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Ceasefire, Russian style

Yuri Rescheto / groFebruary 16, 2016

After bomb attacks on Syrian hospitals, chances of a ceasefire are fading. Russia is planning more airstrikes. Moscow has more in mind than just fighting terrorists, DW Russia correspondent Juri Rescheto reports.

Syrien Luftangriff auf MSF Krankenhaus in der Provinz Idlib
Image: Getty Images/AFP

Dramatic violin music in the background, shaky images, men in dirt with microphones: Russian television pulls out all the stops when covering the war in Syria. Every evening, Russian correspondents report from all the battle zones. Their job is dangerous; they risk their lives. But they are very important and more than ever in demand now that they have taken over most of prime-time programming.

It feels like 90 percent of the best airtime is filled with Syria coverage. Most reports show Russian airstrikes, but no critical questions are asked; people just cheer frenetically. To Russians sitting on a couch in front of the television, this war is a media war: entertainment.

Moscow shows its muscle - that's what people want to see, and that's what they get. Recent surveys carried out by the independent polling organization Levada Center say that 59 percent of Russians would like their armed forces to continue the airstrikes. They are spurred on by the reports of success on the front. Russia's bombing has caused a military turnaround, they are told; Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops now gaining the upper hand.

Karte Russische Präsenz und Luftangriffe in Syrien englisch NEU!

Peace in Syria soon? No one believes that in Russia. At best, one can speak of "reducing the intensity of combat," said Nikolay Kozhanov, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "The USA and Russia both see this as a beginning, as in: Thank God we're even speaking to each other. No one expects a miraculous ceasefire. If at all, it is seen as a basis for further negotiations."

It does not matter to the Russians whether the February 20 ceasefire negotiated at the Munich Security Conference happens. Moscow wants to keep bombing Syria. "It is clear that the terrorist organizations will be excluded from the ceasefire in advance, so together with the Syrian government, we will continue to fight terror," asserted Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on February 12 in Munich.

Otherwise, Russian television would have to report on the economic chaos, corruption scandals and increasingly dangerous attacks on the political opposition in recent days. Then there would be no time for heroic violin music.