It’s a flash of information like so many others on Russian television for three days. At the end of the afternoon this Saturday, February 26, Rossia 24, the main continuous news channel, takes stock of the war in Ukraine. But the word is not spoken. It’s about a “special operation” in defense of the Donbass, a simple routine intervention resembling an invisible war.
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The fighting in Kiev is overshadowed. If a frozen and sunny image of the main square of the Ukrainian capital appears on the screen, most of the subjects relate to the Russian intervention in the east of the country, in the two republics of Donbass which, after the recognition of their independence by Moscow, asked for military aid. The presenter plays neutrality but reporters on site, officials from the Ministry of Defense and outside contributors get the message across: Russian soldiers must react to ” Provocation “ from “nationalists” Ukrainians; their actions are precise, clean and effective, sparing deserters and civilians.
“Don’t worry, we will find solutions and everything will be fine”
Then the presenter goes on to economic subjects, quickly mentioning the new Western financial and industrial sanctions against Russia without mentioning their scope. With the exception of the “air blockade”, decided by several Eastern European countries, which prohibits planes from flying over their territory.
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“Don’t worry, we will find solutions and everything will be fine”, reassures Gennadi Ziouganov, the leader of the Communist Party invited live to comment on the news. It’s the voice of the “opposing” authorized to express himself: he comes to bring his “full support” at the “ special operation. He hopes the “demilitarization” of Ukraine, denounces the “Nazi and oligarchic regime” in Kiev and concludes by expressing all his “solidarity” to soldiers in the field.
The public debate on the “invasion” in Ukraine, a word banned from the media, is confined to these words of support. The authorities have warned: any opposition will be punished. The press has been called to order: obligation to publish only information from official sources. The Russian regulator has also ordered the media to remove from their content the words “invasion”, “offensive” Where ” declaration of war “ and any reference to civilians killed by the Russian military.
“Stop your hysteria in the west”
The televisions therefore do not give any assessment of the losses and denounce the Western “infoxes” relating to Russian attacks on civilians. In the analysis programmes, the Kremlin’s messages are repeated over and over again: Kiev had received the guarantee of its NATO membership; Ukraine was a threat to national security; the existence of this independent and pro-European state is a historical aberration; his neofascist regime carried out a genocide against Russian speakers; Moscow is going to Kiev to restore ancestral ties.
“Cease your hysteria in the west, everything will be fine! Putin is right. Russia is within its right to go there and we should have done it before. » Katia, a senior executive in a public research center, takes up the authorities’ argument that Moscow is not starting a war, he is ending the operation begun in 2014. Allusion to this pivotal year for Vladimir Putin when he annexed Crimea but lost its influence in Ukraine.
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These messages are widely relayed, including on social networks infiltrated by the services, then taken up in conversations between Russians. The majority of Russians, informed mainly by monitored television, are unaware that their country has launched a real war. They saw no image of urban fighting involving shelling and shooting with small arms by the Russian army and residents taking refuge in the metro. The latest events are similar, for them, to the simple continuation of a Ukrainian soap opera that they have been following since 2014.
Without specifying the targeted places, yet far from the Donbass and the “special operation”, the channels do however speak of military actions. But it’s about “high precision strikes” of the Russian army whose tanks, according to the images of Rossia 24, would be welcomed with enthusiasm by the Ukrainian populations. A parallel reality.