In Background, Media critique, Roger Annis, Ukraine

By Roger Annis, Aug. 6, 2014

The following is a letter sent to CBC Radio One’s weekday newsmagazine, The Current.

Antiwar rally in Donetsk on June 18, 2014. ON Aug 4, Kyiv regime ordered residents to leave the city or it will massacre them.

Antiwar rally in Donetsk on June 18, 2014. ON Aug 4, Kyiv regime ordered residents to leave the city or it will massacre them.

In my writings on Ukraine since last March, I warn readers to be wary of the “propaganda” of the government in Kyiv that is prosecuting the war in the east of the country and of mainstream news outlets that parrot Kyiv’s words. Kyiv’s imagined reality is of a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine through the medium of the social and political rebellion in the east of the country.

This fiction is designed to suit the political and economic goals of Ukraine’s wealthy billionaires–to wage a vast austerity assault on the economy and working class of the entire country. The envelope of that assault is the austerity ‘economic association’ agreement signed with the European Union on June 30.

The reality on the ground of eastern Ukraine is the opposite of a Russian invasion. It is the Ukraine army that is invading. It is pursuing a murderous war with near-total impunity. Thousands have been killed. The UNHCR now says there are 117,000 refugees in Ukraine, and its European director says the number of refugees forced to flee to Russia tops 730,000. (Can someone at the UNHCR contact the biased Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and ask why its July 28 report, cited widely in international media, did not mention the massive refugee influx into Russia, only the internal refugees in Ukraine?)

Kyiv’s latest outrage was announced on August 4: it has ordered the civilian populations to leave the cities of Donetsk (1.1 million), Luhansk (450,000) and Horlivka (300,000) in advance of planned artillery blitzkriegs. (Population figures are from before Kyiv’s war began in April.) The threat is published on Interfax and available in Russian and Ukrainian on Kyiv’s war propaganda service.

The Toronto Star reported on the threat on Aug. 5, though in the bland language from Associated Press: “Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military appeared to be readying a long-awaited major assault on the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, warning civilians on Monday to leave as troops tightened their ring around the city amid heavy fighting.” The Globe and Mail has censored news of the outrage, as has the CBC, including its Aug. 5 news summary of Ukraine.

Mayor Sergei Kravchenko of Donetsk has told Associated Press that the city is “dying”. He says, “As a result of the blockade and ceaseless rocket attacks [by Kyiv], the city is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. Citizens are dying on the streets, in their courtyard and in their homes. Every new day brings only death and destruction.”

Does this not move the editors in any of Canada’s editorial rooms? Even the warmakers in Tel Aviv who are bombings hospitals and UN-sponsored schools might blanch upon hearing of the next, announced stage of Kyiv’s war crimes—all-out artillery assault on entire cities.

After listening to your episode of July 29, titled ‘Is Russia untouchable?’, and noting your censorship of the war crimes the Kyiv regime is preparing, I feel obliged to create a new term to describe CBC’s reporting. I call it ‘beyond propaganda’.

Your host as well as your three guests on July 31 presented a simple, straightforward explanation for the complex events of the past nine months in Ukraine: a semi-tyrant in Moscow named Vladimir Putin is to blame for all of Ukraine’s ills. He is manipulating and urging on a “separatist” movement in eastern Ukraine that can serve as a Trojan horse for his dreams of Russian empire.

Everything that is true and would help people understand the complex reality of Ukraine is being airbrushed out of the story by CBC and much of the rest of mainstream media. Gone is the seizure of power by a neo-conservative governing regime last February. Gone are the fascists and extreme right parties and militias with which that regime quickly chose to ally itself.

Gone is the sharp shift in economic policy which the new regime announced from the get-go and is implementing: a harsh turn to association with austerity Europe that will leave much of the country’s existing industries and agriculture crippled or shattered. Gone are the political protests in eastern Ukraine in March and April whereby people tried to stop the rush of the sharp turn to Europe and austerity and win some political dialogue and political reforms that could ease the country’s growing, east-west divide.

Most importantly, gone is the violence of Kyiv and its rightist militias against the political protests in the east. The violence began in April, following the decision by the people of Crimea via a democratic referendum to opt out of Kyiv’s plans forecasting civil war. It has escalated continuously since then.

All this is lost in mainstream media translation. For some months now, news reports on the CBC or in the pages of the Globe and Mail are filled with recitations of a common theme: unnamed and unexplained “conflict” and “violence”, fueled by “pro-Russian separatists”, is responsible for the chaos and harm that is besetting Ukraine society and its citizens. BBC describes events in the same vacuous language.

The premise of your July 31 program set the parameters of the broadcast rigidly. It was not a program devoted to understanding a harsh and cruel war. Instead, only a pre-determined narrative was up for discussion: ‘Is Russia untouchable?’ The question, of course, assumes malfeasance on the part of the subject.

To boost the premise, readers of The Current’s website were asked to answer an online poll. The question was: ‘Do you think sanctions will sway Russia.’ It wasn’t, ‘Do you think there should be sanctions on Russia?’, leave alone, ‘Who is to blame in Ukraine (choose one)?’

The panel discussion focused on one issue and one issue alone: ‘How can Russia be made ‘touchable’?’

Guest host Jeffrey Kaufman knows that sanctions are needed. He told the listeners, “Moscow’s role [in eastern Ukraine] is driving the West to impose sanctions.” The Poor West—what else can it do in the face of the dangerous and recalcitrant Russia but strike back and impose sanctions?

As to how Russia can be made ‘touchable’, your panel all had their belligerent answers. They displayed a remarkable unity of view and absence of diversity! All three agreed that we are already beyond sanctions. It doesn’t matter how Russia responds to political demands made upon it or to the sanctions being imposed and ramped up. For we know already that Russia is perpetually bad and anything it does to try and appease the West is mere evasion. Hence, for all three of your belligerents, long-term sanctions are needed, now.

Long term to what end? An informed high school student will understand that permanent sanctions against a country deemed irredeemably evil are steps to war by another name. And indeed, that is precisely where discussions and attention in NATO high councils are presently tuned. The goal is, and has been for decades, to weaken and isolate Russia, with a view to its eventual dismemberment and plundering.

To sell such a ghastly prospect to a wary public, reality needs to be turned on its head. The people must come to believe that whatever horrors may be committed by the fascist-backed neo-Conservative regime in Kyiv in the coming weeks and months, it is preferable to the dark, alternative called “Russia”. Thus, guest Marta Dyzcok tells listeners coolly that “The Ukraine army is withstanding the military assault” of Russia, but far reaching solutions to the ‘problem of Russia’ are required. Including reconquering Crimea, for “Ukraine will never agree to letting go of Crimea”. [1]

James Sherr of Chatham House (a UK foreign policy think tank) foresees a “messy resolution to the crisis [of Russia]”.

Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO (very neutral panelist!) affirms that Russia must be brought to heel and this will be a difficult and long process. “We need a long-term strategy to weaken and isolate” Russia, and that must include militarizing Ukraine.

Your host chimed in at the beginning of the program with a demeaning portrait of Vladimir Putin, imagining the Russian president wandering around the Kremlin “in a silk bathrobe, dreaming of restoring the glory of ancient Russia”. It was an embarrassment to hear such musings from the host of a public broadcaster. It was also hypocritical because I very much doubt he or any other CBC host would muse on air about Benjamin Netanyahu’s warped mindset as Israel carries out bombings of hospitals and schools in Gaza.

Say what you like about Russia, it’s not bombings schools and hospitals in Gaza. It’s not shelling cities and towns in eastern Ukraine and ordering citizens to hit the road or be massacred in the ‘final solution’ that Kyiv has prepared of the “separatist” problem.

The more people that Kyiv’s army and air force kill or maim in eastern Ukraine, the more inhabitants there as well as Russian citizens will demand Russian peacekeeping troops to stop the slaughter. As the slaughter continues, more and more people will turn to armed self-defense. An earlier generation of Ukrainians was compelled to do this in order to help drive the Nazis and Quislings out of their country in the 1940s. What a sad comment on today’s Europe and world that their grandchildren must relearn self-defense skills and take up weapons anew.

Roger Annis writes and publishes extensively on Ukraine, including compiling the writings of other authors, on his website, ‘A Socialist in Canada’. He was a delegate to the antiwar conference that took place in Yalta, Crimea on July 6, 7.

[1] The political administration of Crimea was transferred in 1954 from the Russian Soviet Federation to the Ukraine Soviet Federation by the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The decision was taken in order to facilitate the difficult tasks of post-World War Two reconstruction. This is the source of Kyiv’s annexationist claim to Crimea and its majority Russian population.


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