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FTR#1236 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lie?, Part 9

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“Polit­i­cal language…is designed to make lies sound truth­ful and mur­der respectable, and to give an appear­ance of solid­i­ty to pure wind.”

— George Orwell, 1946

EVERYTHING MR. EMORY HAS BEEN SAYING ABOUT THE UKRAINE WAR IS ENCAPSULATED IN THIS VIDEO FROM UKRAINE 24

­­­FTR#1236 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: In the ongo­ing series about the Ukraine War, Mr. Emory has put forth a metaphor: the war itself and the atten­dant cov­er­age as a “philoso­pher’s stone” alchem­i­cal­ly chang­ing Amer­i­can and West­ern insti­tu­tions and indi­vid­u­als into the same polit­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al fab­ric of the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.

That insti­tu­tion is an epi­cen­ter of Orwellian his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism, rewrit­ing the World War II his­to­ry of Ukraine in such a way as to white­wash the war crimes of the OUN and UPA. Ban­dera head­ed up the OUN/B, the prin­ci­pal Third Reich col­lab­o­ra­tor dur­ing World War II.

Speak­er of the House Nan­cy Pelosi exem­pli­fies that grim polit­i­cal alche­my.

Pri­or to a video appear­ance by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodomyr Zelen­sky, she greet­ed Zelen­sky with the OUN/B salute–which is now the offi­cial salute of both the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary and police estab­lish­ments.

” . . . . House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi on Wednes­day, greet Mr. Zelen­sky with ‘Sla­va Ukraini!,’—‘Glory to Ukraine’—a greet­ing used by Bandera’s troops. . . .”

Oleh Tihany­bok, leader of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion Svo­bo­da, orig­i­nal­ly orga­nized by Andriy Paru­biy.

Since the Maid­an coup in 2014, we have rig­or­ous­ly chron­i­cled the deci­sive involve­ment in that event of the Ukrain­ian fas­cist milieu that ascend­ed to the pin­na­cle of pow­er in that benight­ed coun­try.

The Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionist nature of the regime in pow­er in Ukraine is being sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly white­washed.

Reflect­ing on the sheer vol­ume of doc­u­men­ta­tion we have pre­sent­ed about the ascent of the OUN/B Nazis col­lab­o­ra­tors, we present a cou­ple of snap­shots from those archives.

First, we note that Andriy Parubiy–founder of the Social Nation­al Par­ty of Ukraine (lat­er re-named Svcoboda)–was one of the orga­niz­ers of the so-called “Orange Rev­o­lu­tion” that brought to pow­er Vik­tor Yuschenko (and his wife, U.C.C.A. oper­a­tive and Deputy Direc­tor of Pub­lic Liai­son under R0nald Rea­gan).

His role as “Com­man­der of Maid­an” placed him in close con­tact with then U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Geof­frey Pyatt. Then Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Biden was net­worked with Pyatt at the time. Paru­biy has been accused of help­ing to arrange the sniper fire that killed both pro­test­ers and police, lead­ing to the ouster of Yanukovych.

” . . . . Paru­biy was going in and out of Hotel Ukraina, from where numer­ous dead­ly shots were being fired. . . . Paru­biy, who, accord­ing to for­mer US Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, was con­fer­ring with the US Ambas­sador to Ukraine, Geof­frey Pyatt through­out the upheavals almost on an hourly basis, has nev­er real­ly had his role in the putsch explained. . . .”

Yuschenko ele­vat­ed Volodymyr Via­tro­vych to pow­er, even­tu­al­ly becom­ing head of the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.

On the sub­ject of pro­pa­gan­da and infor­ma­tion war in Ukraine, we note that Zelen­sky is the point man of that infor­ma­tion war and that he is a pro­tege of key Azov financier Igor Kolo­moisky.

Azov” Zelen­sky is the point ele­ment in a—thus far—eminently suc­cess­ful infor­ma­tion war. The dimen­sion and suc­cess of the pro­pa­gan­da craft­ed and dis­sem­i­nat­ed OUN/B suc­ces­sor ele­ments in charge of Ukraine’s gov­ern­men­tal machin­ery would make Goebbels proud.

Con­sum­mate­ly iron­ic is the meme resound­ing­ly echoed in this coun­try that PUTIN is wag­ing an infor­ma­tion war of lies!

The deri­sive dis­missal of Russ­ian claims con­cern­ing ani­mal vec­tors posi­tioned in Ukraine to deliv­er bio­log­i­cal weapons into Rus­sia ignore crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion.

In addi­tion to the fact that we have devel­oped exhaus­tive doc­u­men­ta­tion of U.S. author­ship of the Covid-19, indica­tive of a U.S. will­ing­ness to employ bio­log­i­cal war­fare in pur­suit of its strate­gic objec­tives, Nick Turse chron­i­cled the devel­op­ment of mam­malian, rep­til­ian, aquat­ic and insect life forms as adjuncts to war­fare.

This book was pub­lished in 2008!

As dis­cussed in FTR#1235, doc­u­ments removed by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine–but archived by the Way­back Machine–confirm that the DTRA is among the sources of fund­ing for DOD-financed labs in Ukraine. 

We note that there are sig­nif­i­cant con­nec­tions between the agency over­see­ing the Ukrain­ian projects and insti­tu­tions impli­cat­ed in the appar­ent “bio-skull­dug­gery” sur­round­ing the U.S. bio­log­i­cal war­fare gam­bit involv­ing what Mr. Emory has termed “The Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.” This is dis­cussed in: FTR#‘s 1157–1159, 1170, 1183 through 1193, and 1215.

The essence of the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy” gam­bit con­cerns the DTRA and Pen­ta­gon fund­ing of bat-borne coro­n­avirus research at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, much of it through Peter Dasza­k’s Eco­Health Alliance. Once the research was com­plete, it result­ed in pub­li­ca­tion which includ­ed the genome of the bat virus­es being researched. Using tech­nol­o­gy dis­cussed below, the virus­es were then syn­the­sized from scratch and pop­u­la­tion groups were vec­tored with the same viral strains being researched by the WIV. 

One must ask the ques­tion, also, as to why the Embassy sud­den­ly removed these doc­u­ments?

A crit­i­cal under­stand­ing of the vir­u­lent, over­whelm­ing lying in which the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment is engag­ing can be gleaned from Mar­i­upol. That city is in con­trol of the Nazi Azov reg­i­ment, who con­trol the flow of infor­ma­tion from the besieged metrop­o­lis.

With Zelensky—a pro­tégé of major Azov financier Igor Kolomoisky—parroting the Nazi formation’s rhetoric and being uncrit­i­cal­ly accept­ed by Ukraine’s, it can be said that the West, Biden’s USA in par­tic­u­lar, belongs to the lie.

The pro­nounce­ments com­ing out of Mar­i­upol should be under­stood in the cir­cum­stan­tial con­text of the fact that all of the inter­na­tion­al reporters are out of the city.

In addi­tion, the fact that reportage reach­ing the West has been but­tressed by hand-picked advo­cates of the Zelen­sky regime should be fac­tored into analy­sis of the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the bat­tle­field reportage reach­ing the U.S.

An excel­lent piece of report­ing by Max Blu­men­thal for the Gray Zone. Not­ing “Azov” Zelensky’s hyper­bole about the “Russ­ian bomb­ing” of the dra­ma the­ater in Mariupol—Blumenthal reports on local res­i­dents’ volu­mi­nous accounts of an Azov provo­ca­tion. Far from being “indis­crim­i­nate­ly” bombed by the Rus­sians, Azov appears to have plant­ed and det­o­nat­ed explo­sive charges, destroy­ing the the­ater.

Note that the Ukrain­ian charge of Rus­sia attack­ing a Turk­ish mosque was Azov/Zelensky pro­pa­gan­da as well.

Per­haps the most dis­turb­ing aspect of this dis­in­for­ma­tion is the appar­ent attempt by “Team Azov” to draw the U.S. and NATO into direct con­flict with Rus­sia by cre­at­ing imag­i­nary atroc­i­ties, which—thus far—have been uncrit­i­cal­ly accept­ed by the West.

High­lights of Blumenthal’s reportage:

  1. “ . . . . A clos­er look reveals that local res­i­dents in Mar­i­upol had warned three days before the March 16 inci­dent that the the­ater would be the site of a false flag attack launched by the open­ly neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion, which con­trolled the build­ing and the ter­ri­to­ry around it. . . .”
  2. “ . . . . Civil­ians that escaped the city through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors have tes­ti­fied that they were held by Azov as human shields in area, and that Azov fight­ers det­o­nat­ed parts of the the­ater as they retreat­ed. Despite claims of a mas­sive Russ­ian airstrike that reduced the build­ing to ash­es, all civil­ians appear to have escaped with their lives. . . .
  3. “ . . . . Video of the attack on the the­ater remains unavail­able at the time of pub­li­ca­tion; only pho­tographs of the dam­aged struc­ture can be viewed. The Russ­ian Min­istry of Defense has denied con­duct­ing an airstrike on the the­ater, assert­ing that the site had no mil­i­tary val­ue and that no sor­ties were flown in the area on March 16. . . .”
  4. “ . . . . Kiev’s most emo­tion­al­ly potent alle­ga­tion so far – that Rus­sia delib­er­ate­ly bombed inno­cent chil­dren cow­er­ing inside a the­ater – has been under­cut by tes­ti­monies from Mar­i­upol res­i­dents and a wide­ly viewed Telegram mes­sage explic­it­ly fore­shad­ow­ing a false flag attack on the build­ing. . . .”
  5. “ . . . . On March 7, an Azov Bat­tal­ion com­man­der named Denis Prokopenko appeared on cam­era from Mar­i­upol with an urgent mes­sage. Pub­lished on Azov’s offi­cial YouTube chan­nel and deliv­ered in Eng­lish over the sound of occa­sion­al artillery launch­es, Prokopenko declared that the Russ­ian mil­i­tary was car­ry­ing out a ‘geno­cide’ against the pop­u­la­tion of Mar­i­upol, which hap­pens to be 40 per­cent eth­nic Russ­ian. . . .”
  6. “ . . . . Prokopenko then demand­ed that West­ern nations ‘cre­ate a no fly zone over Ukraine support[ed] with the mod­ern weapons.’ It was clear from Prokopenko’s plea that Azov’s posi­tion was grow­ing more dire by the day. . . .”
  7. “ . . . . As Russia’s mil­i­tary rapid­ly degrad­ed Azov posi­tions through­out the sec­ond week of March 2022, Azov sol­diers appar­ent­ly direct­ed elder­ly civil­ians as well as women and chil­dren into the wardrobe hall of the Donet­sk Aca­d­e­m­ic Region­al Dra­ma The­ater in Mar­i­upol. . . .
  8. “ . . . . On March 12, a chill­ing mes­sage appeared on the Telegram chan­nel of Dmitriy Stesh­en, a cor­re­spon­dent report­ing from Mar­i­upol for the Russ­ian news­pa­per Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da. Accord­ing to Stesh­en, local res­i­dents told him an alleged Russ­ian bomb­ing of the Turk­ish-built Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man mosque in Mar­i­upol that day was a false flag intend­ed to ‘drag Turkey into the war,’ and warned that a false flag attack on the Mar­i­upol Dra­ma The­ater was immi­nent. . . .”
  9. ” . . . On March 12, West­ern out­lets like the Asso­ci­at­ed Press repeat­ed Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment claims that the Turk­ish mosque in Mar­i­upol had been shelled by Rus­sia with 80 civil­ians inside, includ­ing chil­dren. How­ev­er, Turk­ish state media revealed that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment had mis­led West­ern reporters. The Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man Mosque was not only ful­ly intact, it had nev­er been hit by Russ­ian fire. ‘Our mosque remained undam­aged,’ Ismail Hacioglu, head of the mosque’s asso­ci­a­tion, told Turkey’s Andalou Agency on March 12. . . .”
  10. “ . . . . Just hours after Zelensky’s address, news arrived direct­ly from the Azov Battalion’s press depart­ment that Rus­sia had bombed the the­ater in Mar­i­upol. With a monop­oly over infor­ma­tion from the scene of the sup­posed attack, with no oth­er news out­lets present, Azov’s press depart­ment dis­sem­i­nat­ed pho­tos of the destroyed build­ing to media across the world. . . .”
  11. “ . . . . One day before the bomb­ing, on March 15, a group of mil­i­tary-aged men were pho­tographed in front of the Mar­i­upol the­ater. No women were vis­i­ble any­where in the image. The men can be seen plac­ing pal­lets against the side of the build­ing, fer­ry­ing large objects across the the­ater grounds, and cut­ting down a fir tree. . . .”
  12. ” . . . . Accord­ing to Human Rights Watch’s report on the the­ater inci­dent, which con­tained no local tes­ti­mo­ny gath­ered after the attack, the men were ‘cook[ing] food on an open fire and collect[ing] water in buck­ets.’ As seen below, pal­lets and oth­er objects were piled against the same area of the build­ing hit by an explo­sive charge the fol­low­ing day. . . .
  13.  “ . . . . While the the­ater appeared to have been heav­i­ly dam­aged – ‘they bombed the build­ing to ash­es,’ claimed Pono­marenko – it turned out that not one per­son was killed by the blast. ‘It’s a mir­a­cle,’ the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent reporter chirped. . . .”
  14. “ . . . . Fur­ther, ABC claimed the the­ater had been hit by Russ­ian artillery shelling, not an ‘air dropped Russ­ian bomb’ as Pono­marenko and many oth­ers have claimed. Ukrain­ian media, mean­while, has expressed con­fu­sion over the inci­dent. The out­let 0629 has attempt­ed to explain away the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of the thou­sand civil­ians said to have been in the the­ater by claim­ing they were evac­u­at­ed to the city of Zaporozhye a day before the sup­posed attack. ‘we are wait­ing for the offi­cial ver­i­fied infor­ma­tion and do not rush to con­clu­sions,’ the paper declared. . . .
  15. “ . . . . ‘When [Azov sol­diers] were leav­ing, they destroyed the dra­ma the­ater’ The Azov fight­ers were sim­ply hid­ing behind us,’ she told a reporter. ‘We were their human shields, that’s it. They were break­ing every­thing, all around us, they were not let­ting us out­side. We spent 15 days in a base­ment, with kids… They gave us no water, noth­ing.’ . . .”
  16. ” . . . . Describ­ing how the Azov Bat­tal­ion placed its tanks in front of local bomb shel­ters, the woman offered a reveal­ing detail: ‘When they were leav­ing’ she said, refer­ring to the Azov Bat­tal­ion, ‘they destroyed the dra­ma the­atre. Peo­ple with shrap­nel were brought to us.’ . . . .”
  17. “ . . . . Numer­ous evac­uees echoed the woman’s tes­ti­mo­ny about Azov hold­ing Mar­i­upol civil­ians as hostages, and said they were tar­get­ed with gun­fire as they escaped through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors. ‘They burned every­thing,’ an elder­ly woman recalled to Russ­ian media. ‘They bombed [my] whole apart­ment…. They broke in and are sit­ting there, mak­ing Molo­tov cock­tails. I want­ed to come in, to take my things, but they told me: ‘No, you have no busi­ness here.’ . . . .

Geet­ings arch­way “Glo­ry to Hitler! Glo­ry to Ban­dera! Long live the Ukrain­ian Inde­pen­dent State! Long live our leader S. Ban­dera” at Zhovk­va Cas­tle, West­ern Ukraine, July–August 1941.

1. In the ongo­ing series about the Ukraine War, Mr. Emory has put forth a metaphor: the war itself and the atten­dant cov­er­age as a “philoso­pher’s stone” alchem­i­cal­ly chang­ing Amer­i­can and West­ern insti­tu­tions and indi­vid­u­als into the same polit­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al fab­ric of the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.

That insti­tu­tion is an epi­cen­ter of Orwellian his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism, rewrit­ing the World War II his­to­ry of Ukraine in such a way as to white­wash the war crimes of the OUN and UPA. Ban­dera head­ed up the OUN/B, the prin­ci­pal Third Reich col­lab­o­ra­tor dur­ing World War II.

Speak­er of the House Nan­cy Pelosi exem­pli­fies that grim polit­i­cal alche­my.

Pri­or to a video appear­ance by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodomyr Zelen­sky, she greet­ed Zelen­sky with the OUN/B salute–which is now the offi­cial salute of both the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary and police estab­lish­ments.

” . . . . House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi on Wednes­day, greet Mr. Zelen­sky with ‘Sla­va Ukraini!,’—‘Glory to Ukraine’—a greet­ing used by Bandera’s troops. . . .”

“In Con­jur­ing ‘Nazis’ in Ukraine, Putin Stokes Russ­ian Mem­o­ries” by Anton Troianovsky; The New York Times; 3/18/2022; pp. A1-A‑9 [West­ern Print Edi­tion.]

. . . . House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi on Wednes­day, greet Mr. Zelen­sky with “Sla­va Ukraini!,”—“Glory to Ukraine”—a greet­ing used by Bandera’s troops. . . .

Oleh Tihany­bok, leader of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion Svo­bo­da, orig­i­nal­ly orga­nized by Andriy Paru­biy.

2. Since the Maid­an coup in 2014, we have rig­or­ous­ly chron­i­cled the deci­sive involve­ment in that event of the Ukrain­ian fas­cist milieu that ascend­ed to the pin­na­cle of pow­er in that benight­ed coun­try.

The Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionist nature of the regime in pow­er in Ukraine is being sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly white­washed.

Reflect­ing on the sheer vol­ume of doc­u­men­ta­tion we have pre­sent­ed about the ascent of the OUN/B Nazis col­lab­o­ra­tors, we present a cou­ple of snap­shots from those archives.

First, we note that Andriy Parubiy–founder of the Social Nation­al Par­ty of Ukraine (lat­er re-named Svcoboda)–was one of the orga­niz­ers of the so-called “Orange Rev­o­lu­tion” that brought to pow­er Vik­tor Yuschenko (and his wife, U.C.C.A. oper­a­tive and Deputy Direc­tor of Pub­lic Liai­son under R0nald Rea­gan).

His role as “Com­man­der of Maid­an” placed him in close con­tact with then U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Geof­frey Pyatt. Then Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Biden was net­worked with Pyatt at the time. Paru­biy has been accused of help­ing to arrange the sniper fire that killed both pro­test­ers and police, lead­ing to the ouster of Yanukovych.

” . . . . Paru­biy was going in and out of Hotel Ukraina, from where numer­ous dead­ly shots were being fired. . . . Paru­biy, who, accord­ing to for­mer US Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, was con­fer­ring with the US Ambas­sador to Ukraine, Geof­frey Pyatt through­out the upheavals almost on an hourly basis, has nev­er real­ly had his role in the putsch explained. . . .”

Yuschenko ele­vat­ed Volodymyr Via­tro­vych to pow­er, even­tu­al­ly becom­ing head of the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.

Key points of inter­est:

  • Paru­biy was in charge of secu­ri­ty for the Maid­an forces and was in close con­tact with U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Geof­frey Pyatt. He has also been accused of help­ing to arrange sniper provo­ca­tions at the Maid­an. Note then Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s close inter­ac­tion with the Pyatt/Parubiy liai­son: ” . . . . Fol­low­ing his retire­ment from the par­ty, this expe­ri­enced protest activist became one of the main orga­niz­ers of the 2004 ‘Orange Rev­o­lu­tion.’ In 2013, he assumed the same func­tion at the Maid­an, where he was respon­si­ble for none oth­er than secu­ri­ty and the ‘self-defense units,’ which were often made up of heav­i­ly armed thugs. In the Ital­ian TV doc­u­men­tary, it was report­ed that Paru­biy was going in and out of Hotel Ukraina, from where numer­ous dead­ly shots were being fired. Paru­biy, claims that the hotel from which these shots were being fired — which was firm­ly under the Maid­an demon­stra­tors’ con­trol — had been tak­en over ‘by snipers who arrived from Rus­sia and who were con­trolled by Russia.’[5] Paru­biy, who, accord­ing to for­mer US Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, was con­fer­ring with the US Ambas­sador to Ukraine, Geof­frey Pyatt through­out the upheavals almost on an hourly basis, has nev­er real­ly had his role in the putsch explained. Fol­low­ing the putsch, he was first appoint­ed to the post of head of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty and Defense Coun­cil. Since April 14, 2016 he has been serv­ing as Pres­i­dent of Ukraine’s Par­lia­ment. . . .”

3a. On the sub­ject of pro­pa­gan­da and infor­ma­tion war in Ukraine, we note that Zelen­sky is the point man of that infor­ma­tion war and that he is a pro­tege of key Azov financier Igor Kolo­moisky.

Azov” Zelen­sky is the point ele­ment in a—thus far—eminently suc­cess­ful infor­ma­tion war. The dimen­sion and suc­cess of the pro­pa­gan­da craft­ed and dis­sem­i­nat­ed OUN/B suc­ces­sor ele­ments in charge of Ukraine’s gov­ern­men­tal machin­ery would make Goebbels proud.

Con­sum­mate­ly iron­ic is the meme resound­ing­ly echoed in this coun­try that PUTIN is wag­ing an infor­ma­tion war of lies!

“ ‘Truth’ is Just Anoth­er Front in Putin’s War” by Steven Lee Myers and Stu­art A. Thomp­son; The New York Times; 3/21/2022; pp. A1-A-10; [West­ern Edi­tion].

 “ . . . . neo-Nazis. Geno­cide. Amer­i­can bio­log­i­cal weapons fac­to­ries. Birds and rep­tiles trained to car­ry pathogens into Rus­sia. Ukrain­ian forces bomb­ing their own cities, includ­ing the­aters shelling chil­dren. . . .

. . . . By most accounts, Ukraine has so far been win­ning the infor­ma­tion war, led by a pow­er­ful social media oper­a­tion that flood­ed the inter­net with its own jum­ble of anec­dotes and myths, bol­ster­ing morale among Ukraini­ans and unit­ing the West­ern world behind its cause. The most cen­tral fig­ure in their cam­paign has been Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky him­self, whose video mes­sages to Ukraini­ans and the world have com­bined brav­ery with the stage pres­ence of the tele­vi­sion per­former he once was. . . .”

3b. The deri­sive dis­missal of Russ­ian claims con­cern­ing ani­mal vec­tors posi­tioned in Ukraine to deliv­er bio­log­i­cal weapons into Rus­sia ignore crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion.

In addi­tion to the fact that we have devel­oped exhaus­tive doc­u­men­ta­tion of U.S. author­ship of the Covid-19, indica­tive of a U.S. will­ing­ness to employ bio­log­i­cal war­fare in pur­suit of its strate­gic objec­tives, Nick Turse chron­i­cled the devel­op­ment of mam­malian, rep­til­ian, aquat­ic and insect life forms as adjuncts to war­fare.

This book was pub­lished in 2008!

The Com­plex: How The Mil­i­tary Invades Our Every­day Lives by Nick Turse; Pic­a­dor [SC] Met­ro­pol­i­tan Books [Hen­ry Holt & Com­pa­ny]; Copy­right 2008 by Nick Turse; ISBN 978–0‑8050–8919‑6; pp. 222–225. 

4. As dis­cussed in FTR#1235, doc­u­ments removed by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine–but archived by the Way­back Machine–confirm that the DTRA is among the sources of fund­ing for DOD-financed labs in Ukraine. 

We note that there are sig­nif­i­cant con­nec­tions between the agency over­see­ing the Ukrain­ian projects and insti­tu­tions impli­cat­ed in the appar­ent “bio-skull­dug­gery” sur­round­ing the U.S. bio­log­i­cal war­fare gam­bit involv­ing what Mr. Emory has termed “The Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.” This is dis­cussed in: FTR#‘s 1157–1159, 1170, 1183 through 1193, and 1215.

The essence of the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy” gam­bit con­cerns the DTRA and Pen­ta­gon fund­ing of bat-borne coro­n­avirus research at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, much of it through Peter Dasza­k’s Eco­Health Alliance. Once the research was com­plete, it result­ed in pub­li­ca­tion which includ­ed the genome of the bat virus­es being researched. Using tech­nol­o­gy dis­cussed below, the virus­es were then syn­the­sized from scratch and pop­u­la­tion groups were vec­tored with the same viral strains being researched by the WIV. 

One must ask the ques­tion, also, as to why the Embassy sud­den­ly removed these doc­u­ments?

web.archive.org/web/20170130193016/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20210511164310/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170221125752/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20210506053014/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170221125752/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170207122550/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170223011502/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170208032526/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170208032526/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170202040923/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170201004446/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20161230143004/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20210506212717/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170207153023/https://ph web.archive.org/web/20170211022339/https://ph

6. A crit­i­cal under­stand­ing of the vir­u­lent, over­whelm­ing lying in which the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment is engag­ing can be gleaned from Mar­i­upol. That city is in con­trol of the Nazi Azov reg­i­ment, who con­trol the flow of infor­ma­tion from the besieged metrop­o­lis.

With Zelensky—a pro­tégé of major Azov financier Igor Kolomoisky—parroting the Nazi formation’s rhetoric and being uncrit­i­cal­ly accept­ed by Ukraine’s, it can be said that the West, Biden’s USA in par­tic­u­lar, belongs to the lie.

“Art School Is Hit as Hun­dreds Try to Hide” by Valerie Hop­kins, Marc San­to­ra and Cather­ine Porter; The New York Times; 3/21/2022; pp. A1-A-10; [West­ern Edi­tion].

. . . . On Sun­day morn­ing, the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a Ukrain­ian reg­i­ment that has drawn far-right fight­ers from around the world and is charged with the city’s defense, said four Russ­ian naval ves­sels had shelled the city. Large­ly cut off from the out­side world, the toll on civil­ians there is dif­fi­cult to assess.

Last week, a Mar­i­upol the­ater shield­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple was reduced to rub­ble. The word “chil­dren” was writ­ten in huge let­ters on the pave­ment, clear­ly vis­i­ble from the air. Even now, the fates of most of those peo­ple remains unknown.

“The besieged Mar­i­upol will go down in the his­to­ry of respon­si­bil­i­ty for war crimes,” Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky of Ukraine said in a speech to the coun­try late Sat­ur­day night.

“The ter­ror the occu­piers per­pe­trat­ed on this peace­ful city will be remem­bered for cen­turies to come.”

In a video address on Sun­day to Israeli law­mak­ers, Mr. Zelen­sky seem­ing­ly com­pared the suf­fer­ing of his peo­ple to those of the Jews dur­ing the Holocaust—an anal­o­gy some Israeli law­mak­ers crit­i­cized as going too far.

“Our peo­ple are now wan­der­ing in the world, seek­ing secu­ri­ty,” the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent said in the address, broad­cast to crowds in a pub­lic square in Tel Aviv, “as you once did.” . . . .

. . . . As Russ­ian forces pushed into the cen­ter of Mar­i­upol, some 4,500 res­i­dents were forcibly tak­en across the near­by Russ­ian bor­der, accord­ing to Pyotr Andryuschenko an advis­er to Mariupol’s may­or. With no resources in Rus­sia to rely on, they would be at the mer­cy of peo­ple who had tak­en the across the bor­der he said. . . .

. . . . “What the occu­piers are doing today is famil­iar to the old­er gen­er­a­tion, who saw the hor­rif­ic events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly cap­tured peo­ple,” said Mariupol’s may­or Vadym Boy­chenko. . . .

7a. The pro­nounce­ments com­ing out of Mar­i­upol should be under­stood in the cir­cum­stan­tial con­text of the fact that all of the inter­na­tion­al reporters are out of the city.

In addi­tion, the fact that reportage reach­ing the West has been but­tressed by hand-picked advo­cates of the Zelen­sky regime should be fac­tored into analy­sis of the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the bat­tle­field reportage reach­ing the U.S.

“20 days in Mar­i­upol: The team that doc­u­ment­ed city’s agony” by MSTYSLAV CHERNOV; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 03/22/2022

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — The Rus­sians were hunt­ing us down. They had a list of names, includ­ing ours, and they were clos­ing in.

We were the only inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ists left in the Ukrain­ian city, and we had been doc­u­ment­ing its siege by Russ­ian troops for more than two weeks. We were report­ing inside the hos­pi­tal when gun­men began stalk­ing the cor­ri­dors. Sur­geons gave us white scrubs to wear as cam­ou­flage.

Sud­den­ly at dawn, a dozen sol­diers burst in: “Where are the jour­nal­ists, for fu ck’s sake?”

I looked at their arm­bands, blue for Ukraine, and tried to cal­cu­late the odds that they were Rus­sians in dis­guise. I stepped for­ward to iden­ti­fy myself. “We’re here to get you out,” they said.

The walls of the surgery shook from artillery and machine gun fire out­side, and it seemed safer to stay inside. But the Ukrain­ian sol­diers were under orders to take us with them.

___

Mstyslav Cher­nov is a video jour­nal­ist for The Asso­ci­at­ed Press. This is his account of the siege of Mar­i­upol, as doc­u­ment­ed with pho­tog­ra­ph­er Evgeniy Mal­o­let­ka and told to cor­re­spon­dent Lori Hin­nant.

7b. An excel­lent piece of report­ing by Max Blu­men­thal for the Gray Zone. Not­ing “Azov” Zelensky’s hyper­bole about the “Russ­ian bomb­ing” of the dra­ma the­ater in Mariupol—Blumenthal reports on local res­i­dents’ volu­mi­nous accounts of an Azov provo­ca­tion. Far from being “indis­crim­i­nate­ly” bombed by the Rus­sians, Azov appears to have plant­ed and det­o­nat­ed explo­sive charges, destroy­ing the the­ater.

Note that the Ukrain­ian charge of Rus­sia attack­ing a Turk­ish mosque was Azov/Zelensky pro­pa­gan­da as well.

Per­haps the most dis­turb­ing aspect of this dis­in­for­ma­tion is the appar­ent attempt by “Team Azov” to draw the U.S. and NATO into direct con­flict with Rus­sia by cre­at­ing imag­i­nary atroc­i­ties, which—thus far—have been uncrit­i­cal­ly accept­ed by the West.

High­lights of Blumenthal’s reportage:

  1. “ . . . . A clos­er look reveals that local res­i­dents in Mar­i­upol had warned three days before the March 16 inci­dent that the the­ater would be the site of a false flag attack launched by the open­ly neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion, which con­trolled the build­ing and the ter­ri­to­ry around it. . . .”
  2. “ . . . . Civil­ians that escaped the city through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors have tes­ti­fied that they were held by Azov as human shields in area, and that Azov fight­ers det­o­nat­ed parts of the the­ater as they retreat­ed. Despite claims of a mas­sive Russ­ian airstrike that reduced the build­ing to ash­es, all civil­ians appear to have escaped with their lives. . . .
  3. “ . . . . Video of the attack on the the­ater remains unavail­able at the time of pub­li­ca­tion; only pho­tographs of the dam­aged struc­ture can be viewed. The Russ­ian Min­istry of Defense has denied con­duct­ing an airstrike on the the­ater, assert­ing that the site had no mil­i­tary val­ue and that no sor­ties were flown in the area on March 16. . . .”
  4. “ . . . . Kiev’s most emo­tion­al­ly potent alle­ga­tion so far – that Rus­sia delib­er­ate­ly bombed inno­cent chil­dren cow­er­ing inside a the­ater – has been under­cut by tes­ti­monies from Mar­i­upol res­i­dents and a wide­ly viewed Telegram mes­sage explic­it­ly fore­shad­ow­ing a false flag attack on the build­ing. . . .”
  5. “ . . . . On March 7, an Azov Bat­tal­ion com­man­der named Denis Prokopenko appeared on cam­era from Mar­i­upol with an urgent mes­sage. Pub­lished on Azov’s offi­cial YouTube chan­nel and deliv­ered in Eng­lish over the sound of occa­sion­al artillery launch­es, Prokopenko declared that the Russ­ian mil­i­tary was car­ry­ing out a ‘geno­cide’ against the pop­u­la­tion of Mar­i­upol, which hap­pens to be 40 per­cent eth­nic Russ­ian. . . .”
  6. “ . . . . Prokopenko then demand­ed that West­ern nations ‘cre­ate a no fly zone over Ukraine support[ed] with the mod­ern weapons.’ It was clear from Prokopenko’s plea that Azov’s posi­tion was grow­ing more dire by the day. . . .”
  7. “ . . . . As Russia’s mil­i­tary rapid­ly degrad­ed Azov posi­tions through­out the sec­ond week of March 2022, Azov sol­diers appar­ent­ly direct­ed elder­ly civil­ians as well as women and chil­dren into the wardrobe hall of the Donet­sk Aca­d­e­m­ic Region­al Dra­ma The­ater in Mar­i­upol. . . .
  8. “ . . . . On March 12, a chill­ing mes­sage appeared on the Telegram chan­nel of Dmitriy Stesh­en, a cor­re­spon­dent report­ing from Mar­i­upol for the Russ­ian news­pa­per Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da. Accord­ing to Stesh­en, local res­i­dents told him an alleged Russ­ian bomb­ing of the Turk­ish-built Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man mosque in Mar­i­upol that day was a false flag intend­ed to ‘drag Turkey into the war,’ and warned that a false flag attack on the Mar­i­upol Dra­ma The­ater was immi­nent. . . .”
  9. ” . . . On March 12, West­ern out­lets like the Asso­ci­at­ed Press repeat­ed Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment claims that the Turk­ish mosque in Mar­i­upol had been shelled by Rus­sia with 80 civil­ians inside, includ­ing chil­dren. How­ev­er, Turk­ish state media revealed that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment had mis­led West­ern reporters. The Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man Mosque was not only ful­ly intact, it had nev­er been hit by Russ­ian fire. ‘Our mosque remained undam­aged,’ Ismail Hacioglu, head of the mosque’s asso­ci­a­tion, told Turkey’s Andalou Agency on March 12. . . .”
  10. “ . . . . Just hours after Zelensky’s address, news arrived direct­ly from the Azov Battalion’s press depart­ment that Rus­sia had bombed the the­ater in Mar­i­upol. With a monop­oly over infor­ma­tion from the scene of the sup­posed attack, with no oth­er news out­lets present, Azov’s press depart­ment dis­sem­i­nat­ed pho­tos of the destroyed build­ing to media across the world. . . .”
  11. “ . . . . One day before the bomb­ing, on March 15, a group of mil­i­tary-aged men were pho­tographed in front of the Mar­i­upol the­ater. No women were vis­i­ble any­where in the image. The men can be seen plac­ing pal­lets against the side of the build­ing, fer­ry­ing large objects across the the­ater grounds, and cut­ting down a fir tree. . . .”
  12. ” . . . . Accord­ing to Human Rights Watch’s report on the the­ater inci­dent, which con­tained no local tes­ti­mo­ny gath­ered after the attack, the men were ‘cook[ing] food on an open fire and collect[ing] water in buck­ets.’ As seen below, pal­lets and oth­er objects were piled against the same area of the build­ing hit by an explo­sive charge the fol­low­ing day. . . .
  13.  “ . . . . While the the­ater appeared to have been heav­i­ly dam­aged – ‘they bombed the build­ing to ash­es,’ claimed Pono­marenko – it turned out that not one per­son was killed by the blast. ‘It’s a mir­a­cle,’ the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent reporter chirped. . . .”
  14. “ . . . . Fur­ther, ABC claimed the the­ater had been hit by Russ­ian artillery shelling, not an ‘air dropped Russ­ian bomb’ as Pono­marenko and many oth­ers have claimed. Ukrain­ian media, mean­while, has expressed con­fu­sion over the inci­dent. The out­let 0629 has attempt­ed to explain away the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of the thou­sand civil­ians said to have been in the the­ater by claim­ing they were evac­u­at­ed to the city of Zaporozhye a day before the sup­posed attack. ‘we are wait­ing for the offi­cial ver­i­fied infor­ma­tion and do not rush to con­clu­sions,’ the paper declared. . . .
  15. “ . . . . ‘When [Azov sol­diers] were leav­ing, they destroyed the dra­ma the­ater’ The Azov fight­ers were sim­ply hid­ing behind us,’ she told a reporter. ‘We were their human shields, that’s it. They were break­ing every­thing, all around us, they were not let­ting us out­side. We spent 15 days in a base­ment, with kids… They gave us no water, noth­ing.’ . . .”
  16. ” . . . . Describ­ing how the Azov Bat­tal­ion placed its tanks in front of local bomb shel­ters, the woman offered a reveal­ing detail: ‘When they were leav­ing’ she said, refer­ring to the Azov Bat­tal­ion, ‘they destroyed the dra­ma the­atre. Peo­ple with shrap­nel were brought to us.’ . . . .”
  17. “ . . . . Numer­ous evac­uees echoed the woman’s tes­ti­mo­ny about Azov hold­ing Mar­i­upol civil­ians as hostages, and said they were tar­get­ed with gun­fire as they escaped through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors. ‘They burned every­thing,’ an elder­ly woman recalled to Russ­ian media. ‘They bombed [my] whole apart­ment…. They broke in and are sit­ting there, mak­ing Molo­tov cock­tails. I want­ed to come in, to take my things, but they told me: ‘No, you have no busi­ness here.’ . . . .

 “Was bomb­ing of Mar­i­upol the­ater staged by Ukrain­ian Azov extrem­ists to trig­ger NATO inter­ven­tion?” by Max Blu­men­thal; The Gray Zone; 03/18/2022

Tes­ti­mo­ny by evac­u­at­ed Mar­i­upol res­i­dents and warn­ings of a false flag attack under­mine the Ukrain­ian government’s claims about a Russ­ian bomb­ing of a local the­ater shel­ter­ing civil­ians.

West­ern media have report­ed that Russia’s mil­i­tary delib­er­ate­ly attacked the Donet­sk Aca­d­e­m­ic Region­al Dra­ma the­ater in Mar­i­upol, Ukraine, claim­ing that it was filled with civil­ians and marked with signs read­ing “chil­dren” on its grounds.

The sup­posed bomb­ing took place just as Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky appealed to US Con­gress for a no fly zone, fuel­ing the cho­rus for direct mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia and appar­ent­ly inspir­ing Pres­i­dent Joseph Biden to brand Vladimir Putin, the Russ­ian pres­i­dent, as a “war crim­i­nal.”

A clos­er look reveals that local res­i­dents in Mar­i­upol had warned three days before the March 16 inci­dent that the the­ater would be the site of a false flag attack launched by the open­ly neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion, which con­trolled the build­ing and the ter­ri­to­ry around it.

Civil­ians that escaped the city through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors have tes­ti­fied that they were held by Azov as human shields in area, and that Azov fight­ers det­o­nat­ed parts of the the­ater as they retreat­ed. Despite claims of a mas­sive Russ­ian airstrike that reduced the build­ing to ash­es, all civil­ians appear to have escaped with their lives.

Video of the attack on the the­ater remains unavail­able at the time of pub­li­ca­tion; only pho­tographs of the dam­aged struc­ture can be viewed. The Russ­ian Min­istry of Defense has denied con­duct­ing an airstrike on the the­ater, assert­ing that the site had no mil­i­tary val­ue and that no sor­ties were flown in the area on March 16.

While the Russ­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tion in Ukraine has trig­gered a human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis in Mar­i­upol, it is clear that Rus­sia gained noth­ing by tar­get­ing the the­ater, and vir­tu­al­ly guar­an­teed itself anoth­er pub­lic rela­tions blow by tar­get­ing a build­ing filled with civil­ians – includ­ing eth­nic Rus­sians.

Azov, on the oth­er hand, stood to ben­e­fit from a dra­mat­ic and gris­ly attack blamed on Rus­sia. In full retreat all around Mar­i­upol and fac­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of bru­tal treat­ment at the hands of a Russ­ian mil­i­tary hell­bent on “de-Naz­i­fi­ca­tion,” its fight­ers’ only hope seemed to lie in trig­ger­ing direct NATO inter­ven­tion.

The same sense of des­per­a­tion informed Zelensky’s care­ful­ly script­ed address to Con­gress, in which he invoked Mar­tin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and played a heav­i­ly pro­duced video depict­ing civil­ian suf­fer­ing to make the case for a no fly zone.

By insti­gat­ing West­ern pub­lic out­rage over gris­ly Russ­ian war crimes, Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment is clear­ly aim­ing to gen­er­ate enough pres­sure to over­come the Biden administration’s reluc­tance to direct­ly con­front Russia’s mil­i­tary.

But Kiev’s most emo­tion­al­ly potent alle­ga­tion so far – that Rus­sia delib­er­ate­ly bombed inno­cent chil­dren cow­er­ing inside a the­ater – has been under­cut by tes­ti­monies from Mar­i­upol res­i­dents and a wide­ly viewed Telegram mes­sage explic­it­ly fore­shad­ow­ing a false flag attack on the build­ing.

Azov Bat­tal­ion fight­ers grow des­per­ate in Mar­i­upol, plea for West­ern mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion

The strate­gic south­east­ern port city of Mar­i­upol has been held by the Azov Bat­tal­ion since 2014. Since its seizure, it has served as a polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary base for the ultra-nation­al­ist para­mil­i­tary as it launched assaults on pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the break­away repub­lic of Donet­sk.

Gath­ered from the ranks of extreme right activists that pro­vid­ed pro­test­ers with street mus­cle dur­ing the 2013–14 Euro­maid­an coup, the Azov Bat­tal­ion has been for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed into the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard by the country’s Inte­ri­or Min­istry. It was found­ed by the open­ly fas­cist orga­niz­er Andriy Bilet­sky, who has vowed to “lead the white races of the world in a final cru­sade … against Semi­te-led Unter­men­schen.”

With the Nazi-inspired Wolf­san­gel sym­bol embla­zoned on their uni­forms and flags, Azov fight­ers make no secret of their ide­o­log­i­cal goals. Despite hav­ing been iden­ti­fied by the FBIUS Con­gress, and its own fight­ers as a neo-Nazi unit, and impli­cat­ed in an array of sor­did human rights vio­la­tions, Azov has col­lab­o­rat­ed open­ly with US and Cana­di­an mil­i­tary train­ers.

Hav­ing accused Azov of seek­ing to exter­mi­nate the eth­nic Rus­sians of Don­bas, Putin has marked its base in Mar­i­upol as the front line of his stat­ed cam­paign to “de-Naz­i­fy” Ukraine. Since Russia’s Feb­ru­ary 24 inva­sion of Ukraine, the city become the site of fero­cious urban fight­ing, with Russ­ian spe­cial forces and Donet­sk People’s Repub­lic People’s Mili­tia forces wag­ing a block-by-block fight for con­trol as artillery rained down on Azov posi­tions.

On March 7, an Azov Bat­tal­ion com­man­der named Denis Prokopenko appeared on cam­era from Mar­i­upol with an urgent mes­sage. Pub­lished on Azov’s offi­cial YouTube chan­nel and deliv­ered in Eng­lish over the sound of occa­sion­al artillery launch­es, Prokopenko declared that the Russ­ian mil­i­tary was car­ry­ing out a “geno­cide” against the pop­u­la­tion of Mar­i­upol, which hap­pens to be 40 per­cent eth­nic Russ­ian.

Prokopenko then demand­ed that West­ern nations “cre­ate a no fly zone over Ukraine support[ed] with the mod­ern weapons.” It was clear from Prokopenko’s plea that Azov’s posi­tion was grow­ing more dire by the day.

As Russia’s mil­i­tary rapid­ly degrad­ed Azov posi­tions through­out the sec­ond week of March 2022, Azov sol­diers appar­ent­ly direct­ed elder­ly civil­ians as well as women and chil­dren into the wardrobe hall of the Donet­sk Aca­d­e­m­ic Region­al Dra­ma The­ater in Mar­i­upol.

A video filmed inside the dim­ly lit build­ing on March 11 fea­tured a local man claim­ing that one thou­sand civil­ians were trapped inside and demand­ing a human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor to allow them to escape. Only a small group of civil­ians could be seen in the video, how­ev­er.

“I’m beg­ging you to stop all this, give us the cor­ri­dor to get peo­ple out, to get out women, kids, the wound­ed…” a bespec­ta­cled nar­ra­tor (seen below) declared in the video.

Since Rus­sia launched its inva­sion, Azov Bat­tal­ion sol­diers have been filmed pre­vent­ing civil­ians from leav­ing Mar­i­upol – even forc­ing men out of their cars and bru­tal­ly assault­ing them while they attempt­ed to break through the paramilitary’s check­points. If tes­ti­mo­ny from many Mar­i­upol res­i­dents was to be believed, Azov had used many of them as human shields.

Ukrain­ian neo-Nazi in Mar­i­upol tells girl about can­cel­la­tion of evac­u­a­tion, “say thank you for not being shot” Azov’s bat­tal­ion hid­ing behind civil­ians pic.twitter.com/2ypQwr4t9J— ZOKA (@200_zoka) March 5, 2022

Days before Mar­i­upol the­ater inci­dent, chill­ing warn­ings of a false flag “provo­ca­tion”

On March 12, a chill­ing mes­sage appeared on the Telegram chan­nel of Dmitriy Stesh­en, a cor­re­spon­dent report­ing from Mar­i­upol for the Russ­ian news­pa­per Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da.

Accord­ing to Stesh­en, local res­i­dents told him an alleged Russ­ian bomb­ing of the Turk­ish-built Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man mosque in Mar­i­upol that day was a false flag intend­ed to “drag Turkey into the war,” and warned that a false flag attack on the Mar­i­upol Dra­ma The­ater was immi­nent.

The Telegram mes­sage read as fol­lows:

“Look at what our read­ers from Mar­i­upol sent us. If the infor­ma­tion can be ver­i­fied, it needs to be high­light­ed [for the media]:

‘Zelen­sky pre­pares two [false flag] provo­ca­tions in Mar­i­upol!!! One of the [false flag] provo­ca­tion is against the cit­i­zens of Turkey, who hid in the mosque built by Akhme­tov, and this provo­ca­tion has already begun by the Ukrain­ian artillery gun­ners shelling the grounds of the mosque, from their posi­tions at [Zin­ste­va] Bal­ka in Nizh­ni­aya [Low­er] Kir­vo­ka. Zelen­sky was unable to drag the EU, USA and UK into the war against the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion. Now, Zelen­sky is try­ing to drag Turkey into the war, pin­ning his hopes on the explo­sive emo­tion­al char­ac­ter and the love the faith­ful feel for their sacred shrines.

The sec­ond [false flag] provo­ca­tion Zelen­sky is prepar­ing for use by West­ern media, after unsuc­cess­ful provo­ca­tion with the [Mar­i­upol] mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, Ukrain­ian sol­diers, togeth­er with the admin­is­tra­tion of the Dra­ma The­ater, gath­ered women, chil­dren, and the elder­ly from Mar­i­upol in the Dra­ma The­ater build­ing, so as to – giv­en a good oppor­tu­ni­ty – det­o­nate the build­ing and then scream around the world that this was by the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion air force and that there should be an imme­di­ate ‘no fly zone’ over Ukraine.’”

Steshin’s mes­sage recount­ing the warn­ings from Mar­i­upol res­i­dents has been seen by over 480,000 Telegram users. It is below and can also be viewed here.

[see screen­shot of Telegram post]

On March 12, West­ern out­lets like the Asso­ci­at­ed Press repeat­ed Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment claims that the Turk­ish mosque in Mar­i­upol had been shelled by Rus­sia with 80 civil­ians inside, includ­ing chil­dren.

How­ev­er, Turk­ish state media revealed that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment had mis­led West­ern reporters. The Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man Mosque was not only ful­ly intact, it had nev­er been hit by Russ­ian fire.

“Our mosque remained undam­aged,” Ismail Hacioglu, head of the mosque’s asso­ci­a­tion, told Turkey’s Andalou Agency on March 12.

Still filled with civil­ians, the Mar­i­upol the­ater was next on somebody’s tar­get list.

As Zelen­sky begs Con­gress for mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion, news of a the­ater attack

Less than 48 hours after the debunked claims of a Russ­ian attack on the mosque in Mar­i­upol were intro­duced, human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors final­ly opened up around the city. The flight of thou­sands of civil­ians toward Russ­ian mil­i­tary posi­tions fur­ther weak­ened the Azov Bat­tal­ion, which was using Mariupol’s res­i­dents as col­lat­er­al in its bid to com­pel a no fly zone.

On March 16, with his mil­i­tary col­laps­ing under the Russ­ian onslaught, the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent and famed come­di­an-actor Zelen­sky appeared by video for a care­ful­ly script­ed, elab­o­rate­ly pro­duced pre­sen­ta­tion before an assem­bly of awestruck US mem­bers of Con­gress.

“I have a dream. These words are known to each of you today. I can say I have a need. I need to pro­tect our sky,” Zelen­sky pro­claimed. The Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent thus invoked the most famous words of America’s most revered anti­war activist, Mar­tin Luther King Jr., to appeal for a no fly zone that would bring the nuclear-armed mil­i­taries of the US and Rus­sia into direct con­fronta­tion.

Just hours after Zelensky’s address, news arrived direct­ly from the Azov Battalion’s press depart­ment that Rus­sia had bombed the the­ater in Mar­i­upol.

With a monop­oly over infor­ma­tion from the scene of the sup­posed attack, with no oth­er news out­lets present, Azov’s press depart­ment dis­sem­i­nat­ed pho­tos of the destroyed build­ing to media across the world.

The Azov Battalion’s water­mark can be seen clear­ly in the low­er right hand cor­ner of the image below. Azov’s pho­to was repub­lished by inter­na­tion­al out­lets includ­ing Sky News, but with the paramilitary’s brand cropped out. When South Chi­na Morn­ing Post ran the image, it removed the water­mark and cred­it­ed “Azov Bat­tal­ion via AP.”

Among the first Eng­lish lan­guage media fig­ures to con­vey the Ukrain­ian government’s nar­ra­tive of the inci­dent to a mass audi­ence was Illia Pono­marenko, a Kiev-based, US-trained reporter who has man­aged to rack up over a mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers since Russia’s inva­sion began.

The famous Dra­ma The­ater in Mariupol.De-nazified by a Russ­ian air-dropped bomb today, on March 16, 2022. Fu ck you Rus­sia. You’re going to pay for this. pic.twitter.com/ZQuGW6hL55— Illia Pono­marenko ???? (@IAPonomarenko) March 16, 2022

See this red roof? It’s a dra­ma the­ater in Mar­i­upol, we called it “the Dram.” See those lit­tle let­ters on the square? They read “KIDS” in Russ­ian. That was a mes­sage to Russ­ian bomber crews. But you know what – they bombed the build­ing to ash­es any­way. Because they’re ani­mals. pic.twitter.com/xYOkC7CPm5— Illia Pono­marenko ???? (@IAPonomarenko) March 16, 2022

Pono­marenko hap­pened to work for the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, an out­let that has func­tioned as one of the most potent US infor­ma­tion weapons in Ukraine. The paper had been set up with assis­tance from the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy, a US intel­li­gence cut-out, and an “emer­gency grant” from its EU-fund­ed cousin, the Euro­pean Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy.

For his part, Pono­marenko has referred to the Azov Bat­tal­ion as his “broth­ers in arms”, and boast­ed of “chill­ing out” with its fight­ers near “ene­my lines.”

Seem­ing­ly swept up in the emo­tion­al mael­strom inspired by the news from Mar­i­upol, Pres­i­dent Joseph Biden blast­ed his Russ­ian coun­ter­part, Vladimir Putin, as a “war crim­i­nal,” a “mur­der­ous dic­ta­tor,” and a “pure thug.”

Next, Human Rights Watch issued a hasti­ly com­posed press release head­lined, “Mar­i­upol The­ater Hit By Russ­ian Attack Shel­tered Hun­dreds.” The bil­lion­aire-backed NGO acknowl­edged it had not inter­viewed any Mar­i­upol res­i­dents after the attack, and pro­vid­ed no evi­dence to demon­strate Russ­ian respon­si­bil­i­ty. Indeed, HRW’s lone source fin­ger­ing Rus­sia as the cul­prit was the Ukrain­ian gov­er­nor of Donet­sk.

Was Russia’s mil­i­tary so blood­thirsty – and polit­i­cal­ly self-destruc­tive – that it had delib­er­ate­ly tar­get­ed a build­ing that was known to be filled with chil­dren? Or had the Mar­i­upol res­i­dents’ pre­dic­tion of a false flag from four days before come true?

Sus­pi­cious signs, holes in the Ukrain­ian government’s nar­ra­tive emerge

Though Azov boasts a sophis­ti­cat­ed press unit which films its exploits in the field, and sol­diers are pub­lish­ing even the most banal video of them­selves on social media, footage of the the­ater bomb­ing was nowhere to be found.

Pho­tos sup­plied by Azov to media in Ukraine and abroad invari­ably depict the bombed-out the­ater with­out any peo­ple in sight, liv­ing or dead.

One day before the bomb­ing, on March 15, a group of mil­i­tary-aged men were pho­tographed in front of the Mar­i­upol the­ater. No women were vis­i­ble any­where in the image. The men can be seen plac­ing pal­lets against the side of the build­ing, fer­ry­ing large objects across the the­ater grounds, and cut­ting down a fir tree.

Accord­ing to Human Rights Watch’s report on the the­ater inci­dent, which con­tained no local tes­ti­mo­ny gath­ered after the attack, the men were “cook[ing] food on an open fire and collect[ing] water in buck­ets.”

As seen below, pal­lets and oth­er objects were piled against the same area of the build­ing hit by an explo­sive charge the fol­low­ing day.

[see pho­to of objects piled next to the­ater before the bomb­ing]

[see pho­to of same loca­tion afte the bomb­ing]

While the the­ater appeared to have been heav­i­ly dam­aged – “they bombed the build­ing to ash­es,” claimed Pono­marenko – it turned out that not one per­son was killed by the blast.

“It’s a mir­a­cle,” the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent reporter chirped.

It’s a mir­a­cle – civil­ians that were hid­ing in a base­ment at the Dra­ma The­ater in Mar­i­upol sur­vived the air strike.Now they are get­ting evac­u­at­ed from under­neath the ruins.— Illia Pono­marenko ???? (@IAPonomarenko) March 17, 2022

In a 7‑minute-long March 17 pack­age blend­ing news and agit­prop, ABC News claimed that all civil­ians had been saved from the the­ater, but that “hun­dreds were still miss­ing.” Data on the mod­est-sized the­ater repro­duced on its Ukrain­ian Wikipedia page puts its max­i­mum seat­ing capac­i­ty at 680, which rais­es ques­tions about how “hun­dreds” could have fit in its base­ment.

Fur­ther, ABC claimed the the­ater had been hit by Russ­ian artillery shelling, not an “air dropped Russ­ian bomb” as Pono­marenko and many oth­ers have claimed.

Ukrain­ian media, mean­while, has expressed con­fu­sion over the inci­dent. The out­let 0629 has attempt­ed to explain away the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of the thou­sand civil­ians said to have been in the the­ater by claim­ing they were evac­u­at­ed to the city of Zaporozhye a day before the sup­posed attack. “we are wait­ing for the offi­cial ver­i­fied infor­ma­tion and do not rush to con­clu­sions,” the paper declared.

As Mar­i­upol res­i­dents poured out of the city through the Russ­ian military’s human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors, tes­ti­monies began to emerge of ruth­less Azov attacks on the flee­ing civil­ians – and of a major decep­tion at the local the­ater.

“When [Azov sol­diers] were leav­ing, they destroyed the dra­ma the­ater”

On March 17, a young woman deliv­ered an eye-open­ing account of the sit­u­a­tion inside Mar­i­upol to ANNA, the Abk­haz­ian Net­work News Agency.

“The Azov fight­ers were sim­ply hid­ing behind us,” she told a reporter. “We were their human shields, that’s it. They were break­ing every­thing, all around us, they were not let­ting us out­side. We spent 15 days in a base­ment, with kids… They gave us no water, noth­ing.”

Describ­ing how the Azov Bat­tal­ion placed its tanks in front of local bomb shel­ters, the woman offered a reveal­ing detail: “When they were leav­ing,” she said, refer­ring to the Azov Bat­tal­ion, “they destroyed the dra­ma the­atre. Peo­ple with shrap­nel were brought to us.”

Mul­ti­ple peo­ple from #Mar­i­upol said that Azov Nazis held civil­ians as human shields in the local the­ater. When the Russ­ian advance forced them to retreat, they blew up the the­ater to frame Russ­ian forces. This plan was pub­lished 3 days in advance by an Azov desert­er. pic.twitter.com/Xh3C9vWNbC— Jake Mor­pho­nios ?? Black­stone Intel­li­gence (@morphonios) March 17, 2022

Numer­ous evac­uees echoed the woman’s tes­ti­mo­ny about Azov hold­ing Mar­i­upol civil­ians as hostages, and said they were tar­get­ed with gun­fire as they escaped through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors.

“They burned every­thing,” an elder­ly woman recalled to Russ­ian media. “They bombed [my] whole apart­ment…. They broke in and are sit­ting there, mak­ing Molo­tov cock­tails. I want­ed to come in, to take my things, but they told me: ‘No, you have no busi­ness here.’”

Asked by a reporter who attacked her and invad­ed her home, the woman replied, “Well, the Ukraini­ans, of course.”

#MARIUPOL—#2—Interviews with #Ukraine|ian refugees evac­u­at­ing to #Rus­sia-con­trolled zones.
[Tran­script in 2nd tweet] 1/2#UkraineRussia #Rus­si­aUkraine #UkraineRus­si­aWar #Rus­sianUkraini­an­War #Mar­i­upol­Dra­maTh­e­atre #UkraineCri­sis #UkraineWar #Ukraine­Un­der­At­tack #UkraineRussie pic.twitter.com/9JE3c0wrCX

— Gleb Bazov (@gbazov) March 17, 2022

A man inter­cept­ed by an ANNA reporter after escap­ing Mar­i­upol fought back tears as he point­ed back to the Ukrain­ian military’s posi­tions. “Azov, those bitch­es… peo­ple tried to evac­u­ate… Azov… they exe­cut­ed the peo­ple… the mon­sters, scum… they shot them up, entire bus­es.”

“The Ukrain­ian army was shoot­ing us, shoot­ing at peo­ple,” said anoth­er man who fled Mar­i­upol. “Right at our house.”

“Ukraine didn’t let us leave the city, we were blocked,” anoth­er evac­uee stat­ed. “The Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary arrived and said, under no cir­cum­stances are you to leave the city if the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion opens a human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor for you. We want to con­tin­ue to use you as a human shield.”

“We hate Ukraine! Thank you very much to the Russ­ian army” Refugees from Mar­i­upol tell how the Ukrain­ian army refused to open human­i­tar­i­an ‘cor­ri­dors’ from the city and shot at civil­ians.” pic.twitter.com/cYmpUBmKoX— Drebonac­ci (@andre_mihaescu) March 17, 2022

 

 

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR#1236 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lie?, Part 9”

  1. There was an inter­est­ing admis­sion in a report in the Dai­ly Mail on the sit­u­a­tion in Mar­i­upol: eye-wit­ness con­fir­ma­tion that the Azov Bat­tal­ion is indeed using civil­ians as human shields. That was the tes­ti­mo­ny we got from a British pro­fes­sor, Char­lie Gilke­son, who was lec­tur­ing at a uni­ver­si­ty in Mar­i­upol and end­ed up recent­ly escap­ing to Rus­sia. Accord­ing to Gilkeson’s descrip­tion of the Azov Bat­tal­ion, “Some of them were drunk. Peo­ple on our block had Azov shoot­ing at any­thing, using local peo­ple as human shields.’”

    It’s the kind of report that should­n’t sur­prise us at all at this point, and rais­es the big ques­tion of how many more peo­ple flee­ing out of Mar­i­upol will end up mak­ing the same human shield claims and the big­ger ques­tion of how the West­ern press is going to han­dle those reports. It’s the kind of sto­ry that deeply com­pli­cates the pre­vail­ing nar­ra­tive about what’s actu­al­ly tak­ing place in that city. A nar­ra­tive that’s already been chal­lenged by all of the ques­tions still swirling around what actu­al­ly cause the explo­sion at the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater. Includ­ing ques­tions about how many peo­ple were killed or even at the the­ater at the time.

    And as we’re going to see in an impor­tant Gray­zone arti­cle below, those ques­tions become even more com­pelling when we look at the back­grounds of some of the peo­ple gen­er­at­ing the reports about what hap­pened in that attack and what is still going on in that city. Ques­tions that include the mys­tery of what we still have no video footage show­ing any bod­ies being extri­cat­ed from the rub­ble. Yes, get­ting footage out of Mar­i­upol is excep­tion­al­ly dif­fi­cult. But it’s been hap­pen­ing and we have yet to see any bod­ies. It’s more than a lit­tle curi­ous giv­en the immense pro­pa­gan­da val­ue that such videos would pro­vide.

    It’s a mys­tery that got a lit­tle more mys­tery last week with a report in The Econ­o­mist that includ­ed an eye­wit­ness who claimed to have seen sev­ered arms, legs and heads every­where imme­di­ate­ly after the explo­sion. Again, no video or pho­tos of those bod­ies were pro­vid­ed, although pho­tos of the blown up build­ings were in the report.

    And that’s all why one of the grow­ing dark ques­tions swirling around what’s hap­pen­ing in Mar­i­upol is the ques­tion of why, in an era of ubiq­ui­tous hand-held videos, are we not get­ting video con­fir­ma­tion of the large num­ber of peo­ple we are told were killed in that the­ater? Along with the fol­low up ques­tion of how this sto­ry will be han­dled by the west­ern press should that evi­dence nev­er arrive.

    Ok, first, here’s that Dai­ly Mail piece fea­tur­ing an eye wit­ness refugee from Mar­i­upol with some inter­est­ing details to share. Details like the Azov Bat­tal­ion using his neigh­bors as human shields:

    The Dai­ly Mail

    ‘That’s it — we’re going’: Brit, 68, and his wife fled the hor­ror of Mar­i­upol on foot and walked into Rus­sia after weeks being trapped in the ‘hell on earth’ of the besieged Ukrain­ian city, writes IAN BIRRELL

    * A British man escaped besieged Mar­i­upol by walk­ing to Rus­sia with his wife
    * Char­lie Gilke­son, 68, a lec­tur­er from York­shire, went through ‘hell on earth’
    * He had tak­en some time off work to ren­o­vate his flat when the shelling start­ed
    * In the lead up to the inva­sion, the cou­ple both got Covid, then all flights were can­celled on the first day of Putin’s inva­sion which saw the city bombed
    * The cou­ple decid­ed to flee as relent­less Russ­ian bom­bard­ment grew worse, head­ing through the People’s Repub­lic of Donet­sk with their neigh­bours
    * He plans to write a book about his expe­ri­ence flee­ing the slaugh­ter in Mar­i­upol

    By Ian Bir­rell In Mar­i­upol, Ukraine For The Dai­ly Mail

    Pub­lished: 18:00 EDT, 23 March 2022 | Updat­ed: 05:56 EDT, 24 March 2022

    A British man has escaped from the dev­as­tat­ed city of Mar­i­upol by walk­ing to Rus­sia after becom­ing trapped with his wife for almost a month in ‘hell on earth’.

    Char­lie Gilke­son, 68, a lec­tur­er from York­shire, said the cou­ple felt ‘very, very lucky’ after sur­viv­ing the fero­cious fight­ing for con­trol of Mar­i­upol, the key Ukrain­ian port, which has been blown apart and left blaz­ing by weeks of relent­less Russ­ian bom­bard­ment.

    ‘It was just explo­sions every­where,’ he said. ‘You could not walk any­where. Every explo­sion could be your last moment on earth. Every sec­ond could be your final one alive.’

    One month after the war began, Mar­i­upol now encap­su­lates the hor­rors of the inva­sion.

    Satel­lite images show a ruined land­scape with burn­ing build­ings and destroyed homes, yet almost 100,000 peo­ple remain in what the local coun­cil have called the ‘ash­es of a dead land’.

    Mr Gilke­son, whose wife Iry­na comes from the city once home to almost half a mil­lion peo­ple on the Sea of Azov, said their expe­ri­ences were beyond belief. ‘I’ve seen things I nev­er expect­ed to see in my life – the noise, the dev­as­ta­tion, it’s all just hor­ren­dous.’

    He told the Dai­ly Mail about build­ings rid­dled with bul­lets, chop­ping down trees for cook­ing on open fires, fetch­ing water from the riv­er, see­ing loot­ing from shops and – above all – the end­less explo­sions that have left bod­ies lit­ter­ing the streets.

    ...

    Even­tu­al­ly, assist­ed by a local woman who spoke Eng­lish, they found a spot with an occa­sion­al phone sig­nal and Iry­na man­aged to get a mes­sage to their fam­i­lies via a friend in Kyiv that they were alive. ‘Every­one was just amaz­ing,’ he said.

    Mr Gilke­son, who plans to write a book on his expe­ri­ences and analy­sis of the war’s caus­es, said rumours of pos­si­ble human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors and cease­fires left them on an emo­tion­al roller­coast­er.

    He was also crit­i­cal of the Azov bat­tal­ion, a for­mer mili­tia that is now part of the Ukrain­ian army: ‘Some of them were drunk. Peo­ple on our block had Azov shoot­ing at any­thing, using local peo­ple as human shields.’

    But he said sol­diers and cit­i­zens on both sides assist­ed their escape through an area seized by Russ­ian forces.

    The cou­ple spent a night in a school, then two more in a cin­e­ma in the so-called Donet­sk People’s Repub­lic before they crossed into Rus­sia.

    ‘I must admit there were one or two raised eye­brows when I went into Rus­sia,’ Mr Gilke­son said. ‘They were think­ing why is the crazy Eng­lish­man try­ing to get into Rus­sia, because every­body was going West.

    ‘But I used my gut instinct. I know ordi­nary Rus­sians, I’m mar­ried to one, so I went the oth­er way – and so far it has worked.’

    ...

    ———-

    “ ‘That’s it — we’re going’: Brit, 68, and his wife fled the hor­ror of Mar­i­upol on foot and walked into Rus­sia after weeks being trapped in the ‘hell on earth’ of the besieged Ukrain­ian city, writes IAN BIRRELL” by Ian Bir­rell; The Dai­ly Mail; 03/23/2022

    “He was also crit­i­cal of the Azov bat­tal­ion, a for­mer mili­tia that is now part of the Ukrain­ian army: ‘Some of them were drunk. Peo­ple on our block had Azov shoot­ing at any­thing, using local peo­ple as human shields.’”

    And that’s one more wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny about Azov shoot­ing at locals and using civil­ians as human shields. Keep in mind that there’s noth­ing con­tra­dic­to­ry about Azov both shoot­ing at locals if and using them as human shield. Shoot­ing at civil­ians when they flee is one way to con­vince them to decide to stay and remain human shields.

    It’s also the kind of behav­ior that would be con­sis­tent with blow­ing up a the­ater as part of a false flat oper­a­tion. Although let’s recall part of what makes the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater bomb­ing so strange: the ini­tial reports were that were there no deaths. At least no read­i­ly dis­cov­er­able deaths. Any­one killed would have had to have been buried under the rub­ble.

    But then the sto­ry of the dra­ma the­ater bomb­ing got stranger. Stranger in the sense that, almost two weeks after the bomb­ing, there is still no actu­al evi­dence that any­one has been killed, like videos of bod­ies being dis­cov­ered under the rub­ble. Yes, get­ting footage of any­thing out of Mar­i­upol is dif­fi­cult right now. But con­sid­er­ing the immense pro­pa­gan­da val­ue that such footage would pro­vide to the Azov Bat­tal­ion oper­at­ing there, it’s hard to imag­ine that such footage would still be effec­tive­ly with­held from the world if it exist­ed. And in an era of ubiq­ui­tous cam­era phones, it’s hard to imag­ine that such videos would­n’t have been cre­at­ed if indeed bod­ies were being dis­cov­ered in that rub­ble. But at this point, we’re still try­ing to get some sort of con­fir­ma­tion that any­one was killed in that event.

    And that brings us to the fol­low­ing Gray­zone piece about the cov­er­age of the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater bomb­ing. Specif­i­cal­ly, cov­er­age by the BBC led by Orysia Khimi­ak, an indi­vid­ual who describes her­self as a “a fix­er in Lviv for jour­nal­ists for reporters who show hon­est image of Russ­ian war against Ukraine. Ukraine will resist.” She pre­vi­ous­ly worked as the direc­tor of pub­lic rela­tions for Reface, an app cur­rent­ly used in Ukraine’s pro­pa­gan­da bat­tle with Rus­sia. Oh, and she’s been tweet­ing things out like, “I just can’t accept opin­ion that not all Rus­sians are bad. All I feel is pain and hate, because their silence is a con­se­quence of this war.” And that’s the per­son lead­ing the BBC’s cov­er­age of the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater bomb­ing. So when we’re try­ing to under­stand the spot­ty nature of the cov­er­age of that attack and all of ques­tions sur­round­ing what exact­ly hap­pened, this is the kind of back­ground info that we unfor­tu­nate­ly have to digest:

    The Gray­zone

    BBC cor­re­spon­dent-fix­er shap­ing Ukraine war cov­er­age is PR oper­a­tive involved in “war-mes­sag­ing tool”

    Max Blu­men­thal
    March 25, 2022

    BBC reports on the sus­pi­cious destruc­tion of a the­ater in the Ukrain­ian city of Mar­i­upol were co-authored by a Ukrain­ian PR agent tied to a firm at the fore­front of her country’s infor­ma­tion war­fare efforts.

    Before serv­ing as a fix­er and reporter for the BBC in Ukraine, Orysia Khimi­ak han­dled PR for a start-up called Reface which cre­at­ed what the Wash­ing­ton Post called a “real­i­ty dis­tort­ing app” now serv­ing as “a kind of Ukrain­ian war-mes­sag­ing tool.”

    Accord­ing to her Linkedin pro­file, Khimi­ak was the direc­tor of PR for Reface until Octo­ber 2021. While work­ing that job, Khimi­ak says she built “long-term rela­tion­ships with edi­tors and media rep­re­sen­ta­tives.” She has also over­seen a PR course for the Kiev-based Pro­jec­tor Insti­tute, whose web­site cur­rent­ly greets vis­i­tors with the slo­gan, “Glo­ry to Ukraine. We Will Win.”

    With her wealth of media con­tacts, Khimi­ak now plays an instru­men­tal role in shap­ing BBC’s cov­er­age of the Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian war. She has even shared a byline with the network’s Lviv-based cor­re­spon­dent, Hugo Bachega, co-author­ing reports focused on demon­strat­ing Russ­ian cul­pa­bil­i­ty for the bomb­ing of the Mar­i­upol dra­mat­ic the­ater.

    Khimi­ak broad­casts her polit­i­cal bias in her Twit­ter bio, stat­ing that she is “a fix­er in Lviv for jour­nal­ists for reporters who show hon­est image of Russ­ian war against Ukraine. Ukraine will resist.”

    Khimiak’s Twit­ter back­ground ref­er­ences the “Snake Island” stand­off which was wide­ly report­ed by main­stream West­ern media out­lets and her­ald­ed as a tes­ta­ment to Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary brav­ery. Accord­ing to Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, 13 Ukrain­ian bor­der guards “died hero­ical­ly” defend­ing an island base against they Russ­ian Navy. “Russ­ian war­ship, go fu ck your­self!” were the sol­diers’ final words, or so the sto­ry went.

    The Ukrain­ian guards ulti­mate­ly turned up alive as Russ­ian cap­tives. The entire sto­ry of courage under fire, includ­ing the Snake Island defend­ers’ famous last words, was a myth – one of so many sto­ries fab­ri­cat­ed or heav­i­ly dis­tort­ed by pro-Ukraine ele­ments that they have become impos­si­ble to count.

    On the Twit­ter page of the PR agent-turned-BBC cor­re­spon­dent Khimi­ak, the pho­ny Snake Island stand-off is still treat­ed as a real his­tor­i­cal event. On her Twit­ter time­line, mean­while, Khimi­ak takes cred­it for the BBC’s reports on the destruc­tion of the Mar­i­upol dra­mat­ic the­ater. She and her co-author, Bachega, have yet to respond to a request for com­ment from The Gray­zone.

    The inci­dent at the Mar­i­upol the­ater rep­re­sents one of the most sus­pi­cious events of the war, with both the BBC and CNN cit­ing a claim by one local Ukrain­ian offi­cial claim­ing hun­dreds were killed inside the build­ing, but pro­duc­ing no evi­dence to ver­i­fy it.

    CNN, BBC rely on sin­gle offi­cial pro-Azov source for claim of hun­dreds dead

    Russ­ian forces have caused wide­spread destruc­tion across Mar­i­upol, where they have been engaged in intense street-by-street fight­ing with Ukrain­ian forces led by the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    How­ev­er, as this reporter detailed, the Mar­i­upol the­ater was con­trolled by retreat­ing Azov mil­i­tants who were des­per­ate­ly appeal­ing for mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion by NATO. Sev­er­al evac­uees have claimed Azov det­o­nat­ed the the­ater to cre­ate the impres­sion of a Russ­ian attack that might draw the West into the war. Mean­while, video of the alleged Russ­ian attack on the the­ater has yet to mate­ri­al­ize, and images of the sup­posed res­cue of sur­vivors or mass deaths at the scene remain unavail­able.

    On March 25, nine days after the inci­dent, CNN broad­cast what it said was the first footage of the attack on the the­ater. The footage (seen below) was only 20 sec­onds long and showed a small group of civil­ians slow­ly ambling down a stair­case to the ground floor of a build­ing. A nar­ra­tor can be heard behind the cam­era repeat­ed­ly refer­ring to an airstrike but claim­ing that those on the first floor had sur­vived.

    [broad­castsee video]

    The video appeared to have been shot some time after the attack, as none of the smol­der­ing present in video tak­en in the after­math of the explo­sion could be seen. That video, seen below and tak­en on March 16, shows a smok­ing build­ing with no res­cuers or any peo­ple on site.

    [see video]

    CNN has also claimed that 300 civil­ians were killed inside the the­ater. The BBC also echoed the offi­cial Ukrain­ian claim of 300 dead, but acknowl­edged, “Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Mar­i­upol remains dif­fi­cult so it is hard to inde­pen­dent­ly ver­i­fy infor­ma­tion.”

    Both net­works relied on just a sin­gle source for the dra­mat­ic alle­ga­tion: Petr Andryushchenko, an advi­sor to the may­or of Mar­i­upol who recent­ly salut­ed the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion as coura­geous “defend­ers” of his city.

    The official’s evi­dence? Accord­ing to the BBC, “offi­cials were able to check the death toll because they had a record of who was in the the­atre before the mis­sile strike and had spo­ken to sur­vivors.”

    West­ern media did not see fit to men­tion that Andryushchenko was like­ly far from Mar­i­upol, as he recent­ly acknowl­edged “that we are forced to move in order to pre­serve our intel­li­gence net­work.” His boss, May­or Vadim Boy­chenko, report­ed­ly fled the city sev­er­al days ago.

    Curi­ous­ly, par­ti­san Ukrain­ian reporters claimed a day after the attack that every­one shel­ter­ing inside the theater’s base­ment had mirac­u­lous­ly sur­vived.

    [see screen­shot of tweet]

    Also on March 17, Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment ombudswoman Lud­my­la Deniso­va stat­ed on Telegram: “The (the­atre) build­ing with­stood the impact of a high-pow­ered air bomb and pro­tect­ed the lives of peo­ple hid­ing in the bomb shel­ter.”

    Four days before the inci­dent, Mar­i­upol locals informed Russ­ian media that the the­ater was to be the site of a false flag oper­a­tion aimed at gen­er­at­ing West­ern out­rage and trig­ger­ing NATO inter­ven­tion.

    One day after the inci­dent took place, civil­ians evac­u­at­ed from Mar­i­upol tes­ti­fied to Don­bas-based media that Azov fight­ers blew the the­ater up as they retreat­ed. They went on to detail how Azov used them as human shields through­out the fight­ing, even snip­ing at them as they tried to escape.

    Inter­view with #Mar­i­upol refugee??You know what hap­pened at the dra­ma theatre?–They blew up the dra­ma the­atre­So, it wasn´t a bomb­ing but an explosion?–Nothing land­ed on it, it explod­ed from inside­Did Azov let ppl leave the city?–They didn´t let any­one leave#Ukraine #Rus­sia pic.twitter.com/jKQDj8BLWj— Prof. Mar­cel­lo Fer­ra­da de Noli (@ProfessorsBlogg) March 22, 2022

    Among the most curi­ous aspects of the inci­dent of the the­ater was the dis­ap­pear­ance of all vehi­cles from the park­ing lot in front of the struc­ture hours before the explo­sion occurred. It seems that though they had been removed in order to avoid being dam­aged by the expect­ed blast.

    [see pho­tos]
    [see pho­tos]
    [see pho­tos]

    Ukrain­ian PR agent-turned-BBC fix­er hand picks local sources

    Ignor­ing the accounts of evac­uees from Mar­i­upol who said Azov mil­i­tants had destroyed the the­ater before retreat­ing, the BBC’s cor­re­spon­dent, Becha­ga, and his fix­er, Khimi­ak, ini­tial­ly turned to offi­cial Ukrain­ian sources and a res­i­dent who was not present at the the­ater on the day of the sup­posed attack.

    On March 17, the day after the the­ater inci­dent, Becha­ga and Khimi­ak report­ed that “accord­ing to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties, [the the­ater] was bombed by Rus­sia…” Their only local source said she left the the­ater one day before the build­ing was destroyed – when most, if not all those on the grounds appeared to leave. “We knew we had to run away because some­thing ter­ri­ble would hap­pen soon,” she told the BBC.

    The BBC reporter and PR agent-turned-fix­er co-authored a March 22 fol­low-up arti­cle quot­ing two local wit­ness­es who said they were near the the­ater when a mas­sive blast occurred. Both deliv­ered cin­e­mat­ic accounts which open source intel­li­gence ana­lyst Michael Kobs called into ques­tion.

    The real­ly ques­tion­able part of the sto­ry is the step-by-step nar­ra­tion of a process that in real­i­ty lasts maybe a tenth of a sec­ond. Here, how­ev­er, a man has the time to throw him­self into the path of the blast wave and fly­ing splin­ters. pic.twitter.com/FBIPLHwE9H— Michael Kobs (@MichaKobs) March 23, 2022

    The male wit­ness said he “saw plen­ty of peo­ple bleed­ing.” How­ev­er, in a time when near­ly every per­son car­ries a smart­phone, video of the har­row­ing scene he described has yet to sur­face.

    Final­ly, the BBC turned to McKen­zie Intel­li­gence, a pri­vate con­trac­tor found­ed by a for­mer UK mil­i­tary intel­li­gence offi­cer, to hypoth­e­size that a Russ­ian 500-pound laser guid­ed mis­sile was used to destroy the the­ater. But as the open source ana­lyst Kobs point­ed out, “the cen­ter of destruc­tion sits right in the mid­dle of the stage, so two dumb bombs can’t pos­si­bly be to blame.”

    ...

    BBC fixer/correspondent worked for firm behind top “Ukrain­ian-war mes­sag­ing tool”

    The BBC’s choice of an overt­ly nation­al­ist Ukrain­ian pub­lic rela­tions agent to guide its cov­er­age of the war high­lights the network’s absolute align­ment with NATO’s objec­tives.

    Before her gig with the British state broad­cast­er, Khimi­ak han­dled pub­lic rela­tions for a Kiev-based start-up that cre­at­ed an AI app enabling users to super­im­pose their faces on the bod­ies of famous peo­ple. Called Reface, the app has become “a kind of Ukrain­ian-war mes­sag­ing tool” dis­sem­i­nat­ing anti-Russ­ian push noti­fi­ca­tions to mil­lions of users, the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed.

    Accord­ing to the Post, “real­i­ty-dis­tort­ing apps like Reface are a way for users to absorb mes­sages they might oth­er­wise tune out. Peo­ple have their guards up with polit­i­cal news on those plat­forms… But they low­er them for an immer­sive expe­ri­ence like face-swap­ping.”

    Reface now says it is engaged in a “viral bat­tle against #rus­sianter­ror­ists.”

    Turned off the #Reface app in #rus­sia. Accord­ing to our ana­lyt­ics, its audi­ence could­n’t care less about the destroyed hous­es & women & chil­dren killed in #Ukraine.Read about our viral info bat­tle against #rus­sianter­ror­ists & #Stand­WithUkrainehttps://t.co/aO8Skrfg35— Reface (@reface_app) March 17, 2022

    As part of its efforts against Rus­sia, Reface said it has blocked Russ­ian users from access­ing the app. Fur­ther, “every­one who opens the app sees a mes­sage to sup­port Ukraine” along with a ban­ner “with infor­ma­tion about the real loss­es of the Russ­ian army.” A water­mark with the Ukrain­ian flag and the hash­tag #Stand­WithUkraine is lay­ered over each video that appears on the app.

    Reface says its employ­ees have joined “the ter­ri­to­r­i­al defense units and vol­un­teers, and sev­er­al teams have also joined the cyber troops to fight Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da.”

    For her part, the for­mer Reface PR direc­tor Khimi­ak-turned-BBC correspondent/fixer has not been ret­i­cent about Ukraine’s Russ­ian adver­saries. “I just can’t accept opin­ion that not all Rus­sians are bad. All I feel is pain and hate, because their silence is a con­se­quence of this war,” she declared on Twit­ter in reac­tion to a video depict­ing res­cuers try­ing to save a young girl from rub­ble.

    [see screen­shot of tweet]

    Though BBC pro­claims in its own state­ment of val­ues, “Trust is the foun­da­tion of the BBC. We’re inde­pen­dent, impar­tial and hon­est,” its hir­ing of a Ukrain­ian pub­lic rela­tions spe­cial­ist who has con­fessed to hatred of all Rus­sians to arrange its cov­er­age of the war in the coun­try is hard­ly sur­pris­ing.

    As The Gray­zone report­ed in Feb­ru­ary 2021, the British broadcaster’s non-prof­it arm, BBC Media Action, par­tic­i­pat­ed in a covert UK For­eign Com­mon­wealth and Devel­op­ment Office (FCDO) pro­gram explic­it­ly designed to “weak­en Rus­sia.”

    As seen below, UK FCDO doc­u­ments revealed that BBC Media Action pro­posed work­ing through a pri­vate British con­trac­tor called Aktis to cul­ti­vate and grow pro-NATO media in con­flict areas like the Don­bas region of east­ern Ukraine, now the focal point of fight­ing between pro-Russ­ian forces and the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary.

    [see pho­to of doc­u­ment]

    The BBC’s secret infor­ma­tion war­fare ini­tia­tive had turned the net­work into an arm of British intel­li­gence, oper­at­ing as an actor in a for­eign con­flict which its broad­cast media arm was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly claim­ing to cov­er in an objec­tive man­ner.

    Now, the BBC has shed any pre­tense of objec­tiv­i­ty by hir­ing an overt­ly nation­al­ist Ukrain­ian pub­lic rela­tions oper­a­tive to shape its cov­er­age of one of the most heav­i­ly dis­put­ed inci­dents in a war filled with cyn­i­cal decep­tions.

    ———-

    “BBC cor­re­spon­dent-fix­er shap­ing Ukraine war cov­er­age is PR oper­a­tive involved in “war-mes­sag­ing tool”” by Max Blu­men­thal; The Gray­zone; 03/25/2022

    “As The Gray­zone report­ed in Feb­ru­ary 2021, the British broadcaster’s non-prof­it arm, BBC Media Action, par­tic­i­pat­ed in a covert UK For­eign Com­mon­wealth and Devel­op­ment Office (FCDO) pro­gram explic­it­ly designed to “weak­en Rus­sia.””

    The BBC is cer­tain­ly intent on cov­er­ing events in Ukraine. It’s the edi­to­r­i­al slant of that cov­er­age that the prob­lem. An edi­to­r­i­al slant that appears to be guid­ed by a covert pol­i­cy of cov­er­age intend­ed to “weak­en Rus­sia”. So it should come as no sur­prise to learn that the fig­ure pro­vid­ing the BBC with their cov­er­age of the bomb­ing of the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater appears to be part of that same covert agen­da:

    ...
    Khimi­ak broad­casts her polit­i­cal bias in her Twit­ter bio, stat­ing that she is “a fix­er in Lviv for jour­nal­ists for reporters who show hon­est image of Russ­ian war against Ukraine. Ukraine will resist.”

    ...

    On the Twit­ter page of the PR agent-turned-BBC cor­re­spon­dent Khimi­ak, the pho­ny Snake Island stand-off is still treat­ed as a real his­tor­i­cal event. On her Twit­ter time­line, mean­while, Khimi­ak takes cred­it for the BBC’s reports on the destruc­tion of the Mar­i­upol dra­mat­ic the­ater. She and her co-author, Bachega, have yet to respond to a request for com­ment from The Gray­zone.

    ...

    Before her gig with the British state broad­cast­er, Khimi­ak han­dled pub­lic rela­tions for a Kiev-based start-up that cre­at­ed an AI app enabling users to super­im­pose their faces on the bod­ies of famous peo­ple. Called Reface, the app has become “a kind of Ukrain­ian-war mes­sag­ing tool” dis­sem­i­nat­ing anti-Russ­ian push noti­fi­ca­tions to mil­lions of users, the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed.

    ...

    For her part, the for­mer Reface PR direc­tor Khimi­ak-turned-BBC correspondent/fixer has not been ret­i­cent about Ukraine’s Russ­ian adver­saries. “I just can’t accept opin­ion that not all Rus­sians are bad. All I feel is pain and hate, because their silence is a con­se­quence of this war,” she declared on Twit­ter in reac­tion to a video depict­ing res­cuers try­ing to save a young girl from rub­ble.

    [see screen­shot of tweet]
    ...

    And it’s that covert agen­da, cou­pled with the fact that there’s no video evi­dence of actu­al deaths at the the­ater, that rais­es so many ques­tions about caused the explo­sion. We were told there were like­ly hun­dreds dead, buried under the rub­ble, despite the simul­ta­ne­ous reports that every­one sur­vived in the base­ment. It was an expla­na­tion for a lack of observ­able bod­ies that was plau­si­ble ini­tial­ly. But the longer this goes with­out some video of bod­ies being recov­ered from the rub­ble, the more like­ly it is that few, if any, peo­ple were killed in the attack. At the same time, we’re being told that the vast major­i­ty of the peo­ple left the the­ater in the days before the attack. It’s this con­stel­la­tion of facts that paints a pic­ture of a man­u­fac­tured nar­ra­tive by reporters exe­cut­ing a covert agen­da. Or not-so-covert agen­da in the case of Khimi­ak:

    ...
    How­ev­er, as this reporter detailed, the Mar­i­upol the­ater was con­trolled by retreat­ing Azov mil­i­tants who were des­per­ate­ly appeal­ing for mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion by NATO. Sev­er­al evac­uees have claimed Azov det­o­nat­ed the the­ater to cre­ate the impres­sion of a Russ­ian attack that might draw the West into the war. Mean­while, video of the alleged Russ­ian attack on the the­ater has yet to mate­ri­al­ize, and images of the sup­posed res­cue of sur­vivors or mass deaths at the scene remain unavail­able.

    On March 25, nine days after the inci­dent, CNN broad­cast what it said was the first footage of the attack on the the­ater. The footage (seen below) was only 20 sec­onds long and showed a small group of civil­ians slow­ly ambling down a stair­case to the ground floor of a build­ing. A nar­ra­tor can be heard behind the cam­era repeat­ed­ly refer­ring to an airstrike but claim­ing that those on the first floor had sur­vived.

    ...

    CNN has also claimed that 300 civil­ians were killed inside the the­ater. The BBC also echoed the offi­cial Ukrain­ian claim of 300 dead, but acknowl­edged, “Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Mar­i­upol remains dif­fi­cult so it is hard to inde­pen­dent­ly ver­i­fy infor­ma­tion.”

    Both net­works relied on just a sin­gle source for the dra­mat­ic alle­ga­tion: Petr Andryushchenko, an advi­sor to the may­or of Mar­i­upol who recent­ly salut­ed the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion as coura­geous “defend­ers” of his city.

    The official’s evi­dence? Accord­ing to the BBC, “offi­cials were able to check the death toll because they had a record of who was in the the­atre before the mis­sile strike and had spo­ken to sur­vivors.”

    ...

    Curi­ous­ly, par­ti­san Ukrain­ian reporters claimed a day after the attack that every­one shel­ter­ing inside the theater’s base­ment had mirac­u­lous­ly sur­vived.

    [see screen­shot of tweet]

    Also on March 17, Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment ombudswoman Lud­my­la Deniso­va stat­ed on Telegram: “The (the­atre) build­ing with­stood the impact of a high-pow­ered air bomb and pro­tect­ed the lives of peo­ple hid­ing in the bomb shel­ter.”

    ...

    On March 17, the day after the the­ater inci­dent, Becha­ga and Khimi­ak report­ed that “accord­ing to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties, [the the­ater] was bombed by Rus­sia…” Their only local source said she left the the­ater one day before the build­ing was destroyed – when most, if not all those on the grounds appeared to leave. “We knew we had to run away because some­thing ter­ri­ble would hap­pen soon,” she told the BBC.

    The BBC reporter and PR agent-turned-fix­er co-authored a March 22 fol­low-up arti­cle quot­ing two local wit­ness­es who said they were near the the­ater when a mas­sive blast occurred. Both deliv­ered cin­e­mat­ic accounts which open source intel­li­gence ana­lyst Michael Kobs called into ques­tion.

    The real­ly ques­tion­able part of the sto­ry is the step-by-step nar­ra­tion of a process that in real­i­ty lasts maybe a tenth of a sec­ond. Here, how­ev­er, a man has the time to throw him­self into the path of the blast wave and fly­ing splin­ters. pic.twitter.com/FBIPLHwE9H— Michael Kobs (@MichaKobs) March 23, 2022

    The male wit­ness said he “saw plen­ty of peo­ple bleed­ing.” How­ev­er, in a time when near­ly every per­son car­ries a smart­phone, video of the har­row­ing scene he described has yet to sur­face.
    ...

    We have reports from wit­ness­es of “plen­ty of peo­ple bleed­ing”, which cer­tain­ly sounds plau­si­ble. And yet, 12 days after the attack, there’s still no footage even of blood­ied sur­vivors. The Fog of War is remark­ably per­sis­tent in this case.

    But, of course, the BBC isn’t the only pub­li­ca­tion that’s been cov­er­ing the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater bomb­ing. Nor is it the only pub­li­ca­tions to pro­vide what appears to be eye wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny of a sur­vivor from that attack. An eye wit­ness account that rais­es all sorts of ques­tions. Because as we’ll see in the fol­low­ing report in anoth­er UK pub­li­ca­tion, The Econ­o­mist, there is indeed a man who claims to have been inside the the­ater at the time. And accord­ing to this man, there were like­ly less than 300 peo­ple in the the­ater at the time of the attack, which is in keep­ing with the reports we’ve got­ten about the vast major­i­ty of the peo­ple leav­ing before the attack. He also spec­u­lat­ed that per­haps 100 peo­ple died, “and almost all of them were in the less pro­tect­ed spaces above ground.” Beyond that, the man asserts that he saw body parts every­where, includ­ing sev­ered heads: “There were peo­ple with bro­ken legs who we had to help walk. If we could we took them out on stretch­ers. But there were also sev­ered arms, legs and heads all around. There was noth­ing we could do there.” So if this report is true, we have to ask the ques­tion even more: why are the no videos show­ing this car­nage? And if the eye-wit­ness account isn’t true, we have to ask a num­ber of oth­er ques­tions. The same ques­tions raised by the last arti­cle:

    The Econ­o­mist

    “It sound­ed like a cork pop­ping. Then the shriek­ing began.” A sur­vivor of the Mar­i­upol the­atre bomb­ing speaks

    Tak­ing a cof­fee break saved Dmytro Vely­chko from cer­tain death

    Mar 25th 2022
    BY OLIVER CARROLL

    Dmytro Vely­chko, 34, was tak­ing a breather after help­ing out in the theatre’s field kitchen when the bomb fell. The blast, he says, sound­ed like a cham­pagne cork pop­ping, a spring knock­ing you off bal­ance. “We became enveloped in a thick cloud of glass, stones and dust. Then the shriek­ing began, the cries for help, the pan­ic.” Peo­ple were run­ning. Those on upper floors groped their way down what­ev­er remained of the stairs, des­per­ate to leave. There was lit­tle hope for the peo­ple who had been in the kitchen and on the right side of the audi­to­ri­um, the epi­cen­tre of the strike.

    Only weeks before, the­atre staff had been prepar­ing for a pre­miere of a play on Fri­da Kahlo. But after Mar­i­upol began its descent into hell at the end of Feb­ru­ary, the neo­clas­si­cal the­atre became a makeshift shel­ter for 1,300 peo­ple. On March 16th the the­atre was bombed. Vely­chko was spared because he was on a cof­fee break: he’d moved a chair to the back of the the­atre and was sit­ting in between win­dows. “Just a headache and bruise to my leg, would you believe it!” he says. “You could say I was lucky, but then you’d have to for­get about every­thing else that went before it.”

    ...

    He spent a lot of time help­ing out in the kitchen and made friends with oth­ers who were work­ing there. There was Misha the chef, “a great bloke from the Cau­ca­sus”, his love­ly assis­tant Yele­na, who “chopped and scrubbed with a smile on her face”, and teenage vol­un­teers who were hav­ing to grow up fast. Had any of them sur­vived? “We heard cries from in the rub­ble,” he says. “But of course that part of the build­ing was silent. No, those in the kitchen fell under the full force of the bomb.”

    Vely­chko, who has spent years work­ing with rail­way machin­ery at the Azovstal iron and steel works, is not out­ward­ly emo­tion­al. But he says the expe­ri­ence of try­ing to save peo­ple in the hour that fol­lowed the blast changed his life for­ev­er. There were no emer­gency ser­vices to speak of. Instead, he was part of a des­per­ate recov­ery effort manned by a mot­ley crew of the walk­ing wound­ed and two police offi­cers.

    “We combed the the­atre for peo­ple, respond­ing in the main to the groans,” he says. “There were peo­ple with bro­ken legs who we had to help walk. If we could we took them out on stretch­ers. But there were also sev­ered arms, legs and heads all around. There was noth­ing we could do there.”

    Vely­chko can’t say for cer­tain how many peo­ple died, but he is sure the wide­ly report­ed fig­ure of thou­sands is an exag­ger­a­tion. There were over 1,000 peo­ple in the the­atre on March 10th, he says. But by the time the bomb fell six days lat­er, the vast major­i­ty had left for Zapor­izhzhia, a city 225km inland, via an unof­fi­cial human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor.

    The risks of stay­ing were grow­ing. Peo­ple wrote deti, Russ­ian for “chil­dren”, in huge chalk let­ters on the ground out­side the the­atre. They hoped it might give Russ­ian troops pause, although just a cou­ple of days ear­li­er, a bomb had fall­en on a Red Cross cen­tre. Vely­chko reck­ons that no more than 300 were inside the the­atre at the time of the blast. “Per­haps 100 died, and almost all of them were in the less pro­tect­ed spaces above ground.” On March 25th offi­cials in Mar­i­upol said that 300 peo­ple had died in the the­atre bomb­ing.

    Once they’d done all they could to save the oth­ers, the sur­vivors made their way to oth­er bomb shel­ters. Vely­chko head­ed to one under­neath the Mar­i­upol Cham­ber Phil­har­mon­ic, a con­cert hall in the city cen­tre. But he decid­ed not to stick around. He left Mar­i­upol the next day, walk­ing through the still-active war zone to rel­a­tive safe­ty in the vil­lage of Melekyne, 20km away.

    ...

    ————-

    ““It sound­ed like a cork pop­ping. Then the shriek­ing began.” A sur­vivor of the Mar­i­upol the­atre bomb­ing speaks” BY OLIVER CARROLL; The Econ­o­mist; 03/25/2022

    “Vely­chko can’t say for cer­tain how many peo­ple died, but he is sure the wide­ly report­ed fig­ure of thou­sands is an exag­ger­a­tion. There were over 1,000 peo­ple in the the­atre on March 10th, he says. But by the time the bomb fell six days lat­er, the vast major­i­ty had left for Zapor­izhzhia, a city 225km inland, via an unof­fi­cial human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor.”

    Dmytro Vely­chko is the lat­est wit­ness to con­firm that, yes, the dra­ma the­ater was large­ly emp­tied. The fears that the 1,300+ peo­ple inside the the­ater days ear­li­er could at least be alle­vi­at­ed. But there were still quite a few poten­tial deaths, and Vely­chko appears to con­firm those deaths. He lit­er­al­ly saw sev­ered arms, legs, and heads all around:

    ...
    Vely­chko, who has spent years work­ing with rail­way machin­ery at the Azovstal iron and steel works, is not out­ward­ly emo­tion­al. But he says the expe­ri­ence of try­ing to save peo­ple in the hour that fol­lowed the blast changed his life for­ev­er. There were no emer­gency ser­vices to speak of. Instead, he was part of a des­per­ate recov­ery effort manned by a mot­ley crew of the walk­ing wound­ed and two police offi­cers.

    “We combed the the­atre for peo­ple, respond­ing in the main to the groans,” he says. “There were peo­ple with bro­ken legs who we had to help walk. If we could we took them out on stretch­ers. But there were also sev­ered arms, legs and heads all around. There was noth­ing we could do there.

    ...

    The risks of stay­ing were grow­ing. Peo­ple wrote deti, Russ­ian for “chil­dren”, in huge chalk let­ters on the ground out­side the the­atre. They hoped it might give Russ­ian troops pause, although just a cou­ple of days ear­li­er, a bomb had fall­en on a Red Cross cen­tre. Vely­chko reck­ons that no more than 300 were inside the the­atre at the time of the blast. “Per­haps 100 died, and almost all of them were in the less pro­tect­ed spaces above ground.” On March 25th offi­cials in Mar­i­upol said that 300 peo­ple had died in the the­atre bomb­ing.

    Once they’d done all they could to save the oth­ers, the sur­vivors made their way to oth­er bomb shel­ters. Vely­chko head­ed to one under­neath the Mar­i­upol Cham­ber Phil­har­mon­ic, a con­cert hall in the city cen­tre. But he decid­ed not to stick around. He left Mar­i­upol the next day, walk­ing through the still-active war zone to rel­a­tive safe­ty in the vil­lage of Melekyne, 20km away.
    ...

    And again, where’s the video? If there were sev­ered heads in that wreck­age, that’s kind of the best pos­si­ble pro­pa­gan­da the Azov Bat­tal­ion could deliv­er. Imag­ine how much more intense the glob­al out­rage would have been. But this sto­ry in the Econ­o­mist, which includes pho­tos of the wreck­age, does­n’t show any images with any body parts, blurred or unblurred. Is such evi­dence even­tu­al­ly going to be revealed? We’ll see, but it’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind that even if such evi­dence that peo­ple were indeed killed in that the­ater is even­tu­al­ly pro­duced, it does­n’t actu­al­ly ver­i­fy the nar­ra­tive of a Rus­sia bomb­ing. It just con­firms that peo­ple were killed. And if it was indeed an Azov-orches­trat­ed false flag event that would sim­ply mean Azov is will­ing to kill and ter­ror­ize inno­cent peo­ple to get its way. Which would­n’t real­ly be news. At least not new news.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 28, 2022, 4:36 pm
  2. Here’s a pair of arti­cles that, tak­en togeth­er, serve as great exam­ple of the kind of ‘Don’t wor­ry too much about the Nazi prob­lem’ two-step under­way in the West­ern press in response the Russ­ian inva­sion of Ukraine. The first arti­cle is from a few days ago about the grow­ing con­cern among nation­al secu­ri­ty experts and extrem­ism experts on how the con­flict in Ukraine could serve as a glob­al net­work­ing and mil­i­tary train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for extrem­ist groups around the world, anal­o­gous to the role the war in Afghanistan played with the devel­op­ment the jihadist net­works that mor­phed into groups like al Qae­da. All in all, it’s a rea­son­ably respon­si­ble arti­cle on the top­ic.

    The sec­ond arti­cle, pub­lished today in the Finan­cial Times, is the oth­er side of that coin: it’s a puff piece basi­cal­ly try­ing to make the case that, yes, there are some Nazis in groups like the Azov Bat­tal­ion, but we should­n’t get too hung up on that because there are lots of oth­er mem­bers of these groups who are mere­ly patri­ot­ic nation­al­ists. The inter­viewed fig­ures mak­ing this case include Azov’s Nazi co-founder Andriy Bilet­sky. It’s the kind of mes­sage that is both decep­tive but also points at what is ulti­mate­ly the strat­e­gy of groups like Azov. A strat­e­gy of main­stream­ing their extrem­ist Nazi ide­ol­o­gy under the guise of patri­ot­ic nation­al­ism. And a strat­e­gy that includes the main­stream of Azov not just in Ukraine but the rest of the world. It’s those glob­al pro­pa­gan­da ambi­tions that are part of what make these jour­nal­is­tic tem­plate — of arti­cles warn­ing about Nazis in Ukraine being pub­lished along­side puff pieces — such a dark trend. Because it’s been very obvi­ous for a while now how suc­cess­ful groups like Azov have been in main­stream­ing them­selves inside Ukraine. But we’re now get­ting a much clear­er idea of how Azov is going to suc­ceed in main­stream­ing itself with the rest of the world: through the ‘Don’t wor­ry too much about the Nazi prob­lem’ two-step:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Russia’s war in Ukraine gal­va­nizes extrem­ists glob­al­ly
    Some are seek­ing com­bat expe­ri­ence that author­i­ties fear could incite vio­lence far from today’s front line

    By Isaac Stan­ley-Beck­er and Souad Mekhen­net
    March 27, 2022 at 3:00 a.m. EDT

    BERLIN — The graph­ic cir­cu­lat­ed by the neo-Nazi par­ty shows two arms locked in a hand­shake, framed by a head­ing in cap­i­tal let­ters, “Nation­al­ists help nation­al­ists.”

    “Accom­mo­da­tions want­ed for Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists!” the Ger­man group wrote on Telegram, say­ing, “Dur­ing the fight­ing in Ukraine, nation­al­ists are at the fore­front.”

    Europe’s largest land war since 1945 has brought nation­al­ist pas­sions back with a vengeance. In launch­ing his assault, Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin invoked eth­no-nation­al­ist prin­ci­ples of blood and cul­ture, deny­ing the exis­tence of an inde­pen­dent Ukraine. Lead­ers in Kyiv, respond­ing to the aggres­sion, have wel­comed armed nation­al­ist fac­tions into the fold, among them the far-right Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    The clash­ing nation­al­ist appeals have inspired extrem­ists in oth­er coun­tries to take sides in the con­flict — and to seek com­bat expe­ri­ence that could incite vio­lence far from today’s front line. Nowhere does that raise loud­er alarms than in Ger­many, where mak­ing amends for Nazi crimes has meant sub­or­di­nat­ing nation­al aims to those of a multi­na­tion­al Euro­pean com­mu­ni­ty. Now, the month-long war has gal­va­nized hard-lin­ers, from neo-Nazis sup­port­ing para­mil­i­tary fac­tions to mil­i­tant Islamists who see cracks in West­ern pow­er.

    “My biggest con­cern is that these extrem­ists get com­bat train­ing with weapons and explo­sives and, because of the war expe­ri­ence, have a very low thresh­old for using weapons and lethal force,” said Stephan J. Kramer, the head of the domes­tic intel­li­gence agency in the Ger­man state of Thuringia.

    In Ger­many, the num­ber of far-right extrem­ists cross­ing into Ukraine is still min­i­mal, accord­ing to Germany’s Inte­ri­or Min­istry. So far, just 27 either have trav­eled to Ukraine or made plans to do so, author­i­ties said this week, among 33,300 far-right extrem­ists esti­mat­ed to be in the coun­try, with 13,000 assessed to be inclined to vio­lence. Author­i­ties said there was no evi­dence any had seen com­bat.

    But active online recruit­ment sug­gests that a drawn-out con­flict could attract many more vol­un­teer fight­ers, Kramer said. Readi­ness to take up arms, he added, reflects inten­si­fy­ing activ­i­ty by right-wing extrem­ists, includ­ing with­in the ranks of the Ger­man mil­i­tary.

    For neo-Nazis and white suprema­cists, “Ukraine could become their ver­sion of what Afghanistan was for the jiha­di move­ment in the 1980s,” said Steven Stal­in­sky, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton-based Mid­dle East Media Research Insti­tute. “Being on the ground in a real-world fight­ing sit­u­a­tion will allow them to gain valu­able expe­ri­ence, as they fur­ther hone their skills in weapons, plan­ning attacks, using tech­nol­o­gy in war includ­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions and encryp­tion, and using cryp­tocur­ren­cy for clan­des­tine fund­ing of their activ­i­ty.”

    The poten­tial for the war in Ukraine to accel­er­ate extrem­ist activ­i­ty through­out the West is all the more note­wor­thy because of the Kremlin’s long-stand­ing cam­paign to cul­ti­vate fringe move­ments and under­mine democ­ra­cies abroad, said Ste­fan Meis­ter, a Rus­sia spe­cial­ist at the Ger­man Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions. Those efforts, whether through finan­cial sup­port or fan­tas­ti­cal online con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, have earned Moscow sym­pa­thy across broad swaths of the far right, he said.

    Now, con­trary to the Russ­ian president’s claim that denaz­i­fi­ca­tion jus­ti­fies his inva­sion, neo-Nazis in Ger­many and beyond aren’t cast­ing their lot with Ukraine alone, say secu­ri­ty and intel­li­gence offi­cials. Rather, the con­flict has exposed a rift among extrem­ists.

    Some are back­ing Ukraine’s strug­gle for sov­er­eign­ty, but many oth­ers are align­ing them­selves with Putin’s chau­vin­ist, anti-Amer­i­can cru­sade — one aimed at a head of state, Volodymyr Zelen­sky, who is Jew­ish. Rad­i­cals of all stripes, includ­ing not just neo-Nazis but also Islamist extrem­ists, are shap­ing the tumult of the war to fit their own pro­pa­gan­da.

    “The war is a threat­en­ing and there­fore emo­tion­al sit­u­a­tion, caus­ing fear in large parts of soci­ety,” Kramer said. “In such a state of fear, many peo­ple are open to promis­es of sal­va­tion and strong lead­ers offer­ing easy solu­tions and answers. It also feeds pre­con­cep­tions, stereo­types and con­spir­a­cy fan­tasies.”

    ‘We are talk­ing about action’

    War­fare is just one of the aims moti­vat­ing Ger­man extrem­ists cross­ing into Ukraine.

    Some also seek to con­duct inde­pen­dent report­ing — bypass­ing what they see as the lügen­presse, or lying press, a slur used by Hitler as he con­sol­i­dat­ed pow­er in inter­war Ger­many. Oth­ers have plans to pro­vide human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance to nation­al­ist fam­i­lies, accord­ing to offi­cials and posts on social media and mes­sag­ing apps.

    Among the extrem­ists who have crossed into Ukraine but since returned, accord­ing to a Ger­man secu­ri­ty offi­cial, is a man who said he went to con­duct research for an arti­cle he was plan­ning to write for Der Dritte Weg, or the Third Path, the neo-Nazi par­ty cir­cu­lat­ing the pro-nation­al­ist graph­ic on its Telegram chan­nel. The Ger­man offi­cial, who was briefed on the issue, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because of the matter’s sen­si­tiv­i­ty.

    Oth­er extrem­ist chan­nels fea­ture pro-Russ­ian com­mu­ni­ca­tions. A group called Free Sax­ony recent­ly told its fol­low­ers that the con­flict was “large­ly fueled by NATO,” con­demn­ing smear cam­paigns against “friends of Putin.”

    In some instances, Russ­ian groups have glo­ri­fied extrem­ist sup­port for the war that is being expressed world­wide. The Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Move­ment, a mil­i­tant far-right fac­tion des­ig­nat­ed a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion by the Unit­ed States, brought atten­tion on social media to a con­voy in Bel­grade, Ser­bia, in which ultra­na­tion­al­ists and neo-Nazis flew the Russ­ian flag. “The car ral­ly suc­cess­ful­ly made its way through Bel­grade, reach­ing at the end the Russ­ian embassy, where the Ser­bian peo­ple once again loud­ly expressed their sup­port,” read the Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Movement’s announce­ment, accord­ing to a report from the Mid­dle East Media Research Insti­tute shared with The Wash­ing­ton Post.

    Michael Kretschmer, the pre­mier of Sax­ony, the east­ern Ger­man state seen as a cen­ter of right-wing orga­niz­ing, said warn­ings about recruit­ment should prompt tighter reg­u­la­tion of online com­mu­ni­ca­tions. He sin­gled out Telegram, among the most pop­u­lar mes­sag­ing ser­vices in Ukraine and Rus­sia, and favored, too, by far-right groups glob­al­ly. Kretschmer, a mem­ber of the cen­ter-right Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union, said the mes­sag­ing app, known for its hands-off approach to con­tent mod­er­a­tion, “has to be reg­u­lat­ed so that it works accord­ing to our laws.”

    Ger­many has among the world’s strictest rules against hate speech and online harass­ment. It was only last month, how­ev­er, that its broad­cast­ing reg­u­la­tor banned the Russ­ian broad­cast­er RT’s Ger­man-lan­guage chan­nel. The chal­lenge of dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing among types of far-right hate also was on dis­play when Face­book said it would allow praise for Ukraine’s Azov Bat­tal­ion — but only in the con­text of its defense of Ukraine.

    Azov’s promi­nence presents prob­lems for West­ern pow­ers. “These peo­ple should not be pre­sent­ed as hero fig­ures, nor should they become the new nor­mal,” said a West­ern intel­li­gence offi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to address sen­si­tive details. “It is giv­ing Putin an excuse to speak about fight­ing extrem­ists, but it is also endan­ger­ing sta­bil­i­ty long term.”

    The offi­cial drew a com­par­i­son to U.S. sup­port for the anti-Sovi­et mujahideen fight­ing in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In Ger­many, con­cerns about recruit­ment recall that extrem­ists trav­eled to fight in the Koso­vo War in the late 1990s, said Kon­stan­tin von Notz, a mem­ber of the Green par­ty who serves as vice-chair­man of the Ger­man parliament’s intel­li­gence over­sight com­mit­tee.

    More recent­ly, author­i­ties esti­mat­ed that more than 1,000 Ger­man cit­i­zens trav­eled to Iraq and Syr­ia to join Islam­ic State mil­i­tant groups. And in Ukraine, hos­til­i­ties pre­ced­ing Putin’s full-scale inva­sion drew not just right-wing nation­al­ist sym­pa­thiz­ers but also Chechen Mus­lim fight­ers.

    “From the his­to­ry of the Azov Reg­i­ment, we know that a num­ber of right-wing extrem­ists trav­eled from Europe and North­ern Amer­i­ca to Ukraine in the past years and fought with the reg­i­ment at the var­i­ous hot spots in the region,” said Kramer, the intel­li­gence chief in Thuringia. “So we are talk­ing about action and not just loud­mouths.”

    Von Notz, a lawyer, said he expect­ed that Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors prob­ing pos­si­ble Russ­ian war crimes also would hold to account Ger­man cit­i­zens found to have vio­lat­ed inter­na­tion­al law in Ukraine. Hold­ing for­eign fight­ers account­able means obtain­ing their names from Ukraine’s Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense Forces, said Cas­par Schliephack, a Berlin-based schol­ar and con­sul­tant on reli­gious rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

    “It’s near­ly impos­si­ble to stop peo­ple from going since you cross the Pol­ish bor­der and then the Ukrain­ian bor­der and then you are there,” he said. Giv­ing Ger­many access to Ukrain­ian records, he said, “is one very, very impor­tant point in order to be pre­pared when those who arrive, who fought, who trained at one point decide to come back.”

    ‘Cre­at­ing a nar­ra­tive’

    Extrem­ists not enter­ing Ukraine’s bat­tle­fields are nev­er­the­less using the war to spread pro­pa­gan­da.

    Some are white suprema­cists who see in Putin’s cru­sade an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cleanse West­ern cul­ture. This view is dis­sem­i­nat­ed by an Amer­i­can in Moscow — and fre­quent guest on Russ­ian state tele­vi­sion — who wears a patch on his vest show­ing Putin’s face set against a Con­fed­er­ate flag, accord­ing to analy­sis by the Mid­dle East Media Research Insti­tute.

    The expa­tri­ate recent­ly asked on Insta­gram, “you think we give a [exple­tive] that the entire world hates Rus­sia now?”

    Oth­ers are Islamist extrem­ists who are using the war to high­light what they see as West­ern hypocrisy. Anjem Choudary, who was con­vict­ed in Britain in 2016 for inspir­ing sup­port for the Islam­ic State, asked on his blog this week, “why don’t the US and UK, with the con­sent of NATO, just bomb the ordi­nary peo­ple of Ukraine in order to lib­er­ate them from Putin’s occu­pa­tion just like they did in Iraq in 2003?”

    Some Islamist extrem­ists have backed Ukraine, con­demn­ing Chechen Mus­lim fight­ers who have tak­en up arms for Putin, accord­ing to analy­sis by the Anti-Defama­tion League. Oth­ers see both sides as non­be­liev­ers and are encour­ag­ing their mutu­al anni­hi­la­tion. Mean­while, white suprema­cists who decry the con­flict as a war between “broth­ers” say there is no advan­tage in the deaths of fel­low White peo­ple.

    “What we are find­ing con­cern­ing is the use of the war for their own nar­ra­tives,” said an Arab intel­li­gence offi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive find­ings. “There are those who want to com­pare the sit­u­a­tion of Ukraine to the sit­u­a­tion of Pales­tini­ans and say if the West is will­ing to send weapons to Ukraine and sup­port the fight there against the Rus­sians, why weren’t they will­ing to sup­port the Pales­tini­ans?”

    ...

    ———-

    “Russia’s war in Ukraine gal­va­nizes extrem­ists glob­al­ly” by Isaac Stan­ley-Beck­er and Souad Mekhen­net; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/27/2022

    “Azov’s promi­nence presents prob­lems for West­ern pow­ers. “These peo­ple should not be pre­sent­ed as hero fig­ures, nor should they become the new nor­mal,” said a West­ern intel­li­gence offi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to address sen­si­tive details. “It is giv­ing Putin an excuse to speak about fight­ing extrem­ists, but it is also endan­ger­ing sta­bil­i­ty long term.”

    Wise word from this anony­mous West­ern intel­li­gence offi­cial. An anony­mous offi­cial who appar­ent­ly did­n’t feel com­fort­able being iden­ti­fied with these con­cerns over how groups like Azov were being ele­vat­ed to hero sta­tus. These groups desta­bi­lize both the short term and long term sit­u­a­tion:

    ...
    “My biggest con­cern is that these extrem­ists get com­bat train­ing with weapons and explo­sives and, because of the war expe­ri­ence, have a very low thresh­old for using weapons and lethal force,” said Stephan J. Kramer, the head of the domes­tic intel­li­gence agency in the Ger­man state of Thuringia.

    ...

    But active online recruit­ment sug­gests that a drawn-out con­flict could attract many more vol­un­teer fight­ers, Kramer said. Readi­ness to take up arms, he added, reflects inten­si­fy­ing activ­i­ty by right-wing extrem­ists, includ­ing with­in the ranks of the Ger­man mil­i­tary.

    For neo-Nazis and white suprema­cists, “Ukraine could become their ver­sion of what Afghanistan was for the jiha­di move­ment in the 1980s,” said Steven Stal­in­sky, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton-based Mid­dle East Media Research Insti­tute. “Being on the ground in a real-world fight­ing sit­u­a­tion will allow them to gain valu­able expe­ri­ence, as they fur­ther hone their skills in weapons, plan­ning attacks, using tech­nol­o­gy in war includ­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions and encryp­tion, and using cryp­tocur­ren­cy for clan­des­tine fund­ing of their activ­i­ty.”
    ...

    And note the inter­est­ing idea float­ed about steps West­ern gov­ern­ments can take to keep a check on the long-term dan­gers posed by Ukraine becom­ing a glob­al extrem­ist mil­i­tary train­ing hub: since the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment is for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ing these extrem­ist for­eign fight­ers into the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, will Ukraine be will­ing to share the names of these indi­vid­u­als with their home gov­ern­ments? We’ll see:

    ...
    Von Notz, a lawyer, said he expect­ed that Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors prob­ing pos­si­ble Russ­ian war crimes also would hold to account Ger­man cit­i­zens found to have vio­lat­ed inter­na­tion­al law in Ukraine. Hold­ing for­eign fight­ers account­able means obtain­ing their names from Ukraine’s Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense Forces, said Cas­par Schliephack, a Berlin-based schol­ar and con­sul­tant on reli­gious rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

    “It’s near­ly impos­si­ble to stop peo­ple from going since you cross the Pol­ish bor­der and then the Ukrain­ian bor­der and then you are there,” he said. Giv­ing Ger­many access to Ukrain­ian records, he said, “is one very, very impor­tant point in order to be pre­pared when those who arrive, who fought, who trained at one point decide to come back.”
    ...

    Ok, so that was an exam­ple of the kind of arti­cle we’re going to be see­ing more and more exam­ples of as this con­flict plays out. Arti­cles warn­ing about the grow­ing dan­ger these groups pose and the long-term dan­gers of infus­ing them with advanced weapons and train­ing. The repeat­ed warn­ings are guar­an­teed. But there’s no guar­an­tee they’ll be heard. Quite the con­trary. What we can instead be guar­an­teed of is even more arti­cles like the fol­low­ing ded­i­cat­ed to con­vinc­ing the read­ers that there’s hard­ly a Nazi prob­lem at all. The real prob­lem is all these peo­ple con­fus­ing Nazism with patri­ot­ic nation­al­ism:

    The Finan­cial Times

    ‘Don’t con­fuse patri­o­tism and Nazism’: Ukraine’s Azov forces face scruti­ny
    Nation­al­ist reg­i­ment with neo-Nazi roots has been instru­men­tal in the resis­tance to Russia’s inva­sion

    Andres Schipani in Lviv and Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv
    March 29, 2022 12:26 pm

    From what looked like a base­ment in the besieged port city of Mar­i­upol, a deputy com­man­der of the ultra­na­tion­al­ist Azov Reg­i­ment, whose neo-Nazi roots have been used by Rus­sia to jus­ti­fy its inva­sion of Ukraine, want­ed to make some­thing clear.

    “You have to under­stand what Azov is. These are the men who, for the most part, took arms because we were attacked by Rus­sians,” said the stocky beard­ed fight­er, iden­ti­fy­ing him­self only by his nom de guerre Kaly­na, in a post on the Azov Regiment’s Telegram chan­nel. “I ask you not to con­fuse the con­cepts of patri­o­tism and Nazism,” he added.

    Cre­at­ed in 2014 to fight pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the east­ern Don­bas region, the infantry unit first attract­ed far-right vol­un­teers har­bour­ing anti-Mus­lim and anti-Jew­ish views. This back­ground has been used by the Krem­lin to jus­ti­fy its asser­tion that Ukraine need­ed “de-Naz­i­fy­ing.” Now incor­po­rat­ed into the Nation­al Guard, the reg­i­ment has attract­ed a more diverse crowd and grown more main­stream as it plays a mean­ing­ful role in key bat­tles in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mar­i­upol as part of the nation­wide resis­tance effort.

    “Azov’s his­to­ry is root­ed in a vol­un­teer bat­tal­ion formed by the lead­er­ship of a neo-Nazi group. But it is cer­tain that Azov has depoliti­cised itself,” said Anton Shekhovtsov, a Vien­na-based Ukrain­ian expert on Russia’s con­nec­tions to Europe’s far-right. “Its his­to­ry linked to the far-right move­ment is pret­ty irrel­e­vant today.”

    Andriy Bilet­sky, a found­ing com­man­der of the Azov forces and a for­mer MP under its splin­ter polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, told the Finan­cial Times by tele­phone from Kyiv that they were “the spine of Mariupol’s defences”, adding that there were about 1,500 Azov fight­ers in the city. “We are lead­ing in the most seri­ous bat­tles,” he said.

    Hav­ing start­ed as a mili­tia of just over 300 troops, “there are (now) scores of thou­sands” of Azov fight­ers, said Bilet­sky, who in 2008 co-found­ed the Social-Nation­al Assem­bly, a group­ing of the most extreme nation­al­ist Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal par­ties. Most are fight­ing with­in Ukraine’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al defence units, includ­ing more than 1,000 in Kharkiv, he said. The inte­ri­or min­istry did not com­ment on the fig­ures.

    Bilet­sky insists most Azov fight­ers are “patri­ot­ic, many of them are nation­al­ists”.

    “But the major­i­ty of Ukraini­ans today are nation­al­ists,” he said. He cit­ed Stepan Ban­dera, an ultra­na­tion­al­ist fig­ure who col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis against the Sovi­ets dur­ing the sec­ond world war, as among the “heroes” many of his fel­low cit­i­zens were now look­ing up to.

    Bilet­sky also point­ed to the var­i­ous nation­al­i­ties, includ­ing Israelis, Azeris, Geor­gians and even Rus­sians, among Azov fight­ers, who film them­selves attack­ing the ene­my — blow­ing up Russ­ian tanks or bundling tied-up and half-undressed Russ­ian sol­diers into a truck — and post videos on social media.

    Russ­ian pres­i­dent Vlad­mir Putin’s insis­tence that he invad­ed Ukraine to “de-Naz­i­fy” the whole coun­try has allowed its mem­bers and sup­port­ers to shrug off the neo-Nazi label as “Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da”. Bilet­sky returned the accu­sa­tion to Rus­sia for being respon­si­ble for the “destruc­tion on eth­nic grounds of cities for being Ukrain­ian”.

    Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, who is Jew­ish, this month award­ed the title of Hero of Ukraine to an Azov com­man­der. On Mon­day he called Russia’s wish for the “denaz­i­fi­ca­tion” and “demil­i­tari­sa­tion” of Ukraine “com­plete­ly incom­pre­hen­si­ble things”.

    “The way that Putin and the Krem­lin use the terms ‘Nazism’ and ‘fas­cism’ is root­ed in the Sovi­et era when, then and now, it means any­body who does not want to be either part of the Sovi­et Union or part of the Russ­ian world,” said Taras Kuzio, a British-Ukrain­ian research fel­low at the Hen­ry Jack­son Soci­ety think-tank.

    How­ev­er the Nation­al Corps, while sep­a­rate to Azov, had links to white suprema­cist groups in the US and in Europe, Kuzio said. “In Ukraine, you have pop­ulist nation­al­ists and you have neo-Nazis and the Nation­al Corps is the clos­est to some­thing like [the lat­ter].”

    Sergei Lavrov, Putin’s for­eign min­is­ter, accused Azov troops at a shelled mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal in Mar­i­upol of “turn­ing peo­ple into human shields . . . plac­ing their attack equip­ment there and open­ing fire on the posi­tions of Russ­ian troops”. Ukrain­ian and US offi­cials have denied those claims.

    Alex Kovzhun, a Kyiv-based con­sul­tant who helped devel­op Nation­al Corps’ polit­i­cal pro­gramme, said the fight­ers were “under con­stant fire from Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da because Rus­sians don’t like the idea of a Ukrain­ian nation”. He described the Nation­al Corps’ ide­ol­o­gy as akin to a “Euro­pean rightwing con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty, but it is def­i­nite­ly not ultra-right”.

    Azov was, he said, made up of his­to­ri­ans, foot­ball hooli­gans and men with mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence. Some were sport­ing “dubi­ous tat­toos” such as the Black Sun and the Wolf­san­gel used by the Nazis, but which were now claimed as pagan sym­bols by some bat­tal­ion mem­bers, he added.

    They first fought along­side a Ukrain­ian army that had been weak­ened by the pro-Krem­lin pres­i­den­cy of Vik­tor Yanukovych and were incor­po­rat­ed into the nation­al guard after they helped retake Mar­i­upol in fierce bat­tles in 2014.

    In 2016, the UN doc­u­ment­ed that mem­bers of Azov had embed­ded their troops and weapons in civil­ian build­ings in the Don­bas region. Two years lat­er, the US state depart­ment labelled the Nation­al Corps a “nation­al­ist hate group” and linked it to a group that “attacked” an eth­nic-Roma camp in Kyiv.

    The polit­i­cal lean­ings of some Azov mem­bers have nev­er proved pop­u­lar at the bal­lot box. The Nation­al Corps was part of a bloc with oth­er far-right par­ties that received just over 2 per cent of the vote in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 2019.

    But lib­er­al Ukraini­ans fear that the reg­i­ment may stand to ben­e­fit polit­i­cal­ly from its bat­tle­field prowess. “Are these the kind of fas­cists we want to run our coun­try after this war is over?” asked a lin­guist in Kyiv.

    The Nation­al Corps has “sus­pend­ed polit­i­cal activ­i­ties” because all active mem­bers had “now tak­en up arms or become vol­un­teers”, said Olek­san­dr Alfy­orov, a for­mer spokesper­son for the group.

    ...

    ————-

    “‘Don’t con­fuse patri­o­tism and Nazism’: Ukraine’s Azov forces face scruti­ny” by Andres Schipani and Roman Olearchyk; The Finan­cial Times; 03/29/2022

    ““Azov’s his­to­ry is root­ed in a vol­un­teer bat­tal­ion formed by the lead­er­ship of a neo-Nazi group. But it is cer­tain that Azov has depoliti­cised itself,” said Anton Shekhovtsov, a Vien­na-based Ukrain­ian expert on Russia’s con­nec­tions to Europe’s far-right. “Its his­to­ry linked to the far-right move­ment is pret­ty irrel­e­vant today.”

    Azov’s his­to­ry of being a hub of far right activ­i­ty “is pret­ty irrel­e­vant today”. That was the mes­sage from a Ukrain­ian expert, based in Vien­na, on Russia’s con­nec­tions to Europe’s far-right. A mes­sage that res­onat­ed remark­ably well with the same mes­sage com­ing out of the Azov move­men­t’s own spokes­peo­ple. The way they put it, the Nation­al Corps is just like any oth­er Euro­pean con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty and all those Nazi sym­bols are actu­al­ly pagan sym­bols. It’s lit­er­al­ly a “don’t believe your lying eyes and ears” mes­sage being deliv­ered by both the Nazis them­selves and the media out­lets across the world. It’s a near full-spec­trum white­wash­ing of white-suprema­cism:

    ...
    “You have to under­stand what Azov is. These are the men who, for the most part, took arms because we were attacked by Rus­sians,” said the stocky beard­ed fight­er, iden­ti­fy­ing him­self only by his nom de guerre Kaly­na, in a post on the Azov Regiment’s Telegram chan­nel. “I ask you not to con­fuse the con­cepts of patri­o­tism and Nazism,” he added.

    ...

    “The way that Putin and the Krem­lin use the terms ‘Nazism’ and ‘fas­cism’ is root­ed in the Sovi­et era when, then and now, it means any­body who does not want to be either part of the Sovi­et Union or part of the Russ­ian world,” said Taras Kuzio, a British-Ukrain­ian research fel­low at the Hen­ry Jack­son Soci­ety think-tank.

    How­ev­er the Nation­al Corps, while sep­a­rate to Azov, had links to white suprema­cist groups in the US and in Europe, Kuzio said. “In Ukraine, you have pop­ulist nation­al­ists and you have neo-Nazis and the Nation­al Corps is the clos­est to some­thing like [the lat­ter].”

    ...

    Alex Kovzhun, a Kyiv-based con­sul­tant who helped devel­op Nation­al Corps’ polit­i­cal pro­gramme, said the fight­ers were “under con­stant fire from Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da because Rus­sians don’t like the idea of a Ukrain­ian nation”. He described the Nation­al Corps’ ide­ol­o­gy as akin to a “Euro­pean rightwing con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty, but it is def­i­nite­ly not ultra-right”.

    Azov was, he said, made up of his­to­ri­ans, foot­ball hooli­gans and men with mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence. Some were sport­ing “dubi­ous tat­toos” such as the Black Sun and the Wolf­san­gel used by the Nazis, but which were now claimed as pagan sym­bols by some bat­tal­ion mem­bers, he added.
    ...

    But per­haps the most chill­ing take is the spin we get from Azov founder Andiry Bilet­sky: the way Bilet­sky sees it, the ‘nation­al­ism’ embraced by the group isn’t real­ly extrem­ist by con­tem­po­rary Ukrain­ian stan­dards because “the major­i­ty of Ukraini­ans today are nation­al­ists.” Whether or not Bilet­sky’s state­ment is an exag­ger­a­tion today, fears that this could be true by the end of this con­flict are no exag­ger­a­tion:

    ...
    Andriy Bilet­sky, a found­ing com­man­der of the Azov forces and a for­mer MP under its splin­ter polit­i­cal wing, the Nation­al Corps, told the Finan­cial Times by tele­phone from Kyiv that they were “the spine of Mariupol’s defences”, adding that there were about 1,500 Azov fight­ers in the city. “We are lead­ing in the most seri­ous bat­tles,” he said.

    Hav­ing start­ed as a mili­tia of just over 300 troops, “there are (now) scores of thou­sands” of Azov fight­ers, said Bilet­sky, who in 2008 co-found­ed the Social-Nation­al Assem­bly, a group­ing of the most extreme nation­al­ist Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal par­ties. Most are fight­ing with­in Ukraine’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al defence units, includ­ing more than 1,000 in Kharkiv, he said. The inte­ri­or min­istry did not com­ment on the fig­ures.

    Bilet­sky insists most Azov fight­ers are “patri­ot­ic, many of them are nation­al­ists”.

    “But the major­i­ty of Ukraini­ans today are nation­al­ists,” he said. He cit­ed Stepan Ban­dera, an ultra­na­tion­al­ist fig­ure who col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis against the Sovi­ets dur­ing the sec­ond world war, as among the “heroes” many of his fel­low cit­i­zens were now look­ing up to.
    ...

    These Nazis aren’t so bad. They just real­ly, real­ly, real­ly hate Rus­sians, and that’s a good thing, right? That’s the under­ly­ing mes­sage read­ers got out of read­ing this arti­cle, which is just the lat­est in this mold. And the longer this con­flict goes, the more recep­tive peo­ple are going to be to that mes­sage. Inside and out­side of Ukraine. So should Ukraine indeed end up hand­ing the names of the for­eign fight­ers over to their home gov­ern­ments, don’t be super shocked if many of those gov­ern­ments end up using that list to hand out medals of hon­or.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 29, 2022, 4:31 pm
  3. Remem­ber how Face­book changed its rules against the pro­mo­tion of extrem­ist groups and calls for vio­lence when it decid­ed to allow for calls of vio­lence against Rus­sians and the pro­mo­tion of Azov Bat­tal­ion? Well, there was a recent piece in the Wash­ing­ton Post that gives us a clue about one of the poten­tial, and pre­dictable, long-term reper­cus­sions from this pol­i­cy: advo­cates are now ques­tion­ing Face­book’s con­sis­ten­cy when it comes to oth­er con­flicts and ask­ing that par­i­ty be applied else­where too. So, for exam­ple, if a group of Nazis like the Azov Bat­tal­ion can now be pro­mot­ing on Face­book, what about oth­er extrem­ist groups involved in con­flict zones around the world? Like Hamas, which was already been banned by Face­book for its pro­mo­tion of vio­lence. Why does­n’t Hamas get the same treat­ment? These are just some of the ques­tions Face­book is being forced to ask in the wake of Face­book’s ‘Azov excep­tion’ pol­i­cy of cod­dling some extrem­ist groups, but not oth­ers.

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, this is far from a Face­book-only sto­ry. All of the major social media plat­forms have been tweak­ing their rules in response to war in Ukraine. Tweaks that dou­ble as prece­dents that can be applied in future con­flicts. That’s all part of why there are grow­ing calls for the social media com­pa­nies to do bet­ter in prepar­ing their poli­cies for con­flicts in advance, instead of just react­ing after con­flicts break out. So the social media giants are going to going to be expect­ed to ham­mer out ‘extrem­ist loop­hole’ rules to be applied in future con­flicts, with the the cur­rent ‘Azov excep­tion’ act­ing as the tem­plate:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Social media wasn’t ready for this war. It needs a plan for the next one.
    Face­book, YouTube, Tik­Tok and Twit­ter are hasti­ly rewrit­ing their rules on hate, vio­lence, and pro­pa­gan­da in Ukraine — and set­ting prece­dents they might regret

    By Will Ore­mus
    Staff writer
    March 25, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

    A month ago, prais­ing a neo-Nazi mili­tia or call­ing for vio­lence against Rus­sians could get you sus­pend­ed from Face­book in Ukraine. Now, both are allowed in the con­text of the war between the two coun­tries. Mean­while, Russ­ian state media orga­ni­za­tions that once post­ed freely are blocked in Europe on the plat­form.

    It isn’t just Face­book that’s rewrit­ing its rules in response to Russia’s bloody, unpro­voked inva­sion of Ukraine. From Google bar­ring ads in Rus­sia and tak­ing down YouTube videos that triv­i­al­ize the war, to Twit­ter refus­ing to rec­om­mend tweets that link to Russ­ian state media and Tik­Tok sus­pend­ing all video uploads from the coun­try in response to its “fake news” law — each of the largest social media plat­forms has tak­en ad hoc actions in recent weeks that go beyond or con­tra­dict its pre­vi­ous poli­cies.

    The moves illus­trate how Inter­net plat­forms have been scram­bling to adapt con­tent poli­cies built around notions of polit­i­cal neu­tral­i­ty to a wartime con­text. And they sug­gest that those rule books — the ones that gov­ern who can say what online — need a new chap­ter on geopo­lit­i­cal con­flicts.

    “The com­pa­nies are build­ing prece­dent as they go along,” says Katie Har­bath, CEO of the tech pol­i­cy con­sult­ing firm Anchor Change and a for­mer pub­lic pol­i­cy direc­tor at Face­book. “Part of my con­cern is that we’re all think­ing about the short term” in Ukraine, she says, rather than the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples that should guide how plat­forms approach wars around the world.

    Mov­ing fast in response to a cri­sis isn’t a bad thing in itself. For tech com­pa­nies that have become de fac­to stew­ards of online infor­ma­tion, react­ing quick­ly to glob­al events, and chang­ing the rules where nec­es­sary, is essen­tial. On the whole, social media giants have shown an unusu­al will­ing­ness to take a stand against the inva­sion, pri­or­i­tiz­ing their respon­si­bil­i­ties to Ukrain­ian users and their ties to demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­ern­ments over their desire to remain neu­tral, even at the cost of being banned from Rus­sia.

    The prob­lem is that they’re graft­ing their respons­es to the war onto the same glob­al, one-size-fits-all frame­works that they use to mod­er­ate con­tent in peace­time, says Emer­son T. Brook­ing, a senior res­i­dent fel­low at the Atlantic Council’s Dig­i­tal Foren­sic Research Lab. And their often opaque deci­sion-mak­ing process­es leave their poli­cies vul­ner­a­ble to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ques­tions of legit­i­ma­cy.

    The big tech com­pa­nies now have play­books for ter­ror­ist attacks, elec­tions, and pan­demics — but not wars.

    What plat­forms such as Face­book, Insta­gram, YouTube and Tik­Tok need, Brook­ing argues, are not anoth­er hard-and-fast set of rules that can be gen­er­al­ized to every con­flict, but a process and pro­to­cols for wartime that can be applied flex­i­bly and con­tex­tu­al­ly when fight­ing breaks out — loose­ly anal­o­gous to the com­mit­ments tech com­pa­nies made made to address ter­ror con­tent after the 2019 Christchurch mas­sacre in New Zealand. Face­book and oth­er plat­forms have also devel­oped spe­cial pro­to­cols over the years for elec­tions, from “war rooms” that mon­i­tor for for­eign inter­fer­ence or dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns to poli­cies specif­i­cal­ly pro­hibit­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about how to vote, as well as for the covid-19 pan­dem­ic.

    The war in Ukraine should be the impe­tus for them to think in the same sys­tem­at­ic way about the sort of “break glass” pol­i­cy mea­sures that may be need­ed specif­i­cal­ly in cas­es of wars, upris­ings, or sec­tar­i­an fight­ing, says Har­bath of Anchor Change — and about what the cri­te­ria would be for apply­ing them, not only in Ukraine but in con­flicts around the world, includ­ing those that com­mand less pub­lic and media atten­tion.

    Face­book, for its part, has at least start­ed along this path. The com­pa­ny says it began form­ing ded­i­cat­ed teams in 2018 to “bet­ter under­stand and address the way social media is used in coun­tries expe­ri­enc­ing con­flict,” and that it has been hir­ing more peo­ple with local and sub­ject-area exper­tise in Myan­mar and Ethiopia. Still, its actions in Ukraine — which had strug­gled to focus Facebook’s atten­tion on Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion as ear­ly as 2015 — show it has more work to do.

    The Atlantic Council’s Brook­ing believes Face­book prob­a­bly made the right call in instruct­ing its mod­er­a­tors not to enforce the company’s nor­mal rules on calls for vio­lence against Ukraini­ans express­ing out­rage at the Russ­ian inva­sion. Ban­ning Ukraini­ans from say­ing any­thing mean about Rus­sians online while their cities are being bombed would be cru­el­ly heavy-hand­ed. But the way those changes came to light — via a leak to the news agency Reuters — led to mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tions, which Russ­ian lead­ers cap­i­tal­ized on to demo­nize the com­pa­ny as Rus­so­pho­bic.

    After an ini­tial back­lash, includ­ing threats from Rus­sia to ban Face­book and Insta­gram, par­ent com­pa­ny Meta clar­i­fied that call­ing for the death of Russ­ian leader Vladimir Putin was still against its rules, per­haps hop­ing to sal­vage its pres­ence there. If so, it didn’t work: A Russ­ian court on Mon­day offi­cial­ly enact­ed the ban, and Russ­ian author­i­ties are push­ing to have Meta ruled an “extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion” amid a crack­down on speech and media.

    In real­i­ty, Meta’s moves appear to have been con­sis­tent with its approach in at least some pri­or con­flicts. As Brook­ing not­ed in Slate, Face­book also seems to have qui­et­ly relaxed its enforce­ment of rules against call­ing for or glo­ri­fy­ing vio­lence against the Islam­ic State in Iraq in 2017, against the Tal­iban in Afghanistan last year, and on both sides of the war between Arme­nia and Azer­bai­jan in 2020. If the com­pa­ny hoped that tweak­ing its mod­er­a­tion guide­lines piece­meal and in secret for each con­flict would allow it to avert scruti­ny, the Rus­sia deba­cle proves oth­er­wise.

    Ide­al­ly, in the case of wars, tech giants would have a frame­work for mak­ing such fraught deci­sions in con­cert with experts on human rights, Inter­net access and cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, as well as experts on the region in ques­tion and per­haps even offi­cials from rel­e­vant gov­ern­ments, Brook­ing sug­gests.

    In the absence of estab­lished process­es, major social plat­forms end­ed up ban­ning Russ­ian state media in Europe reac­tive­ly rather than proac­tive­ly, fram­ing it as com­pli­ance with the requests of the Euro­pean Union and Euro­pean gov­ern­ments. Mean­while, the same accounts stayed active in the Unit­ed States on some plat­forms, rein­forc­ing the per­cep­tion that the take­downs were not their choice. That risks set­ting a prece­dent that could come back to haunt the com­pa­nies when author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments demand bans on out­side media or even their own country’s oppo­si­tion par­ties in the future.

    Wars also pose par­tic­u­lar prob­lems for tech plat­forms’ notions of polit­i­cal neu­tral­i­ty, mis­in­for­ma­tion and depic­tions of graph­ic vio­lence.

    U.S.-based tech com­pa­nies have clear­ly picked a side in Ukraine, and it has come at a cost: Face­book, Insta­gram, Twit­ter and now Google News have all been blocked in Rus­sia, and YouTube could be next.

    Yet the com­pa­nies haven’t clear­ly artic­u­lat­ed the basis on which they’ve tak­en that stand, or how that might apply in oth­er set­tings, from Kash­mir to Nagorno-Karabakh, Yemen and the West Bank. While some, includ­ing Face­book, have devel­oped com­pre­hen­sive state-media poli­cies, oth­ers have cracked down on Russ­ian out­lets with­out spelling out the cri­te­ria on which they might take sim­i­lar actions against, say, Chi­nese state media.

    Har­bath, the for­mer Face­book offi­cial, said a hypo­thet­i­cal con­flict involv­ing Chi­na is the kind of thing that tech giants — along with oth­er major West­ern insti­tu­tions — should be plan­ning ahead for now, rather than rely­ing on the reac­tive approach they’ve used in Ukraine.

    ...

    Face­book, Twit­ter and YouTube have embraced the con­cept of “mis­in­for­ma­tion” as a descrip­tor for false or mis­lead­ing con­tent about vot­ing, covid-19, or vac­cines, with mixed results. But the war in Ukraine high­lights the inad­e­qua­cy of that term for dis­tin­guish­ing between, say, pro-Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns and pro-Ukrain­ian myths such as the “Ghost of Kyiv.” Both may be fac­tu­al­ly dubi­ous, but they play very dif­fer­ent roles in the infor­ma­tion bat­tle.

    The plat­forms seem to under­stand this intu­itive­ly: There were no wide­spread crack­downs on Ukrain­ian media out­lets for spread­ing what might fair­ly be deemed resis­tance pro­pa­gan­da. Yet they’re still strug­gling to adapt old vocab­u­lary and poli­cies to such dis­tinc­tions.

    For instance, Twit­ter jus­ti­fied tak­ing down Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion about the Mar­i­upol hos­pi­tal bomb­ings under its poli­cies on “abu­sive behav­ior” and “deny­ing mass casu­al­ty events,” the lat­ter of which was designed for behav­ior such as Alex Jones’ dis­missal of the Sandy Hook shoot­ings. YouTube cit­ed an anal­o­gous 2019 pol­i­cy on “hate­ful” con­tent, includ­ing Holo­caust denial, in announc­ing that it would pro­hib­it any videos that min­i­mize Russia’s inva­sion.

    As for depic­tions of graph­ic vio­lence, it makes sense for a plat­form such as YouTube to pro­hib­it, say, videos of corpses or killings under nor­mal cir­cum­stances. But in wars, such footage could be cru­cial evi­dence of war crimes, and tak­ing it down could help the per­pe­tra­tors con­ceal them.

    YouTube and oth­er plat­forms have exemp­tions to their poli­cies for news­wor­thy or doc­u­men­tary con­tent. And, to their cred­it, they seem to be treat­ing such videos and images with rel­a­tive care in Ukraine, says Dia Kayyali, asso­ciate direc­tor for advo­ca­cy at Mnemon­ic, a non­prof­it devot­ed to archiv­ing evi­dence of human rights vio­la­tions. But that rais­es ques­tions of con­sis­ten­cy.

    “They’re doing a lot of things in Ukraine that advo­cates around the world have asked them for in oth­er cir­cum­stances, that they haven’t been will­ing to pro­vide,” Kayyali says. In the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries, for instance, plat­forms take down “a lot of polit­i­cal speech, a lot of peo­ple speak­ing out against Israel, against human rights vio­la­tions.” Face­book has also been accused in the past of cen­sor­ing posts that high­light police bru­tal­i­ty against Mus­lims in Kash­mir.

    Of course, it isn’t only tech com­pa­nies that have paid clos­er atten­tion to — and tak­en a stronger stand on — Ukraine than oth­er human rights crises around the world. One could say the same of the media, gov­ern­ments and the pub­lic at large. But for Sil­i­con Val­ley giants that pride them­selves on being glob­al and sys­tem­at­ic in their out­look — even if their actions don’t always reflect it — a more coher­ent set of cri­te­ria for respond­ing to con­flicts seems like a rea­son­able ask.

    “I would love to see the lev­el of con­tex­tu­al analy­sis that Meta is doing for their excep­tions to rules against urg­ing vio­lence to Russ­ian sol­diers, and to their allowance of praise for the Azov bat­tal­ion” — the Ukrain­ian neo-Nazi mili­tia that has been resist­ing the Russ­ian inva­sion — applied to con­flicts in the Ara­bic-speak­ing world, Kayyali says. “It’s not too late for them to start doing some of these things in oth­er places.”

    ————

    “Social media wasn’t ready for this war. It needs a plan for the next one.” by Will Ore­mus; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/25/2022

    “It isn’t just Face­book that’s rewrit­ing its rules in response to Russia’s bloody, unpro­voked inva­sion of Ukraine. From Google bar­ring ads in Rus­sia and tak­ing down YouTube videos that triv­i­al­ize the war, to Twit­ter refus­ing to rec­om­mend tweets that link to Russ­ian state media and Tik­Tok sus­pend­ing all video uploads from the coun­try in response to its “fake news” law — each of the largest social media plat­forms has tak­en ad hoc actions in recent weeks that go beyond or con­tra­dict its pre­vi­ous poli­cies.

    Yes, it’s not just Face­book scram­bling to adjust its poli­cies in response to the war in Ukraine. It’s the whole social media ecosys­tem that’s been devis­ing these pol­i­cy tweaks, and have been doing so in a high­ly opaque man­ner. Nei­ther is it the first time the social media giants have been forced to carve out loop­holes dur­ing a war. But it’s much more notice­able now that open­ly Nazi groups like Azov are the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of these loop­holes. So for some observers, like Emer­son T. Brook­ing of the Atlantic Coun­cil, the big prob­lem with these war-time pol­i­cy tweaks was­n’t the pol­i­cy changes them­selves. Instead, it was the fact that these changes become pub­lic through leaks to the media, prompt­ing the Krem­lin to label Face­book a Rus­si­a­pho­bic com­pa­ny. The bad look from hav­ing these poli­cies leaked was the appar­ent prob­lem here, accord­ing to the Atlantic Coun­cil. Not the actu­al poli­cies. Quite the con­trary, Brook­ing stat­ed he agreed with the pol­i­cy change:

    ...
    The prob­lem is that they’re graft­ing their respons­es to the war onto the same glob­al, one-size-fits-all frame­works that they use to mod­er­ate con­tent in peace­time, says Emer­son T. Brook­ing, a senior res­i­dent fel­low at the Atlantic Council’s Dig­i­tal Foren­sic Research Lab. And their often opaque deci­sion-mak­ing process­es leave their poli­cies vul­ner­a­ble to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ques­tions of legit­i­ma­cy.

    ...

    The Atlantic Council’s Brook­ing believes Face­book prob­a­bly made the right call in instruct­ing its mod­er­a­tors not to enforce the company’s nor­mal rules on calls for vio­lence against Ukraini­ans express­ing out­rage at the Russ­ian inva­sion. Ban­ning Ukraini­ans from say­ing any­thing mean about Rus­sians online while their cities are being bombed would be cru­el­ly heavy-hand­ed. But the way those changes came to light — via a leak to the news agency Reuters — led to mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tions, which Russ­ian lead­ers cap­i­tal­ized on to demo­nize the com­pa­ny as Rus­so­pho­bic.

    ...

    In real­i­ty, Meta’s moves appear to have been con­sis­tent with its approach in at least some pri­or con­flicts. As Brook­ing not­ed in Slate, Face­book also seems to have qui­et­ly relaxed its enforce­ment of rules against call­ing for or glo­ri­fy­ing vio­lence against the Islam­ic State in Iraq in 2017, against the Tal­iban in Afghanistan last year, and on both sides of the war between Arme­nia and Azer­bai­jan in 2020. If the com­pa­ny hoped that tweak­ing its mod­er­a­tion guide­lines piece­meal and in secret for each con­flict would allow it to avert scruti­ny, the Rus­sia deba­cle proves oth­er­wise.
    ...

    And then we have all of the advo­cates for oth­er con­flicts, like Pales­tin­ian activists, who are now won­der­ing why all the groups deemed extrem­ist in those con­flicts aren’t being giv­en the same def­er­ence. Should­n’t Hamas also get a con­flict-carve-out? How about calls for the killing of Israelis? Why isn’t that allowed when the war in Ukraine result­ed in an spe­cial exemp­tion in calls for the death of Rus­sians? Should­n’t Face­book be forced to address this incon­sis­ten­cy? These aren’t unrea­son­able ques­tions:

    ...
    YouTube and oth­er plat­forms have exemp­tions to their poli­cies for news­wor­thy or doc­u­men­tary con­tent. And, to their cred­it, they seem to be treat­ing such videos and images with rel­a­tive care in Ukraine, says Dia Kayyali, asso­ciate direc­tor for advo­ca­cy at Mnemon­ic, a non­prof­it devot­ed to archiv­ing evi­dence of human rights vio­la­tions. But that rais­es ques­tions of con­sis­ten­cy.

    “They’re doing a lot of things in Ukraine that advo­cates around the world have asked them for in oth­er cir­cum­stances, that they haven’t been will­ing to pro­vide,” Kayyali says. In the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries, for instance, plat­forms take down “a lot of polit­i­cal speech, a lot of peo­ple speak­ing out against Israel, against human rights vio­la­tions.” Face­book has also been accused in the past of cen­sor­ing posts that high­light police bru­tal­i­ty against Mus­lims in Kash­mir.

    ...

    “I would love to see the lev­el of con­tex­tu­al analy­sis that Meta is doing for their excep­tions to rules against urg­ing vio­lence to Russ­ian sol­diers, and to their allowance of praise for the Azov bat­tal­ion” — the Ukrain­ian neo-Nazi mili­tia that has been resist­ing the Russ­ian inva­sion — applied to con­flicts in the Ara­bic-speak­ing world, Kayyali says. “It’s not too late for them to start doing some of these things in oth­er places.”
    ...

    Of course, there was a very sim­ple way for Face­book to address these incon­sis­ten­cies, at least when it came to the ban on the pro­mo­tion of Nazi groups like Azov: just keep the ban in place. But that appar­ent­ly was­n’t an option for the com­pa­ny. So now we get to find out whether or not Face­book’s high­ly pref­er­en­tial treat­ment of Ukraine’s Nazis is going to prompt a glob­al loos­en­ing of the plat­for­m’s anti-extrem­ist poli­cies. Spe­cial loop­holes for Nazis in the spir­it of fair­ness. This is where we are.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 30, 2022, 4:30 pm
  4. The hits keep com­ing! There was anoth­er piece put out by CNN yes­ter­day cov­er­ing the Azov bat­tal­ion and the renewed focus on its con­tro­ver­sial ‘past’. Yes, the arti­cle talked about how Azov’s past Nazi prob­lems are cre­at­ing com­pli­ca­tions for a fight­ing unit that is play­ing a big role in Ukraine’s resis­tance against the Russ­ian inva­sion. It gives you an idea of the gen­er­al gist of the arti­cle.

    And what about the unde­ni­able present-day Nazi prob­lems in the Azov move­ment? Well, that’s where this arti­cle appeared to be blaz­ing the trails for a new lev­el of pro-Azov pro­pa­gan­da: Accord­ing to ‘extrem­ism expert’ Alexan­der Ritz­mann, a senior advis­er at the Berlin-based Counter Extrem­ism Project (CEP), the Azov bat­tal­ion is now essen­tial­ly entire­ly sep­a­rate from the broad­er Azov polit­i­cal move­ment and its Nation­al Corps par­ty. Once the Azov bat­tal­ion was incor­po­rat­ed into the Ukrain­ian nation­al guard, it found that it was­n’t able to embrace the Nazi ideals of its found Andriy Bilet­sky. So Bilet­sky and the oth­er die hard ide­o­logues left to form the Nation­al Corps and Azov move­ment, which is now entire­ly sep­a­rate from the Azov bat­tal­ion. Yep, that’s the new nar­ra­tive, but pushed out by in the arti­cle by both Ritz­mann and the Azov bat­tal­ion spokes­peo­ple.

    Note that Ritz­mann is cur­rent list­ed as a Senior Advi­sor to the Euro­pean Foun­da­tion for Democ­ra­cy (EFD), a hawk­ish think-tank cre­at­ed in 2006 on the mod­el of the US Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (NED) with close ties to the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cy and a his­to­ry of warn­ing about the dan­gers of Mus­lim extrem­ist groups like the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. So if it seems odd that an extrem­ism expert would be dis­miss­ing the dan­gers of an extrem­ist group, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that the EFD is pri­mar­i­ly focused on Mus­lim extrem­ism.

    There is actu­al­ly some sober­ing com­ments near the end of the arti­cle by Olek­siy Kuz­menko, a Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist focus­ing on the Ukrain­ian far-right, so it’s not entire­ly unbal­anced. As Kuz­menko points out, “While it’s cor­rect to point (out that) Ukraine’s far-right has min­i­mal elec­toral sup­port, they (Azov) have enjoyed near impuni­ty for vio­lence aimed at minori­ties, were unchecked in their efforts to build influ­ence in mil­i­tary and secu­ri­ty forces, and have been nor­mal­ized by Ukraine’s senior lead­ers.” And it’s that jux­ta­po­si­tion — with dis­missals of Azov’s Nazism paired with Kuz­menko’s words of clar­i­ty — that under­score just how dam­ag­ing the Nazi-cod­dling pro­pa­gan­da is going to be in the long run. Because the net mes­sage West­ern audi­ences are get­ting in this del­uge pro­pa­gan­da isn’t just blan­ket denials of Ukraine’s unde­ni­able Nazi prob­lem. We’re also get­ting arti­cles this this, where the very real dan­gers of Ukraine’s Nazi prob­lem are revealed and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly dis­missed as overblown and Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion and real­ly not so bad when com­pared to Russ­ian fas­cism. It’s the kind of infor­ma­tion envi­ron­ment that’s inevitably going to leave a lot of read­ers with the sense that, yes, Nazism in Ukraine is a prob­lem but it’s real­ly the less­er evil in this sit­u­a­tion, which is basi­cal­ly fas­cis­m’s rhetor­i­cal sweet spot:

    CNN

    A far-right bat­tal­ion has a key role in Ukraine’s resis­tance. Its neo-Nazi his­to­ry has been exploit­ed by Putin

    Analy­sis by Tara John and Tim Lis­ter
    Updat­ed 7:58 AM ET, Wed March 30, 2022

    (CNN)President Vladimir Putin framed the Russ­ian inva­sion of Ukraine as a “spe­cial mis­sion” to pro­tect Russ­ian speak­ers from geno­cide at the hands of ?“neo-Nazis.”

    In a speech broad­cast min­utes before the inva­sion began on Feb­ru­ary 24?, Putin said: “We will seek to demil­i­ta­rize and denaz­i­fy Ukraine,” ignor­ing the fact that the coun­try’s pres­i­dent, Volodymyr Zelen­sky, is Jew­ish.

    For the Krem­lin, Exhib­it A in this spe­cial mis­sion is the far-right Azov move­ment, part of the mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal land­scape in Ukraine for near­ly a decade.

    Azov’s mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal wings for­mal­ly sep­a­rat­ed in 2016, when the far-right Nation­al Corps par­ty was found­ed. The Azov bat­tal­ion had by then been inte­grat­ed into the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard.

    An effec­tive fight­ing force that’s very much involved in the cur­rent con­flict, the bat­tal­ion has a his­to­ry of neo-Nazi lean­ings, which have not been entire­ly extin­guished by its inte­gra­tion into the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary.

    In its hey­day as an autonomous mili­tia, the Azov Bat­tal­ion was asso­ci­at­ed with White suprema­cists and neo-Nazi ide­ol­o­gy and insignia. It was espe­cial­ly active in and around Mar­i­upol in 2014 and 2015. CNN teams in the area at the time report­ed Azov’s embrace of neo-Nazi emblems and para­pher­na­lia.

    After its inte­gra­tion into the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, amid dis­cus­sions in the US Con­gress about des­ig­nat­ing the Azov Move­ment a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, Ukraine’s then min­is­ter of inter­nal affairs, Arsen Avakov, defend­ed the unit. “The shame­ful infor­ma­tion cam­paign about the alleged spread of Nazi ide­ol­o­gy (among Azov mem­bers) is a delib­er­ate attempt to dis­cred­it the ‘Azov’ unit and the Nation­al Guard of Ukraine,” he told the online news­pa­per Ukrayin­s­ka Prav­da in 2019.

    The bat­tal­ion still oper­ates as a rel­a­tive­ly autonomous enti­ty. It has been promi­nent in defend­ing Mar­i­upol in recent weeks, and its resis­tance has been wide­ly praised by mem­bers of the gov­ern­ment.

    For Putin, who has false­ly claimed Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment is run by “drug addicts and neo-Nazis,” Azov presents an obvi­ous tar­get. Moscow has giv­en the reg­i­ment an out­sized role in the con­flict, rou­tine­ly accus­ing it of human rights abus­es.

    On March 7, Rus­si­a’s ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations blamed the Azov reg­i­ment for block­ing an evac­u­a­tion cor­ri­dor in the besieged port city, say­ing they were using “cit­i­zens as a human shield.” That claim has been repeat­ed con­sis­tent­ly in Russ­ian media.

    The same day, Azov major Denis Prokopenko said in a video shared on the reg­i­men­t’s Twit­ter account that the “attempts to orga­nize a safe cor­ri­dor for the (relo­ca­tion) of civil­ian peo­ple... failed because of sev­er­al actions of the ene­my (Russ­ian forces) in the assem­bly area.”

    After the bomb­ing of a Mar­i­upol the­ater that was shel­ter­ing civil­ians and had “chil­dren” writ­ten in Russ­ian on the ground on either side of the build­ing, the Russ­ian Defense Min­istry accused “mil­i­tants of the nation­al­ist ‘Azov’ bat­tal­ion” of car­ry­ing out the attack.

    In the Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion play­book, the Azov move­ment is a tempt­ing tar­get — one where fact and dis­in­for­ma­tion can be elid­ed.

    The exis­tence of an iden­ti­fi­ably Azov ele­ment with­in the Ukrain­ian armed forces — and an effec­tive ele­ment at that — pos­es uncom­fort­able ques­tions for the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and its West­ern allies, which con­tin­ue to send arms to the coun­try.

    CNN has reached out to Ukraine’s defense min­istry for com­ment.

    In the not-too-dis­tant past, Azov’s lead­er­ship open­ly espoused White suprema­cist views and cul­ti­vat­ed links with sim­i­lar­ly mind­ed groups and indi­vid­u­als in the West.

    In 2010, Andriy Bilet­sky, now leader of the Nation­al Corps, the Azov move­men­t’s polit­i­cal wing, report­ed­ly said his goal was to “lead the White races of the world in a final cru­sade.”

    In a state­ment to CNN, the Azov reg­i­ment said it “appre­ci­ates and respects Andriy Bilet­sky as the reg­i­men­t’s founder and first com­man­der, but we have noth­ing to do with his polit­i­cal activ­i­ties and the Nation­al Corps par­ty” — adding the for­mer com­man­der nev­er made such com­ments.

    The state­ment said that Azov’s “moti­va­tion has always angered Rus­sia. There­fore, dis­in­for­ma­tion attacks on the AZOV Reg­i­ment have not stopped since 2014.”

    It added that the move­ment has “repeat­ed­ly denied alle­ga­tions of fas­cism, nazism and racism,” and have Ukraini­ans of all dif­fer­ent back­grounds includ­ing “Greeks, Jews, Crimean Tatars, Rus­sians” who “con­tin­ue to serve in AZOV.”

    “Most of them are Russ­ian-speak­ing, most are Ortho­dox. But there are Catholics and Protes­tants, Pagans and those who pro­fess Islam and Judaism, and there are athe­ists,” Azov assert­ed.

    It not­ed that the Azov reg­i­men­t’s role is as “a spe­cial unit of the Nation­al Guard of Ukraine, and is sub­or­di­nat­ed exclu­sive­ly to the Supreme Com­man­der-in-Chief — the Pres­i­dent of Ukraine, by the way, a Jew.”

    “It would be absurd to think that we are unit­ed by the idea of white racism or nazism,” the Azov state­ment added.

    Despite the Azov move­men­t’s inter­na­tion­al noto­ri­ety, Ukraine “is not a cesspit for Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers,” accord­ing to Alexan­der Ritz­mann, a senior advis­er at the Counter Extrem­ism Project (CEP), based in Berlin.

    He not­ed that in the last elec­tions in Ukraine in 2019, Azov’s polit­i­cal wing only won 2.15% of the vote, and Bilet­sky lost his seat in par­lia­ment.

    Plus — Ritz­mann says — there are far-right actors promi­nent in Rus­sia, too. “There is a far-right extrem­ist prob­lem on both sides in the con­flict, but there seems to be a bias in only report­ing on Ukraine’s far-right prob­lem,” he said.

    Azov’s begin­nings

    The Azov Bat­tal­ion was formed in 2014, the same year Russ­ian-backed rebels began seiz­ing ter­ri­to­ry across Ukraine’s east­ern Don­bas region, and Rus­sia invad­ed and cap­tured Crimea. At the time, Ukraine’s Min­istry of Defense encour­aged vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions to join the resis­tance cam­paign and help its strug­gling army.

    The bat­tal­ion’s role in recap­tur­ing Mar­i­upol in June 2014 from Russ­ian-backed forces brought it “hero sta­tus” in Ukraine, said Ritz­mann.

    But that sta­tus came with bag­gage — the far-right views of some mem­bers and neo-Nazi insignia. These includ­ed the black sun, “a pagan sym­bol appro­pri­at­ed by Nazis for their pseu­do-reli­gion,” and the Wolf­san­gel, “a sym­bol that far-right extrem­ists have also adopt­ed,” Ritz­mann said.

    Azov’s lead­ers have denied the neo-Nazi asso­ci­a­tions, say­ing the Wolf­san­gel “N” and “I’ mean “nation­al idea.”

    Even though the Azov Bat­tal­ion was co-found­ed by Bilet­sky, who pre­vi­ous­ly led the rad­i­cal right group Patri­ot of Ukraine, the group was armed by the state and part­ly fund­ed by local oli­garchs in east­ern Ukraine. That fund­ing includ­ed mon­ey from the Jew­ish tycoon Ihor Kolo­moisky, Ritz­mann said. The US State Depart­ment sanc­tioned Kolo­moisky in March 2021. The pre­vi­ous year, the US Jus­tice Depart­mentthe US Jus­tice Depart­ment placed him under inves­ti­ga­tion on accu­sa­tions of embez­zle­ment and fraud.
    ...

    In 2016, the Unit­ed Nation­al High Com­mis­sion­er of Human Rights accused armed groups on both sides of the Don­bas con­flict, includ­ing Azov, of human rights abus­es..

    Inter­na­tion­al out­reach

    When the Azov Bat­tal­ion was brought under the com­mand of the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs as a reg­i­ment in 2014, “polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed fight­ers like (Andriy) Bilet­sky left and found­ed the Azov move­ment so they can do their ultra-nation­al­ist, far-right work, which they were not allowed to do in the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary,” Ritz­mann said.

    The polit­i­cal par­ty Bilet­sky formed, the Nation­al Corps, which the US Depart­ment of State described in 2018 as a nation­al­ist hate group, “is essen­tial­ly the spine of what we today call the Azov move­ment,” Kacper Rekawek, a research fel­low with the Cen­ter for Research on Extrem­ism (C‑REX) at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oslo, told CNN.

    “The Azov move­ment is a dan­ger­ous key play­er of the transna­tion­al extreme-right and has served as a net­work hub for sev­er­al years now, with strong ties to far-right extrem­ists in many Euro­pean Union coun­tries and the Unit­ed States,” Ritz­mann said.

    Ole­na Semenya­ka, the head of the Nation­al Corps’ inter­na­tion­al depart­ment, attend­ed a fes­ti­val in 2018 orga­nized by Ger­man neo-Nazis; and in 2019 she spoke at the far-right Scan­za Forum in Swe­den along­side British neo-Nazi Mark Col­lett.

    Since form­ing in 2014, the Azov move­ment has grown to include a mili­tia, sum­mer camps for kids and para­mil­i­tary train­ing cen­ters. It runs activ­i­ties, includ­ing music fes­ti­vals, polit­i­cal events and mixed-mar­tial-arts tour­na­ments, as it pro­mot­ed itself in the inter­na­tion­al far-right space.

    The Nation­al Corps has repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed its dis­dain for lib­er­al val­ues in its treat­ment of minor­i­ty groups — with few reper­cus­sions.

    A 2018 US State Depart­ment report found that the move­men­t’s mili­tia “attacked and destroyed a Romani camp in Kyiv after its res­i­dents failed to respond to their ulti­ma­tum to leave the area with­in 24 hours,” in full view of the local police.

    The ‘Death Star’

    While the far-right world­view of the Azov move­ment is clear, there has been an intense debate on whether the Azov Bat­tal­ion should be classed a “for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion” by the US Depart­ment of State.

    “Peo­ple always assume it (the Azov reg­i­ment and Azov move­ment) is one Death Star,” Rekawek said. “Year by year, the con­nec­tions (between the reg­i­ment and the move­ment) are loos­er,” he said, explain­ing that the bat­tal­ion’s ranks now include Ukraini­ans who have no affin­i­ty with its neo-Nazi past.

    Ritz­mann says the far-right ele­ment in Ukraine’s army is no dif­fer­ent to what’s been detect­ed in oth­er mil­i­taries, such as in Ger­many and the US.

    “Pre­sum­ably, far-right extrem­ists serve in the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary as they do in all oth­er mil­i­taries — valid data regard­ing the exact num­bers are not avail­able,” he said.

    “Back in 2015, the Azov Reg­i­ment itself claimed to have between 10% and 20% far-right extrem­ists in their ranks,” but those fig­ures are pos­si­bly small­er today, he said.

    But the reg­i­ment still uses the Wolf­san­gel sym­bol, and lead­ers of the Azov move­ment, who used to be com­man­ders in the unit, con­tin­ue to vis­it it, said Olek­siy Kuz­menko, a Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist focus­ing on the Ukrain­ian far-right.

    “The cur­rent leader of the Azov Reg­i­ment, Denis ‘Redis’ Prokopenko, is part of the core of the Azov move­ment since 2014, and served under com­man­ders who went on to lead the Azov move­ment polit­i­cal and street wings,” Kuz­menko told CNN.

    Prokopenko’s deputy, Svy­atoslav “Kaly­na” Pala­mar, has explic­it­ly praised the move­men­t’s founder, Bilet­sky, as “a leader who ‘finds spon­sors that real­ly invest mon­ey’ into the reg­i­ment,” Kuz­menko said.

    Kuz­menko points out that as of 2021, the reg­i­ment was “active­ly involved in the train­ing of the move­men­t’s youth lead­ers,” and its web­site has a link to the move­men­t’s YouTube chan­nel.

    “Ukraine and (the) West­’s inac­tion on these issues paved the way for Putin to quite lit­er­al­ly weaponize them against Ukraine in an attempt to jus­ti­fy his aggres­sion,” Kuz­menko said.

    “While it’s cor­rect to point (out that) Ukraine’s far-right has min­i­mal elec­toral sup­port, they (Azov) have enjoyed near impuni­ty for vio­lence aimed at minori­ties, were unchecked in their efforts to build influ­ence in mil­i­tary and secu­ri­ty forces, and have been nor­mal­ized by Ukraine’s senior lead­ers,” he said.

    In a state­ment to CNN on Wednes­day, Prokopenko said: “Who­ev­er calls us Nazis is deeply mis­tak­en. We have young brave sol­diers who give their lives for the inde­pen­dence of Ukraine and throw them­selves under ene­my tanks.”

    For­eign fight­ers

    Since it formed, the Azov move­ment has recruit­ed for­eign fight­ers moti­vat­ed by White suprema­cism to fight in Ukraine, experts say. Rus­si­a’s full-scale inva­sion of the coun­try, and Zelen­sky’s call for for­eign vol­un­teers to join the fight, have raised con­cerns about rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the war.

    “My con­cern is that peo­ple, espe­cial­ly far-right extrem­ists in Europe, (will gain) com­bat expe­ri­ence and train­ing in the Ukrain­ian the­ater and then use that for ter­ror­ist attacks in Europe prop­er,” Col­in P. Clarke, senior research fel­low at the New York- based for­eign pol­i­cy research non­prof­it the Soufan Cen­ter, told CNN.

    In 2020, Buz­zfeed report­ed that Ukraine deport­ed two mem­bers from the US-based neo-Nazi group the Atom­waf­fen Divi­sion, who were try­ing to gain com­bat expe­ri­ence with Azov.

    Rekawek, an expert on for­eign fight­ers at C‑REX, said Azov has only been able to recruit 20 for­eign fight­ers since the start of the 2022 inva­sion. CNN has not been able to ver­i­fy those fig­ures inde­pen­dent­ly.

    For its part, Rus­sia also has a thriv­ing ultra-nation­al­ist scene that is tol­er­at­ed by the author­i­ties.

    The Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Move­ment (RIM), an extreme-right mili­tia based in St. Peters­burg, was, in 2020, the first White suprema­cist group to be cat­e­go­rized as “Spe­cial­ly Des­ig­nat­ed Glob­al Ter­ror­ists” by the US State Depart­ment. While the RIM has worked in oppo­si­tion to Putin’s regime, it has sup­port­ed the Russ­ian side in the war against Ukraine — train­ing Russ­ian mil­i­tants to join pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the con­flict, accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty and Coop­er­a­tion (CISAC) at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty.

    “They have nev­er con­front­ed their own nation­al­ists,” said Rekawek. Experts say Rus­sia has also been a play­er in Europe’s far-right space, with France’s Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Mat­teo Salvi­ni enjoy­ing close links with Putin before the 2022 inva­sion.

    And of the “few hun­dred west­ern indi­vid­u­als with extreme right-wing or ‘nation­al­ist’ con­vic­tions” who trav­eled to fight in the Ukraine con­flict around 2014, “most of those extrem­ist vol­un­teers fought on the side of the pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists,” accord­ing to a CEP report pub­lished in March.

    Ritz­mann has found pro-Russ­ian groups call­ing for vol­un­teers in his research. This includes “the Russ­ian secu­ri­ty con­trac­tor Wag­n­er Group, which has a his­to­ry of dis­play­ing Nazi insignia,” he said in the CEP report.

    But amid the tide of mil­lions of refugees and untold dam­age to Ukrain­ian cities, some experts say Rus­si­a’s fix­a­tion on a minor play­er like the Azov move­ment serves a pur­pose — allow­ing the Krem­lin to frame the con­flict as an ide­o­log­i­cal and even exis­ten­tial strug­gle. How­ev­er remote from real­i­ty that may be.

    ———–

    “A far-right bat­tal­ion has a key role in Ukraine’s resis­tance. Its neo-Nazi his­to­ry has been exploit­ed by Putin” by Tara John and Tim Lis­ter; CNN; 03/30/2022

    “An effec­tive fight­ing force that’s very much involved in the cur­rent con­flict, the bat­tal­ion has a his­to­ry of neo-Nazi lean­ings, which have not been entire­ly extin­guished by its inte­gra­tion into the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary.

    That more or less cap­tures the cog­ni­tive fram­ing in this arti­cle: ‘yes, there was a Nazi prob­lem in the Azov bat­tal­ion. Before it was for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed into the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary. But now the Nazi prob­lems have been almost extin­guish. Prob­lem solved! The only real prob­lem left is that all these peo­ple keep asso­ci­at­ing the Azov Bat­tal­ion with extrem­ism when the only extrem­ism it can be accused of today is extreme patri­o­tism.’

    It would have been the com­plete­ly unchal­lenged nar­ra­tive in the arti­cle if it was­n’t for the counter-argu­ments by Olek­siy Kuz­menko at the end. And it’s not a par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing nar­ra­tive giv­en the cir­cum­stances. What is sur­pris­ing is that this appears to be a selec­tive white­wash­ing of just the Azov bat­tal­ion by imply­ing that the bat­tal­ion has com­plete­ly divorced itself from the broad­er Azov move­ment and the Nation­al Corps polit­i­cal par­ty fol­low­ing the incor­po­ra­tion of the bat­tal­ion into the Ukrain­ian nation­al guard. All the endur­ing Nazism is sole­ly man­i­fest­ing in the Azov move­ment, not the Azov bat­tal­ion, accord­ing to this nar­ra­tive.

    It’s a remark­able nar­ra­tive for a num­ber of rea­sons, includ­ing the fact that it’s implic­it­ly admit­ting that, yes, there is a very real con­tem­po­rary Nazi prob­lem in the Azov move­ment. It’s a nar­ra­tive that assumes the audi­ence isn’t gullible enough to buy the idea that Ukraine does­n’t have a Nazi prob­lem but is still gullible enough to accept the idea that the Azov bat­tal­ion is some­how sep­a­rate from the broad­er Azov move­ment. A bat­tal­ion that, as the arti­cle notes, still oper­ates as a rel­a­tive­ly autonomous enti­ty. We’re sup­posed to assume that the this autonomous unit has purged itself of the extrem­ists:

    ...
    In its hey­day as an autonomous mili­tia, the Azov Bat­tal­ion was asso­ci­at­ed with White suprema­cists and neo-Nazi ide­ol­o­gy and insignia. It was espe­cial­ly active in and around Mar­i­upol in 2014 and 2015. CNN teams in the area at the time report­ed Azov’s embrace of neo-Nazi emblems and para­pher­na­lia.

    ...

    The bat­tal­ion still oper­ates as a rel­a­tive­ly autonomous enti­ty. It has been promi­nent in defend­ing Mar­i­upol in recent weeks, and its resis­tance has been wide­ly praised by mem­bers of the gov­ern­ment.
    ...

    And then we get the laugh­able dis­avow­al of Azov founder Andriy Bilet­sky’s open Nazi ide­ol­o­gy. Not only is the bat­tal­ion deny­ing that it cur­rent­ly fol­lows Bil­tesky’s state goal for the unit of lead­ing “the White races of the world in a final cru­sade,” or has any­thing to do with the Nation­al Corp, but it also denies Bilet­sky ever made com­ments in the first place and con­tin­ues to appre­ci­ate and respect Bilet­sky as the reg­i­men­t’s founder and first com­man­der. It’s a clas­sic Nazi troll response:

    ...

    In the not-too-dis­tant past, Azov’s lead­er­ship open­ly espoused White suprema­cist views and cul­ti­vat­ed links with sim­i­lar­ly mind­ed groups and indi­vid­u­als in the West.

    In 2010, Andriy Bilet­sky, now leader of the Nation­al Corps, the Azov move­men­t’s polit­i­cal wing, report­ed­ly said his goal was to “lead the White races of the world in a final cru­sade.”

    In a state­ment to CNN, the Azov reg­i­ment said it “appre­ci­ates and respects Andriy Bilet­sky as the reg­i­men­t’s founder and first com­man­der, but we have noth­ing to do with his polit­i­cal activ­i­ties and the Nation­al Corps par­ty” — adding the for­mer com­man­der nev­er made such com­ments.

    The state­ment said that Azov’s “moti­va­tion has always angered Rus­sia. There­fore, dis­in­for­ma­tion attacks on the AZOV Reg­i­ment have not stopped since 2014.”

    It added that the move­ment has “repeat­ed­ly denied alle­ga­tions of fas­cism, nazism and racism,” and have Ukraini­ans of all dif­fer­ent back­grounds includ­ing “Greeks, Jews, Crimean Tatars, Rus­sians” who “con­tin­ue to serve in AZOV.”

    “Most of them are Russ­ian-speak­ing, most are Ortho­dox. But there are Catholics and Protes­tants, Pagans and those who pro­fess Islam and Judaism, and there are athe­ists,” Azov assert­ed.

    It not­ed that the Azov reg­i­men­t’s role is as “a spe­cial unit of the Nation­al Guard of Ukraine, and is sub­or­di­nat­ed exclu­sive­ly to the Supreme Com­man­der-in-Chief — the Pres­i­dent of Ukraine, by the way, a Jew.”

    “It would be absurd to think that we are unit­ed by the idea of white racism or nazism,” the Azov state­ment added.

    ...

    But that sta­tus came with bag­gage — the far-right views of some mem­bers and neo-Nazi insignia. These includ­ed the black sun, “a pagan sym­bol appro­pri­at­ed by Nazis for their pseu­do-reli­gion,” and the Wolf­san­gel, “a sym­bol that far-right extrem­ists have also adopt­ed,” Ritz­mann said.

    Azov’s lead­ers have denied the neo-Nazi asso­ci­a­tions, say­ing the Wolf­san­gel “N” and “I’ mean “nation­al idea.”
    ...

    And then we get to the ‘whataboutism’ kinds of com­ments by Alexan­der Ritz­mann, a senior advis­er at the Berlin-based Counter Extrem­ism Project (CEP), who seems to view far right extrem­ism in Rus­sia as an equiv­a­lent threat, seem­ing­ly ignor­ing the fact that the West isn’t cur­rent­ly engaged in the mil­i­tary train­ing and arm­ing of Russ­ian Nazis. Of course, Ritz­man­nm is also a Senior Advi­sor to the right-wing hawk­ish think-tank, the Euro­pean Foun­da­tion for Democ­ra­cy (EFD):

    ...
    Despite the Azov move­men­t’s inter­na­tion­al noto­ri­ety, Ukraine “is not a cesspit for Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers,” accord­ing to Alexan­der Ritz­mann, a senior advis­er at the Counter Extrem­ism Project (CEP), based in Berlin.

    He not­ed that in the last elec­tions in Ukraine in 2019, Azov’s polit­i­cal wing only won 2.15% of the vote, and Bilet­sky lost his seat in par­lia­ment.

    Plus — Ritz­mann says — there are far-right actors promi­nent in Rus­sia, too. “There is a far-right extrem­ist prob­lem on both sides in the con­flict, but there seems to be a bias in only report­ing on Ukraine’s far-right prob­lem,” he said.
    ...

    But it’s Ritz­man­n’s asser­tions that the Azov bat­tal­ion is some­how divorced — both ide­o­log­i­cal­ly and oper­a­tional­ly — from the broad­er Azov move­ment and the Nation­al Corps that presents the most sin­is­ter of the Azov white­wash­ing nar­ra­tives we’ve seen. It’s a nar­ra­tive that it lit­er­al­ly designed to assuage con­cerns about the mil­i­tary train­ing and arm­ing of Nazis by deny­ing their open Nazi polit­i­cal activ­i­ties:

    ...
    When the Azov Bat­tal­ion was brought under the com­mand of the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs as a reg­i­ment in 2014, “polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed fight­ers like (Andriy) Bilet­sky left and found­ed the Azov move­ment so they can do their ultra-nation­al­ist, far-right work, which they were not allowed to do in the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary,” Ritz­mann said.

    The polit­i­cal par­ty Bilet­sky formed, the Nation­al Corps, which the US Depart­ment of State described in 2018 as a nation­al­ist hate group, “is essen­tial­ly the spine of what we today call the Azov move­ment,” Kacper Rekawek, a research fel­low with the Cen­ter for Research on Extrem­ism (C‑REX) at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oslo, told CNN.

    “The Azov move­ment is a dan­ger­ous key play­er of the transna­tion­al extreme-right and has served as a net­work hub for sev­er­al years now, with strong ties to far-right extrem­ists in many Euro­pean Union coun­tries and the Unit­ed States,” Ritz­mann said.

    Ole­na Semenya­ka, the head of the Nation­al Corps’ inter­na­tion­al depart­ment, attend­ed a fes­ti­val in 2018 orga­nized by Ger­man neo-Nazis; and in 2019 she spoke at the far-right Scan­za Forum in Swe­den along­side British neo-Nazi Mark Col­lett.
    ...

    But also note the extreme con­ve­nience of this nar­ra­tive about a sup­posed ide­o­log­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion between the Azov bat­tal­ion and the larg­er Azov move­ment: It’s a nar­ra­tive the direct­ly under­cuts the log­i­cal con­clu­sions one arrives at when not­ing how the Nation­al Corp has been allowed to oper­ate like open Nazis in the full view of the police with few or no reper­cus­sions. Con­cerns about arm­ing and train­ing the mil­i­tary unit lead­ing ‘Naz­i­fi­ca­tion’ of Ukraine can sud­den­ly be dis­missed as Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da:

    ...
    Since form­ing in 2014, the Azov move­ment has grown to include a mili­tia, sum­mer camps for kids and para­mil­i­tary train­ing cen­ters. It runs activ­i­ties, includ­ing music fes­ti­vals, polit­i­cal events and mixed-mar­tial-arts tour­na­ments, as it pro­mot­ed itself in the inter­na­tion­al far-right space.

    The Nation­al Corps has repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed its dis­dain for lib­er­al val­ues in its treat­ment of minor­i­ty groups — with few reper­cus­sions.

    A 2018 US State Depart­ment report found that the move­men­t’s mili­tia “attacked and destroyed a Romani camp in Kyiv after its res­i­dents failed to respond to their ulti­ma­tum to leave the area with­in 24 hours,” in full view of the local police.
    ...

    And then we find Ritz­mann actu­al­ly com­par­ing the open­ly Nazi Azov bat­tal­ion to the prob­lems the US and Ger­many might find in their mil­i­taries. And yes, the US and Ger­many undoubt­ed­ly have seri­ous issues with extrem­ism in the mil­i­tary. Ger­many, in par­tic­u­lar, has an unde­ni­able prob­lem with extrem­ism in its ranks, notably the KSK spe­cial com­man­do unit that was oper­at­ing under extrem­ist lead­er­ship. But that recent sto­ry about Ger­many’s extrem­ism prob­lem in the mil­i­tary under­scores the enor­mous dif­fer­ence between the extrem­ism prob­lems in the US and Ger­man mil­i­tary and what’s going on in Ukraine. In Ger­many’s case, that sto­ry was a big scan­dal with a major whiff of a coverup. In Ukraine, Azov’s Nazi sta­tus is basi­cal­ly an open secret with the gov­ern­ment active­ly cov­er­ing for it and the only coverups going on are direct­ed at the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty:

    ...
    After its inte­gra­tion into the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, amid dis­cus­sions in the US Con­gress about des­ig­nat­ing the Azov Move­ment a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, Ukraine’s then min­is­ter of inter­nal affairs, Arsen Avakov, defend­ed the unit. “The shame­ful infor­ma­tion cam­paign about the alleged spread of Nazi ide­ol­o­gy (among Azov mem­bers) is a delib­er­ate attempt to dis­cred­it the ‘Azov’ unit and the Nation­al Guard of Ukraine,” he told the online news­pa­per Ukrayin­s­ka Prav­da in 2019.

    ...

    “Peo­ple always assume it (the Azov reg­i­ment and Azov move­ment) is one Death Star,” Rekawek said. “Year by year, the con­nec­tions (between the reg­i­ment and the move­ment) are loos­er,” he said, explain­ing that the bat­tal­ion’s ranks now include Ukraini­ans who have no affin­i­ty with its neo-Nazi past.

    Ritz­mann says the far-right ele­ment in Ukraine’s army is no dif­fer­ent to what’s been detect­ed in oth­er mil­i­taries, such as in Ger­many and the US.

    “Pre­sum­ably, far-right extrem­ists serve in the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary as they do in all oth­er mil­i­taries — valid data regard­ing the exact num­bers are not avail­able,” he said.

    “Back in 2015, the Azov Reg­i­ment itself claimed to have between 10% and 20% far-right extrem­ists in their ranks,” but those fig­ures are pos­si­bly small­er today, he said.
    ...

    It’s only at the end of this arti­cle that we get to the sober­ing com­ments by Olek­siy Kuz­menko, who not only high­lights facts that under­cut the absurd nar­ra­tive about the Azov bat­tal­ion ide­o­log­i­cal­ly divorc­ing itself from the Azov move­ment, but also points out what is arguably one of the most impor­tant points that could be made today giv­en the war rag­ing in Ukraine: the inac­tion by Ukraine and its back­ers in the West on this glar­ing Nazi prob­lem “paved the way for Putin to quite lit­er­al­ly weaponize them against Ukraine in an attempt to jus­ti­fy his aggres­sion”:

    ...
    But the reg­i­ment still uses the Wolf­san­gel sym­bol, and lead­ers of the Azov move­ment, who used to be com­man­ders in the unit, con­tin­ue to vis­it it, said Olek­siy Kuz­menko, a Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist focus­ing on the Ukrain­ian far-right.

    “The cur­rent leader of the Azov Reg­i­ment, Denis ‘Redis’ Prokopenko, is part of the core of the Azov move­ment since 2014, and served under com­man­ders who went on to lead the Azov move­ment polit­i­cal and street wings,” Kuz­menko told CNN.

    Prokopenko’s deputy, Svy­atoslav “Kaly­na” Pala­mar, has explic­it­ly praised the move­men­t’s founder, Bilet­sky, as “a leader who ‘finds spon­sors that real­ly invest mon­ey’ into the reg­i­ment,” Kuz­menko said.

    Kuz­menko points out that as of 2021, the reg­i­ment was “active­ly involved in the train­ing of the move­men­t’s youth lead­ers,” and its web­site has a link to the move­men­t’s YouTube chan­nel.

    “Ukraine and (the) West­’s inac­tion on these issues paved the way for Putin to quite lit­er­al­ly weaponize them against Ukraine in an attempt to jus­ti­fy his aggres­sion,” Kuz­menko said.

    “While it’s cor­rect to point (out that) Ukraine’s far-right has min­i­mal elec­toral sup­port, they (Azov) have enjoyed near impuni­ty for vio­lence aimed at minori­ties, were unchecked in their efforts to build influ­ence in mil­i­tary and secu­ri­ty forces, and have been nor­mal­ized by Ukraine’s senior lead­ers,” he said.
    ...

    So we’ve gone from “there are no Nazis in Ukraine” to “there are Nazis, but don’t wor­ry, they are no longer in con­trol of their for­mer bat­tal­ion”. We’ll see what’s next, but keep in mind that that the “yeah, there are Ukrain­ian Nazis, but there are also Russ­ian Nazis, so it’s even!” nar­ra­tive is pret­ty easy to retool into a “isn’t a great how our awe­some Ukrain­ian Nazis are beat­ing back those bad Russ­ian Nazis!” Lies are fun­gi­ble like that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 31, 2022, 4:28 pm
  5. @Pterrafractyl–

    A dis­turbing­ly pre­dictable com­bi­na­tion of political/historical revi­sion­ism and mod­i­fied lim­it­ed hang­out.

    The sto­ry does­n’t touch any of the oth­er man­i­fes­ta­tions of Nazism in the coun­try, from the Ukraine Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry to Svo­bo­da’s C14 mili­tia, named after David Lane’s Four­teen Words, to the cer­e­mo­ny hon­or­ing the 75th anniver­sary of the 14th Waf­fen SS Divi­sion.

    https://spitfirelist.com/news/zelensky-and-the-jewish-question/

    Note the NY Times front page pic­ture of Ukraine’s Odin Unit (as it terms them) fea­tur­ing vol­un­teer fight­ers from the U.S. and Britain.

    “Odin Unit” eh? No fur­ther expla­na­tion from the Gray Lady.

    As Dr. Spock would have said: “Fas­ci­nat­ing.”

    Keep up the great work!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | March 31, 2022, 5:09 pm
  6. Fol­low­ing up on the recent piece in the Gray­zone about the BBC ‘Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ist fix­er’ who was lead­ing the BBC’s cov­er­age of the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater bomb­ing, there was an update to the piece about a sec­ond fig­ure with a rather notable back­ground who end­ed up pro­vid­ing one of CNN’s first accounts of the explo­sion at the the­ater. It turns out this indi­vid­ual, Maria Kut­nyako­va, works as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­al at an IT start­up in Mar­i­upol, 1991 Ukraine. And 1991 Ukraine just hap­pens to be a recip­i­ent of USAID fund­ing.

    And as we’re going to see when we look at the tran­script of Kut­nyako­va’s ini­tial inter­view, while she was­n’t at the the­ater for the ini­tial bomb­ing, she claims to have wit­ness­es a sec­ond round of bomb­ing at the the­ater short­ly after the explo­sion after she returned to the the­ater, which is odd since there haven’t been oth­er reports of a sec­ond round of attacks on the the­ater. So one of the ini­tial eye­wit­ness­es inter­viewed by CNN in that attack has USAID ties, and did­n’t actu­al­ly wit­ness the ini­tial explo­sion but appar­ent­ly wit­nessed sub­se­quent explo­sions that haven’t be report­ed else­where:

    The Gray­zone

    BBC cor­re­spon­dent-fix­er shap­ing Ukraine war cov­er­age is PR oper­a­tive involved in “war-mes­sag­ing tool”

    Max Blu­men­thal
    March 25, 2022 Update

    ...

    Mean­while, CNN inter­viewed a Ukrain­ian self-pro­claimed wit­ness to the the­ater attack named Maria Kut­nyako­va who also hap­pened to be a pro­fes­sion­al pub­lic rela­tions oper­a­tive. In fact, Kut­nyako­va had been the Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ag­er for the Unit­ed State Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment (USAID) in Mar­i­upol.

    ...

    ———-

    “BBC cor­re­spon­dent-fix­er shap­ing Ukraine war cov­er­age is PR oper­a­tive involved in “war-mes­sag­ing tool”” by Max Blu­men­thal; The Gray­zone; 03/25/2022

    Now here’s a tran­script of the CNN piece where Kut­nyako­va is inter­viewed. Note how Kut­nyako­va was­n’t at the the­ater for the ini­tial explo­sion. She was vis­it­ing an uncle at the time. But after she returned the build­ing was hit with a sec­ond attack. That sec­ond attack is referred to as an artillery shelling in the arti­cle although Kut­nyako­va calls it a Russ­ian bomb­ing. So there were report­ed­ly two sep­a­rate explo­sions at the the­ater accord­ing to Kutyako­va, which is rather notable since giv­en that we haven’t real­ly heard about a sec­ond bomb­ing from oth­er eye­wit­ness­es:

    CNN
    Tran­scripts

    Rus­sia Drop­ping Bombs Despite Claims It’s Scal­ing Back War; Sur­vivor Describes Hor­rors of Mar­i­upol The­ater Bomb­ing; Des­per­ate Moth­er Returns to Ukraine to Try and Res­cue Son. Aired 7–7:30a ET

    Aired March 30, 2022 — 07:00 ET

    THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

    [07:00:00]

    VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: But, John, in turn, that means that mort­gage rates are going to rise, poten­tial­ly pric­ing many Amer­i­cans out of homes. John?

    JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Yes, so many peo­ple try­ing game out the tim­ing, but it’s just so hard because you get it from the oth­er side then too. Vanes­sa Yurke­vich, ter­rif­ic sto­ry, thank you so much.

    New Day con­tin­ues right now.

    ...

    BERMAN: So, one of the most brazen attacks on civil­ians of this war was the bomb­ing of a the­ater in Mar­i­upol, where offi­cials say more than 1,000 peo­ple have sought refuge. The Russ­ian word for chil­dren was writ­ten clear­ly twice out­side the build­ing. Still, the Rus­sians attacked it. At least 300 peo­ple died there. Now, until now, we real­ly haven’t heard from peo­ple who were inside at the time, but CNN’s Ivan Wat­son spoke to a sur­vivor who was shel­ter­ing there with her fam­i­ly.

    Ivan now joins us live. Ivan, tell us what you learned. What did you hear?

    IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I’m going to intro­duce you, John, to a woman who says that her apart­ment was destroyed by the Russ­ian siege of Mar­i­upol. She then, with her moth­er and sis­ter, spent six days hid­ing in the hall­way of a friend’s apart­ment amid con­stant shelling and hav­ing only some cook­ies and water to drink, no heat.

    [07:10:01]

    And then they final­ly heard dur­ing a moment when they had cell phone ser­vice that there was safe har­bor and pos­si­ble evac­u­a­tion from the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater, an icon, a sym­bol of the city that has since been destroyed.

    (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

    WATSON (voice over): This was the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater before Vladimir Putin invad­ed Ukraine, a cul­tur­al and archi­tec­tur­al sym­bol of the city. And when the Russ­ian mil­i­tary laid its dead­ly siege of Mar­i­upol, the the­ater became a safe haven.

    MARIA KUTNYAKOVA, FAMILY SURVIVED MARIUPOL THEATER BOMBING: Six peo­ple, what a cat, we go to the street and Rus­sians start­ed shoot­ing at us. And we were run­ning. It was crazi­ness. And then we go to this the­ater. And you know what? In this the­ater, there was a lot of peo­ple, there was like, be okay, we have food, they give us tea. And they said, like, you should find a place where you could — like a bed.

    WATSON: This woman and her fam­i­ly recent­ly escaped from Mar­i­upol.

    KUTNYAKOVA: Name is Maria Kut­nyako­va. I am from Mar­i­upol. I’m Maria from Mar­i­upol.

    WATSON: On the morn­ing of March 16th, Maria, her moth­er, sis­ter, and cat joined hun­dreds of oth­er civil­ians shel­ter­ing in the the­ater. Footage from March 10th shows fam­i­lies hud­dled there in the dark, feel­ing pro­tect­ed per­haps by the signs, deti, chil­dren in Rus­sia, that vol­un­teers post­ed out­side the build­ing.

    Short­ly after arriv­ing, Maria went to check whether an uncle who lived near­by was still alive.

    KUTNYAKOVA: Now, I hear the noise of the plane, like bombs from the plane. We know how it’s — how it’s — this noise because it is bombed every day.

    WATSON: She returned to the the­ater to find it destroyed. KUTNYAKOVA: So, I under­stand that my fam­i­ly is in the the­ater. And every­one scream­ing their names, like mama, papa, Losha, Sasha (ph). And start­ed to call­ing, like, mom.

    WATSON: Footage of the imme­di­ate after­math shows civil­ians cov­ered in dust, while the roof over the main audi­to­ri­um had com­plete­ly col­lapsed.

    KUTNYAKOVA: When the the­ater was bombed, my sis­ter was stand­ing in the win­dow and the win­dow like blew up and she had fall­en down. And my mom was in anoth­er part of the the­ater and the wall fell onto her.

    WATSON: Mari­a’s moth­er and sis­ter were wound­ed but sur­vived.

    Your sis­ter, is he doing all right?

    KUTNYAKOVA: No.

    WATSON: Real­ly?

    KUTNYAKOVA: She’s like (INAUDIBLE).

    WATSON: She’s got a con­cus­sion?

    KUTNYAKOVA: Yes, yes, yes.

    WATSON: short­ly after the ini­tial strike on the the­ater, Maria says, what was left of the build­ing came under a fresh artillery attack.

    KUTNYAKOVA: Every­one start­ed scream that the the­ater is on fire, so we should run. And we were run­ning but Rus­sians bombed it. So, we were run­ning from the the­ater and bombs were like this, this, this.

    WATSON: It even­tu­al­ly took nine days for Maria and her fam­i­ly to get through Russ­ian check­points and reach rel­a­tive safe­ty in Ukrain­ian- con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry.

    You seem very pos­i­tive and upbeat right now.

    KUTNYAKOVA: I under­stand that I’m very lucky. You under­stand? Like thou­sands and hun­dreds of peo­ple still in Mar­i­upol and they’re bombed. They have no food, no water, they have no med­i­cine, noth­ing. And I under­stand I’m very lucky, like I have my arms. I have my legs. I don’t need any more, noth­ing.

    WATSON: And your fam­i­ly.

    KUTNYAKOVA: Yes, and my fam­i­ly. My cat is safe.

    WATSON: This is lit­tle Mish­ka (ph). She’s two-year-old cat and she sur­vived the bomb­ing of the Mar­i­upol the­ater with her fam­i­ly. And they are now head­ed to West­ern Ukraine in this bus.

    But no one knows how many peo­ple may have died under the rub­ble. Rus­sia has denied that its forces bombed the the­ater and Russ­ian state T.V. recent­ly showed what was left of it after Russ­ian troops moved in to this part of the city.

    Judg­ing by the dam­age, the Russ­ian reporter claims, it was bombed from the inside. He alleges there is infor­ma­tion that Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists orga­nized a ter­ror­ist attack here, a claim that peo­ple inside the the­ater strong­ly reject.

    Are you angry right now?

    KUTNYAKOVA: No. I want Rus­sia to just go away. This the Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry. I don’t under­stand why they come and tell me that it is not my land. They are not fight­ing with the army. They are fight­ing with every cit­i­zen, you know? They bombed hos­pi­tals. They bombed kinder­gartens. They bombed the hous­es of peace­ful peo­ple. They’re not fight­ing with the army.

    WATSON: Maria and her fam­i­ly rushed to a wait­ing van. The dri­ver will take them for free to West­ern Ukraine, where Maria hopes her sis­ter can safe­ly recov­er from her injuries.

    ...

    ———-

    “Rus­sia Drop­ping Bombs Despite Claims It’s Scal­ing Back War; Sur­vivor Describes Hor­rors of Mar­i­upol The­ater Bomb­ing; Des­per­ate Moth­er Returns to Ukraine to Try and Res­cue Son. Aired 7–7:30a ET”; CNN; 03/30/2022

    “Short­ly after arriv­ing, Maria went to check whether an uncle who lived near­by was still alive.”

    It’s a pret­ty impor­tant detail for this eye-wit­ness: she was­n’t there for the ini­tial attack. But after return­ing, she did appar­ent­ly wit­ness­es a new round of either shelling or artillery or some sort of attack on what remained of the the­ater. Which, again, does­n’t show up in oth­er reports about the events of that day:

    ...
    KUTNYAKOVA: Now, I hear the noise of the plane, like bombs from the plane. We know how it’s — how it’s — this noise because it is bombed every day.

    WATSON: She returned to the the­ater to find it destroyed. KUTNYAKOVA: So, I under­stand that my fam­i­ly is in the the­ater. And every­one scream­ing their names, like mama, papa, Losha, Sasha (ph). And start­ed to call­ing, like, mom.

    WATSON: Footage of the imme­di­ate after­math shows civil­ians cov­ered in dust, while the roof over the main audi­to­ri­um had com­plete­ly col­lapsed.

    ...

    WATSON: short­ly after the ini­tial strike on the the­ater, Maria says, what was left of the build­ing came under a fresh artillery attack.

    KUTNYAKOVA: Every­one start­ed scream that the the­ater is on fire, so we should run. And we were run­ning but Rus­sians bombed it. So, we were run­ning from the the­ater and bombs were like this, this, this.
    ...

    So Maria Kut­nyako­va, the CNN eye-wit­ness to the bomb­ing, was­n’t there for the ini­tial bomb­ing, but was there for a sec­ond bomb­ing that no one else appears to have report­ed. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle from April of 2021 describes, Maria Kut­nyako­va also hap­pens to be a com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist at a Mar­i­upol start­up that’s a recip­i­ent of USAID fund­ing. It’s a remark­able con­stel­la­tion of coin­ci­dence:

    Ukraine NU

    Mar­i­upol IT hub hopes to boost East­ern Ukrain­ian IT start-ups

    By Emil Fil­tenborg -
    14/04/2021

    In Mar­i­upol, 1991 Mar­i­upol IT hub has been help­ing entre­pre­neurs launch IT busi­ness­es through the COVID19 pan­dem­ic.

    Since late Octo­ber 2019, East­ern Ukraini­ans with IT ideas have been able to seek help at the 1991 Mar­i­upol Start­up Devel­op­ment Cen­ter in Mar­i­upol. Fund­ed in part by Euro­pean part­ners, USAID, the Social Boost NGO and the Mar­i­upol City Coun­cil, the cen­ter aims to help entre­pre­neurs from East­ern Ukraine devel­op their busi­ness­es and skills.

    “The aim is to help build a full ecosys­tem for IT com­pa­nies in Mar­i­upol. ” explains Maria Kut­nyako­va, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion spe­cial­ist at 1991 Mar­i­upol to Ukraine Nu, “Almost 300 peo­ple have been through our cours­es so far.”

    1991 Mar­i­upol is the response to the ever grow­ing need for IT spe­cial­ists felt every­where in the world. 1991 has to incu­ba­tion pro­grams, three start up cours­es, intern­ship pro­grams and an online course about invest­ment in IT star­tups. In addi­tion to that, 1991 hosts 17 IT start ups in the office in Mar­i­upol.

    “Few years ago the IT ecosys­tem in all of Ukraine had growth. We also had this in the Mar­i­upol region. Every­one under­stands that we should work with the cre­ative indus­try to restore our region after some­thing bad hap­pened to us,” Kut­nyako­va says, ref­fer­ing to the war, “It is the best way to do. The idea is to have young peo­ple to work and study here while devel­op­ing their own prod­ucts and com­pa­nies.”

    Dif­fi­cul­ties to over­come

    Mar­i­upol is a rather large city in East­ern Ukraine lodged in between the Black Sea, Crimea and Rus­sia. The city is rel­a­tive­ly iso­lat­ed from the rest of Ukraine, and the con­flict has dri­ven away many young peo­ple who went to the big cities in West­ern and Cen­tral Ukraine to find bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties.

    “A lot of peo­ple left here after the war. We have this prej­u­dice, that to have a suc­ces­ful start­up, you have to go to Lviv, Kyiv or Odessa. We have a lot of prob­lems with young peo­ple leav­ing to study in oth­er big cities. We also have a very big prob­lem with peo­ple study­ing and work­ing here, but as soon as they had expe­ri­ence, they would leave to work some­where else,” Kut­nyako­va says.

    “We have a strat­e­gy of devel­op­ing Mar­i­upol and the region. The biggest prob­lem is that peo­ple go away, and the city gov­ern­ments are doing many projects. 1991 is one of these projects, but in Mar­i­upol we have many great projects like recon­struc­tion of parks, of the sea line, cul­tur­al projects and then con­struc­tion of the IT indus­try,” Kut­nyako­va says.

    Always look­ing for angels

    The pro­gram direc­tor, Eva Belchenko, was in Kyiv when Ukraine Nu vis­it­ed the 1991 office in Mar­i­upol. On a rocky Slack con­nec­tion, she told that they are always inter­est­ed in build­ing bridges between their start ups and Euro­pean angel investors.

    “We are not nec­es­sar­i­ly look­ing for peo­ple, who just want to invest mon­ey in IT com­pa­nies, because that is not always a good idea for com­pa­nies at this stage, but open­ing a win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty for angel investors and our start ups could be real­ly inter­est­ing,” Belchenko said.

    ...

    ———–

    “Mar­i­upol IT hub hopes to boost East­ern Ukrain­ian IT start-ups” By Emil Fil­tenborg; Ukraine NU; 04/14/2021

    ““The aim is to help build a full ecosys­tem for IT com­pa­nies in Mar­i­upol. ” explains Maria Kut­nyako­va, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion spe­cial­ist at 1991 Mar­i­upol to Ukraine Nu, “Almost 300 peo­ple have been through our cours­es so far.”

    Being a com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist, we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent Kut­nyako­va was­n’t mis­un­der­stood when she was recount­ing her rec­ol­lec­tion of the events that took place at that the­ater on March 16. So it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see if we there are any more reports of a sec­ond round of artillery strikes/bombings at that the­ater fol­low­ing the ini­tial explo­sion. And it’s going to be espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing to see if any of those reports come from eye-wit­ness­es who don’t also have west­ern intel­li­gence ties.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 1, 2022, 3:57 pm

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