A war 'crime': How the Russian press covered the invasion of Ukraine

25 February 2022

7:45 PM

25 February 2022

7:45 PM

What do Russians make of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? The violence has been condemned around the world, and it seems that thousands of Russians who have taken to the streets on anti-war protests agree that Putin has gone too far. But some Russians continue to support their president, in spite of suggestions from abroad that he has ‘lost the plot’. The coverage in the Russian press of the first day of the invasion of Ukraine reflects the mixed feelings about the conflict. Here’s how Russian newspapers reacted to war in Ukraine:


Izvestiya is one of Russia’s most widely-circulated broadsheet newspapers, with a focus on bringing business news to its readership. The paper’s stance is immediately clear with what it calls the ‘operation to protect the Donbass region’. Sounding optimistic, it said that, according to some experts, the war in Ukraine could be over in as little as five days.

The newspaper’s whole front page is devoted to Ukraine, telling readers not to withdraw money in haste and speculating how high the price of gas could go. It also devotes an article to the introduction of Western sanctions against Russia, confidently telling its readers they ‘don’t frighten Russia because the country has a safety cushion that will help them cope with it’. According to the paper, Putin will spend part of today meeting with the country’s businessmen.

Novaya Gazeta 

Novaya Gazeta is well-known for its critical government stance, often undertaking investigations into Russian political and social affairs. The paper condemns the war in Ukraine in no uncertain terms, headlining the paper: Russia. Is Bombing. Ukraine’ and declaring that in this issue, it’s most important articles will also be printed in Ukrainian.

nov.pngNovaya Gazeta is well-known for its critical government stance

Turning the page to the first article, the paper lays the blame firmly at Putin’s door, saying the country ‘will pay the heaviest of prices for his choice’. The paper calls the war a ‘crime’. Novaya Gazeta says that although it cannot yet give readers a reason for why the invasion began, it speculates it is because the ‘inhabitants of the Kremlin have spent too long consuming their own propaganda’. Although a small portion of the population will also swallow the government propaganda, most Russians recognise that war with Ukraine should be ‘unthinkable’.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta

The Russian government’s official newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta is one of the country’s largest. Predictably, the paper echoes the Kremlin’s official line on the war, saying ‘the truth is on our side’. Much of the front page is dominated by an article written by Vladimir Putin himself, who talks about the ‘fundamental threats posed to Russia by the West, step by step, year after year’. He takes readers right back to the fall of the Soviet Union, through the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria, calling the West liars who leave a bloody trail of destruction behind them. He says Nato leaders broke their promise to Russia not to expand to the East in what seems to be an attempt to justify the war to the country. The rest of the front page dedicates space to saying the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine is not aimed at civilians. The paper also gives a blow-by-blow account of how yesterday’s invasion began. According to the paper, 42 Ukrainian border guards defected to Russia.

Komsomolskaya Pravda

ko.pngHow Komsomolskaya Pravda covered the invasion


One of Russia’s most popular tabloids, Komsomolskaya Pravda also unsurprisingly dedicates its homepage to the war in Ukraine. Addressing the ‘ten most important questions’ about what is going on, the paper explains that what is happening in Ukraine is a ‘special operation’ not a war because it is happening on their own territory with their own people. It accuses the West of crossing ‘all’ red lines and says the situation was unavoidable. Part of the homepage is dedicated to a live blog, stating that Europe and the US ‘don’t want to enter a war with Russia’. It goes on to say that in the face of Western pressure, the economic union of the Eastern European post-Soviet states remains united.

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