100 days of war: How Russian state media are covering Ukraine invasion

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Any dissenting opinion has been very rare on Russian state TV concerning the Ukraine war

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As the war in Ukraine reached its 100-day mark, Russian state television remained silent about this landmark date.

However, over these past few weeks, the country’s pro-Kremlin outlets have consistently given Russian citizens a distorted view of the conflict in Ukraine and the impact of the West’s sanctions. 

Just last week, one of the most popular Russian-language channels even claimed that the US is running out of baby food because President Joe Biden “is too busy putting his nose in Ukraine’s affairs”. 

The segment aired by Pervyy kanal or Channel One on 26 May is symbolic of the TV content that Russian citizens have been watching every day since the war began.

A report by NewsGuard has found that state-controlled media are now focusing on the economic situation in the West and claiming that citizens are facing hardships due to their countries’ support for Ukraine.

Russian State TV aims to discredit Western sanctions

Since 24 February, the pro-Kremlin media has downplayed Russia’s military casualties and denied the mass killing of civilians.

Moscow maintains that it is carrying out a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine, and claims that any atrocities have been staged by Kyiv, despite mounting evidence against the Kremlin and its troops.

Government-backed news organisations have long dismissed any suggestions that Russia’s military is making slow progress in the war while making unproven claims that Ukrainian forces are using citizens as human shields in schools and hospitals.

But NewsGuard has found that — in the last month — the strategy of the Russian state outlets seems to have evolved.

The study found that the likes of Channel One are reporting that people in countries such as France and Germany are suffering from Russian sanctions and paying the price for their countries’ stance. 

“Most stories highlight the hardships for many ordinary people in the West,” said Madeline Roache, a senior reporter and analyst at NewsGuard.

“Some news reports state that owning a car in the US is now a luxury or that people in Germany are being told to wash less often and close the door of their refrigerator fast in order to save energy costs.”

“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin has consolidated his grip on Russia’s information space […] it has never been harder for the state narrative to be challenged,” Roache said.

‘Rare examples of any dissenting opinion’

NewsGuard also found that Channel One has exaggerated the level of opposition abroad to the West’s support for Ukraine.

On 18 May, the TV station reported that millions of Britons are on the brink of poverty because of the rising food and energy prices caused by the Ukraine conflict. 

In the footage, the channel’s journalist claims that many in the UK are angry about the country’s sanctions against Moscow and the resulting state of their economy.

Russian state television has consistently aired a pro-Kremlin war narrative, Roache told Euronews, with “rare examples of any dissenting opinion”.

In an atypical public statement in mid-May, former military colonel Mikhail Khodaryonok gave a more nuanced assessment of Russia’s “international isolation,” but then adjusted his rhetoric just a few days later. 

For most Russian citizens, independent sources of information are hard to come by.

Most of the major Western social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been blocked in Russia, while independent media have been forced to close under the threat of prison sentences if they criticise the country’s decision to go to war or even call it anything else than a “special operation”.

“Ultimately, Russia is feeding the narrative that the West is foolish and hypocritical for helping Ukraine, while Russia is in the right,” said Roache.

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