In the early hours of 24 October, it was reported that Russia Today (RT) channel had suspended one of its presenters Anton Krasovsky amid the reporter’s calls to “drown” and “burn” Ukrainian children who think that Ukraine is under Russian occupation. The scandal did not end in his suspension: on the next day, Russian lawmakers and investigators started sharpening their pitchforks against the propagandist, too. A correspondent with Novaya Gazeta. Europe has recovered the timeline of this scandal to find out why Krasovsky’s words caused such a stir in the propaganda community, where bloodthirsty statements of this kind are not that uncommon.
“<…> They told me that Ukraine is occupied by Moskals (a derogatory word for Russians used in Ukraine and other countries — translator’s note). If it wasn’t for the Moskals, they’d live like they were in France. And those weren’t Ukrainian children who speak Ukrainian. There were children like that there too, and they were completely normal,” Russian author Sergey Lukyanenko recalled his childhood trip to Ukraine’s Zakarpattia in an interview with Krasovsky, broadcast by RT. Editor’s note: the quotes from the interview are provided with minor cuts.
“But where were those children from?” Anton Krasovsky interrupted the author.
“They were Russian-speaking boys with Russian surnames. <…>”
“They should have been drowned in Tysyna [River], right where the ducklings swim. Drown them right in the Tysyna. It’s not your method, you’re cultured people, you’re fantasy writers, but it’s how we operate. Once you hear ‘occupied by the Moskals’, throw them into a river with a raging current,” the propagandist replied, making a clumsy reference to Ukrainian folk song Plyve Kacha, which was put on during the funerals of Euromaidan activists in 2014. At the end of another monologue, the TV presenter went as far as to offer to burn children inside “pine huts”. Then the interview went on.
Propaganda built on bones
Anton Krasovsky, a reporter and former director of the AIDS Centre Foundation, started working with RT in 2019. In October 2020, Krasovsky was promoted to head of broadcasting in Russian, and in 2021, he was made the host of his own talk show dubbed Antonyms. In Antonyms, the reporter interviewed various public figures: politicians, entrepreneurs, cultural figures. At times, he gave his own take on current events. Russian singer Nadezhda Babkina and Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev were among his last guests. During the show, they discussed the war in Ukraine: from a pro-Russian standpoint, of course.
The episode of Antonyms featuring writer Sergey Lukyanenko (the author of the Night Watch saga) was published by RT Russia on VK last week, on 20 October. The interview has been deleted since then. Meduza pointed out that Krasovsky had even had time to promote the interview to his Telegram followers. The TV host wrote that he had shot a great live episode featuring the writer, however, he later deleted the message (it still appears on the Internet archive).
At first, no one really took note of the scandalous episode of Antonyms. Bloodthirsty statements are not a novelty for Russian propaganda, especially against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine. And Krasovsky himself has never been known for his tact and good-naturedness. He even offered to “drown children” once before, though it were Russian children, not Ukrainian.
After the protest in support of Alexey Navalny held on 21 April 2021, the TV host said that if he were president of Russia instead of Vladimir Putin, he would drown the “kids” attending protests in St. Petersburg right in the Moyka River.
The reporter has also made some sharps remarks about the war in Ukraine, to say the least: in June, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office launched criminal proceedings against Krasovsky over calls for genocide.
The propagandist posted a short video reaction to the mass attacks on Ukraine on 10 October 2022 showing him dancing on a balcony wearing Army of Russia pyjamas and a cap with the letter Z, the symbol of the Russian invasion. “To say I’m happy is an understatement,” Krasovsky wrote on his Telegram channel. On that day, Russia launched 160 missiles on Ukrainian territory.
The interview with Lukyanenko was finally noticed on Sunday, 23 October. Julia Davis, a columnist for The Daily Beast and the creator of the Russian Media Monitor project, posted an excerpt from the interview on her Twitter. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba replied to her tweet.
“Governments which still have not banned RT must watch this excerpt. This is what you side with if you allow RT to operate in your countries. Aggressive genocide incitement (we will put this person on trial for it), which has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Ban RT worldwide!” the Ukrainian top diplomat said.
This could have been a normal occurrence for Russian propaganda content, but in the early hours of 24 October, RT head Margarita Simonyan announced that the channel had suspended Anton Krasovsky, branding his statement “bizarre and disgusting”.
Krasovsky’s fall from grace did not end with his suspension (whatever it means). A number of Russian lawmakers have condemned the TV presenter’s statement: Dmitry Savelyev, a Russian MP representing the United Russia party, branded the reporter’s words “a monstrous provocation”, urging the police to detain and convict him as soon as possible. The Investigative Committee put forward the same proposal: on Monday morning, head of the committee Alexander Bastrykin ordered to investigate the statements made by the RT host and his calls to “drown” and “burn” Ukrainian children — allegedly after receiving an online tip-off.
All this happened despite the fact that Krasovsky had apologised for his words. In the early hours of 24 October, several hours after the statement by his boss Margarita Simonyan, Krasovsky wrote on his Telegram channel: “Look, I really do feel awkward that I haven’t seen the line. About the children. You know, it happens, you’re on live TV, and you keep talking. And you can’t stop. I apologise to everyone who was shocked by this. I apologise to Margarita, and to everyone who thought it was bizarre, unthinkable and insurmountable. I hope you can forgive me.”
Krasovsky’s guest, Sergey Lukyanenko, issued his own statement on the matter. The writer said that the scandalous episode of Antonyms was not broadcast live. Lukyanenko noted that he had been invited to shoot the TV show earlier in the afternoon. He insisted that the producers essentially talked him into appearing on the show, and that he didn’t want to accept the invitation initially, as he was aware of its “provocative nature”. He had a negative view of the reporter’s words during filming.
“I don’t know want went off in Krasovsky’s head, why he started talking about burning children, nuclear strikes and so on. I had a feeling that he was trying to make me say some extremist things. Maybe that’s how he usually operates, I don’t know. Or maybe he was temporarily out of it for some reason,” the writer said on his VK page.
The writer did not want to “throw tantrums” or leave the set, because when a reporter “is talking nonsense”, you need to oppose him, Lukyanenko said.
Lukyanenko’s way of opposing him was to suggest that the children should not be drowned, but flogged instead. He called these measures “extremist”.
Writer Sergey Lukyanenko on Krasovsky’s show Antonyms. A screenshot
Following the crackdown on Krasovsky, a number of statements have been made about the incident. Pro-government political analyst Sergey Markov even wrote that Krasovsky had made calls for “drowning children” on the instructions of the US special services. He recalled that Krasovsky had worked on the presidential campaign of opposition candidate Ksenia Sobchak back in 2018.
Despite the threats by the Investigative Committee, some have even decided to support the propagandist, saying that he is “just tired”. Yulia Chicherina, a Russian singer and a staunch supporter of the war in Ukraine, said the following:
“I’d like to note that after so much stress, after miraculously surviving murder attempts, if you haven’t spent years at war, if you’re not used to death and bombings, and if you have a very responsible job with live broadcasts to a huge audience, you need to take a vacation for a couple of weeks, turn off the phone, and everything will go back to normal,” Chicherina said on Telegram.
RT observer and Russian nationalist Yegor Kholmogorov also spoke in support of Krasovsky. At first, the propagandist published a statement in which he compared what is happening to the 1812 French invasion of Russia and said that using the same motivation, you could “fire” Mikhail Kutuzov, who ordered Russian troops to retreat from Moscow and set it on fire, but ended up defeating Napoleon in the end. Later, he deleted the statement and published a new one, in which he called the discussion of Krasovsky’s calls to “kill children” a substitution of notions and a manipulation. Meanwhile, Dmitry Steshin, a correspondent with Komsomolskaya Pravda, said that you can’t just fire a person who has done so much for “the special military operation and Donbas”.
Join us in rebuilding Novaya Gazeta Europe
The Russian government has banned independent media. We were forced to leave our country in order to keep doing our job, telling our readers about what is going on Russia, Ukraine and Europe.
We will continue fighting against warfare and dictatorship. We believe that freedom of speech is the most efficient antidote against tyranny. Support us financially to help us fight for peace and freedom.
By clicking the “Support” button, you agree to the processing of your personal data.
If you want to unsubscribe from a regular donation, please write [email protected]