Overview of manipulative technologies in Russian media for 1-18 December 2014 period
On 4 January, the respected American website Politico published an article of Peter Pomerantsev, TV producer based in London (son of Igor Pomerantsev who worked in Kyiv before emigration), Inside Putin’s Information War (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/01/putin-russia-tv-113960.html#.VLe_nckZB9I ). This article has been adapted from his recent book about media policy in Russia, it tells about some of the peculiarities of public management of Russian TV. They are ‘must know’ if one wants to understand what is going on in Ukraine.
In particular, the author based on his experience of working for Russian channels assures the American reader that the Kremlin controls TV-channels as heavily as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) did. But unlike Soviet time, the present authority does its best to adapt the successful formats of Western entertainment to control the population efficiently.
And the TV has to fulfill two paramount tasks. On one hand, the so called
‘Russia’s opinion’ about events is nothing but a tool to impose interpretation that is the most advantageous for the Kremlin at the moment. On the other hand, President Vladimir Putin is always in the heart of all ‘important’ events that the Russians learn from the TV-set. TV-news have nothing less than to ‘bless’ his rule, as one of interlocutors of Pomerantsev said in the mid 2000-ies.
We are convinced that the right positioning of Vladimir Putin as regards the crisis in Ukraine was the main objective of Russian TV in December. But it was merely a detail of more global operation to maintain the positive public feeling about the president under the conditions of approaching economic crisis.
Starting from the first days of the month, especially after the Address to the Federal Assembly of 4 December, some TV stories give syncs or passages from Putin’s speech emphasizing that Russia is having economic difficulties because of its independent policy and standing up against the West.
They are manipulating the cause and the effect: it turns out that ‘the tragedy in Ukraine’ is a consequence of US policy. And sanctions against Russia were not caused by Crimea annexation but by a new attempt to ‘override and break up’ Russia under the Yugoslav scenario. Of course, the offered ‘solution’ of this situation is to continue the current policy:
Channel One, News, 04.12.2014, 12:00 a.m.
‘Russia is not going to follow blindly the lead of West in Ukrainian matter, stated RF President Vladimir Putin in his annual address to the Federal Assembly.
“What is this tragedy in Ukraine for? Hadn’t it been possible to settle all issues – even controversial ones – with a dialogue, within legal boundaries and lawful processes? However we are being actively convinced this is a reasonable and intelligent policy that we have to follow mindlessly and blindly. This is not going to happen,” the head of state said.
According to Putin, the Russia’s stand on the sovereignty of former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, has not changed: ‘It is well-known that Russia not only supported Ukraine and other brother republics of former USSR in their aspiration for the sovereignty but also significantly contributed to this process at the 90-ies turn. Our stand has never changed since then.”
The head of state underlined that the current developments in the South-Eastern Ukraine confirm the Russia’s opinion about the February events as a coup d’état. “Yes, we have denounced the coup d’état, forcible takeover in Kyiv this February, and what we are watching now – the tragedy in the south-east – confirms absolutely that our position is correct,” the RF President said. “How can we support the subsequent armed attempts to suppress people in the east that did not agree with the lawlessness? I am repeating how can we support that? Especially having hypocritical talks about protection of international law and human rights. This is a pure cynicism.”
Putin repeated the same messages during the final annual press-conference on 18 December:
Channel One, News, 21.12.2014
“The hardness of economic situation in Russia is caused, in addition to low oil prices, by sanctions: the business has lost access to long and cheap loans. According to the President, this is the price Russia pays for independent policy. Though, technically, the West links the sanctions with the Moscow’s position on Donbas situation…
The annual press-conference of the President significantly differed from the previous ones since the majority of questions were more or less about the consequences of events in Ukraine having made Russia and the West remember about one would think bygone ‘cold war’ time. […]
“Mr. Putin, the current situation of our economy is punishment for Crimea? Maybe, it is high time to have it straight?” journalist Anton Vernitskiy asked.
“No, this is not punishment for Crimea. This is the punishment for our natural desire to preserve ourselves as a nation, as a civilization, as a state. Whatever we do, we always encounter opposition and struggle against us.
So this is not about Crimea, this is about protection of our independence, our sovereignty and our right to exist. And each of us has to understand that. And if we think that one of the problems we are facing now comprising the economical ones results from the sanctions – we have to understand that, we want to survive and fight, change – making use of those developments – our structure of economy today, be more independent, overcome all this…” the President answered.
The President made it clear again that the current Ukrainian crisis has only one objective: to set two fraternal nations at loggerheads in order to tear Ukraine away from Russia at all costs…
As usual, the fate of the population of the country having become a range of interests of American strategists has not been and is not taken into account so far. The break of traditional economic relations and civil war lead Ukrainian economy to predictable collapse. People in many cities of the country are literally freezing to death this winter. […]
Social programs, benefits and pensions are decreased. The country is within an ace of default, and the allocations as promised by the West did not come and are not going to. Brussels bored of Kyiv’s appeals to give money made it clear that Poroshenko is not welcome at the EU summit.
“In our public opinion, the events in the South-Eastern Ukraine are an actual punitive operation. But it is taken by the Kyiv authorities and not vice versa. This is not the south-east insurgents that sent combat units to Kyiv, on the contrary, this is the Kyiv authorities that brought armed forces to the south-east, use rocket systems, artillery and combat air force and today try to address the issue with economic blockade.
I believe this way is absolutely loosing, harmful for the statehood of Ukraine and for the fate of Ukrainian people. I hope that we would manage in the course of dialogue, and we are ready to be a mediator, to have eventually a direct political dialogue and in this way, with these political instruments to settle the situation right up to restoration of a unique political space,” the President answered… The press-conference journalists asked President Putin what Russia was going to do in such situation.
“We assume that the crisis should be settled some day. The sooner the better. This is the first point. Secondly, it should and will be settled by political means, but not through the pressure of any kind – either economic blockade, or armed forces action – and we, of course, will help people, we are doing this now. As you know we have already sent the tenth humanitarian convoy.
The Minsk Agreements – whether they must be fulfilled or not. Yes, must be fulfilled. I would like to remind that I was one of initiators. Our representatives in Minsk signed memorandum in September. There were protocols attached, they defined the delimiting lines. And Donetsk representatives did not sign those protocols. There is an issue. They said they couldn’t at the very beginning. And when we were trying to insist, I am saying this openly because there are matters that the public needs to know, they said that they couldn’t leave those settlements, there are 3-4 disputed settlements. We have families there, wives, children, sisters, we do not want them to be killed, raped. This is a problem. Nothing matters but this.
And Ukrainian official representatives do not withdraw their units from the areas they were supposed to leave. Like from Donetsk airport. […]” Vladimir Putin said…
The President of Russia explained that the tough stand of our country on many issues including Ukraine is also a sign for Western partners that it is high time to stop. Stop building walls and set to creation of common area of safety and humanitarian cooperation and, of course, economic freedom. And Russia keeps calling for this for years.”
Thus, the TV-channels have obtained the firsthand confirmation of previous lines:
Spread of these lines by means of television is supposed to make an impression on a viewer that the Kremlin’s master is pursuing a wise and weighted policy based on the national interests of Russia whereas the Donbas events prove that he is right.
All available manipulation means are used for that. For example, a story of Dmitri Petrov in ‘Vesti’, Russia TV-channel, is based on ‘statement of fact’: the journalist tells about alleged payment of pensions to Donetsk elderly people by ‘DPR bank” as about actual event though they do not give any direct speech of ‘happy’ recipients of money:
Russia, Vesti, 01.12.2014:
“A chance not to be frozen: Donetsk has pensions and heating with coal.
By Dmitri Petrov.
Donetsk launches pension payment today. They will be paid by new DPR Bank. The locals lined up since the very morning. In early November Ukrainian government announced the cessation of financing of the part of Donbas not controlled by Kyiv. Public institutions operation and bank accounts maintenance are stopped in the military operation zone.
Donbas retirees left any hope to see their money. Kyiv stopped payments back in summer.
It is amazing how people managed to survive. Especially in war. The news that DPR starts paying pensions from the 1 December has reiterated hope. Many people started lining up before the dawn.
Ukraine doomed these people to suffering. Scratched them from all its lists. Russia supports them as best it can. The eighth humanitarian convoy arrived the day before. It delivered 400 tons of aids. The most necessary. Building materials, fuel and food…”
Another story of Channel One uses the ‘false authority’ and ‘eyewitnesses’. Journalists take comments from French foreigners who ‘with their own eyes saw the 'Donbas tragedy’. As it turned out Channel One’s journalists interviewed ‘French people’ of Russian origin. Mariya FILLION (or Mariya FILLION-ROBIN), born in 1982, lives in Annecy in the south-east of France. She is from Ukraine and her maiden name is Bondarenko. Her colleague secretary of ‘Vostok’ association (see fb-profile https://www.facebook.com/rozamunda82/about ). Nikola MIRCOVIC, born in 1975, a Serbian, an author of book ‘Martyr of Kosovo’ (2013), a member of fb-group “Поддержка восстания на Донбассе” (Support to Donbas Rising). The organization «VOSTOK-l'entraide et solidarité sans frontières et sans politique» that is ‘VOSTOK (East) – mutual assistance and solidarity without borders and without politics’. Elena Ruffo-Kovriguina is its president, and Marina Timofeeva is its treasurer. The association was founded in August 2014 (see fb-profile https://www.facebook.com/aidedonbassannecy ). Anyway they cannot be considered to be independent and unbiased ‘eyewitnesses’.
Channel One, News, 02.12.2014, 21:00
“THE HOST IS NOT IDENTIFIED.
The Government to be elected in Verkhovna Rada today will have to operate in the worst crisis ever experienced by the independent Ukraine. Another evidence is cyclic power cutoffs launched all over the country today as well as the official order to decrease gas consumption.
\And with the South-Eastern Ukraine suffering the war for months, it is not about difficulties, it is about survival of people. Residential neighborhoods of Donetsk were shelled today again. Two civilians are killed and six are injured. Many houses in the conflict zone do not have electricity, heating and water. And vulnerable social groups – elderly, handicapped and gravely sick people – suffer the most. Their lives are threatened not only by the shells but also by the absence of necessary medicines…
Handicapped, elderly, single mothers, orphans hardly survive without medicines, pensions and financial aids. Everyone who is not capable of taking care of themselves.
Military commandant’s office in Gorlivka opened 8 social canteens. 3 200 of low-income people can have their meal there. The canteens are run by volunteers. And the military commandant’s office supplies with food.
Those who are not able to go outside will have food delivered at home. Stores in Gorlivka are open again, but not everyone can go there. So the commandant’s office opened some additional centers for distribution of food, though these are the most basic products they are delivered regularly: three times a week.
The West does not know or does not want to know this. Two French from humanitarian association ‘Vostok’ came to Pervomaisk. They have never seen nothing like this. Social canteens for elderly, bomb-shelters where people live for weeks. After coming back home they are going to contribute to information breakthrough in Western perception about the events in Novorossiya.
‘I was expecting to see all those horrors, children in bomb-shelters, since I had seen a lot of videos, photos and interviews. When I entered I was supposed to say a couple of words for camera but, evidently, I couldn’t, I was lost for words,” Mariya FILLION said.
They filmed everything they saw. The association has good relations with French media so the audience will be vast.
They will interview foreign volunteers as well, the ones that fight for Donetsk and Luhansk. There are enough of them: from Spain, France, Serbia, USA. They want to make the Western audience understand: it is impossible to solve the conflict in the South-Eastern Ukraine in warlike way.”
However, sometimes spreading of rumors with reference to ‘reliable sources’ failed. For example, 14 December ‘Vesti’ with reference to ‘Novorossiya’ web-site and ‘intelligence service of Donbas volunteer corps’ communicated about an alleged transfer of American military cargo and specialists to the ATO zone causing the closure of airports in Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv. Whereas the TV-channel of RF Ministry of Defense on 15 December, referring to ‘DPR’, disproved this information as ‘unverified rumors’ offering its own version: the closure was to prevent foreign cash outflow.
Russia, Vesti, 14.12.2014
The American ‘Hercules’es brought unknown cargo to Zaporizhzhia
Four ‘Hercules’ airplanes with unknown cargos from the USA landed in Zaporizhzhia. They are unloading boxes. This was communicated by ‘Novorossiya’ also mentioning that recently the local airport had been reinforced with defense towers.
Meanwhile the intelligence service of Donbas volunteer corps reported the increased activity of aviation – transport and battle planes as well as attach and multi-purpose helicopters – on the territory controlled by Ukrainian forces especially in Kramatorsk and Chuguyiv town where military hardware is delivered from Dnipropetrovsk, as reported by “Rossiyskaya Gazeta”.
Reportedly, about 50 NATO military men, from Poland mainly, came to Chuguyiv. They prevent locals from taking pictures of them in every possible way.
Zvezda TV-channel, 15.12.2014
“Kyiv communicated that the closed airports are having ‘anti-terrorist operation’.
Previously, the Head of State Aviation Service of Ukraine Denys Antoniuk communicated that the state aviation service was closing the flights to Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovks and Zaporizhzhia ‘for security reasons’. Later he added that the airports were closed at request of army. It was announced that the prohibition would last till Tuesday morning however it could be extended.
The decision of Ukrainian authorities to close the airports of Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk caused different rumors in media, among others there was a version that supposedly NATO airplanes were unloaded at the airports. Such communications were disproved. DPR supposed that the prohibition was to prevent foreign cash outflow in case of default in the country.”
However, we believe that the major propaganda instrument was broadcasting of stories about destroyed Donbas cities and sufferings of locals due to winter and shelling. Terrible shots were always accompanied by comments about crimes of Ukrainian servicemen and Kyiv’s intention to continue the war.
At the same time Russian journalists often had difficulties in getting necessary comments from locals not the ‘insurgents’. When Putin’s speeches and emotional syncs were not enough, the channels like LifeNews aired real fakes. For example, on 5 December LifeNews reported that the Ukrainian Parliament decided to revoke citizenship of two million people of Donbass, and on 8 December told that ‘hairy convicts’ in Donetsk colony harassed prisoners that support ‘DPR’.
“Kyiv may deprive Donbas residents of Ukrainian citizenship.
There is a proposition in Ukraine to deprive of citizenship for violation of territorial integrity and high treason.
New bill registered in Verkhovna Rada may lead Kyiv to voluntary refusal from claims to Donbas. According to the bill, the authorities may revoke citizenship of those Ukrainians who have violated the territorial integrity of the country.
And the official authorities think that any resident of LPR and DPR who has taken part in 2 November elections is a separatist. Moreover, the Security Service of Ukraine initiated criminal proceeding in connection with these votings. This means that if the introduced bill is approved by the majority of deputies, Ukraine will revoke citizenship of about two million locals of south-east. Though the locals having voted at the elections of self-proclaimed republics’ leaders actually declared that they did not want to be with Ukraine.”
“Convicts are killed in Ukrainian colony for support of insurgents.
Heads of penitentiary facility turn a blind eye to encounters between prisoners
Last months the colony No. 52 not far from Elenovka is experiencing encounters between politically polarized prisoners. Some of them support the self-proclaimed DPR, and others stand for the Ukrainian authorities.
One of the prisoners of the penitentiary facility Igor Sharlet told that the convicts that do not agree with Kyiv are intimidated, beaten, they get longer jail terms. A local watchman was beaten to death because he had tried to send a letter about situation in the colony to media.
Currently, prisoners are afraid of their future because any time soon the colony may be transferred from the buffer zone to the territory of Ukraine. Meanwhile prisoners and their relatives had written a joint letter asking to stay on their native soil.”