In May 2022, three committees of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada appealed to national parliaments in EU and NATO member states as well as major international institutions to sanction Russian propaganda as part of the Russian military machine. This would include media organs and persons involved in disseminating propaganda along with their families.Euromaidan Press spoke to two Ukrainian MPs who worked on this appeal – Iryna Herashchenko from the European Solidarity Party and Oleksandr Merezhko from the Servant of the People Party.
Ukrainian intelligence said Russia may be planning to organize a staged “press tour” to Mariupol for international journalists.
This is not the first time that the Russian occupational authorities have used their dirty methods to organize such press tours and transport not only their propaganda media but also respectable Western media to the occupied territories.
It is obvious that Western agencies and TV channels will agree to these conditions because this is the only chance to see with their own eyes what now goes on in Mariupol.
In my opinion, there is a very fine line between a journalist’s duty to inform and the propaganda in which Russian propagandists are now trying to involve the whole world in order to relaunch the lies that Ukraine is at war with Ukraine [the Russian propagandists spread messages about a “civil war” in Ukraine in and after 2014] and about nationalists from whom Russians allegedly defend Mariupol. Therefore, it seems to me that Ukraine needs to remember that this is a hybrid war, where the information component is as important as the full-scale aggression itself.
How can this information propaganda component Russia’s war aggression be fought?
We, the European Solidarity Party, believe that a Bucha List should be created. The name of the list is comes from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, through which the entire civilized world received its first from Russian atrocities that carried elements of genocide.
The perpetrators of this genocide are certainly the Russian propagandists who for years have been brainwashing the Russian society that there is Nazism in Ukraine, that Ukraine needs to be liberated from someone, that Russian-speaking people are oppressed, that some “Banderas” need to be destroyed so on. Russian propagandists became the instigators of Russian crimes in Ukraine.
It is very wrong when only Margarita Simonyan, Vladimir Solovyov, Yevgeny Kiselyov, and Olga Skabeyeva are included on this list. Because they are, so to speak, colonels of the information front; but soldiers, majors, sergeants, al those who offered ammunition to this information front have the same responsibility for brainwashing first their compatriots, and then a part of Ukrainians.
Therefore, the entire editorial board of Russia Today, Russia 24, RIA Novosti, TASS, and other Russian news agencies and TV channels should be included in the Bucha List.
In addition, the Bucha List should include all those guests of the Russian talk shows who, foaming at the mouth, talked about the need to turn Ukraine into nuclear dust and who do brainwashed the Russians that they do not believe that Russia is killing Ukrainians here, even when their Ukrainian relatives say so. Instead, Russians respond that “you are all to blame for everything and Putin has tolerated you for so long.” Who should be responsible for the fact that they say so?
What can the EU do to combat Russian propaganda?
Since 2014 our party has been fighting very hard to shut down all Russian propaganda sites and media in all European countries so that this, so to speak, poison does not reach Berlin, Paris, and other European cities where it works as well.
Another thing I personally worked on for a long time was the appropriate vocabulary. The French media wrote for a long time that the Russian-controlled troops in Donbas are “rebels,” or “separatists.” These are not separatists, there have always been regular units of the Russian army and the FSB. Therefore, it is very important to continue to insist on the correct vocabulary and react harshly.
And finally: I have already addressed a similar initiative to the Ukrainian authorities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There must be a very strict vetting of foreign journalists working in Ukraine. All those who worked at least one day in Russian propaganda media, for example for Russia Today, should not receive accreditation in Ukraine. That’s fair.
In the West, there is still a lack of understanding of Russia’s hybrid methods of warfare. Marina Ovsyannikova is already recognized as a hero, mentioned in speeches of world leaders, and was hired at Die Welt, despite the fact that coming out with an anti-war poster on air of Russian propaganda TV could well be a special operation.
Sorry, but the real heroes are Ukrainian journalists. Max Levin is a hero, not those who lied for so many years, fooled their society, completely sharing Putin’s hateful ideology, and now they are elements of promoting the thesis of “good Russians” who are not to blame for the war in Ukraine. I see a very big threat in this thesis. Or, at best, some Russian journalists are just very cunning and now want to whitewash their reputation and continue to work in the profession, but now abroad.
In my view, if a person repents for her actions, let her now atone with actions. Instead, Marina Ovsyannikova is proposed to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This is nonsense which discredits these awards. Moreover, it offends Ukrainian journalists and journalists from other countries who have really risked their lives in Ukraine. There are already two dozen murdered media representatives. There are also those who have been taken captive. And against their background, many say that a very brave girl held a placard for a minute.
“The decision of Die Welt to appoint a former editor of a Russian propaganda TV channel to speak about Ukraine, when Ukraine is fighting for the right to finally speak for itself and when it is absolutely necessary to increase journalistic voices from Ukraine and not from Russia, is outrageous. We think that with this decision Die Welt contributes more to the imperialist division of the world than to building a democracy in which each state has the right to its own voice.”
The signatories of the letter stressed that despite Marina Ovsyannikova emphasizing her Ukrainian roots and solidarity with Ukraine, she could not even pronounce the words “Ukraine” and “Ukrainian” correctly (she was making the wrong emphasis) and could not take responsibility for the war by her home country. They stressed that Ovsyannikova also speaks of the war as a “fratricidal” war between two “fraternal peoples” and thus spreads the Russian propaganda myth of the fraternal peoples of Ukraine and Russia.
The authors of the letter also pointed out that the fine she was given by Russian authorities (about EUR 250) was surprisingly small given the new Russian law on fakes, which has already entered into force in the Russian Federation as of March 14.
“In her text, ‘Russians are afraid’ Marina Ovsyannikova tells how humanitarian aid was organized for Ukrainian refugees in Russia’s Kaluga Oblast but does not express any doubts about whether the Ukrainian women and men wete ‘evacuated’ to Russia of their own goodwill, does not say a single word about abductions and deportations Russia conducts in occupied territories of Ukraine. These and other gaps in Ukraine’s knowledge and understanding, as well as active participation in anti-Ukrainian propaganda in the past, have disqualified her as an expert on Ukraine.”
The letter is available in German and Ukrainian
Yet the idea that there is another good Russia still exists. But there is no good Russia if 80% of Russians support Putin and this “special operation.” Others are still silent. They allowed this story to take place. That is why Russia must be held accountable. It is very ridiculous now to say that someone is good because someone suddenly came to their senses.
At our level, as politicians, as statesmen, we convey to the partners our position about the inadmissibility, in fact, about the insult to Ukrainian society to hire all these Ovsyannikovs and even mention them as examples of “enlightened mind.” But it must be a systematic state work.
Do you think that Russian propaganda has changed somehow after 24 February 2022?
It has not changed and is working at full capacity. First, Russian propagandists continue to brainwash their society. The key task of Russian propagandists is to ensure support of Russians for the war. They need Putin to continue to have 80% legitimacy. They continue to send these aggressive, absolutely fascist messages. They say that Ukraine must be destroyed. Then they threaten the whole world with nuclear weapons. They threaten Great Britain and the United States. It is a language of hatred and a search for reasons why Ukraine should be attacked.
How can Russian propagandists be brought to responsibility for inciting war against Ukraine?
First, Russian propagandists should be on the sanctions list, to have their accounts and property arrested. Because not only Vladimir Solovyov has a house on Lake Como. They all made a living from propaganda.
Second, propaganda TV channels must be switched off.
And third, if we talk about the criminal liability of Russian propagandists, this mechanism is a bit more complicated. Here it is necessary to record Russian propagandists’ crimes, all these calls for bombing on Ukraine, and so on, so that they are held accountable.
It seems to me that the Ukrainian state has not worked hard to gather evidence of Russian crimes since 2014, so today the priority is to clearly record all crimes of propaganda, of violence, and murder. In addition to the information about the orders, the captured Russian soldiers should also be asked who motivated them to commit crimes and to attack Ukraine in general. I think they will lead us to these propagandists.
We are currently improving Ukrainian legislation, introducing clear rules on what war crimes are. Among others, we must very clearly single out propaganda campaigns, which are in fact an incitement to war crimes. Also, at the level of political dialogue with the world, once the propagandists are on the sanctions list, it will be much easier to promote not only sanctions but also criminal liability.
I personally never give interviews to any Russian media because there are no good Russians. This is obvious. They are all responsible for building not just a dictatorship but fascism in their country. And that this country attacked Ukraine. It is hard to imagine anyone giving an interview to German Nazi propaganda media during World War II.
But Ukrainian TV continues to include “good Russians” in their programs, promoting this very topic that it’s not that straightforward, that the truth is somewhere in the middle. At the same time, they ignore the fact that Russian opposition leaders themselves promoted the ideas of “Slavism” instead of protesting in Russia. I think they allowed this monster to be born.
Unfortunately, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information is currently engaged in political censorship, when it shuts down three undesirable channels and creates lists of undesirable politicians for the state telethon. Martial law, of course, warrants certain restrictions and responsibilities for state political forces and politicians, but this is no reason to impose political censorship.
“We call for tougher sanctions on Russian institutions involved in disinformation, propaganda, and media manipulation, and for sanctions to be imposed on those involved in its development and dissemination, as well as on members of their families.
We urge the world media not to cooperate with former employees of Russian propaganda outlets and not to expose their audiences to the danger of falling victim to Russian psychological operations.
We call for an end to the broadcasting of Russian media via satellite systems, as such resources are used by Russia exclusively to pursue aggressive political, economic, and military goals of the Russian Federation, completely ignoring the need to adhere to standards of journalistic ethics. Instead, we urge satellite providers to involve Ukrainian broadcasters in their broadcasts.
We call on all media to refrain from spreading Russian propaganda narratives and not to provide a platform for Russian propagandists to spread lies and misinformation. We call on the administrators of social networks, video hosting services, and other media platforms to stop the spread of Russian disinformation and propaganda, to make additional efforts to verify information published on such resources for Russian lies and manipulations, and not to promote Russian propaganda and incitements for violence”
On 2 March 2022 the Council of the European Union announced that the EU will suspend the broadcasting activities of Sputnik and RT/Russia Today (RT English, RT UK, RT Germany, RT France, and RT Spanish) in the EU, or directed at the EU, “until the aggression to Ukraine is put to an end, and until the Russian Federation and its associated outlets cease to conduct disinformation and information manipulation actions against the EU and its member states.”
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