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On Russian TV, Clinton-Trump Race Merits Wall-to-Wall Coverage


Traditional Russian wooden nesting dolls depicting Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump at a gift shop in Moscow on Tuesday. Credit Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MOSCOW — Given the blanket coverage on Russia’s main state-run new channels on Tuesday, it often seemed that the United States presidential election was actually happening here.

Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump casting their ballots warranted attention, while correspondents stationed at the polls where both contenders voted weighed in repeatedly, though news was pretty thin. Rossiya 24, the main cable news channel, promised live coverage starting at 1 a.m. Moscow time on Wednesday morning, still late afternoon on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

The blanket coverage had led to more than a little grumbling that the Kremlin-managed news media was devoting more time and energy to the American elections than it paid to a national parliamentary vote in Russia less than two months ago.

“Correct me if I am wrong, but this has not happened for any elections in Russia,” Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition politician who lost his seat in part because nongovernment candidates got virtually zero television coverage, wrote on Facebook.

Another commentator, Lidiya Sergeeva, joked on Facebook that election coverage was so intense in Russia that there would probably be voters out looking for polling stations here on Tuesday to vote for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump has generally received the kinder treatment. Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, is regarded as an old adversary who would be bad for Russia. But generally speaking, the coverage seemed intended to present the candidates and the process in the worst possible light.

“Everything turned out to stink so hideously that what the United States calls ‘democracy’ prompts nothing but disgust,” Dmitry Kiselyov, the anchor on the main weekly news show said during election coverage on Sunday night that lasted more than 30 minutes.

On the streets of Moscow, Russian voters seemed to have been exposed to enough of the candidates to have an opinion, although many appeared indifferent to the eventual outcome.

“Mr. Trump has made a huge fortune, but he lacks serious political experience,” said Olga Zakharova, 33, a manager.

“I don’t expect anything good from Clinton, either. She is a hostage of the political system, which is fundamentally predisposed against Russia,” Ms. Zakharova said, standing in front of a crowded subway station during the evening rush hour.

“Whoever wins, it won’t have much effect on Russia,” she concluded.

President Vladimir V. Putin said before the vote that he saw his country’s outsize role in the American presidential campaign as a sign of its growing might.

He shrugged off accusations that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee, leaking emails that put party officials in a bad light. Denying any role by Russia, he said several times that American voters and the news media should concentrate on the information and not on how it was exposed.

There was another spat with Washington on Tuesday over election monitoring, with Russia complaining that its diplomats had been harassed and prevented from observing the vote independently.

“This is a normal diplomatic practice,” said Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

In response, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying American diplomats would no longer be welcomed at polling stations in Russia.

Despite the omnipresent news media coverage, some people on the streets still had to think a minute about the main contenders for the White House.

“Yesterday on the radio I heard that some woman is running, what is her name, Clinton?” said Daniil Protasov, a student at a dental school. “I know Trump, he is against migrants and homosexuals and Clinton is all about hatred of Russia.”

The chattering classes, who would like a more open system in Russia, were dismayed that the tenor of the campaign gave the Kremlin the opportunity to paint Western democracy as a chaotic mess, contrasting it with the orderliness of the Russian political system. Never mind that the Kremlin has been accused by the White House of intervening in the American campaign, doing its best to create the appearance of chaos.

Still, various people heading home through the early dark, cold winter Tuesday evening found little to engage them.

“I don’t sympathize with either Trump or Hillary Clinton,” said Yelena Arakcheeva, 55, a manager in the communal services industry. “I am more interested in Russian politics, but it seems that for our media the U.S. election is more important.”

Source: NYT > World

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