Who influences Donetsk media outlets?
Akhmetov and sprouts of independent media
Rinat Akhmetov, this Donetsk oligarch, besides owning the all-Ukrainian media, has close to total influence over the local media market in his home turf. Two out of four Donetsk TV channels belong to him. This is specified in the ownership structure of the TV channels “Sigma” and “MTV” (Mariupolske Telebachennia). LLC “TV and Radio Union “Mariupolske Telebachennia” is owned by Akhmetov wholly, and in the ownership structure of LLC “TV and Radio Communal Company “Sigma,” 87.84% is owned by Media Group Ukraine (final proprietor – Rinat Akhmetov) and 12.16% – by Mariupol city council.
Out of four influential newspapers published on the territory of Donetska oblast under the Ukrainian control, two also are owned by Rinat Akhmetov. The newspaper “Illichivets” was founded by the labor collective of the Illich metallurgical complex. Currently, the enterprise is in ownership of Akhmetov and his business partner, a people’s deputy from the Opposition Bloc Vadym Novynsky. The newspaper “Pryazovskiy Rabochiy” was founded by the labor collective of the Private JSC “Newspaper “Pryazovskiy Rabochiy”, whose final beneficiary is Rinat Akhmetov.
In 2016, a new Mariupol online media emerged – the website “MRPL.City”. It was registered in December 2016 as a printed media outlet, and its founder is LLC “TV and Radio Union “Mariupolske Telebachennia”, which, as we already know, is wholly owned by Akhmetov. Its editorial office provided information about the founder also in response to IMI’s request, although did not specify who the final owner of the media outlet is.
Remnants from previous regime
Another significant share of media in Donetska oblast is connected to ex-members of the Party of Regions, or representatives of the previous regime. But the websites offer scarce data to identify their owners from. So, the content gives off a feeling, who influences the editorial policy.
The TV channel “TV-7” (LLC “TV and Radio Company “TV-7”) has two direct beneficiaries – legal entities: the managing company “Mariupol Investment Group” (MIG) – 55.93%, and UITC LIMITED (Cyprus) – 44.07%. The indirect beneficiaries are Svitlana Savchuk – 95.59% and Oleh Ivaniushenko – 4.41%. Svitlana Savchuk also is the final beneficiary of the Private JSC “Azovmash”. As the media outlet “Nashi Hroshi” points out, Svitlana Savchuk is a widow of Oleksandr Savchuk, who was the co-owner of the Private JSC “Azovmash” along with the structures of the ex-MP from the Party of Regions Yuri Ivaniushchenko. The TV channel is headed by Ayna Chahir – the director of the press center of “Azovmash.”
Three out of six influential websites in Donetska oblast have been linked to representatives of the previous regime. The website “Mariupolski Novyny” (mariupolnews.com.ua) is believed to be connected to one of the leaders of the local branch of the Party of Regions” and ex-member of Mariupol city council Petro Ivanov. The website bears the banner of the newspaper “Pryazovskiy Rabochiy”, and in the section of interviews with interesting local figures, there is an interview with Ayna Chahir.
The website “i24” (i24.com.ua) is believed to have links to the People’s Deputy from the Opposition Bloc Serhiy Matviyenkov. The website hosts his blog, but with only one post in it. Among its few banners, one is for “Pryazovskiy Rabochiy”. The search for “Serhiy Matviyenkov” on the website produced 761 news, and almost all of them were laudatory and contained attributes of a covertly commissioned material, or “dzhynsa”.
The website “Mariupol-TV” (www.mariupol.tv) is believed to have links to Yuri Ternavskyi, the owner of the LLC “Ekoillichprodukt”. It publishes “news”, in which Ternavskyi offers seasonal greetings to his employees or reports about his social projects. Ternavskyi’s enterprises separated from the Illich metallurgical complex, where he held the position of the vice director general. At the local elections in 2015, Ternavskyi ran for local council from the “Agrarian Party of Ukraine”. Based on the website’s content, the editorial office is very unsympathetic towards Rinat Akhmetov, criticizes the “Opposition Bloc” member Matviyenkov, and presents current topics from the corresponding angle.
The registration entry for the media outlet “Vostochnyi Proekt” lists LLC "Vostochnyi Proekt Kramatorsk” as its founder, and its founders, in their turn, are LLC “Zaliznychne Lyttia” and Chernikova Oksana Oleksandrivna. At the local elections in 2015, Oksana Chernikova ran from the party “Nash Kray”. At the moment, she was working as the director of the press center at CJSC “Enerhomashspetsstal”. According to the state register of legal entities, the beneficiary owner of LLC “Zaliznychne Lyttia” is Ludmyla Uliashchenko, which is one of the signatories of CJSC “Enerhomashspetsstal”. The enterprise is considered to have links to the MP from the Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc Maksym Yefimov, as he held the position of the enterprise’ director general, when he was elected.
The founder of Kramatorsk newspaper “Technopolis” is LLC “Katlaif”. The listed founders of this LLC are Ludmyla Aleksandrova and Serhiy Cherneta, and its director, Oleh Kubar. The media outlet is believed to have links to the ex-MP from the Party of Regions Anatoliy Blyzniuk.
Communal and state-owned media outlets
The local branches of the state-owned CJSC “National Public TV and Radio Company of Ukraine” are the TV channel “Do Tebe” and the radio station “Holos Donbasu.”
On the unoccupied territory of the oblast, there is another local radio station operating – “Radio Pryazovia”. This is a communal institution founded by Mariupol city council and supported from the city budget.
Kramatorsk has a local municipal newspaper “Kramatorska Pravda” founded by Kramatorsk city council. The editorial office as a legal entity was presented as the communal enterprise “City Newspaper “Kramatorska Pravda”. Since February 11, 2017, the communal enterprise has been under liquidation, probably due to the press transitioning out of the state ownership.
Despite a rather significant share of biased media outlets, in Donetska oblast there are several prominent and influential independent media outlets. Although, they predominantly are online media.
The website of the city of Mariupol 0692 (0629.com.ua) is the heart of the “Сity Sites” network, as the company’s head office is situated here. The network’s co-owner is entrepreneur Fedir Zhukov. Some of the network’s domains are registered to him personally. The network’s executive director is Yevhen Yavtushenko. The network developed out of reference websites, which later added newsfeeds, and in most of Southern and Eastern regions of the country became top city news websites.
Perhaps, the most renowned website is “Hromadkse Telebachennia Donbasu”. The media outlet is operating in the form of a similarly-named NGO founded by journalists, who had to leave the occupied Donetsk. The NGO was officially founded by Serhiy Horbatenko, Dmytro Persin, and Vitaliy Sizov, and the leader is Oleksiy Matsuka.
“Hromadske TB Pryazovia” was established following this pattern too. A similarly-named NGO was founded by five journalists: Ivan Syniepalov, Spartak Stepnov, Maria Podybaylo, Vasyl Bohushev, and Maksym Baranov.
Due to the war, these media outlets attract special attention, as they are closest to the action, possess the most credible information, and enjoy trust from both nation-wide and foreign media.
Analysis was prepared by Zoya Krasovska, IMI, supported by the Ukrainian Confidence Building Initiative (UCBI), and funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).