On May 20, Russia’s main state-owned TV channel, Rossiya24, devoted its prime time talk show, 60 Minutes, to the first face-to-face meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. That meeting took place in Iceland on May 19 on the sidelines of the Arctic Council summit.
Both sides assessed the meeting as positive and constructive, and Russian state media’s coverage of the meeting has been unusually neutral for a U.S.-related topic.
However, for the domestic Russian-speaking audience, the state media coverage missed some details, such as the fact that Blinken spoke about the fate of Alexey Navalny, the imprisoned opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and about Russian government pressure against U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
Yet, despite the overall measured tone, Russian state television delivered blow after blow against the U.S. in its coverage of the Blinken-Lavrov meeting, particularly against U.S. President Joe Biden.
Yevgeny Popov, who co-hosts 60 Minutes, which claims nearly 400 million viewers on YouTube alone, began the May 20 edition with an apparent attack on Biden, saying:
“In Reykjavik, for the first time after Joe Biden's seizure of the White House, an official face-to-face contact between the Russian Federation and the United States took place.”
The claim that Biden “seized” the White House is false.
Biden won the 2020 U.S. presidential election with an overwhelming majority of Electoral College votes and a comfortable majority of the popular vote.
While the previous administration disputed Biden’s victory, including in courts, the legal challenges have been rejected as having no merit.
Furthermore, the Russian word “zakhvat” that Popov used in describing President Biden’s accession to the White House means a seizure of power by force.
After the Biden tirade, Popov continued, claiming that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov “remembers Blinken as a boy who used to carry papers for [former U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry,” and thus, has offered Blinken “a helping hand in clearing out the debris” of the bilateral relationship Blinken, according to Popov, rejected the offer.
Yevgeny Popov, with his wife and 60 Minutes co-host Olga Skabeyeva, are among Russia’s most influential political journalists. They have received numerous prestigious awards, including the Russian Journalist Union’s “Golden Feather” and Russian television’s TEFI, the industry’s highest award. The latter described them as “the best political journalists in Russia.”
The couple has repeatedly been caught making false and misleading claims on their program.