Last night the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky imposed sanctions against 3 TV channels, the NewsOne, Zik and 112, in one stroke. The TV channels have been barred from broadcasting and their assets have been blocked.

The news channels have been closed without a trial or investigation, simply by an executive order of the Ukrainian president. These channels had often been accused of having a “pro-Russian position”. Opposition parties members and experts critical of the post-revolutionary Ukraine’s course, often appeared as guests.

“Sanctions is a difficult decision. Ukraine strongly supports freedom of speech. Not propaganda financed by the aggressor country that undermines Ukraine on its way to EU and EuroAtlantic integration. Fight for independence is fight in the information war for truth & European values”, commented the Ukrainian President on Twitter.

“These media have become one of the tools of the war against Ukraine, so they are blocked in order to protect national security”, Zelenskiy’s spokeswoman Yulia Mendel said.

All three channels were tied to the Ukrainian oligarch and opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who is regarded by the supporters of the Ukrainian monocultural national model as “Putin’s man in Ukraine”.

Ukraine has a large Russian-speaking population, especially in the East and in the South of the country. After the radicalization of politics that followed the revolution in February 2014, the passage of Crimea’s control to Russia and the war in the Donbass, the Russian elements in Ukraine have been marginalised and stigmatized.

As a testimony to an enflamed rhetoric over the past few years, it has become almost accepted to regard Russian speaking Ukrainian citizens as not really Ukrainians but descendants of the “Muscovian” occupiers, in a process previously seen in the Baltic states as well.

The Ukrainian governments and the West have portrayed the conflict in the East of the countries exclusively as a Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

In an effort to show Europeaness and a symbolical civilizational choice, the Russian element and the pro-Russian element within Ukraine have systematically been downplayed and discreted as Putin’s tools.

At the beginning of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, ideas that the Russian speaking citizens of Ukraine were going to face discrimination under a new monoethnical Ukraine were easily dismissed as crude examples of Russian malign propaganda. Events later seem to have proven otherwise.

Stepan Antonov