Russian Embassy Censures IRGC Media Over Ukraine Invasion Reports

In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, several high-profile officials of the Islamic Republic sought to publicly justify Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian tweeted that the “Ukraine crisis” was “rooted in NATO’s provocations”: sentiments echoed by Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.

State-controlled media have recycled the same line, with the official narrative so tightly and repeatedly aligned to that of the Kremlin that even conservative ex-MP Ali Motahari, no stranger to controversy, tweeted: “The IRIB is reporting the news like a Russian colony.”

Initially on Thursday, the IRIB and media outlets affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards only reported on Russian troops moving into the breakaway zones of Donetsk and Luhansk. When the onslaught on Kyiv became impossible to ignore, reports lifted Putin’s terminology to describe what was happening, calling the attack on a sovereign foreign capital “special operations” being conducted on the request of the separatist leader of the Donbas region.

The official Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency (IRNA) tried to place responsibility for the invasion on both sides, writing that Russia and Ukraine “have a long record of mutual cultural concerns, territorial disputes and long-standing tensions that have now arrived at a full military confrontation.”

Fars News Agency decried the newly-announced international sanctions against Russia: “Russia’s special military operations in Russia have inflamed Western countries to do whatever possible to further isolate Moscow.”

Several guest commentators on Iranian TV news programs threw their weight behind the invasion, claiming that NATO wanted to extend its frontiers as far as the Republic of Azerbaijan, a neighbor of Iran. A single exception was Hassan Beheshtipour, an analyst of international affairs, who said on air: “Do not trust Russia. There is no guarantee they will not attack Iran as well.”

But there were also several isolated incidents of censorship and self-censorship in the early Iranian response to the crisis.

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