Russian state TV defies Putin and finally starts broadcasting criticism of the war

11 March 2022, 09:21 | Updated: 11 March 2022, 09:25

Russian TV broadcast criticism of the war despite the Kremlin's bid to clampdown on dissent
Russian TV broadcast criticism of the war despite the Kremlin's bid to clampdown on dissent. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Guests on Russian state TV have defied Vladimir Putin's bid to strangle criticism of his invasion of Ukraine as they took aim at the war.

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The conflict was compared to the disastrous Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, in which thousands of soldiers died.

The dissent was broadcast on Russia 1, which is owned by the state, despite a new law banning what the Kremlin described as misinformation about the war - widely seen as a method to stifle opposition and protests throughout Russian cities.

The eponymous host of An Evening with Vladimir Soloviyev had to begin interrupting as the Kremlin's line was torn into.

Academic Semyon Bagdasarov asked: "Do we need to get into another Afghanistan, but even worse?"

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Worrying that Ukraine had become more advanced with handling weapons, as the West supplies anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, he said: "We don't need that. Enough already."

Karen Shakhnazarov, a filmmaker, called for an end to the fighting and said: "I have a hard time imagining taking cities such as Kyiv, I can't imagine how that would look."

He went on: "If this picture starts to transform into an absolute humanitarian disaster, even our close allies like China and India will be forced to distance themselves from us.

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"This public opinion, with which they're saturating the entire world, can play out badly for us."

The Telegraph also reports that on Zvezda, a channel run by the country's ministry of defence, broadcast a serving army officer who said Russian forces were dying in Ukraine as the host shouted for him to stop, insisting the operation was a good thing.

Russia's information war has tried to frame Ukraine as a state run by Nazis, despite the government being democratically elected and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's own family having fallen victim to the Holocaust.

A potential 15 year jail term could be imposed on dissidents in Russia if they are convicted of spreading "misinformation".

Ahead of the invasion, the West warned about "false flag" operations run by the Kremlin that would try and paint Kyiv as an aggressor.

Those claims were again made as Russia tried to push a line that Ukraine has been developing chemical weapons, which has been dismissed and ridiculed in Kyiv and Washington.

It has led to fears that Russia - which is thought to have moved much slower in its invasion than anticipated in the face of staunch Ukrainian defences and supply issues - will deploy chemical weapons themselves and use their previous allegations against Ukraine as a cover story.

Boris Johnson said: "They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans and so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have a sort of maskirovka, a fake story, ready to go."

Previously, Anonymous was said to have hijacked TV and streaming services in Russia, displaying footage from the war.