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'EU invasion' and 'terrorism': the Ukraine crisis as seen from Russia

© Anne-Diandra Louarn

Text by Anne-Diandra LOUARN

Latest update : 2014-02-21

While Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoys the Sochi Olympics, the Kremlin’s spokesman has likened the Ukrainian opposition to extremists being egged on by Europe. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the events as seen from Russia.

Russia was meant to be focused on the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

That was before Ukraine exploded.

Indeed, from special editions on the nightly news to headlines splashed across front pages, the violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police in Kiev have eclipsed the highly lauded Russian hosting gig.

But Russia’s news outlets are wording their coverage of the events in Ukraine with particular care, no longer referring to an opposition protest, but rather to “an attempted coup d’état by radical elements”, as Putin spokesman Dimitri Peskov said on February 19.

Eager to illustrate Russia’s non-interference, Putin himself has remained mum in Sochi, where he is focused on boosting his country’s image in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Still, Pandora’s Box has been opened, and the Russian press is lashing out against the Ukrainians demonstrating against the country’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovich.

’Anti-terrorist operation’

While Western media have shown images of beaten and burned protesters, Russian counterparts have focused on the police force. News channel Russia 24 broadcast montages of photos of officers struggling to contain unruly crowds and carrying out an “anti-terrorist operation”.

Meanwhile, Russian daily MK reported that “nearly 400 policemen were severely injured and 83 struck by bullets”, publishing a photo of a bloodied officer on the ground and downplaying the dozens of fatalities among protesters.

“Kiev is filled with hate and poison contaminating its streets,” wrote Marina Perievozkina, the paper’s correspondent in Kiev. “The air has become literally unbreathable and thick black smoke is hanging over Independence Square, where protesters are burning tires. Many residents of the neighbourhood are complaining of headaches.”

Convinced that the opposition “has been made up of fanatics since the beginning”, MK has portrayed the conflict, which erupted in November and has steadily worsened since, as entirely predictable.

“Every has unfolded like a story for which we already know the ending,” read an article in the publication this week. “In fact, Kiev is becoming the new Grozny.” Grozny is the Chechen capital, which was ravaged by two wars pitting separatists against the Russian government in the 90s.

Ukraine’s Iron Curtain?

The weekly “Argumenti”, for its part, is pushing the comparison even further, condemning what it has painted as the imperialistic stance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

According to an article by journalist Viktor Kristianninov, Germany, in accepting to meet the Ukrainian opposition early in the week, is preparing “a European invasion of Ukraine” similar to the one carried out against the USSR in 1941 by Hitler’s troops. There is no mention of Hitler’s name in the article, but the implication is there. “Merkel wants to show the world her influence by using Ukraine,” the journalist wrote, adding that the Ukrainian president had refused to discuss the current crisis with the German leader.

Beyond the sinister comparisons, speculation about the future of Ukraine has also been rampant in the Russian press, tending to foresee an inevitable, Cold War-style split of the country in two. The notion of a West Ukraine, which is largely pro-EU, and East Ukraine, which supports Yanukovich, seems indeed to have become the favourite subject of Russian political analysts and journalists in the past few days.

A graphic in MK illustrated the potential geographic split, showing three-quarters of Ukraine (including Kiev) forming a new, pro-Russia nation under the current government, and the small Western party, currently in the hands of the opposition, forming the rest.


Date created : 2014-02-21


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