‘Equipment and basic amenities’ TV Rain fires host for saying the network has ‘helped’ many Russian soldiers, Latvian authorities to investigate his remarks
Leadership at TV Rain fired host Alexey Korostelev after the channel received criticism for Korostelev’s “ambiguous” remarks. In an evening broadcast on December 1 of the program “Zdyes & Seychas” (Here and Now), Korostelev promoted the station’s hotline for information about frontline conditions for Russian draftees, soliciting questions and tips for TV Rain’s email address and Telegram bot. “Many of the stories sent to us or to the Telegram bot are now public. We hope that we can help many service members, for example, with equipment and basic amenities at the front,” he said.
Tikhon Dzyadko, TV Rain’s editor-in-chief, posted on Telegram in the early hours of December 2, apologizing to viewers and writing that Korostelev’s phrasing “gave viewers the sense that TV Rain is providing assistance to the Russian army.” Dzyadko emphasized that the network has never provided equiptment to the Russian army and noted that the hotline was created to collect personal testimonies about the Russian army’s crimes in Ukraine and about violations of Russia’s mobilization laws.
“It’s necessary for us to disseminate this information so that a wide audience recognizes the criminal nature of the Russian leadership’s actions since February 24, 2022. Every Russian citizen, including service members and mobilized soldiers, should know the truth about this criminal and despicable war,” he wrote. He added that Korostelev’s words have been removed from the archived broadcast.
Korostelev’s remarks elicited wide-ranging criticism. Ukrainian activists and bloggers condemned his comments, and Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said the station, which has a license to broadcast in Latvia (and where its editorial office is now located), should go back to Russia, and that its employees’ residence permits should be annulled. “The process has begun,” he posted on Twitter on December 2, without specifying exactly which process. About 90 minutes later, TV Rain announced that Korostelev had been fired.
Additionally, Latvia’s State Security Service announced an investigation into Korostelev’s broadcast. The agency noted that any support of Russia as the aggressor in the conflict with Ukraine is unacceptable. “The State Security Service has warned repeatedly that transferring the activities of Russia’s so-called independent media to Latvia carries various risks,” the agency said in a statement.
Didzis Smits, chairman of the Human Rights Commission in Latvia’s parliament, said the Commission has not yet discussed the scandal, though he added that he believes Latvia should not host Russian media outlets.
“Whatever Russian media might say against Putin, it doesn’t mean that they’re friendly to us,” he said, urging that TV Rain’s funding sources be investigated.
On December 2, TV Rain news anchor and information services director Ekaterina Kotrikadze described Korostelev’s remarks as “erroneous and categorically unacceptable,” clarifying again that the network has never sent equipment to Russian troops. Fighting back tears, she also noted that TV Rain is against the war, and explained that there are “unacceptable on-air phrases, which can raise doubts about our position.” She apologized to viewers for Korostelev’s words.
Hours later, Alexey Korostelev posted on Telegram that “he is prepared to be dismissed for the sake of resolving problems at the network.” He also described his remarks as “a slip of the tongue” and accused other media outlets of taking his words out of context.
“I did not call for murder, directly or indirectly. I didn’t call for killing or for supplying any army in the world. So, I don’t find myself guilty of a crime against humanity,” the journalist emphasized.
Also on December 2, Latvia’s National Council for Electronic Media fined TV Rain 10,000 euros ($10,530) for airing a map that showed Crimea as part of the Russian Federation and using the phrase “our army” to describe the Russian Armed Forces. Council chairman Ivars Abolins noted that this is TV Rain’s second serious violation this month (he did not specify what the first was). He says that the channel could have its broadcasting license revoked if there is a third offense.