Cablegate: (Sbu) Tfgg01: Russian Media Continues to Push Anti-U.S.,
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2366/01 2260307
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 130307Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9442
INFO RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 3876
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002366
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PBTS PINR PINS PNAT PREL GG RS
Ref: Moscow 2343
SUBJECT: (SBU) TFGG01: Russian media continues to push anti-U.S.,
1. (SBU) Summary: In a tone reminiscent of the early 20th century
"yellow press", Russian media continues its nonstop coverage of the
South Ossetian-Georgian conflict, through the prism of Georgian
violence against South Ossetians. The major themes focus on
foreign, particularly U.S., involvement and the anti-Russia bias in
the Western media. The ad hominem attacks on Georgian President
Mikhail Saakashvili and his government continue unabated (reftel).
Washington is (still) aiding Georgia
2. (SBU) Russian television news coverage continues to emphasize
foreign, particularly U.S., involvement in the Georgian conflict.
Rossiya, a state television channel, on its August 11 evening news
program highlighted an article from the Israeli tabloid "Ma'ariv"
alleging that the U.S. was sending munitions intended for U.S.
troops in Iraq to Georgia through Jordan. The broadcast included
the editorial comment that "... although the White House said it was
not going to provide military aid, Georgia is being heavily armed."
Russian Deputy Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Nogovitsyn was
quoted by various Russian TV stations as calling the return of
Georgian troops from Iraq to Georgia on U.S. military planes as a
form of military assistance to Tbilisi. Prime Minister Putin
insinuated the same in comments picked up in the broadcast and print
press: "It's too bad that several of our partners are not helping
us, but are attempting to interfere. I have in mind the U.S. using
its military transportation to redeploy Georgian troops from Iraq."
3. (SBU) Komsomolskaya Pravda, a pro-Kremlin tabloid, had a picture
of Saakashvili handing out assault rifles to Georgian troops on its
August 12 front page with the headline reading "Who prepared Georgia
for war? And how?" The accompanying article detailed military aid
given to Georgia by various NATO and "unfriendly" (ex. Ukraine)
states. The U.S. headed the list, even though other nations were
listed as having given more to Tbilisi.
4. (U) Several outlets have published criticisms from a retired
American visiting his wife's relatives in Ossetia to support the
idea that the U.S. is directly involved in the conflict. Newspaper
Izvestia quoted Florida resident Joseph Mestas as saying that the
situation in South Ossetia was worse than what Western media has
portrayed and that said that Saakashvili and POTUS would have to
answer for this. State-owned English language television network
Russia Today interviewed Mestas while running the caption headline,
"City Turns into a Human Hell." The Russia Today correspondent
noted that "Some Russian officials claim that Washington carries
part of the blame by providing Tbilisi with military assistance."
(SBU) Western media = Unfair
5. (SBU) Complaints about Western media coverage of the conflict
continued unabated. On August 11, Russian television aired CNN
footage of Saakashvili running for shelter while walking around Gori
with French Foreign Minister Kushner. Rossiya labeled the footage
an example of "American TV's warfare" against Russia, explaining
that "Saakashvili was shown coming under Russian fire, but no sound
could be heard except voices of his bodyguards." Russian news
website lenta.ru continued in the same vein, stating that "The West
is trying to scold Russia, but lacks credibility, since the
information used [by the West] is too biased."
6. (SBU) Yet despite cries of pro-Georgian coverage, we have
noticed that the Russian wire service Interfax has become a primary
source for information from the region in Western media. Possible
reasons for Interfax's popularity include its offering of news items
in English and its official independence from the state, unlike its
competitors Ria-Novosti and ITAR-TASS.
(SBU) Saakashvili = Hitler; Georgians = Nazis
7. (SBU) Drawing upon the Soviet Union's veneration of the Second
World War, Russian media has been quick to compare Saakashvili to
the German dictator and the Georgian army to fascist brownshirts.
Kommersant, a business-oriented daily, quoted Speaker of the Russian
Duma Boris Gryzlov as comparing Georgian actions in South Ossetia to
Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. Speaker of the Federation
Council (Russia's upper house of parliament) Sergei Mironov chimed
in by comparing the Georgian government to Nazis. Putin compared
Saakashvili to Saddam Hussein.
8. (U) Many broadcast news programs and newspapers - including
Izvestiya, Kommersant, Vedemosti, Nezavisamaya Gazeta -- carried
MOSCOW 00002366 002 OF 002
pictures of the Gori incident, showing a sweaty Saakashvili crouched
between body guards with a visible look of panic on his face.
Rossiya added further spin to the footage with the voice over:
"Watch the hot-tempered Georgian President scared by the sound of
distant gunfire." TV Center commented: "No aircraft appeared in the
sky, but the staged footage came out well." Finally, First
Channel's nighttime news described Saakashvili's "surprisingly
inadequate behavior." The offscreen comment said: "The President
was scared by the sound of his own artillery that resumed shelling
South Ossetia ... Unlike Saakashvili, the cameraman who filmed the
footage remained calm, his camera did not shake."
9. (SBU) Comment: With the exception of some individual voices,
mainstream Russian media seems united in its support for Russian
actions in the Caucasus, its condemnation of Georgia and
Saakashvili, and accusations of Western support for Georgia against
Russia. The jingoistic coverage has caught the public's attention -
according to a poll done by TNS Gallup Media, viewership for news
programs has grown 2-3 times while interest in films and the Olympic
Games has dropped to second and third place.
10. (SBU) Comment continued: As to reftel's hypothesis of Russia
laying the groundwork for possible Kosovo-South Ossetia/Abkhazia
comparison, the media coverage continues to support such a move.
Centrist Kremlin-affiliated daily Vremya Novostey noted on August 12
that "Moscow has already made it understood that its recognition of
South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence is a matter of time."