A Russian-Australian man was told to leave a television studio after he asked a ‘rogue’ question and pointed out that there is an alternative narrative to be considered surrounding the conflict in Ukraine.
The audience member Sasha Gillies-Lekakis was speaking on a live Australian debate show when he expressed support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine, angering other audience members and surprising the host of the show, Stan Grant.
“As someone who comes from the Russian community here in Australia, I’ve been pretty outraged by the narrative depicted by our media, with Ukraine as the good guy and Russia as the bad guy,” Gillies-Lekakis said.
“Believe it or not, there are a lot of Russians here and around the world that support what Putin’s doing in Ukraine, myself included,” he added before claiming that Ukraine has previously “besieged” the Russian populations in Donetsk and Luhansk, killing thousands of people.
Other audience members heckled him and yelled ‘propaganda’ and ‘lies’, while the host Grant moved the program on.
Around twenty minutes later Grant returned to Gillies-Lekakis and said he had ‘thought about it’ and wasn’t comfortable allowing him to stay in the studio.
“Something has been bothering me,” Grant said, adding “people here have been talking about family who are suffering and people who are dying. Can I just say – I’m just not comfortable with you being here. Could you please leave?”
“You can ask a question, but we cannot advocate violence. I should have asked you to leave then. It‘s been playing on my mind and, I’m sorry, but I have to ask you to leave,” the host added.
Grant later stated “we can’t have anyone who is sanctioning, supporting, violence and killing of people. So I‘m sorry for the disruption. It was not a vetted question. It was a rogue question. It’s not good.”
In a now removed Facebook post, Gillies-Lekakis explained that he “supports Putin’s grievances regarding the breaking of the Minsk Peace Agreement by Ukraine and the ensuing loss of life, particularly in the Russian-populated areas of the Donbas”.
He added, “My question, furthermore, sought to question why these Russian deaths were seemingly less important compared to Ukrainian casualties in our media coverage, and whether the panellists thought there was any hypocrisy in their positions as a result.”
“This is reflected in my question as published on the Q+A website. Unfortunately, I was unable to fully finish asking my question nor clarify myself despite trying, and so believe that my words were misrepresented and incomplete,” he further wrote.
Gillies-Lekakis further noted that his question was not ‘rogue’ and was submitted to the show’s producers beforehand, adding that he wasn’t able to ask it in full before being interrupted.