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08KYIV1627, TFGG01 Ukrainian Media on Georgian Conflict

August 15, 2008

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08KYIV1627 2008-08-15 14:04 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kyiv

DE RUEHKV #1627/01 2281404
O 151404Z AUG 08

E.O. 12958: N/A 
SUBJECT:  TFGG01 Ukrainian Media on Georgian Conflict 
1. (SBU) Summary:  Ukrainian media is split on its coverage of the 
conflict in Georgia, which occupied the front page of Ukrainian 
newspapers this week and featured prominently on broadcast and 
on-line media.  Pro-Western and pro-presidential periodicals 
denounced Russia's support for separatist regions in Georgia and 
accused Russia of imperialism and indiscriminate use of force. 
Papers leaning toward the opposition as well as those associated 
with Prime Minister Tymoshenko claimed the conflict was provoked by 
Georgia and focused on the suffering of South Ossetia's population. 
Not surprisingly, the two camps drew different lessons for Ukraine: 
one urged rapid NATO membership, while the other called for 
neutrality and warned against provoking Russia.  Additionally, some 
media was critical about the absence of a public statement by the 
Prime Minister.  (Note: While Ukrainian print media and television 
have been relatively balanced in their reporting, many Ukrainians 
have access to Russian television stations, which present a very 
different picture.) 
2. (SBU) Print Media 
Pro-Western Den's senior international correspondent Mykola Siruk 
stated in an article August 13 that Moscow wants "full control over 
Georgia."  He called Russia "hypocritical" for blaming "Georgian 
aggression" as the cause of the conflict and rejected Russia's 
characterization of its actions as "peacekeeping."   Another Den 
journalist, Yurii Raikhel, compared Russia's policy regarding South 
Ossetia to Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 under the 
pretext of defending Sudeten Germans (August 12).  In an article 
August 14, Raikhel ridiculed Russia for trying to pin the term 
"aggressor" on Georgia.  He commented on the outcome of hostilities, 
stating that Russia had lost politically, diplomatically, 
financially and militarily (claiming that Russia's military was 
3.  (SBU) Deputy chief editor of the pro-Yushchenko Ukraina Moloda 
Dmytro Lykhovii, in an opinion piece headlined "The Russia That I 
Hate" (August 12), wrote: "The Russian bear opened a new page on 
military 'victories': tanks on foreign territory, the bombing of 
sovereign Georgia, the killing of hundreds of Georgian citizens, and 
a massive propaganda attack based on the most brutal lies -- this is 
what Russia's first war in the third millennium looks like." He 
concludes that "Caucasus developments are additional proof of how 
vital it is for Ukraine to join NATO." 
4. (SBU) These opinions are seconded by the Russian-language "Gazeta 
po-Kievski" (August 14) which sees the ceasefire as a Russian 
defeat, urges a fast decision by NATO on Ukraine's and Georgia's 
Membership Action Plans and hails the unity of and "victory in the 
stand-off with Russia" by Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and 
Estonia, whose leaders rallied in Tbilisi in solidarity with 
Georgia.  Both Gazeta po-Kievski (August 13) and Ukraina Moloda, as 
well as Hazeta24 (August 14), lashed out against Prime Minister 
Tymoshenko for her failure to denounce Russian aggression against 
5.  (SBU) Some newspapers that supported Georgia and criticized 
Russia nevertheless published opinion pieces running counter to the 
general editorial line. For example, Hazeta24 (August 13) prints 
opinions by European experts, who despite pressure from the 
journalist, refused to hold Russia solely responsible for the 
hostilities.  Arkady Moshes of the Finnish Institute of 
International Relations opined that "based on the precedent of air 
strikes against Serbia that ultimately led to Kosovo independence, 
it is very easy for Russia to argue it is acting in the same manner 
in Georgia...In any case, people will take a look at who fired the 
first shot.  In this case the first shot was not from the Russian 
side.  And this fact is impossible to conceal."  Alexander Rahr, a 
member of the German Council on Foreign Policy, said that, unlike in 
the U.S., in Europe many view with understanding the Russian move to 
go into South Ossetia to stop the bloodshed. 
6.  (SBU) Den, August 14, put on the front page an opinion piece by 
Ihor Slisarenko who, while blaming Russia for masterminding the 
conflict, stated that "Russia not only scored a regional military 
and political victory, but also forced the West to take into account 
its own 'Monroe doctrine'."  Gazeta po-Kievski, in the same article 
that accused Russia of imperialism, expressed hope that the war in 
Georgia would "force world leaders to review the rules of the game 
in contemporary world. Because, if the U.S. can do anything it 
pleases in Iraq, if today E
urope recognizes Kosovo's independence, 
then these geopolitical players will have followers." 
7. (SBU) Segodnya daily, owned by one of the leaders of the Regions 
Party, Rinat Akhmetov, in several articles published August 12-14, 
urged Ukraine to keep clear of any involvement in the Georgian 
KYIV 00001627  002 OF 003 
conflict, warning that involvement would split Ukraine.  An opinion 
column by anti-Western commentator Oles Buzyna (August 12) blamed 
the U.S. for the actions of Georgian President Saakashvili that 
provoked the war.  Vechernie Vesti, associated with Prime Minister 
Tymoshenko, carried a large article (August 13) surprisingly 
critical of President Saakashvili and of pro-Americanism of the part 
of Ukrainian leadership: "The war in the Caucasus sent shivers down 
the spine not only because of compassion with the civilian 
population of Georgia and Ossetia.  The open games of Bankova with 
the White House, the eloquent threats by the Ukrainian MFA to 
prevent the Russian Black Sea Navy's ships from returning to Crimea 
after patrolling the Russian-Georgian border, have given rise to 
fear among our citizens of deliberate or inadvertent involvement of 
our country in war. Controversial actions by Ukrainian politicians 
who talk about a peaceful settlement of the Caucasus conflict in 
fact only aggravate the already tense relations with Russia and 
encourage American policies... One is really scared when one 
realizes where, God forbid, Ukraine's foreign policy could lead us 
with its desire to get into NATO at any cost." 
8. (SBU)  Kievskie Vedomosti, in an essay by Yevgenii Yakunov 
(August 13), painted an unattractive portrait of Georgian President 
Mikhail Saakashvili, ascribed to the Georgian people an intrinsic 
characteristic of producing unbalanced passionate leaders, and 
warned Ukraine of the danger of "becoming cannon fodder in someone 
else's war." 
Broadcast Media 
9. (SBU) Ukrainian primetime TV coverage of the Georgian conflict 
has been mostly straightforward and balanced, covering a wide range 
of viewpoints (ranging from Russia saying early in the conflict that 
Ukraine has no moral grounds to mediate in the South Ossetian 
conflict to the U.S. President Bush statement of strong support for 
Georgia).  In addition to factual reporting, primetime comments 
included those by Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's first President, saying 
to television's One Plus One on August 10 that "a game by 
superpowers is taking place in the Caucasus, and the game intends to 
push Russia aside from the position it used to hold there before. 
Russia is not going to give in, whereas the United States and 
western countries will try to push Russia aside.  So, leaders of the 
Caucasus should take this into consideration, particularly 
10. (SBU)  Anatoly Grytsenko, chair of the Parliamentary Committee 
on Defense and National Security, and ex-Defense Minister, said on 
Channel Five (August 13), "To make an assessment of what has 
happened one has to distance oneself from the principle 'friend or 
foe' or 'aggressor and victim.'  I am in solidarity with the people 
of Georgia, who became the victims of war.  However, I'd like to say 
that I can't be in solidarity with the actions by President 
Saakashvili, who resorted to the use of force to resolve the 
conflict.  It's true he has been provoked. But a statement and state 
policy are about remaining cool.  He resorted to the use of force 
and ended with a tragic result for the country.  One may say 
absolutely that these two republics (South Ossetia, Abkhazia) will 
never return to the jurisdiction of this country (Georgia) whatever 
active measures the international community, including Ukraine, 
tries to use. Also I'd like to add that the use of rocket launchers 
is not acceptable in the third millennium, and such actions should 
be punished...  On the other hand, Russia has resorted to an act of 
war, an act of aggression. It has attacked Georgia from all three 
spheres: land, water, and air, and it is war, it is the violation of 
the international war. It should be condemned, and I regret that so 
far our leadership has failed to call it aggression." 
On-Line Media 
11. (SBU) UNIAN carried an article titled "Caucasian Crisis: Lessons 
for Ukraine" written by Yengen Magda (August 11).  The author argues 
that this crisis is not simply a conflict between Russia and 
Georgia, but could result in a serious change in the European map 
and Ukraine should prepare for this.  Magda suggests that Kyiv 
should check how many Crimeans have Russian passports.  Magna also 
states that the conflict is Russia's response to Kosovo's 
independence, that Kyiv cannot effectively influence the situation 
in Georgia because of future gas negotiations with Russia, and that 
Georgia now will try to receive guarantees to join NATO quickly. 
Further, Magda says that the conflict may help Ukraine join NATO and 
that   recent events have proved that Ukraine needs a mobile and 
effective army.  This, he says, could result in change of the 
Minister of Defense, as Yekhanurov is not a professional military 
man.  Finally, Magda stresses that Ukraine should revise its policy 
in Crimea. 
KYIV 00001627  003 OF 003 
12. (SBU) In Obozrevatel ("How We Can Prevent War with Russia?" 
August 13), Dmitriy Bielianskiy argues  that Russia's goal is not to 
occupy Georgia but to get rid of Saakashvili and that nobody can 
really prevent Russia from doing it: neither NATO, nor the USA, UN, 
EU, G7 could do anything except issue statements.  The author writes 
that Ukraine is not a united country and this could result in the 
same situation as in Georgia. The main question now, in the author's 
opinion, is how to prevent war with Russia.  He proposes two ways: 
further promote NATO in Ukraine as the only way to protect Ukraine's 
sovereignty or a second approach (a paradoxical one, according to 
the author) would be to refuse to join NATO and to accept the 
Russian language as a second official language. 456.htm 
13.  (SBU) Ukrains'ka Pravda carried an analytical piece entitled, 
"Ukraine Is Next?" by Oleksandr Sushko, Scientific Director of the 
Institute of Euro Atlantic Co-operation. The author argues that this 
is a Russian war for a new world order and if Russia wins this war 
there won't be a place for Ukraine as a sovereign country.  The 
author points out the weaknesses of the West, saying there are no 
leaders any more like Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher who would 
call things by their names.  The author expresses the same sentiment 
as in the above-mentioned article, namely that in order to prevent 
war, Ukraine has two choices:  join NATO as soon as possible or join 
Russia. .htm 
14.  (SBU) In "Russia against Georgia: R
evival of the Empire," the 
author claims that the main goals of Russia are to prevent Georgia 
from joining NATO and to prevent the creation of "non-Russian" means 
to transport energy.  According to the author, the war in Georgia 
makes it impossible for Georgia to receive a Membership Action Plan. 
 The author writes about ways to protect Ukraine from the same 
situation: to join NATO, to remove the Russian Black Sea fleet, to 
coordinate information space, and to control the situation in 
Crimea. .htm 


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