The Russian media mostly follow the official Russian state narrative when it comes to Kosovo.
This narrative again draws information from the official Serbian state narrative and propaganda. Since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Russian media scene has become even more unfree, and all the dissonant voices, which were already few before the war, are now completely marginalised.
It is therefore very difficult, almost impossible, to get credible information in Russian about what is happening in Kosovo, especially at a time of crisis and rising tensions.
This excludes the Russian-language editorial boards of Western media, which reliably report on world events. We are thinking primarily of Radio Free Europe’s ‘Current Time’, DW in Russian, Voice of America in Russian and the BBC in Russian, as well as a number of Russian-language portals from Ukraine.
In December, the Russian media dealt with the barricades in the north of Kosovo, the actions of the Kosovo police, putting the news in different contexts, depending on the editorial policy of the media house.
It is an interesting phenomenon that the big media report trying to maintain a neutral tone, while the smaller and more peripheral city portals in Moscow invite analysts and political analysts who promote more openly and loudly the propaganda narratives represented by official Belgrade and Moscow.
Thus, Margarita Martovskaya, a reporter for Moskva24, reporting on the latest crisis on 12 December, chooses the tendentious headline of her article “Tightening the Rate – How the West benefits from the Serbia-Kosovo conflict”, “Zaoštravajući kurs. Kakve koristi ima Zapad od konflikta Srbije sa Kosovom” referring to a comment by Russian political scientist Andrei Koshkin, head of the Department of Sociology and Political Science at the Plekhanov University of Economics in Moscow.
Koshkin promotes the thesis that Kosovo is being used by the West to put pressure on Russia. In a propaganda frenzy, Koshkin claims that NATO is trying to cover up its losses in Ukraine through Kosovo and that the West, ‘realising that Ukraine will not stand’, is opening a second front in Europe:
“To prevent this, NATO is fuelling the war in the Balkans, especially in Serbia and Kosovo. It is not difficult to ignite a conflict of major proportions there. Of course, Russia will take the side of Orthodox Serbia and its attention will be diverted (redirect from Ukraine to the Balkans, pr. trans.). The West believes that this will stop Russia on the road to final victory in Ukraine”.
Liberal Novaya Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief is Dmitri Muratov, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, reports on the incident on the night of 25-26 December and reporting on the shooting at KFOR troops, citing Reuters.
Muratov also refers to the Serbian Politika, which reported that “Albanian special forces attacked barricades in Zubin Potok”.
The lack of understanding of the situation and the ignorance of the language shows the weakness of this liberal Russian media outlet, which unwittingly embeds in this text a tweet with an insulting comment aimed at Albanians.
The mildly, or rather the controlled opposition Nezavisimaya Gazeta, reports on the submission of Kosovo’s candidacy for EU membership.
The text, backed up by a lot of accurate information and with a seemingly impartial tone, however bears the tendentious headline “A new conflict theme is about to emerge in Russia-West relations”, “U odnosima Rusije i Zapada pojaviće se nova konfliktna tema” reminiscent of that of the Moscow24 portal, which speaks of the proliferation of conflict fronts.
The text itself ends by noting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has announced that Russia is involved in resolving the situation, quoting the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Maria Zakharova, who said that the Russian ambassador to Serbia “is in close contact with the Serbian leadership, has instructions on concrete steps of support, which include normalisation or proposing ways to normalise the situation”.
Komsomolskaya Pravda heats up the situation in its own sensationalist way in an article entitled “Serbia on the brink of war with Kosovo: Serbs build barricades, gunfire is heard”, “Srbija na ivici rata sa Kosovom: Srbi grade barikade, čuju se pucnji” which ends with the words “if the situation cannot be brought under control by the Christmas holidays, then New Year’s Eve could be really bloody”.
The crisis in the north of Kosovo is also reported in a propagandistic and sensationalist manner by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency, in a text dated December 17th.
“Reason for the attack. In Kosovo, they have opened the hunting season against Serbs”, “Razlog za napad. Na Kosovu otvorili sezonu lova na Srbe” referring to the Serbian Kurir, it says that Kosovo is arming and preparing for war.
The Moscow Komsomolets, referring to RIA Novosti, draws a parallel with Ukraine and imitates Russian propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine “Serbia gets its own special military operation in Kosovo”, “Srbija dobija svoju Specijalnu vojnu operaciju na Kosovu”, fuelling the Serbian narrative about the introduction of the Serbian army and police into Kosovo.
And Izvestia joins in the gloom and sensationalism. In the text ” In the text “In Serbia announced the approach to an irreversible point in Kosovo”, “U Srbiji najavili približavanje nepovratnoj tačci na Kosovu”, quotes Nemanja Starovic, former Secretary of State in the Serbian Government.
Vechernaya Moskva quotes citira Sergei Markov, a famous Russian pro-Kremlin political analyst, who promotes the narrative of an “Old Serbian Kosovo”, which he compares to Kiev: “The same thing that Kiev (means) for Russia is psychologically very difficult for Serbs. It is very difficult for Serbia to give up Kosovo”.
Markov says that the aim of the EU and the US in giving unconditional recognition is to “humiliate Serbia”, which, by recognising Kosovo, would “put itself under the complete control of the West”.
In the text, Markov expands on the narrative of the authorities in Pristina as terrorists.
TV Zvezda, the official media of the Russian Ministry of Defence, propagandistically reports on the Serbian authorities’ request for the return of their security forces to Kosovo. In the text, “Serbia could send up to 1,000 members of its security forces to Kosovo and Metohija” and the authorities in Pristina are accused of provocation.
Exclusively for The Geopost: Ljubomir Filipović