It’s the middle of the day in Moscow, and RT, the Kremlin’s 24-hour English-language news channel, is racing through a dizzying lineup. Ukrainian soldiers are abandoning their positions in the besieged Azovstal steel plant, which RT bills as a fatal blow to Kyiv’s war effort. There’s the cautionary story of a British volunteer with the Ukrainian army, who says he was duped. A meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers prompts a report on the West’s hypocrisy in condemning Russia’s military operations but not Israel’s. News segments are interspersed with bombastic talk shows and minidocumentaries like Fast Forward to Fascism, an exposé on neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
Watching RT from the scarred outskirts of Kyiv, British reporter Sara Firth was struck by just how fully the network appeared to have embraced an alternate reality. In one broadcast, star RT correspondent Maria Finoshina lamented the demolition of bridges and other infrastructure by Ukrainian troops, without mentioning why they were blowing them up: to slow advancing Russian forces. “It’s still so hard to wrap my head around,” Firth says.