below the surface Are these yours? Caught anything yet? Who are you?
– I’m from the Netherlands. Netherlands?
– My name is Jelle. There they are. Look. Where?
– Go back. It’s there. Oh, right. Is this it? Is that a perch?
– No, a smelt. Have you done this long? Yes. I started when I moved
to St Petersburg. When was that?
– 15 years ago I left the Donbass region. Donbass?
– Yes, the place they’re bombing now. How do you find out
what’s really going on there? You go see for yourself. The media, no matter which,
will never tell the whole truth. We called my brother in Nikolayev.
I asked him. He used to say: I’m going to liberate
the Donbass from the separatists. But now he’s not so keen
on fighting anymore. Maybe now he understands
what’s going on there. There. I’ve said too much. No, it’s interesting.
How do you see the future… Yes. You’ve got something.
– Sanya, look. Suddenly they’re biting. You got here just in time.
– Yes. Small ones. The Russian press is no longer free. The Kremlin owns the TV stations
and kills critical journalists. Corruption, misgovernment,
a dirty war in the Caucasus: None of it is in the news. But it got even worse
after the Crimean annexation. The truth is not only hidden,
but also replaced with a bogus truth. And the West is the good old enemy
who gets blamed for everything. The great hall of Mariinski Palace…
– That guy walked across the screen. For the first time in my life… …I’m going to attend
a normal Russian press conference. Here at the town hall in St Petersburg. They’re usually not interesting… …but this one is about
combatting corruption. They’ve talked about it ever since
Putin came to power, but in vain. Still, the crisis means
there’s less money. So the city billboards say: Combat
corruption, or: Pay your taxes. So something’s happening,
and I’m keen to see… …how Russian reporters do their work
and if any of them are critical. I want to emphasize the responsibility
of the media. I will not comment on rumours
on the internet… …and in the tabloids. Many Russians complain about
the shortage of cheese and dairy. What will you do to solve that?
Where do we get blue cheese? Living without ham, good whisky,
and so on and so forth… …should be easy
for any true Russian patriot. They should switch
to our Vologodsky butter… …and the good food from our villages. Everyone will be strong and healthy. What if they don’t want to give it up? Then they can buy a ticket
to Basel in Switzerland… …and eat Swiss cheese
in Swiss meadows. You mean forever?
– Whatever you want. Let’s be serious for a moment. I know that there are always
some fine journalists here… …who have been working
for the West for ages. In the end it was just about butter,
not about corruption. A few questions about Swiss cheese
made it look like a democratic event. It was a kind of play, really. Enough talk about corruption
Report it! I’m supposed to do a soundbite
at the television tower in Moscow. But we’re stuck in traffic,
so I’ll do it here. A year ago there was a report about
the Ukrainian town Slovyansk. A six-year-old boy was crucified.
By the Ukrainian army. And his mother was strapped to
a tank and driven around the town. Russia was outraged.
Everyone said it was horrible. The thing was: it wasn’t true.
It never happened. This kind of disinformation
is shown on Russian TV every day. Yesterday they said 22 women
were raped by the Ukrainian army. Not true. In today’s warfare, the role of TV
is just as important as the army. So the question is: Will we ever
win this war against Russia? Is this the entrance to the studio? Are you a visitor too?
– Yes. In this talk show,
people come to debate an issue. Usually the war in Ukraine
or the nasty Western world. The Ukrainian point of view is usually
defended by a silly person… …who gets torn to pieces
by three clever Russians. The show was created
when people stopped watching TV… …because it had become
too one-sided and predictable. This way the Kremlin pretends
that an open TV debate is possible. What made you decide to come? Vladimir Solovyov’s show is really good.
They discuss current affairs. Why is it a good programme?
– It’s an honest programme. As Russians we’re very worried
about the state of the world. We even stopped watching movies
for that reason… …and entertainment shows. The Ukrainian situation worries us most. You only watch the news?
– Yes. I watch the news
and political programmes. And you? Do you watch the news a lot? I’m from Crimea.
I can’t turn a blind eye here. Do you still live there? I was born there. I’m at university
here in Moscow. You’re probably happy
that Crimea is part of Russia now. It was always part of Russia.
It was only under Ukrainian legislation. But in fact I have always felt Russian
since the day I was born. My parents are from Russia.
So that’s why we’re part of Russia. Hello.
– Hello. Jelle. Pleased to meet you.
– Likewise. Russian? English?
– We’re Dutch. When are we on?
– Four minutes. I spoke to the presenter. Essentially
he’s with the Russian state television. I should be a little scared of him,
or a little angry with him. But I kind of liked him. In fact, whoever I talk to,
wherever they work… …I like everybody here.
I wonder if that’s a good quality. Innocent people died in Donbass. Hundreds of soldiers on both sides
died last week. Ukraine prefers war over peace talks. They accuse the civilian army… …and want the world to increase
the pressure on Russia. The Americans have a trick:
They’re above it. In the eyes of the world they are
the lawyer, or rather: the judge. They can tell immediately who’s right.
And we are always the suspects. The Kremlin manages to influence
even those who don’t watch TV… …but get their information
on the internet. More and more websites are closed
down. Even Wikipedia is in danger. There’s a whole regiment of people
leaving pro-Putin comments… …on Twitter, Facebook, and in
comment boxes under news articles. They’re called trolls. In St Petersburg, 400 trolls influence
internet discussions 24 hours a day. One troll who recently resigned
is prepared to talk to us. How did you become a troll? I saw a job ad on the internet,
on the HeadHunter site. I was looking for a job in journalism.
I had been looking for ages. There were a few low-paid jobs. But I had no idea what kind of
company it was before I got there. When did you discover
the exact nature of the work? That only took a few days. First there were tests. Everyone is
tested extensively in the first weeks. You had to write an article about
a subject and give your opinion. Then they said:
Now write it like a story. So a housewife who bakes pies
can suddenly blog about politics. That was a typical assignment. There was a separate department
where they gathered news stories… …that enabled them to write
positive things about Putin. All that type of news was gathered. Or negative news about America,
and about Ukraine obviously… …about Obama, Iraq, Iran, and so on. We had to add comments
to our own posts… …to make it look livelier,
as if lots of people read it. As if there were people who actually
wrote assenting comments: Yes, Putin is right. Were you a man or a woman? I had two male blogs and one female. She was an older woman,
in favour of Putin’s politics. What’s it like to pretend to be a man?
Isn’t that hard? Not as a rule, no. For a man’s blog
you use a harsher tone. When I wrote like a woman,
the style was more casual: I just baked a nice pie.
A more feminine mentality. The news from the point of view
of a family man… …is straight and factual. What about your fellow trolls? Did they believe in those ideas,
or didn’t they? Most people who work there
don’t support these politics. They ended up there
through circumstance, just like I did. There was an ironic situation
with pensioners. I noticed that they did this work
out of sheer desperation. They wrote good things about Putin
and how he boosted the pensions. And about the wonderful health care. But they took this job because
they can’t live on their pensions. That was really ironic. Did you ever feel bad after work? Bad, yes. I actually felt dirty.
I hated my job. But you take a deep breath, you write,
you go for a smoke a lot… …to chat with colleagues
and drink coffee… …and talk about the truth.
And then you write some more lies. There’s no room for nuance anymore. Trying to discuss Western issues
makes you a public enemy. You’re either pro-West or pro-Russia.
That message is repeated forever. Those who go out on a limb,
like Anton Krasovsky, are fired. In our studio today: People against gay marriage
and gay rights… …and gays and lesbians
who have come out. Countries can exist just fine… …without alpinists and athletes. But not without honest journalism
and independent jurisdiction. Your question is flawed. What’s missing is…
You mention North Korea. Suppose North Korea is zero,
then what country would you call 10? Russia is no North Korea.
– No, no, Russia is no North Korea. I’m interested
in the criteria you choose. If you say North Korea is 1,
what might be 10? The Netherlands? The comparison with North Korea
is slightly flawed… ..because North Korean society
is much more naive. The problem with Russia is that
everyone understands everything. And the viewers? Many viewers believe
the greater part of what they see. How much, in percentages?
– Quite a lot. But it doesn’t mean anything at all. Fox News is believed by 90 percent
of all Americans. This is not a suitable place
for an interview. It’s too crowded.
Lots of different people. I know a bar
where we won’t be disturbed. We could do it in the street.
– No good. It’s cold an dirty there. We can simply step outside.
– It’s just unpleasant there. Trust me. This is not Miami. What was wrong
with the bar we were in? There were so many people.
That’s not nice. They were not nice people.
And we’re talking about specific things. They could be police. I heard this broad from the council say
I destroyed her mood. Do you receive threats?
– No, it’s not that. I just don’t want everyone
listening in and reporting on me. How can anyone park like this? Studies say the majority of Iranians
want the death penalty for gays. Do you support that idea?
– No. How many Russians
support the death penalty? 76 percent. Do you want Russia
to reinstate capital punishment? Yes, I’d vote in favour.
For certain crimes. You’d vote in favour
of the death penalty. If society wants it…
– I’m not asking what society wants. Society has made itself perfectly clear. I’m against it.
– Alright, I get it. Applause. Two years ago,
Krasovsky outed himself live on TV. He said he was gay, but just as human
as the viewers or Vladimir Putin. It cost him dearly. The day you told everyone
on live TV you were gay… …were you nervous then?
– Of course I was nervous. I knew that this would be
the end of my career. You knew that beforehand?
– Of course. I knew what would happen.
It was a conscious choice. I don’t mean the choice
to tell everyone I’m gay. I chose the circumstances
that would force them to fire me. I wanted out of that huge,
monstrous hell… …that we have in Russia every day. It gets worse day by day.
I couldn’t play that game any longer. I had my personal motives.
It was my personal choice. And it caused tremendous upheaval. It wasn’t that I really wanted to say
I’m gay and I’m the same as Putin. I wanted to end this whole thing
in such a way… …that there was no chance whatsoever
of coming back. The footage of Krasovsky coming out
was wiped off the internet. Like it never happened. Putin is more popular now
than ever before in the past 16 years. No wonder, with all that war talk on TV. Russia rallies round its president
in this time of war. Particularly the villagers, as they
depend on TV for their information. Do they really believe everything? Or do they get fed up
with the one-sided reports? What do folks do here in winter?
– In winter? We live here. We’re never bored.
– No? Do you watch TV?
– Yes, and we have computers. Sputnik?
– What’s ours? Tricolor. I don’t know anything about technology. What do you watch? I mainly like programmes…
I don’t watch everything. The news?
– Yes, but it’s always the same. They’re bombing Ukraine. Are you used to it yet? Our side doesn’t lie. They do. They say our army is there,
but they lie. We’re not doing anything. Our friends live on the border.
They are Don Cossacks. How are they?
– They’re fine. What do you think of the news?
– The news? I think that American TV is
nothing but lies. That’s what I think. Why do they lie? We can see what they say,
can’t we? We don’t like it. They lie about WWII as well.
We won that war. Right now we have a leader,
our president, whom we can follow. I trust him, after certain events.
– Such as? Because of his actions
and some of his decisions. And politics… For him I’d be willing to… I love my country, don’t I?
I always was a Russian. It’s true, in some things
I’m disappointed. But this is my country, my native land. I’ve always breathed this air.
This land gives me strength. So what happens when you watch
the news from abroad, for example? I don’t watch the news at all.
– You don’t? No, not the Russian news either. Nor foreign news. Sometimes
I read articles on political sites. I don’t believe everything I read,
but I believe some of it, obviously. When did you stop watching TV?
– Ages ago. I was still in the army. How do you feel about the fact… …that Russia is
so poorly understood abroad? Does that make you sad? Not sad, but it’s unpleasant. I mean, obviously
that’s not very pleasant. We were never conquerors.
Russia was never a conquering nation. We didn’t invade Germany.
We just defended ourselves. It’s only recently that we don’t
understand each other anymore. And that’s because I have
an opinion about the West. Or the West has an opinion about me. Whether it’s a positive
or a negative one. If we want to solve that… …we have to clean up that
information crap they swamp us with. That makes us participants
in the processes they create. Hello, I am a Russian occupier.
That’s my job. As TV becomes less important,
the propaganda shifts to the internet. This clip was re-tweeted
by the Russian prime minister… …and has more than 8 million views. They no longer sell their women for fur
like they did before the Russians came. I occupied the Baltic states. I built factories
and power plants there. They produced good radio equipment,
cars, famous perfumes and balms. I was asked to leave. Now they sell sprats
and clean toilets in Europe. I occupied Ukraine. With the Ukrainians I built ships,
jet engines, tanks and cars. I was asked to leave. Now they destroy everything
the occupier left behind. And they only build endless
town squares and a dictatorship. Yes, I’m an occupier
and I’m tired of apologising for it. I’m an occupier by birth right, I’m an
aggressor and a bloodthirsty monster. Be afraid. Here we are. Here’s the cemetery. Officially there are no Russian soldiers
fighting in Ukraine. Tatyana, a journalist, spoke to
a soldier there who died later. She’d put us in touch with his mother. But the mother had a last-minute
change of heart. Her son died in Ukraine
a few months before our meeting. He’s buried at Kronstadt Cemetery. This is him. October. And he went to war in September? He was killed in action
during his first fight. Evgeni left without a word. He filled in a form online. He waited until his eighteenth birthday. He left a note on the fridge:
Mum, I’m visiting my friend in Rostov. It’s from his father. Nothing from the army? No, they can’t do that.
He wasn’t in the army. He was a volunteer.
The whole thing was unofficial. Did they send his remains to Russia? No, that’s the whole point. All of Kronstadt chipped in
to get the body here. None of the Russian institutions
help with the transfer of bodies. So they used their own money…
– That’s right. from your brothers in arms liberating
the Donbass from the Kiev junta War history societies
are very popular in Russia. They differ a lot.
Some societies are good. They honour the fallen heroes
from the Second World War. But there are also patriotic war clubs
with a power cult and a war cult. There always were,
and these days there are more. Patriotism in Russia is not about
how good we have it here… …how safe we are, with good education
and health care and so on. It’s about our strength and our tanks
and how others fear us. Of course I felt sorry for the mother.
That’s natural. But when I asked her:
Zjanna, how do you feel about this? Are you sad that your son went? Or do you feel no soldiers
should have gone there at all? She said:
But aren’t we supposed to help them? All the grown men should go.
That’s how it is. Would it be safe to say… …that he died
thanks to the propaganda? Yes, that’s exactly what I think. If you want my opinion: Journalists
who spread propaganda… …are up to their elbows in blood.
It’s their fault. The propaganda war rages
outside of Russia too: In Ukraine, because Russia benefits
from destabilizing it. In Lviv, the most Ukrainian town
in the west of the country… …we stumbled upon an unannounced
demonstration. We work for Dutch television.
What kind of demonstration is this? We’re not in it.
– You don’t know? Outrage. Outrage. Down with the gang. Down with the bandits.
– Down with the gang. Down with the gang. Dear fellow citizens. We will now
hear the province representative… …Samkin Anatoli Mikolajovich… …commissioner of the Centre
for Legal Protection of Citizens. He has many interesting things
to tell us. Folks, everyone is sick and tired
of the utility bills. We’ve waited a long time,
but enough is enough. What’s this a demonstration against?
– Against the rates going up. Yatsenyuk wants to raise the rates. I can’t even pay my bills now
with my pension. Are you from Lviv? I live in Vynnyky,
a small town close to Lviv. Why are you here today?
– I’m here to express my opinion. I disagree with the policies
of our government. It’s a downright genocide
of the Ukrainian people. The rates are so high
people can’t buy food anymore. Their wages are insufficient. I have no faith in the government, but
I believe in pressure from the people. That has to be done peacefully at first. But if that doesn’t work,
we need more radical action… …like the ones in the Maidan
two years ago, in 2013. It’s really maddening.
Throughout this series… …you don’t know what to believe. This is an anti-government
demonstration. Terrific. I got some quotes here and there. Then I talked to our assistant here
and he said: This whole demonstration
is probably fake. The Russians paid for this,
it’s completely staged. I find it hard to believe. That man just
now seemed to speak from the heart. But I can’t be sure.
The whole thing could well be a facade. Hello. I’m from Dutch television. Why are you… Why won’t you talk to me?
Why are you here today? You won’t say? Why are you demonstrating?
– Because of the huge rise in prices. And you?
– Same thing. Did they pay you to come here?
– No. But does that happen sometimes?
– Not in Lviv. What do you want from me? I’m asking why you’re here.
– I’m waiting for some people. We’re from Dutch television. Are you a journalist too?
– Yes. May I ask a question?
– Yes, but let me take this off first. We got here and at first we thought
it was a real demonstration. But now we think maybe people
get paid for this. Or not? As a journalist I often attend
demonstrations. Today they had lists of people
who had been invited to come. There was an internet message
saying you could attend for money. I don’t know when people get paid.
They keep that information hidden. But there are lots of people here today… …that we might call antisocial.
And lots of drunk people too. Based on that I’d say
this action is probably paid for. But there are also elderly people here
who had heard the announcements. The theme is the skyrocketing rates. Is this where you get paid? What are they paying?
Who’s going to pay? Nobody is going to pay.
– So you don’t know yet? Do you know who’s going to pay?
You don’t? Do you know who’s going to pay?
– Pay who? Nobody pays anything. I picked up the children from school.
I don’t know what you’re doing here. I’ll smash your camera, you stupid idiot. Throughout this series I couldn’t focus
on what people said and how. I mainly wondered whether it’s true
what they say. And are they really
who they say they are? That might be the touch of genius
in the Kremlin propaganda: They don’t enforce their own truth
but spread so many lies… …that you don’t know what’s true
and you doubt everything. The dumb believe the lies.
The smart turn cynical.