Two days ago, in an unpredicted and bold move, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky deprived three Ukrainian television channels close to the opposition party “Opposition Platform – for life!” of the licence to broadcast.
The channels were accused of being “pro-Russian”, others called the channels “Kremlin-linked”. According to recent polls, the Opposition Platform For Life could be the first party in Ukraine.
Some started wondering what the reactions of the “international community” and the West to this rather extraordinary measure would be.
The reactions were unexpectedly direct, unequivocable in their language and uncharacteristically unrestrained. “The US Ukraine’s efforts yesterday to counter Russia’s malign influence, in line with Ukrainian law, in defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We must all work together to prevent disinformation from being deployed as a weapon in an info war against sovereign states”, commented the US Embassy in Kiev on Twitter.
Melinda Simmons, the UK ambassador to Ukraine, commented too, also on Twitter: “I welcome Zelensky’s bold action in tackling disinformation, which causes real harm to Ukraine. I also welcome his assurances on the need to protect media freedom and plurality”.
“The Ukrainian leader appears to have been encouraged by the new US administration’s robust support for Ukraine”, says Taras Kuzio in an article written for the Atlantic Council.
“These channels are the most popular in Ukraine while being very critical towards the President, the nationalists and in favour of finding an agreement on ending the war in Ukraine”, said Ina Kirsch, a consultant on external relations for the European Parliament.
The TV channels Zik, Newsone and 112 are tied to the Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, who has been in Ukrainian politics for decades and is one of the leaders of the Opposition Platform – For Life party.
The channels have often questioned the inevitability of Ukraine’s new European and Transatlantic course and the narrative of the 2014 Maidan revolution as a “Revolution of Dignity”, which on these channels is sometimes referred to as a coup d’etat. The Maidan revolution of 2014 is the most defining moment in recent Ukrainian history and the founding myth of the new Ukrainian national reinvention as a exclusively European nation that respects freedom and democracy, a narrative that the West endorces.
Last year the television channels widely covered a leak of tapes with conversations between the Ukrainian ex-President Petro Poroshenko and the then US Vice President Joe Biden. In the leaks Biden appeared to have taken a very close interest in Ukraine and to be coordinating with Poroshenko several matters of interest concerning Ukraine’s politics, down to the firing of a Ukrainian Prosecutor General, that the United States and Europe regarded as “corrupt”.
The United States dismissed the Biden-Poroshenko tapes as “Russian disinformation”.
Stefano Di Lorenzo