TV News in Russia – March, 2016

How the News is Reported in Russia
March, 2016

Internship in RussiaAccording to a 2016 poll by the independent Levada Center, 80% of Russians view television as thier 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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Internal Politics

New Central Election Commission Head

First Channel reported that President Putin decided not to re-appoint the incumbent chairman of the Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov. The Channel did not mention that Churov had been one of Russia’s most controversial governmental figures and that the mass protests that followed the 2011 Duma Elections had specifically called for his dismissal. First Channel explained simply that the “the authorities indicate in this way that the Central Election Commission is being renewed, adjusting for the increased activity of political life.”

Russia Channel also reported on the election commission changes, stating that Churov’s successor will be Ella Pamfilova, formerly Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights. According to Russia Channel, the new Central Election Committee now has people from Russia’s various political factions including liberal party Yabloko, the Communist Party, Just Russia, and LDPR. The new Central Election Committee will have to organize not only Duma election in the fall of 2016, but the presidential elections of 2018 as well.

Russian Opposition Held Convention in Lithuania

First Channel reported that Russian opposition activists held a convention in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. About 200 people participated in the event, including “those who call themselves political emigrants and those who deal with human rights and opposition activities in Russia.” First Channel sarcastically stated that the opposition activists “were arguing about the fate of the Russian people.” According to First Channel, the convention participants physically attacked the reporters of Russia Channel who came to the event and tried to ask one of the opposition leader, Gary Kasparov, for an interview. First Channel mocked several panel sessions of the convention, by stating that at one session, the participants come up with recommendations to terminate broadcasting of Russian channels to other countries, and to collect compromising data about Russian businessmen living abroad, in order to blackmail the businessmen and raise funds for opposition activities.

Moscow Region Migration Procedures

First Channel stated that Russia’s policy towards migrants is more realistic than the Europe’s as Russia insists on the requirement for migrants to be legally employed. According to Russia Channel, every week thousands of migrants go through the Migration Center located in the Moscow Region. At the center, they undergo medical examinations and take exams in Russian history and language. The biggest number of migrants come to Russia from Ukraine, the second biggest number of migrants arrive from Central Asia.

Putin Highly Evaluates Kadyrov’s Work

Russia Channel reported that President Vladimir Putin expressed his appreciation for the work of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. At a meeting with Kadyrov on March 25, President Putin said that Chechnya has transformed in recent years, with prospering towns and villages built in the place of ruins. According to Russia Channel, Vladimir Putin expressed hope that Ramzan Kadyrov would run again for the presidency of Chechnya in September. President Putin signed a decree on appointing Kadyrov (whose term in office expires on April 5) interim head of Chechen republic.

Tver Governor is Resignation of the Week

First Channel reported that, although the reason for the Tver governor resignation was not revealed, he had been rated as Russia’s most “inefficient” governor. He had been criticized by the People’s Front for renting a car at an exorbitant price. He had failed to implement a housing program and had failed to develop the region’s gas infrastructure development due to huge debts the region owes to gas companies. His subordinates were also involved in corruption scandals.

Syria

Putin: Syrian Operation Puts Russian Military Equipment to Test

Russia Channel reported that President Putin headed the acceptance of military equipment at National Defense Center on March 11. The channel quotes the President as saying that, “new samples (of military equipment) are being used actively… and, of course, the use of this up-to-date equipment, aircraft equipment – primarily against terrorists in Syria – became a serious test for this equipment.”

Outcome of Military Operation in Syria

First Channel reported that the operation in Syria cost 33 billion rubles (currently about $485 million) and was funded from the Defense Ministry money initially intended for military exercises and training. Russian bombers Su-34 and Su-24 and Su-25 jet aircraft are being withdrawn from Hmeymin airbase, with only a squadron of Su-24 and some Su-30 and Su-25 fighters and attack helicopters left there. Military experts believe this is sufficient for supporting the Syrian army from the air. President Putin was quoted as saying that “Syrian army took the initiative and continue to clear out terrorist gangs from its land,” but, most importantly ‘we created conditions for the start of armistice process.” The report named pilot Oleg Peshkov, marine sergeant Aleksandr Pozynich, special forces officer Fyodor Zhuravlev, and military advisor Ivan Cheremisin as having been killed in the conflict.

Russia’s Decision to Withdraw Troops from Syria Caught West by Surprise

First Channel states that the West was surprised with Russia’s decision to withdraw the troops from Syria “even more than with the decision to deploy them there.” First Channel quotes some Western military experts and analysts as saying that President Putin’s move was “very smart,” that “Russia had regained its position in the world,” and even that “President Putin had outsmarted President Obama” on the issue of Syria.

We’ll Be Back: Putin Will Return Troops to Syria if Needed

Russia Channel quotes President Putin as saying that “If required, Russia is able to build up its military group in the region (of Syria) to the size equivalent to the situation, and to use the entire arsenal of the available capacities. We wouldn’t like to do this. Military escalation is not our choice. For this reason, we count on the common sense of all the parties, on the commitment of both the Syrian authorities and the opposition to the process of armistice.”

Americans Started Understanding Russia’s Actions in Syria Better

Russia Channel quotes President Putin as saying after the meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry that ‘we understand that our accomplishments in the area of Syria were achieved only due to the position of the highest political leadership of the United States, position of President Obama’. The channel also quoted John Kerry as saying that ‘now we understand better the decisions made by President Putin lately, and we better understand how to proceed’.

Crimea

Two Years after Crimea’s Return to Russia: Russian Realities and Ukraine’s Blockade

First Channel states that the two years after Crimea became a part of Russia have been difficult due to an “energy blockade, a transport blockade on the part of Ukraine, the blocking the supplies of food.” Meanwhile, the “Russian authorities tried to do everything so that Crimea which returned (to Russia) feels comfortable, but everything requires time.” First Channel reported that “in two years, Crimea and Sebastopol completely integrated into the legal and financial and economic space of Russia.” The channel emphasized the benefits that Crimeans have received: “the start of constructing accommodation for veterans, public sector workers, and military men for the first time in the recent 25 years, opening new kindergartens, introducing three official languages in Crimea: Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar. Also, 16 hospitals have been renovated, health care became free, and doctors use up-to-date diagnostic equipment.”

Anniversary of Crimea’s Return Celebrated from Far East to Kaliningrad

First Channel reported that about 400,000 people took part in the celebrations, with a big concert of pop stars arranged in the center of Moscow. President Putin addressed the nation from Tuzla Island, where a bridge is being constructed from the Russian mainland to Crimea. Putin called Crimea’s return “historic justice.”

Crimean Bridge Can Withstand 8-Point Earthquake

Russia Channel reported that the 19-kilometer bridge to Crimea will be constructed in less than 3 years’ time. The bridge is to withstand all seismic phenomena and ice drifting. In fact, the constructed bridge consists of two bridges – one for cars, another one for trains. Car traffic over the bridge is to be opened in December 2018. The railway bridge is to be opened in 2019.

Meldonium Doping Scandal

First Channel reported that meldonium has been widely used by Russian athletes since the 1970s but was banned by international sporting groups in January, 2016. However, it was detected in the blood of famous tennis player Maria Sharapova and ice-skaters Semen Elistratov, Ekaterina Konstantinova, and Pavel Kulizhnikov. First Channel states that the current system of banning certain pharmaceuticals is completely arbitrary and leaves much room for ambiguity.

Russia Channel states that “there is a policy element” in disqualifying Russian athletes for doping as “it is pleasant for someone to remove Maria Sharapova from the court, to remove our athletes from the Sochi podium.” Russian officials responsible for sports, intend to push for the removal of meldonium from the list of banned substances.

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.