'Armed' Gunmen Storm News Studio in Fake Attack, Broadcaster Apologizes for Stunt: 'Jokes Are Not Our Strong Point'

Fake news got a bit too real for one TV studio audience in Ukraine, when men who appeared to be armed stormed the live transmission of a news program in a simulated attack.

Many were not left seeing the funny side during a broadcast of the Ukrainian-language Pryamiy channel when masked men ran into the studio and shouted for presenter Mykola Veresen, while the noise of apparent gunfire peppered the studio.

Some audience members looked like they were in genuine shock as the drama unfolded for about a minute and one of the masked men trained his weapon at the camera, screaming at full throttle.

The penny began to drop that not all was as it seemed—partly due to the calmness of the guests and other presenters— while the distinct whiff of ham acting by the masked men was a bit of a giveaway.

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«Прямий», ну, ви даєте! Навіщо ж так людей лякати.

Posted by Svitlana Ostapa on Thursday, November 7, 2019

Then Veresen dispelled the fiction fully by standing up and posing for a selfie with the intruders, explaining that it was simply a stunt to show the "absurdity" of an attack on the channel's owner, according to BBC Monitoring.

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This referred to former lawmaker Volodymyr Makeyenko whose home was searched this week by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) over claims of tax evasion when the channel was bought in 2017.

But the channel issued a mea culpa for causing such a stir, saying that "Pryamiy is a news channel and jokes are not our strong point."

However it wanted to highlight "the absurdity of a situation in a country where surprises happen almost every day" and that seizures can "happen to anyone, anytime and anywhere."

But many on social media were not impressed, with journalist Anastasiya Mahazova describing the stunt as "completely shameless," while journalist Mykhaylo Tkach said on Facebook that it had "humiliated" its viewers.

Blogger Anton Hodza was particularly scathing of the channel's anti-government stance, saying: "I have an idea for Pryamiyon how to do the next prank. The studio is seized by people dressed like decent journalists and they take five minutes of air time to offer media coverage in line with journalistic standards.

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is said to have links to the owner of Ukrainian TV channel Pryamyy, Volodymyr Makeyenko. A tax investigation into Makeyenko spurred Pryamyy to stage a fake seizure of Pryamyy’s studios as a statement against what it says is an attack on the channel. SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images

"Then they say 'ha ha ha, we've got you, this was a prank'. And then they continue as usual," BBC Monitoring reported.

In May last year, Ukraine witnessed another surreal stunt when the Russian dissident journalist Arkady Babchenko turned up at a press conference less than a day after he was reported dead.

He said the staged murder was a sting operation to stop an assassination plot.

'Armed' Gunmen Storm News Studio in Fake Attack, Broadcaster Apologizes for Stunt: 'Jokes Are Not Our Strong Point' | World