Turn on Russian state television on Friday afternoon and you will see little sign that the country’s missiles are pounding the Ukrainian capital.
Instead, the full force of the country’s state propaganda machine has been mobilised to portray Moscow’s invasion as a defensive campaign to “liberate” Ukraine, focusing much of its coverage on the alleged protection of the Donbas supposedly under attack by Kyiv.
“Our situation is very concerning. The enemy is attacking our positions, entering civilian houses,” said Leonid Pasechnik, leader of the self-proclaimed republic in Luhansk, to the Rossiya-24 channel.
A breaking news banner on Channel One said that “Ukraine launched three missiles at the Donetsk People’s Republic in the last seven minutes”.
The Russian state news mostly follows Vladimir Putin’s narrative on the war, which he laid out in his address to the nation early on Thursday morning when he announced a limited “special military operation” to “demilitarise” Ukraine and protect citizens in the Donbas from what he claimed was a Ukrainian “genocide”.
Throughout Friday morning, a Russian assault on the Ukrainian capital was often simply denied.
“Kyiv, as a city where civilians live, hasn’t been bombed by anyone. There hasn’t been any terror there or instructions to cause such terror,” said Channel One pundit Artyom Sheinin on Friday, contradicting the myriad of reports that have shown the opposite.
But as it becomes harder for state media to ignore the full-scale invasion into Ukrainian territory, some channels have started to frame Russian soldiers as eagerly anticipated liberators.
“The people in the city Kharkiv only have one issue with the Russian army: ‘What took you so long?’” said Olga Skabeyeva, one of the country’s most prominent state television hosts.
Coverage of the invasion contrasts steeply with that of other Russian military campaigns. During Russia’s 2015 military intervention in Syria, viewers were…