TV News in Russia – Foreign Affairs – December, 2018

This month, we take a look at the view from Russia via its news coverage. Russia’s TV news is increasingly focusing on cultural reporting and reporting on foreign affairs. Coverage of domestic politics and economy is increasingly taking a back seat on the main weekend programs (although extensive coverage, particularly on economic issues, can still be found on other news broadcasts, particularly on Rossiya 24). Below is a round up of major reporting from this month on art, holidays and rememberances, food culture, and education.

According 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 from the Sunday news reports.

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G-20 Summit in Buenos-Aires Finished, Kuril Islands Discussed

First Channel reports that on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Buenos-Aires, President Putin had negotiations with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe regarding concluding a peace treaty between the two countries. No treaty was negotiated at the end of WWII. In particular, the two leaders discussed the future of the Kuril Islands, which Russia controls but Japan still claims and which are the main reason why a treaty was never negotiated. Further negotiations will be based on the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956, the only joint document concerning the issue acknowledged by the two states.

Regarding G-20 Summit itself, First Channel states that G-20 countries were able to sign a joint declaration calling for the elimination of trade barriers, and proposing reforms to the WTO, and, in particular, its arbitrage system. Many emerging economy states have long been dissatisfied with the structure of the WTO and other international organizations, which they say favor larger, developed states.


On Second Day of G-20 Summit, Vladimir Putin Had Bilateral Meetings

First Channel reports that President Putin had breakfast with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his first major meeting at the summit. The topics discussed included the situation in Syria and “the attempt of breakthrough of Ukrainian military ships.” First Channel quotes Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, as saying that “The President gave a complete explanation of the Black Sea incident.” On the last day of the G-20 Summit, Vladimir Putin met with the Turkish President to discuss the situation in Syria and economic cooperation between Russia and Turkey, including, in particular, the Turkish Stream project.

President Putin also met Chinese leader Xi Jinping. First Channel states that the two leaders were sincerely happy to see each other. At the meeting, Vladimir Putin invited Xi Jinping to visit Russia and take part in St. Petersburg Economic Forum, and the Chinese leader accepted the invitation.

Also, trilateral negotiations took place between the leaders of Russia, India and China. The channel stated that “numerous challenges to global stability were discussed, for example, the Western policy of sanctions and protectionism.”

At a meeting with the President of France, Vladimir Putin discussed economic cooperation and, as First Channel put it, “the incident with military ships, which was an excuse for Donald Trump to cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin.” Press Secretary Peskov says that Russia regrets that discussing important issues between US and Russian leaders is postponed for an indefinite term, but, nevertheless, President Putin is ready to continue the dialogue. Yuriy Ushakov, a Russian Presidential aide, says that the dialogue between the two countries will continue as the US government officials offered to continue working contact.


FSB States That Crimean Bridge Was Possible Target of Ukraine’s Provocation

First Channel reports that representatives of Federal Security Service told the media new details of the incident in the Kerch Strait of November 25, indicating that it was a provocation by Ukraine, with the goal to destroy the newly built bridge over the Kerch Strait. According to First Channel, members of several terrorist groups were detained by security officers in Crimea over the last two years.

As for the Kerch Strait, it was the Russian territory even before Crimea joined Russia, and the rules for boats in that area have been the same for the last 20 years: any boat should announce its intention to pass through the strait 48 hours beforehand.

The detained Ukrainian seaman are not prisoners of war, as Russia is not in the state of war with Ukraine, the channel continued. However, they violated the Criminal Code by illegally crossing the Russian border, First Channel concluded.


Washington Uses Terrorists as Pretext for Interfering in Affairs of Sovereign States, Vyacheslav Volodin States

First Channel reported that the politically powerful Chairman of the State Duma, Vycheslav Volodin, attended a six-nation Meeting of Parliament Speakers on Combating Terrorism and Extremism, held in Teheran. There, he argued that the USA uses terrorists as an instrument of pressure and as a pretext for interfering in the affairs of sovereign states. According to Volodin, the geopolitical ambitions of the USA are preventing unified global action in Syria. He proposed that a single list of terrorist organizations be made for use by the six countries in attendance.


Petr Poroshenko Announced the Creation of The Ukrainian Orthodox Church

In its report, First Channel calls establishing an autocephalous church in Ukraine a “schism,” stating that the head of this church is not a patriarch, but a metropolitan. The new head, Epiphany, is a representative of the schismatic Kiev Patriarchy. The church council where the split was created, was ignored by both the representatives of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy and the Constantinople Patriarchate, but crowds of public sector workers were brought, who did not understand well what was happening, First Channel reports. It quoted Vladislav Pustovoit, the Head of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods of Ukraine, as saying that this is outrageous lawlessness, and the newly established Ukrainian church will be heavily dependent on the Constantinople Patriarchate, not having even one-third of the freedom which the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate enjoys. The spokesperson of the Moscow Patriarchate said in a First Channel interview that the council has no meaning, it was just a meeting of two schismatic groups. The Channel never called the chuch a “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” but instead relied on the terms “Ukrainian Autocephalous Local Orthodox Church” or “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.”


Moscow and Ankara Agree to Cooperate in Syria

First Channel reports that defense ministers of Russia and Turkey discussed how to cooperate in Syria after US troops withdraw. A future withdrawal was announced by President Trump. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a First Channel interview that the two countries will continue coordinating their efforts for uprooting the terrorist threat in Syria, in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.


Battle of Titans: China is Prevailing over USA in Technological Front

Russia Channel states that China is becoming a leader in technology, leaving America behind. According to Russia Channel, Chinese corporation Huawei is the leader in developing 5G networks, and Huawei has the second highest sales of phones worldwide after the Korean corporation Samsung. Meanwhile, US corporation Apple is only third. Russia Channel states that the USA is “just hysterical,” but such moves as the arrest Meng Wanzhou, who is the daughter of Huawei’s founder and who also serves as Chief Financial Officer at Huawei, are “unlikely to help.”

Russia Channel reports that the arrest was followed by “surge of patriotism” in Chinese social networks, and that the “Huawei case” is an issue of national pride for the Chinese people.

“Some people in Beijing regarded the scandal as an attempt to deter China and tantamount to declaring a technological war,” Russia Channel states. It quotes analyst Joseph Chen as saying that China gave a strong response, based on patriotism, to the alleged attempts “of the USA and other countries” to deter its modernization, and that the recent arrests of Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on suspicion of endangering national security, demonstrates China’s readiness for confrontation with the West. Wanzhou was arrested while in Canada.


USA Has Threatened to Introduce New Sanctions on Russia, China and Iran

First Channel states that “the USA threatened to introduce new sanctions toward Russia, China and Iran” for the alleged interference in the Congressional November elections. First Channel calls these charges “unsubstantiated” and quotes Spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova, who issued a harsh statement, saying that “such behavior of the rulers of the world causes just disdain and fastidiousness.”


America is Withdrawing from The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty under “Suspicious” Excuse

Russia Channel reports that from February 2, the USA is withdrawing from The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Raegan. The treaty prohibits Russia and the USA from having ground-launched missiles as well as launchers with ranges of 500–5,500 km. The channel states that the USA is using “a specious excuse for this withdrawal, accusing Russia of everything.”

Russia Channel quotes president Putin as saying that the treaty was not signed on equal terms, as it did not cover sea-launched missiles, which the USA possesses. For this reason, the treaty became a “unilateral disarmament” of the Soviet Union, which destroyed all its short and medium-range missiles, while “our partners continued developing their sea-launched and air-launched missile systems,” Putin states.

Russia Channel states that the USA is displeased with the fact that recently, Russia has created new air-launched and sea-launched missiles which do not fall under the treaty. However, this does not violate the treaty, Putin states, while, according to him, the USA “directly violates” the treaty by delivering Aegis combat systems to Romania and by planning to supply them to Poland.

Russia Channel states that, in any case, Russia does not intend to get involved in an arms race because it has “learned a big lesson from the experience of the Soviet Union.” The channel quotes President Putin as saying that Russia has sufficient resources which it allocates for the purposes of ensuring defense and country’s security.


“Avangard” is Impossible to Catch: Orbital Velocity and Complex Trajectory

Russia Channel states that one of the most important outcomes of the year is creation of new weapon in Russia – the Avangard Intercontinental Missile, which was successfully tested recently and became a “technological breakthrough,” while the USA or any other country “have nothing of this sort.” Russia channel compared the new missile launch with the travel of the first human into space.

The Avangard missile can travel 27 times faster than sound, which is close to orbital velocity. The missile can be steered both horizontally and vertically, meaning that its trajectory is also unpredictable.

Taking into account the fact that this year, new air-launched missiles Kinzhal (Dagger) were supplied to the Russian army, aircraft carriers stopped being invulnerable, Russia Channel states, comparing the ships, which have always been a symbol of American might, with “floating metal scrap.”

Russia Channel states that not Russia, but the USA initiated this new recent “arms race” by withdrawing from The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001.


Frontline Music of Donbass: Russian Performers Help Militiamen Strengthen Fighting Spirit

Russia Channel states that the concert tours of Russian performers in Donetsk, made the past year beautiful for the people of the war-torn Donbass region.

The Cossack Brothers band from Moscow performed on the frontline, where the Sparta Battalion is positioned. Rock singer Yulia Chicherina performed on the frontline as well, where former miners who became “militiamen,” sang with her.

Another Russian singer and actor, Merited Artist of Russia Alensandr Sklyar, sang in the Lugansk Philharmonic, told Russia Channel that “I had a feeling that in the toughest times, a musician should be with his people.”.

Russia Channel quoted Aleksandr Usmanov, the lead singer of The Cossack Brothers band, as saying that “It is not about Donbass needing Russia, Russia needs Donbass. Here, when we sing our grandfathers’ songs in trenches and dugouts, we start realizing why we are alive and why we are Russians.”

Vadim Samoilov, a musician from the popular Russian band Agatha Christi, performed in Donbass as well. He told Russia Channel that “people there say that they fight for Russia, and it is true.”

According to Russia Channel, the authorities in Kyiv perceive these performers who visited Donbass as enemies. The performers have been put on the “hit lists” of Mirotvorets (Peacekeeper) website and have been officially blocked from visiting Ukraine.


Vladimir Putin Personally Hands an Award “For Strengthening the Russian Nation” to Philologist Lyudmila Verbitskaya

First Channel reports that President Putin gave an award “For Strengthening the Russian Nation” to an outstanding philologist, the Head of Russian Education Academy Lyudmila Verbitskaya. Previously, she was unable to attend the award ceremony in the Kremlin on People’s Unity Day of November 4. Thus, Vladimir Putin visited her at her St. Petersburg home and gave the award personally. The President told Lyudmila Verbitskaya that the Russian language builds the Russian nation and plays a special role in strengthening the nation. Further, Putin continued, Lyudmila Verbitskaya has made a special contribution to assisting in retaining and strengthening Russian education and to the field of education on the whole.

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,, 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.