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‘Many moments were not included’ Russia’s Security Council session on recognition for eastern Ukraine’s separatists was billed as a live broadcast. Not only was it taped — it was edited.
The Kremlin’s handling of recognition for the self-proclaimed separatist “republics” in eastern Ukraine has raised many questions, including purely logistical uncertainties surrounding the National Security Council session, where President Putin ordered senior officials to state their support or opposition to the recognition of the so-called DNR and LNR. The gathering was made available to the public in an unusual national broadcast on Monday evening. At first glance, the event seemed to be aired live, but some noticed signs (such as the time displayed on different wristwatches) that the footage was prerecorded and even edited. These viewers were right.
After the broadcast, the president made an almost one-hour televised appeal to the nation, during which he attacked the leaders of Ukraine and announced Moscow’s recognition of the two breakaway “republics.” In this address, Vladimir Putin looked much more focused than in the Security Council video. Immediately afterward, television networks aired footage of a Kremlin ceremony where Putin and the heads of the separatist republics signed friendship agreements.
At a February 22 briefing, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Monday’s broadcast was prerecorded. Peskov explained the process and the decision to open the Security Council meeting to the public in the following terms:
It was an extraordinary meeting of the Security Council, which the president convened in response to the extraordinary situation in the two republics. And the subject of recognition of these two republics is, of course, extraordinary. It was extremely important to present the head of state’s entire argument, the arguments of the members of the Council, and their points of view on these very, very important issues. And, of course, to show it first to the citizens of our country, but also, of course, it was very important [to show it] for understanding abroad.
In fact, there were no “live” spots because it was not shown live. Certain nuances of the Security Council did not appear on the air. You are aware that, normally, Security Council decisions are presented only in speeches by the head of state. No other statements have ever been shown. [In this case,] the format is unusual — there is indeed an unprecedented openness — but the extraordinary nature of the topic dictated that need.
Journalists asked why comments by Attorney General Igor Krasnov were cut from the broadcast, while comments by Foreign Intelligence Service director Sergey Naryshkin (who stated that he supports Russian annexation of the two breakaway republics) were included. Peskov replied that “many moments were not included” in the broadcast.
Regarding the emotions Vladimir Putin subsequently demonstrated in his national address, Peskov said that the president, as in earlier situations, “showed maximum composure”: “When it comes to conceptual reflections, yes, there is a calmer manner of speaking, but where we are talking about real time, where we are talking about those tragic events that have taken place, of course, there are emotions added to this maximum composure.”
At the end of Tuesday’s press briefing, Peskov laid out for journalists the following chronology of the events on February 21, when the decision was reached to recognize the breakaway territories.
First, there was a meeting of the Security Council.
Then there were many individual consultations.
Then the text of the document was prepared.
Then there was the recording of Putin’s appeal to Russians.
Then there was the broadcast of the videotape.
While the tape was being broadcast, the Kremlin ceremony took place. Footage of the signing arrived just as that national address broadcast was ending. It was recorded late in the evening.
Translation by Carol Matlack
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