Krem­lin-backed fight­ers muz­zle me­dia in Don­bas, ex­pert says

Kyiv Post - - National - BY OLENA GONCHAROVA [email protected]

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.

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