In the surreal world of Russian state television, Russia is about to prevail in its war against Ukraine, which is being presented as a battle against the United States and NATO. According to top Kremlin propagandists, it’s only a matter of time before the West admits its defeat and pays reparations to Moscow or risks a devastating nuclear strike.
Pundits who dared to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have not been seen on state-controlled television ever since they spoke out last week. Even though their timid disagreement pales in comparison to the bravery of Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at Channel One, who has been detained after interrupting live programming with an anti-war sign. Meanwhile, state TV broadcasts are filled with cheerleaders, who repeatedly insist that the Kremlin’s “special operation”—known to the rest of the world as a brutal war—should not stop until all objectives are achieved. They insist that everything is going exactly as planned.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to negotiate with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky is being packaged as a sign of his love and good will, and not the consequence of mounting losses and humiliating defeats faced by the Russian military in Ukraine. Appearing on a state TV show Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, political scientist and Professor of Communications Dmitry Evstafiev argued: “Right now, President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s third proposal to the Ukrainian leadership is on the table. This, of course, is a demonstration of his greatest respect and—I would even say—of love by our President towards the Ukrainian people.”
Multiple state TV shows emphasized the reluctance on the part of the United States and NATO to intervene against Russia’s bloody invasion of its neighbor, presenting it as the proof that the Kremlin can go to any lengths to emerge victorious. Olga Skabeeva, the host of a state TV show 60 Minutes, intentionally distorted the statements of White House press secretary Jen Psaki. On Friday, Skabeeva claimed: “Jennifer Psaki’s statement said that no matter what Putin does in Ukraine—whether he uses biological weapons or drops a nuclear bomb—the United States won’t get involved.”
On Monday, disregarding strong bipartisan support of Ukraine in the United States, Skabeeva claimed that Americans don’t care about Ukraine and are concerned only with rising gas prices. She alleged: “To the dismay of the State Department, it turned out that Americans are indifferent towards saving Ukrainian Banderites.” Russian state media and government officials have taken to describing any opponents of the Kremlin in Ukraine as or “Banderites,” the followers of Stepan Bandera, the ultranationalist political figure who fought for Ukrainian independence before being assassinated by the KGB in 1959. This expression is being used as indiscriminately as branding all opponents the “Nazis.”
The show proceeded to broadcast a clip of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump, blaming Biden for his alleged inability to communicate with Putin. Hinting at the upcoming presidential elections, Skabeeva sniped: “Fun times for them are only starting. We’re waiting.” In the meantime, state media is replete with baseless promises of wide-ranging concessions from the West that Moscow anticipates receiving in the future.
Appearing on Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Russian parliament member Oleg Matveychev, known as the Kremlin’s spin doctor, watched a clip of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson—an everyday occurrence in Moscow’s tightly-controlled media environment. Matveychev noted: “There isn’t a single country in the world that is as easily manipulated as America.” He argued: “Here’s what will be on the table after our victory... After Ukraine’s demilitarization is completed... we’re going to raise the stakes... For example, the lifting of all sanctions... The dissolution of NATO, because the presence of NATO in some countries is getting in our way. Extradition of all war criminals... like [Anton] Herashchenko [former deputy minister at the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs], Zelensky, [former President of Ukraine Petro] Poroshenko. Extradition of various oligarchs, like [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky.”
In recent days, Russian state television regressed from Orwellian lies to Kafkaesque nightmares, as pundits started to promote the idea of executing Ukrainians resisting Putin’s war of aggression by hanging. They noted that the so-called “constitution” of the rogue “republics” created in Ukraine by Russian forces conveniently allows for the death penalty. Last Thursday on The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, after listening to other pundits and experts endorse the idea of executing Ukrainian citizens by hanging, doctor of political sciences Elena G. Ponomareva argued: "Never let morality prevent you from undertaking correct actions. I understand the importance of a humanitarian component... but morality shouldn't get in the way."
Sunday’s Vesti Nedeli hosted by Dmitry Kiselyov continued the theme of public hangings, broadcasting the scenes from the public execution of German Nazi soldiers on Kyiv’s Independence Square in 1946. The segment was entitled “Denazification of Ukraine—the new opportunities for growth” and appeared to serve as a tool to desensitize the Russian population for the grotesque war trials and executions the Kremlin is reportedly planning to conduct in Ukraine, perhaps in the same public square captured in the historical video.
Bloomberg previously reported that, according to an unnamed European intelligence official, Russia's intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, has drafted plans for public executions in Ukraine after cities are captured. Russian state media appears to be laying the groundwork to normalize such an idea, in order to make it seem acceptable to average Russians.
Reciting the list of Russia’s future demands during Soloviev’s show, Matveychev became even more brazen: “We should be thinking about reparations from the damage that was caused by the sanctions and the war itself, because that too costs money and we should get it back. The return of all Russian properties, those of the Russian empire, the Soviet Union and current Russia, which has been seized in the United States, and so on.”
The host chimed in to ask: “Are you including Alaska and Fort Ross?”
Matveychev nodded: “That was my next point. As well as the Antarctic... We discovered it, so it belongs to us... Also, the return of all medals that have been unlawfully taken from our sportsmen during all Olympic games, as well as the extradition of [Grigory] Rodchenkov, along with the extradition of multiple other criminals we’ll want. I think we should start voicing all of that, so they understand what will be on the table. You didn’t want to talk to us about something small, like Ukraine’s neutrality, here’s what you get. And that’s not even all of it.”
Soloviev asked: “Does your list include a tactical nuclear strike, or are we going straight for the strategic one?”
Matveychev pompously scoffed, “What for? We can take them down without it.”
On Monday, Soloviev revisited the topic of nuclear blackmail, perhaps blinded by rage after the recent seizure of his two Italian villas. He said: “I still think that those who took our money should be told, you have 24 hours to unfreeze our funds, or else we’ll send you what you know we’ve got. Your choice. Tactical or strategic, take a pick. You took our money, you’re the thieves, our talk is short with you: a bullet to the head.”