Ukraine bans Russian TV channels for airing war 'propaganda'

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine has blocked 14 Russian television channels from its cable networks to stop them spreading war propaganda, an Interior Ministry official said on Tuesday.

Television news has played a vital role in public perception of the conflict in eastern Ukraine where many of the largely Russian-speaking population watch Russian news.

Russian media tend to project the Kremlin view that the ousting of the Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich in February was the work of a fascist “junta” and the separatist rebellions are the product of unjust practices and military action by Kiev against Russian speakers.

The Interior Ministry has banned the fourteen channels - including news channels Russia Today and Life News - for “broadcasting propaganda of war and violence,” ministry official Anton Gerashchenko said in a Facebook post.

“As an independent sovereign state, Ukraine can and should protect its media space from aggression from Russia, which has been deliberately inciting hatred and discord among Ukrainian citizens,” he said.

Pro-Russian rebels have been fighting government forces since April when they set up separatist republics in the Russian-speaking east after political upheaval in Kiev led to Yanukovich’s ousting followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The banned stations include most of Russian TV news output and most are either directly run by the Russian state or owned by companies with close links to the Kremlin.

Gerashchenko said the move follows a similar step by Russia in March, when it turned off Ukrainian channels in Crimea.

“What’s more, not one Ukrainian channel is broadcast on cable networks in Russia,” he said.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Robin Pomeroy