TV News in Russia – February, 2016

How the News is Reported in Russia
February, 2016

Policy and Conflict Post SovietAccording to a 2016 poll by the independent Levada Center, 80% of Russians view television as their primary source of news. The same Levada poll, however, shows that only 41% trust the news as an objective source of information. The broadcasts sampled here are from Russia’s most-watched channels: First Channel and Russia Channel.

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Syria

Negotiations Start – Syrian Authorities and Opposition

First Channel reports that the first round of negotiations between the official Syrian authorities and the opposition could last for about a week. The parties sit in three different rooms: the representatives of the government – in one room, the opposition figures from a list made by Saudi Arabia – in another room, and all other opposition figures – in the third room. UN special envoy for the Syria crisis Staffan de Mistura “is roaming between them, trying to find common ground” the channel states.

Russian Air Operation to Continue until Fundamental Improvement Achieved in Fighting ISIS

First Channel quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying that Russia does not intend to stop its air operation in Syria until a “fundamental improvement is achieved in fighting ISIS.” Meanwhile, as the channel states, this perseverance in fighting ISIS has been the reason why the opposition suspended peace negotiations. Minister Lavrov commented, saying that “they are too spoilt with their sponsors.”

Damascus: Turkey at Fault for Talks Breakdown

First Channel states that the Presidents of Syria and Turkey used to be friends, then Turkish President Erdogan got ambitions to become the leader in the region, the former friends became enemies, and “those who want to overthrow Assad,” are being supported by Turkey. Thus, the advance of Syrian troops, with support from the Russian Air Force, has become a cause of tension between Turkey and Russia, the channel reports. For example, the channel said, last week Turkey tried to accuse Russia of violating its air space.

Munich Security Conference: Syria and Refugee Crisis Discussed

First Channel reports that Russia and the West had an argument at the Munich Security Conference: while Russia proposed a cease-fire in Syria to start March 1, the West insisted on an immediate cease-fire. Russia asserts this is impossible, given that Syrian opposition withdrew from the talks.

Munich Conference is NATO “Cabal”

Russia Channel reports that, although some discussions were held at the beginning of the Munich conference, it then turned into NATO “cabal”. In particular, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Europe and the USA would stay united on the issue of sanctions to Russia until the Minsk Agreements are executed while Prime Minister Medvedev insisted that the Ukrainian authorities were not willing to implement the agreements. Russian representatives also discussed with the US counterparts the implementation of communiqué provisions for a peace settlement in Syria.

Putin and Obama Phone Call on Syria

According to Russia Channel, in a phone conversation on February 14, “Presidents Putin and Obama expressed support to the efforts of two task forces seeking a cease-fire and humanitarian improvement in Syria, which had been agreed to in Munich. Thus, agreements between Lavrov and Kerry on the close cooperation of our military have been reiterated at the highest level.” The channel added that the agreements need to be implemented “unless Obama intends to leave his presidency with complete devastation in the Middle East, with the risk of it spreading all over the world.”

Turkey and Syria at Brink of War

Russia Channel reports that on February 19, Russia demanded a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the “aggressive actions of Turkey on the Syrian border,” which have included artillery bombardment. Meanwhile, Russia’s draft resolution was vetoed by the US, Britain, and France. The channel denounced Turkish President Erdogan for his policy which is mainly about supporting his “family business on blood-stained oil,” as well as the European leaders who support him.

Lavrov and Kerry Agreed on Preliminary Accord on Armistice in Syria

Russia Channel reports that Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry confirmed in a phone conversation their positions on a cease-fire in Syria which had been agreed on in Munich, and also agreed on US-Russian military cooperation on locating terrorists in Syria. Currently, these proposals are being submitted for the consideration of the US and Russian presidents. The channel stated that “it is pleasant that if America stated previously that it sets the rules, now this is no longer a case.”

Economy

Putin: What Undermines Incomes

Russia Channel reports that on January 25, a convention of the People’s Front, a political movement, took place in Stavropol, with the participation of President Putin. When the President heard complaints that interest rates in Russia are much higher (25% versus 4%) in the West, the Russian President said that “Russia has a different economy, with inflation while the West has economy with deflation,” and therefore “loans with low interest rates in Russia would result in sharp inflation growth which would put the entire economy into turmoil and would kill people’s earnings as well as businessmen’s profits.” The President also said that fighting corruption should be continued, and sanctions against Turkish construction companies are to be expanded. Complaints about the regional governors, given at the conventions, will be discussed during the President’s face-to-face meetings with the governors, the channel states.

Working Together as Anti-Crisis Measure

First Channel quotes President Putin as saying at a meeting of business leaders patriotism is Russia’s “national idea” to solve Russia’s problems make Russia stronger and better. The channel also reported that Prime Minister Medvedev stated that the government’s plan to improve the economy, “supports strategically important industries with high growth potential, production capacities, personnel, and which are able to improve related industries, agriculture, and influence the overall economic development.” The implementation of this plan will cost 500-700 billion dollars, and the money may be obtained from privatizing major state assets in such companies as (oil companies) Rosneft, Bashneft, (diamond miner) Alrosa, and others.

Russia Channel additionally quoted Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich as saying shares in (banking giants) Vneshtorgbank, VTB, (and transport companies) Sovkomflot, Novorossiysk Sea Port, and probably Russian Railways may also be sold.

National Idea: Patriotism and Working for Russia

Russia Channel states that Putin’s foreign counterparts are amazed at the degree of awareness he has about the state of economy and public sentiment in Russia. The channel explains that this awareness comes from Putin’s habit of speaking to people of various ages and stations in Russia’s regions. One such conversation took place on February 3 when the President met with the activists of the Leaders Club which is an informal association of businessmen from 40 regions of Russia. The channel quoted the President as saying that “we don’t have and can’t have any other unifying idea but patriotism. State officials, business, all citizens work so that the country can become stronger. If it is so, each citizen will live better.”

New Items of Anti-Crisis Plan

Russia Channel reports that ‘the Russian government continues brainstorming on making plans for developing the county’s economy.” The channel quotes Prime Minister Medvedev as saying that the document on developing the economy contains, “in addition to anti-crisis solutions, a substantial package of proposals which are designed to create a reserve for the stable development of the economy in the medium-term.” The document, which is called “The Action Plan for Maintaining the Social and Economic Development of the Country in 2016” has two sections: first, a response to cheap oil in combination with measures for social support; second, a plan to change the structure of the Russian economy and improve conditions for business, Russia Channel states.

State SME Help: Easier Access to State Procurement System

First Channel reports that the government has made it easier for small- and medium-sized business to access the state procurement system. In addition, a special program has been launched for military industries of Crimea. The state also is providing support to soviet-built towns whose economies rely on one major factory. Currently, many such factories are experiencing difficulties, resulting in unemployment growth in such towns.

Demolitions in Moscow Debated in Media and on Internet

First Channel reports that by a Moscow city government order, kiosks and street stalls were demolished. According to the channel, the owners of the kiosks could not believe that their property would be destroyed, and when shovels and tractors were brought late at night, the traders desperately started saving their goods, taking away foodstuffs, flowers, furniture, and some traders even tried to barricade themselves from inside. It was of no use, 97 pavilions and kiosks were demolished. The channel stated that the demolished structures were located near metro stations and therefore had high traffic of people. However, the land there had been given to business owners in the 90s for the temporary placement of their businesses.

People who Lost Jobs due to Demolition Will Find Jobs

Russia Channel quotes Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin as saying that the owners of the demolished kiosks will have the opportunity to continue doing business in other parts of the city “on legal grounds.” People who lost their jobs, “can be easily employed” as “Moscow alone has 125 thousand vacancies.”

Patriarch & Pope Meet

Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis to Meet in Havana

First Channel reported that the atrocities committed on Christians and the destruction of their sacred places in the Middle East has reached such a scale that an impossible event will happen – the Pope and Russian Orthodox Patriarch will meet to discuss the issues of the “Christian church.”

Russia Channel stated that the meeting of the Pope and Patriarch “was being prepared for 20 years,” and was not being realized due to the “aggravation of common threats, such as the advance of radical Islam.”

Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis Signed Joint Declaration after Meeting in Havana

First Channel stated that the meeting of the Pope and Russian Patriarch was not just a historic event, it was an unbelievable event, taking into consideration the abundance of contradictions between the two churches. The channel states that Russia as the “Third Rome” had to “fight off attacks from the first Rome for centuries,” and, for this reason, the two hours of the meeting were “too little to leave it all behind.” However, the two churches “got closer” as a result of the meeting, the channel stated.

About the Author

Andrei Nesterov
Andrei Nesterov has reported on political and social issues for the Russian press as well as American outlets such as Russian Life, Worldpress.org, and Triangle Free Press. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the "real Russia" which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and went on to study TESOL and teach Russian at West Virginia University. He is currently working on an MA from St. Petersburg State in International Relations. Andrei contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS site, and is an overall linguistics and research resource. He additionally helps coordinate activities for our students in Moscow.