As tensions escalate between Russia and Ukraine over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Russia has slammed Kyiv over the decision to suspend broadcast licenses of several Russian state television networks, a move that led Ukrainian cable companies to dump a number of Russian TV channels from their line-ups.
Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, is quoted by RT as calling the ban “an attack on democratic freedoms, and a violation of international obligations.”
Dolgov told the Voice of Russia that Ukraine’s real motive was “to cut off millions of citizens of Ukraine from the impartial information and substantive information about the negative phenomena in the humanitarian field which are happening in Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s largest cable operator Volya, which boasts about 20 percent of Ukraine’s pay-TV market, says it removed Russian international channels NTV Mir, RTR Planeta and Perviy Kanal/Channel One from its line-up at midnight Wednesday night, and will begin carrying Russian independent news and information channel Dozhd (“Rain”).
By coincidence, Russia’s biggest cable companies have dropped Dozhd from their lineups for “economic and logistical problems.”
Earlier this year, as Russians prepared to mark the 70th anniversary of the 900-day blockade of Leningrad, Dozhd angered the Kremlin by asking viewers whether Leningrad should have been surrendered in order to save the hundreds of thousands who died of starvation there.
Dozhd, the only independent network in Russia, is now in the middle of a one-week fundraising telethon. A Kremlin spokesperson wished the channel luck in raising enough money to stay on air. Without a miraculous infusion of cash, the network will not last another week. It is not yet clear whether the deal with Ukraine will allow for its survival.
Recently, Ukraine’s Council for National Security and Defense began a probe into Russian networks in that country, accusing them of “spreading information that poses a threat to Ukraine’s national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Russia denies those accusations against its networks.
At the same time, journalists trying to report in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have faced harassment, intimidation and physical assaults. Web news sites have suffered cyber attacks and Russia blocked transmission of four Crimean TV stations, replacing them with signals from Russian state television.