Ukraine’s last national pro-Russian television channel was disconnected on February 11 following a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC).
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.
The Nash (Bear) channel, founded by former lawmaker Yevhen Murayev, was still broadcasting live on a YouTube channel, but not on TV, according to a canvassing of broadcast providers and websites by Kyiv Post found on February 12. .
Murayev, whose pro-Kremlin Nashi (Bear) party consistently garners 5% – enough to clear the threshold for parliamentary seats – called the restrictive measures a “crime” on social media.
The Kharkiv-based politician held a rally on the same day outside the regional state administration building to protest against the channel’s closure.
Murayev, 45, denied that the offshore companies that the NSDC has sanctioned and identified as the ultimate beneficiaries of the chain are linked to each other.
“Approved companies have nothing to do with [offshore tax haven] Cyprus. These are purely Ukrainian companies with the founders of the chain. It’s not a punishment, it’s a crime,” Muraev said.
Meanwhile, the Nash Channel has been embroiled in legal action with the National Television and Radio Regulator (NTRBC).
The regulator is suing to revoke the channel’s license for violating journalistic standards, namely, for promoting racism and using hate speech on air.
On February 10, the NTRBC fined the channel the equivalent of $1,781 for violating the Ukrainian language quota, which requires that at least 75% of the state language be heard during a broadcast.
British intelligence announced on January 22 that Murayev was a “candidate” to become Ukraine’s puppet leader in an alleged Russian plot to overthrow the pro-democracy government in Kiev.
He denied any involvement in the plot, which the Kremlin also denied. Murayev then said he had been under Russian sanctions since 2018 while calling the allegations “absurd” and calling himself a “patriot” of the country.
Media watchdog Stop Fake, which reports and debunks Russian disinformation, says Mourayev’s channel “is Russian propaganda”.
In January, NSDC secretary Danilov told the BBC that the politician was part of Russia’s “fifth column”.
Murayev gave a New Year’s interview to his channel during which he predicted turmoil in the country this year.
He talked about having “a restart and the government will be new… I am absolutely sure that the format of the 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 a series of NSDC sanctions that revoked the licenses of three pro-Russian TV channels linked to pro-Russian lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk, who is under house arrest for treason which he denies vehemently.
These channels are: Zik, 112 and NewsOne.
The NSDC also imposed 5-year restrictive measures on Vitrina TV, a Russian company that rebroadcasts television channels, the 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 Following the EuroMaidan revolution, Murayev was a member of his ruling party. Party of the Party of Regions.