Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 202

Kyiv has taken the offensive against the Russian media in Ukraine. On October 6, Ukraine’s State Committee for Information Policy warned those Ukrainian print media which have parent Moscow-based publications to either “bring their activities in line with their state registration certificates” within a month or face closure. The committee meant Izvestia, Trud and some other major Russian publications which in 1995-1999 registered their offices in Ukraine to print newspapers such as Trud-Ukraina and Izvestia-Ukraina. This allowed them to retain their traditional market in the predominantly Russian-speaking eastern and southern areas. On October 18, the National Council on TV and Radio, announced intention to purge the FM waves of Russian. The council told the FM radio station Nashe radio that if the share of Ukrainian-language programming continues at less than 50 percent–a violation of the Ukrainian law–the station will be shut down. FM stations were also warned against rebroadcasting the Moscow-based Russkoe radio, which specializes in Russian pop music and is very popular across Ukraine. Council member Mykola Knyazhytsky explained that rebroadcasts of foreign radio are prohibited by law.

In this crusade against Russian media, the authorities are guided by ideological and economic considerations. Kyiv made it clear that in the case of the FM stations, ideological–that is, linguistic–issues take precedence. Deputy Premier for Humanitarian Policy Mykola Zhulynsky and State Committee for Information Policy chairman Ivan Drach are the main de-russification ideologists. They regard the Russian language as a major security concern for Ukraine. As for the print media, the situation is more complicated. The authorities are unhappy not only about the Russian language in newspapers, but also about the Russian newspapers’ high competitiveness on the Ukrainian market. This competition, they say, is unfair. The Moscow-affiliated media are accused of undermining the domestic advertisement market by running Russian ads which are not taxed in Ukraine.

If the Russian media are edged out of Ukraine, their niche in the densely populated Russian-speaking east and south and in the capital is likely to be taken by Kyiv-based Russian-language papers. The current offensive against the Moscow media is quite probably orchestrated by those well-connected Ukrainian “oligarchs” who control such popular domestic Russian-language newspapers as Fakty i kommentarii or Kievskie vedomosti–the main competitors of the Moscow papers in Ukraine.

This offensive is not well timed: On October 16 in Sochi, the presidents of Ukraine and Russia, Leonid Kuchma and Vladimir Putin, discussed Ukraine’s gas debts–the most painful issue for that country. Fully aware that Putin was in a position to pressure Kuchma on the media question, the NGO Solidarity of Journalists–apparently a mouthpiece of Russian media in Ukraine–complained to Kuchma and Putin on October 13 about the situation of Russian media in Ukraine. Moscow reacted immediately: On October 15, Russia’s deputy media minister, Mikhail Seslavinsky, issued a statement strongly critical of Kyiv’s policies. Seslavinsky suggested that the media issue should be discussed in connection with economic questions. This sounded like an open warning to Kuchma on the eve of the gas talks.

But the crusade against Russian media is gaining momentum nonetheless. On October 21, the chairman of the National Council on TV and Radio, Borys Kholod, announced that the council would begin to revise licenses to TV and radio organizations on the basis of “real contribution to the Ukrainian information sphere.” Kholod meant Russian-language media in particular. Licenses of some 800 TV and radio stations will expire in 2000-2001. If the government continues its current media policy in defiance of Moscow, Russian-language electronic media in Ukraine may find it difficult to renew their licenses (Den, October 4, 20; UNIAN, October 6, 13, 21; Ukrainska pravda, October 10, 21; New Channel TV, October 18).


1″The two sides also apparently made progress on working out an agreement under which Moscow will resume gas supplies to Yugoslavia.”

2″Only last week, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview that ‘organized resistance’ in Chechnya had been ‘crushed,’ that only four or five rebel groups remained and that ‘no large-scale military actions’ were taking place in the breakaway republic.”

3″Abiev publicly told his Russian counterpart, Marshal Igor Sergeev, that such unjustified arms transfers are incompatible with norms regulating relations among CIS countries, fuel tensions in the South Caucasus and hinder international efforts to work out guarantees for regional stability.”

4″This [Ukrainian-language] offensive is not well timed.”

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