Ukraine zombies
The zombie hordes congregate at the gates of Ukraine's Department of Television and Radio Azad Safarov

A group of activists, dressed as zombies, staged a picket around Ukraine's Department of Television and Radio yesterday (Wednesday 3 December). Their protest, specifically their rather unusual attire, attracted international headlines, adding another colourful chapter to Ukraine's recent history of protest and recrimination.

The activists were mainly students, aged between 18 and 30, members of Ukraine's middle-class drawn from Kiev and surrounding cities. Their 30-minute protest was organised by a group called Vidsich, which means Rebuff in English. The group has around 150 members and has previously organised a rally in front of Petro Poroshenko's presidential offices, as well as Ukraine's National Films Agency.

But what were the activists protesting about and, just as pertinently, why did they dress up like a group of Walking Dead extras to do it?

Essentially, the protesters were imploring Ukraine's media overlords to take stronger action against the country's TV networks, which are inundated with Russian television programmes. According to the activists, any channel which broadcast the shows should have its licence revoked.

One of the organisers of the protest, Oleksandr Ivanov, told IBTimes UK: "Ukraine is now basically in unproclaimed war with Russia. Over 4000 people already died in this war. Crimea was annexed by Russia, and part of Donbass is a battlefield now. This goes on with an unprecedented amount of Russian propaganda against Ukraine.

"At the same time we have the domination of Russian films and programmes on Ukrainian television, many of which glorify the Russian army, Russian police and the NKVD (the secret police which became the KGB).

"We monitored Ukrainian TV and found that on the top 10 most popular Ukrainian TV channels there are on average 70 Russian films per week being broadcast. Some TV channels have more Russian films than any other content.

"For example, the TV channel called Ukraine, owned by oligarch Rinat Ahmetov, has 87% Russian content. Inter, owned by oligarch Dmytro Firtash, has 67%, NTN 71%. ICTV has 43% and this channel is a leader on films about Russian soldiers and police.

"This situation is outrageous for most of Ukrainian people, so that's why Vidsich started a campaign called Boycott Russian films, with which we want to influence both political authorities and TV channels to stop broadcasting Russian films completely."


The zombies fall to the ground to simulate the subjugation of the Ukrainian people Azad Safarov

The activists' ire has been raised by a series of belligerent displays of pro-Russian bias by some of the country's most popular actors.

On 30 October, Ukraine's social networks erupted in fury when Mikhail Porechenkov, a Russian actor and producer whose hits include a remake of classic American action film Commando, was filmed apparently participating in the separatist campaign in Donetsk, even using a machine gun to fire at Ukrainian opponents.

Although the separatist commander in the region, known as Givi, claimed Porechenkov was firing at scrap metal rather than soldiers, this did little to quell the anger of the Ukrainian people.

Then on 30 November, actor Ivan Okhlobystin, who stars in a medical sitcom and has previously served as a priest in the Russian Orthodox church, went to Donetsk with gifts for the separatists.

Okhlobystin, infamous for his rampant homophobia, has previously said he would build an Iron Wall around Russia and been censored in Ukraine for his statements in support of the country's expansionist agenda. So his latest outburst came as little surprise.

Ivanov told IBT: "These guys made a lot of statements against Ukraine before. Now they come to Donbass to help the Russian army and rebels to kill Ukrainian soldiers. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

"There was a statement by Russian stars in support of Russian aggression against Ukraine, and almost 70 Russian movie and pop stars signed it. Many of them made anti-Ukrainian statements well before Russian aggression began, like comic Mykhail Zadornov, who called us 'Eurokhohols' [a derogatory term for Ukrainians used by Russians] during the EuroMaidan protests."

'Zombies thank the networks for their pro-Russian movies - and ask for more'

Such inflammatory statements have pushed the Ukrainian activists to take direct action.

Their zombie reference was deliberate; the protesters were attempting to convey the idea that viewers lose consciousness, and common sense, due to the abundance of Russian propaganda they face. The weight of Russian bias forces Vladimir Putin's views upon the people of Ukraine, and Kiev's media bosses are sleepwalking towards subjugation.

According to Ivanov: "With zombies we showed what Ukrainians who watch too many Russian films look like. Zombies come out to "thank" the broadcasters for putting so many Russian movies on Ukrainian TV, and ask for more."

Ivanov said that the protest was entirely peaceful, and well-received. "A group of zombies tried to get in the building of the National Council and security did not let them in, however it was non-violent. The public greatly supports this kind of protest, because most Ukrainians are pissed off by this situation."

Asked whether Vidsich has any plans for any further protests, Ivanov replied "yes, we do. What kind of protests depends on how cituation develops.

"For now we are contacting the Ukrainian Parliament, asking members if they can write a bill that prohibits all Russian films and programmes on Ukrainian TV. We could do more pickets in future if these demands are not met."

It looks like the zombies will live on for a long time yet - and they could come back to haunt Putin and his henchmen.