Journalist’s Notebook: Russian TV host sees ’empty planet’ if Ukraine-Russia war goes nuclear

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It seemed a bit too much, even for the hosts of the Russian activist program “60 Minutes”.

“One Sarmat and the British Isles are gone,” yelled State Duma member Alexei Zhuravlev, referring to one of Russia’s newest intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The husband-and-wife team of Olga Skabeyeva, sometimes dubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “iron doll”, and Yevgeny Popov, also a State Duma deputy, made what appeared to be attempts to contain their guest. But, in the end, they let it rip. Soon, charts flooded the TV screen showing the travel time of Russian nuclear weapons to Europe and Britain. It lasted a few seconds.

A soldier comforting Larysa Kolesnyk, 82, after she was evacuated from Irpin on the outskirts of kyiv, Ukraine on March 30.
(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

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I asked Yevgeny Popov if he was, in fact, shaken by the sound of the nuclear saber on the airwaves that night. The answer was yes.

“Because there will be no winner in this kind of war,” he said. “We will have an empty planet with no living humans.”

But Popov went on to accuse the West of threatening Russia with his comments about wanting to see the country weakened, although the US stance was in the context of getting Putin to stop the war on Israel. Ukraine.

Popov said Russia would never use a nuclear weapon first. But the Kremlin swore earlier that it would never attack Ukraine either.

The narrative that the West has wanted to bring Russia down for all these years is stuck in the throats of Russian propagandists. I suggested to Popov that this account was false.

“Hmmmmmm,” he said. “I cannot agree with you. I think you are completely wrong, because now we have a war between Russia and the West.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin uses state media to spread the Kremlin's message.

Russian President Vladimir Putin uses state media to spread the Kremlin’s message.
(Alexei Nikolsk/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images, file)

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He cited Republican Senator Mitt Romney’s comment during his presidential bid that Russia was America’s greatest geopolitical enemy. I pointed out that Romney did not become president. And Presidents Obama and Trump have sought ways to restore relations with Russia. Arguments with propagandists like Popov usually go in circles. Maybe Romney was right.

Popov repeated the Kremlin’s oft-used line that the United States, having gone to war in Iraq, should not weigh in on the war in Ukraine. I asked him what he thought about the flattening of entire Ukrainian cities and the millions of refugees who escaped.

“Of course I feel sad, like every human being on this planet,” he said. But, he still said Russia was right, that Ukraine was full of Nazis using civilians as human shields, Kremlin arguments for which he offered no evidence and which the West called blatantly fake.

Entire apartment buildings in Ukraine were bombed and Russian soldiers fired from behind at fleeing civilians. Furthermore, there was no evidence that Ukraine was ever going to attack or threaten Russia.

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Popov said his father was in Ukraine. He wouldn’t say where exactly. I asked how he thought that after all this Ukraine could ever be friendly to Russia, which Russia claimed to want.

“I don’t care,” he said. “I don’t care. I think it will be a country that won’t be a threat to the Russian people. That will be enough for me.”

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