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Ukraine's pro-Western president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has signed decrees banning pro-Russian media outlets. The broadcasters had their licences revoked and are set to stay off the air for the next five years.
Three pro-Russian TV channels have gone off the air in Kyiv after pro-Western President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a Ukrainian security council decree imposing sanctions for five years on eight media and TV companies.
The Kyiv stations affected were ZIK, NewsOne, and 112 Ukraine.
Their broadcasts were only available Tuesday night via the video hosting platform YouTube, reported the Russian news agency TASS.
It identified the channels' owner as Taras Kozak, a lawmaker and member of the pro-Russian Opposition Platform for Life party, quoting him as describing Zelenskiy's move as "an act of blatant censorship."
Kozak is named in a decree appendix, with his assets, trading operations and transfer of copyright blocked — also for five years.
In Ukraine, the channels are considered to be pro-Russian messengers anchored in the nation's war-scarred east as well as its south.
Zelenskiy's spokeswoman Iulia Mendel said: "These media have become one of the tools of war against Ukraine, so they are blocked in order to protect national security," adding that evidence had emerged of their being funded from Russia.
In his main decree, implementing decisions reached Tuesday by Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, Zelenskiy said Ukraine's Foreign Ministry would inform the European Union and the United States "about the application of sanctions" on the media outlets.
The appendices attached to his decree ordered the blocking of TV channel and communication firms' assets, banned their use of radio frequencies within Ukraine, and ordered the termination of potential retransmission services.
The three affected Kyiv outlets issued a joint statement describing the bans on them as a "reckoning with inconvenient media."
TASS also quoted 112 Ukraine's general producer, Artem Marchevsky, as saying the channels sustained "about 1,500 jobs."
Ukrainian authorities had made the decisions, Marchevsky asserted, "without any court ruling, any investigation, without any convincing reason at all."
A prominent opposition figure allied with Kozak, Viktor Medvedchuk, also condemned the sanctions imposed.
The head of the Ukrainian Union of Journalists, Nikolay Tomilenko, said: "The deprivation of access to Ukrainian media for an audience of millions without a court ... is an attack on freedom of expression."
Russian influence remains strong in eastern Ukraine, where since April 2014 separatists and government forces have clashed, claiming 14,000 lives amid hostile relations between Kyiv and Moscow.
President Zelenskiy, formerly a comedian and actor, was elected in 2019 on a pledge to end the conflict. Both sides, under European mediation, agreed to a ceasefire last July.
Last November, Kyiv suggested that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) send 1,500 police to eastern Ukraine's Donbass region as a precursor to holding elections there.
ipj/nm (dpa, Reuters)