To my good fortune, here in Belgium internet reception of www.smotrim.ru now works perfectly with respect to live broadcasts. I am thus able to share with readers impressions from the programs I follow most closely: Sixty Minutes, Evening with Vladimir Solovyov and News of the Week hosted by Dmitri Kiselyov.
The past week provided Russian state television with a cornucopia of important events foreign and domestic. These included, in the West, the gathering of the G7 leaders in Schloss Elmau, Bavaria and the NATO Summit in Madrid. At both events, Russia, its president Vladimir Putin, and the ongoing war in Ukraine were central to the talks and therefore of special interest to RF audiences.
Russian television coverage was partly provided by Vesti correspondents permanently based in the EU, like Anastasya Popova, partly by reporting from major Western television channels and print media. It bears mention that some of the segments from foreign television were quite extensive, giving a full airing to the anti-Russian rants. The Russian programmers obviously had no doubt that the absurdities and plain ignorance exposed in the speeches and comments to journalists of one after another EU or NATO worthy ensured that no one in their own audience would be misled and that a great many would be amused.
The overriding nature of the Russian television presentations was mockery of the European leaders for their servility to Uncle Sam and persistence in ratcheting up sanctions against Russia that are destructive of their own economies as proven by separate footage on consumer reactions to the rampant inflation and threatening shortages of gas and heating oil in coming weeks.
On the subject of servility, no video was more damaging to its central personality than that of Emmanuel Macron interrupting Biden’s conversation with Jake Sullivan during a walk from one venue to another in Madrid to tell the Boss confidentially that France was doing its utmost to cut import of Russian hydrocarbons but could not see any solutions since his own telephone conversation with a counterpart in the Gulf made it clear no significant increase in oil production there could be expected. Macron had not counted on a French journalist intercepting and later publishing this revelation. The clip was shown repeatedly on Russian television over the weekend.
At both the G7 and at the NATO Summit, Boris Johnson stood out as the most determined advocate for further military and financial assistance to Ukraine and as the most determined opponent of any peace negotiations. This made him especially vulnerable to malicious Russian commentary, which he invited by his comportment in all venues as the lead jokester or clown among the European leaders.
Johnson made the absurd proposal at a NATO Summit lunch that they all throw off their shirts to show Putin that they also had great pectorals. This indirect tribute to Putin for his widely disseminated macho photos taken on vacation in the past was picked up with alacrity by Russian television, which also quoted Vladimir Vladimirovich asking whether the NATO leaders proposed to strip only above the waist or further down and noting that in any event it would be a hideous sight.
Dmitry Kiselyov on Sunday night took this attack on the British Prime Minister one step further, putting up photos of Boris in his sweat shirt, with his heavy chest in need of a bra, per Kiselyov. This aspersion regarding Johnson’s sexual identity was a biting response to Johnson’s offhand remarks to journalists that the war with Ukraine would never have been unleashed had Putin been a woman. Russian audiences were treated as well to other photos of Boris in his jogging shorts, looking very much like the neighborhood fat boy, with his weighty thighs bare for all to see.
As for Joe Biden, Russian state television picked up and re-broadcast all of his flubbed lines and signs of physical deterioration (the fall from his bicycle) that came their way from U.S. television channels. This perfectly served their editorial line about the degradation of Western political elites.
Closer to home, Russian media could feast on the countdown to the capture of the last major city in Lugansk still held by the Ukrainian forces, Lisichansk. On Sunday, Russian Minister of Defense Shoigu duly reported to President Putin on the fall of Lisichansk and the surrounding territory of more than 150 square kilometers to Russian troops. Even major Western media acknowledged that this was a key event which indicated clearly how Russia was winning the war on the ground thanks to superior firepower. Everyone understood that the ‘special military operation’ will now direct its full forces against the Ukrainian military in Kramatorsk and other strategic cities in Donetsk oblast with a view to a similar cleansing of that second Donbas region of what the Russians call the neo-Nazi, extreme nationalist fighters .
However, a more piquant vision of what the future holds was offered on Monday morning’s edition of Sixty Minutes by the commander of the “Akhmat” battalion of special forces Chechen soldiers fighting in the Lugansk region, Apti Alaudinov. As deputy to the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, Alaudinov has been interviewed on Sixty Minutes every day in past weeks as the battles headed towards their culmination. This privileged position on Russian airwaves is justified by the major contribution the Chechen battalion has made to the very challenging fight for control of the regional cities. The artillery battles in the suburbs and fields of Donbas are the job assigned to Russian soldiers, as we see from the interviews conducted on the front lines. These Russians either man the artillery pieces out in the open or sit in consoles of highly sophisticated rocket launchers. The Chechens are doing the very risky work of urban warfare, flushing out Ukrainian fighters from the basements of residential buildings and civil infrastructure, fighting street by street.
Alaudinov’s remarks on Monday about the way forward will surely be closely studied by Western intelligence operatives in Washington and Brussels for days to come before they percolate up into speeches of EU and US politicians. He said that following the liberation of all of Lugansk, Russian forces would continue their move South and West, or perhaps might on the way take Kiev. Then they could turn on the Baltic States, where, in his words, the armed forces of a country like Estonia were negligible. Until ordered to halt by the Commander-in-Chief, they might next take Poland.
Would a direct fight with NATO be intimidating, the program co-host Olga Skabeyeva asked.
With a broad smile on his face, Alaudinov said ‘no,’ the ‘LGBTQ’ led armies of NATO were no match for the forces of the Russian Federation. “Power to Russia,” he exclaimed in conclusion.
Yes, Russian television can be very entertaining!
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022