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How Russian Media Turned Construction Site Into 'Concentration Camp'


The TV package, shown nationally in Russia on April 27, followed a Russian Foreign Ministry statement expressing "extreme anxiety" over the construction of buildings "reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps."

The TV package, shown nationally in Russia on April 27, followed a Russian Foreign Ministry statement expressing "extreme anxiety" over the construction of buildings "reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps."

Viewed with the sound off, it appears on video to be a tour of a typical construction site in eastern Ukraine.

But unmuted, the report by Russian TV host Arkady Mamontov becomes more ominous. As eerie music overlays the din of power drills, the camera zooms in on a tube protruding from a piece of brick wall and then quickly cuts to what appears to be a small shower room.

For Mamontov, the implication is obvious -- these are concentration camps being built for pro-Russian supporters "who speak out against Right Sector and the people who the powers in Kyiv call separatists."

"The camera will show everything," he says.

The package, shown nationally in Russia on April 27, followed a Russian Foreign Ministry statement expressing "extreme anxiety" over the construction of buildings "reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps."

The truth: The building has been under construction since 2012, when Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin-leaning president who fled Kyiv for Russia in late February, was still in power. It is one of two buildings being constructed as part of an EU-funded project to temporarily house illegal migrants.

"In accordance with Ukrainian legislation, the places are entirely for the placement of foreigners and stateless people to be placed until orders for their expulsion are completed," Serhiy Hunko, press spokesman for Ukraine's state migration service, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. "Under no circumstances can Ukrainians be placed there."

Moscow has relentlessly invoked the threat of 1940s-era Nazism to both invoke fears of the new authorities in Kyiv, which it refuses to recognize as legitimate, and to reach into the well of Russian patriotism that springs from the Soviet Union's World War II victory.

While the far-right Svoboda party does hold some government posts, there has been little evidence of widespread ultranationalism. Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector, an ultranationalist group mentioned by Mamontov and continuously cited by Moscow as a threat to Russian speakers, is polling at less than 2 percent in his quixotic presidential run.

A second reporter working with Mamontov on his story dismisses the explanation that the EU would build a holding center for migrants. "What interest would the EU have in building deportation facilities?" she asks.

She does not bother to ask why the EU would be interested in investing in new concentration camps.

-- Glenn Kates and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

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