In addition to a surge in programming in Ukrainian, the networks of the Broadcasting Board of Governors are also providing critical news and information in Russian that cover and create dialogue about the crisis in the region. Two new programs were launched in May, increasing access to accurate information – a difficult-to-find commodity amid Russian dominance of the region’s media..
On May 23, the Voice of America Ukrainian Service launched a weekly Russian-language television broadcast called Studio Washington (Studiya Vashington) that provides news and information about U.S. and international responses to the crisis. The five-minute newscasts are being marketed to national and regional TV affiliates and are available on the Ukrainian and Russian Services’ websites.
On May 31, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Moldovan Service, in partnership with Moldova National Radio, launched a 30-minute, monthly Russian-language roundtable program called “Period. And by the way…” (Punct. Şi de la capăt) designed to address issues of concern to the country’s Russian-speaking community. In addition, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, in partnership with KRT National TV, on June 2 debuted a daily three-minute headline news spot in both Russian and Kyrgyz to run during evening prime time Monday-Thursday.
The new programs will complement an already robust supply of news and information programming that U.S. international media make available to Russian-speaking audiences.
The Russian Services for both networks provided extensive coverage of the May 25 Ukrainian presidential elections with timely updates, exclusive interviews, expert analysis, live blogs and multimedia reports across multiple platforms.
VOA Russian also aired a special 30-minute edition of the popular interactive live show Podelis!, with correspondents in Moscow and New York City and provided prime-time interactives with the RBC, Russia’s 24 hour business news channel, about US reaction to the elections in Ukraine. RFE/RL’s Russian Service provided a live blog with updates, while its popular Crimea Realities site saw a 65% spike in traffic from Ukraine and a 15% increase in traffic from Russia.
VOA had a number of exclusive interviews, including with Andreas Gross, the leader of the Socialist Group in the Council of Europe and Lilia Shevtsova, chair of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. The exclusive video interview with Ambassador and Permanent Representative from Ukraine to the United Nations Yuri Sergeyev at the voting station in New York was prominently featured on RFE/RL’s svoboda.org as well.
RFE/RL’s Russian Service recently interviewed former presidential adviser Andrey Illarionov and pro-liberal politician Boris Nemtsov about Russia’s willingness to work with Ukraine’s new president, but without the participation of the United States or the EU, and spoke with Lev Gudkov, the head of Russia’s independent research organization Levada Center, about the exceptional domestic popularity of President Vladimir Putin. The Service has also aired several reports from correspondent Alexandra Vagner, on assignment in eastern Ukraine, and devoted recent episodes of its talk shows “Face to Events” and “Facets of Time” to analysis of Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine, and the state of journalism in Putin’s Russia after the deaths of two journalists covering the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
Radio Svoboda’s “Lie of the Day” continues to be a popular source of information, debunking some of the outrageous fabrications appearing in pro-Russian online communities and media. Recent entries include a May 28 report about Russian TV channels claiming Donetsk morgues were overcrowded with bodies of civilians killed by the Ukrainian military, and that Ukrainian soldiers are targeting civilians and journalists, as well as a June 2 report that the Pentagon wants to make the people of Eastern Ukraine unemployed and “tear” Ukraine from Russia.