Ukraine’s last pro-Russian nationwide television channel was unplugged on Feb. 11 following a National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) meeting.
Sanctions were imposed for five years, NSDC secretary Oleksiy Danilov said after the meeting in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city with a population of 1.4 million people.
The Nash (Ours) channel, founded by former lawmaker Yevhen Murayev, was still live streaming on a YouTube channel but not on television, a canvassing of broadcast providers and websites by Kyiv Post found on Feb. 12.
Murayev, whose pro-Kremlin Nashi (Ours) party consistently polls at 5 percent – enough to pass the threshold for parliamentary seats – called the restrictive measures “a crime” on social media.
The Kharkiv-based politician staged a rally on the same day in front of the regional state administration building to protest the closure of the channel.
Murayev, 45, denied that the offshore companies that the NSDC sanctioned and identified as the ultimate beneficiaries of the channel are related to each other.
The “licensed companies have nothing to do with [offshore tax haven] Cyprus. These are purely Ukrainian companies with the founders of the channel. This is not a sanction, this is a crime,” Muraev said.
Concurrently, the Nash channel has been embroiled in lawsuits with the nation’s TV and radio regulator (NTRBC).
The regulator is suing to revoke the channel’s license over violations of journalistic standards, namely, for promoting racism and using hate speech on air.
On Feb. 10, the NTRBC fined the channel the equivalent of $1,781 for violating the Ukrainian language quota, which requires that at least 75 percent that the state language is heard during a broadcast.
Britain’s Intelligence announced on Jan. 22 that Murayev was a “candidate” to become the puppet leader of Ukraine in an alleged Russian plot to overthrow the pro-democratic government in Kyiv.
He denied any involvement in the plot, that the Kremlin also rejected. Murayev subsequently said that he has been under Russian sanctions since 2018 while calling the allegations “absurd” and referred to himself as “a patriot” of the country.
Media watchdog Stop Fake, which flags and debunks Russian disinformation, says Murayev’s channel “is Russian propaganda.”
In January, NSDC secretary Danilov told the BBC that the politician is part of Russia’s “fifth column.”
Murayev gave a New Year’s interview to his channel during which he foresaw turbulence in the country this year.
He spoke of having “a reboot and the government will be new…I am absolutely sure that the format of negotiations on the conflict in eastern Ukraine will change,” he said. “There will be many changes and they are inevitable.”
In February 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed off on a series of NSDC sanctions that revoked the licenses of three pro-Russian TV channels tied to pro-Russian lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk, who is under house arrest on treason charges he vehemently denies.
Those channels are: Zik, 112 and NewsOne.
The NSDC also imposed 5-year restrictive measures on Vitrina TV, a Russian company which rebroadcasts TV channels, Interfax news agency reported.
Murayev was elected to parliament in 2014 with the pro-Kremlin Opposition Bloc-party and unsuccessfully ran for president in 2019. Before self-exiled former President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in the wake of the EuroMaidan Revolution, Murayev was a member of his ruling Party of the Regions party.
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