In Crimea, Media critique, Roger Annis

By Roger Annis, Feb 10, 2016

Data has been published for the first time in Ukraine detailing the reactions of Ukrainian police and armed forces personnel stationed in Crimea at the time of the Maidan coup in February 2014 and the secession vote in Crimea one month later. The information was reported in the Ukrainian news outlet on Feb 5, 2016.

Celebration in Simferopol's Lenin Square following the Crimean secession vote in March 2014

Celebration in Simferopol’s Lenin Square following the Crimean secession vote in March 2014

Interfax reports the findings of a Rada (parliamentary) committee investigating the circumstances of the secession. The committee says that of the approximately 2,300 Ukrainian national police (SBU) personnel who were stationed in Crimea at the time, only 215 remained loyal to Kyiv.

Of the app. 20,320 armed forces members deployed in Crimea, 6,000 returned to Ukraine. The remainder, a large majority, pledged allegiance to the new, Republic of Crimea and the armed forces of Russia.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine and joined the Russian Federation after an overwhelming majority of the population (some 97 per cent of the 80 per cent who voted) approved the measure in a referendum on March 16, 2014.

Western governments and mainstream media have always presented the Crimea secession vote as a case of “annexation” by Russia. This was never a case of accurate news reporting and objective analysis. It was, instead, a manufactured political claim that was part of cynical manipulations of the ‘Maidan’ protest movement serving Western interests.[1] Accordingly, little factual information has been published in the West about the aspirations of the Crimean people, including that Western media has largely censored reporting of the numerous polls of the people of Crimea taken in 2014 and 2015. Polls show consistently that an overwhelming majority of Crimeans, including those of Ukrainian and Tatar ethnicity, are satisfied with the decision to secede from Ukraine.

An example of the continued, biased reporting of Crimea by Western mainstream media was provided by the weekday, radio newsmagazine program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Current. It broadcast a 25-minute story on January 26, 2016 titled, ‘Russian regrets? Crimeans disenchanted two years after annexation’. Now here is a quiz for the inquiring reader:

Question: Should a serious journalist inquiry into the situation today in Crimea interview people living there, or should it, instead, select disgruntled observers living in Ukraine and further abroad?

Answer: That depends. If it is a serious inquiry, then, of course, the people actually living in Crimea should be canvassed, preferably providing a cross-section of opinion and experience. But if it is a inquiry intended to serve a pre-determined viewpoint–in this case that the Crimean people were bullied into seceding from Ukraine and are today unhappy and regretful of that decision–then by all means do not talk to Crimeans themselves. Because repeated polls show that the interview subjects will not provide the desired responses.

Guess which option the biased producers of The Current chose? Here are the three invited guests on its January 26 program:

  • “Dmitry Porfirov left Crimea late last year and now lives in Lviv, Ukraine.” Prior to leaving Crimea, Porfirov told CBC, he had “feelings” that he was no longer welcome in Crimea. And he did not like living with the economic hardships created by Western sanctions and acts of sabotage by right-wing Ukrainian paramilitaries.
  • Ridvan Bari Urcosta, a Tatar and political scientist who left Crimea a few months after Russia took control in 2014…” The host of The Current introduced this guest by saying “Inside Crimea, ethnic Tatars are one of the groups most fiercely opposed to Russian annexation.” Which happens to be a blatant misrepresentation of the situation in Crimea, including among the Crimean Tatar people. One of the few published polls which has specifically sought out Tatar respondents, in early 2015, showed half of Tatar respondents happy with secession, 30 per cent opposed, and 20 per cent not knowing one way or the other. Tatar political and social organizations in Crimea vigorously challenge the false claim that the disgruntled or hostile Tatar minority speaks for all Crimean Tatars. But this is mainstream Western media, and the subject is Russia and Crimea, so inconvenient facts are not allowed when they get in the way of the ‘correct’ story.
  • “Journalist Dimiter Kenarov has been covering Crimea over the past two years. ” Kenarov spoke to the program from… Vermont, USA. He did acknowledge in the interview that “some kind of majority of Crimeans” supported what he called “Russian annexation”, and he also offered that there is “no chance” that Crimea will ever return to Ukrainian control.

As has been reported in news outlets (though not in biased Western media such as the CBC), the people of Crimea are enduring the harsh consequences of Western economic sanctions imposed as punishment for their 2014 secession vote. They are also suffering from acts of violent sabotage against their economy by right-wing extremists in Ukraine. Since September 2015, extremists have blockaded commercial road shipments between Ukraine and Crimea, including food. The governing regime in Kyiv endorsed the road blockades by making them official, in December. In November 2015, the extremists blew up electricity pylons, severing the electrical service from Ukraine on which Crimea depended. Again, Kyiv effectively endorsed the action by declining to restore service.[2]

By any measure, the attacks on electricity service and the cutting of food and other vital road and rail transport constitute acts of terrorism. Did the broadcast on The Current make any inquiries along these lines? No, it did not.[3]  Nor did the CBC broadcast investigate the legality and morality of economic sanctions imposed by the imperialist countries of Europe and North America against Crimea. Such investigations would get in the way of the pre-determined script of a “Russian annexation” and “Crimean disenchantment”.

This article is translated into Dutch and published on the new website in Holland, Novaya Gazeta.

[1] Sadly, Western media and governments are not the only ones to promote the meme of ‘Russian annexation’ of Crimea. Certain quarters of the international left opt to sing from the same songsheet.

[2] Most electrical service in Crimea has been restored via the emergency installation of undersea power cables from Russia under the Kerch Strait as well as boosting of emergency electrical production. Full energy independence from Ukraine will be achieved in Crimea by summer 2016, and further strengthened after that by construction of a natural gas pipeline from Russia and several natural gas-powered electrical generation stations.

[3] There was a brief, rote mention that “power lines were sabotaged by people suspected to be with anti-Russia activists”[?].


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