Protesters shooting

Ukraine: Rhetoric, Reality, and Division

Here we are,  just days beyond my last post on Ukraine. The truce agreement did not even last 1 day. So what has really transpired since the (then) government signed agreements with the opposition leaders?

Depends on whom you listen to.

The Russian news is rife with propaganda to convince their people that Ukrainians are in danger from “right-wing extremists” and that they need Russia’s protection. To show that their reporting is unbiased, Russia Today even let one of their American newscasters (in the US, on an US broadcast show) exercise “editorial independence” and disagree with Russia’s views.

Ukrainian news is full of propaganda to convince their people the Russians have invaded the country, that they want to divide the country in half, and that the Ukrainian military will fight to the death to protect them. They have called the Russians in Crimea “a declaration of war” by Russia, said that the new government includes all Ukrainians, and that there are no ultra-nationalists running around Ukraine threatening anyone.

The US news is no better. Even our brothers at the BBC and the Guardian label the US viewpoint as rhetoric that does not necessarily match reality, and calling our record “provocative.”  France even writes of rising US rhetoric, as do other EU outlets. The US stands alone with Ukraine’s new government in calling Russia’s actions in Crimea an invasion, while the rest of the world leans towards “intervention,” Our media tends to paints a picture of a united Ukrainian population not wanting Russia’s help.

The problem is that there is “his side, her side, and the truth.”

A friend of mind told me a couple of days ago that “‘Russian news’ is a complete oxymoron given Putin’s complete and uninhibited control over Russian media.”  Yet he defends US media sources, and Ukrainian media sources, as free an unbiased. As I posted just yesterday, I think not.

Let’s look at some of the “facts” a bit more.

The US and Europe have recognized the new government as legitimate. Russia has not. Who is right? It depends on your perspective.  Russia says the new government is “self-proclaimed” and illegally came to power. If you look at the BBC live feed on Ukraine, that seems like a prevailing feeling of Ukrainians. I also find this sentiment among regular people in Ukraine. The comments I see in the news outlets, other than the US and Ukraine, is that the status of the government is questionable. The US insists it is valid. No questions asked.

The US and Ukraine insist that Russia “invaded” Ukraine with 16,000 troops. The truth is, they were already in Crimea. Their base has roughly 16,000 troops stationed permanently in Sevastopol (until 2042). Are the unmarked soldiers Russian? Hard to say for sure. Russian military vehicles run around Crimea anyway. There is a large retired population of former Soviet and Ukrainian military families there. They formed a militia, they have the uniforms already, and weapons are available despite those who say they are not. However, I am willing to bet that the Russians are supplying weaponry, at a minimum. But an invasion it isn’t.

I also hear much about the “peaceful protesters” and a united people in Ukraine. First, there are many people who were peaceful in protesting, on both sides. The problem is that there are many extremists that were running campaigns against the Yanukovych government, and they now hold seats in the current government. In news outlets other than the US, there are live video feeds of some of the antics of these groups (Svoboda and Right Sector). This is where much of the fear of Russian speaking and Jewish Ukrainians comes from. The leader of the Right Sector was at a Lviv parliamentary meeting about a week ago, armed, and threatening to blow up Russians and Jews that did not accept the new government.

The new government is mostly represented by one party (Bat’kivshina) out of Lviv in Western Ukraine. A Ukrainian friend in Ukraine commented: “This is wrong way to build a new government. Each political system MUST have healthy competition. I think corruption will not disappear.”  I also hear many comments about how the government should go out and ask people what they want of the government, as opposed to sitting in Kyiv and telling the citizens what to do.

The other problem which the West denies as “unsubstantiated” with the new government is their passing of laws against the Russian language. I have verification from a first hand source that the first acts of the new parliament were against the Russian language and statues of the former Soviet republic. As my source told me, “I think our government has more important things to worry about than language and monuments.” I agree.

For the record, the Ukrainian news reported that the parliament proposed a resolution to throw out the earlier vote on language, but the acting prime minister and president held passage until “all regions of Ukraine accept the new government.”  People ask me how I know such things – we receive these live broadcasts via satellite, and my wife is a native speaker of Ukrainian and Russian.

Nobody in the US reports that the new Ukrainian government has shut down all television stations that transmitted any information against the new government, that provided any Russian news, or did not hold to the line that the government dictated. This prevents people in much of Ukraine from getting any unbiased information, keeps them fearful, and is the basis of the mistrust that causes protests against the very government that seeks to control them.

This is some of what is causing the division in the people now. In Ukraine, in Russia, and in the US.

Next we will address thoughts from people on the street, and the ultra-nationalists (maybe in two different posts).