News Brief

Ukrainians Appearing On Russian TV Channels Accused of ‘Sedition’

A Ukrainian editor has denounced fellow Ukrainians who appear on Russian television for money, according to a report by US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, claiming that they are being set up as “whipping boys” to bolster the Kremlin’s agenda.

“Ukrainskaya Pravda” editor Sergei Sidorenko spoke out after he said he was offered several hundred dollars to appear on a talk show on Russia’s NTV, owned by the state energy giant, Gazprom.

Paying experts for television slots is a common, and sometimes frowned-upon practice in the US. But in Sidorenko’s view, Ukrainians who take money to go on pro-Kremlin channels are guilty of sedition — because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine four years ago.

The Ukrainian editor said he told the NTV producer who called him that he believed Russia to be the aggressor. They were still happy to book him, he said. But when the time came to fly to Moscow, Sidorenko stayed home and went public with his opinions.

In an article on his newspaper’s website, he listed several Ukrainian “experts” he said had made a career out of Russian TV appearances, calling them willing participants in Russia’s “hybrid war” against Ukraine.

Even when they express pro-Ukrainian opinions, he says, these experts act as caricature nationalists who are used to strengthen the Kremlin agenda.

When Sidorenko failed to show, the NTV program went ahead without him, leaving one of the Ukrainians he cited, commentator Vyachesklav Kovtun, to defend his country.

Kovtun is a regular on such programs, but the Russian media treats him as a comic character. His first comment was interrupted by the host, who made fun of his previous appearance on the show. The audience laughed, leaving Kovtun grinning feebly.

“The role of people who appear on [Russian] federal channels […] is not to represent a point of view, but to be clowns and jesters,” Sidorenko said in an interview with RFE/RL’s “Current Time” — an appearance for which he presumably was not paid.