Kremlin-backed fighters muzzle media in Donbas, expert says
Despite Ukraine’s efforts to win people’s minds in the occupied territories of Donbas, the majority of the population there are still not receptive to Kyiv’s message, according to experts.
At least 2.7 million Ukrainians still live in the occupied territories, says Dmytro Tkachenko, who heads the Donbas Think Tank analytical center, and some 44 percent of them see the current situation in eastern Ukraine as a civil war.
Tkachenko says the residents of the occupied Donbas fear to return to government control, and they mostly share the values and mode of thinking of people living in Russia, not in Ukraine.
The Donbas Think Tank has reported that at least 44 percent of those who live in the Kremlin- controlled territories think the freedom of speech conditions there are better than in the rest of Ukraine. And only 11 percent think it is better protected in Ukraine.
The Kremlin-backed forces have taken control of the local media market apart from Moskovsky Komsomolets Donbas — a local branch of the Moscow-based daily newspaper of the same name. But the newspaper is hardly functioning.
Since 2014, the Russian-led occupiers have started publishing the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda every day, lead by Yevgeni Sazonov, the deputy chief editor of Komsomolskaya Pravda in Moscow.
There are two main trends in news coverage: the first is exclusively positive headlines for domestic events and the second very negative reporting about Ukraine.
There are about 20 newspapers, four TV channels and six radio stations in the Donbas now under separatists’ control. All of the papers from the two regional print houses in occupied Donetsk Oblast are approved by the so-called information ministry before the publication. On Aug. 9 it didn’t approve an article on the Malorossiya project (a scheme to take over the whole of Ukraine and rename it Malorossiya) was killed. As Olexandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk, announced the end Malorossiya project, saying that many people didn’t accept it.
Separatists also blocked more than 100 websites in the occupied Donbas as well as all Ukrainian TV channels and radio stations. They only broadcast Shakhtar FC soccer games sometimes — but often without sound, so that the football fans’ famous obscene chant “Putin is khuilo (dickhead),” cannot be heard.