Whenever TV Rain, Russia’s last independent television channel, was broadcasting live, the lights in its vast loft were dimmed and conversations were hushed, because its studio was cordoned off from the rest of the space only by partial-height glass partitions. When I got to the loft just before ten on Tuesday night, the lights were low, as usual, but the noise level was veering into risky territory.
Mikhail Fishman, who hosts a Friday-night news-analysis program, was in the studio with TV Rain’s editor-in-chief, Tikhon Dzyadko. Fishman had decided to help host the newscast because his colleagues had been working long shifts since last Thursday, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Fishman was offering some observations on the state of the war. “Vladimir Putin didn’t believe that the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian nation exist. . . . He started a war against Ukraine to prove his point, and he has proved the opposite.” Fishman then directed viewers to a quote from a Guardian column by the historian Yuval Noah Harari, who enumerated the stories of heroism and resolve that Ukrainians had racked up in just a few days: “The president who refused to flee the capital, telling the US that he needs ammunition, not a ride; the soldiers from Snake Island who told a Russian warship to ‘go fuck yourself’; the civilians who tried to stop Russian tanks by sitting in their path. This is the stuff nations are built from. In the long run, these stories count for more than tanks.”
While the quote was on the screen, Fishman looked at the news feed on a laptop in front of him. It said that the Russian prosecutor general’s office was demanding that the Web sites of TV Rain and the radio station Echo of Moscow be blocked. Both media outlets were guilty of violating a ban on calling the war a war, the invasion an invasion, and the aggression aggression. [Continue reading…]