Ukraine Day 932: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
- READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT:
Hromadske reports that activists picketing the offices of Inter, Ukraine’s largest broadcaster, have suspended their protest as the channel’s management have agreed to comply with their demands.
Protesters have been blockading the office, and were not allowing staff to pass through their picket to work this morning.
Hromadske was told by Oleksei Seredyuk, coordinator of the protest, that Inter management had agreed to remove all content of Russian origin within five days, and to dismiss their de-facto news chief, Igor Shuvalov.
Igor Shuvalov, a Russian citizen, has been at the center of a recent scandal at the channel, which has long been viewed with hostility by many due to it being owned by fugitive, pro-Russian oligarch Dmytro Firtash and two close associates of former President Viktor Yanukovych.
Last month, the controversial Myrotvorets site leaked a cache of emails from the account of Maria Stolyarova, a Russian journalist working for Inter, who had been expelled in February after attention was drawn to her political sympathies when she swore and made disparaging remarks during live coverage of a memorial ceremony for the casualties of the Maidan revolution.
The emails indicated that not only had Stolyarova’s role at the channel continued, but Shuvalov had a key role in influencing political coverage and had even coordinated with Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups such as Svoboda and Pravyi Sektor.
In 2014 US journalist David Satter described Shuvalov has having “been facilitating Russian control of the Ukrainian media for the last 13 years.”
Shuvalov first appeared in Ukraine as a political technologist in 1999, when he assisted in the successful presidential reelection campaign of Leonid Kuchma. He later was one of the creators of the system of secret instructions (temnyky) sent to television stations advising them of what they should cover and what they should ignore. Taras Kuzio, writing in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor in July 2004, pointed out the paradox of Russian citizens helping to censor the Ukrainian media with the help of temnyky. Censorship is illegal in Ukraine and by allowing Russia to interfere in Ukraine’s media through censorship instructions, Kuchma also violated the constitution’s 2003 law on national security.
With the election of Yushchenko in 2004, the influence of Russian spin doctors over the Ukrainian media came to a halt. It was resumed after the election of 2010 with the help of Shuvalov.
The principal television stations belong to four commercial groups, each of which works with the Yanukovych government. One group consists of the popular Inter channel, which is supervised by Shuvalov, and half a dozen minor channels. Since January 2013, it has belonged to the oligarchs Dmytro Firtash and Serhiy Lyovochkin, the head of the presidential administration. Another group is in the hands of Rinat Akhmetov, the president’s right-hand man, widely considered the richest person in Ukraine, and the chief sponsor of the ruling Party of the Regions. Two other media groups belong to ex-president Kuchma’s son-in-law, Victor Pinchuk, and the Dnepropetrovsk oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky. Television is not the owners’ main business and interest. They have accepted their roles in the media, according to Leshchenko, as the price of government support in areas like the privatization of energy and metallurgy
On August 31, Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister, publicly called for the security services to take action against Shuvalov and Inter.
“The anti-Ukrainian, anti-state position of the TV channel Inter: how much more facts and evidence you need?! The national Broadcasting Council – where are you ?! Or maybe the political conjuncture and clan interests so squeezed your throat that you forget about you immediate job? Dear colleagues, the SBU, the pause you are taking seems far too long. Your direct responsibility is to respond to the revealed facts.” Avakov wrote on Facebook.
Avakov argues that the Russian political analyst Igor Shuvalov, who manages the information policy of Inter must be expelled from the country. He also asked for a public investigation against the owner of Inters Serhiy Lyovochkyn and “his political fosterling who feed on Russian money.”
Today, the protest coordinator Seredyuk said that if these Shuvalov is not dismissed and Russian content removed within five days, activists would return in ten-fold greater numbers.
Of course Inter is acting not only under the threat of renewed pickets, but direct violence, as their offices were set alight on Sunday when a smoke grenade was thrown in by activists.
Bearing in mind Avakov’s condemnation of the channel and President Poroshenko’s equivocal statement on Sunday’s arson yesterday, some of the activists threatening Inter may believe that they are acting with the support of the state.
Meanwhile the attacks on Inter have drawn condemnation from many press freedom advocates, including the the International Federation of Journalists and the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, who said yesterday that:
“Violence is never an acceptable response to disagreements with editorial policy, even if the reporting is seen as provocative and controversial.”
Serhiy Tomilenko, head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, said:
“Whilst Inter TV channel’s editorial policy caused debates in our society and the question of external influence on the information policy has become actual recently there is a regulator in the country, the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting and there are law-enforcement services who have to respond efficiently to breaches of the law by the TV channel, if any. What is vital is that the security agencies must protect the media from such provocations”.
— Pierre Vaux
While the Ukrainian military reports that the ceasefire regime is holding “with the exception of isolated armed provocations,” the number of reported attacks rose once again yesterday.
According to this morning’s ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] Press Center report, Russian-backed forces conducted 21 attacks over the course of the day, using both 120- and 82-mm mortars to shell positions in the south near Mariupol.
Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told reporters today that 90 mortar shells had fallen on the front between Talakovka, just northeast of Mariupol, and Shirokino, on the Azov coast.
One Ukrainian soldier was wounded by the shelling near Shirokino.
Another soldier was wounded by enemy fire in Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk, where the ATO Press Center reported that Russian-backed forces had opened fire with small arms, machine guns and grenade launchers.
A policeman was wounded in the same town by an explosive device.
Translation: We’ve had a fatality in Maryinka. Commander Oleg Medinsky. In eternal memory. The Russian ceasefire in all its glory.
Grenade-launcher and machine-gun attacks were also reported near Luganskoye, east of Gorlovka, and Stanitsa Luganskaya and Novozvanovka, in the Lugansk region.
Meanwhile the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency reports, citing sources in the security forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), that Ukrainian troops used 82- and 120- mm mortars to shell Yasinovataya, southeast of Avdeyevka, and Kominternovo, east of Mariupol last night.
The DNR also claims that this morning Ukrainian forces shelled the village of Sakhanka, east of Shirokino, with 120-mm mortars.
In turn, the Russian-backed separatists in Lugansk claim that Ukrainian forces violated the ceasefire four times yesterday, using infantry fighting vehicles and grenade launchers near Stanitsa Luganskaya, and 82-mm mortars near Kalinovo.
— Pierre Vaux