While EU leaders discuss how to counter Russian propaganda, a pro-Moscow Ukrainian oligarch bought the Ukrainian service of Euronews, and Kyiv decided to ?revoke its broadcasting license.
The European Union is set to launch its first operation in a media war with Russia, within days of EU leaders approving the campaign at a summit yesterday (19 March).
Euronews is a private media venture that has received substantial EU funding over the years.
A press release quoted by the website TeleKritika quotes the Deputy General Director of the National Telecompany of Ukraine who speaks of “legal problems” surrounding the Ukrainian service of Euronews.
The Ukrainian edition of Euronews was opened in 2009, with Ukrainian public financing. Last February, an Egyptian investor, Naguib Sawiris, bought a 53% stake in Euronews, and on 13 March it was announced that Inter Media Group, owned by Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch, had taken over the Ukrainian service.
The Ukrainian service has a yearly license cost of €5.5 million and a debt of €10.8 million, accumulated until Inter Media Group purchase.
In February 2013, Firtash bought Inter Media Group Ltd., which owns eight television stations, for $2.5 billion from ex-First Deputy Prime Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy, who was in charge of the secret services of the then-President Viktor Yanukovich.
Firtash awaits extradition to the US on bribery and other charges. He was arrested in March 2014 in Austria, but was released after being ordered to pay a bail of €125m, the largest in Austrian legal history. He must stay in Vienna and could be extradited to the US in the coming weeks.
In a very recent interview with Euronews, Firtash makes plain his political views, sounding as if they had been approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukrainian media pundits believe that the Ukrainian service of Euronews is unlikely to bring enough advertising income, and will not be sustainable.
The Director General of the National Telecompany of Ukraine is quoted as saying: “For the news from Ukraine, the one responsible will from now on be the Firtash group. They need the ability to manipulate these or other events, in Ukraine as well as in Europe.”
Latvia, which took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 January, intends to launch an independent media entity which could include a Russian-language TV channel to counter Kremlin propaganda.
Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, hinted last December that the EU executive was aware of the surge of Russian propaganda against the background of the Ukrainian crisis, and that it had some ideas about how to deal with it.
- EurActiv France : L'Ukraine interdit Euronews sur son territoire
- EurActiv Germany : Informationskrieg mit Russland: Ukraine verbietet Euronews