Ukrainian issue is systematically on the agenda of foreign media. And these topics are not on providing assistance, investment or joining unions. Our country is mentioned in American and European tabloids because of scandals.
Ukrainegate, corruption and other things were replaced by a new wave of popularity, which this time has affected even the Asian media. Protests of Ukrainians against the return of their fellow citizens from China surprised the whole world.
“Collisions, mockery and burning tires are waiting evecuees from the coronavirus in Ukraine,” reads the headline of the news of American ABC. “Coronavirus: in Ukraine, protesters ardenntly oppose the arrival of evacuees,” writes the French Lexpress.
The name of the village where citizens from Chinese Wuhan were brought was misrepresented by the media in their own way: both Sanjari and Sanzari were mentioned. Forbes political analyst Kateryna Gorchinska described Novi Sanzhary as “a sleepy city with a population of 8,000 in central Ukraine.”
“From the early morning, hundreds of Sanzari residents blocked the road to the hospital because they were afraid they might get infected. Demonstrators set up security checkpoints, burned tires and clashed with riot police clearing the road. As a result, more than 10 protesters were arrested,” writes Chinese media.
The incident was not ignored by The Times of Israel, because the Israeli Tomer Zvulun remains in quarantine in Ukraine. Media writes: “Ukraine’s efforts on quarantine the evacuation of more than 70 people from China in connection with a new virus outbreak threw the population into chaos.”
The media are actively publishing photos of Reuters and ABC, in which demonstrators throw stones at police cars.
Time also publishes a video in which it is heard that the protesters shout “Back off!”.
And if the English-speaking and Chinese media wrote more about the clashes between the police and local residents, then German colleagues emphasized the confrontation between local residents and the evacuees. For example, Zeit posted a headline “Wuhan's returnees are stoned.”
“Ukrainian television showed scenes of unrest when several transport buses with repatriates arrived at a quarantine station in central Ukraine. After that, the demonstrators threw stones at the windows of the buses. Some of the protesters were armed with iron rods," the news read.
Another German media Rtl also added this event to the textual “live” article on situation with coronavirus.
We were "highlighted" even on the online media pages of Jamaica. It is noteworthy that journalists also saw the root of the problem as a confrontation between healthy and sick people, and not between civilians and the police: "Ukrainians stoned evacuated from China." ABC emphasizes that Ukrainians threw stones not so much at the police as at the evacuees, but they were unharmed.
The Russian RT in the article “Barricades from coronavirus: how they protest in Ukraine because of the quarantine of compatriots returning from China” cites the representative of the region’s police Yury Sulaev. According to Sulaev, locals blocked nearby roads all night.
“Hundreds of helmeted police officers, police vans and an armored personnel carrier were sent there to maintain order,” Reuters describes the situation.
The consequences for the protesters were few. The Russian columnist of Life mentioned that two criminal cases have already been opened.
How media describes protesters and evacuees
Both the appearance and the morals of the protesters are described not in the pleasant way. Associated Press and The Guardian say some protesters looked drunk.
“The demonstrators, some of whom looked drunk, installed road blocks, burned tires and ran into hundreds of riot police. One protester tried to ram the police in his car, "the media write.
In contrast to the uncontrolled and aggressive Ukrainians, foreign media paint a touching and even sadder picture of Ukrainians returning to their homeland.
“The masked evacuees, exhausted by the long journey, looked through the broken windows of the bus as it drove slowly under police escort,” writes The Guardian.
The Euronews in its article “Coronavirus: Ukrainians oppose the arrival of repatriates from Wuhan” has an even more emotional description of new arrivals:
“All passengers, including at least one family with children, were masked. Many waved their hands or small Ukrainian flags, while others hid behind the curtains.”
About how this picture was able to soften the locals, says Reuters.
"Is there no other place in Ukraine that can accommodate 50 people, somewhere in remote villages or areas where there is no threat to the population?" quotes the agency a local resident Yuri Dzyubenko.
“One of the protesters suggested leaving them in Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in the world. Another offered to take them to parliament, while a third said that the President of Ukraine Zelensky should host them if he really believes that there is no danger."
“This is what I tell him, I tell the president: Accept 10 people, then I will accept two, ”said a man named Yuri, who did not give his last name,” writes The Guardian.
"Residents are unhappy that our city accepts these people," Forbes quotes the words of a local resident Serhiy Oleinyk.
Media also recalls that in Ternopil people built barricades of concrete blocks and prayed against the virus. And if most of them simply stated the dry facts, then some could not resist comment. A particularly vivid assessment is given by Lci, which writes about “total psychosis”.
"PSYCHOSIS. In Ukraine, because of the fear of coronavirus, dozens of demonstrators tried to block the way for Ukrainians repatriated from Wuhan,” - the news begins with such words. “The reception was undoubtedly successful,” the observer adds sarcastically.
Russian RT compares what is happening with the evacuation of Russian citizens from Hubei. They emphasize that 144 people without problems and protests spent two weeks in quarantine in a specially equipped center in the Tyumen region.
“This is another confirmation of the wretchedness of the radical forces that are trying to light the fire of internal confrontation, which lasts all six years,” - states the leader of the “Opposition Platform - For Life” party Victor Medvedchuk.
The media also cites Russian Foreign Minister Maria Zakharova, who considers the protests “dehumanizing civil society” and draws parallels with the Middle Ages.
Despite such a sharply negative color of the news, many media outlets nevertheless emphasized that not all Ukrainians reacted this way to their fellow citizens. They mentioned that on social networks the protest caused widespread condemnation.
Evaluation of the authorities’ actions
Many foreigners showed the reaction of the population to the attempts of “Mr. Avakov” to calm the crowd.
“On a photo published by local media, Mr. Avakov tells the protesters: “We are not talking about infected people, but about healthy people.” One person replied, “Healthy for now,” writes the BBC.
Euronews in its own way delivers Avakov’s dialogue with protesters:
“These are absolutely healthy people (...) They underwent two checks with Chinese doctors, then two with our doctors,” Minister Arsen Avakov assured. “If you continue to resist the police, they will arrest you,” - he said. “Of course, we will resist,” the protester shouted.
The Jamaican observer cites the following assessments by the Minister:
"What we saw was shameful ... It was one of the biggest disappointments in my life."
The BBC also writes that Zoryana Skaletska decided to serve as an example for protesters.
“In order to demonstrate solidarity with the evacuees, the Minister of Health of Ukraine Zoryana Skaletska said she would join them in quarantine and would manage the ministry via Skype.
Local authorities were described by the foreign tabloids as opposed to the central one. The Guardian writes: “Municipal officials promised to continue to oppose evacuation, since the sanatorium’s sewer system leads to the village’s system and ends in a nearby site.”
The assessments of government actions are extremely negative.
“The evacuation of people from Wuhan was surrounded by secrets, rumors and bewilderment. Authorities were unable to effectively report the absence of danger before passengers arrived and kept their destination secret. The fact that the plane from China first flew in the direction of the Kharkiv airport in eastern Ukraine and flew around it caused confusion and speculation on social networks, ”writes Forbes.
And Deutsche Welle believes that the reason is poor medical preparation:
"Ukrainians deeply distrust their government, as the country suffers from corruption and has a weak healthcare system. The country also struggled with a measles epidemic amid some people’s unwillingness to vaccinate themselves and their children," the media writes.
This was also emphasized by Euronews:
“There are no cases of coronavirus in Ukraine, located between Russia and the European Union, but its healthcare system, which is largely collapsing, seems to be poorly prepared for the challenge of a new coronavirus, which increases public concerns.”
BBC journalists consider one of the reasons for the protests a fake letter allegedly from the Ministry of Health that there were coronavirus patients on the plane. The media say that the SBU has denied this data and is investigating the incident. The futility of such actions is highlighted by the American BuzzFeed News.
“It does not seem to matter that the Public Health Center of Ukraine (Ministry of Health) issued a message warning of fake news, or that President Zelensky said: the authorities control everything,” the news said.
"In Ukraine, where trust in the health care system and government is low, concern about the outbreak has spread as quickly as the false news that the first cases of the disease appeared in the country," the site notes.
French Rfi also writes that, in spite of everything, the authorities could not reassure the protesters.
“For several hours, the inhabitants of the small village of Novi Sanzhary (between Kyiv and Kharkiv in the east) remained unshakable with respect to the arguments of the president and the Minister of the Interior, who arrived at the scene. Nothing can reassure residents: beaten by riot police, according to the Today website, demonstrators threw stones at 7 buses,” the news reads.
It is interesting that Voice of America was probably the only one which did not give too vivid estimates and raised the issue of weather. The publication is called: "Weather and protests impede quarantine efforts in Ukraine."
For many media, the chronicle ends only in the riots in Ukraine, and only a few of them emphasize that the evacuees still managed to get to the sanatorium. And this means that the negative impression of Ukraine in the world community will be mothballed for a while.
However, the Ukrainian media are already writing that the locals wanted to burn the sanatorium. So it is unlikely that the silence of world media would be long.