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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NTV Names Dead, Bored ORT Airs Dirty Laundry




Editor's note: Introducing a new regular Tuesday analytical feature that wraps the highlights from the weekend's top political news shows.


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Each of the weekly news programs on the country's three major television channels featured the same shots this weekend: people in mourning, tear-streaked faces of the living - wives, mothers, fathers.


Among these, viewers occasionally spotted a different type of face bearing few signs of suffering.


These were the generals and highly placed officials who earnestly explained why hundreds of troops died heroically, while Chechen rebels once again slipped through the tight ring of federal forces blocking their path.


Only NTV's "Itogi" program took a humane approach. They reported the week's deaths as the main, tragic result of the past seven days: 84 paratroopers, cutting-edge journalist Artyom Borovik, prominent businessman Zia Bazhayev, the crew of their Yak-40 airplane. On NTV, each person who died last week was mentioned by name.


Although "Itogi" focused predominantly on soldiers, the channel's war correspondents did not forget about ordinary people.


The report from the front lines showed footage from the devastated town of Komsomolskoye, where one woman roams among the ruins with her child, while her tearful neighbor dashes helplessly around her sacks of belongings.


RTR's "Zerkalo" program also mentioned civilians in its report on Chechnya. On the screen, we see thundering weapons. The reporter's voice-over is something to the effect of, "There are civilians in Komsomolskoye, but the situation does not leave soldiers any choice."


When over 100 people die in the space of a week, there can be nothing more important, so the anchors of the weekend's political programs were obligated to devote the bulk of their airtime to an analysis of these tragedies.


Nonetheless, ORT's Sergei Dorenko and "Zerkalo" host Nikolai Svanidze did little more than pay lip service to the events, and then quickly went on to more worldly matters.


Svanidze warned short-sighted citizens about the dangers of not coming to vote, and frightened viewers by reminding them that acting President Vladimir Putin could be physically destroyed.


Dorenko, on the other hand, seems to have grown indifferent both to the elections and to Putin. With each week, it becomes clearer that the brutal anchor's fire is dying down, that he is tired of the bland election campaign. This presidential race has left Dorenko on the sidelines. He still gets excited at the mention of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, but only by inertia.


Now Dorenko is left with one main focus: himself. Before the eyes of a bewildered audience, he vented his grievances against ORT's management and, specifically, the company's general director, Konstantin Ernst. This is a first. Either Dorenko is itching to be fired, or ORT is descending into chaos.


And now, on to the hero of all the programs - Vladimir Putin.


Many journalists - even NTV's distrustful and inquisitive Yevgeny Kiselyov - have finally gotten the answer to the question, "Who is Mr. Putin?" A boy who dreamed of becoming a spy. A successful special services officer in the habit of thinking in categories of "us" and "them." An assertive and stern leader, even something of a pedant.


Putin revealed a great deal about himself in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper, which Kiselyov analyzed in detail. "Zerkalo's" take is this: Putin has taken the main bastion for any candidate - he has charmed women. After winning, he'll shave the boyars' beards (like Peter the Great), so they're all shuddering with fear and planning all kinds of wickedness.


But pictures always speak louder than words. Imagine: Putin and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the palace in Peterhoff, surrounded by gold and shining parquet. A demonstration of grandeur. Two heads of one-time empires against the backdrop of giant paintings. And suddenly, in this ceremonious, imperial atmosphere, the Russian leader quotes some rebel - "Allah is above us, bastards are below us." ... Blair, perhaps not surprisingly, looked nonplussed.