Foreign Mercenary Or Pro-Russian Patriot? Depends On The Russian TV Channel
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Meet Andrei Petkhov. Actually, make that Petkov.
He emigrated to Germany some 20 years ago but traveled to the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv recently to act as a mercenary organizing against pro-Russian protesters.
Wait, check that. It seems the 40-year-old is a local pro-Russian patriot who "as per the usual" went to Mykolaiv's central square to peacefully protest the "radical" government in Kyiv.
So who is Petk(h)ov? That depends on whether you're watching the Russian state-run NTV or the state-run Rossia 1 channel.
On NTV, he is the foreigner Petkhov, who brought 500,000 euros from Germany to stir up trouble but accidentally got caught up in an attack orchestrated by Ukrainian ultranationalist Right Sector members on peaceful pro-Russian protesters. He has been hospitalized with a broken leg and nose.
▶ ▶ || 0:00:00 ...
"His ward is being heavily guarded now, but our correspondents were able to record an exclusive interview with him," says NTV.
In the rambling interview, Petkhov, who claims to be a doctor who holds four passports, says that on April 7 he arrived at an anti-Kyiv protest camp where he immediately saw a woman who had injured her hand. As he began to treat her, he says, drunk radicals began attacking the peaceful protesters with stun grenades, truncheons, and firearms.
"In five minutes, my life changed," he says. "I was in your city for 24 hours and by the evening I was nearly killed.
Petkhov, who also says he is suffering from a concussion, says he is a representative of a group whose name he "doesn't want to discuss." He never claims to have been sent to fight against the pro-Russian protesters. Nonetheless, NTV's interpretation of his story is clear.
"German mercenary comes to Ukraine with 500,000 euros for Right Sector," says the video's headline on the NTV website.
But Rossia 1 provides more than just a different camera angle on NTV's exclusive. In its report, the patient, now the local Petkov, is seen lying in what is apparently the same facility. This time the camera pans to an orange and black ribbon of Saint George -- a symbol of the pro-Russian protests -- tied to his bedpost.
"Forty-year-old Andrei Petkov won't be able to walk for half a year," says the Rossia 1 correspondent. "On April 7 Andrei came as usual to the central square to openly declare his unhappiness with the actions of the new authorities in Kyiv. But at the peaceful protests, radicals suddenly began a campaign of absolute carnage.
▶ ▶ || 0:00:00 ...
Petkov, who speaks only briefly in the report, now claims an armed man nearly took his life.
"He put a gun to my temple as I was lying on the ground," he says. "He said he was going to kill me. I said, 'Shoot.' And then some girls ran up to us, kicked him, and he left.
The story then leaves Petkov and cuts to a segment explaining how the Ukrainian authorities allegedly bussed in radicals and coordinated with them to destroy the peaceful pro-Russian protest camps. Anti-Kyiv protesters show the Rossia 1 reporter spent cartridges they say are from ammunition used against them.
So who is Petk(h)ov? It's impossible to say for sure -- First Channel, Russia's third major state TV station, has yet to submit a report.
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The information war is in full swing in the tense standoff between Ukraine and Russia. In an attempt to present a clearer picture, #UkraineUnspun will unravel information coming from Russian and Ukrainian media, politicians and activists. Written by Glenn Kates and contributors from RFE/RL.
Follow the hashtag #UkraineUnspun on Twitter and let us know what we should be covering -- or to weigh in on any of our stories. Or write us at webteam@rferl.
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