war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Innocent civilian or terrorist: Russian TV caught using old footage

Halya Coynash
Russian TV’s latest use of old video footage from the North Caucuses to claim Ukrainian atrocities against civilians was swiftly exposed, unlike the Kremlin’s specific dividing line between terrorists it “destroys” and pro-Russian militants in Ukraine it defends

Russian TV’s latest use of old video footage from the North Caucuses to claim Ukrainian atrocities against civilians was pointed out within a couple of days and resulted in some embarrassing reports in the western media. Viewers, including many in eastern Ukraine, whose view of events is shaped primarily by Russian TV will not realize they have been duped, of course, but even western reports often pay little attention to Moscow’s highly specific dividing line between terrorists it “destroys” and pro-Russian militants in Ukraine it defends

Russian viewers could easily have missed the doubling of old footage since the context was quite different.  On May 16, 2014,  a long report on TV Rossiya was about the fighting near Slovyansk with pro-Russian militants the goodies, and the Ukrainian National Guard – the monstrous baddies. At 3.20 on the video a corpse is seen in an open field with the voice stating that:

“Civilians are continuing to die every day. Near Slovyansk the National Guard shot and killed a man. Demonstratively leaving the weapon near the body to make it clear that they had killed an enemy.  Though the insurgents say that the man killed was not in the self-defence unit”.

Immediately prior to this ‘witnesses’ report that conscripts who refused to obey orders ‘against the people’ have been shot and buried.  Straight after it there is a harrowing story about the funeral in a neighbouring village of a young woman who allegedly tried to “get her son out to a safe place. But fell into the hands of the national guard” and was shot dead, her head sprayed with bullets.

In short, total barbarians.   Only the same video footage had already been shown on Rossiya 24 two years earlier with no mention of innocent civilians.  On Nov 18, 2012 the TV channel informed that a counter-terrorism operation had been undertaken in a region of Kabardino-Balkariya in the North Caucuses.  The body shown is clearly supposed to be one of five fighters ‘destroyed’ over the last 24 hours, and specifically one of two “bandits” ‘neutralized’ after showing armed resistance. 

Dmitry Kiselyov, Russian TV anchor man and head of Russia Today, whose propaganda has earned him a place in the EU’s very short list of targets for sanctions,  called the use of old footage “an accident”

A mistake was made in this feature, but mistakes are possible. A mistake, but under no circumstances manipulation”.  He was speaking from a master class on journalism, reports.  Perhaps the topic of that session was selective use of vocabulary.  How you say that terrorists are destroyed by the federal authorities while peaceful civilians are shot and murdered by the Ukrainian National Guard, for example. 

It was doubtless by chance that the channels were found out.  After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin has long been pushing the line that the Ukrainian authorities are carrying out ‘punitive operations against the civilian population’ in eastern Ukraine and that the Kremlin-backed militants are effectively freedom fighters.  This is the man who back in 1999, when asked to comment on the federal troops’ bombing of Grozny (Chechnya) said: “We will pursue terrorists everywhere. If in the airport, then in the airport. That means, excuse me, if we catch them in the toilet, then we’ll finish them in the latrine”.

Putin’s ‘latrine policy’ has been followed ruthlessly for 15 years in the Russian Federation. It has resulted in the European Court of Human Rights having on countless occasions found Russia to have violated the right to life through disappearances, extra-judicial executions and killing of civilians by federal forces.  The Court regularly finds more than one violation of the same Article 2, since the authorities persistently fail to investigate such crimes.

The Court understandably concentrates on those bodies with a direct duty to protect life, however the influence of media reports in dulling public outrage should not be underestimated.  “Terrorists are destroyed”, “bandits neutralized”, and nobody asks how we decide who are terrorists.  As Putin concluded in that memorable statement: “That’s all. The question is closed.”

With the west having done next to nothing about Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and continuing to do little now, the question is categorically not closed.  Over recent weeks Crimean Tatars have been subjected to searches by the FSB, apparently on suspicion of ‘terrorism’.  Not only did the occupation regime ban public gatherings on the eve of the seventieth anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars, but they then sent military helicopters to hover over remembrance events and openly videoed people taking part.  One journalist, Osman Pashaev was detained and badly beaten before being interrogated by the FSB and department on fighting ‘extremism’.  Oleg Sentsov, a well-known Ukrainian film maker was arrested on May 11 and has just been brought to Moscow to face charges of ‘terrorism’.

If EU leaders have any illusions about the validity of such ‘terrorism’ claims, they are misplaced.  As tragically off track, in fact, as the ongoing failure to do much more than continue issuing threats about “serious consequences” for continued aggression. 

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