The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

Russian public covers ears as state media heightens Ukraine rhetoric.

Russia’s aggressive state television talk shows are a familiar platform for Vyacheslav Kovtun. The broadcasting pundit was for years one of the few Ukrainians regularly invited to air his views in live broadcasts that often became so heated they ended with punches being thrown.

But Kovtun, who is introduced as a political analyst on air, is now worried about the possibility of war, as the shows heighten their bellicose rhetoric amid escalating tensions on the Russia-Ukraine border, in what some observers say is a move by the government to convince the public that any conflict would not be Russia’s fault.

“They swing together with the party line,” he said, referring to the talk shows’ traditional pro-Kremlin positioning.

In recent weeks, state media have broadcast a stream of accusations against Ukraine even as 100,000 Russian troops mass along the border, sparking international fears Moscow could be planning to invade its neighbour. The picture painted by the shows is of Kyiv as an aggressor, backed by a belligerent West, with the alliance posing a dangerous threat to Russia and driving it unwillingly towards conflict.

The talk shows are particularly proactive. Participants – many of them on the fringes of Russian politics – were “constantly calling for a strike, to attack, to enter, to defeat, to annex”, said Irina Petrovskaya, who hosts a show analysing TV content on the opposition-minded Echo of Moscow radio station, in a recent broadcast. The programmes were beset by “military hysteria”, she added.

State news broadcasts tend to be more measured. But this week they alleged Ukrainian forces had transported chemicals to the country’s east for potential use as chemical weapons and listed towns held by Russian-backed separatists in the region where such “provocations” could take place.

In a report published last week, the US state department described this and other claims as “disinformation and propaganda” intended to “influence western countries into believing Ukraine’s behaviour could provoke a global conflict”. The document noted several cases where the US believed Russia was manufacturing pretexts for military action.

Normalising conflict

Ivan Davydov, a journalist who produces a media column for Russian online outlet Znak, recently wrote that “expectations of war are becoming routine” across state TV. The effect was to normalise the concept of conflict. “War becomes possible when people stop seeing it as something out of the ordinary,” he added.

This contrasted with 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and backed a separatist uprising in east Ukraine, he said. Back then Russia and state media outlets denied or downplayed Moscow’s military and political involvement in east Ukraine. But pundits were now depicting armed conflict “as a possible – though not very desirable – option for solving accumulated problems”, he said.

People walk in the Red Square, Moscow, on Tuesday. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

People walk in the Red Square, Moscow, on Tuesday. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

Across state media, Russia was presented as “the most peace-loving country on the planet”, he added. According to media outlets, western leaders “don’t want to listen, they throw around accusations, they provoke, they threaten”, with Moscow forced to respond.

Denis Volkov, of the independent Russian polling centre Levada, said the state media messaging seemed to have succeeded in influencing the public.

In a December poll by the organisation, only 4 per cent of Russians said they believed their country was to blame for escalating tensions. Some 50 per cent blamed the US and Nato, while 16 per cent blamed Ukraine.

“Society is ready for war, in that it has absorbed the Kremlin and Russian state media’s depiction of the situation, that ‘it’s not us, it’s them’,” he said.

But despite the state media barrage, most Russians prefer not to think about conflict, say observers. Focus groups suggested people were tired of existing in a constant state of confrontation with the West and Ukraine, with the attitude being “it’s frightening, unpleasant, and I don’t want to get involved”, Volkov said.

“When you are living in Ukraine you feel the war, but in Russia, [people] do not talk about the war,” said Arshak Makhichyan, a 27-year-old Russian climate activist who was recently detained in Moscow after staging a lone protest against the potential conflict.

Internet

A Levada poll in December found that 53 per cent of respondents said an armed conflict would not happen or was unlikely.

“The public consciousness is somehow filtering it out, it doesn’t want to know about it,” said sociologist Sergei Belanovsky, founder of the Belanovsky Group research group. People, especially outside central Moscow, were more focused on domestic problems than foreign policy, with online discussions dominated by price rises, local news or anti-vaccine content, he said.

Some 32 per cent of respondents to a poll by Levada in January said their quality of life had deteriorated in the previous year, while just 11 per cent said it had improved.

In addition, as elsewhere, the influence of TV is declining as the role of the internet grows, analysts say.

The degree to which the talk shows can be considered a bellwether of the Kremlin mindset is also unclear. “Nobody knows, not you, not me, what Putin thinks,” Kovtun said. “And [the broadcasters] are trying to guess it too.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022

Останні новини
Jan. 6 committee focuses on Trump’s efforts to push the DOJ to overturn the 2020 election

Jan. 6 committee focuses on Trump’s efforts to push the DOJ to overturn the 2020 election

During its fifth public hearing, The Jan. 6 House select committee focused on former President Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Testimony revealed several Republican Congressman sough...

1

Rep. Mace: Democrats clearly have a branding problem

Rep. Mace: Democrats clearly have a branding problem

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., suggests possible reasons behind Democrats' recent push for more police funding and weighs in on the expected violence following the Supreme Court's impending abortion ruling. #FoxNews Subscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox...

Watch live: Roe v Wade overturned by Supreme Court

Watch live: Roe v Wade overturned by Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has voted to overturn the constitutional right to choose abortion, paving the way for half the country to severely restrict or completely ban the practice. Read more here: SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel for more videos: Foll...

50-year battle for reproductive rights

50-year battle for reproductive rights

Abortion rights activists speak on the Supreme Court's possible dismantling of their 50-year effort: "This is a constitutional right that we fought for."

1 1

Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade

Fox News' chief legal correspondent Shannon Bream provides details on the Supreme Court's ruling that reverses the long-standing precedent on abortion in America. #FoxNews Subscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox News Video: Watch Fox News Channel Li...

New York City expanding access to monkeypox vaccine as virus spreads across U.

New York City expanding access to monkeypox vaccine as virus spreads across U.

New York City is making the monkeypox vaccine available to more people as the amount of cases continues to increase in the U.S. Now, groups of at-risk men who have had multiple male sex partners, or anonymous sex in the past two weeks, are eligibl...