Russian press reviews Telex's interview with advisor to Ukrainian president – with modifications

October 12. 2022. – 08:05 AM



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Mykhailo Podolyak's statement on Transcarpathia made a big splash in the confined Russian media space. The bit about Putin was mostly omitted, but Regnum published a massive distortion in its coverage.

We spoke with Mykhailo Podolyak at the Ukrainian President's Office, three days before Monday's missile attack on Ukraine. He talked about his views on Orbán's policies, and said that Russia is a colossus on feet of clay.

The Russian press, starting with the Ria Novosti news agency, through Russia Today, Vesti, the news outlet Regnum, state-owned Izvestia, Moskovsky Komsomolets and all the way to, picked up on a single part of the conversation with Podolyak. Namely, that he said it would be empty propaganda to claim that Hungary was toying with the idea of acquiring Transcarpathia. (TN: Ukraine's Transkarpatska Oblast, bordering Hungary, part of which used to be included in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the Treaty of Trianon and which still has a 150 thousand-strong Hungarian minority population to this day.)

Vesztyi was the most modest in its review: the portal quoted Podolyak as saying that Budapest and Kiev could settle their differences quickly if they sat down to the negotiating table, but omitted the part that this would be easy to ensure after the war, "when Russia loses its informal veto power to interfere in other countries' decisions".

The other media did mention in this section that the agreement could easily take place "without Russia" – although the above quote was not included word for word in any of the reviews.

Regnum's big distortion

Even if scarce, the quotations at least reproduced what Podoljak said, and if they were quoted verbatim, the translation – at least the part specifically quoted – was accurate. With one exception.

Regnum conveyed the interview to the Russian readers with serious distortions. The portal, which is sometimes considered a sort of Kremlin message board, has a network of 150 correspondents. Its editor-in-chief, Modest Kolerov, a historian by training, is on the EU's list of sanctioned individuals for his propagandistic activities related to Russia's war against Ukraine.

Even the title of Regnum's review contradicts what was actually said in the interview.

"Kyiv is worried about Hungary's plans for Transcarpathia" was the title of the interview, in which Podolyak actually said that Hungary has no troubling plans and that the disputes can all be settled – without Russia.

The text of the article added a further twist: "Kiev rejects any plans by Hungary for the annexation of Transcarpathia", the first sentence of the article read. "A Hungarian journalist who asked about the possibility of discussing the issue was told by the representative of the Banderist regime that discussing it is out of the question".

Finally, the last sentence – which was pretty much all there was to the article – was about Podoljak warning Hungary that there would be adverse consequences if Hungary refused to comply with international law.

The paper of Putin's girlfriend also mentioned Szijjártó

In its review, Izvestia noted that there are tensions between Kyiv and Budapest over the Ukrainian education law on language use, and recalled – referring to the Hungarian paper Blikk – that in July, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that Hungary had a scenario in case it had to move into Transcarpathia with armed forces to protect the Hungarian population. (Izvestia, by the way, is currently owned by the Nacionalnaya Mediya Group, which was founded by billionaire Alexey Mordasov and its board of directors is chaired by Alina Kabayeva, believed to be the Russian president's secret wife.)

The other reviews do not mention Szijjártó, but they do refer to the Ukrainian deputy prime minister's statement from March. In it, a month into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Irina Vereshchuk said she believed that Orbán's government hoped that their relationship with Russia would not only lead to cheap Russian gas, but also to the acquisition of Transcarpathia.

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The translation of this article was made possible by our cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation.