Russia bans media from reporting interview with Volodymyr Zelensky on Ukraine atrocities

Volodymyr Zelensky says the ban on the interview would be ‘ridiculous if it weren’t so tragic’

Shweta Sharma
Monday 28 March 2022 08:46
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Volodymyr Zelensky urges millions to protest as he calls for worldwide Ukraine support

The Kremlin has scrambled to ban the broadcast of an interview with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky in which he spoke to Russian journalists about the ongoing “humanitarian catastrophe” in the country.

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal regulator and internet and media censor, warned independent Russian journalists to halt the publication and telecast of a lengthy 90-minute interview with Mr Zelensky on Sunday.

Russian outlets appeared to comply with the ban, but the interview was published in international outlets.

The agency did not provide the reason for the ban, but prosecutors claimed a legal opinion would be made on the statements by the Ukrainian president and on the legality of publishing the interview.

Roskomnadzor posted a statement on the agency’s Telegram page, saying action could be taken against media outlets, including “foreign media outlets, carrying out the functions of foreign agents”.

It added that it had launched a probe “to determine the extent of responsibility and the taking of measures of response”.

Several independent outlets, including Meduza, TV Rain, Novaya Gazeta and Kommersant, had announced plans to release the Ukrainian president’s interview.

Responding to the ban, Mr Zelensky accused Vladimir Putin of destroying freedom of speech in his own country as the Kremlin’s crackdown on the media intensified during the war.

“The Russian censorship agency came out with a threat,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “It would be ridiculous if it weren’t so tragic.”

In the interview, Mr Zelensky said his government would consider declaring neutrality over Nato, offering security guarantees and committing to maintain Ukraine’s non-nuclear status as part of a peace deal.

“Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point,” Mr Zelensky said in the interview.

He said no peace deal would be possible without an immediate halt to violence and Russian troop withdrawals, while refusing to agree to Russian demands of demilitarising the nation.

Mr Zelensky said Russia’s war on Ukraine had destroyed Russian-speaking cities in the country.

“I don’t even know who the Russian army has ever treated like this,” he said, adding that the volume of destruction “cannot be compared” to the Russian wars in Chechnya, a Muslim republic in southern Russia that was invaded for more than a decade in the 1990s and reduced to rubble.

He ruled out recapturing by force the eastern territories held be Russia-backed separatists, saying it would lead to a world war and said he intended to reach a “compromise” over the eastern Donbas region, held by Russian-backed rebels since 2014.

Speaking about the destruction caused in the eastern port city of Mariupol, which has been under siege for weeks and has suffered the worst Russian assault with constant bombardment, he said the “humanitarian catastrophe” there is “unequivocal”.

“All entries and exits from the city of Mariupol are blocked,” Mr Zelensky said. “The port is mined. A humanitarian catastrophe inside the city is unequivocal, because it is impossible to go there with food, medicine and water,” he said.

He also dismissed the allegations that Ukraine has nuclear or chemical weapons, calling it a joke.

Earlier this month, Mr Putin signed into a law a rule that prohibits media from publishing what it deems to be “fake” news, with violations leading to prison sentences of up to 15 months.

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