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04.03.2014 | Halya Coynash

Russian propaganda must be challenged

   

Russia’s must be challenged to provide evidence for the unsubstantiated allegations presented as the grounds for its occupation of Ukrainian territory. Let them present it now to an international committee whose findings would be made public including on Crimean and Russian TV

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday regarding what it called the “US Secretary of State’s threats against Russia” which it deems unacceptable. It also made some extremely serious allegations against Ukraine which are worthy of scrutiny given that they supposedly make the measures Russia has taken “adequate and absolutely lawful”,  

Russia asserts that the US and its allies “have turned a blind eye to the excesses of the Maidan fighters”, and are not bothering to “objectively assess the situation which continues to degenerate following the forced seizure of power in Kyiv by radical extremists”.  This new Kyiv regime, it claims, “trampled on the Feb 21 agreement signed by Germany, France and Poland”. 

This is a highly specific interpretation of the situation given that the Feb 21 agreement was also signed by the then president, Viktor Yanukovych who that same evening fled his residence at Mezhyhirya, taking truckloads of possessions with him. The president’s administration was also left totally unguarded. 

Measures to deal with the ensuing power vacuum were passed by a constitutional majority in parliament the following day.

Yanukovych was only seen once on a pre-recorded video interview before re-emerging in Rostov on the Don (Russia) on Feb 28.  On Monday Vitaly Churkin claimed at the UN Security Council meeting that Yanukovych had asked for the deployment of Russian forces.  Judging from the way Churkin flourished the relevant document, this was seriously intended as a conclusive argument. Since the former president has been placed on the international wanted list in connection with the gunning down of unarmed protesters by police snipers from Feb 18 – 20, Russia’s view a likely Russian addition to that same wanted list should be mentioned.

On March 3 the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation announced that criminal proceedings had been initiated against the leader of the Ukrainian movement Pravy Sektor.  Dmytro Yarosh, a prominent figure in the EuroMaidan movement, is suspected of “public calls via the media to carry out terrorist and extremist activities”.  The committee claims that “in his speeches the head of the extreme national Ukrainian organization Pravy Sektor, Dmytro Yarosh has publicly incited anti-Russian forces to extremist actions and terror on Russian territory”.

A restraint measure will shortly be sought, after which Yarosh will also appear on the international wanted list.  

Researcher on rightwing movements, Tetyana Bezruk has investigated all the claims in the Russian media over recent days regarding Yarosh and demonstrates how some of the material is a montage in which the negative comments about Russia are made by an anonymous activist, while the key claim against him is a banal fake.   On March 1 it was claimed on Lifenews that Yarosh had made an appeal for help to the Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov  This claim was rejected the following day by the Pravy Sektor press secretary Artem Skoropadsky.  He explained that the social network VKontakte account of a member had been hacked, and that the fake had appeared during this period.

Bezruk cites other attempts to cast a slur on Pravy Sektor, and through it the EuroMaidan movement.  These are then cited by Russia’s Foreign Ministry as the “excesses of Maidan fighters”.  The US supposedly also ignores these fighters’ “militant Russophobia and anti-Semitism, desecration of the memory of heroes of the Great Patriotic War [World War II]. “  The same statement says that the West have taken on “overt neo-Nazis, destroying Orthodox churches and synagogues” as their allies.

These claims have been bandied about both by the Yanukovych regime and the Russian pro-Kremlin media for a long time.  They have been categorically rejected by prominent representatives of the Jewish, Crimean Tatar communities, the Association of Jewish Organizations and Associations [Vaad Ukraine], religious organizations and others.  Prominent British specialist on Ukraine, Andrew Wilson has pointed out that “only one Russian citizen has died in the current crisis, and he was shot by snipers in Kyiv”.  Those felled by police snipers also included Jewish people, Armenians, Georgians and a Belarusian. 

A huge amount of evidence can be presented which gives the lie to the myths which Russia is pushing.  The problem is that this evidence is repeatedly presented, including most compellingly by such world-renowned historians as Timothy Snyder, Anne Applebaum and others.  Russia simply churns they myths out once again, using its control over large parts of the media to circulate untruths.  The purported “war declared on the Russian language” has no basis in truth.  The law rather insensitively revoked by the new government (which is expected to be vetoed by the acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov) made no incursions on the use of the Russian language in Ukraine which is guaranteed by Ukraine’s Constitution, and the alleged war “against all that is associated with Russia” is pure fiction.

It is dangerous fiction being used for political ends with the likely cost in human lives apparently of no concern to Russia’s President Vladimr Putin.  It is imperative that Russia is challenged to provide evidence for these claims.  Let them present it to an international committee to be created immediately with its findings presented publicly on all major TV channels in the Crimea and the Russian Federation.  

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