Ban on Russian films

Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Protection of the Television and Radio Information Space of Ukraine”

February 5, 2015

Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

June 4, 2015

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Ban on dissemination of Russian films produced or premiered after 1 January 2014

The prohibition turned out to be an appropriate measure for the separation of Ukrainian and Russian cultural spaces prior to the 2022 escalation of war in Ukraine, and led to a spark in the popularization of Ukrainian culture and the rise of modern Ukrainian cinematography.

Act’s description and legal basis

The Law was adopted with a number of controversies since the Ukrainian MPs’ amendments, presented on the fly during the voting, left the scope of the restriction unclear. As a result, the Law forbade broadcasting of any films produced by the legal and natural persons of the aggressor-state after 1 January 2014. However, the minutes of the parliamentary hearing suggest that the prohibition, in fact, should have related to all the films produced after 1991. 

This provision was later amended (and clarified) in 2016 by the separate Law, extending the prohibition to the films that premiered (were demonstrated for the first time) after 1 January 2014. Interestingly enough, this provision has never prohibited screening such films in movie theaters, though the ban was de facto applied in that sphere too. 

Within the meaning of the law, “aggressor-state” is a state that in any way occupied a part of the territory of Ukraine or committed aggression against Ukraine and is recognized by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as an aggressor state or an occupying state. The Transitional Provisions of the Law indicate that lawmakers officially recognize the Russian Federation as an aggressor-state. Thus, the ban on films relates solely to the Russian film industry.

Further, the State Agency of Ukraine on Cinematography is empowered to hold the violators of the Law other than the media liable. The non-compliance with the rules on broadcasting results in a fine of 10 minimal wages (67,000 UAH or approximately 1,700 EUR as of March 2023) for the first breach and 50 minimal wages (335,000 UAH or 8,583 EUR as of March 2023) for any subsequent violation. 

The recently adopted Law of Ukraine “On Media” amended provisions related to the broadcasting of movies. The amendments prohibit such broadcasting by non-linear audiovisual media (VOD-services such as Megogo) and extend the prohibition to screening such films in movie theaters. Moreover, the Law also grants the National Broadcasting Council (NBC) enforcement and sanctioning powers concerning the media, previously held by the State Agency of Ukraine on Cinematography. 

According to the latest amendments, this breach qualifies as a significant violation of the law. It may result in fines, differentiated by the stakeholder status: 

  • linear audiovisual media services (TV and radio) may face a fine reaching 10% of their license fee or between 5 and 40 minimal wages (33,500-268,000 UAH or 840-6,700 EUR as of March 2023); 
  • non-linear audiovisual media services (on-demand services) may face a fine reaching between 30 and 40 minimal wages (201,000-268,000 UAH or 5,025-6,700 EUR as of March 2023);   
  • online media may face a fine reaching between 5 and 10 minimal wages (33,500- 67,000 UAH or 840-1,680 EUR as of March 2023).   

When determining the sum of the fine, the NBC shall consider the technology applied, territorial coverage, and other relevant aspects that make the violation more threatening to public order. In case an audiovisual media service provider commits any second significant violation in a year, it will be subjected to a doubled fine, while 6 significant violations per year will lead the NBC to apply to a court demanding the license revocation or registration cancellation. A system of penalties for non-compliance by online media depends on its status (registered, non-registered, or anonymous), and the violations are counted monthly.


According to the answer of the State Agency of Ukraine on Cinematography, in total, 227 films were prohibited under this provision in 2015-2021. Particularly, in 2015 the Agency forbade 155 movies; in 2016 – 57; in 2017 – 11; in 2018 – 2; in 2019 – 2. A recent (though still a pre-invasion) survey demonstrated that 44% of Ukrainians support the prohibition of Russian films and do not consider the latter to violate their rights. Another survey in the summer of 2022 showed that 71% of Ukrainians support the ban. Noticeably, despite blanket bans imposed by the Law and the questionable argumentation, the Constitutional Сourt of Ukraine recognized the legality of the provision stating that the prohibition of the broadcasting of Russian films is the appropriate measure for protection against armed aggression, occupation, and aggressive state policy of Russia towards Ukraine.

The measures introduced by the Law were deemed adequate and especially relevant since the occupation of Ukrainian territories transformed into the full-scale invasion of Russia of Ukraine. Since the entry of such films into the Ukrainian market was restricted, Ukrainian people were less receptive to the narratives broadcast in Russian products. 

Moreover, the ban led to the popularization of Ukrainian producers in internal and international markets. Prior to the restrictions, the Ukrainian internal market was filled with Russian content due to the established business models. During previous years Russian movies constituted 20-25% of the box office, while Ukrainian content barely reached 3%. Starting from April 2014, however, Russian content does not even make 3% of the box office in Ukraine. Statistics demonstrate that after the ban the box office of Ukrainian movies continued growing: in 2017 it was 4,8%, in 2018 – 8% and in 2019 it reached 9%.

Therefore, the limitations played an essential role in producing Ukrainian content. For example, in 2016, the State Agency of Ukraine on Cinematography allocated 271 million UAH (approx. 7 million EUR) for the production of Ukrainian movies, which is half more of the money that was distributed in 2015. Regular financial contributions also increased the quality of Ukrainian films. As a result, throughout 2014-2019, Ukrainian movies’ box office increased from 19,3 million UAH (494,763 EUR) to 184,7 million UAH (4,7 million EUR). Among the viewers, the most financially successful movies were “Me, You, Him and Her” (71 million UAH or 1,8 million EUR) and “Crazy Wedding” (55 million UAH or 1,4 million EUR), both screened after the ban of Russian films. 

Ukrainian films were also recognized by the international audience. For example, in 2018, the producer of the movie “Donbas” received a Best Director Award for the Un Certain Regard selection at the Cannes Film Festival 2018. In 2020, five Ukrainian movies received seven international awards. The latest Cannes 7th Art Awards festival resulted in awards for three films of Ukrainian production. In 2021, the movie “Stop Zemlia” received an award at the Berlinale in the Generation 14+ category.

No cases of penalizing the broadcasters for breaching this provision occurred. However, the partial reason for that was the non-adoption by the State Agency of Ukraine on Cinematography of its internal sanctioning rules. As a result, the NBC’s efforts in detecting the violations remained fruitless. This situation might change with the new Law of Ukraine “On Media” enforcement.