Occupying Russian forces in the south-eastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol have published a fake, propaganda-filled issue of the independent local newspaper Melitopolske Vedomosti (MV) in an attempt to deceive local residents.
Using the MV logo and a similar design to the local paper which has steadfastly refused to publish pro-Russian propaganda despite threats and kidnappings, the fake version is marked as edition No 1, covering dates March 21-27, 2022. It has a large portrait of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian mayor on the front page. Next to the masthead is a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin alongside his quote that the goal of the “special operation” is to liberate the people of Ukraine from the Kyiv regime which has practised genocide for eight years. There is also propaganda about Russian humanitarian aid for Melitopol residents.
Melitopolske Vedomosti closed their printing house and ceased to print their newspaper earlier in March. The MV website mv.org.ua is also currently offline.
Russian forces have been trying to force MV’s owner Mikhail Kumok and the newspaper’s staff to publish pro-Russian material for several weeks. On March 21, armed men took away several MV journalists and other employees, including Mr Kumok and members of his family, detaining and threatening them for several hours before confiscating their mobile phones. After the harassment, MV defiantly published the website headline: “Occupiers abducted journalists and employees of MV Holding”. Only recently, Russian military personnel left the editorial office which they had been occupying for some time.
Оккупанты похитили журналистов и сотрудников "МВ холдинга"https://t.co/vdxFN9fuqU
Оккупационный режим в Мелитополе продолжает показывать свое истинное лицо. Сегодня его представители похитили ряд журналистов и сотрудников "МВ-холдинга". pic.twitter.com/gKrfsa7aJN
— Местные Вести – Мелитополь (@mv_melitopol_ua) March 21, 2022
The publication of the fake MV newspaper is a blatant attempt by Russian forces to win support from residents who remain steadfastly resistant to occupation.
Not only is the publication unlawful, but by co-opting MV’s reputation, the Russian actions pose a potentially huge reputational damage to MV and Mr Kumok, who had no connection with the publication of the newspaper, which he suspects was printed in Crimea.