The U.S. ambassador to Russia described the country's media coverage of the war in Ukraine as providing the audience with an "alternate universe."
Ambassador John Sullivan, who remains in Russia despite the war and frayed diplomatic relations, said inaccurate coverage of the war "is a function of the Russian government effectively crushing independent journalism and civil society here."
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The United States, dating back to before Russia's invaded, has publicized intelligence on possible Russian military plans in an attempt to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from going through with those actions. The new tactic on the part of the Biden administration has allowed it to warn the public and Ukraine about possible developments in the war, though the Kremlin has done its best to insulate Russian citizens from the truth.
"What the average Russian hears and sees on Russian television is an alternate universe. You know, it is a function of the Russian government effectively crushing independent journalism and civil society here," Sullivan explained in a Friday morning interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
Putin has repeatedly sought to justify the military invasion through a number of explanations, most refuted by the West. He's alleged that Ukraine was seeking to go nuclear, that Ukraine is being run by a Nazi government targeting Russians within the country, and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, is a Nazi.
"So what the average Russian hears is that President Zelensky, the democratically elected president of Ukraine who is Jewish, what the average Russian hears, and it’s all he or she hears, is that President Zelensky is a Nazi who is engaged in genocide in Ukraine against Russians and Russian speakers," he added. "Everyone else in the world recognizes that that’s preposterous."
Trevor Reed, the American who had been detained in Russia for nearly three years before the U.S. and Russia agreed to a prison swap last month, has provided some insight into the knowledge level of someone only exposed to Russian media.
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In the weeks before his release, there had been a two-week period when he had been allowed to speak with his parents, and he brought up the situation in Ukraine, his father, Joey Reed, told the Washington Examiner.
“He’s watching Russian news whenever he's not in solitary confinement. And he said, ‘Oh, they said they conquered this, and they did that,’ and I go no — really, he was just so amazed at what the real story was,” the elder Reed said of his son.