Russia’s Media Decry Western ‘hysteria’ Over Ukraine

As fear of a Russian invasion of Ukraine builds in the West, Russia’s usually propaganda-heavy media has been curiously quiet. For the most part, most Russians see the upbeat of events in Ukraine as “hysteria” induced by the West, most especially the US.

On recent TV news bulletins, the crisis – which has seen Russia mass around 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border amid widespread fears of an invasion – is rarely given top billing.

On Tuesday night, the Ukraine situation was relegated to fourth place in the nightly news broadcasts on Russia’s three main TV channels. Instead, broadcasters led with heavy snowfall causing mass cancellations of flights at Istanbul airport, a popular destination for Russian tourists.

It’s a major contrast from Russia’s last offensive in Ukraine in 2014, when months of aggressive TV propaganda helped sell the public on annexing Crimea and stirring up revolt in eastern Ukraine after the Maidan Revolution in Kyiv ousted a pro-Russian president.

This time, TV news has been much more cautious about talk of war.

The media in Russia routinely condemn the “hysteria” of the US evacuating diplomats from Ukraine and insist that “the Americans have been frightening themselves with a Russian invasion for months.”

President Joe Biden
Russian tanks in the border with Ukraine

For Russia’s small community of British expats, a relaxed mood on the ground contrasts with fears at home that invasion is imminent. “I think people in Britain would be surprised how little people are thinking about war here,” said Daniel Freeman, a 27-year-old Moscow-based teacher, originally from Liverpool.

“I don’t know any Russians who think a war is going to happen,” said Mr Freeman, who noted the absence of war talk on the local TV and radio.

US officials fear Ukrainian capital Kyiv will fall within days if Putin orders Russia to invade.

The lack of a clear media line suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s circle has not made a firm decision yet on whether to attack Ukraine.

If they do not, they would be with public opinion. According to a recent survey by the independent Levada Centre pollster, only 37 per cent of Russians believe war is a possibility in the year ahead.

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