Posted on Oct 28, 2018
Regular readers of EU Today will be aware that there have been many questions raised over the four years since Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian sovereign territory, Crimea, and the continuing Russian “backed” military activities in the Donbass region, concerning the involvement of individual Members of the European Parliament with Russian state controlled media.
Very famously, Nigel Farage of UKIP was once described by Russia Today (RT) as their favourite British politician. The feeling appeared somewhat mutual as in March 2014 Farage had described Putin as the world leader he most admires.
It was even rumoured at one point that he might be given his own show on the Kremlin controlled station.
Now another UKIP MEP has apparently succumbed to the flattery of the pro-Russian media, Nathan Gill, who sits in Farage’s political group in the European Parliament, the EFDD.
There is currently a controversy in Ukraine concerning two TV channels: 112 and News One because of the intention to close them down in response to their direct and clear pro-Russian and pro-Kremlin positions.
A draft law on “Approval of recommendations to introduce personal special economic sanctions and other restrictive measures (sanctions)” on the two channels came into force earlier this month.
The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, stated that “there are systematic signs of imitation of discourse practices of Russian propaganda in the activities of a number of legal entities, permanent demonstration of propaganda and spreading of the ideology of terrorism”.
These sanctions are to include, amongst other things, asset freezes on the two channels and their subsidiaries, and cancellation of their broadcasting licences.
The two channels are believed to be under the control of Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and chairman of the pro-Russia political organisation Ukrainian Choice. He is an opponent of Ukraine’s expressed desire for future membership of the EU, and was claimed by Newsweek to have been identified as a former Russian intelligence agent (23 Nov 2017).
After one of his December 2013 meetings with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, it has been reported that Medvedchuk publicly promised to "deal with" pro-European protesters in Ukraine.
On 24 June 2014, the Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic informed the OSCE that Medvedchuk was appointed their representative in the negotiations with the Ukrainian Government. He was to become one of the first to be placed on the US sanctions list following Russia’s Legal Annexation of Ukraine.
He was one of the mediators in the bidding process that gave Russia the right to host the 2018 World Cup, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is godfather of his daughter Darina, who was born in 2004.
The Independent newspaper has referred to him as “Putin’s best friend in Ukraine” (Aug 30 2018), and in his book “All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin” (2006) Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar claimed that Vladimir Putin believed that no question involving Ukraine could be solved without Viktor Medvedchuk.
"The fact that the channel (112) has gone under Medvedchuk's control is evidenced not only by connection with him of the new management. In the summer of 2018, the politician's 'presence' on 112 shows has grown significantly. A man behind the scenes of the Ukrainian politics, Medvedchuk does not personally give interviews, at least for the time being. But the channel's broadcast is full of his quotes, while statements of his political power make separate news.
And so where does Nathan Gill enter into this narrative?
In fact, he weighed into the debate very shortly after being elected to the European Parliament in 2014 when on September 16th of that year he delivered a speech in Strasbourg telling fellow MEPs that the “EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is leading us into war”. When the European Parliament voted on this on the same day of Gill voted against the Agreement along with his UKIP colleagues.
On November 13th that same year he told MEPs in Brussels that the “EU-Moldova agreement risks deepening crisis in Ukraine”.
On his website, on October 15th of this year, under the headline “Why Moldova should NOT join the EU” Gill writes “At the end of September 2018 I was invited to the Moldo-Russian Economic Forum held in Chisinau, Moldova. We discussed issues such as trade development, economic cooperation and membership of the European Union”.
This was the first such forum; next year’s event will take place in Moscow.
Whether unwittingly or otherwise, Gill is consistently echoing the Kremlin line precisely.
Now, with attention focussed on Putin’s "best friend in Ukraine", who should come to his defence but none other than Gill himself.
On October 23rd, just days after the draft law calling for sanctions on the two Ukrainian TV channels, Gill was to table a written question to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
“The Ukrainian Parliament has voted in favour of sanctions against various news broadcasters, such as NewsOne TV and 112, which may now be forced to terminate their activities. Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental commitments of the Ukraine under the terms of the Association Agreement signed with the EU. How will the EU ensure that there is freedom of the press in the Ukraine and that the terms of the Association Agreement are honoured?”
Note that Gill is asking the EU to ensure that the terms of the Association Agreement, which he personally voted against, are honoured. Astonishing hypocrisy, one might say.
In tabling this question, which has no legislative value whatsoever, not to mention the answer, which will be written by a staff member in the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels and will be of little interest to the world, Gill has, either unwittingly or otherwise, handed Zyagar’s “Kremlin's Men” a propaganda coup.
“EU to consider issue of Ukrainian authorities' pressure on 112 Ukraine and NewsOne TV channels”, screamed the headline on the 112 website on October 24th.
“Federica Mogherini will assess the actions of the Ukrainian Parliament in relation to free media in Ukraine” it continued to misinform its readers, courtesy of Gill’s naivety. Or otherwise.
Lobbyists from these channels - often posing as journalists or human rights activists - are known to be operating in Brussels trying to find support from European politicians claiming violations of freedom of speech and media persecution in Ukraine. It appears they are finding their targets. This is an issue the European institutions might better use their time addressing.
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