14:12
П'ятниця, 9 Серпня 2019

Who is Shariy? From a Ukrainian journalist to a popular blogger and pro-Russian politician

What kind of messages does video blogger Anatoliy Shariy promote and what is the phenomenon of his popularity, which prompted 326 thousand voters to vote for the virtual Shariy Party.
Who is Shariy? From a Ukrainian journalist to a popular blogger and pro-Russian politician
Who is Shariy? From a Ukrainian journalist to a popular blogger and pro-Russian politician

Українською читайте тут

The popularity of blogger Anatoliy Shariy on YouTube, where he has more than 2.1 million subscribers, has been translated into support in the parliamentary elections. The Shariy Party, which was registered one and a half months before the election, was voted for by 2.23%, or more than 326,000 voters. This is despite the fact that its leader has been living abroad for more than seven years and has been communicating with voters only through his blogs and social networks.

The Central Election Commission did not register Shariy himself as a parliamentary candidate because he had not lived in Ukraine for the previous 5 years. In the elections, the party showed a lower score than the electoral threshold, which means that it will not have its own members in the parliament, but it will receive state funding for the next 5 years. This funding will amount to about 12 million hryvnias in total.

Detector Media tells who Shariy is and what he has to do with pro-Russian propaganda.

Journalist, blogger, "media expert"?

Anatoliy Shariy started his journalistic career in 2005 in slick magazines for women: Natalie, Yedinstvennaya, Polina. Subsequently, he worked for the newspaper Segodnya [Today] and collaborated with the Russian tabloid Moskowskiy Komsomolets.

Since 2008, he has started to work for From-UA and Obozrevatel [Observer]. The first belongs to the category of so-called drain tanks and does not contain any references to the editorial team, contact details and owners of the outlet on its website. The second of them - according to the monitoring data by the Institute of Mass Information - resorts to the production of materials with signs of advertorial ("native advertising"). At Obozrevatel [Observer], Shariy worked as the editor of the Investigations Department until 2012 when he left Ukraine.

Anatoliy Shariy with his wife Olha Shariy and Editor-in-Chief of the Internet media outlet "Strana.ua" Ihor Huzhva 

Now, Shariy calls himself a "media expert" and does not like being accused of pro-Russian propaganda. He sued Detector Media in 2017, because he was called the mouthpiece of the "Russian world", but he lost in court. This year, he sued Poroshenko for calling him a non-Ukrainian journalist and accusing him of working for Russia.

Shariy's main channels of communication are his YouTube blog (over 2.1 million subscribers), Facebook account (over 330,000 subscribers), the "Шарий NET" webpage (almost 90,000 subscribers) and sharij.net website. The website is updated regularly and publishes 2-4 news materials every hour. It is updated by at least three people. The website reports mainly about Ukraine, but it does not miss statements by Portnov and Medvedchuk, and events in Russia.

Shariy also has an account at VKontakte (132,000 followers) which he has not updated since 2017, an Instagram account with 226,000 followers, and a Twitter account followed by 268,000 followers.

On the main page of Shariy's YouTube channel, there is a video message from US film director Oliver Stone. The message is addressed to Shariy personally. Stone is known as the producer of the propaganda film Untold History of Ukraine (Russian version - В борьбе за Украину [In the Struggle for Ukraine]), whose main characters are Vladimir Putin and Viktor Medvedchuk.

Court cases against Shariy

Anatoliy Shariy is 40 years old. He has been living outside Ukraine since 2012 (he states on Facebook that he was in the Netherlands), then he moved to Lithuania after receiving political asylum from EU for saying that he has been persecuted by the Yanukovych regime for allegedly investigating the involvement of state agencies in the drug business.

Shariy left Ukraine because of two criminal investigations against him. Both are unrelated to his journalistic or blogging career. The first one was related to the shooting that took place on May 1, 2011 at a McDonald's restaurant in Kyiv. Shariy fired two shots using a traumatic gun at a visitor he had a conflict with. The second one was started by the police against Shariy for faking an attempted assassination of him (shooting at his car which took place in July 2011).

The both investigations have been ongoing for more than eight years. In April this year, the Shevchenkivsky District Court of Kyiv refused to initiate extradition, canceled the detection and arrest in absentia of Anatoly Shariy, and also remanded his case for additional investigation to the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor tried to appeal against this decision, but the Kyiv Court of Appeal affirmed it.

During this time, as stated in one of the resolutions by the Shevchenkivsky District Court, the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies repeatedly appealed to the embassy of Lithuania, where he received political asylum, to request his extradition to the Ukrainian investigation, but were refused. The Netherlands - where he was detained at the request of the Ukrainian authorities in 2013 - also refused to extradite him.

Currently, the blogger has the status of a political refugee in Lithuania and a permanent residence permit in the EU.

Shariy's position on the war in the east

Shariy calls  the war in the Donbas a "civil conflict" and does not admit the presence of Russian soldiers there. At the same time he did not deny that Russian machinery is present in the east of Ukraine.

“I understand that without their (Russia's - Ed.) support, everything would quickly end in these republics. But at the same time, I believe that this is an internal conflict in Ukraine, this is a civil war. Yes, I call it civil war. I believe that Ukrainians should deal with this, Sharіy told to Delfi, a Russian-language Internet portal in Estonia.

At the same time, the Ukrainian portal mil.in.ua, specializing in military topics, caught Shariy on spreading fakes about the war in the Donbas. The investigation notes that since 2014, the blogger has been systematically using manipulations in his videos by showing Russian military equipment as Ukrainian.

In particular, the authors of the investigation refute information from Shariy's video in which he spreads fake information about a destroyed tank. According to Shariy, the tank was supposedly Ukrainian, but in fact it belonged to the terrorist units of the so-called LPR.

Shariy also recorded a video called The SBU Goofed Massively. BUK Is Not Ours, But Ours, where he ridiculed the Ukrainian Security Service's (SBU) investigation into the Russian BUK, which hit the MH-17 aircraft with 298 passengers on board because of a photo that was published among other materials on the SBU's website allegedly by mistake.

In addition, Shariy spread fakes about the fact that children in Ukraine are allegedly taught to “kill Russki” from young age: “Now, there are children growing up, to who the soldiers of the battalions come to schools, telling how to shoot, how to "kill Russki." I am not exaggerating; there are even comics for the youngest, where "monsters from Russia" are killed. I saw drawings from the children's competition held by the SBU; it was enough to raise my hair. I saw a bright angel killing a demon with a Russian tricolor, and many of the drawings were actually made by children, that is, they were inartistic scribbles, in which someone was already shooting at someone else. It is inculcated from birth; from the age of two, of three, of four, they are already prepossessed by it. And when these square-headed desolated children leave school, they already know that they have such an enemy.

Shariy calls the Information Resistance website founded by the head of the Center for Military and Political Studies Dmytro Tymchuk (killed in June this year) to be "queen of fakes." In fact, this web resource specializes in coverage of events in eastern Ukraine and adheres to journalistic standards.

Shariy about the Ukrainian media

Russian media often ask Shariy to describe the situation in the Ukrainian media community, titling him as follows: "independent Ukrainian journalist and media blogger forced to flee his country because of persecution."

In an interview with Argumenty i Fakty [Arguments and Facts] in 2015, Shariy stated that all media outlets in Ukraine are propaganda: “Ukrainian media have ceased to be media - i.e. mass information media - they have become media of mass misinformation, hate, propaganda, violence, lies. Daily manipulations, daily lies, daily fakes."

The interviewer clarified whether, in Shariy's opinion, there are journalists in Ukraine who "openly disagree with the official course." Shariy replied that there were no such journalists, and criticism of Poroshenko was allegedly related to the desire to be liked by the Right Sector.

No, I do not know such journalists who will express disagreement with the official course in the media if we take the official media into account. However, I have encountered some attacks on Poroshenko lately, these have even become fashionable. But they have nothing to do with objectivity; such journalists want to be liked by the Right Sector and by other radicals. And there is absolutely no criticism of what course we are now moving along and whether in the right direction", Shariy said.

He is a frequent commentator on the Russian propaganda channel "Russia 1", where he is called "one of the most famous Ukrainian journalists". In 2017, he manipulated in their programs, saying that the Ukrainian media devote 85% of their time to Russia.

There are no Ukrainian media left. That is, these media simply do not exist, no longer exists. And it is not a question of yesterday or a week ago, it is a question of a couple of years ago. They are gone… you can call [the remaining ones] plankton. These media devote 85% of the time to coverage of Russia's problems, hyperbolizing them. Explaining something to their viewer, their reader - why is it necessary. Just write that if someone was killed, - let's say the explosion killing Sheremet - it was the Kremlin's arm, a bridge collapsed - it was also the Kremlin's arm," Shariy said on the Russian propaganda show 60 Minutes on Russia 1.

Anatoly Shariy with Russian journalist Olga Skabaeva

Shariy about Ukrainians from the West

Shariy resorts to the spread of pro-Russian ideologemes. In particular, in April 2014, he called residents of Western Ukraine, except for a few of his acquaintances, people of "second grade" on his YouTube channel.

I am Ukrainian, and you are not Ukrainians. You're second grade ... well, I'm not saying second grade, no, you're just some halfsies. thirdsies, fourthsies. F*ck, you are half Poles, you are half Hungarians, you are half nfi what actually. Do not tell the people of Kyiv how they have to behave, how they have to love the country, to love their flag. Because, it is not your flag. You have no flag. You are not Ukrainians,” Sharіy declared. He subsequently deleted this video and claimed that it was allegedly a private video that was never published.

However, a search in online archives revealed that the video was publicly available on May 16, 2014 and was viewed by 46,630 users at that time.

Shariy about Crimea

Shariy has also been asked the traditional question to check his position on the annexation: "Whose is Crimea?" In the above-mentioned interview with the Russian media outlet Argumenty i Fakty [Arguments and Facts], Shariy calls Crimea Ukrainian. However, he does not believe that the peninsula should be returned to Ukraine. Instead, he said that a referendum should be held and Crimea should be given a “rigid autonomy”.

“I never proclaimed that Crimea should be returned by force, but since I am Ukrainian, yes, I adhere to this position, I have never been hiding it. At the same time, I respect the opinion of Crimeans, and Crimeans I know, respect my opinion. They perfectly separate the opinion of the Ukrainians that part of Ukraine is Ukraine, from the opinion that you have to go to bend, shell, take back and humiliate everyone,” he declared in the interview.

In the same interview, Shariy calls the former head of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People Mustafa Dzhemіlev a “scoundrel”.

In Kyiv, they preferred, and now they prefer to simply put tons of shit on Crimea, on Crimeans, and such scoundrels as Dzhemilev even demand a complete blockade. But if so, then admit that you do not consider Crimeans to be Ukrainians, admit that you liked this territory, not the people living there. It will be honest, in any case,” Sharіy manipulates.

It is worth noting that during the annexation of the Crimea, Dzhemilev took the position of inviolability of Ukraine's borders and did not recognize the so-called referendum.

About manipulation of events on Maidan

Shariy did not support the events on Maidan, although he was negative about Yanukovych. In fact, he gained his popularity among a certain category of people amid criticism of the events of the Revolution of Dignity, ridiculing those who came to power in 2014. Shariy also manipulates  by tying various ridiculous statements and actions to the Revolution of Dignity. For example, he cites the statement by the head of a private company - Ukraine International Airlines - which opposes the arrival of low-costs in Ukraine, and presents it as an official position of the state's leaders. "You fought for it, right?" Shariy asks, finishing the video.

Or he shows a video of people buying cereals in one of Kyiv's supermarkets in 2015 and ties it to events on Maidan. “A year after the Revolution of Dignity .... People in the 21st century, in the capital of the state - as we are informed - of a European state, drag bags of cereals to their homes, like hamsters to have in store, like little mice. Where is the dignity here guys? ” Shariy manipulates.

Anatoliy Shariy with Oleksandr Vilkul (one of the leaders of the opposition Bloc party)

In a different case, in a video titled "To the Anniversary of the Country's Main Event" he shows an excerpt from a conversation in the studio of 112 Ukraine TV channel. An unknown guest of the studio wearing an embroidered shirt tells that the fairest court is the Lynch Court. Shariy concludes that the following thoughts emerge in the wake of the Dignity Revolution: "How good it is, after all, that in two years we have come to the courts of Lynch already."

The phenomenon of Shariy's popularity

According to Google Certified YouTube Channel Development Specialist Kyrylo Yevsieyev, the popularity of Shariy's Channel is connected to the fact that his channel has been in existence for over 5 years and that it produces a lot of content which causes users to actively respond to it.

“He started uploading his first videos 5 years ago. It is a long time ago. The fact is that 5 years ago, there was no such competition on YouTube as it is now, and no one knew that it was possible to get a huge popularity. Those people who started their channel 5 years ago actively and regularly, made a lot of efforts and who had the idea of the channel - they achieved the result," Yevsieyev says.

According to him, Shariy makes a lot of videos that cause different reactions in people. This is important for YouTube, because the more content people interact with, the easier it is to gain popularity.

“Now, he releases 4-5 videos with a length 10 to 20 minutes every day. YouTube likes this. In addition, YouTube likes content that provokes people's reactions, whether positive or negative. People are watching and reacting somehow, writing comments. In the comments, the altercation begins. Therefore, it is content that people are constantly returning to in order to respond to their opponent. YouTube believes that this is a video that is viewed many times and has many comments,” the expert explains.

YouTube doesn't rate the content of the videos. According to Kyrylo Yevsieyev, this platform is tolerant of any content that does not violate anyone's rights.

The YouTube channel brings Shariy tens of thousands of euros every month. It is impossible to calculate the exact amount, because each channel, regardless of the number of subscribers, earns differently.

"I remember that Anatoliy Shariy himself told the amount that his channel brings him to be about 50,000 euros a month. It is impossible to determine the exact amount of revenue, because each channel earns very differently depending on the audience that is watching it. Shariy has an adult audience of 30-35+, meaning it is a paying audience. It is impossible to estimate how much advertising was shown there, because for each user there is a separate picture formed and not all views receive advertising," emphasizes Yevsieyev.

Anatoliy Shariy's wife Olha with Russian journalist and TV presenter Vladimir Pozner.

According to Otar Dovzhenko, head of the Analytics and Monitoring Center of the Detector Media NGO, Shariy became popular because of despair with the “old” politicians, who he systematically criticizes and offers a simple alternative.

"The phenomenon of Shariy's popularity has a lot in common with the phenomenon of Zelenskyi's popularity: people despaired of the so-called old political elites are catching at simplistic, radical alternatives. Not without reason, the main message of the Shariy's Party was the promise to “break the system”. However, the fate of Oleh Lyashko and his Radical Party shows that trust in populists does not last too long if all they are capable of is words and performances,” Otar Dovzhenko says.

In his view, it is not entirely correct to call Shariy and other such figures pro-Russian, because they use more subtle methods, substituting concepts by those that often overlap with Russian propaganda.

Of course, neither Shariy and Huzhva, nor other such characters glorify Putin and call for the destruction of Ukraine. Instead, their product is an alternative information agenda, contradicting the conditionally pro-Ukrainian one and largely consistent with Russian propaganda. At the same time, they use manipulative technologies, which seem to be copied from those by Kremlin's propagandists. The main thing is the concept of "nothing is true, and therefore everything is possible", formulated once by Peter Pomerantsev. For example, as an alternative to the thesis that “Russia occupied Crimea,” many versions which attribute the loss of Crimea to America, Maidan, Poroshenko, Iryna Farion or something else can be put forward. So, maybe [Russia] occupied it, but also it may be possible that [Russia] saved it from Iryna Farion,” Dovzhenko says.

It is difficult to find out the true motives of Shariy and similar characters, he says. However, the harsh criticism of corruption in Ukraine - primarily aimed at Poroshenko and his associates - as well as interpretation of many events in Ukraine which is alternative to the official one, find its audience and eventually become converted to political support of his virtual party in the elections.

"Do they do it by order and for the money from Kremlin, or from Ukrainian political expatriates close to Yankovych, or in the interests of the Ukrainian pro-Russian opposition (Shariy is known to have supported Oleksandr Vilkul in the presidential election), or for their own popularity and their own beliefs? We cannot figure out an exact answer to these questions. Perhaps, all these options are correct.

Selective ruthless criticism of any actions and initiatives aimed at making Ukraine separate and independent from Russia and of politicians who have pro-European views have provided Shariy with a huge audience of admirers of "alternative facts" - in Ukraine, in Russia and in other countries. Some of them do not understand the context of Ukrainian politics, but the expressive, harsh, convincing manner of the video blogger's storytelling fascinates them. I think many of them are starting to watch because it is “just interesting”, plus Shariy (as well as “Strana.ua”, Medvedchuk's channels and other media in this segment) has expensive and effective SMM which is catchy,” Otar Dovzhenko stresses.

Eventually - he continues - these people get used to it and start trusting. Then it is easy to mobilize them - to send them to write insulting comments under the messages of someone of the opponents, to organize a flash mob, and finally to encourage to vote for Shariy's virtual party.

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