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BBC Caught Breaking impartiality Rules, Compares Top Ukrainian General to Lord Voldemort



BBC’s Russian version, which is bound to the same impartiality rules as its UK-based counterpart and is predominantly funded by the British taxpayer, has been found to be promoting pro-Kremlin propaganda and terminology, including calling the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army ‘Lord Voldemort’. 

The article, written by Ukrainian journalists Oksana Torop and Svyatoslav Khomenko, was published by the BBC’s Ukrainian version website under the title “First After God, in a Good Way. How General Zaluzhny became what he is.”

The headline on the BBC Ukraine website.

How the headline appears on the BBC Ukraine website.

A much shorter version was then published by the BBC in the UK under the headline: “Valery Zaluzhny, the man behind Ukraine’s counter-offensive.”

The headline on the UK’s shorter version.

However, this was then changed by BBC Russia to “Генерал Волан-де-Морт. Как Валерий Залужный стал самым популярным командующим украинской армии”, which translates as: “General Voldemort. How Valery Zaluzhny became the most popular commander of the Ukrainian army”.

The Russian version chooses to offensively brand Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief ‘General Voldemort’.

The name is a reference to the ‘pure evil’ Lord Voldemort, the main protagonist from the popular Harry Potter series of books by author J. K. Rowling. In the series, Voldemort leads an army of witches and wizards on a mission to kill innocent men, women and children.

Additionally, the Russian version of the article includes the following paragraph not seen in the British or Ukrainian copies:

“The rapid growth of the general’s popularity has already made it possible to talk about his political prospects and influence outside the armed forces. But even in Ukraine, despite the publicity of Zaluzhny, there are questions about his figure. Despite the trust and popularity among citizens, there are those who hate or fear him.”

The subsequent article does not provide any quotes or sources to support this claim.


When posting the article, BBC Russia suspiciously also intentionally decided to use the negative paragraph, rather than any other in the entire article, to act as the lead – the first thing readers see of the article other than the header before clicking on the link.

When Analyzing a sample of articles published by BBC Russia over the past week alone, VoteWatch discovered that a worrying number of them contained the subtle promotion of pro-Kremlin, anti-Ukrainian narratives. On the same day that the Zaluzhny article was published, BBC Russia published another article that breaks the broadcaster’s own impartiality rules, in which the political party of the famous Russian opposition leader and imprisoned Putin-critic Alexei Navalny is described as ‘extremist’.

Parroting the Kremlin-influenced court decision as though it were fact, BBC Russia published the article with the headline: “Lilia Chanysheva was given 7.5 years. How a successful auditor became the first convicted of participating in Navalny’s “extremist” FBK”.

Chanysheva, a former campaign leader for Navalny, who was himself poisoned in a failed assassination attempt before being thrown into a penal colony on what human rights organisations are calling trumped-up charges, was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison on Wednesday for what Russian judges claimed amounted to “creating an extremist organisation”.

In a crackdown on Putin’s political rivals and on democracy itself, Russia has recently begun arresting and sentencing ‘anti-Putin’ politicians and activists on charges of extremism.


However, with convictions being carried out despite a lack of evidence, critics of the regime in Russia have accused the justice system of continuing to use ‘kangaroo courts’ and false charges to remove opposition to Putin’s blood-stained rule.

Chanysheva has been in detention for the past year and a half. In her closing speech to the court last month, she said her case was part of a wider campaign by Putin to root out dissent in Russia.

“But Putin is corruption, low wages and pensions, a falling economy and rising prices. Putin is war! And this has already affected everyone!” she said.

Lilia Chanysheva in court

Lilia Chanysheva has been sentenced to 7-and-a-half years behind bars, becoming another one of Russia’s many political prisoners.

The 41-year-old appealed to the judge not to sentence her to the 12 years requested by prosecutors.

“If you put me in jail for 12 years, I will not have time to give birth to a child. Give me a chance to be a mother,” she said.

On the same day that both articles were published, by BBC Russia, the website published a third dubious piece, this time with the headline: ‘”An exhausting war, the cost of which will be high.” How Western officials evaluate the offensive of Ukraine.’


However, deviating far from the BBC’s standards of journalism, the article contains no quotes or sources to support its headline or the subsequent claims made in the article. While the headline is written with the implication that multiple ‘Western officials’ made the claim, no western officials are named in the piece.

Meanwhile on ‘the other side’, BBC Russia also printed (on the same day as the three other articles mentioned above) an article with the headline: “An entry appeared on Delimkhanov’s Telegram channel on his behalf”.

The context of the article centres around rumours that Delimkhanov, a senior Chenen commander and brother-in-law to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was wounded or killed by a Ukrainian missile.

While the claim has not been verified, Kadyrov himself claimed yesterday that Delimkhanov was in fact alive and that the news had been intended to ‘troll’ the media.

Furthermore, Delimkhankov’s own account posted that he had not been killed or injured. Yet the BBC’s title, whilst not allowed to show bias or mislead members of the public, states, without evidence, that someone else other than Delimkhankov made the post ‘on his behalf,’ seemingly supporting the earlier rumours.


The BBC’s rules, including on impartiality due to it being predominantly funded by millions of British taxpayers forced to pay the license fee (aka the ‘television tax’) can be read in full here.

VoteWatch has contacted the BBC for comment.

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