Ukraine Bans Russian TV Show on Special Forces

Ukraine Protests - H 2014
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Ukraine Protests - H 2014

'White Wolves' is "a threat to the security of Ukraine and its territorial integrity," says the Ukrainian State Film Agency.

Ukraine on Tuesday banned a Russian TV series about special forces, Belye volki (White Wolves), as tensions increased over renewed fighting in the eastern Donbass region.

The popular Russian show, which follows the adventures of an elite group of highly trained combat troops called the White Wolves,  constitutes "a threat to the security of Ukraine and its territorial integrity," the Ukrainian State Film Agency said in a statement.

The series, which has aired on Russia's Ren-TV since 2013, is effectively pro-Russian propaganda and should not be seen in Ukraine while "anti-terrorist" operations are underway in the east of the country, it argued.

The Ukrainian government, whose forces have been fighting Russian-backed rebels in eastern areas bordering Russia since last spring, calls the civil war there an "anti-terrorism operation."

Philip Ilienko, chairman of the agency, said: "The position of the agency remains unchanged while the situation in the east remains as it is: During the anti-terrorism operation, it is inappropriate to screen films that are propaganda for Russian special forces."

The agency earlier stripped two other similar Russian shows of their Ukrainian distribution licenses: Kremen, which means "flint," and Kremen 2.

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It's the latest in a series of moves by Ukrainian officials to restrict the airing or screening of Russian film and TV series.

Lithuania, which shares a border with Ukraine and was also once part of the Soviet Union, is reportedly considering banning two Russian TV channels, RTR Planeta and NTV Mir Lithuania, arguing that they air biased content that incites hatred toward other nations.

Edmundas Vaitekunas, head of Lithuania's Radio and Television Commission, said some shows on the channels had already been suspended for three months.

"If a ban is imposed on the whole channel due to repeated violations, I believe it should be longer -- up to one year,” he told the Baltic News Service.

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Ren-TV Baltic may also face restrictions on some of its content. In October, the Baltic service of Russian state broadcaster Channel One, First Baltic Channel, was blocked in Lithuania for its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.

Lithuania, a member of the European Union, must follow EU broadcast rules and negotiate with channels before restricting content or broadcasts. If found guilty of violating EU media rules, television channels can stay on air by admitting the offense and airing a disclaimer, Vaitekunas said.