Ukrainians are begging Russia to save them. Kiev and Ukraine’s government is taken over by nazis and oligarchs (the two things
Soviet Russian people hate the most). Ultranationalists want legalization of their fighters, they want weapons, and they want to run for government posts - the same tactic that Hitler used to take over Germany in late 1930s. Saakashvili (Georgia’s ex-President) is friends with the new government in Kiev; that clearly shows how awful that new govermnet is and why Ukrainian people need saving. And a not-so-subtle reference to Kosovo again.
You have to give it to Channel One, though. They know exactly what kind of narratives Russian viewers will related the best, with the highest level of emotions and sentiment. They know what they’re doing and they do it extremely well. 1000 points for excellent propaganda, Channel One!
International Women’s Day!
But in terms of the Ukrainian crisis, the coverage was much shorter on Saturday. The broadcast focused on Crimea’s referendum first; the West’s reaction to it (negative), the preparations being made for the voting in Crimea, and Crimean soldiers pledging allegiance to the current Crimean government.
There will be a commission created to investigate snipers and killings during Maidan - something Russia has been demanding for some time, so now it’s quite glad it got it.
Ultranational forces now have RPGs, and their leader wants to run for president.
Nothing was reported about the allegations that Russia may have hired actors and actresses for pro-Russian rallies. But at least the propaganda was dialed down a few notches from the previous broadcasts.
Today is Sunday, which means Mr. Kiselev’s News of the week is going to air on Russia 24 channel. Ideally, I would watch both the 21:00 news and then his show. To be quite frank though, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to watch it. This project is proving rather challenging for two main reasons: a) it’s exhausting to watch a constant stream of shameless propaganda for an hour every night and b) I find it really difficult to write without a bias because the propaganda is so apparent and so prevalent.
The situation in Ukraine is developing in such interesting ways though. This is a great political and historical precedent and a wonderful ground for multifaceted analysis. Speaking of multifaceted analysis - read Al Jazeera’s coverage, people! It’s great!
What happens if Crimea votes to join Russia and no major country accepts the legitimacy of the vote except Russia? Will the West actually be able to push for more harsh sanctions in the environment of global interdependancy (my partner says no, but we shall see, eh?)? What will happen to the new Ukraine politically and economically? Will there be any military operations (personally, I think there won’t)? What will be the long-term consequences of this West-Russia stand off over Ukraine? So many questions, and the answers are not necessarily in the near future.