Russian TV Scrambles To Play Down Ukraine Protests

Sunday’s anti-government protest, which attracted several hundred thousand people, may be the largest in Kiev yet, but Russian reporters are withholding the truth. One man even interrupted a reporter to hand him an Oscar “for his coverage.”

Rossiya 24 / Via

KIEV, Ukraine — As several hundred thousand people took to the streets Sunday in possibly the largest anti-government protest since Ukraine’s political crisis started last month, pro-Kremlin Russian media desperately scrambled to play down numbers.

Channel One claimed that “only a few hundred” people attended the protests, which were “dying out.” NTV, famous for its pseudo-documentary hit pieces on the Kremlin’s enemies, had a reporter spend a whole week filming an elderly woman complaining about the noise the protests made near her apartment.

Protesters, reporter Mikhail Fedotov said, were paid provocateurs hell-bent on ruining Christmas by depriving Kiev of its usual holiday tree.

Via Twitter: @BalmforthTom

Since massive demonstrations erupted a week ago in response to President Viktor Yanukovych backing out of a deal with the EU and the violent breakup of a tent city, the other state TV channel, Rossiya, has outstripped its competitors in showing bizarre, paranoiac, and misleading reports.

One host said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was an ex-CIA agent who organized the protests to get back at Russia for the battle of Poltava in 1709; another claimed Ukrainians were only angry because of sharp seasonal changes in the weather.

They also showed a historical documentary about the Battle of Kiev in 1943.

“Give us KIEV!” Via Twitter: @RolandOliphant

On Sunday, Rossiya correspondent Artem Kol’s live report - which cited “over 50,000” protesters at Independence Square, the Maidan - was interrupted by a man who gave him an Oscar for the channel and Kiselev’s “lies and nonsense.”

Rossiya 24 / Via

Boxer Vitali Klitschko’s opposition party, UDAR, tweeted a picture from the protest to the channel with the caption, “You think there aren’t a lot of us?”

@vesti_news Вони кажуть нас мало? #УДАР #Євромайдан

— УДАР Віталія Кличка (@udarKlichko)

УДАРВіталія Кличка


@vesti_news Вони кажуть нас мало? #УДАР#Євромайдан

/ Via

Kol shoved the man out of the shot and struggled to be heard over the crowd’s chants of “Tell the truth!” and “Shame on you!” in Ukrainian - which he translated as calls for Rossiya only to show positive coverage of the “Euromaidan” protests.

Not one to shy from a challenge, Kiselev spent 20 minutes Sunday ranting about protesters, who, he said, used “ancient African military techniques” and a “battle elephant.” He also claimed Klitschko and his brother Vladimir were gay icons.

Watch the crowd from atop the Christmas tree:

Radio Svoboda / Via

Correction: An earlier version of this story claimed that Channel One showed video of Sunday’s protests while claiming only a few hundred attended. The channel made the claim; they did not show the video.

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Max Seddon is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Kiev. Seddon reports on Ukraine and Russia. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71
Contact Max Seddon at

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