Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky exercised the resolution of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), imposing a 5-year ban on the work of three Ukrainian TV channels: ZIK, NewsOne and "112 Ukraine." On paper these channels belong to the MP Taras Kozak. In reality, they are controlled by a close associate of Russian President Putin, Viktor Medvedchuk. Zelensky insist the actions were necessary to counter anti-Ukrainian propaganda, which is financed by Moscow.
In the end, the President of Ukraine defied not Kozak and Medvedchuk, but directly Vladimir Putin.
Zelensky did what his predecessor Petro Poroshenko never dared to do. After all, in October 2018, the Parliament appealed to the National Security Council with a request to impose sanctions against two TV channels,"112 Ukraine" and NewsOne, which at that time were already controlled by Viktor Medvedchuk. But Poroshenko's team did not do so. As the ex-president himself now claims, he did not want to question the integrity and transparency of the 2019 elections, which he lost to Zelensky.
Over the past three years, a pool of TV channels has been formed in Ukraine. The views of these media outlets coincided with those of the Russian media. The channels ZIK, NewsOne, and "112 Ukraine" persistently called the war in the Donbass “a civil war”, sought out "Ukrainian fascists" in the country, speculated about the language law, spread fake information about the ban in Ukraine of Bulgakov's work. And at the head of all this was Taras Kozak, owner of all these TV channels, and behind him Viktor Medvedchuk with his colleagues from the pro-Russian party "Opposition Platform - For Life" .
Why, amid Russia’s involvement in the Donbas, there were anti-Ukrainian TV channels in Ukraine pool? The answer, it would seem, is obvious: there was not enough political will to stop this. Someone did not want to upset Medvedchuk and Putin. Someone skillfully used these media resources. But if so, what happened now? Why, after two years of his presidency, Zelensky blocked the TV channels controlled by Putin's friend?
Today, there are at least two versions of what is happening in the Ukrainian media. The first is the low ratings of Zelensky himself, which he is trying to fix by banning pro-Russian media in Ukraine. The second is the pressure on Kyiv from Washington, which pushes Zelensky to take decisive actions. The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine has already supported the sanctions of the National Security Council in relation to Medvedchuk's TV channels.
The current decision of the President is controversial. Firstly, whether it is even possible to apply sanctions to legal entities and individuals within Ukraine. Obviously, Kozak and Medvedchuk will defend their interests in court. Medvedchuk’s party will try to use the situation to build its electoral potential. The party has already announced that it wants to initiate impeachment of Zelensky. But Zelensky did what no one expected him to do, even ardent opponents: he knocked down a pool of pro-Kremlin media. Of course, there is always a threat that the president can do this to any other Ukrainian media resource.
Whatever the end of the story with ZIK, NewsOne and "112 Ukraine”, it has now become very difficult to accuse Zelensky of sympathizing with Medvedchuk and Putin.
It’s not clear whether Zelensky realizes this to the end, but in the seventh year of the war in the country, he dealt a significant blow to the representatives of the "Russian world" in Ukraine. Kozak and Medvedchuk, who are more often in Moscow than at home, are only the tip of the pro-Russian political iceberg in Ukraine. In order to guarantee Zelenskys’ success, it is necessary to continue. Otherwise, the Russian propaganda machine will adapt to the changes.
No one doubts that Vladimir Putin has a lot of tools to put pressure on Zelensky: from the military escalation in the Donbass to creating a political crisis inside Ukraine. It is possible that, in the near future, pro-Russian media will start publishing materials about Zelensky and his entourage.
After all, until 2000’s, Zelensky and his associates worked in Russia. And who knows what Russian FSB might have in its archives on the Ukrainian President and his friends.
There are a lot of hasty and naive actions that Zelensky made as president. But in the last 2 years, he has finally understood that it is pointless to seek Putin’s understanding.
Hopefully, the story with ZIK, NewsOne and "112 Ukraine" is not just another show by Zelensky and his team.