Russia Today, usually referred to simply as RT, is not having a good week. With one anchor criticizing Russia’s policy in Ukraine and another anchor quitting on air over RT’s coverage of the crisis, the Kremlin-backed network can’t seem to get much respect.
With the eye of American media suddenly drawn to the news agency, it’s worth examining their coverage of the recent events in Ukraine — particularly how they portray the new leadership of the struggling nation.
Luckily for RT, they found their man that can frighten both Russian and American audiences.
Meet Aleksandr Muzychko — a Kalashnikov-toting leader of the radical nationalist group Right Sector. His wild antics have garnered the attention of RT and they have turned him into a national star — on their own channel, at least.
Ever since the former regime of Viktor Yanukovych was toppled, Muzychko has started to receive constant coverage from Russia Today — thanks to his fondness for his AK-47, checkered past and thuggish actions. While it hasn’t been made clear what position of authority Muzychko holds within the new Ukrainian government (and one report states there’s a warrant out for his arrest), this hasn’t stopped RT from portraying him as the face of Ukraine’s new leadership.
The first time we meet Muzychko through an RT report subtly titled, “I’ll be fighting Jews and Russians until I die.” In it, we get the first encounter with Muzychko’s trusty AK-47 and his propensity for outrageous statements. Among other things, he declares in a speech that his trigger finger will not tremble when Yanukovych’s men come into his town and his alleged statement from 2007 that headlined the story. We also learn that he fought with the Chechen rebellion’s war against Russia back in the 1990s and was responsible for the extermination of an entire Russian military unit.
Luckily for RT, Muzychko was not about to turn down the insanity.
At a local city council meeting in Western Ukraine, Muzychko showed up to make his voice heard. Ditching a suit and tie for a casual military outfit, Muzychko showed off his cherished Kalashnikov to the frightened officials and let them know that he wouldn’t give it away without a fight — the same going for his backup knife he brought to the media.
Muzychko didn’t stop his charm tour at the city council — he next showed up at a prosecutor’s office to demand answers for why a murder case wasn’t going quick enough. Armed only with a pistol this time, he assaulted the prosecutor with cameras rolling and threatened to lynch him if the case wasn’t resolved shortly. This prompted a warrant to be issued for his arrest, but that didn’t stop Muzychko. He showed up at another city council meeting in camo and AK-47 in hand to tactfully let them he was not going anywhere and would hang the interior minister “like a dog” if he tried to arrest him. He also went on an anti-Semitic tirade in his speech before the city’s leaders.
It’s not hard to discern the narrative that RT is trying to promote in Ukraine with their Muzychko segments — the nation has been taken over by rabid nationalists who are quick to violence and hate Russians with a burning passion. And the nationalist leader easily serves as their model to support that narrative.