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.

Russian propaganda uses Nazi argument for seizing Ukrainian territory and claims barbaric attack was ‘revenge for fake ‘Odesa massacre’

Halya Coynash
Moscow may officially deny complicity in war crimes, but it funds a state propaganda machine aimed at justifying its genocidal war against Ukraine

Vladimir Solovyov claiming Russia’s missile attack on Odesa was in revenge for a fake ’massacre’

Vladimir Solovyov claiming Russia’s missile attack on Odesa was in revenge for a fake ’massacre’

In the USSR, state television simply repeated the lies issued by the Soviet Politburo.  Now Moscow officially denies Russia’s worst war crimes in Ukraine, while the state-funded and controlled media effectively boast of them.  Those who point to Russian censorship and assert that most Russians ‘simply don’t know’ what is happening, would do well to consider the virulent warmongering poured out on widely available state television channels.

Russian airstrikes on the centre of Odesa on 23 July caused massive devastation to the Transfiguration Cathedral, as well as 25 other places of huge historical and cultural significance.  The attack was immediately condemned by, among others, UNESCO which had named the Historic Centre of Odesa a World Heritage site on 25 January this year.  The official Moscow line was, and remains, that the damage, at least to the Cathedral, was caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile.

It seems likely that the Kremlin and Russian foreign ministry repeat these lies, for foreign consumption.  It is not that they expect them to be believed, but no criminal openly admits to a crime when the admission is highly likely to be used as evidence against them in a court of law.  With Moscow using either open or covert mobilization, and the population facing economic problems because of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the warmongering propaganda on state television is doubtless state policy.  Russians are being told on a daily basis that Ukraine has no right to exist, that Ukrainians who resist Russia are ‘animals’, ‘fascist’, etc, and that horrific atrocities are somehow OK, because this is ‘revenge’ for purported Ukrainian ‘crimes’.

Among the most incriminating comments were those made by Igor Markov during Vladimir Solovyov’s Talk Show on Rossiya 1.  Markov was born in Odesa and was, at various times, a pro-Russian politician in Ukraine.  He has long lived in Russia and, in fact, goes along with current Kremlin narrative, by denying that he is a Ukrainian.  He was born in the Soviet Union, he says, claiming this to have been ‘the successor to Tsarist Russia”.  It was, he further asserts, due to ‘treachery’ that Ukraine became a separate country back in 1991.  He, of course, chooses not to mention that around 92% of the population of Ukraine supported independence on 1 December 1991.   

In a separate tirade, after the airstrike on the centre of Odesa, Markov claims that “we had no choice.”  He asserts the following:  The territory which modern Ukraine occupies, from the point of view of security, is territory that is critically needed for the security of the Russian Federation.” 

As Ukrainian journalist Denis Kazansky notes, you can forget all of the lies about ‘denazification’, ‘’demilitarization’, etc.  Russia ‘needs’ Ukraine’s territory.  This, it is worth stressing, was part of his general rant, aimed at justifying an attack on the civilian population, and historic centre, of his native city.  It is also chilling because of the clear echoes of the Nazis’ supposed drive for ‘Lebensraum’, which was also, purportedly, vitally needed’. 

Vladimir Solovyov’s propaganda services have earned him the money to buy, doubtless among many other assets, villas in Italy, and have led to him being placed under international sanctions.  After listening to Markov’s landgrab justification, Solovyov claims that the attack on Odess was “repayment for 2 May 2014”. 

Even if Solovyov believed the toxic lies that Moscow and Russian state media have been pushing about the riots and tragic fire in Odesa on 2 May 2014, there would be a serious problem with logic.  Russia has long claimed that Kyiv-supported ‘rabid nationalists’ set fire to the Trade Union Building with the deaths of 42 pro-Russian activists being deliberate ‘murder’.  Even were this not a pack of lies, it would hardly justify Russia’s killing of other civilians and attack on civilian buildings, including a cathedral and apartment blocks. 

In fact, Solovyov is as well aware as his Kremlin paymasters that there was no ‘Odesa massacre’ Within hours of the tragedy, Russian state media were carefully doctoring video footage to conceal the undisputable fact, backed by plenty of evidence, that those outside tried desperately to save people trapped inside.  Later, they reported criticism of the Ukrainian authorities in an important assessment of the tragedy by the Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel while remaining silent about the report’s key findings which totally dismissed Russia’s ‘massacre’ claims  (details here: The day Russia lost Odesa and launched a lethal propaganda lie used to kill in Donbas

As reported, Moscow’s attempts on 23 July to blame Ukraine for its missile strike on the Cathedral seemed especially nonsensical given the conflicting messages that Russians were receiving from state propaganda.  Olga Skabeeva, an equally notorious propagandist, asked on her talk show for comments about Odesa, prefacing her request with the following: “We’re of course not aggressors, but we watch with satisfaction how, for the third night in a row, we carry out strikes, as we were told, strikes in revenge.”   She and the audience were told that this is “surgical intervention, we are curing that territory of Nazism”.  On another episode of Solovyov’s talk show, he talks of destroying Kyiv, the next person mentions [destroying] Lviv, and another says Odesa.  After hearing the retort: “No, we’ll preserve Odesa”, Soloyov says: No, sorry, we’ll destroy it and then rebuild it. That will be much simpler”.  

Both Denis Kazansky and Julia Davis have been tirelessly monitoring such talk shows since 2014 and Kazansky is surely right in calling for the records of such incriminating utterances to be kept and remembered. If until February 2022, they chiefly provided evidence of how Russians were being brainwashed, and of the key players complicit in this, they now also clearly demonstrate the narrative being used to justify Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine. Russians may not be shown the most incriminating proof of atrocities at Bucha, of torture, rape and pillage wherever the Russians have finally been driven out, but such talk shows leave no scope for illusion as to the target of Russia’s attacks.

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