This Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And just hours after spending its first Christmas at war, the Kremlin sent a cruel message across Europe via its state-run RT station.
He did so through a provocative commercial lasting just over a minute, which begins by showing a happy European family celebrating the holidays of 2021 and a little girl who receives a hamster with a red bow on her head as a gift from Santa Claus.
A year later, everything changes for that family. Already at war, the landscape is completely bleak. Having no light in the house or heating, the cold hits them and they feel as warm as if they were outdoors.
So, the father of the family turns to the pet. Through his classic wheel, he puts together an electrical system so that, running, the hamster gives light to the Christmas tree and thus at least makes the little girl smile.
The last scene is the most dramatic. They glimpse a terrifying future. It’s Christmas 2023. The cold continues, the heating still doesn’t work, the windows of the house are completely destroyed by bombing and neither the hamster nor his wheel appear on the living room table.
Dinner is also poor. The woman arrives with a soup which the girl looks disappointed. Apparently, even the little girl is sad about losing her hamster.
Introducing a bite into his mouth, the father of the family takes out the bow from the inside, the one that the pet had a long time ago. The last image focuses on the woman who signals silence to the man so that her daughter does not find out, implying that the hamster is not lost but was sacrificed to be able to eat.
“Merry Christmas, anti-Russians. If your media doesn’t tell you where all this is going, RT is available via VPN”the commercial ends, after the cruel images.
Last March, the 27 EU countries agreed to ban Russian state media RT and Sputnik from systematically broadcasting disinformation about the invasion of Ukraine. “We will ban the Kremlin’s media machine”, were the words of the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Now, Russia has responded with a strong message for having banned the diffusion on EU territory of the two media that are under the control of the Russian state.
With that sentence at the end of the commercial, they warn that the media website is still accessible using the service that changes the user’s geographic location. Is that both Russian sites have resorted to new domains that reproduce their content literally.
The other side: Ukraine and a conciliatory message
Despite the bombing, Ukraine has assured its citizens that it will not allow Russia to “steal” Christmas from children. Under that promise, a small tree was lit up in the center of the capital, Kyiv.
This week began with a series of bombings on various critical infrastructure in Kiev but ended with the installation of a 12-metre-high artificial tree in the city center, decorated with peace doves. Illuminated with yellow and blue bulbs, the colors of the national flag, it has the country’s coat of arms in the upper part, which represents a golden trident.
“Russians are trying to deprive our citizens of a normal life but we will not allow them to steal the greatest holiday, New Year and Christmas, from our children,” said the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, at the inauguration.
At first, the mayor admitted he was undecided whether or not to put up the tree due to shelling by Russian forces, which caused severe blackouts in the country in the depths of the northern winter. The tree lights are lit by a diesel generator and decorations from other years have been used.
Dozens of residents braved the freezing cold to admire the tree, located next to Kiev’s Saint Sophia Cathedral, famous for its golden domes, and did not miss the opportunity to snap some photos.
According to Orthodox tradition, Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on January 7, but various surveys indicate that an increasing number of people prefer to celebrate it on December 25, as do other churches. An Interfax-Ukraine poll shows support for such a change rose from 26% in 2021 to 44% in 2022.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.