When Russia Today launched in 2005, its operators insisted that despite being funded by the Russian government, the news outlet would function independently of Moscow. The channel even rebranded to simply RT in 2009 to avoid being seen as an entirely Russian news network.
On Wednesday, however, RT seemingly dropped all pretense of being editorially independent, by praising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highly controversial annexation of Crimea.
In a post entitled “Top 10 Powerful Quotes from Putin’s Historic Crimea Address,” RT lauded Putin’s speech declaring Crimea part of the Russian Federation as “barn-burning.” The post, not credited to any writer in standard RT fashion, heaps superlative upon superlative on Putin’s declaration, calling it “perhaps the most pivotal address of the post-Soviet era.”
The RT post isn’t simple linguistic spin, like Fox News’ habit of calling last year’s government shutdown a “government slimdown.” It’s a Buzzfeed-style superlative-filled post designed to appeal to younger readers, and it’s brimming with shameless praise not just for Putin’s rhetoric in the face of Western opposition, but for his annexation of Crimea in the first place.
But not only is the RT article transparent propaganda, it’s demonstrably false as well.
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RT in particular praised Putin’s metaphor comparing the Russian annexation of Crimea to Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia. Or, as RT phrased it, “Putin called out the West for hypocrisy over Kosovo.” However, as the Washington Post notes, the situation in Kosovo has absolutely nothing to do with Russia and Crimea.
“The analogy is woefully misplaced,” Post fact checker Glenn Kessler writes. “The United States was not seeking to annex Kosovo, as Russia is doing with Crimea. Moreover, the Kosovars had spent years seeking greater autonomy, only to face such Serbian backlash that even Russia voted for a U.N. Security Council Resolution that said it was ‘gravely concerned at the recent intense fighting in Kosovo.’”
“Even after 1999 NATO intervention -- which was not sanctioned by the United Nations, as Putin correctly noted,” Kessler continues, “the Kosovars engaged in a decade of inconclusive efforts to reach a deal with Serbia before formally declaring independence.”
Exaggeration, outright lies, and unwavering praise for a head of state; RT increasingly smacks of something that hasn't been seen in more than two decades: the Soviet Union's propaganda.