Pro-Russia views about developments in Ukraine appear to be changing in the Iranian media landscape as the Russian invasion drags on with much brutality.
Until last week, Iranian media with very few exceptions across the country's political spectrum echoed the party line about developments in Ukraine, in a probably concerted way based on orders from the Culture Ministry and the Supreme Council of National Security.
This policy highlighted Russian “victories”, promoted Moscow’s propaganda about NATO’s role in the conflict and omitted the word “invasion”.
Over the weekend, two interviews, one with Ukraine's ambassador in Tehran in Asia newspaper, and an interview with a member of Ukrainian Parliament in Etemad Online supported the Ukraine in the conflict while other media outlets, particularly Khamenei-controlled state television continued the usual official rhetoric about Russia trying to purge Ukraine of Nazis and preventing the expansion of NATO.
The state television's coverage of Ukrainian developments has been most annoying for viewers as it constantly portrayed the war as Ukrainians fighting Ukrainians, while the viewers have access to international TV stations which reflect the truth in a variety of different shades.
The body of an old man being retrieved after Russian shelling in Kharkiv as his daughter sobs. April 18, 2022
In the interview with Asia, Ukraine's ambassador to Tehran Serhii Burdyliak said that Iran has not helped Ukraine in any way while nearly the rest of the world including Central Asian states have sent financial aid. Some Iranians on social media criticized the ambassador for the remark and lashed out at Ukraine for never saying anything about US sanctions on Iran.
The ambassador further attacked the Iranian government over its stance on the Russian invasion and challenged it to send oil to Ukraine. Both Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi expressed support for Moscow at the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, reformist Etemad Online quoted a Ukrainian lawmaker as having said that Ukraine will inevitably win the war. The lawmaker added: "We believe that the situation will improve if the Iranian government supports Ukraine and changes its rhetoric about the war in Ukraine."
A huge crater next to a damaged building in Lviv after Russian missile strikes on Monday.
The lawmaker, identified only as “Andrey”, said he did not know whether any Iranians are fighting on the Ukrainian side, while adding "it was quite possible." He probably was countering rumors about Iranians helping Russia in the war against Ukraine.
The Iran Diplomacy website which is close to the Iranian Foreign Ministry observed in an analysis published on April 16 that opposing views in Iran regarding the war in Ukraine are divided in a diagonally opposite way.
"Although there are opposing views on the matter, it seems that part of the Iranian society which supports Russia in this conflict is a minority," the Iran Diplomacy maintained. The website added that Iranians have traditionally maintained opposing views on developments involving Russia for complicated historic reasons, but the differences between various attitudes about Russia during the current conflict has created a sharper bipolar environment in Iran, which is evident in media reports.
The bipolar situation in the media appears to have spread to Iranian society in general, the article argued. One group supports the idea of Russia being a reliable partner for Iran and another group whose characteristic is a profound distrust of Russia which is rooted in Iran's modern history.
The article further argued that some Iranians seriously believe that alliance with Russia under the Islamic Republic has prevented Iran's development while also keeping it apart from western countries.