This is the Orwellian moment a Russian state TV propagandist refuses to comment on his country’s withdrawal from the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, saying “I don’t want to go to prison”.
Andrey Norkin is a TV presenter for the Russian state-owned channel NTV, which is technically owned by Gazprom Media, itself owned by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, of which the Russian state is a majority shareholder.
Norkin has been a vocal supporter of the Kremlin’s line since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on 24th February.
But in a 70-second clip – from the 10th November edition of the TV programme ‘Meeting Point’ (‘Mesto Vstrechi’ in Russian) – that is making the rounds on social media, Norkin can be seen explaining how he does not want to take a position on Russia’s decision to retreat from Kherson.
He explains that regardless of whether he were to support or criticise the decision, both viewpoints could land him in jail for years.
The 1984-like clip shows Norkin saying: “if you’re expecting me now to explain what I think about this, I’m not going to tell you anything.
“But I’ll explain why. If I support the decision and say that the Defence Minister is acting correctly by leaving Kherson, then I’m publicly calling for Russia’s territorial integrity to be violated.”
This is because Putin officially proclaimed the Kherson region to be part of Russia in an internationally condemned annexation move just weeks ago.
Norkin explained: “In our Criminal Code that’s Article 280 Part 1. I specially checked this morning. Several years in prison.
“And if I don’t support the decision and think that the Defence Ministry has done the wrong thing by leaving Kherson, then I’m publicly discrediting the Armed Forces, which is also Article 280, but Part 3, with approximately the same jail term.
“I don’t want to go to prison. So now we’ll watch a report and then I will hand over to our dear experts.”
As the footage ends, the images then shift to Sergey Surovikin, who is the recently appointed Russian general now in charge of all of Moscow’s forces in Ukraine.
The subsequent part of the television programme shows the general officially informing his superiors that he is pulling Russia’s forces out of Kherson. A move that is then met with their approval.
Meeting Point is a socio-political TV programme that styles itself as being geared towards discussing life’s important issues. It regularly features political figures, celebrities, and artists, as well as normal citizens, as guests.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 24th February in what the Kremlin is still calling a “special military operation”. Today marks the 261st day of the war.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that between 24th February and 11th November, Russia had lost about 79,400 personnel, 2,814 tanks, 5,696 armoured combat vehicles, 1,817 artillery units, 393 multiple launch rocket systems, 205 air defence systems, 278 warplanes, 261 helicopters, 1,505 drones, 399 cruise missiles, 16 warships, 4,259 motor vehicles and fuel tankers, and 159 units of special equipment.
Russia has claimed that its casualties have been much lower but provides infrequent updates on its latest figures.
Ukrainian forces are reportedly closing in on the southern city of Kherson after Russia announced that it was retreating across the Dnieper River.
Ukraine has said that it thinks it will take at least a week for the Russian troops to leave the city and has reportedly liberated the strategically significant town of Snihurivka in Mykolaiv Oblast, which lies near the border with Kherson Oblast, some 20 miles north of the city of Kherson.
The Russian Ministry of Defence has said that its retreat from the region is currently underway, saying: “The Russian troop units are manoeuvring to a prepared position on the left bank of the Dnieper River in strict accordance with the approved plan.”
The Ukrainian Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, has said that there are still approximately 40,000 Russian troops in the Kherson region.
Reznikov said: “It’s not that easy to withdraw these troops from Kherson in one day or two days. As a minimum, one week.”
Ukraine has said that it does not want to rush into the city as it could be a trap by the Kremlin.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said Ukraine could not currently confirm if Russia was indeed retreating from the city, but Ukraine’s military forces have advanced over 22 miles and retaken 41 villages and towns in the region since the beginning of October, including 12 settlements on Wednesday.
US officials announced on Thursday that they would be sending an additional USD 400 million in military aid to Ukraine.
National Security advisor Jake Sullivan said: “This increased air defence will be critical for Ukraine as Russia continues to use cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack critical civilian infrastructure.”