Russian state TV admits ‘war’ and ‘special military operation’ are same

A prominent Russian media pundit recently flouted one of the country’s main rhetorical rules while discussing the conflict in Ukraine.

Margarita Simonyan is the editor-in-chief of Russian state-run news outlet RT and is considered one of the country’s top propagandists. On Saturday, Julia Davis, founder of the Russian Media Monitor, a watchdog group that analyzes the country’s state-controlled news, shared on Twitter an excerpt from a panel in which Simonyan discussed Russia’s long-term relationship. West with Russia and the possible need for cohabitation.

During the discussion, Simonyan broke one of the most important rules that Russia has adhered to when discussing the invasion of Ukraine: referring to the conflict as a “special military operation”, as opposed to to the more incendiary term preferred by the West, a “war.” Contrary to this rule, she admitted that no matter what it is called, the conflict remains the same.

“You will have to coexist with us somehow,” Simonyan said. “What is happening in Ukraine will end eventually. You can call it a ‘war’ or a ‘special military operation’, the meaning remains the same. It will end, sooner or later everything will end, and what are you going to make us do?”

Russian officials have insisted on the term “special military operation” since the start of the invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago in February. It’s only recently that some key figures have started using the term “war”, either intentionally or accidentally. The rule was first flouted by propagandist and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Soloviev, during a broadcast in early November.

In early December, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the first mistake by a Kremlin official. Lavrov called the situation in Ukraine a war at a press conference in Moscow while accusing the United States and NATO of directly contributing to the conflict.

“With Ukraine, we didn’t just stand up, [only because] we did not like [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky, or because he stopped playing in the KVN [Russian and formerly Soviet humor TV show and an international competition] and ceased to maintain its theatre, Kvartal 95 [publicly owned television entertainment production company, founded by Zelensky]and we went to war with Ukraine,” Lavrov said. “It’s not like that, we warned [Ukraine] for many, many, many years.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan are seen. Simonyan recently admitted that calling the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” or a “war” doesn’t change that.
Evgenia Novozhenina/AFP via Getty Images

Later that month, Putin himself broke the rule when he spoke to reporters, saying Russia intended to end the war rather than prolong it.

“Our goal is not to fan the flames of this military conflict, on the contrary, it is to end this war,” the Russian leader said.

Last March, just weeks after the invasion began, the Kremlin passed new anti-dissent laws banning Russian citizens from calling the conflict in Ukraine a war, under which some have since been convicted.

Newsweek contacted Russian officials for comment.


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