“I took part in a Russia Today propaganda program”

“You are free to say what you want, but keep in mind that there are two soldiers who are ready to execute us if we say something wrong.” Silence. “We’re kidding, it’s Russian humor.”

This is how the recording of the Russia Today (RT) talk show – the propaganda arm of the Kremlin – begins, where I was invited to talk about the war. I want to test the limits of this propaganda and understand its tricks.

It all started in a showOtto and mezzo [“Huit et demie”]. In this Italian talk show, I had found myself a few days earlier debating with Nadana Fridrikhson, a Russian journalist from RT and the radio station of the Ministry of Defense.

She denied the existence of any censorship in Russia and extolled the virtues of free debate in this country engaged in a “special operation” in Ukraine which, she said, could very well be described as “war” on the air without risking prison. Perfect, I wrote to him after the show, we’ll see what’s really going on: if you invite me, I’ll come to your show.

She agreed, and that’s how I find myself doing two different talk shows. The first on RT, the Russian channel which relays the Kremlin’s vision of the world in several languages ​​(it mainly targets a foreign audience and was suspended by the European Commission after the invasion of Ukraine), and the second in a radio broadcast of the Russian Ministry of Defense station.

“Do you know what happened on May 2, 2014? ”

The rules of engagement are a priori clear: no filter, I can say what I want. They ask the questions, I answer at my convenience.

Obviously, some precautions have been taken on the Russian side and the RT broadcast is recorded. On set, Georgy Babayan and Nadana Fridrikhson ask me questions in Russian, I have to answer them in Italian. An interpreter then provides the translation in both directions (so I cannot know what is said exactly). After recording, it will be necessary to wait almost a week before being able to access the show on the Internet. On the radio, the format is the same, except it’s live.

In the debate broadcast on RT, only the hosts ask the questions. It is an interrogation aimed, it seems, at demonstrating that those who condemn Putin’s aggression in the West are simply misinformed. “Do you know what happened on May 2, 2014?” am I being asked to

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