Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky captured the world’s attention with a historic trip to Washington this week. But in the run-up to the visit, anger towards the Ukrainian president was spilling over on Russian airwaves, following months of predictions from pro-Kremlin state media that U.S. support for Ukraine would soon come to a halt.
On Thursday morning, decorated propagandist Vladimir Solovyov hosted Dimitri Simes, president of the Washington think tank The Center for the National Interest on his show, Full Contact. While Simes was speaking, footage of Zelensky was playing on the split screen. It depicted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris accepting and proudly holding up the Ukrainian flag, handed to them by Zelensky.
Solovyov was apparently unnerved by the video of the warm reception extended to Zelensky in the United States.
On the big screen behind him was an image of Zelensky that Russian propagandists wanted to convey: a photoshopped picture of the Ukrainian president shining Biden’s shoes, with the title: “A vassal has arrived.” The mockery clearly clashed with the real-time visuals being shown on another section of the split-screen. While Simes was droning on, Solovyov appeared to be furiously texting on his phone, eventually revealing that he was texting his producers and demanding that they stop replaying the clips of Zelensky before the U.S. Congress.
Apparently, the producers were too slow to cater to the host’s demands—and he finally exploded. Interrupting Simes, he fumed: “Forgive me, Dimitri. Guys, get rid of this video, if you can’t read what is being written to you!”
Solovyov was also seething over the visit in another broadcast of his show the day before. “Zelensky is already on his way to Washington. It’s perhaps a natural path for any traitor… He betrayed his entire Soviet past,” he raged. “Our weapon-makers are more talented anyway. Our men are more ingenious because we’re Russians—of many different nationalities. God is with us! Either we will win, or humanity will cease to exist, because the Lord won’t stand for the triumph of warriors of the Antichrist. We are the Lord’s weapon, we are his avenging right hand.”
Early this week, head of RT Margarita Simonyan—freshly bejeweled with a medal awarded to her by Russian President Vladimir Putin—joined Solovyov on his other state TV program, The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov. Putin’s two state media darlings shared their disgust towards Zelensky and resorted to genocidal references, describing the president of Ukraine as “some kind of an insect.”
The hatred peaked after Zelensky delivered his powerful speech to multiple ovations, with wall-to-wall coverage in the Russian state media. On the state TV show 60 Minutes, coverage of the Ukrainian president’s visit to the United States was diluted with photoshopped imagery, depicting President Biden with his hand on Zelensky’s derriere, as well as multiple clips of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, complaining about the American aid to Ukraine.
Host Olga Skabeeva repeatedly referred to Carlson as “wonderful” and “delightful,” suggesting that the Russian troops take advantage of Zelensky’s absence to take Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. Instead of improving the mood, the reference served as another reminder of the Kremlin’s multiple failures in Ukraine.
Visibly irritated State Duma member Leonid Kalashnikov noted: “We aren’t here to giggle about Biden supposedly touching Zelensky’s behind… They’ll obviously get the weapons they’re asking for. Meanwhile, no one is sending us anything, not even our allies.”
Simes described Zelensky’s speech as a total lie, from beginning to end. Solovyov and Simes bristled at comparisons to former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill, made by Pelosi. Resorting to a grotesquely Orwellian distortion, Simes claimed that Putin, in his speech to rile up the masses to support his invasion of a peaceful neighboring nation, was the one worthy of being compared to Churchill. In contrast, he described Zelensky—the president of a country fiercely defending itself from unprovoked Russian aggression—as an “evil poodle.”
“As I watched the TV coverage, I also thought of comparisons to Churchill—not of Zelensky, but Putin. Of course, Putin didn’t travel to America to ask for American support, but Putin addressed his people and said that the nation is in danger, that its enemies have far-ranging plan…,” he said. “This was a speech worthy of Churchill! The speech of President Vladimir Putin.”
Solovyov grimly concluded: “Based on current events, 2023 is the year of big wars. We’re entering the year on terms of an escalation. No one knows whether this is the last year for all of humanity.”