Protests against the Ukrainian TV channel Inter continue. After its studios were set on fire yesterday, on September 4, protesters claim they will stay near the network’s studios in the “National Information Systems” building until the channel stops functioning, reports a Hromadske journalist.
Inter is a Ukrainian channel that is often accused of having pro-Russian position. At the same time Inter maintain good relations with the Ukrainian authorities and its reporters on a regular basis produces reports praising Ukrainian army and political groups closed to former Ukrainian president Yanukovych. Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch, is the beneficial owner of the channel. Dmytro Firtash is the author of the scheme “RosUkrEnergo”, Russian-Ukrainian gaz deals. He was a key associate of Ukrainian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after protestors were murdered on the Maidan. Before and during the EuroMaidan Revolution, he was Yanukovych’s voice, calling people on Maidan extremists, and inculcated an editorial policy that bore striking similarities to Russian government channels. On one hand, the channel’s coverage has been notable for its active support of Ukrainian army, making a play with the audience in such a way. On the other hand, they always find time for Yanykovich’s associates, Vladimir Putin’s messages about World War II, USSR nostalgia and the promotion of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Hromadske International tries to explain the situation.
Inter’s studios in the “National Information Systems” building in Kyiv were the set on fire on the afternoon of September 4. Earlier on a few people gathered near the building to protest the channel’s editorial policy. They were chanting “Inter is an agent of Moscow!” It was not the first time that Inter has been accused of pro-Russian views.
According to a statement that the channel published after the fire, 15 armed people broke into Inter building, got some shots off and set the building afire.
Chief of the Main Office of National Police in Kyiv Andriy Kryschenko told TV channel 112 that according to witnesses, a smoke pallet was thrown into the building.
According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, the fire on the first and second floors began due to a “foreign ignition source” getting into the building. During the fire-fighting operations, 30 people were evacuated. One person was injured.
Were People Injured?
The State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported about one person who got injured. It was Inter journalist Olena Zorina, informs Hromadske Radio. She was diagnosed with spinal trauma.
“National Information Systems” Chief Oleksandr Pylypets, who manages the building in which Inter’s office was set ablaze, accuses authorities of inaction and indifference about repeated threats to Inter.
Instead of this, an advisor to the interior minister Anton Geraschenko, thinks it Inter itself may be behind the event.
“It’s quite possible that the arson attempt on “Inter” is a bid to cast themselves as victims, primarily for the world community, which is sensitive to incidents with the media,” he wrote on Facebook.
As a consequence of the fire, a studio of “Podrobytsi” was burnt to the ground and some journalists got injured, according to the Inter’s statement.
Law enforcement seized six people suspected of the arson, said the chief of Main Office of National Police of Ukraine in Kyiv Andriy Kryschenko. Nearly at midnight human rights defender Tetyana Blyzniuk wrote that six people had been released, and two or three were still in the police station.
Why Inter Is Called Pro-Russian?
The last arson of Inter took place in June, as a result some property was damaged, but no one was injured. That time the channel was also accused of having a pro-Russian position.
At the end of August 2016, there was an appeal made to authorities to forbid Inter’s broadcasting because of an “anti-Ukrainian” concert dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Ukrainian Independence, according to Detector Media.
The statement claims that such a concert was appropriate for “controlled Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of 1990 or for certain regions of Donbass and Crimea, but definitely not for Ukraine, which is in the state of war with Russian invaders.”
In 2014 Maria Stolyarova used coarse language while a journalist Olena Zorina was talking with families of those who had died on Maidan.
On January 15th, National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine issued a warning for Inter due to the fact of questionable New Year broadcasting, where in particular singer Joseph Kobzon, a vocal Putin supporter who has been called the Soviet Union’s Frank Sinatra, took part. Kobzon has been listed as a persona non grata in Ukraine.
Jozeph Kobzon, wh is singing with “DNR” leader Oleksand Zakharchenko, 2014
The fact that scandal Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash is the beneficial owner of the channel also stirs unease. He is known for his pro-Russian position and close ties with Kremlin. He now flees from American justice which accuses him of corruption to the value of $18.5 billion. At the end of August, he lost an appeal in the Austrian court about his extradition to the USA.
Ukrainian deputy and journalist Mustafa Nayyem said he didn’t recognize any violent actions against media workers.
“I’m against the arson of TV channels. No matter who does it and with what motives. By setting Kremlin agents on fire we become exactly the same savages Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin tries to present us as to the world ,” he posted on Facebook.
His colleague Serhiy Leschenko responded with almost the same reaction.
“There are some principles - you can dislike some journalists, but you can’t burn them. The arson of Inter TV channel is an attack on freedom of speech, instigated by part of Ukraine’s political spectrum,” he wrote on Facebook.
The permanent representative of Ukraine in Council of Europe Dmytro Kuleba thinks that many nice people work at Inter, however, there are some questions for its policy.
“Arson – isn’t an answer, because editorial policies don’t burn,” he wrote on Twitter.
Verkhovna Rada Vice-Speaker and Ukrainian representative to the Trilateral Contact Group's humanitarian subgroup Iryna Gerashchenko also criticized the arson. She called it “a provocation”:
“I’m against arson. Even if I don’t like someone’s editorial policy. I condemn such methods of bickerfest with media and I consider its a provocation, and specifically against country”.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko instructed the Prosecutor General to take the investigation into the situation with Inter TV channel under personal control.
The Head of State has also instructed Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov to make every effort to ensure law and order on the streets of Kyiv and throughout Ukraine.
“It is inadmissible that somebody breaks into the building and commits arson attack. I am confident that this situation has nothing to do with patriots. Today, it is even more harmful to Ukraine than any contacts with provocateurs,” Petro Poroshenko noted.