Russian TV presenter accused of inciting genocide in Ukraine

Anton Krasovsky, from state-funded RT channel, is suspended after calling for Ukrainian children to be drowned or burned alive

A pro-Kremlin television presenter has been accused of inciting genocide after calling for Ukrainian children to be “drowned” and “burned” alive during an interview on the state-funded RT channel.

Anton Krasovsky, the chief of Russian-language broadcasting for the channel formerly called Russia Today, said Ukrainian children who said they were being occupied by Russia should be “thrown in a river with a strong undercurrent”.

“They should have been drowned in the Tysyna [river],” said Krasovsky during an interview with the fantasy writer Sergei Lukyanenko. “Just drown these children. Drown them.”

Russian state media has previously hosted commentators who have denied the existence of Ukrainian culture or called for the country’s total annexation by Russia.

But even in the era of Russian wartime propaganda, where it appears that anything goes, Krasovsky’s remarks have provoked a backlash.

On Monday, he was suspended from RT, and the head of Russia’s powerful investigative committee said it would review his remarks as part of a potential criminal investigation.

In the interview, which was pre-recorded, edited, and later broadcast, Krasovsky also said that he believed such children should be “shoved into their huts and burned [alive]”.

Ukraine’s foreign minister said the remarks were an incitement of genocide, calling upon foreign governments to ban RT for promoting hate speech.

“This is what you side with if you allow RT to operate in your countries,” said Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister. “Aggressive genocide incitement (we will put this person on trial for it), which has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Ban RT worldwide!”

The incident has been deeply embarrassing for RT, which has been a vocal cheerleader for the war but also distanced itself from his remarks.

“For the moment, I am halting our cooperation [with Krasovsky], because neither I nor the rest of the RT team can allow even the thought to flash that one of us is capable of supporting such savagery,” wrote RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, in a post.

Krasovsky, who is gay and was a prominent critic of the anti-gay laws passed by the Russian government in the early 2010s, joined RT in 2020 when he was appointed by Simonyan to lead its Russian-language broadcasting.

His appointment was seen as a minor coup for Simonyan, who has delighted in hiring journalists previously associated with the Russian opposition or critics of the government.

In 2021, when he also worked at RT, he had previously called for Russians protesting against the government in St Petersburg to be tied up and drowned in a canal.

He apologised for his remarks on Monday, writing that he was “truly embarrassed that I somehow didn’t see the boundary. About children. But it happens like this: you’re in the middle of a broadcast, and you get carried away. And you can’t stop … I hope you’ll forgive me.”

One Russian pundit, Sergei Markov, suggested that his remarks were so outrageous that he must be working for western intelligence services as a plant.

In another embarrassing incident on Russian television last week, a military expert close to the Russian defence ministry was caught admitting that Moscow was using Iranian drones in Ukraine but asked a presenter not push him on the topic.

“You know the expression ‘We all have an asshole but we don’t use the word?’” said Ruslan Pukhov, the expert. “We all know the drones are Iranian, but the government has not admitted to it.”

Both Russia and Iran have denied using the loitering munitions to target energy infrastructure in Ukraine.


Andrew Roth in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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