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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Capture of the Ukrainian media space by the Kremlin’s "5th column" is a threat to the national security of Ukraine

On the eve of the parliamentary elections in Ukraine, experts expressed their beliefs about the revenge of pro-Russian forces.  The Kremlin hoped for such a prospect and made every effort to implement it. However, as the results of these elections showed, the victory went to the pro-Presidential party "Servant of the People", which gained 43.16 % and obtained 124 seats, and the majoritarian candidates of the party won in 130 constituencies, therefore, the  party won 254 seats in the Parliament and formed a mono-coalition. The pro-Kremlin party "Opposition platform-For life" took second place in Parliament and together with the majority candidates who ran for this party has 43 seats in Parliament, having gained 13% of the vote in the elections. Also, the five-percent barrier was overcome by four parties and in the Verkhovna Rada they have: All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" - 26 seats, the party of former President Petro Poroshenko "European Solidarity"- 25 seats and the party "Voice" - 20 seats. 

Therefore, the question arises: did the pro-Russian forces really manage to achieve revenge in the parliamentary elections in Ukraine? Judging by representation of political forces in the Verkhovna Rada – no. However, the threat of such revenge is not reduced. Moreover, it increases by moving to a new quality level. If earlier pro-Russian forces in the Ukrainian Parliament were represented by a separate group of deputies in the faction "Opposition bloc", created from the remnants of the" Party of Regions", now they have become a sufficiently effective political force united in the "Opposition platform – For life", backed by a powerful financial and human resource agents of influence of the Kremlin. Now they are quite legally able to embody the interests and policies of the Kremlin in Ukraine, despite the fact that Ukraine is actually at war with Russia.

Firstly, this means that Russia has its political representation in the Supreme legislative body of the Ukrainian government, whose representatives can legally communicate with the Kremlin and receive instructions and guidelines regarding its activities in Ukraine.  Despite the Russian-Ukrainian war and the fact that between the countries for several years there is no even a direct air connection, this does not prevent representatives of this pro - Kremlin force to visit Moscow-by private flights regularly. One of the leaders of the "Opposition platform - For life" Viktor Medvedchuk several times before and after the elections flew to the Russian capital for the highest level meetings.

Secondly, the presence of the pro-Kremlin party in the Ukrainian Parliament testifies to the existence of the "Russian world" in Ukraine not only in the occupied territory by Russian troops, but also in the liberated part of Ukraine. After all, 13% of voters voted for the "Opposition platform - For life", who are actually the supporters of this "Russian world" in Ukraine.

There is no doubt that Russian influence through this pro-Kremlin party would not be so powerful without an appropriate media resource. That is why, with the assistance of Petro Poroshenko's pro - Presidential team, the leaders of the pro-Kremlin party "Opposition platform – For life" were buying up a Ukrainian media resource, primarily news channels, taking over almost half of the Ukrainian television news information space.

After the Ukrainian authorities in 2014 to 2015 closed representation of the Russian media, the broadcasting of Russian channels in Ukraine and the most toxic Russian social networks like "Odnoklassniki", "Vkontakte" and others, the capture by the party "Opposition platform - For life" of the Ukrainian TV space can be considered a new wave of information offensive of Russia in the hybrid war against Ukraine

Accordingly, during the next trip to Moscow they discussed the development of cooperation with party "United Russia", Victor Medvedchuk was accompanied by one more friend and the colleague from "Oppositional platform - For life" Taras Kozak, who mysteriously and brilliantly became rich. Thanks to an unknown business over the last two years Kozak, one after the other bought three national Ukrainian TV channels: "NewsOne", "112 Ukraine" and "ZIK". As analytical reports of non-governmental organizations show, the MP's channels covered the election campaign in the least balanced way, actively campaigning for Viktor Medvedchuk and his party. It is complemented by the TV channel "Inter" of oligarch Dmitry Firtash - another close to the Kremlin oligarch who has a key influence on Ukrainian politics. The first number in the election list of "Opposition platform" Yuriy Boyko is a close friend and colleague of Firtash.[1]

This, in turn, led to attempts to return some Russian "liberal" TV channels in Ukraine. Recently it became known that the Russian radio station "Echo of Moscow" known for its broadcasts with Russian terrorists who are at war in the Donbass, representatives of so-called "DPR" and “Crimean bloggers”, does not mind opening the offices in the capital of Ukraine, as well as in Lviv and Odessa. This was in an interview with the publication “Country” said the editor-in-chief of "Echo of Moscow", Alexey Venediktov. According to Venediktov, one of the goals of his visit to Kyiv is to discuss the opening of a branch of the Russian publication in Ukraine, which will conduct its broadcasts on radio waves, websites and social networks. However, it is possible to implement the project only if the law on language quotas is revised. “I hope that "Echo of Moscow" will be able to work in Ukraine. I am ready to open a bureau in Kyiv, and if you like in Odessa and Lviv. In fact, it is strange to have a Bureau in Israel, Germany and Washington, but not here in Ukraine,” the editor-in-chief of "Echo of Moscow" said[2]. However, there is nothing surprising, because Russia is not waging war against Israel or Germany, but waging war against Ukraine.

Thus, under the guise of a "liberal" Russian TV channel, Russia is trying to gain additional information influence on Ukrainian society. It's no coincidence that Russian ideologists of hybrid war consider “Echo of Moscow” one of the most effective means of its conduct. In particular, Surkov repeatedly stated, "that the"Echo of Moscow" is the most important of all state-owned media." Because it has done more to strengthen sovereign democracy than the "Channel One" and "All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company" combined. Because "Echo of Moscow", working with a troubled and disloyal audience, all these years skillfully redirects the irritation of this audience into the void. Surkov believes that this is "Sky High", that Venediktov is a true master and one of the pillars of the current political system»[3]. Thus, Moscow is increasingly expanding its media influence in Ukraine using its "agents". However, it is unlikely that Venediktov's expressed desire to have bureau of "Echo of Moscow" in Ukraine will be approved by the Ukrainian community, especially given the recent high-profile failure of the Ukraine-Russia propaganda teleconference on "NewsOne".

With such a powerful news television pool, the content of the Russian information impact on Ukrainian society has also changed. Earlier, the Russian media used in their propaganda such narratives as" fascists"," banderites"," civil war"," junta", trying to influence on human emotions in order to spread  panic among the local population and demoralize Ukrainian society. Now, through the Ukrainian information pool of the party "Opposition platform-For life", Russian propaganda is trying to influence the consciousness of Ukrainians in order to destroy their national values such as language, national memory, Ukrainian identity, Ukrainian statehood. It's no coincidence in news reports, speeches "political experts", in the TV show the above channels sound the conviction about the need to revise or repeal the Law "On state language", to rethink or to revise the Pantheon of Ukrainian national heroes, to put the actions of the Ukrainian military who defend their country on one level with the war crimes of the Russian military and mercenaries in the Donbass.

All these messages of these Ukrainian TV channels are synchronized with the actions of the Kremlin in the war against Ukraine. Thus, after Putin started issuing Russian passports to residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, a TV show was arranged on one of Medvedchuk's three TV channels, where the speakers convinced the audience of the need to have several foreign passports and the inexpediency of the existence of a single Ukrainian citizenship.

Nevertheless, the Ukrainian media space must retain freedom of speech, but at the same time it is necessary to be ready to resist the Russian propaganda. This was in an exclusive interview with special representative of the U.S. Department of State, Kurt Walker, as the "Censor.NET" reports. "In the United States, and in your country, I think, we have some fundamental principles. One of them is the freedom of speech. Another principle is that we must be ready for Russian propaganda and be able to resist it. And this propaganda can be very harmful and we see it in Europe and we see it in Ukraine. We must prevent Russia from using propaganda to undermine our democracies." Walker also added that Ukraine needs legislation that would exclude the influence of one person on most of the media market. "In the US, for example, we have obliged the TV channel "RussiaToday" to register as a foreign agent. Therefore, we should look for democratic tools that will protect a free and balanced media space. One of such instrument is the legislation. There are rules in the USA that do not allow one person or one company to control such a large part of the media market. I think you should also think about how to limit the influence of one person on such a significant market share. How to ensure the diversification of this market," Walker summed up.[4]




[3]Див.: Алексей Чеснаков: "Нельзя играть с Украиной в поддавки" 2019.08.25.