Article by Serhiy Leshchenko: "The Government's Political Technologist, or
the Secrets of Inter TV Channel's Information Policy"
Monday, April 25, 2011
If you type in "Igor Shuvalov" in an Internet search engine, you will get
countless references to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister.
And only professionals in the media sphere know that a person with exactly
the same surname and first name shapes the agenda of Ukraine's information
space. The two Igor Shuvalovs are not related and are not even acquainted.
But the Russian deputy prime minister can safely thank his namesake for
fomenting dissension in Ukrainian society.
A citizen of Russia, the political technologist Igor Shuvalov is responsible
in (President Viktor) Yanukovych's Ukraine for information policy at the
state level. This is the same Shuvalov who in 2004 introduced the technology
of censorship on television channels known as "temnyks" (news coverage
After the Orange Revolution, Shuvalov's colleagues in the field of political
technologies, Marat Gelman and Gleb Pavlovskiy, have not shown their faces
in Ukraine. Shuvalov, however, has remained, changing his employer. Whereas
then he worked for (then head of former President Leonid Kuchma's
Presidential Administration) Viktor Medvedchuk, he now works for (head of
President Yanukovych's Presidential Administration) Serhiy Lyovochkin.
But the representatives of the current government cannot seem to agree on
Shuvalov's cover in Ukraine and give contradictory explanations.
Thus, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Valeriy
Khoroshkovskyy, calls Shuvalov a "consultant to the Inter television
channel," while the head of the Presidential Administration, Serhiy
Lyovochkin, describes him as his "adviser."
"If you are referring to Igor Shuvalov, he is a very talented and good
analyst and consultant. If the Inter television channel considers it
necessary to employ him from the standpoint of his knowledge, his
understanding of processes... (ellipsis as published)" Khoroshkovskyy said
at his meeting with representatives of the "Stop Censorship" movement (link
to the transcript of the meeting provided by Nataliya Lyhachova in her blog
"It's no secret that Igor Shuvalov works as my freelance adviser. I see
nothing wrong in that," Lyovochkin insisted at his briefing for journalists
(link to http://www.pravda/com.ua/news/2011/03/17/6024639
http://www.pravda/com.ua/news/2011/03/17/6024639 ). "Everything that is
taking place around Shuvalov is an attempt to mythologize his image in order
to discredit the government and this individual. He is a progressive person
and has a good understanding of modern information technologies."
Up to now it was believed that a citizen of Russia is covering only one
important sphere on Bankova Street (location of Presidential Administration)
- the Russian Vyacheslav Zanevskiy serves as head of Yanukovych's security
detail (link to long investigative article about Zanevskiy at
http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2010/10/6/5449514 ). Now Lyovochkin has
admitted that he has also entrusted a representative of a neighboring state
with giving advice in the information sphere.
Admittedly, it is a mystery how a person can simultaneously work for a
private television company and be an adviser to the head of the Presidential
Does this not create a conflict of interests - after all, in a normal
country these structures have different tasks? A television channel's job is
to conduct journalistic investigations, monitor the expenditure of budget
funds, take a critical view of the government. Whereas an official in the
Presidential Administration is interested in creating a maximumly positive
image both for himself and for his employer, the head of state.
Perhaps this explains the mystery why the Inter channel's information
product bears an ever greater resemblance to Soviet television? Igor
Shuvalov - A Mythical Individual
In the process of preparing this article, Ukrayinska Pravda asked Igor
Shuvalov to comment on his work in Ukraine. He said that he did not wish to
discuss subjects connected with his past and talked only about certain
episodes in his biography.
Igor Shuvalov arrived in Ukraine to earn a living in politics at the end of
the 1990s from Russia's Far East, where he took part in the election
campaign of the mayor of Ussuriysk.
Shuvalov worked together with (Russian) political technologists Dmitriy
Kulikov and Timofey Sergeytsev on Viktor Pinchuk's majoritarian
(parliamentary) election campaign in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in 1998. Then he
took part in the (presidential) election campaign of (Leonid) Kuchma in 1999
- in the creative club organized by Pinchuk. "I built 'Street Television',"
Shuvalov describes his role at the time.
When Viktor Medvedchuk became head of the Presidential Administration in
2002, he invited Shuvalov to work for the government. That is how the Moscow
consultant became one of the defining figures in the information policy of
Leonid Kuchma's regime.
Shuvalov's name appeared in the press for the first time in conjunction with
the total censorship on Ukrainian television in 2002-2004. The instrument of
control over the channels were the temnyks - instructions for top managers
telling them what to show in the news and what to ignore.
Shuvalov refused to talk with Ukrayinska Pravda about his role in these
events. "I will not comment on the temnyks," he said. Temnyks
were brought to Ukraine in 2001 from Russia by the political technologist
and gallery owner Marat Gelman (link to Nestor P. Syeverov, "Temnyk Factory"
http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2004/06/3/3000274 ), who had used them before
this on Russian Public Television (ORT).
Later Gelman concentrated on serving as a political consultant to
Medvedchuk, and Igor Shuvalov took charge of the temnyks. Although he
emphatically denied having anything to do with this activity, he was given
away completely by Gelman himself during an appearance on Public Radio
This was Shuvalov's first appearance in public, and to the question about
temnyks, he replied: "I have nothing to do with them." But a few minutes
later, Gelman, who was present in the studio of Public Radio, let the cat
out of the bag: " Temnyks, which Shuvalov is concerned with, are more
effective..." (link to a transcript of the program at
Shuvalov's position became even stronger after Gelman stopped taking an
active part in the presidential election in Ukraine in 2004, having failed
the examination in the Yanukovych (campaign) headquarters.
In Medvedchuk's team, Shuvalov was responsible for approximately the same
things as those he is undeniably responsible for in Lyovochkin's team -
information policy, modeling an information field to benefit the government,
and also curating the news on Inter as the country's dominant channel which
is prepared to serve the needs of Bankova Street.
True, in 2004 Bankova Street also held the lease on Channel 1+1, which
turned into the government's all-round temnyk on the eve of the Orange
Revolution. During the Maydan (Kyiv's Independence Square, the focal place
of the Orange Revolution), the general producer of 1+1, Oleksandr
Rodnyanskyy, was even forced to apologize to television viewers for the lies
they had disseminated. Working for Medvedchuk
In addition to the media image on television, Shuvalov's sphere of
responsibilities in 2004 included several projects aimed at discrediting
(then presidential candidate Viktor) Yushchenko. These were spe cial
operations designed to produce often artificial pretexts for negative news
For example, it was Shuvalov's idea to conduct the so-called UNA-UNSO
(Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense) march (in June
2004 in Kyiv), which culminated in the Hitler-style raised arm salute in
support of Yushchenko.
In coordination with the then head of UNA, Eduard Kovalenko, Shuvalov
organized the widest possible coverage of this event. It was designed to
show the "Nazi" nature of the leader of the "nashysty" (a derogatory term
for the members of Yushchenko's Nasha Ukrayina (Our Ukraine) bloc used as a
play on the Ukrainian term "natsysty" meaning "Nazis") - this was the label
that Bankova Street was trying to pin on Yushchenko with the help of
In addition, Shuvalov was the author of the incident involving (leader of
the far-right Svoboda (Freedom) All-Ukrainian Association) Oleh Tyahnybok.
At the height of the election campaign, all the central television channels
showed the speech by Tyahnybok on Mount Yavoryna (on 17 July 2004), in which
he called on Ukrainians to "fight the Yids and other scum."
Shuvalov's idea was to assign an Inter channel camera to follow Tyahnybok
and record all his public speeches. The journalists accompanied the then
people's deputy from Our Ukraine for two weeks until he "let fly." Realizing
the consequences, Yushchenko expelled Tyahnybok from the faction.
Did they pay Tyahnybok for that speech? Not very likely, but today he and
his supporters from Svoboda are welcome guests on the Inter channel, for
which the same Shuvalov is responsible.
A third project in the Shuvalov team's portfolio in 2004 was the Agency of
Tomorrow's News (Agentsvo Zavtrashnikh Novostey) website. Created on the
free server narod.ru, the site contained no publication particulars, but it
carried out its mission - the discrediting of the government's opponents.
In particular, the site published not only fabricated news reports, but even
eavesdropped telephone conversations of opposition politicians and
journalists, in which the dialogue was supplemented with fake remarks meant
to distort the gist of the conversation.
Many believe that the poster about three sorts of Ukrainians was also
authored by Shuvalov, but in fairness to him it must be acknowledged that
this is not true. (Reproduction of the poster is included.) This visual
anti-Yushchenko campaign was devised by another Yanukovych team, which
included Volodymyr Hranovskyy, Dmitriy Kulikov, and Timofey Sergeytsev, all
three of whom in 2009 sought to send Arseniy Yatsenyuk "to the front" (an
allusion to Yatsenyuk's Front for Change party and the khaki campaign colors
with militaristic overtones used in his advertising).
During the 2004 presidential election, Shuvalov, who is usually careful
about what he says, allowed himself to describe Yushchenko's chances rather
categorically. Addressing himself to the "orange" political technologist
Oleh Medvedyev, Shuvalov said: "...The second part of your question -
Yushchenko is elected president. You know, that simply won't happen. He has
missed his chance. He is someone who could have become president of Ukraine
in 2001. That is how history will remember him. That's it. Let him live his
As life showed, Shuvalov was too hasty in his predictions - and the events
on the Maydan were a personal defeat for him.
When asked what the Maydan meant to him personally, Shuvalov replied: "When
one talks about 2004, then, to quote Gleb Pavlovskiy, one either has to give
the revolution 'a punch in the face' in good time, or one has to thank it in
good time. Since they didn't give the Orange Revolution a punch in the face,
then we need to thank it - it was an excellent vaccination against
nationalism and 'suchkablokhizm, as well as a good laugh over the term
'mazurik'. (Transl. note: The term "suchkablokhizm" - the speaker's
combination of the words suchka meaning "bitch" and blokhy meaning "flea s"
-- refers to the rather crude phrase used by Yushchenko about then Prime
Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko whom he accused of taking on debts "like a bitch
collects fleas." The term "suchka" in Ukrainian has the same two meanings as
"bitch" in English - a female dog and the derogatory term for a woman.
Yushchenko's figure of speech was widely interpreted as a public insult to
Tymoshenko. The term "mazurik" means "petty thief, swindler, rogue." It was
used by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a joint press
conference with Yuliya Tymoshenko in Moscow on 2 October 2008 in an
unmistakable reference to Yushchenko. Putin joked that "some mazurik
snatched the plane" upon learning from the media that when Yushchenko's
Lviv-bound jet experienced problems shortly after takeoff, his pilots flew
back to Kyiv and the president commandeered for his own use the jet waiting
on the runway to fly Tymoshenko to gas talks with Putin, forcing Tymoshenko
to take a charter flight to Moscow.)
In 2003, Medvedchuk saw to it that for the effective execution of his
assigned tasks Shuvalov was issued... the passport of a citizen of Ukraine.
He even managed to obtain a Ukrainian foreign passport. But after the Orange
Revolution, Yushchenko issued a decree stripping Shuvalov of citizenship.
Today, given Lyovochkin's connections, the political technologist wants to
regain his Ukrainian passport. "I do not plan to leave here. And it is also
impossible to be 'on a business assignment' for 13 years," he says. Of
course, should he obtain Ukrainian citizenship, by law Shuvalov will have to
give up his Russian citizenship. "Or you introduce dual citizenship," he
replies. Friendship with Kurochkin
In 2004, Shuvalov also became close with (Russian businessman) Maksim
Kurochkin, who had become very active in Ukraine. Kurochkin registered here
as a representative of the so-called Luzhniki group, whose chief
shareholders are Aleksandr Babakov (deputy speaker of Russia's State Duma)
and Mikhail Voyevodin (criminal group boss (avtoritet) nicknamed Mikha).
In addition, Kurochkin helped (Hryhoriy) Surkis and Medvedchuk to oust from
disputed oblast power supply companies (oblenerho) (Russian businessman
Konstantin) Grigorishin's managers, on whom the United Social Democrats
(SDPU(o) - Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united)) had declared war.
The Luzhniki people owned four oblast power supply companies in Ukraine, as
well as a chain of hotels, the most important of which were the Premier
Palace (in Kyiv) and Oreanda (in Yalta, Crimea). In addition, during the
last months of Kuchma's presidency, Kurochkin tried to take over the Dnipro
Hotel on European Square in Kyiv from the state. The hotel was placed under
his management, and that is where Kurochkin's headquarters with an armored
bunker were located.
According to the (Russian) political technologist Stanislav Belkovskiy,
Kurochkin's assassination (in March 2007 by a sniper as he was leaving a
Kyiv courthouse under police escort) was contracted by his business partners
in Moscow. This unsolved crime is now four years old.
Shuvalov and Kurochkin created a cover for political activity in the guise
of the Russian Club, whose purpose was to serve as a forum of support for
Viktor Yanukovych in the 2004 (presidential) election. Attending the opening
of this strange creation were Viktor Medvedchuk and his counterpart from
Russia's Presidential Administration Dmitriy Medvedev (link to
After the Orange Revolution, Kurochkin was barred from entering Ukraine, but
he managed to support the Nataliya Vitrenko Bloc in the 2006 parliamentary
elections, to which he assigned Shuvalov as a political technologist.
The Vitrenko Bloc fell 0.07% short of the votes needed to be represented in
parliament. But Shuvalov did not sit around too long without a job. He began
to work for Serhiy Lyovochkin after Yanukovych's second appointment as prim
e minister in 2006.
Meanwhile, Kurochkin's rivals began to rid themselves of him and his
entourage. A car carrying Kurochkin's friends, who were driving to
Shuvalov's dacha, was riddled with bullets in the village of Plyuty near
Kyiv (all the passengers were killed).
Since then Shuvalov has maintained a relationship with Lyovochkin. Even
though Lyovochkin always regarded Medvedchuk as his greatest enemy, this did
not prevent Shuvalov from easily changing employers. Lyovochkin's Man
Today Shuvalov does more than just work for Lyovochkin - he takes part in
family functions and they are friends. When Shuvalov was being questioned
for a rather long time in 2009 in the case of Yushchenko's poisoning,
Lyovochkin, who was then a people's deputy, took advantage of the immunity
afforded by his status and personally went to the Prosecutor-General's
Office to make certain that Shuvalov had not been arrested in the course of
Officially, according to Lyovochkin, Shuvalov as his adviser is currently
responsible for "matters pertaining to cooperation with foreign media."
This is true, but it is far from the whole truth.
In 2009, after the management of Hanna Bezlyudna left the Inter channel,
Shuvalov became Lyovochkin's informal curator at this highest rated
television channel, which is officially owned by (chairman of the Security
Service of Ukraine) Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy.
In 2010, after Yanukovych was elected president, Shuvalov was also given
authority over the government's information policy.
He sees no problem in working both at the Inter channel and for Serhiy
Lyovochkin. "There is no formal conflict of interest in my case, because I
am not a government official. As for any moral or ethical conflicts, I will
handle those," Shuvalov says.
It is interesting that Shuvalov's role is not confined solely to determining
the choice of guests on the Big Politics talk show with Yevgeniy Kiselyov.
Seldom is a program planned without telephone calls between Kiselyov and
Shuvalov for the purpose of "consultation."
Shuvalov denies that Kiselyov coordinates his shows with him: "Zhenya
Kiselyov and I meet regularly, but we discuss other things than his
programs. We have a host of shared interests. There aren't that many people
in Kyiv with whom one can have an interesting conversation."
For his part, when asked if Shuvalov tells him what he would like to see on
the program or suggests whom to invite, Kiselyov admitted: "I consult with
With the help of the Inter channel, Shuvalov sets the matrix of political
life - for example, for a long time now one cannot help but notice the
constant presence on Kiselyov's shows of the whole lineup of the Svoboda
party -- if not Tyahnybok, then (Iryna) Farion, if not Farion, then (Andriy)
Illyenko, if not Illyenko, then (Ihor) Miroshnychenko.
This is a typical attempt at artificially modeling the political field so as
to give Viktor Yanukovych maximum support in the next presidential election.
The government's goal is to lower Tymoshenko's rating by incubating a rival
for her in the person of Tyahnybok. The next step will take place of itself
- realizing who is stealing her electorate, Tymoshenko will provoke a
conflict with Tyahnybok. This will make it impossible for their voters to
unite in 2015.
In addition, Tyahnybok's radicalism is meant to play the same role as in
2004 - Bankova Street will cast him as the bogeyman, compared with whom
Yanukovych will appear to be a moderate and wise politician. Even though
Tyahnybok is probably fully aware of the reason for the unusually frequent
appearances of his brothers-in-arms in the Inter programs.
One more task that Shuvalov has is to shape reality aimed directly at Viktor
It is a known fact that the incumbent president regularly and attentively
watches Kiselyov's Big Politics. Through this program, Lyovochkin's team
seeks to speak indirectly with Yanukovych, formu lating for him his top
priority and his less important subjects, lighting up one set of political
stars and dimming others.
That is why, for example, Nestor Shufrych has never appeared on Inter, and
(Deputy Prime Minister) Andriy Klyuyev is not to be seen on the channel.
Only after she complained publicly did (then deputy head of the Presidential
Administration) Hanna Herman appear on the program - there is a personal
hostility between her and Lyovochkin.
The goal of Inter's programs is to create a belief in Viktor Yanukovych that
the situation in the country is calm and under control. In this way Serhiy
Lyovochkin as the president's closest aide presents himself to Yanukovych as
an effective manager, who has the situation in hand and who can be relied
This subtle, but cynical, technology, which Igor Shuvalov directs, is aimed
at using television to control both Yanukovych and Ukrainian society as a