Ukrainian President bans all new Russian films about security forces

Ukrainian President bans all new Russian films about security forces
Still from Brother 2, dir. Aleksei Balabanov (2000). Brother 2 was banned from being screened in Ukraine last month.

7 April 2015

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has imposed a ban on the screening of films and television series “promoting law enforcement agencies” which were produced by Russians after 1 January 2014. The law, which was approved in February and enforced last week, bans any Russian-produced audiovisual works which contain the “popularisation or propaganda of any law enforcement agencies, the armed forces or other armed, military or security forces of the state-occupier”.

The foundations of the new law were laid last summer, when Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture banned the distribution of two Russian films — a screen adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard and Gleb Orlov’s biopic Poddubny — on the grounds that they were “distorted and rewritten in favour of Russia”, and “displayed contempt” for Ukraine and its people.

Following February’s approval of the law, last month Ukrainian authorities banned a further 20 Russian films centred round the theme of the army, which included Aleksei Balabanov’s War (Voina) and Brother 2 (Brat 2). Volodymyr Groysman, Ukraine’s chairman of the constitutional reform commission, later wrote on his Facebook page that “this law doesn’t apply to cartoons or TV series about love”.

Some have expressed doubt over the real-life implications of the law due to the ease with which internet bans can be circumvented. “With regard to the ban of Brother 2 and other films, the law is more of a symbolic measure,” historian Andriy Portnov told Grani.ru. “The consequences are likely to be just that these films will no longer be screened on TV [until recently, Brother 2 was “regularly shown on different Ukrainian channels on prime time]. Russian TV series arguably make up the majority of Ukrainian TV channels’ main content, therefore talk about a complete information blockade is irrelevant. All these films are still available on the internet.”

Ukrainian television channels have been given two months to reorganise their content in line with the new law.