CNN’s Scott McClain reports from its capital, Tallinn, that those looking for news of what’s going on there are looking to neighboring Estonia, for “reliable sources” on Sunday.
“Estonia’s eastern neighbors have long been addicted to programs from Russian state television,” said Brian Stelter, CNN’s chief media correspondent.
Estonia, with a population of 1.3 million, has received 30,000 Ukrainian refugees since the war began. Like Ukraine, it was formerly part of the Soviet Union, has a large Russian-speaking population, and has strong foundations Fear of Russian aggression.
The majority of its population is of Estonian descent but has a large Russian minority. In the cities on the other side of the Narva River, which separates Russia and Russia, many elderly people do not speak Estonian well, if at all.
“In the absence of a large number of Russian-speaking media in Estonia, the Russian state media has been left to fill the void, giving people a steady dose of Kremlin propaganda,” MacLean said.
But now that source has been cut off since the invasion. When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Estonia blocked many Russian news outlets and TV channels.
“A lot of people are here [are] “Purchase some systems for capturing Russian channels,” said Vladimir Zavoronkov, head of the city council of Narva, the third largest city in Estonia, which borders Russia.
Many buy antennas in online stores to pick up Russian channels, and as technology advances they set up their VPNs, he added.
Ilya Federov and his father Oleg, who lives in Narva, connected one TV to a Russian satellite dish and the other to an antenna, but they only tuned some programs that they could get.
“I can only watch it for a maximum of 15 seconds because of the levels of aggressiveness, paranoia and blatant lies,” said Ilya Federov. “This is madness.”
Russian propaganda runs deep, said Oleg Federov, and the majority of Narva residents believe what they hear in those news reports.
But Russian state media is not the only option. ETV+, a channel launched by Estonian Public Broadcasting in 2015, gives Russian-speaking Estonians access to reliable news about their country and the world.
ETV+ broadcasters should be especially careful with their coverage of the war. “Our viewers are ready to blame us or willing to accuse us because they don’t believe us,” ETV+ anchor Margarita Tanagieva said.
“But we’re ready to talk to them,” she said. “I don’t want to judge them…I’m willing to give these people time and make them believe me.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the ethnic makeup of Estonia.