Media poles apart in Ukraine crisis

Ukrainian newspaper front pages from 16 April 2014
Image caption Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya (L) tells readers "Why the Kremlin needs the rebellion in the east"

Ukrainians and Russians have been getting starkly contrasting pictures from their respective media of the growing unrest in eastern Ukraine.

According to Russian television, the Ukrainian government has ''unleashed real combat on its own people'', while pro-Russian gunmen in Ukraine are presented as local people bravely fighting for their rights.

Official state channel Rossiya 1 TV said that while Kiev labelled the militia and protesters in the south-east as "terrorists", locals strongly disagreed. It showed some civilians insisting that they were not separatists.

"Kiev is threatening the citizens of Donetsk Region with psychological attacks from the air. Periodically, military helicopters and planes circle menacingly over the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk," Rossiya 1 TV said.

Another strand of coverage by Russia's three main TV channels, though, has been to portray the Ukrainian army as weak, disorganised and suffering from poor service conditions and low morale.

One report by NTV - owned by state gas giant Gazprom - reported that Ukrainian troops had refused to take orders from their commanders and sided with pro-Russian militiamen, a presenter for NTV reported.

"Many servicemen are clearly confused and don't understand how they could point their guns at Ukrainians, the same people as them," the channel's correspondent says.

Russian TV channels have also been showing footage of what they say are local people in Donetsk and Luhansk regions confronting Ukrainian troops. In one instance, locals are seen persuading the crew of a tank not to shoot at civilians. In another, they stop and loot a military truck.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some reports say Ukrainian troops have defected; the Ukrainian Defence Ministry has denied this


In contrast, Ukrainian TV channels have been supportive of what they see as the Kiev authorities' efforts to rein in ''separatists'' and "militants supported by Russia".

Ukrainian TV channels say "small groups" of violent protesters demanding federalisation or annexation by Russia do not reflect the true sentiment of residents of eastern Ukraine most of whom, they say, want to live in an undivided Ukraine.

They have been broadcasting comments from ordinary people in the streets of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, most of them saying they want their region to stay in Ukraine.

The demands of some Ukrainians for action against the separatists also feature heavily. State-owned UT1 TV provided live coverage of a rally in Kiev's Independence Square, where around 10,000 people demanded that the authorities act more resolutely to protect the eastern regions from "Russian aggression".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A pro-Ukraine rally in the eastern city of Luhansk

"Imperial protectorate"

Ukraine's press, meanwhile, is full of doom-laden speculation about Russia's intentions.

"If it fails to push through a federation, Russia will bet on splitting Ukraine - all Russian-speaking regions will become unrecognised territories under the imperial protectorate of the Russian Federation," Volodymyr Fesenko writes in Segodnya.

Others think Russia's ambitions do not stop there. ''Moscow wants the whole of Ukraine. Entirely. Using any means," navy admiral Ihor Kabanenko says in an article in the Den daily.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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