Central Asia eyes Ukraine's sanctions on Russian propaganda outlets

By Kanat Altynbayev

Russian TV channels Russia 24, RTR-Planeta, NTV and Channel One Russia Worldwide are part of the many Russian outlets banned in Ukraine. [Channel One]

Russian TV channels Russia 24, RTR-Planeta, NTV and Channel One Russia Worldwide are part of the many Russian outlets banned in Ukraine. [Channel One]

ALMATY -- Central Asian states should follow Ukraine's lead and block Kremlin-backed propaganda outlets, say experts and residents.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on August 21 slapped sanctions on 12 Russian companies, including TV channels, news agencies and news publications, blocking their websites and freezing their local bank accounts.

Among them are Business News Media, which publishes Russian-language business newspaper Vedomosti; the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper; the news portal and Russian state-owned internet provider Rostelecom.

Also designated are resources linked to Denis Pushilin, leader of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).

Russian state-owned internet provider Rostelecom is among 12 Russian companies sanctioned by Ukraine on August 21. [Rostelecom]

Russian state-owned internet provider Rostelecom is among 12 Russian companies sanctioned by Ukraine on August 21. [Rostelecom]

An Almaty resident watches an evening serial on Qazaqstan, a local TV channel, August 18, 2019. [Kanat Altynbayev/Caravanserai]

An Almaty resident watches an evening serial on Qazaqstan, a local TV channel, August 18, 2019. [Kanat Altynbayev/Caravanserai]

The designated media organisations have been waging a "propaganda-filled information war against Ukraine" and have been "active participants in hybrid warfare", the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said in an August 20 statement.

The sanctions are focused on protecting Ukrainian citizens and countering Russia's aggression and hybrid warfare, SBU director Ivan Bakanov said.

"The Security Service is clearly making a distinction between freedom of speech and an encroachment on Ukraine's statehood and sovereignty," he said. "Our duty is to protect state security in every sense."

Individuals targeted by the sanctions include pro-Russian propagandists and employees of Russia's intelligence agencies who "spread Russia's narratives and promote the occupying authority on temporarily occupied territory", he said.

Zelenskyy in June extended pre-existing sanctions against Russian TV channels Russia 24, RTR-Planeta, NTV and Channel One Russia Worldwide for three years, also with the aim of combating the Kremlin's propaganda.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov on August 23 criticised the latest sanctions.

"It's another step on the path to what will, we believe, essentially amount to stifling freedom of speech in Ukraine and ridding the country's media of unwelcome and uncomfortable news sources," he claimed.

'Why can't we be like Ukraine?'

The Ukrainian efforts stand in contrast to Central Asia, where Russian media outlets continue to promote the Kremlin's agenda, though some observers say even here Russia's influence may be waning.

Saikal Adenova, a 29-year-old resident of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, said she does not watch Russian TV channels or read Russian newspapers.

"On the whole the information is one sided," she said. "I once saw something where they portrayed Kyrgyz migrants in a terrible light and that made me furious."

"Why can't we be like Ukraine?" Adenova wondered.

Erlan Satybekov, a Bishkek-based media analyst and editor-in-chief of the news site, said the majority of local readers and viewers are not interested in the content of Russian media outlets.

He cited as an example the Russian TV channel RTR-Planeta -- one of the channels targeted by the Ukrainian sanctions.

The channel is an international venture of VGTRK (All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Co.), a media holding company funded by the Russian government.

"Based on my personal observations, only a small portion of Russian-speaking viewers in Kyrgyzstan watch RTR-Planeta -- and they're mainly older -- while most viewers are annoyed by the overtly aggressive propagandistic content and the bias of the TV presenters," Satybekov told Caravanserai.

This also applies to other media organisations, such as RIA Novosti, Rossiya Segodnya and Sputnik, which receive instructions from the Kremlin, he said.

The Kremlin-backed media outlets often produce content that conflicts with the opinions of the Kyrgyz people, according to Satybekov.

"Take the events of March 2005 and April 2010, when there was mass unrest and protests in Kyrgyzstan that led to a change of government," Satybekov said.

"The majority of our population welcomed these changes, but a lot of Russian media outlets interpreted them as a 'chain reaction of colour revolutions'."

Russian media outlets pose a "threat to the country's information sovereignty", he said, as Russia regularly plants stories in Kyrgyzstan's media -- particularly when its actions in strategic areas do not align with Moscow's interests.

Russian ambition

Kazakhstan is facing a similar threat from Russian propaganda.

"The ambition of Russia's current leadership is to prevent the former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, from gaining complete sovereignty from the former metropole, Russia," according to Centre for Applied Political Science and International Studies director Aidar Amrebayev, of Almaty.

Amrebayev made his remarks in an August 6 article for the Kyiv-based Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.

"Russia's information propaganda campaign is characterised by direct criticism or deliberate dissemination in news and analytical reports and social networks of false stories and stereotypes about various foreign policy and foreign economic ventures by Kazakhstan that compete with Russia, and, conversely, active propaganda in favour of Eurasian integration under Russia's aegis," he wrote.

He noted that the Kazakh government's decision to transition the Kazakh alphabet from Russian Cyrillic to Latin script had sparked widespread response in Russian media outlets.

"A propaganda attack was waged on Kazakhstan, alleging it was 'betray[ing] an ally' and rejecting a shared cultural and media space, and the attack continues to this day," Amrebayev said.

"The decision was broadly criticised on a range of TV and talk shows."

At the same time, he added, Russian media conveniently ignore the efforts of Kazakhstan's leadership to preserve Russian as the language of inter-ethnic communication, and other initiatives that support linguistic and cultural diversity.

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21 Comment(s)

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Ukraine is doing the right thing bombing the terrorists in Donetsk!


Fascist mutant trolls work hard in every direction without thinking about the terrible end that awaits them.


The future belongs to Ukraine; we need Ukrainian channels


Russia is evil.


For whatever reason working in Russia is good, providing for one's family is good, getting Russian citizenship is good, but everything else is bad - Russia is an aggressor


Because only Russia had been developing for 70 years, and not everybody was equal


Why are Russians fleeing to the USA and Europe by the millions? Then why do they criticize those countries on TV in Russia?


Russia is the last colonial power in the world, continuing its colonial policies.


Turan is still inevitable


My family and I, and also our friends, never watch Russian TV channels. What for? We have the Internet where we can find trustworthy information.


Of course, I stick to that! It's become impossible to watch TV. We have cable TV. There aren't any interesting, educating, entertaining programs left on any of the Russian channels. My God, only mutants converge there day and night, and not only are they giving he USA and Ukraine a hard time, and countries in the West, but these hostilities are reaching our neighbors. It's way too much. You gradually grow to hate these shows, and even their anchors. They have inundated all channels; their analyses don't make people any smarter. They spread horrific, heinous, and dark things; there's no gleam of light.


Then watch your trustworthy channels; who's against it? But you yourselves are all over Russian channels because there's nothing to watch on yours.


Leave the Taiga Union.

Comment removed for violating comments policy



I believe the choice of an alphabet is a domestic issue of the language speakers, especially since knowledge of Russian will preserve the skills of reading literature written in Kazakh Cyrillic.


The farther away from Russia, the better


Go to Africa and forget about it


It is you who should go away, and not to Africa - better to the Moon. There is no Russophobia there.


You need to get closer to China, especially to the camps in Xinjiang


China has already come to the Far East, but the Russians are cowardly silent.