Nikita Mikhalkov, the Russian actor and director whose 1994 film “Burnt by the Sun” won the Cannes Grand Prix and an Academy Award, is also an outspoken supporter of Vladimir Putin and Russian exceptionalism, devout Russian Orthodox Christian and self-described monarchist. In a paper published in the journal Communist and Post-Communist Studies titled “Historical Memory and Political Propaganda in the Russian Federation,” Mikhalkov is described as an operative in the Kremlin’s propaganda narrative.
Mikhalkov hosts a talk show on the government-owned channel Rossiya-24. called “BesogonTV.” Its name is a reference to the medieval ritual of exorcism.
On June 22, Nikita Mikhalkov cast demons out of the Russian/Ukrainian journalist Alexey Babchenko, whose “murder,” staged by the SBU, Ukraine’s security service, followed by his “resurrection,” created an international scandal in May.
Mikhalkov devoted all 40 minutes of the June 22 show to the events that began with the SBU’s announcement that Babchenko, an exiled Russian journalist, had been murdered in Kyiv. A day later, Babchenko’s made an appearance at a press conference, during which he said his “murder” had been staged in order to foil a real attempt on his life and capture those involved.
Over the weekend after Rossiya-24 first aired Mikhalkov’s Besogon program on the Babchenko incident, it rebroadcast it repeatedly, including during Sunday prime time, in-between reports from the World Cup matches being held in Russia.
In the first part of the program, Mikhalkov sarcastically reviewed reaction to the news about Babchenko’s murder. During the second part, he dissected Babchenko’s social media posts, which he described as anti-Russian, treasonous and inhumane. In quoting one of Babchenko’s tweets, which Mikhalkov interpreted as referring to the threat to Russia posed by NATO, Mikhalkovshowed footage from the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, using visual effects that had the effect of drawing a parallel between NATO and Nazi Germany.
After citing the reaction of Russian TV stars and world leaders to the news of Babchenko’s staged death and resurrection, Mikhalkov turned to the American journalist Jill Dougherty.
Mikhalkov said: "A veteran of the anti-Russian direction at CNN, Jill Dougherty said: ‘Much insane news from Ukraine. It’s good news that Babchenko is alive, but it’s a huge blow to Ukraine's reputation; after all, nobody is going to trust their words anymore’."
However, the quote, as read by Mikhalkov and shown transcribed on screen, is not what Jill Dougherty actually said. According to CNN’s transcript of its live show Connect the World, aired on May 30, 2018, Doughterly said:
“A lot of bizarre stories have come out of Ukraine, and I think this is one of the most bizarre. I mean, if it is correct that the Ukrainian security services had some sort of prior warning that there was an attempted murder pending of Babchenko and so they organized this operation, if that's true it's too clever by half, and it ends up, I really think, of course, everybody is grateful that Babchenko is alive, I think it's very damaging to journalism, and I think it's very damaging to Ukraine and its believability around the world. Who would believe right now the Ukrainian security services if they said something else? Could it be another plot? Could it be another, you know, a special operation? I just think it's really bizarre and ultimately very damaging for the people who organized it.”
The fact that Mikhalkov translated the word “bizarre” [in Russian, “stranny”] as the Russian world “bezumny,” which means “insane,” can only have been done intentionally. Mikhalkov also cites words Dougherty never said, like “a huge blow to Ukraine's reputation.”
The Russian translation of the quote is not only inaccurate. It is also seems designed [deliberately or not, we cannot say without solid proof, which we do not have] – to use the famous U.S. reporter as part of the Kremlin's propaganda campaign targeting Ukraine.