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A propaganda sampler Russian state TV hosts mock Ukrainians dealing with aftermath of Russian attacks on energy infrastructure

Source: Meduza

Months of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have left Ukrainian civilians facing rolling blackouts and interruptions to heat, water, and telecommunications services. Russian state television and pro-Kremlin Telegram channels can’t avoid discussing this reality, but they find ways to spin the facts, either making light of the situation in Ukraine or, when that fails, blaming Ukrainians themselves for the destruction. Meduza collected some glaring examples of the Russian mass media propaganda machine at work. A warning: the collected quotes contain derogatory terms for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

On December 13, a clip from the show “News with Alexey Kazakov,” which runs on the state television channel Russia 24, made the rounds on Telegram. In the segment, host Kazakov and Yevgeniya Petrukhina speak derisively about the hardships Ukrainians face because of frequent power outages — without noting that the outages are caused by Russian attacks.

Meduza analyzed other segments of the show and found that hosts regularly discuss Ukrainian energy outages in an ironic and mocking manner. The situation is similar on other Russian television networks and on pro-Kremlin Telegram channels. We collected quotes (lightly abridged) showing how Russian propaganda discusses blackouts in Ukraine and whom they blame for the situation. Shocker: they don’t blame the Russian military or authorities.

News with Alexey Kazakov on Russia 24

From a December 12 broadcast:

On the one hand, it’s a pretty sad sight, but on the other, it’s completely natural because [Volodymyr] Zelensky’s stubbornness has already led this and other towns into a natural energy crisis. In Odesa, they can’t count on a stable energy supply for two to three more months — that’s all winter. That’s the local authorities’ prediction. And then, in the meantime, the President of Nezalezhnaya [a derogatory term for Ukraine, based on a Russified version of the Ukrainian word for independence] had a personal conversation with Joe Biden where he complained about massive damage to thermal heat and power plants, only, of course, he didn’t admit that he himself is at fault for such a difficult situation. […]

There’s a generator deficit in Nezalezhnaya. […] But even those who have them, it’s not like they live in peace. After all, generators get stolen. That’s what daily life for a Ukrainian looks like. Charging your phone in stores. Dinner by candlelight. It’s almost romantic, except that it will take about an hour to heat up the food like this. And here’s a man who has to shave next to an ATM. […] Another example — you might be left without hair if you try to dry it over a gas stove. And that’s the best case. The news feed has increasing reports of carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Evgeny Feldman, a photographer and photo editor for Meduza, posted a clip of Petrukhina mocking footage of Ukrainians dealing with outages on Twitter. He wrote, “People watch this whose day-to-day is no different than that of the people it portrays. The bombed-out apartments in the photos I see are also no different. Humanitarian values are fine, but this similarity should break through the propaganda. Why doesn’t that happen?”

Evgeny Feldman’s tweet, showing the clip in which Yevgeniya Petrukhina mocks footage of Ukrainians dealing with outages.

From November 29:

The cities of Nezalezhnaya have been in impenetrable darkness for a week already. […] Regular Ukrainians can’t allow themselves complex meals now: even just 100 milliliters of water [half a glass full] set over a candle flame will boil, at best, in 40 minutes. […] And Russian borscht, which Ukrainians love so much, is physically impossible to prepare without a generator, gas stove, or a fire. […] But even a situation like that has its plus sides. Without a traditional range it’s difficult to fry meat with spices or bake, but those are bad for you. Why not take advantage of the situation and make the switch to healthier, simpler food. Ultimately, the goal of strikes on Nezalezhnaya’s energy system is the improvement of Ukrainian society.

From November 24:

“Ukrainian leadership has every opportunity to resolve the situation in such a way that they end the potential suffering of the civilian population.” That was Dmitry Peskov’s comment today in response to journalists’ questions about Ukraine’s latest blackout. On the one hand, the presidential press secretary once again stressed: no strikes are carried out on social infrastructure. But on the other hand, the Kyiv regime’s stubborn failure to comply with the Russian side’s demands leads to wide-scale power outages. Just because the enemy put its own energy system in the path of war. Now it needs to be systematically beaten. And now, because of Zelensky and Zaluzhny [commander-in-chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces], entire regions are in the dark.

Other Russian TV channels

News of the Week on Russia 1, November 27:

The Americans and the West in general are pumping weapons into Ukraine. So, we found an asymmetrical response, which allows us, on the one hand, to paralyze the enemy and, on the other, to preserve the lives of our fighting heroes. Russian precision-guided missiles are systematically taking the Ukrainian energy system offline from a great distance. As a result, all nuclear power plants experienced emergency shutdowns. […] From space, the country at night looks like a black hole. […] Not only are the lights out, but electrified trains have been disrupted. […] Blackouts mean serious disruptions to water supply, heat, sewer systems, and telecommunications, including Internet. […] In fact, it’s an antidote to the weapon supply from the West. 

State Duma Deputy Alexey Veller, Time Will Tell on Channel One, November 24:

Of course, there’s nothing good for Ukrainians in these strikes that Russia is launching on energy infrastructure. And there’s no reason to be glad about that. And we’re not glad. But we understand that (given that the Russian Ministry of Defense carries out strikes with minimal civilian casualties), strange as it sounds, this, possibly, is one of the most humanitarian, humane opportunities to move toward the end of this conflict. 

In the Center of Events on TV Center, November 4:

The Geranium [Russian branding for Iranian-made Shahed suicide drones] continues to flower across Ukrainian territory currently occupied by nazis. Strikes are launched essentially every day, sometimes more than once. The main targets are transport and energy infrastructure. The main task is taking enterprises that serve the war effort out of operation and destroying logistics. To put it plainly, we’re making it impossible to restore military equipment and transport it to the front lines. That’s why rolling blackouts in the cities and everywhere across Nezalezhnaya are Kyiv’s decision, not the main result of our strikes.

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Pro-Kremlin Telegram channels

Sergey Mardan, a former employee of Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, December 6:

By turning off the lights in Ukraine, Russia is forming an automatic reflex in the khokhols [a derogatory Russian term for Ukrainians]. “The lights are out, that means I did something wrong, what should I do so the lights go back on?” Well, you at least need to stop singing Bandera songs and taking down Pushkin monuments and learn some history. At the same time, it’s completely possible to remain people and even to speak Ukrainian — the main thing is to remember that the lights are out not because of Kalibr [cruise missiles] but because of the mess in your heads and your conduct.

Maria Zakharova, official spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, November 27:

“Instances of domestic violence are increasing due to the lack of light in homes,” said Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrsky. I’m remembering how Kulebishe [a derogatory nickname for Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba] was happy about the cold and saying everyone would make love. For some reason that didn’t work out. In fact, neither did anything that the Kyiv regime promised. Or maybe that’s love, for them?

Writer Zakhar Prilepin, November 19:

Odesa is a city with a huge pro-Russian population. Hundreds of thousands of people, who are impatiently awaiting liberation. And the fact that they suffer worst of all [from power outages] — it makes you sad and weighs you down. We’re breaking the Kyiv regime, but our own are getting it. But the choice history gives us is this: surrender absolutely everything, including the Donbas and Crimea; send more and more Russian people to slaughter; or something else. So, we’re dealing out that bitter and icy “something else.”

Translation by Emily Laskin

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