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Ukrainian Channel Under Fire Over Russian New Year's Concert

Russian singers Iosif Kobzon and Valeria (file photo)
Russian singers Iosif Kobzon and Valeria (file photo)

Ukraine's biggest television channel is under fire after broadcasting a New Year's Eve concert featuring Russian singers who have publicly supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.

National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov has urged the National Council on Television and Radio to immediately consider stripping the channel, Inter, of its license.

Turchynov accused Inter of "acting against the Ukrainian state" by showcasing Russian singers "who have mocked our country by supporting terrorists and welcoming the seizure of Crimea and the Donbas."

Ukraine's minister of information policy, Yuriy Stets, said he planned to introduce a bill under which Russian performers will be barred from Ukrainian broadcasts.

The New Year's Eve concert was recorded in Moscow and featured Iosif Kobzon, a prominent crooner and ruling-party Russian parliament deputy who has been declared persona non grata in Ukraine, along with a string of Russian celebrities known for their pro-Kremlin views.

One of the acts in the concert showed Kobzon standing behind a border gate with fellow singers Valeria and Oleg Gazmanov. The trio performed a song ridiculing Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

The show sparked a storm of criticism on social media in Ukraine.

Inter denied wrongdoing and denounced what it described as "political pressure on the media."

"The programming schedule was established in accordance with longstanding traditions of celebrating the New Year and in line with Ukrainian law," it said in a statement.

Ukrainian activists have accused the channel of carrying an increasing amount of Russian content in 2014, including films glorifying the Russian Army.

Ukrainian forces are battling a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in the country's east, where the rebels have established self-declared "people's republics" in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Kyiv and NATO accuse Russia of fomenting the unrest and providing direct military support to the rebels.

Moscow denies the accusations.

The conflict has killed more than 4,700 people since April.

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