On 2 February 2017, a Russian opposition politician and leader of the all-Russian public movement Union of Right Forces Leonid Gozman lambasted Russia’s involvement in the war in Donbas on the air of the Russian central TV channel Rossiya-1.
The program is called 60 minutes. It was broadcast live. During a discussion about the escalated fighting in Donbas, Gozman stated that the responsibility for this war lies on the citizens of Russian Federation. Moreover, he said that if Russia didn’t support it, the war would stop in a day.
The oppositionist also stated that Russian leadership needs an enemy to consolidate society. For a long time, the US played the role of this enemy. However with the victory of Donald Trump, according to the speaker, the rhetorics towards Americans have changed in Russia.
After the broadcast, Leonid Gozman uploaded the video to Youtube. He said that later it was deleted “due to the large amount of views,” however now it is available on his Facebook page.
The fact that the central Russian propaganda TV channel allowed these thoughts be expressed on air of one of the central channels is surprising, as it the media landscape in Russia is severely limited in freedom of expression and most of the channels broadcast the government’s point of view. This incident raises questions whether Russian TV is employing new tactics.
Many Ukrainian experts are of the opinion that maintaining the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” (“DNR” and “LNR”) in Donbas has become too expensive for Russia because of the sanctions. Thus, it’s likely that Russia will try to get rid of the republics in different ways.
For example, this opinion was expressed at the end of 2016 by Georgiy Tuka, the Deputy Minister on the Temporary Occupied Territories and IDPs in Ukraine:
“We know from open source data that Russia’s money supplies become smaller. This is a result of the sanctions that were imposed against the country. I am confident that they will give up support for ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR.’ But they will stand for Crimea until the end. And it is very important not to reduce the pressure of the sanctions. The most likely way of returning Crimea is by means of centrifugal processes that will start within Russia.”
The scandalous opinion that Ukraine should give up its hopes of returning Crimea in return for Russia supposedly leaving Donbas alone has been also expressed in Ukraine.
The program “60 minutes” on Rossiya-1:
Here is the text of parts of the the 60 minutes program at Rossiya-1 with the participation of Leonid Gozman.
Gozman: Why do I think that responsibility is on you, on me, on Zhenia?
Presenter: On me?
Gozman: Yes, of course, as on the citizens of our country [Russia]. The responsibility for the horror which is going on there [in Donbas].
Because this horrible war with casualties, ugliness, and violence from both sides would not continue for more than a day if we didn’t support it with weapons, money, and people, if we didn’t support these so-called leaders of these “republics”. In my opinion, I do not have evidence, but I have the impression that they are criminals.
One of the leaders of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” Mr. Pushylyn before fighting for the freedom of Donbas used to be a regional manager of the MMM [failed financial pyramid]. Does everybody remember what the MMM was about? So he used to be its regional manager. Now he fights for the freedom of Donbas. I do not trust these people. Who was Zakharchenko?
Presenter: Leonid, I will interrupt you for a second.
Gozman: He was selling chickens. He had two shops. If we stopped supporting these people, the war there would stop in no time. It would have ended not with a genocide or anything like that, that’s bullshit. Because we have an example. There was the city of Sloviansk. For a long time, it was “defended” [from the Ukrainian army] by, as I think, our criminal Girkin. Strelkov-Girkin, a citizen of the Russian Federation.
Presenter: You think, but traditionally do not have proof.
Gozman: I have proof, sorry. He proffessed himself as a commander of this defense. And he is a citizen of the Russian Federation. Before, he used to be an observer of the newspaper Zavtra. Then, Rogozin [Deputy Prime Minister of Russia] promised he would go to a trench in Sloviansk. It is a happiness to be in a trench, “defending” Sloviansk. He said that he will give up all his positions. But he did not get there.
When Girkin was kicked out of Sloviansk and the Ukrainian Army came there, there weren’t any excesses. Normal life was established there. There was no humanitarian catastrophe. We have nothing to do there. Our guys have nothing to do there. And the fact that we support all these Zakharchenkos who get their giant cuts of the pie from the situation etc is yours responsibility, as you are a citizen of the Russian Federation, and my responsibility, as I am a citizen of the Russian Federation.
The presenter tried to change the subject by accusing Ukrainian politicians of radical statements.
Gozman: I am not a citizen of Ukraine. I am worried about the idiots in our government.
Guest: Let him talk, because how long we will be listening to this nonsense.
Gozman: When you show this guy whose mother died. Any person in this studio understands that this is horrible. Those who have relatives there [in Donbas] for sure and those who do not have relatives there, everybody wants it to stop. But I am not sure that our authorities want it to stop. I think we need to continue [the war]. We receive a lot from it. Our leadership receives a lot from this war.
Presenter: What do we receive?
Gozman: They receive a consolidation of society. They receive an enemy. But now Trump. You were vilifying Obama for 3 years. Now we are not allowed to blame Americans. Now they are good.
Guest: You are not allowed to blame Americans?
Gozman: No, you [the media] are not allowed. Erdogan now is a friend. But we need an enemy. We have to explain why our life is bad. So I am afraid that our authorities do not have a strong motivation to stop it. The leadership of “LNR”/”DNR” also does not have this motivation.
Imagine that this horror stops there, where would these Zakharchenkos go? Who in the world needs them?