Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity has soared at home in the wake of his actions in Ukraine – and the masterful spin his intervention has been given.
The joy that greeted Putin’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in March was due, at least in part, to a propaganda system less complete but more virulent than its Soviet predecessor.
At the center of the system is a remarkable journalist called Dmitry Kiselyev. A long-time and popular presenter on the state-owned Channel One, Kiselyev has “put the nation on a diet stripped of critical voices and soaked in patriotism.”
In December 2013, Putin put Kiselyev in charge of a big media-holding company, Rossiya Sevodnya (Russia Today), which replaced the relatively balanced RIA Novosti news agency. It’s separate from the country’s TV news channel, also called Russia Today, which broadcasts to the world but is milder in tone and more closely allied to the narrative lines put out by the state.
Kiselyev has boasted that Russia is “the only country in the world capable of turning the U.S.A. into radioactive dust.” He said it with a mushroom cloud in the background. He heaped abuse on the Ukrainian government, its armed forces and the country itself – “there is no Ukraine, it is only a virtual concept, a virtual country … now it’s a failed state.”