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Info crimes. Dmitry Kiselyov. Who is he and what danger does he pose?

15.12.2022, 16:16
Edit by IMI
Edit by IMI

"The time of 'distilled', detached journalism is over," "objectivity is a myth" – these are the key points from a speech made by one of Russia's leading propagandists, Dmitry Kiselyov, in 2013, right after he was appointed CEO of the newly created group of Russian state media resources, the International News Agency "Rossiya Segodnya". Back then, Kiselyov also said that, in his opinion, what the Russian Federation needed was not objective coverage of events, but "love", although he did not specify what kind of love, exactly. Yet, if we analyze the body of Kiselyov's work as a propagandist, particularly the period after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we can assume that what he meant was hushing up Russia's war crimes, celebrating President Putin's policies, and constructing an alternative reality wherein the aggressor country is a bulwark of freedom and spirituality.

Unlike some of his Russian colleagues, Dmitry Kiselyov is not even coy about being engaged in propaganda and covering events in a politicized and biased way. More than that – he claims that all media do this without exception, not only in the Russian infospace, but worldwide. In particular, in 2016, Kiselyov gave an interview to the Russian BBC service, where he said that objective or "neutral" journalism did not exist as such. According to him, the need to select certain information for further coverage from everything one has on hand is already a breach of "neutrality". Whereas propaganda, in Kiselyov's opinion, is merely "an attempt to explain something, to present a certain point of view." For instance, the Kremlin minion accused the BBC of being biased in their film "Putin's Secret Fortune" just because they put a photo of the Russian President through the monochrome filter (to understand what this is about and to see how far-fetched the accusations are, it is enough to open the film and skip, say, to the 11th minute. – Ed.). According to Kiselyov, this gave Putin a more demonic appearance and resembled theatrical make-up for a criminal-type character. It is interesting that back in the 1990s, Dmitry Kiselyov once took part in an educational project by the BBC, called "How Television Is Done", where he urged the audience to distinguish between journalists and propagandists and said that a journalist's primary mission is "to show the whole picture of the world".

In general, managers and employees of pro-Kremlin state media resort to manipulative tricks such as "pointing fingers" on a regular basis to divert the attention of the foreign media and international institutions from Russia's real crimes. Kiselyov is a professional at this. In 2016, when th French Canal+ caught him and his subordinates in yet another lie, the propagandist simply accused the Europeans of "not seeing the log in their own eye." In fact, even those foreign media that are rather lenient about value judgments in their journalists' material and do not shy away from clickbaity headlines do not allow themselves to go quite as far as what Kiselyov and the team of "Rossiya Segodnya", which he supervises, do. In any case, on the pages of European tabloids and even more so on the television of civilized countries, You definitely don't encounter threats to "turn the US into radioactive ash" or video simulations of a nuclear bomb being fired at Ireland and Great Britain in European tabloids, let alone on TV in civilized countries; you do not even hear calls to "burn the hearts of gays!" nor lies about so-called "denazification" aimed at justifying armed aggression and a criminal expansionist policy towards a neighboring sovereign state. But for Russian TV and specifically for Kiselyov's "Vesty Nedeli", this is routine. Moreover, it is precisely for disinformation, hate speech, and genocidal rhetoric that Russian media managers enjoy "astronomical" salaries, receive state awards and are even able to build a political career in the Russian Federation. How influential is Kiselyov's work? And how does he manage to play a key role in inciting the genocide of Ukrainians and resentment towards Western countries in general?

IMI continues its series of articles on information crimes committed by Russian propagandists, who in no way can be called journalists.

Journalist to propagandist: how did Kiselyov "switch professions"?

Dmitry Kiselyov at the dawn of his career and the one we know now are two entirely different people in terms of views and values. Paradoxically, in the 1990s, Kiselyov, who is currently sanctioned by the EU, received a grant from the European Union to work on a program about life in Europe for Russian television. Back in the day, Kiselyov used to have no interest in spreading lies about German officials urging their citizens not to take baths, and the French and Belgians being so poor that they have to choose between paying for food and paying for electricity. At that time, the journalist would talk to the Russian audience about the advantages of European integration and how well health care and the industrial field are regulated in the EU. Another interesting fact from Kiselyov's journalistic past is that in January 1991 he was suspended from news reporting on central state television due to his unwillingness to submit to USSR censorship. Back then, Soviet troops had invaded Lithuania, which had previously declared its independence, to "restore the constitutional order." The intervention culminated the storming of a TV center in Vilnius on the night of January 12–13. It was being defended by unarmed Lithuanian protesters. During the clashes, 15 civilians were killed and hundreds were injured. Young Kiselyov refused to report a distorted version of the events on air, as demanded by the Kremlin, for which the then president of Lithuania even awarded the journalist with the medal "In memory of January 13, 1991". In April 2014, Kiselyov was stripped of the award for promoting Kremlin propaganda and supporting the Russian annexation of Crimea. And as soon as 2017, on the air of his program "Vesty Nedeli" on the state TV channel "Rossiya-1", Kiselyov was calling the Baltic partisan movement (the "Brothers of the Wood", who were fighting for independence and resisting the Soviet troops that had invaded during the Second World War) "Nazi collaborators". The propagandist also accused them of killing Jews. You can read more about why this narrative is disinformation by the Kremlin at EU vs DISINFO. However, no nation has been accused of Nazism and aiding or abetting Nazism by Kiselyov personally or the media resources he oversees as often as Ukrainians. Even despite the fact that Dmitry used to work as a presenter at the Ukrainian TV channel ICTV from 2001 to 2006 and even ran the news department. At that time, Kiselyov's colleagues and senior management spoke of him as democratic and pro-European.

Kiselyov's career as a propagandist took off in 2008. Right before Russia's invasion of Georgia, he was appointed deputy CEO of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK). It is one of the largest media holdings in Russia, whose employees include such mastodons of propaganda as Vladimir Soloviev, Olga Skabeyeva, and Evgeniy Popov. In August 2008, Kiselyov also headed VGTRK's news service, whose employees presented the Russian occupation of South Ossetia as a "peacekeeping operation" and called the bombing of Tskhinvali "liberation from the Georgian armed forces." Kiselyov himself repeatedly voiced this false information.

However, Kiselyov gained real popularity and the Kremlin's support thanks to his aggressive and untrue coverage of the Euromaidan on the air of "Vestei Nedeli". First, the Russian propagandist created the illusion that the protests in downtown Kyiv were some unassuming riots in a small participation. On December 8, 2013, Kiselyov assured his audience that the Maidan was only supported by people in Lviv, Ternopil, and Ivano-Frankivsk oblasts, while the rest of Ukraine seemed to be strongly against it. However, on February 23, 2014, after the Euromaidan forces succeeded in overthrowing the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and his government, Kiselyov said that "the situation in Ukraine is such that talk about of the end of its statehood does not seem far-fetched." Kiselyov claimed that Ukraine had been "put under foreign rule" and was "on the threshold of civil war." In short, Kiselyov was actively persuading the audience that the seemingly legitimate president, Yanukovych, had been replaced by a puppet government controlled by the West, and that due to the Maidan, Ukraine is now in utter chaos. For instance, in February 2014, 43% of Russians believed that the events in Kyiv should be considered a coup d'état, 23% called it a civil war, 16% called it a popular uprising, and 11% called it a protest against Yanukovych's corrupt regime. This is evidenced by a February 2014 survey by the Russian non-governmental organization "Levada-Center". Furthermre, 45% of the respondents believed that the reason why Ukrainians' went out to protest was goading from the West, and 32% believed that it was the nationalist sentiment among the citizens. Only 17% said that the protests were triggered by outrage over the decisions made by the Yanukovych regime. It is noteworthy that, according to "Levada Center", in June 2013, 88% of Russians said their main source of information was television, and by March 2014, this indicator grew to 90%.

Therefore, the propaganda on Russian state TV not only proved to be effective, but also laid the groundwork for promoting the Kremlin's narratives about the Nazis who had purportedly seized power in Ukraine and Nazism flourishing throughout the country. Naturally, even with how much of the "Vesti Nedeli" airtime is allocated to slandering Ukraine, it would be wrong to only blame Kiselyov for all sins, since his work is only a cog in the system, the Russian Federation's powerful propaganda machine.

However, having managed to win the Kremlin's favor by discrediting Euromaidan, Kiselyov was really granted more power in Russia's media sphere. On December 9, 2013, by the Russian Presiden't decree, "Vesti Nedeli" host Dmitry Kiselyov was appointed CEO of the newly created group of media resources "Rossiya Segodnya". In February 2014, the propagandist was awarded the Order "For Contribution to the Fatherland" of the IV degree. As soon as June, Kiselyov joined the new Russian Language Council under the President of the Russian Federation. According to the Kremlin's website, the state body's primary tasks include "developing, protecting, and supporting Russian language in the Russian Federation and abroad, strengthening the position of the Russian language worldwide."

In the meantime, Kiselyov was faced with a "side effect" of ardently supporting the Russian government's criminal foreign policy – sanctions. For approving the Russian occupation of Crimea, the propagandist was blacklisted by Ukraine, Moldova, the European Union, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Canada. After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, targeted sanctions against Kiselyov were also introduced by Australia.

By the way, the propagandist has bought a seaside villa in occupied Koktebel. The price of the estate is estimated at almost 200 million rubles, or 3 million dollars. The 130 square meter building includes a swimming pool, five bathrooms, and a special elevator platform to the third floor. In short, a perfect place to meet journalists! Apparently, this is what Russian MFA press secretary Zakharova thought when she agreed on a briefing with Kiselyov on October 10, 2018 at his villa. It is extremely difficult to imagine something like this happening in civilized countries where subordination is respected and media persons do not work for the state. Extremely difficult – if not impossible...

INA "Rossiya Segodnya" as the Russian Federation's information weapon

Just as propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov cannot be called a journalist, the information association "Rossiya Segodnya", which he runs, should not be considered a media group. The thing is: the association is comprised not of mass media outlets, but of resources that function as "the Kremlin's mouthpieces". There are several factors that suggest such a conclusion.

First of all, we should note that the "Rossiya Segodnya" conglomerate is a kind of a fakes and disinformation factory which spreads manipulation and Kremlin narratives and is fully funded from Russia's state budget. At the end of 2021, it became known that the Russian State Duma was planning to allocate over 9.3 billion rubles (more than 148 million dollars) to just one media group, "Rossiya Segodnya", for propaganda.

The most "prominent" propaganda resources INA "Russia Segodnya" has aimed at Ukraine include the Russian-language news agency "RIA Novosti", the "" portal, the international agency Sputnik, which covers more than 30 languages, and the INOSMI online platform, which translates material from dubious foreign publications into Russian. The content these resources post on their websites not only violates multiple journalistic standards, but also features genocidal rhetoric. Take a "RIA Novosti" article by one Timofei Sergeitsev, titled "What Russia Should Do With Ukraine". It explains the need for so-called "denazification" of Ukraine. The author equates all Ukrainians who want to preserve of their own identity to Nazis, and encourages Russians to radical violence through statements such as "Ukrainian Nazism poses not a lesser, but a greater threat to peace and to Russia than Hitler's German Nazism." The article also contains direct calls for eliminating representatives of the Ukrainian government: "The Banderite elite must be liquidated, as it can not be re-educated."

It is also worth stressing that the content produced by the media resources that are part of the "Rossiya Segodnya" association lacks balance. This is especially clear from the feed of the INOSMI online platform. The resource claims to be translating "the most interesting pieces by foreign mass media" into Russian. However, in reality those pieces are either articles from dubious or pro-Russian sources or content from international publications which gets distorted in translation. INOSMI, of course, does not link the original articles. For instance, following the news that the American Time magazine chose the President of Ukraine as Person of the Year, INOSMI posted a compilation of negative comments (!) about Volodymyr Zelensky. Those were allegedly written by readers of the American portal Breitbart. First, there is no evidence that these are comments by real people and not bots. Secondly, treating a bunch of anonymous accounts as a reputable source is strange to say the least. Earlier, in 2016, scientists from Ghent University in Belgium published a whole study on how INOSMI manipulates information from foreign media. They found that the portal lacks content that is critical of Russia.

Meanwhile, another notorious "Kremlin mouthpiece" says Sputnik's mission is to "cover the objective picture of events in countries throughout the world." Once again, the Russian resource seeks to "cover the objective picture of events in the world," not to "cover events objectively." The difference is obvious. In other words, Sputnik's purpose is to promote propaganda beneficial to the Kremlin in other countries. And, perhaps, one could speak about the phrasing being vague, if Sputnik was not headed by propagandist Margarita Simonyan, who never denied cooperating with Russia's authorities. You can read more about why Simonyan is not a journalist in our previous installment in the "Information Crimes" series by the Institute of Mass Information.

Also, as we speak about the propagandist nature of the International News Agency "Rossiya Segodnya", it is worth paying attention to its status. The Russian government's December 31, 2016 decree included the media group in the list of state organizations that "play a significant role in ensuring the defense capability and security of the Russian Federation." Besides "Rossiya Segodnya", the list includes the FSB and the Ministry of Defense of Russia.

And how influential is MIA "Rossiya Segodnya"? Although Russians mostly consume propaganda by means of state television, the Internet resources controlled by Kiselyov also have an influence on their audience. The most popular media group is "RIA Novosti": over the past month, the news agency's website has had almost 160 million visits. This is according to SimilarWeb's data. In the last month, the INOSMI website had 18.7 million visits, and the pro-Kremlin portal "" was visited 4.4 million times. Therefore, just one Russian state media group is playing a considerable role in legitimizing of the Russian Federation's aggressive military action against Ukraine and inciting hatred towards Ukrainians among Russians. According to "Levada-Center", as of November 2022, 74% of Russians still support the Russian Armed Forces' actions in Ukraine, and 42% of the respondents noted that the the military operations make them feel proud of Russia.

The nuke and the hacked genetic code: how is Kiselyov justifying Russia's war against Ukraine?

Let's go back to Dmitry Kiselyov's program "Vesty Nedeli". It airs on Rossiya-1, a state-run TV channel that, according to research company Mediascope, tops the popularity ranking list in Russia. Kiselyov has been inciting hatred towards the Ukrainian people for years. For this purpose, the propagandist often resorts to dehumanization. For example, in May 2016, Kiselyov was caught in another lie – a fake intended to equate all Ukrainians with Nazis. On the air of "Vesti Nedeli", the presenter displayed a document with a swastika, calling it "a certificate of a Ukrainian SS soldier, dating back to the years the war." According to Kiselyov, the "ausweis" featured a quote by Hitler saying that the Germans would only defeat Russia when "Ukrainians and Belarusians start believing that they are not Russian." The document turned out to be a forgery, and the German quote contained grammatical and spelling errors. What is most interesting is that Kiselyov himself later admitted that the certificate was fake. He thanked the audience for spotting the "inaccuracies" and said that the fake document got to VGTRK through "European flea markets."

In general, Kiselyov has been calling for an "enforced denazification" of Ukraine long before the international media started publishing warnings about the risk of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. In April 2021, the propagandist told the audience that there seemed to be "death squads" operating in Ukraine, and the mythical Nazis ruling the country were pushing the country into a "fratricidal war against the Donbas." Therefore, claimed Kiselyov, a "painful denazification" was a matter of time. On February 27, 2022, after Russia unleashed a full-scale war against Ukraine, the propagandist declared that "Russia is once again taking on the mission of driving Nazism out of Europe." On the same day, "Vesti" aired a fabricated news story titled "Torture" about the atrocities purportedly committed by the so-called "Ukrainian death squads" in the Donbas. As for the real crimes committed by the Russian Armed Forces, Kiselyov is either completely silent or claims that Russian soldiers are treating civilians "with care", or justifies them as another part of "the fight against Nazism."

"After 2014, Mariupol became a primary stronghold for radical nationalists in the Donbas. By March, over 8,000 fighters of the Azov Battalion and foreign mercenaries had gathered there", is how Kiselyov justified Russian forces destroying Mariupol on the air on April 24.

Kiselyov and a number of his colleagues in the propaganda department have another explanation for Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, besides the pseudo-missionary goals – a need for self-defense. For instance, here is what Kiselyov said on the air on March 13, 2022:

"If it weren't for our intervention now, then in three years Ukraine would be in NATO thanks to the American billions, with a completely different army, with NATO bases, NATO ports and NATO troops on Ukraine's territory. They would have missiles with a range that would be lethal for us, and have the status of a nuclear state on top of that. They would have an atomic bomb, so to speak. That's where things were headed. By that time, the States would have their own hypersound weapons, and the situation would be completely different. And the Nazi regime in Ukraine, Russophobic in its essence, would become even more insolent three years later. That means they would surely attack Crimea, and then Russia's South."

Kiselyov's scarecrow arsenal also includes the "three dozen American biolaboratories" for developing bacteriological weapons, which were purportedly found in Ukraine.

"An important point: they used Ukrainian genetic material to break the code to the Russian one as well. This alone confirms that even the Americans consider us to be one nation. And they need the code to find our weak points," said the propagandist.

Another narrative actively promoted by Kremlin propaganda, namely on "Vesti Nedeli", is that Ukraine was supposedly created by Lenin. In this way, propagandists seek to create the illusion that Russia, which considers itself the successor of the USSR, has a claim to Ukrainian territories. You can see this myth debunked on the VoxUkraine website.


To sum up, Dmitry Kiselyov bears a double responsibility for Russia's criminal war against Ukraine, because he is not only the host of a propaganda talk show, but also the CEO of the association of pro-Kremlin media resources, INA "Rossiya Segodnya". Numerous sociological studies show a clear correlation between the consumption of state media and support for the Russian army's actions in Ukraine. So, in the future, all the propagandists' excuses, such as them simply presenting their audience with "certain point of view," as Kiselyov says, should be resolutely rejected. The Institute of Mass Information emphasizes: the work of Russian propagandists should be recognized as a threat to peace and an act of aggression in accordance with Article 39 of the UN Charter.

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