The impact of Putin’s war is starting to set in, startling even his most ardent state TV propagandists. It’s all fun and games till they seize your Italian villa.
That’s what one of the most prominent Kremlin propagandists found out for himself this week, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In 2019, before he was poisoned and imprisoned, opposition activist Alexei Navalny and his team released a video report that revealed state TV host Vladimir Soloviev owns not one, but two villas in Italy down the road from George Clooney’s beloved estate on Lake Como. His neighbors have protested since he bought the property, even launching a petition in 2019 to try to get the local authorities to make sure he didn’t obtain Italian citizenship through his residency. The Kremlin mouthpiece known for constantly condemning Europe and the West for their supposed perversion and decay was thus exposed as an absolute hypocrite.
Last Christmas, Navalny’s investigative team, FBK, videotaped the state TV host’s luxury abodes and left him special gifts—Ukrainian chocolates, since Soloviev is also well-known for his years of anti-Ukrainian propaganda. The Kremlin’s talking head was enraged and complained about what he considered an outrageous privacy violation, but worse was yet to come.
Soloviev learned this week that the latest sanctions imposed against the Kremlin’s regime and its accomplices would impact him personally. His access to properties in Europe is now being impacted, and perhaps his ownership as well.
During Friday’s edition of The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, the host raged: “I was told that Europe is a citadel of rights, that everything is permitted, that’s what they said… I know from personal experience about the so-called ‘sacred property rights.’ With every transaction I was bringing paperwork demonstrating my official salary, income, I did it all. I bought it, paid crazy amount of taxes, I did everything. And suddenly someone makes a decision that this journalist is now on the list of sanctions. And right away it affects your real estate. Wait a minute. But you told us that Europe has sacred property rights!”
Stunned and dismayed, Soloviev griped: “All of a sudden, now they say: ‘Are you Russian? Then we will close your bank account, if it’s in Europe. And if it’s in England, you’re allowed to keep no more than a certain amount there. Why? Because you’re Russian.” Prominent economist Mikhail Khazin chimed in: “And that’s if you have an old account. They won’t open a new one.”
Soloviev asked: “Is this the Iron Curtain?” Germany-based pundit Alexander Sosnovsky replied: “Yes, absolutely, the Iron Curtain in its worst manifestation, painted in LGBT colors.” This reference again exemplified Russia’s intolerance towards human rights and sexual minorities, which nonetheless did nothing to prevent Soloviev and other Kremlin propagandists from acquiring expensive real estate in what they consider to be degenerate, immoral Western countries.
Appearing on NTV’s program Our Own Truth (Svoya Pravda), RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan boasted: “I’m not worried about sanctions, isolation, prohibitions or the dollar exchange rate. We used to live without iPhones, we can also do without Paris if need be. It’s wild to even contemplate that when the fate of the nation and the future of the world are at stake.”
As for those who say “No to war” and are ashamed that they’re Russian, Simonyan asserted, “I am ashamed that they are my fellow citizens.”
Attempting to deny Russia’s intensifying war against Ukraine, Simonyan claimed: “Nobody is fighting against Ukrainians! We’re liberating Ukraine!” She followed up with another ludicrous claim: “No one is bombing peaceful Ukrainian cities!”
In her tirade, Simonyan derided those who were caught unprepared or complained that the Kremlin was taking too long to act with respect to Ukraine. She said, “It’s clear that such actions don’t get planned willy-nilly and you need to be prepared for them, including in the economic sense. When we listened to the Security Council… [Mikhail] Mishustin [Prime Minister of Russia] uttered important words: we can imagine what kind of sanctions there will be. We anticipated them and we’ve been getting ready. That also took time.”
Simonyan described various preparations undertaken by the Russian authorities for years, directly undermining the talking points that attempted to link the timing of Russia’s invasion with the “embarrassing” U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In fact, experts-in-the-know have been referencing the Kremlin’s secret plans for years. For example, in April of 2021, appearing on Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Andrey Sidorov—deputy dean of world politics at Moscow State University—predicted: “Everything will start in Ukraine. We will be forced to step onto the battlefield in a fight for which they think we’re not ready.” The host asked: “A fight against whom?” and Sidorov clarified: “Against the collective West.”
In 2022, once Russia’s war against Ukraine had fully begun, Sidorov emphasized the importance of choosing the right words during his Friday appearance on Soloviev’s show: “Don’t call it occupation, call it brotherly help.”
While most in the West are too savvy to take Russian propaganda at face value, Moscow’s experts are grateful to have the ones who broadcast Kremlin-friendly talking points. Referring to Tucker Carlson as “the most popular host in the United States” during Thursday’s segment of The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, the host complained: “They’re accusing him of being a Russian spy.” Analyst Dmitry Drobnitsky replied: “Well, Tucker is most definitely ours. That’s that.”
As for Putin’s biggest cheerleader, former U.S. President Donald J. Trump, who described the Kremlin’s moves in Ukraine as “genius,” Putin’s men in Moscow anxiously await his return as their sole hope for relief from rapidly accelerating Western sanctions—which will soon include the disconnection of Russia’s biggest banks from a global messaging system known as SWIFT.
During his Friday broadcast, amid tense discussions of Western sanctions, Soloviev theatrically looked down at his watch and asked: “Is Trump coming back soon?”