The Cassation Administrative Court of the Ukrainian Supreme Court next month will hear an appeal against President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s decree to block three TV channels linked to Russia.
The court scheduled the hearing to start on March 15, the Supreme Court said on February 11.
Zelenskiy’s government decided on February 2 to shut several television channels controlled by a Russia-linked magnate, a move supported by Washington but questioned by Brussels and slammed by Moscow.
The Supreme Court has already heard two other appeals against the decision, rejecting one and returned a second one to the plaintiff to eliminate some technical flaws from the motion.
Zelenskiy last week defended the decision in a meeting with a group of ambassadors from the G7 and European Union, telling them on February 3 in Kyiv that the decision to block 112, NewsOne, and ZIK channels was justified by the need to “fight against the danger of Russian aggression in the information arena.”
Relations between Ukraine and Russia deteriorated in 2014 after Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula and began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine. The conflict, now in its seventh year, has killed more than 13,200 people.
The now-blocked channels are believed to belong to Viktor Medvedchuk, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.
Medvedchuk supports the Opposition Platform for Life, a political party that is popular in Ukraine’s southeast and holds a minority in the Ukrainian parliament.
According to Zelenskiy, the sanctioned TV channels have long been actively used for disinformation campaigns in Ukraine aimed at undermining reforms and Ukraine’s course towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
The three blocked TV channels, which broadcast mainly in Ukrainian, issued a statement denouncing the ban as “political repression.” Medvedchuk called the presidential order illegal.
The U.S. Embassy voiced support for Ukraine’s efforts “to counter Russia’s malign influence, in line with Ukrainian law, in defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the blocking of the three stations as a violation of media freedom and of international standards.
The EU questioned the move, suggesting it could sacrifice media freedom in Ukraine.