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With Russia Mired In Its War On Ukraine, Pro-Kremlin Commentators Revel In 'Good News' From Israel

Russian state-controlled TV outlet Channel One reports on the recent Israel-Gaza violence. A number of commentators have been reveling in the conflict on pro-Kremlin media.
Russian state-controlled TV outlet Channel One reports on the recent Israel-Gaza violence. A number of commentators have been reveling in the conflict on pro-Kremlin media.

On October 7, commentator Marat Bulatov, who hosts the Day Z program on the social media channel of jingoistic pro-Kremlin television personality Vladimir Solovyov, opened his show by congratulating authoritarian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of his 71st birthday.

“We must, must support the president of our country or else what we see happening now in Israel could happen here,” Bulatov said on Solovyov Live.

He then began reading messages from viewers, including one from a fan in St. Petersburg who noted that last year, an audacious Ukrainian operation that resulted in a massive explosion on the bridge linking Russia with the occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea had spoiled celebrations of Putin’s 70th birthday.

“This year,” the viewer wrote, “there is only good news.”

“Yes, I completely agree with you,” Bulatov said.

Bulatov was just one voice in a chorus of pro-Kremlin Russian commentators who found a lot to like in the attack on Israel by Hamas -- designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU -- and the group's violence targeting civilians. Almost in unison, they have been framing the crisis in the Middle East as an opportunity to criticize the West -- particularly, the United States -- and to attack anti-war Russians who left for Israel after Moscow’s February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine and suddenly found themselves huddling under rocket fire.

Marat Guelman, a Russian art critic and anti-war commentator who lives abroad, says that several important similarities between Russia's war against Ukraine and the Hamas attack on Israel could be motivating the surprising reaction from the Kremlin’s supporters. These similarities include “a surprise attack on foreign territory,” “a war against the civilian population (and taking civilians hostage),” and “the declared intention of destroying a state (in one case Ukraine, in the other, Israel) entirely,” he wrote on Facebook.

'Beneficial For Us'

During an online program called Izolenta Live on October 8, pro-Kremlin pundit Tigran Keosayan, the husband of state media executive and RT chief editor Margarita Simonyan, was blunt about the utility of the crisis in Israel.

“Any conflict in the world now is beneficial for us, particularly where the interests of the United States collide,” he said.

That assessment was similar to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's. He said on October 9 that “it is in Russia’s interests to inflame war in the Middle East to create a new source of pain and suffering that would weaken global unity, create divisions.”

'Get Used To War'

In an October 7 Facebook post, anti-war Russian blogger Ivan Yakovina described what he called the “incredible excitement and joy of the fascist Z-channels over the attack against Israel.”

“They are simply glowing with schadenfreude, totally supportive of Hamas, and even jealously asking, ‘Why can’t we do the same?’” he added. The Russian state and vocal supporters of the invasion of Ukraine have made the letter Z a prominent symbol of pro-war, anti-Ukrainian sentiments.

In an interview with Current Time, Dmitry Dubrovsky, a political scientist who lectures at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Prague's Charles University, said: “Keosayan is right” in his assessment of the propaganda value of the Israel-Hamas conflict for the Russian state.

“Russian propaganda in general has begun saying openly that war has become normal, that now war is nothing extraordinary,” Dubrovsky added. “The main message, I think, is: ‘Get used to war.’”

That is also a message that Putin has delivered repeatedly since he ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine -- which he casts not as unprovoked aggression but as a forced move to ward off what he claims without evidence is a Western effort to weaken Russia or tear it apart.

Dubrovsky also told Current Time that pro-Kremlin commentators speak about this so brazenly because they are speaking to a limited audience of like-minded people and governments.

“There isn’t really anyone left for them to be ashamed in front of,” he said. “I think the moment when Russia could be ashamed in front of someone has passed. Now it is addressing only a specific group of countries and allies, most of whom are politically marginal players or openly authoritarian, aggressive regimes like Iran and North Korea.”

Blaming Ukraine

Ultranationalist commentator Dmitry Steshin wrote on Telegram on October 8 that “Ukraine has quickly disappeared from the global agenda,” before adding the unfounded speculation that Hamas was armed by Ukrainians “stealing Western military aid.”

Such claims were later repeated in a fake video purporting to be from the BBC that claimed the open-source investigative group Bellingcat had documented corrupt weapons transfers from Ukraine to Hamas. Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins denounced the video “being pushed by Russian social-media users,” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“It’s unclear if this is a Russian government disinformation campaign or a grassroots effort, but it’s 100 percent fake,” he wrote.

Russian state media and pro-Kremlin commentators have also given considerable oxygen to comments from hard-right Republican U.S. Senator Josh Hawley and and others calling for U.S. military aid to Ukraine to be redirected to Israel.


Pro-Kremlin commentators and propagandists saved particular spite for anti-war Russians who left for Israel, referring to them with the pejorative neologism “relokanty,” or relocators.

Simonyan wrote on X on October 7: “The country that does not fight with its neighbors is again fighting with its neighbors. We are awaiting the exodus of Russian pacifists. Rather, no, we are not awaiting this.”

Margarita Simonyan (file photo)
Margarita Simonyan (file photo)

In particular, such commentators mentioned high-profile figures who left for Israel, including legendary Russian pop star Alla Pugacheva and her husband, comedian Maksim Galkin.

In a broadcast on Channel One state television, Simonyan directly addressed Galkin “and the rest of those…who said they can’t live in a country that fights with its neighbors.”

Galkin released a video on Instagram on October 9 expressing sympathy and support for Israel.

“We chose Israel and have not regretted it for a minute,” he said. “And today, in these difficult and heartbreaking days for Israel, we are here. We are not even thinking of leaving…. Alla and I and our children want to support the people of Israel.”

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Anti-war commentator Yakovina wrote in his Facebook post that the pro-Kremlin voices “want as many killed civilians as possible, particularly among those well-known Jews who recently left Russia such as [post-Soviet reformer and 1990s-era Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly] Chubais and [rock star Andrei] Makarevich.

Charles University's Dubrovsky said that “such obvious gloating, which has nothing to do with reason, has everything to do with a desire to bully others.”

RFE/RL's Russian Service and Current Time correspondent Vladimir Mikhailov contributed to this report.
NOTE: This article has been amended to include a more accurate description of Dmitry Dubrovsky's position and role at Charles University.

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