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  • Writer's pictureCIR

Mapping the media landscape in Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories

Updated: Jun 17

Image: Alina Grubnyak via Unsplash

CIR, together with Detector Media, reveal the network of actors behind the “media occupation” of Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories. At its core are the Russian federal authorities – the driving force, funders, and implementors of a vast media ecosystem designed to serve Moscow’s interests.

An interactive visualisation of this network can be found here.

When Russia occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Crimea, and later other territories of Ukraine – first in 2014 and then during the full-scale invasion in 2022 – it set out to capture not just land, but the information space. 

Russian forces captured transmitter towers and cut off access to Ukrainian news programmes and Western media, turning on signals for pro-Kremlin coverage instead. They threatened journalists and closed down the outlets of those who refused to comply. 

Ukraine’s media landscape was vibrant and diverse in these regions prior to 2014 – especially at a local level – but Russia has attempted to extinguish this dynamism. It’s replaced it with an information ecosystem that appears diverse, but in reality, is highly centralised.

CIR, together with Ukraine-based NGO Detector Media, analysed the pro-Russian media outlets targeting the Temporarily Occupied Territories (TOTs). The research reveals a tightly controlled network of sources – mapped in the below visualisation (full, interactive version here) – that serve the interests of Moscow and the occupying authorities.

Behind the network are the Russian federal authorities that have been the driving force, funders, and implementors of this centralisation. 

Visualisation of the media space in Ukraine's TOTs. An interactive version of this map is available here.

The network map reveals hundreds of Russian and pro-Russian outlets, social media channels and individuals. Many of the outlets stem from two main media holdings established by the occupying forces in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic: the Republican Media Holding and Luganmedia. 

These holdings coordinate the media agenda and, crucially, channel funding from the Kremlin. In Occupied Crimea, given its swift annexation into Russia, local media outlets were directly subordinated to the Kremlin.

Within this vast network, some outlets masquerade as local news platforms, while others take the form of Telegram channels run by occupational officials or administrative bodies. 

These outlets often take a hyper-local approach, employing a communication style that addresses local concerns – such as education or infrastructure – to resonate with local audiences. Some appear to have built significant audiences through such approaches. 

CIR and Detector Media’s investigation demonstrates the depth, breadth and complexity of a multilayered media ecosystem that spans Ukraine’s TOTs. It reveals its interconnectedness with the Russian information space and details how the Kremlin closely oversees the narratives and messages pushed to audiences across the TOTs.

Download and read the full report here: 

ENG_Mapping the media landscape_Report
Download PDF • 36.11MB

Appendix 3
Download PDF • 1.68MB

The Ukrainian version of this report can be read via Detector Media's site, here.



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