Putin: DNR will always get weapons, and we won't let them lose

Russian President Vladimir Putin says insurgent and terrorist groups in Ukraine’s east “will always get weapons,” including armored vehicles and artillery in response to questions of Russia’s material involvement the war against Ukraine.  He reiterated this position on the German channel ARD prior to the G20 Summit in Australia, days after NATO officials confirmed reports that the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine was continuing full speed despite an agreed upon ceasefire.

The Russian president also stated he would not allow Ukraine to win the war, calling for “dialog” instead: “This points to the fact, that you want the Ukrainian central authorities to annihilate everyone there, all of their political foes and opponents. Is that what you want? We certainly don’t. And we won’t let it happen.”

Justifying his potion, the paranoid dictator expressed concerns that Ukraine would begin the “ethnic cleansing” (presumably) of Russians, and that the pro-Western government would become a “neo-Nazi state.”

Valentina Lisita's trolling inadvertently exposes more on 'Material Evidence' campaign in New York

In a series of typically vitriolic Tweets,  pro-Putin pianist and part time Twitter troll Valentina Lisitsa took time today to support the anti-Ukrainian photo exhibit in New York – Material Evidence – and help cover up its dirty handlers while also smearing Euromaidan Press. As readers may recall, in a previous article I uncovered the truth behind this exhibit and its connections to Russia’s extremist far-right, as well as its part in an anti-American content farm. The exhibit’s website’s association to propaganda efforts were extensively documented.

Ms. Lisitsa is partially correct, the domain ‘Material-Evidence.com’ shows its administrative contact to be the exhibit’s curator, Mr. Benjamin Hiller. The reason for this is simple and anyone can see in the WHOIS report: it was updated October 8, 2014. Ostensibly, this was to disassociate the involvement of any Ms. Zakharova. ‘She’ remains the registered owner for sites like Anti-Liberal.com and Grant-JT.com (the associated site of the far-right Journalistic Truth, working with Material Evidence and promoted through them).

The original owner
The original owner

The registrar for Material-Evidence.com remains REG.RU, a Russian service; its contact email the same associated with all of the other extremist or propaganda content farms.

We have since reached out to Mr. Hiller and he has informed us that in light of this news he is going to reevaluate his involvement in the project and whether our claims were true, and issue a statement regarding the situation. He reiterated that he does not support Russia’s far-right, and informed us that the Russian government involved itself in the Moscow exhibit:

“The Russian Government pressured the photographers not to show two images in Moscow as “it would shed bad light” on the “Pro-Russian Separatists” in Crimea. These images are shown in NY.”

He also took time to address the name issue, saying he was made the owner for legal reasons:

“We had to change the admin after the webpage developer used the name from this crazy Pro-Putin ballerina – we warned him that he gets sued for that if he keeps on going.”

We will continue to update the public on the Material Evidence campaign, and future statements from those involved. We will also continue to debunk any and all statements from Ms. Lisitsa in her campaign to discredit Euromaidan Press and journalists exposing the truth everywhere.

Pro-Russian performers in Donetsk make Nazi salutes

Yesterday in Donetsk performers celebrating the 6 month anniversary of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic” took part in a Nazi march while giving a torrent of Hitler salutes. The performers mocked Ukrainians as “Nazis” and “fascists” in Donetsk’s main square, but did so under the flag of “New Russia” while German music played in the background.

Russians enacted a similar, but much more lavish performance during a national broadcast in occupied Sevastopol earlier in the summer.

Russian official fighting in Donetsk admits locals refuse to collaborate, 90% of unit are Russians and "defending Slavs"

Locals are refusing to collaborate with Russian forces as they storm the Donetsk airport, says Communist Party member Alexander Negrabetskikh – a city council deputy and Chechen War veteran from the Russian city of Zlatoustcurrently operating in a terrorist “volunteer” cell in Donetsk.

Negrabetskikh with other soldiers
Negrabetskikh with other soldiers

Now in Ukraine, he is part of a unit involved in storming the Donetsk airport – 90% of which are Russian, half being Siberian and half from the Urals; with the remainder being self-identified Russians from Donetsk. In whole he says 7,500 men are involved in the current battle, which he says would be better handled with smaller, specialist groups. He admits his unit suffered heavy losses while attacking Ukrainian forces defending the airport on Wednesday, saying his men came under heavy shelling.

Negrabetskikh says he is fighting in Ukraine because he is a “Russian patriot” and defending racial Slavs. “I’ll be there to protect brother Slavs and Russian land from the Nazis,” he explained. “If we do not, then sooner or later this fascist abscess would come to us.”

He claims that Ukraine’s forces are replete “Poles and Germans,” a conspiracy which Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed. Russian media has loudly implicated Poland in other conspiracies on national television.

The reason for his unit being almost entirely foreign with little actual Donetsk citizens is that support for the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) is low, he concedes, a sentiment previously echoed by Russian terrorist leader Igor Girkin. In Negrabetskikh’s words, he was shocked at how few locals would collaborate with Russians to “protect” their land, or in other words, join the DNR. “They go to Russia, and we come here!” he exclaimed.

Ultimately, many he talked to simply care about pensions, not allegiances. Ukraine’s government has stated that public sector salaries and pensions will not be disbursed in occupied territory, while DNR officials have said salaries and pensions are being paid on time, without indicating where the vast funding was coming from.

Why the Guardian is wrong, and Soviet monuments should not be protected

In light of recent events in Kharkiv, Agata Pyzik of the Guardian took the task of explaining why Soviet monuments should not be toppled, but protected.

So, what’s the problem with this argument?

The first point addressed by Puzik is acknowledging that Soviet statues and memorials do act as “a powerful reminder of Soviet rule” and that “memories of Soviet aggression are just as raw today as they were when the USSR fell.”

Having said this, this fact is merely paying lip service (which reminds of a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm) as she proceeds to pile on the topic of ‘sacrifice’ to justify the statues’ salvation:

“Red Army monuments are a reminder of the astounding Soviet sacrifice during the war […] The Soviet army played a major role in saving this part of Europe from the realisation of Hitler’s master plan in the east, which proposed the colonisation, enslavement and eventual extermination of the Slavic population.”

Certainly, many Ukrainians appreciate the sacrifices Soviet soldiers made in their efforts during the Second World War, especially in eastern cities like Kharkiv. Remember, Soviet soldiers were, in the words of Yale historian Timothy Snyder, “disproportionately Ukrainian.” The unit which liberated Aushwitz? The 1st Ukrainian Front. “The vast majority of Ukrainians who fought in the war did so in the uniform of the Red Army. More Ukrainians were killed fighting the Wehrmacht than American, British, and French soldiers — combined.” It’s for these reasons that actions are taken against Soviet symbols, but not necessarily symbols of native soldiers.

In a wider context, Soviet military memorials can be seen as either monuments to liberation or occupation, life and death. While Soviet soldiers did play a major role in stopping Hitler, their historical actions before, during, and after this moment in time are not without criticism, nor should they be.

While Hitler’s role in the 40’s was absolutely devastating (approximately 3 million non-Jewish Ukrainians were killed in the Holocaust under Hitler’s extermination plans, and over 2.3 million were deported for slave labor), Ukrainians will neither forget Stalin’s plans also realized colonization (see: Russification), enslavement (see: collectivization and dekulakization), and the extermination of the Ukrainian population. It also included the extermination of half of the Crimean Tatar population.

And not to let the man of the moment, Vladimir Lenin, off the hook. It was he who said of the Crimean Tatars: “We will take them, divide them, subjugate them, digest them.” Should Tatars need to be reminded of this in their society?

But certainly the author is focusing on the military effort, and not excusing leaders like Stalin, right?

“…two cities even feature quotations from Stalin, which remain in place without harassment. The degree of the Soviet sacrifice seems to be appreciated there.”

Moving on..

“Russia’s role in the second world war is seen largely through the initial collaboration with Hitler. But it is the Soviet Union’s later actions and subsequent role in the defeat of the Nazis in Europe that should be dominant.”

The issue here is telling victims how they should remember their oppression and experience. For Ukrainians, Poles, or any other nation subjugated as a result of Moscow’s collaboration with Hitler, they and they alone get to decide how to remember their experience, and decide whether the narrative of ‘liberation’ agrees with their national discourse. As with monuments to this period, it is the people who live in these places that should decide whether they reflect the appreciation of the culture, and not those who made and imported them.

“Desecrating a statue of a Red Army soldier is different to toppling a Lenin memorial or painting the Ukrainian flag on the spire of one of Moscow’s Stalin towers. The latter can and should be separated from the events of 70 years ago. The people who died in Stalingrad shouldn’t get mixed up with people sending arms to Donetsk separatists. To see it otherwise is to fall into the irresponsible, habitual comparisons of Putin with Stalin and Hitler, conflating things from very different historical orders.”

This statement by Pyzik is particularly confusing as the latter (toppling a Lenin or painting a tower) are separated from WW2 events, and the ‘people of Stalingrad’ are hardly evoked when a Lenin statue hits the pavement.

Why? Well, this should be obvious: Lenin died 15 years prior to the Soviet invasion of Poland and the start of the war. He is not and cannot be related to the events of 70 years ago.

So why does the author think Ukrainians topple statues to Lenin?

“Somehow hatred for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych became confused with hatred of Lenin, which is strange because Yanukovych’s ally Vladimir Putin has criticised the Soviet leader for including Odessa, Donbass and Kharkiv (so-called Novorossiya) in the Ukrainian borders drawn in early 1920s.”

Putin argued, if anything, that Lenin was too generous on Ukraine when the Red Army annexed it and reasserted it under Moscow’s rule. This criticism started and stopped with a revisionist version of history and the demarcation of Soviet borders. Putin did not criticize anything tangible about Lenin, his rule, or the consequences of it.

“The destruction of Yanukovych’s Disneyland-like villa outside Kiev at least aimed at the right target, the unequal economy. The Lenin statues have been a poor substitute for understandable anger.”

Yanukovych’s mansion, Mezhyhirya, was not destroyed – in fact, it was turned into a museum. That being said, if ‘destruction’ of the president’s monument of corruption would be justifiable, would not the same call be made for the destruction of monuments to authoritarianism? After all, Pyzik did admit to start that these statues continue to evoke memorialize Soviet aggression and rule.

Pyzik concludes by stating Ukrainians are “conflating the past and present” and “run the risk of re-enacting old battles.” But this is made all the more confusing, given that in a previous article she argued for “a new look at the east, which acknowledges the existence and importance of the Soviet past,” a notion which she called “absolutely necessary.”

So maybe the overall theme here is that Soviet history is worth remembering, so long as it’s not critical, and isolated to victory in a vacuum. The reality is that only the people can decide what monuments are erected and stand in their cities, as they are the ones who have to live with them and be reminded of what they represent. Opinions are varied and often divergent, and it is for this reason that monuments should be unifying and representative of figures or concepts that all of society can rally behind. In the case of Soviet monument to tyrants in Ukraine, that simply isn’t the case, and for many, history is still being written.

[box]Editor’s note: A user submitted a collection of Tweets entitled “Agata’s Crush on Russia.” The content displays the author’s pro-Putin sentiment and familiar connections to the Polish Communist Party. Since publishing this article, Agata Pyzik has made her Twitter account private, and changed her handle.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 2.07.29 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 2.07.23 PM

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4 maps that debunk National Geographic, and why they need to issue another correction

National Geographic recently published a map on their online publication showing Ukraine not only divided along what it portrayed as very obvious and cutting divisions, but also giving topographical legitimacy to the Russian colonial term “Novorossiya,” mixing fantasy with reality.

When this map went public, our comments were filled with complaints, with readers blown away that such a major, international news source would make such a gaffe in their map making. The National Geographic Society previously made claims that it would shade in grey “disputed” territory when it recognized Russia’s occupation of Crimea, but that rule didn’t apply in this case.

Here’s why this map was wrong:

Language

The following two maps show the real linguistic situation in Ukraine. While many in Ukraine are bilingual, in both the east and the west, native tongue is an important form of ethnolinguistic affiliation. Here we can see that the idea of a “Ukrainian-Russian” plurality among all of eastern Ukraine doesn’t pan out, with only Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, and Odesa oblasts having real parity.

Ukraine language map
2001 census results on language, by region

But Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are still “Russian”, that is, until you break down map by district and not gerrymander it by region:

Ukraine language map
2001 census results on language, by district

Instead, the areas with a majority of native Russian speakers correspond more closely to the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) zone now occupied by Russia, nearly exactly.

Protests

Another issue with National Geographic’s map is that it demarcated the entire south-east of Ukraine as being involved in pro-Russian protests. While many of these regions saw protests, they were often isolated to the capitals, small in number (especially when compared to the mass Euromaidan protests in Kyiv), and sporadic. In many cases these protests would happen on a weekend and never be seen from again, or drop considerably in number after the border with Russia was closed.

Further, the isolated protest in Kherson was so small we had to omit it from the map altogether as it did not meet our cutoff of 500 persons.

Pro-russia-protests
© Mat Babiak

What National Geographic’s definition of pro-Russian protests also omits is that concurrent to these rallies were also a wave of pro-Ukraine unity counter-protests, which covered a large area of the country, and in many cases dwarfed their Russian counterparts. (note: this map does not include all western Ukrainian pro-Ukraine rallies, and focused only on areas outside of the very pro-Ukrainian west.)

Pro-ukraine-protests
© Mat Babiak

Now, let’s look at the before and after of the Nat Geo map gaffe, which has since been mildly corrected:

 

As you can see, while they have removed the dotted-red line that indicated the “most common language,” the indicators of  “Ukrainian,” “Ukrainian-Russian,” and “Russian” are still not telling the true story. They did, however, demote “Novorossiya” from a bold black font to a light grey, adding “Historical region” in parenthesis.

National Geographic is not the only publication guilty of simplifying Ukraine’s narrative into two equally opposed halves. Binary concepts are easy to digest and easy to explain to readers. Clean lines are easy to understand and equal halves give parity. But it’s oversimplification that leads to distortion, and this was the case with National Geographic. Although demoting “Novorossiya” is an improvement in removing fantasy, they do need to issue another correction on the language and protest reality on the ground.

Poroshenko: 'UPA are heroes,' will consider giving veterans legal status

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko believes that now is a good time to address the question concerning the status of the wartime Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) & Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

During a press conference in Kyiv on Thursday, when asked about his position on whether UPA soldiers deserved recognition, Poroshenko said it is worth considering giving the veterans legal status as combatants in World War II.

“In Galicia, Ivano Frankivsk, Ternopil, Rivne, and Volyn this issue was already resolved by the local councils. Across the country it was not,” said the president. Poroshenko recognized that earlier the topic was divisive in the country, and because of this it was not addressed first hand. Instead, he said now was “the right time.”

“What is a warrior who defends his state, who protects it in the same way the soldiers of the UPA did…this is a good time to raise the issue,” said Poroshenko. He then added that he sees Ukrainian insurgent fighters as an example of heroism.

On Twitter, he repeated this sentiment, saying: “UPA soldiers – an example of heroism and patriotism to Ukraine.”

Poroshenko’s statements come nearing the UPA’s anniversary on October 14. Former president Yushchenko made similar inroads to define the UPA as war veterans, and bills have been proposed in the past to grant UPA veterans government benefits on par with their Soviet army counterparts, including higher pensions and public transportation discounts.

A controversial topic in Ukraine, The UPA fought against the Soviet Union, Poland, and Nazi Germany for Ukrainian independence from 1942-1956. Their history is particularly reviled among some in eastern Ukraine, Russia, and Poland, but extremely popular in western Ukraine to this day. Because of Ukraine’s Soviet legacy, the group never managed to attain state recognition.

The battle flag of the UPA became a popular symbol during the Euromaidan protests and current conflict with Russia, and is adorned by many Ukrainians as a “sign of the stubborn endurance of the Ukrainian national idea even under the grimmest conditions.”

The UPA has been described as “the most important example of forceful resistance to Communist rule,” and the mortality rate for Soviet troops fighting Ukrainian insurgents in Western Ukraine is said to be higher than the mortality rate for Soviet troops during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In turn, Russian propaganda has continued to this day to discredit its veterans and supporters as “Nazis” and “fascists” despite fighting both German and Russian fascism in World War II.

In response to sanctions, Moscow goes nuclear

A new Russian PR campaign is threatening nukes in response to sanctions in a recent propaganda stunt.

Moscow’s government Public Relations Committee launched a T-shirt campaign today to put a positive, patriotic, spin on the global sanctions that have been levied on Russia’s economy and numerous officials. That spin, however, has been to playfully threaten nuclear war.

“Trendy answer – no sanctions!” – as the campaign is called – will run from September 23 to October 6, allowing Muscovites to trade in any clothing bearing foreign symbols or slogans for new “patriotic” swag.

Two of the three designs offered feature nuclear missile launchers with the slogans: “Sanctions? Don’t tell my Iskander” and “Topol’s aren’t afraid of sanctions.”

An ‘Iskander‘ is a mobile theater ballistic missile system with units in range of Poland and the Baltics, while the ‘Topol‘ is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching any city in the United States.

City organizers hope to “bring happiness” to at least 30,000 people, and will be touring the city in a bus in adorning imagery of the nuclear-payload on its mobile launcher.

“The purpose of the project, which was initiated by designer Anastasia Zadorina and civil society activist Ksenia Melnikova – to support our country, to demonstrate their patriotism and love for the motherland by being creative and fashionable: using T-shirts, which promises to be a hit this season,” said a PR Committee spokesperson.

The ongoing rounds of sanctions issued by the west have been in response for Russia’s ongoing and escalating military aggression in Ukraine: First in occupying the Ukrainian province of Crimea, then arming and fomenting terrorist groups in the country’s east, up to the more recent invasion of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by Russia’s armed forces. Many in the Russian public, however, have failed to grasp why they are being punished by the international community for the state’s ongoing international crimes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07iamFiyMSY

Nuclear T-shirt campaign in Moscow

Nuclear T-shirt campaign in Moscow

Nuclear T-shirt campaign in Moscow

Nuclear T-shirt campaign in Moscow

NSDC: Terrorists enforce conscription, forced labor in Horlivka

At a briefing in Kyiv, National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) spokesman Andriy Lysenko informed that in Horlivka DNR terrorists have enforced conscription on city’s residents. In the report, all local residents aged 20 to 60 are thus required to join so-called “self defense” squads, or perform forced labor.

Horlivka is currently under the control of Igor “Demon” Bezler, a Lieutenant Colonel of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

Bezler is known particularly for his discipline, temper, and brutality. In an interview with the Guardian, Bezler openly admitted to executing hostages. “We question them and then shoot them on the spot. Why should we show any pity to them?” he said in one of his many altercations with journalists.

Russian propaganda movie being made about Russian propaganda

In a deliciously meta twist, a propaganda film about the propaganda (and real) war in Ukraine has already begun filming in Russia.

The film, (sarcastically?) titled “Truth,” will launch with the tagline: “Everyone has their own truth…”

Filming has nearly completed in Kaliningrad and focuses on Russian journalists “who for the sake of truthful reporting often sacrifice their lives.”

The storyline is said to involve the Azov Battalion, Berkut police, Donetsk militants, and American mercenaries for good measure. If promotional images for the flick are any indication, I predict the plot involves a fascist Kiev junta who may or may not abduct and murder RT truthseekers who were only trying to warn the world of the democratic Nazi menace.

Hopefully I didn’t ruin the ending.