Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
A search was suddenly conducted at the Ukrainian Vesti publication. As “Vesti” reports, the operation was supervised by the Chief Military Prosecutor of Ukraine Anatoly Matios. Perhaps that’s why the search is more similar not to a police, but to a military operation.
In the center of Kiev where the office of “Vesti” resides, the whole quarter was blocked off, units of special troops and even armored vehicles surrounded the building. Police officers completely blocked the work of the publication, operative tasks took place in masks, with weapons, and in full combat regimentals.
The affair smells of elections
Whatever the scope of the event could be, the head of the Center for Eurasian Studies Vladimir Kornilov reminds that it is not the first instance when the post-Maidan authorities stormed the Ukrainian “Vesti”.
“Remember how many searches and raids in recent years there were in this media holding, which ended in nothing. It is already possible to detect some regularity. All these raids in one way or another were connected with some elections. Before every so-called elections in post-Maidan Ukraine raids on the media happened. Even at those media agencies that aren’t – in the strict sense of the word – oppositional,” stated the political scientist in conversation with the correspondent of the Federal News Agency.
In general, now the completely oppositional media in Ukraine are being cleansed. Nevertheless, even this isn’t enough for Kiev. “All media agencies that have the theoretical opportunity to allow themselves to publish materials critical in relation to the authorities are exposed to prosecutions. Hypothetically, the next early parliamentary elections are already in sight. All political forces of modern Ukraine prepare for them. That’s why those media agencies that still afford themselves ‘another opinion’: even not criticising the authorities, but simply allowing themselves a few alternative points of view, are exposed to attack,” continued Kornilov.
However, not many critical media agencies in Ukraine, which try to at least somehow to be objective, remain, according to the political scientist. There are three: “Strana.ua”, “Gazeta 2000”, and “Vesti”. The Ukrainian top brass can strike them with all force. The arrest of the editor-in-chief of “Strana.ua” Igor Guzhva and today’s search in “Vesti” are all this links in the same chain.
Fate of “Vesti”
Whether the media holding will be closed, or this is simply a one-offf action of intimidation, albeit very massive, depends on whether the owners of “Vesti” will be able to come to an agreement with the Ukrainian leadership.
“If the owners will lay down under the power, as was the case in recent years with many Ukrainian media agencies, they will keep their publication. Let’s remember at least the case of channel ‘112 Ukraine’. It also afforded some criticism of the power, some even considered it as oppositional. But it laid down under Poroshenko, and all its problems ended. If ‘Vesti’ doesn’t want to do the same, it will be closed. This is not the first media agency that is being closed in Ukraine,” said Kornilov.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor’s Office insist that they have no claims against the content of the materials of “Vesti”. They say that even if they have claims, it is against the accounts department of the company. There it is affirmed that “Vesti” is an asset of the former minister of Incomes and Collecting of Ukraine Aleksandr Klimenko. Now there is an investigation concerning financial fraud, and it is the reason for the searches in “Vesti”.
“Nevertheless, it is absolutely clear to all that the same ‘Channel 5’ (pro-government Ukrainian TV channel), with its less transparent schemes of financing, will never be subjected to such an attack. Only the media agencies that are undesirable to the authorities are exposed to attack,” notes Kornilov.
The West will keep silent
Military armored vehicles and people in bullet-proof vests and with machine guns. If such a “search” was carried out somewhere in Russia or another country undesirable for the US and the EU, there, for a long time, all voices would be shouting about violations of freedom of speech and the prosecution of the press. After the search in the building of the Ukrainian “Vesti” ends, of course nothing of that kind will be said.
“Just yesterday in Kiev there were the highest representatives of the European Union. They spoke a lot about reforms, but preferred to close their eyes to all recent arrests of oppositional journalists. They will close their eyes this time too. While the power controlled by them governs in Kiev, they will close their eyes to all its violations. While Ukraine follows the course formulated for it in Berlin and Washington, everything suits everyone. We will hear about pressure put on the media in Ukraine we will hear only if the power is replaced, and someone will come to search in ‘Channel 5’,” summarised Vladimir Kornilov.
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