Russian state-run television’s top propagandist — and stalwart Putin supporter — just flipped out when a technical snafu broadcast a pro-Ukrainian video live during Tuesday’s episode of The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, triggering an on-air meltdown by the show’s host.
Solovyov began yelling at staff, demanding to know where his clip was.
“There was another clip. I don’t understand why this one was shown,” he complained. “There is a clip where they’re shooting at our prisoners of war.”
Julia Davis of The Daily Beast broke the story and tweeted this:
— Gaye Allyn (@Gayezo1) April 7, 2022
The schadenfreude is very real.
Solovyov got angrier as time went on, and his tirade went ignored. The clip he intended to present was never shown.
Teeing up to spread the Kremlin-approved propaganda that he has built a career upon, Solovyov wanted to deflect attention from the atrocities revealed in Bucha, Ukraine. But the video that he intended to show — Ukrainian soldiers supposedly shooting Russian prisoners of war — was replaced with one showing Ukrainian soldiers walking amidst dead Russian soldiers declaring “Glory to Ukraine” and “Glory to the heroes.”
Almost as if on cue, the video ended with a Ukrainian soldier staring into the camera and sending a warning to Russia: “Don’t come to our land.” This came after the soldiers could be heard saying “Russia is a bitch.”
Whether the clip switch was intentional — or an honest mistake — won’t matter much in a country that has criminalized journalism, with Russia’s Parliament signing a declaration that threatens to jail those deemed to be spreading “fake news” for up to 15 years.
This has spurred a mass exodus of Russian and non-Russian journalists. They are leaving their positions at various media outlets – some leaving the country altogether, unable to safely do their jobs under the new constraints put forth by an overreaching Kremlin.
Free speech is “protected” in the Russian constitution, but Putin’s regime has been chipping away at independent journalism in favor of state-run and state-sanctioned media. In 2013, Putin signed an executive directive that folded the largest news agency — RIA Novosti — into a government-controlled media conglomerate. It would be the beginning of the end for unbiased, independent reporting.
But that had little effect on Solovyov. He didn’t need direction from the Kremlin to spread propaganda. He condemned those who dared to speak negatively about Russia or its leader, despite constantly being sued and insulting those he disagreed with. This got him into hot water — not with the government, but with his colleagues.
In 2014, he was sanctioned by the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine for his defense of the annexation of Crimea. In 2018, seven people were arrested in a protest against Solovyov, with one comparing him to Julia Streicher, the Editor-in-Chief of the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer.
In 2019, more than 200,000 signatures were gathered in a petition to have Vladimir Solovyov banned from both Italy and the European Union. Solovyov has Italian residency. His property was seized in March, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A note with 10 names was given over by jailed Putin critic and opponent, Alexei Navalny. Those names included those in media who aid and abet Putin in his mission to spread lies and propagate a dangerous narrative.
There’s no love lost between Navalny and Solovyov, particularly since he compared Navalny to Hitler, creating outrage amongst the Jewish community since Solovyov is Jewish himself.
With his property seized abroad, Solovyov doesn’t have many options if the muck hits the fan. In addition to losing his prized Italian villas, two days after the broadcast mix-up, they were vandalized. The pool at his villa on Lake Como suddenly turned red. Paint with the words “killer” and “no war” covered the entrance. Solovyov’s second villa in Menaggio was set on fire, although firefighters put the blaze out before the entire home was destroyed.
I’m sure Solovyov will be elated to hear that it was saved.
With Russia being listed as the country with the 10th largest number of journalists killed — and a report by Reporters Without Borders ranking Russia 150th out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index — the margin of error in reporting is slim to non-existent.
For Solovyov — a Putin loyalist, who has openly derided everyone from sports commentators to journalists and hosts of other media outlets who dared speak out against actions taken by Russia and its President — it will be especially interesting to see how he spins this. And equally interesting to see if Putin will listen. He’s not exactly known for his forgiveness or grace.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick