In the evening of February 2, President Zelenskyy put into effect the decision of the National Security and Defense Council concerning personal sanctions against Taras Kozak, a legislator from the pro-Russian party “Opposition Platform For Life”. The Council’s decision also cancels the broadcasting licenses of the media holding that consists of the television channels 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK. They have disappeared from Ukrainian TV screens.

The Foreign Office has been instructed to inform the competent organizations of the European Union, the United States and other countries about the sanctions and request them to impose the same restrictive measures.

Meanwhile, these television channels are associated with Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the party “Opposition Platform For Life”. An ally of Russian President Putin, he is considered a bearer of the Kremlin’s interests in Ukraine. Taras Kozak, who bought the channels for millions of dollars (many political analysts believe the deal was financed by Russia Ed.), is just a nominal owner of the media holding. In reality, the holding belongs to Medvedchuk.

Last autumn, the public organization “The Media Detector” carried out the monitoring of the anti-Ukraine disinformation programs in the media. According to the results of the monitoring, the TV channels of “the Medvedchuk group” accounted for more than a half of all the programs with pro-Russian content.

“In fact, the decision was made to protect our national security. No wonder, it was taken by the Security Council”, commented Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to the chief of the presidential office. In his opinion, the programs broadcasted by the television channels comprising the Medvedchuk pool were in fact part of the disinformation activity of Russia. Podolyak maintains that the sanctions imposed on these channels are not at all “about the media or the freedom of speech”. He stresses, “The imposition of the sanctions on these channels is a legitimate response to daily information and propaganda attacks against our state”.

The attitudes to the President’s move differ. For instance, the media holding that owns these channels has announced that it regards the sanctions as “a political reprisal against the unwanted news media”. Yuri Boiko, an influential member of Parliament from the “Opposition Platform For Life”, says that the sanctions against Kozak and the obstruction of the work of the television channels are “politically motivated” and “an assault on democracy”. Serhiy Tomylenko, the chairman of the National Union of Journalists, also expressed his opinion about the situation. He called the ban on the channels “an extraordinary situation” and “an attack at the freedom of speech”.

At the same time, many politicians and analysts fully support the decision of the Security Council and the President of Ukraine. They call it the most powerful blow to the influence of Putin in Ukraine.

Journalist Mustafa Nayem wrote, “We support completely and fully the sanctions against the Medvedchuk channels. We are at war. And in the country at war we’ve closed the channels of the man who openly supports the country-aggressor. And the enemy should be isolated without even looking back at reproaches of others. And this has nothing to do with either censorship or the freedom of speech”.

Minister of Culture and Information Policy, Oleksandr Tkachenko, is sure that “in Moscow, they are preparing a propaganda campaign to show that allegedly in Ukraine the freedom of speech is under attack and the free press is destroyed”. The minister went on to say, “I’d like to warn that these channels are not ordinary broadcasters. These are in fact a foreign propaganda machine that has been created in Ukraine and indirectly financed by Moscow where there has long been no talk of freedom of speech and certain journalists have become soldiers of the Kremlin”.

Political analyst Viktor Taran has expressed his support of President Zelenskyy. He said that “the head of state has challenged Putin and the ‘Russian world’ and not Medvedchuk and his party “OPFL”. The analyst added, “We should be prepared to a serious worsening of relations between Ukraine and Russia, and first of all in the situation in the east of Ukraine”.

The newspaper Voice of Ukraine