After Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Donald Trump at the White House on December 10, the government-run television network Rossiya 1 aired a segment on a political talk show, calling the U.S. president an “agent” of Russia and Lavrov his “puppet master.”
Hillary Clinton famously called Trump a “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a presidential debate in 2016. The charge appeared to deeply upset the president, who snapped back, “No puppet! No puppet! You’re the puppet!”
But this time, the assertion that Trump is a “puppet” of the Russian government came straight from that government itself, according to a report by Russian media expert Julia Davis on The Daily Beast that alleges programming on the country’s state TV networks is “tightly controlled” by the Kremlin.
The title of the segment, “Puppet Master and ‘Agent’— How to Understand Lavrov’s Meeting With Trump,” appeared to be inspired by a photograph released by the Russian foreign ministry. The photo showed the president sitting at the Oval Office desk, with Lavrov standing behind him and to his right.
Another program airing on the state-run TV network, a Sunday morning talk show titled Vesti Nedeli, claimed that Trump himself arranged the pose, with Lavrov looming behind him, according to Davis’ report.
“It’s almost the literal image of a power behind the throne,” she wrote.
FM #Lavrov: We have no doubt that President Trump @realDonaldTrump sincerely believes in good relations with Russia. Ties based on balance of interests, pragmatism and mutual benefit are good for US businesses, US people and the world at large. pic.twitter.com/AC3wFdcPu9— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) December 14, 2019
On another program, Sunday Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, the host appeared to suggest that Trump would need to flee the United States once Democrats regained power and that Russia may be forced to offer him asylum.
“Should we get another apartment in Rostov ready?” Soloviev asked on the program, as quoted by Davis, who explained that the TV host was referring to the deposed pro-Russia president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich.
Following a popular uprising in 2014, Yanukovich was forced to flee to Russia, where he reportedly remains today.
There is another parallel between Trump and Yanukovich. The president’s now-jailed 2016 campaign chief, Paul Manafort, was the political consultant responsible for bringing Yanukovich to power on a Russia-backed, anti-Western platform, as NBC News has reported.
But Russian “experts and politicians” see parallels between Trump and Yanukovich not simply due to their common connection to Manafort, but because the country’s residents “consider both of them to be openly pro-Kremlin,” according to Davis.
Presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani recently returned from Ukraine where he conducted interviews for a “documentary” that aired on the low-budget, pro-Trump cable network One America News. This is a documentary described by The Washington Post as “a stunning piece of propaganda” for its “remarkably thin” claims that purport to prove “corruption” on the part of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Russian state TV quickly aired excerpts from the OAN documentary, which also aims to “whitewash” the country’s attack on the 2016 election, according to Davis.