No holds barred in Russia’s propaganda war
The Russian media has shocked its audience with false claims about the Governor of Kherson – and all of us who find cynical abuse of the theme of the Second World War as a propaganda weapon profoundly offensive
A new Russian media heroine was born on Victory Day, May 9, Armed only with a child uncomfortably dangling from her arms, she was shown striding up to Kherson’s Governor, Yury Odarchenko, to shame him for his supposed support for Hitler. As confirmation of all Moscow’s claims about Ukraine’s new authorities, it couldn’t have been better.
Or more contrived since Odarchenko did not say anything of the sort. The audience would have understood this immediately, had the Russian TV channels not carefully cut the speech and embellished it with absurd commentary aimed at showing how monstrous Odarchenko’s statements were while linking him closely with those now in power.
LifeNews, for example, informed that “Kherson’s governor called Hitler a liberator” and said that “people who had come to honour the dead in the ‘Great Patriotic War’ booed him and took the microphone away”.
Wouldn’t we all? The booing, however, came only from a contingent of Communist Party supporters under a Soviet flag and this is already an indicator that Odarchenko’s actual words should be examined. This is what he said (speaking in Ukrainian):
“We remember how people fought against aggressors who were trying to seize their land. These aggressors did not simply say that they wanted to seize others’ territory and enslave people. They also claimed to be liberating nations and peoples living on the land that Hitler was planning to seize. If you read history, you see that he most of all pushed the slogan about freeing people from the communist yoke, from the tyrant Stalin. That was the first cause for Hitler when he began his movement for a sovereign state, when he tried to seize territory. However people united in their wish to defend their homeland, they formed a single front and ousted the aggressor. Today the same thing is happening on Ukraine’s borders. Today the aggressor is on our border and trying, by supposedly removing alleged infringements, to justify aggressive action against our territory”.
He is not, perhaps, the most eloquent speaker, however it is quite clear that Ukraine faced an aggressor, Hitler, in 1941, and is now facing another. All Russian TV channels and newspapers were shift to give maximum coverage of the ‘story’, and mentioning nothing beyond the words about Stalin.
The communists went crazy at the words “from the tyrant Stalin”. As they do at any criticism of the dictator. Prominent Kherson civic activist Alla Tyutyunnyk is convinced that the whole stunt was planned in advance - both the communist uproar and especially the scene with the red-flag waving woman who appeared remarkably unconcerned about the little girl in her arms.
It seems likely that the same can be said of the Russian media which has a long track record of distorting information. Back in 2008, Russia’s ORT manufactured a scandal over a Hitler doll with the bait unfortunately snapped up by reputable western media. The situation became even worse when Viktor Yanukovych became president and here again western media were not critical enough. If by the end of his regime cynicism over his attempts to use the “anti-fascist” card was widespread, skepticism was not seen during his first year in office. The ’nationalist’ labels which Yanukovych and his people used for all who opposed his increasingly repressive regime were generally repeated, and little attention was given to obvious attempts to radicalize the opposition and give media coverage almost solely to the right-wing VO Svoboda Party.
Russia is doing exactly the same with Ukraine’s right-wing and nationalist Right Sector which is mentioned in the Russian media almost as often as the Russian ruling party United Russia and far more than any other Russian political party.
All of this is part of Moscow’s efforts, as Odarchenko said, to try to justify its intervention by demonizing the Kyiv authorities and wildly exaggerating the importance of right-wing parties.
If this is clear, Russia’s choice of one propaganda weapon still remains incomprehensible. Many of our fathers or grandfathers fought the Nazis, millions died, including in the Holocaust, and cynical abuse of the theme of the Second World War is a gross affront to their memory.