As Russia’s information space rapidly barrels toward becoming some absurdist la la land, the rest of the world struggles to keep up. And while it’s fun (well, “fun”) to mock Russia for its phantasmagorical claims of child crucifixions by Ukrainian troops, or MH17 being filled with already-dead people when it was shot down, it’s important to remember that these outrageous stories are part of a massive, largely successful disinformation campaign.
You see, the West is used to the news media being relatively sane (if not always completely unbiased). So a natural instinct for most foreign viewers is to gravitate toward a “the truth is somewhere in the middle” interpretation. That’s usually a perfectly reasonable approach. Usually. There are indeed two sides to every story. But when one side of the story is “Russia is fomenting unrest in Ukraine” and the other is “European Union and Ukraine are building concentration camps for their opponents and poisoning their water supply,” the truth isn’t quite somewhere in between. Using Russia’s account of events as a benchmark isn’t “listening to both the Ukrainian and the Russian side of the story.” It’s more like “listening to the Ukrainian side of the story and the ravings of the town’s crackpot who believes that flying space monkeys are stealing his lunch money and also haberdash donkey-poop *hissing sounds*.”
Unfortunately, the Russian narrative has slowly permeated the Western information space. Even though reality has long caught up with and disproved many of the Russian myths about Ukraine, a few persistent tenets keep resurfacing with striking regularity. Let’s see if we can put some of these myths to rest for good. Today, we cover Myth #5:
5. Ukraine’s government is a bloodthirsty “junta”
The current Kiev government is a genocidal junta that came to power through an armed coup. They are engaged in a “punitive operation”—methodical and targeted genocide of Russian-speakers—because they want to…because…shut up, that’s why!
Sample headlines (I’m not linking to wacko sources, but they can be found via Google search):
CIA, FBI agents dying for illegal junta in Ukraine
Moscow: UN report on Ukraine distorts facts to justify punitive operation
The grain of truth:
There are plenty of things to criticize Ukraine’s government for. You’ll find very few people who see Ukrainian government as altruistic angels that were beamed down to Earth by a benevolent God to impart world peace upon everyone. (If you do find some people who believe that, maybe ask whether their medicine has exceeded its expiration date.)
Corruption is deeply embedded in Ukraine’s political system. It will take years to flush it out. Many of the current politicians are unwilling to make any real effort to fight corruption, instead resorting to populist statements (hey, saying things is like, so much easier than doing them, you guys). The parliament still relapses into bar brawl mentality and has scuffles that occasionally get recognized as pure art:
Finally, and most tragically, Ukraine’s military is indeed involved in an armed standoff with the separatists in the Donbass region, which is costing civilian lives. It’s a sad, largely inescapable fact of any armed conflict. This is the first such conflict in the country’s history and is the apparent terrible price Ukraine will have to pay for its true independence.
But let’s get real:
Junta: “A military group controlling a government after taking control of it by force.”
First, let’s look at the “taking control by force” part.
Following the atrocious events of February 18–20, 2014, where almost 100 protesters were killed in bloody clashes, former President Yanukovich signed a compromise deal with the opposition. Then he promptly made like The Road Runner and mbeep-beeped the hell out of Ukraine. Allegedly, after promising to officially resign, he ended up refusing to do so, while still leaving the country in a power vacuum, seeing how he wasn’t physically there to, you know, run it. On February 22, the parliament voted 328-0 to impeach him. Legal technicalities aside, I’d say a vote of 328 against “fucking nothing at all” is pretty indicative. The parliament subsequently elected an interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Parliament speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, became acting president until the scheduled early presidential elections.
On May 25, Petro Poroshenko was elected President, receiving 55% of the votes. The election was monitored by over 1,000 OSCE observers from 49 countries—OSCE’s largest-ever election observation mission. Despite the separatists in the East doing their best to fuck up the vote in the areas they controlled, OSCE deemed the elections a success. Now can we please move past the “coup” rhetoric?
Second, let’s briefly check out the government’s impressive “military” credentials:
Prime Minister Yatsenyuk: economist and lawyer. “Economist and lawyer”? Why, that almost sounds like “Major-General,” if you suffer from a crippling form of dyslexia.
Chairman of the Parliament Oleksandr Turchinov: screenwriter and economist. Also? A goddamn Baptist preacher. Truly terrifying in his militarism.
President Petro Poroshenko: one of Ukraine’s richest men. Made his fortune mainly in the confectionery business, hence the nickname “Chocolate King.” Judging by his bulky physique, the only battle he’s ever fought was the one against delicious-yet-unhealthy food. The food won.
Here he is holding an imaginary oversized burger.
Maybe it’s time to stop calling these gentlemen military junta? Unless you have a fetish for being wrong, huh Russia?
Finally, each of them made every effort to de-escalate the conflict at various points. At each point, they were completely ignored by the separatists.
March 18, on the day Russia was busy annexing Crimea, Yatsenyuk addressed the residents of Ukraine’s south-east. His main message was, quote: “We need peace and tranquility, and we have a huge chance to change our country for the better.” Specifically, he guaranteed unchanged status of the Russian language, decentralization of power, and maintaining good neighborly relations with Russia. You’ll notice that these are all the things the separatists are now supposedly fighting for. Confused? Well, you shouldn’t be, as long as you acknowledge the artificial nature of this conflict and the fact that these demands are a smokescreen. Have always been. Stay tuned for Myth #1.
On April 6, after the separatists seized regional buildings in Donetsk and Lugans, Turchinov reiterated the government’s commitment to regional autonomy. Moreover, he even offered them amnesty from prosecution.
Finally, on June 21, Poroshenko announced a unilateral, one-week ceasefire. Ukrainian army stopped its advance against separatist-held towns. Poroshenko once again offered amnesty to those who didn’t commit serious crimes. He once again reiterated the message of decentralization. He again stressed that the Russian language will retain its current status. All the separatists had to do was to put down their weapons and release the dozens of hostages they were holding against their will. If you’re going to click on one hyperlink in this article, make it this one, and read Poroshenko’s address. A total warmongering lunatic, isn’t he?
The ceasefire was later extended by three additional days, despite the separatists consistently ignoring it and repeatedly attacking Ukrainian positions. At least 27 Ukrainian soldiers were killed during the 10 days of the ceasefire. All while trying to give peace yet another chance. Junta? What the fuck are you smoking, Russia?
As final proof that Ukraine government’s end goal is peace and not the complete eradication of all sentient life, let’s look at two recaptured cities: Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. Both were considered key strongholds of the separatist resistance. Both were recaptured by Ukraine’s army in early July. Here’s how the Russian-friendly media described these cities prior to Ukrainian forces liberating them:
Ukraine—Kiev’s Genocide: What’s Happening in Slovyansk
Kiev junta punishers began to shoot Kramatorsk with heavy artillery in the area of Stankostroy
Now let’s fast-forward to August 24—Ukraine’s Independence Day—in each of those cities.
Enough said, Putin?
Stay tuned for Myth #4.