On 7 July, Russian journalist Dmitry Kiselyov, known for his promotion of aggressive Russian propaganda, announced a video-link between the state-owned Russian channel Rossiya-1 and Ukrainian channel NewsOne, comparing its importance with the importance of the “unforgettable” video-link between the USA and the USSR in 1986. Carelessly smiling broadcasters, wearing the colors of the national flags were in the backdrop. “We need to talk: frankly, without any mediators and omissions,” they said.
The controversial reputation of the channel NewsOne is directly related to its owner, Taras Kozak, the closest ally of pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk. Therefore, this prospect of media dialogue with the aggressor country triggered a wave of protests among journalists, politicians, and civil society. Protesters without any party symbols gathered at the channel’s office, demanding to revoke its license.
As a consequence of the heated response, the Security Service of Ukraine came up with the idea of imposing sanctions against the channels NewsOne and 112 Ukrayina (both belonging to Taras Kozak) with the possible revoking of the broadcasting license. The Prosecutor General’s Office initiated criminal proceedings about the attempt of high treason. Moreover, they made a proposal to the Verkhovna Rada and the Antimonopoly Committee to demonopolize the holding News, which includes such channels as NewsOne, 112 Ukrayina, and ZIK.
In result, the channel abandoned the idea of a video conference. Vasyl Holovanov, its general producer, highlighted the channel’s “noble” intentions in his Facebook post, referring to such topics as Ukrainians living in Russia, separated families, and a dialog between common people. Appealing to the idea of freedom of speech, he nevertheless used the same rhetoric as Kiselev did: all the political issues are disguised as a sincere conversation, bringing people together.
“This video-link was planned as a journalistic, non-political project: without political scientists, politicians and propagandists. Without the ones who can doubt that Crimea and Donbas are Ukrainian territories,” wrote Holovanov, complaining about physical threats to the journalists, harassment and intimidation, however, presenting no evidence.
An official address of the President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared shortly. He claimed that politicians are just trying to divide all Ukrainians into two different camps: while one side, letting bygones be bygones, will be ready for a dialog with the brotherly people, another one will be goaded to aggression, masquerading as patriotism: they will be smashing NewsOne’s office, creating a perfect image for Russian propaganda news, reaffirming the status of brutal fascists who oppress freedom of speech.”
The President called to resist manipulations, however, his idea of building the bridge of understanding between the two camps had some similarities with the video-link promoters.
In return, the Kremlin is considering this proposal, however, the presence of the USA representer “can pose a problem as far as this country is beyond the Normandy format [a diplomatic group of representatives from Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia aiming to resolve the war in Eastern Ukraine],” commented Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary for the President of Russia.
In contrast, the reaction of the Russian media was unambiguous.
“We mean well, but then banderists [a derogatory word for Ukrainians – Ed] appeared,” said the journalist during the TV program “60 minutes” on the channel Russia-1, talking about protesters against the video-bridge.
Sviatoslav Varachuk, the rock-star turned politician running for parliament with his party Holos, and Petro Poroshenko, former president and leader of the European Solidarity Party, both spoke out against the bridge, considering such media negotiations with the aggressor country to be a threat to national security.
Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko declared on 8 July that the Security Service and Prosecutor General’s Office has information that one of NewsOne’s beneficiaries is a Cyprus company, one of the whose managers is a co-founder of another Cyprus company which co-owns the Moscow-based Promsvyazbank which funds the Russian defence industry and, therefore, Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine. Lutsenko stated that in his view, this is sufficient for the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) to initiate sanctions against NewsOne. The Security Service has already initiated an NSDC meeting and offered to sanction NewsOne and 112 Ukrayina.