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Most National TV Channels Ignored CNN Reporting on Ukrainian Special Operation to Detain Wagner Mercenaries in Belarus

September 9 – According to Detector Media (DM), most Ukrainian national TV channels did not report in their news programs about CNN’s recent investigative report into Ukrainian special services’ failed 2020 attempt to catch Russian mercenaries attached to the Wagner private military group. Channel 5 was the only one that reported this story.

CNN broadcast a story on September 8 called “Ukraine spies tried to ensnare alleged Russian war criminals with a fake website, promises of riches and an international sting.” The CNN reporter interviewed Ukrainian special services officers (on condition of anonymity) who described the preparation, execution, and failure of a secret July 2020 operation to ensnare Russian mercenaries who took part in Russia’s invasion of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, including combatants connected with the downing of flight MH17 in Ukraine in 2014. Ukrainian operatives lured the men to Minsk from Russia by setting up a fake job offer for mercenaries to fight in Venezuela. From Minsk the mercenaries were supposed to board a flight they were led to believe would be taking them to Venezuela, when in fact the plane would take them to Ukraine. However, on July 29, 2020, two weeks before the Belarusian presidential election, the Belarusian security service arrested the 33 Wagner mercenaries in the resort they were staying outside Minsk. Despite Ukraine’s request to extradite them, the Belarus authorities transferred them back to Russia.

On September 8, Davyd Arakhamiya (head of the Servant of the People faction) reacted to CNN’s report, expressing the view that special operations should not be discussed in the media. Mykhailo Podolyak (adviser to Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President) criticized the CNN investigation, saying it was based on unreliable sources.

On September 9, 2021, Victoria Syumar (MP, European Solidarity) claimed that the government had “done everything in its power” to prevent any major TV channels from covering the story about this failed operation, an effort she described as an effort at “censorship.”

Detector Media has asked the national TV channels for their explanations for why they did not report on CNN’s investigation in their news programs when the story broke.

More on Detector Media in Ukrainian and on CNN in English.

Photo credit: Michael Dzedzic on Unsplash