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FTR#1237 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lie?, Part 10

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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

Mr. Emory has launched a new Patre­on site. Vis­it at: Patreon.com/DaveEmory  

­­­FTR#1237 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram con­tin­ues our cov­er­age of the Ukraine war. The title comes from the late, bril­liant polit­i­cal come­di­an Mort Sahl’s 1976 auto­bi­og­ra­phy Heart­landOne of New Orleans DA Jim Gar­rison’s inves­ti­ga­tion of the assas­si­na­tion of the JFK.

A new piece by Bill Arkin in Newsweek presents infor­ma­tion from Pen­ta­gon sources—speaking on con­di­tion of anonymity—that con­tra­dicts the MSM/Azov Zelensky/Biden claim that Rus­sia is “indis­crim­i­nate­ly bomb­ing” civil­ians in Ukraine. That dynam­ic has been high­light­ed by the mas­sive explo­sions observed at a mall in Kyiv. A mall that Rus­sia claims was being used to store MLRS rock­et launch­ers. It’s a claim con­firmed by inde­pen­dent reporters, under­scor­ing how much of the fight­ing in Ukraine’s cities is tak­ing place because that’s where much of the mil­i­tary hard­ware is locat­ed.

The anony­mous Pen­ta­gon offi­cials Arkin spoke with said that Rus­sia has actu­al­ly been hold­ing back from engag­ing in the indis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing of civil­ian areas. Accord­ing to these offi­cials, we are see­ing a high­ly lim­it­ed urban bomb­ing cam­paign pri­mar­i­ly focused on mil­i­tary tar­gets.

” . . . . ‘We need to under­stand Russia’s actu­al con­duct,’ says a retired Air Force offi­cer, a lawyer by train­ing who has been involved in approv­ing tar­gets for U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. The offi­cer cur­rent­ly works as an ana­lyst with a large mil­i­tary con­trac­tor advis­ing the Pen­ta­gon and was grant­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak can­did­ly. In the analyst’s view . . . the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has actu­al­ly been show­ing restraint in its long-range attacks. . . . As of the past week­end, in 24 days of con­flict, Rus­sia has flown some 1,400 strike sor­ties and deliv­ered almost 1,000 mis­siles (by con­trast, the Unit­ed States flew more sor­ties and deliv­ered more weapons in the first day of the 2003 Iraq war). . . .”

Mod­ern Times: Cel­e­bra­tion of the 75th Anniver­sary of the 14th Waf­fen SS Divi­sion in Lviv, Ukraine in sum­mer of 2018. THIS is what lurks beneath the thin facade of Zelen­sky’s democ­ra­cy.

With the Azov Reg­i­ment in charge of Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Mar­i­upol, we should be braced for char­ac­ter­is­tic Azov behavior–bloody provo­ca­tions or “False Flag” oper­a­tions brand­ed as Russ­ian “War Crimes.’

Indeed “Azov” Zelen­sky’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was large­ly fund­ed by Azov-financier Igor Kolo­moisky, who also owns the TV net­work on which Zelen­sky bur­nished his media chops. (The elec­tion mon­i­tors for his elec­tion were Azov’s Nation­al Druzhy­na Mili­tia.)

In FTR#1236, we not­ed that there are no longer any inter­na­tion­al reporters in Mar­i­upol and that the infor­ma­tion the world receives about what is going on there comes from the Azov Reg­i­ment.

Max Blu­men­thal has penned an excel­lent, and alto­geth­er nec­es­sary, expose of the Azov Reg­i­men­t’s prob­a­ble false-flag oper­a­tion in Mar­i­upol.

“ . . . . 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. . . .”

Anoth­er Gray Zone arti­cle gives insight into how the Mar­i­upol the­ater provo­ca­tion becomes accept­ed fact in the West­ern media.

Osten­si­bly an objec­tive media voice, pre­sent­ing fac­tu­al, unbi­ased cov­er­age of the Ukraine war, the BBC has twined with British intel­li­gence, employ­ing an overt Ukrain­ian “nationalist’–Orysia Khimiak–to craft a pro­pa­gan­dized account of the com­bat in Ukraine.

“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.’ . . . . 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. . . .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.”

1. A new piece by Bill Arkin in Newsweek presents infor­ma­tion from Pen­ta­gon sources—speaking on con­di­tion of anonymity—that con­tra­dicts the MSM/Azov Zelensky/Biden claim that Rus­sia is “indis­crim­i­nate­ly bomb­ing” civil­ians in Ukraine. That dynam­ic has been high­light­ed by the mas­sive explo­sions observed at a mall in Kyiv. A mall that Rus­sia claims was being used to store MLRS rock­et launch­ers. It’s a claim con­firmed by inde­pen­dent reporters, under­scor­ing how much of the fight­ing in Ukraine’s cities is tak­ing place because that’s where much of the mil­i­tary hard­ware is locat­ed.

The anony­mous Pen­ta­gon offi­cials Arkin spoke with said that Rus­sia has actu­al­ly been hold­ing back from engag­ing in the indis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing of civil­ian areas. Accord­ing to these offi­cials, we are see­ing a high­ly lim­it­ed urban bomb­ing cam­paign pri­mar­i­ly focused on mil­i­tary tar­gets.

It’s why most of the air­ports around Kyiv remain undam­aged and much of the basic infra­struc­ture of the coun­try con­tin­ues to oper­ate and much of the West of the coun­try has been large­ly untouched.

This “lim­it­ed engage­ment” is part of Russia’s strat­e­gy.

As these anony­mous Pen­ta­gon offi­cials also note, there is alto­geth­er dev­as­tat­ing dam­age to some urban areas, notably Mar­i­upol– pri­mar­i­ly been from ground fight­ing and the use of artillery. And, of course, we have to keep in mind that some of the high pro­file dam­age in places like Mar­i­upol, home of the Azov Bat­tal­ion, might be self-inflict­ed.

For all of the talk we’re hear­ing about the Russ­ian mil­i­tary being forced to engage in medieval siege war­fare now that Ukraine has refused to col­lapse with­out a fight, the indis­crim­i­nate killing of civil­ians has not tak­en place.

So far, the Russ­ian assault appears to have been inten­tion­al­ly restrained for the vast major­i­ty of Ukraine. 

Key points of analy­sis and dis­cus­sion”

  • “ . . . . Russia’s con­duct in the bru­tal war tells a dif­fer­ent sto­ry than the wide­ly accept­ed view that Vladimir Putin is intent on demol­ish­ing Ukraine and inflict­ing max­i­mum civil­ian damage—and it reveals the Russ­ian leader’s strate­gic bal­anc­ing act. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Instead, his goal is to take enough ter­ri­to­ry on the ground to have some­thing to nego­ti­ate with, while putting the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine in a posi­tion where they have to nego­ti­ate. . . .”
  • “ . . . . ‘The destruc­tion is mas­sive,’ a senior ana­lyst work­ing at the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA) tells Newsweek, ‘espe­cial­ly when com­pared with what Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans are used to see­ing.’ . . . .”
  • “ . . . . But, the ana­lyst says, the dam­age asso­ci­at­ed with a con­test­ed ground war involv­ing peer oppo­nents shouldn’t blind peo­ple to what is real­ly hap­pen­ing. (The ana­lyst request­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak about clas­si­fied mat­ters.) ‘The heart of Kyiv has bare­ly been touched. And almost all of the long-range strikes have been aimed at mil­i­tary tar­gets.’ . . . .”
  • “ . . . . In the cap­i­tal, most observ­able to the west, Kyiv city author­i­ties say that some 55 build­ings have been dam­aged and that 222 peo­ple have died since Feb­ru­ary 24. It is a city of 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple. . . .”
  • “ . . . . ‘We need to under­stand Russia’s actu­al con­duct,’ says a retired Air Force offi­cer, a lawyer by train­ing who has been involved in approv­ing tar­gets for U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. The offi­cer cur­rent­ly works as an ana­lyst with a large mil­i­tary con­trac­tor advis­ing the Pen­ta­gon and was grant­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak can­did­ly. . . .
  • “ . . . . ‘If we mere­ly con­vince our­selves that Rus­sia is bomb­ing indis­crim­i­nate­ly, or [that] it is fail­ing to inflict more harm because its per­son­nel are not up to the task or because it is tech­ni­cal­ly inept, then we are not see­ing the real con­flict.’ In the analyst’s view, though the war has led to unprece­dent­ed destruc­tion in the south and east, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has actu­al­ly been show­ing restraint in its long-range attacks. . . .”
  • “ . . . . As of the past week­end, in 24 days of con­flict, Rus­sia has flown some 1,400 strike sor­ties and deliv­ered almost 1,000 mis­siles (by con­trast, the Unit­ed States flew more sor­ties and deliv­ered more weaponsin the first day of the 2003 Iraq war). The vast major­i­ty of the airstrikes are over the bat­tle­field, with Russ­ian air­craft pro­vid­ing “close air sup­port” to ground forces. The remainder—less than 20 per­cent, accord­ing to U.S. experts—has been aimed at mil­i­tary air­fields, bar­racks and sup­port­ing depots. . . .”
  • “. . . . ‘I know it’s hard … to swal­low that the car­nage and destruc­tion could be much worse than it is,’ says the DIA ana­lyst. ‘But that’s what the facts show. This sug­gests to me, at least, that Putin is not inten­tion­al­ly attack­ing civil­ians, that per­haps he is mind­ful that he needs to lim­it dam­age in order to leave an out for nego­ti­a­tions.’ . . . .
  • “ . . . . Rus­sia began its inva­sion of Ukraine on Feb­ru­ary 24 with an air and mis­sile attack tar­get­ed against some 65 air­fields and mil­i­tary instal­la­tions. On the first night, at least 11 air­fields were attacked. Some 50 addi­tion­al mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and air defense sites were hit, includ­ing 18 ear­ly-warn­ing radar facil­i­ties. . . .”
  • “ . . . . In these ini­tial salvos, a total of some 240 weapons were expend­ed, includ­ing 166 air‑, ground‑, and sea-based mis­siles. Though there were a good num­ber of longer-range bombers (fly­ing from Russ­ian soil), most of the airstrikes were short­er-range and most of the mis­siles launched were also short-range types of the Iskan­der (NATO SS-26 Stone) and Tochka (NATO SS-21 Scarab) class­es. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The breadth of the attack—north to south, east to west—led many observers to com­pare the open­ing bom­bard­ment to a pat­tern seen in U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where large salvos con­cen­trat­ing on air defens­es and air­fields had the intent of estab­lish­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty, a shock strike that would then open the skies for fol­low-on bomb­ing at will.When it came to Ukraine, not only did many observers ‘mir­ror-image’ Russ­ian objec­tives to match U.S. prac­tices, they also made pre­ma­ture (and incor­rect) obser­va­tions that Rus­sia was fight­ing such a con­flict. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Even before Russ­ian ground forces reached Kyiv and oth­er cities, this nar­ra­tive goes, the air and mis­sile forces would have so dam­aged Ukraine—including its com­mu­ni­ca­tions and oth­er infra­struc­ture need­ed for defens­es to con­tin­ue working—that it would secure vic­to­ry on the ground. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Rus­sia has not achieved any of these goals. Though the out­lines of its first night of strikes sug­gest­ed an air supe­ri­or­i­ty cam­paign and an intense and focused destruc­tion of Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, after a month of war, con­tin­ued tar­get­ing tells a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. Rus­sia still hasn’t com­plete­ly knocked out the Ukrain­ian air force, nor has it estab­lished air supe­ri­or­i­ty. Air­fields away from the bat­tle­field are most­ly still oper­a­ble and some (in major cities) haven’t been bombed at all. The fab­ric of com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the coun­try con­tin­ues to oper­ate intact. There has been no method­i­cal Russ­ian attack on trans­porta­tion routes or bridges to impede Ukrain­ian ground defens­es or sup­plies. Though elec­tri­cal pow­er plants have been hit, they are all in con­test­ed ter­ri­to­ry or near mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and deploy­ments. None have been inten­tion­al­ly tar­get­ed. . . .”
  • “ . . . . In fact, there has been no method­i­cal bomb­ing cam­paign to achieve any sys­temic out­come of a strate­gic nature. Air and mis­sile strikes, which ini­tial­ly seemed to tell one sto­ry, have almost exclu­sive­ly been in direct sup­port of ground forces. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Rus­sia did not bomb sta­tion­ary air defense emplace­ments pro­tect­ing cities. U.S. ana­lysts say Putin’s gen­er­als were par­tic­u­lar­ly reluc­tant to attack urban tar­gets in Kyiv. As a result, regard­less of the Kremlin’s plans—whether Rus­sia was actu­al­ly seek­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty or intend­ed to lim­it dam­age in Kyiv—there is no ques­tion that Putin has had to revise the long-range attack plan. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Over the course of almost four weeks, mis­siles fired at Kyiv have been scarce.Ukrain­ian media have report­ed just more than a dozen inci­dents involv­ing Russ­ian cruise and bal­lis­tic mis­siles inter­cept­ed over the city and its clos­est sub­urbs since Feb­ru­ary 24. And all of them, U.S. experts say, have been clear­ly head­ed for legit­i­mate mil­i­tary tar­gets. . . .”
  • “ . . . . ‘The fact that the mobile S‑300 SAM sys­tems are still oper­at­ing is a pow­er­ful indict­ment of Russia’s abil­i­ty to con­duct dynam­ic or time-sen­si­tive tar­get­ing,’ the Atlantic Coun­cil assert­ed this week in a mil­i­tary brief. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The DIA ana­lyst dis­agrees: ‘For what­ev­er rea­son, clear­ly the Rus­sians have been reluc­tant to strike inside the urban mega­lopo­lis of Kyiv. . . .
  • “ . . . . ‘Yes they might not be up to the U.S. task [in dynam­ic tar­get­ing] or in estab­lish­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty … But this is the Russ­ian air force, sub­or­di­nate to the ground forces. And this war is dif­fer­ent: it’s being fought on the ground, where every­thing strate­gic that Rus­sia might destroy in front of its forces—bridges, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, air­fields, etc.—also becomes unus­able to them as they move for­ward.’ . . . .”
  • “ . . . . From the very begin­ning of air strikes, both U.S. ana­lysts agree, some of the lim­it­ed air and mis­sile attacks have also had some inter­nal log­ic. Take, for instance, the air­field at Hos­tomel, north­west of Kyiv. It wasn’t direct­ly attacked because Rus­sia ini­tial­ly used it to land para­troop­ers, with the hope of advanc­ing to the cap­i­tal city. Instead the air­field and the sur­round­ing coun­try­side became the scene a major bat­tle, as Ukrain­ian forces mount­ed a fierce defense. . . .”
  • “ . . . . In the south, Kher­son air­port also wasn’t attacked. The rea­son has become clear: Rus­sia is now using that very air­field to stage its own forces. . . .”
  • “ . . . . In Kyiv, only one of the major air­ports was struck, in Boryspil. The news media report­ed that the ‘inter­na­tion­al air­port’ was hit, but the dual civ­il-mil­i­tary air­field is also home to Ukraine Air Force’s 15th Trans­port Wing, includ­ing the pres­i­den­tial Tu-134 jet that might have been used by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky if he chose to evac­u­ate. The oth­er major civil­ian Kyiv air­port, Zhulyany, has nev­er been attacked. Nor have two civ­il air­ports in Kharkiv (Ukraine’s sec­ond largest city) been attacked. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The strikes inside major cities (Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odessa) have not only been lim­it­ed, but the retired U.S. Air Force offi­cer points out that even when long-range aviation—Russian Tu-95 ‘Bear’ bombers deliv­er­ing cruise and hyper­son­ic mis­siles —have flown strikes in west­ern Ukraine, away from the bat­tle­field, they have been direct­ed at mil­i­tary tar­gets. . . .”
  • “ . . . . And there has been strate­gic log­ic, at least in Russia’s view. ‘They’ve been sig­nal­ing,’ the retired offi­cer says. ‘West­ern air­fields [at Lut­sk, L’viv, and Ivano-Frankivsk] were hit because they were the most like­ly step­ping­stones for donat­ed fight­er air­craft com­ing in from Poland and east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries. When those tar­gets were prepped,’ he adds, ‘there was also talk of a west­ern no-fly zone where those [west­ern] air­fields might have been essen­tial. . . .”
  • “ . . . . ‘And the so-called peace­keep­er train­ing ground [in Yaro­viv] was hit because it was the place where the ‘inter­na­tion­al legion’ was to have trained,” the offi­cer says. ‘Moscow even announced that.’ . . .”
  • “ . . . . Rus­sia, the DIA ana­lyst adds, has also been care­ful not to cause esca­la­tion onto Beloruss­ian or Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry, or to pro­voke NATO.Despite oper­at­ing from Belarus, Russ­ian ground and air oper­a­tions have most­ly been con­fined to the south­east­ern por­tion of the coun­try. And the attacks in west­ern Ukraine, have been care­ful to avoid NATO air­space. For exam­ple, the Ukrain­ian air­base at Lut­sk, home to the 204th Avi­a­tion Wing and just 70 miles south of the Belarus, was attacked March 13th by long-range bombers. The mis­siles were launched from the south, from over the Black Sea. . . .”
  • “ . . . . ‘Peo­ple are talk­ing about Grozny [in Chech­nya] and Alep­po [in Syr­ia], and the raz­ing of Ukrain­ian cities’ a sec­ond retired U.S. Air Force senior offi­cer tells Newsweek. ‘But even in the case of south­ern cities, where artillery and rock­ets are with­in range of pop­u­lat­ed cen­ters, the strikes seem to be try­ing to tar­get Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary units, many of which by neces­si­ty oper­at­ing from inside urban areas.’ . . .”
  • “ . . . . He and the oth­er ana­lysts who spoke to Newsweekargue not only that the destruc­tion is only a small frac­tion of what is pos­si­ble, but also that they see a glim­mer of hope in a fact-based analy­sis of what Rus­sia has done. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The sec­ond senior offi­cer says that Putin obvi­ous­ly con­tin­ues to apply pres­sure against Kyiv, but Rus­sia hasn’t shift­ed much of its own forces and has con­tin­ued to back off bomb­ing in the city prop­er. ‘In that, maybe he is leav­ing room for a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment,’ the offi­cer says. . . .”
  • “ . . . . ‘I’m frus­trat­ed by the cur­rent narrative—that Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly tar­get­ing civil­ians, that it is demol­ish­ing cities, and that Putin doesn’t care. Such a dis­tort­ed view stands in the way of find­ing an end before true dis­as­ter hits or the war spreads to the rest of Europe,’ the sec­ond U.S. Air Force offi­cer says. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Heart­break­ing images make it easy for the news to focus on the war’s dam­age to build­ings and lives. But in pro­por­tion to the inten­si­ty of the fight­ing (or Russia’s capac­i­ty), things could indeed be much worse. ‘I know that the news keeps repeat­ing that Putin is tar­get­ing civil­ians, but there is no evi­dence that Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly doing so,’ says the DIA ana­lyst. ‘In fact, I’d say that Russ­ian could be killing thou­sands more civil­ians if it want­ed to.’ . . .”

“Putin’s Bombers Could Dev­as­tate Ukraine But He’s Hold­ing Back. Here’s Why” by William M. Arkin; Newsweek; 03/22/2022

As destruc­tive as the Ukraine war is, Rus­sia is caus­ing less dam­age and killing few­er civil­ians than it could, U.S. intel­li­gence experts say.

Russia’s con­duct in the bru­tal war tells a dif­fer­ent sto­ry than the wide­ly accept­ed view that Vladimir Putin is intent on demol­ish­ing Ukraine and inflict­ing max­i­mum civil­ian damage—and it reveals the Russ­ian leader’s strate­gic bal­anc­ing act. If Rus­sia were more inten­tion­al­ly destruc­tive, the clam­or­ing for U.S. and NATO inter­ven­tion would be loud­er. And if Rus­sia were all-in, Putin might find him­self with no way out. Instead, his goal is to take enough ter­ri­to­ry on the ground to have some­thing to nego­ti­ate with, while putting the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine in a posi­tion where they have to nego­ti­ate.

Under­stand­ing the think­ing behind Russia’s lim­it­ed attacks could help map a path towards peace, experts say.

In near­ly a month since Rus­sia invad­ed, dozens of Ukrain­ian cities and towns have fall­en, and the fight over the country’s largest cities con­tin­ues. Unit­ed Nations human rights spe­cial­ists say that some 900 civil­ians have died in the fight­ing (U.S. intel­li­gence puts that num­ber at least five times UN esti­mates). About 6.5 mil­lion Ukraini­ans have also become inter­nal­ly dis­placed (15 per­cent of the entire pop­u­la­tion), half of them leav­ing the coun­try to find safe­ty.

“The destruc­tion is mas­sive,” a senior ana­lyst work­ing at the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA) tells Newsweek, “espe­cial­ly when com­pared with what Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans are used to see­ing.”

But, the ana­lyst says, the dam­age asso­ci­at­ed with a con­test­ed ground war involv­ing peer oppo­nents shouldn’t blind peo­ple to what is real­ly hap­pen­ing. (The ana­lyst request­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak about clas­si­fied mat­ters.) “The heart of Kyiv has bare­ly been touched. And almost all of the long-range strikes have been aimed at mil­i­tary tar­gets.”

In the cap­i­tal, most observ­able to the west, Kyiv city author­i­ties say that some 55 build­ings have been dam­aged and that 222 peo­ple have died since Feb­ru­ary 24. It is a city of 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple.

“We need to under­stand Russia’s actu­al con­duct,” says a retired Air Force offi­cer, a lawyer by train­ing who has been involved in approv­ing tar­gets for U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. The offi­cer cur­rent­ly works as an ana­lyst with a large mil­i­tary con­trac­tor advis­ing the Pen­ta­gon and was grant­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak can­did­ly.

“If we mere­ly con­vince our­selves that Rus­sia is bomb­ing indis­crim­i­nate­ly, or [that] it is fail­ing to inflict more harm because its per­son­nel are not up to the task or because it is tech­ni­cal­ly inept, then we are not see­ing the real con­flict.”

In the analyst’s view, though the war has led to unprece­dent­ed destruc­tion in the south and east, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has actu­al­ly been show­ing restraint in its long-range attacks.

As of the past week­end, in 24 days of con­flict, Rus­sia has flown some 1,400 strike sor­ties and deliv­ered almost 1,000 mis­siles (by con­trast, the Unit­ed States flew more sor­ties and deliv­ered more weapons in the first day of the 2003 Iraq war). The vast major­i­ty of the airstrikes are over the bat­tle­field, with Russ­ian air­craft pro­vid­ing “close air sup­port” to ground forces. The remainder—less than 20 per­cent, accord­ing to U.S. experts—has been aimed at mil­i­tary air­fields, bar­racks and sup­port­ing depots.

A pro­por­tion of those strikes have dam­aged and destroyed civil­ian struc­tures and killed and injured inno­cent civil­ians, but the lev­el of death and destruc­tion is low com­pared to Russia’s capac­i­ty.

“I know it’s hard … to swal­low that the car­nage and destruc­tion could be much worse than it is,” says the DIA ana­lyst. “But that’s what the facts show. This sug­gests to me, at least, that Putin is not inten­tion­al­ly attack­ing civil­ians, that per­haps he is mind­ful that he needs to lim­it dam­age in order to leave an out for nego­ti­a­tions.”

Rus­sia began its inva­sion of Ukraine on Feb­ru­ary 24 with an air and mis­sile attack tar­get­ed against some 65 air­fields and mil­i­tary instal­la­tions. On the first night, at least 11 air­fields were attacked. Some 50 addi­tion­al mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and air defense sites were hit, includ­ing 18 ear­ly-warn­ing radar facil­i­ties.

In these ini­tial salvos, a total of some 240 weapons were expend­ed, includ­ing 166 air‑, ground‑, and sea-based mis­siles. Though there were a good num­ber of longer-range bombers (fly­ing from Russ­ian soil), most of the airstrikes were short­er-range and most of the mis­siles launched were also short-range types of the Iskan­der (NATO SS-26 Stone) and Tochka (NATO SS-21 Scarab) class­es.

The breadth of the attack—north to south, east to west—led many observers to com­pare the open­ing bom­bard­ment to a pat­tern seen in U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where large salvos con­cen­trat­ing on air defens­es and air­fields had the intent of estab­lish­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty, a shock strike that would then open the skies for fol­low-on bomb­ing at will. When it came to Ukraine, not only did many observers “mir­ror-image” Russ­ian objec­tives to match U.S. prac­tices, they also made pre­ma­ture (and incor­rect) obser­va­tions that Rus­sia was fight­ing such a con­flict.

Even before Russ­ian ground forces reached Kyiv and oth­er cities, this nar­ra­tive goes, the air and mis­sile forces would have so dam­aged Ukraine—including its com­mu­ni­ca­tions and oth­er infra­struc­ture need­ed for defens­es to con­tin­ue working—that it would secure vic­to­ry on the ground.

Rus­sia has not achieved any of these goals. Though the out­lines of its first night of strikes sug­gest­ed an air supe­ri­or­i­ty cam­paign and an intense and focused destruc­tion of Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, after a month of war, con­tin­ued tar­get­ing tells a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. Rus­sia still hasn’t com­plete­ly knocked out the Ukrain­ian air force, nor has it estab­lished air supe­ri­or­i­ty. Air­fields away from the bat­tle­field are most­ly still oper­a­ble and some (in major cities) haven’t been bombed at all. The fab­ric of com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the coun­try con­tin­ues to oper­ate intact. There has been no method­i­cal Russ­ian attack on trans­porta­tion routes or bridges to impede Ukrain­ian ground defens­es or sup­plies. Though elec­tri­cal pow­er plants have been hit, they are all in con­test­ed ter­ri­to­ry or near mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and deploy­ments. None have been inten­tion­al­ly tar­get­ed.

In fact, there has been no method­i­cal bomb­ing cam­paign to achieve any sys­temic out­come of a strate­gic nature. Air and mis­sile strikes, which ini­tial­ly seemed to tell one sto­ry, have almost exclu­sive­ly been in direct sup­port of ground forces.

“Think of the Russ­ian Air force as fly­ing artillery,” says the retired senior U.S. Air Force offi­cer, who com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Newsweek via email. “It’s not an inde­pen­dent arm. It has under­tak­en no strate­gic air cam­paign as Amer­i­can observers might be used to from the last 30 years of Amer­i­can con­flict.”

Ukrain­ian air defens­es, both fixed and mobile mis­siles, have proven resilient and dead­ly.

“The Air Defense’s sur­viv­abil­i­ty and effi­ca­cy have sur­prised many, not only in Kyiv, but also across the coun­try,” Kyiv-based mil­i­tary expert Oleg Zhdanov told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent.

Rus­sia did not bomb sta­tion­ary air defense emplace­ments pro­tect­ing cities. U.S. ana­lysts say Putin’s gen­er­als were par­tic­u­lar­ly reluc­tant to attack urban tar­gets in Kyiv.

As a result, regard­less of the Kremlin’s plans—whether Rus­sia was actu­al­ly seek­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty or intend­ed to lim­it dam­age in Kyiv—there is no ques­tion that Putin has had to revise the long-range attack plan.

Over the course of almost four weeks, mis­siles fired at Kyiv have been scarce. Ukrain­ian media have report­ed just more than a dozen inci­dents involv­ing Russ­ian cruise and bal­lis­tic mis­siles inter­cept­ed over the city and its clos­est sub­urbs since Feb­ru­ary 24. And all of them, U.S. experts say, have been clear­ly head­ed for legit­i­mate mil­i­tary tar­gets.

“The fact that the mobile S‑300 SAM sys­tems are still oper­at­ing is a pow­er­ful indict­ment of Russia’s abil­i­ty to con­duct dynam­ic or time-sen­si­tive tar­get­ing,” the Atlantic Coun­cil assert­ed this week in a mil­i­tary brief.

The DIA ana­lyst dis­agrees: “For what­ev­er rea­son, clear­ly the Rus­sians have been reluc­tant to strike inside the urban mega­lopo­lis of Kyiv.

“Yes they might not be up to the U.S. task [in dynam­ic tar­get­ing] or in estab­lish­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty … But this is the Russ­ian air force, sub­or­di­nate to the ground forces. And this war is dif­fer­ent: it’s being fought on the ground, where every­thing strate­gic that Rus­sia might destroy in front of its forces—bridges, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, air­fields, etc.—also becomes unus­able to them as they move for­ward.”

From the very begin­ning of air strikes, both U.S. ana­lysts agree, some of the lim­it­ed air and mis­sile attacks have also had some inter­nal log­ic. Take, for instance, the air­field at Hos­tomel, north­west of Kyiv. It wasn’t direct­ly attacked because Rus­sia ini­tial­ly used it to land para­troop­ers, with the hope of advanc­ing to the cap­i­tal city. Instead the air­field and the sur­round­ing coun­try­side became the scene a major bat­tle, as Ukrain­ian forces mount­ed a fierce defense.

In the south, Kher­son air­port also wasn’t attacked. The rea­son has become clear: Rus­sia is now using that very air­field to stage its own forces.

In Kyiv, only one of the major air­ports was struck, in Boryspil. The news media report­ed that the “inter­na­tion­al air­port” was hit, but the dual civ­il-mil­i­tary air­field is also home to Ukraine Air Force’s 15th Trans­port Wing, includ­ing the pres­i­den­tial Tu-134 jet that might have been used by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky if he chose to evac­u­ate. The oth­er major civil­ian Kyiv air­port, Zhulyany, has nev­er been attacked. Nor have two civ­il air­ports in Kharkiv (Ukraine’s sec­ond largest city) been attacked.

Rus­sia start­ed the war with some 300 com­bat air­craft in Belarus and west­ern Rus­sia with­in range of Ukraine. Those and oth­er air­craft pulled into the war have been fly­ing about 80 strike sor­ties (indi­vid­ual flights) dai­ly. Ukraine claims that 95 of those Russ­ian air­craft have been lost, either shot down by air defend­ers or due to human error and tech­ni­cal prob­lems. (Rus­sia has moved addi­tion­al air­craft from oth­er bases to replen­ish most of its loss­es.)

The strikes inside major cities (Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odessa) have not only been lim­it­ed, but the retired U.S. Air Force offi­cer points out that even when long-range aviation—Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers deliv­er­ing cruise and hyper­son­ic mis­siles —have flown strikes in west­ern Ukraine, away from the bat­tle­field, they have been direct­ed at mil­i­tary tar­gets.

And there has been strate­gic log­ic, at least in Russia’s view.

“They’ve been sig­nal­ing,” the retired offi­cer says. “West­ern air­fields [at Lut­sk, L’viv, and Ivano-Frankivsk] were hit because they were the most like­ly step­ping­stones for donat­ed fight­er air­craft com­ing in from Poland and east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries. When those tar­gets were prepped,” he adds, “there was also talk of a west­ern no-fly zone where those [west­ern] air­fields might have been essen­tial.

“And the so-called peace­keep­er train­ing ground [in Yaro­viv] was hit because it was the place where the ‘inter­na­tion­al legion’ was to have trained,” the offi­cer says. “Moscow even announced that.”

Rus­sia, the DIA ana­lyst adds, has also been care­ful not to cause esca­la­tion onto Beloruss­ian or Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry, or to pro­voke NATO. Despite oper­at­ing from Belarus, Russ­ian ground and air oper­a­tions have most­ly been con­fined to the south­east­ern por­tion of the coun­try. And the attacks in west­ern Ukraine, have been care­ful to avoid NATO air­space. For exam­ple, the Ukrain­ian air­base at Lut­sk, home to the 204th Avi­a­tion Wing and just 70 miles south of the Belarus, was attacked March 13th by long-range bombers. The mis­siles were launched from the south, from over the Black Sea. . . .

. . . . Evi­dence on the bat­tle­field, where there has been grind­ing fight for territory—in Kharkiv, in the con­test­ed front line towns like Mar­i­upol, Miko­lai­iv, and Sumy in the east; and Cherni­hiv north­east of Kyiv—indicates that civil­ian deaths have been much high­er where ground forces are oper­at­ing.

Even though the major­i­ty of Russ­ian airstrikes have tak­en place in these areas, the increased civil­ian harm is due to the use of artillery and mul­ti­ple rock­et launch­ers, not Russ­ian air or long-range mis­sile strikes.

“Peo­ple are talk­ing about Grozny [in Chech­nya] and Alep­po [in Syr­ia], and the raz­ing of Ukrain­ian cities” a sec­ond retired U.S. Air Force senior offi­cer tells Newsweek. “But even in the case of south­ern cities, where artillery and rock­ets are with­in range of pop­u­lat­ed cen­ters, the strikes seem to be try­ing to tar­get Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary units, many of which by neces­si­ty oper­at­ing from inside urban areas.”

The offi­cer request­ed anonymi­ty because he is being pri­vate­ly briefed on the war by the Pen­ta­gon and is not autho­rized to speak to the news media.

He and the oth­er ana­lysts who spoke to Newsweek argue not only that the destruc­tion is only a small frac­tion of what is pos­si­ble, but also that they see a glim­mer of hope in a fact-based analy­sis of what Rus­sia has done.

“I was ini­tial­ly puz­zled as to why more long-range mis­siles haven’t been sent into Kyiv and oth­er major cities such as Ode­sa, and also why long-range avi­a­tion hasn’t been used more in strate­gic attacks,” says the sec­ond senior offi­cer. “But then I had to shift to see the war through [Vladimir] Putin’s eyes.”

“Caught with his pants down, per­haps Putin indeed piv­ot­ed after he real­ized that Ukraine wasn’t going to be a cake­walk and that Kyiv wasn’t con­quer­able. Maybe he decid­ed to sole­ly focus on tak­ing ter­ri­to­ry along the periph­ery and link­ing up his con­sol­i­da­tions in the south, to be in a posi­tion to hold enough ter­ri­to­ry to extract con­ces­sions from Ukraine and the west—security guar­an­tees or some demil­i­ta­rized zone.”

The sec­ond senior offi­cer says that Putin obvi­ous­ly con­tin­ues to apply pres­sure against Kyiv, but Rus­sia hasn’t shift­ed much of its own forces and has con­tin­ued to back off bomb­ing in the city prop­er.

“In that, maybe he is leav­ing room for a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment,” the offi­cer says.

Sun­day, Volodymyr Zelen­sky told CNN he is pre­pared to talk to the Russ­ian pres­i­dent. “I’m ready for nego­ti­a­tions with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that with­out nego­ti­a­tions, we can­not end this war,” said Zelen­sky.

The fact that both sides are talk­ing, experts say, indi­cates not only how shocked they are by the destruc­tive­ness of a land war in Europe, but are also stymied in achiev­ing their mil­i­tary objec­tives. As Rus­sia advances, it is run­ning out of sup­plies. Its forces are also exhaust­ed. As Ukraine con­tin­ues its valiant defense, it too is reach­ing the lim­its of human endurance, fac­ing major loss­es and run­ning low on ammu­ni­tion.

It is now absolute­ly clear, all U.S. observers agree, that Putin and his gen­er­als over­es­ti­mat­ed their own mil­i­tary prowess while gross­ly under­es­ti­mat­ing Ukraine’s defens­es.

“I’m frus­trat­ed by the cur­rent narrative—that Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly tar­get­ing civil­ians, that it is demol­ish­ing cities, and that Putin doesn’t care. Such a dis­tort­ed view stands in the way of find­ing an end before true dis­as­ter hits or the war spreads to the rest of Europe,” the sec­ond U.S. Air Force offi­cer says.

Heart­break­ing images make it easy for the news to focus on the war’s dam­age to build­ings and lives. But in pro­por­tion to the inten­si­ty of the fight­ing (or Russia’s capac­i­ty), things could indeed be much worse.

“I know that the news keeps repeat­ing that Putin is tar­get­ing civil­ians, but there is no evi­dence that Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly doing so,” says the DIA ana­lyst. “In fact, I’d say that Russ­ian could be killing thou­sands more civil­ians if it want­ed to.”

“I’m no com-symp,” the ana­lyst says. “Rus­sia is dead wrong, and Putin needs to be pun­ished. But in terms of con­clud­ing the war in a way that both sides can accept and where we don’t see Armaged­don, the air and mis­sile war pro­vides pos­i­tive signs.”

Every war is unique and awful, and Ukraine is no dif­fer­ent. But Russia’s choice to mod­u­late its destruc­tive­ness is an impor­tant coun­ter­in­tu­itive ele­ment. Vladimir Putin can’t eas­i­ly win; he can’t accept loss or retreat; and he can’t esca­late. He has to keep destruc­tion and pres­sure at a very care­ful, just-bad-enough lev­el to keep some advan­tage.

“I know it’s thin con­so­la­tion that it could be a lot worse,” the DIA ana­lyst says, “but to under­stand how that is the case should real­ly change people’s per­spec­tives, even inside the U.S. gov­ern­ment, as to how to end this.”

2. With the Azov Reg­i­ment in charge of Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Mar­i­upol, we should be braced for char­ac­ter­is­tic Azov behavior–bloody provo­ca­tions or “False Flag” oper­a­tions brand­ed as Russ­ian “War Crimes.’

Indeed “Azov” Zelen­sky’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was large­ly fund­ed by Azov-financier Igor Kolo­moisky, who also owns the TV net­work on which Zelen­sky bur­nished his media chops. (The elec­tion mon­i­tors for his elec­tion were Azov’s Nation­al Druzhy­na Mili­tia.)

In FTR#1236, we not­ed that there are no longer any inter­na­tion­al reporters in Mar­i­upol and that the infor­ma­tion the world receives about what is going on there comes from the Azov Reg­i­ment.

Max Blu­men­thal has penned an excel­lent, and alto­geth­er nec­es­sary, expose of the Azov Reg­i­men­t’s prob­a­ble false-flag oper­a­tion in Mar­i­upol.

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 . . . .

3. BBC has become ful­ly weaponized in its cov­er­age of the Ukraine war and all things Russ­ian.

  • “ . . . . 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 web­sitecur­rent­ly greets vis­i­tors with the slo­gan, ‘Glo­ry to Ukraine. We Will Win.’. . .”
  • “ . . . . 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.”
  • “ . . . . 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 defend­ing an island base against the Russ­ian Navy. ‘Russ­ian war­ship, go fu ck your­self!’ were the sol­diers’ final words, or so the sto­ry went. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The Ukrain­ian guards ulti­mate­ly turned up aliveas 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 cred­itfor 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. . . .”
  • “ . . . . How­ev­er, as this reporter detailed, the Mar­i­upol the­ater was con­trolled by retreat­ing Azov mil­i­tants who were des­per­ate­ly appeal­ing for mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion by NATOSev­er­al 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. . . .
  • “ . . . . as this reporter detailed, the Mar­i­upol the­ater was con­trolled by retreat­ing Azov mil­i­tants who were des­per­ate­ly appeal­ing for mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion by NATOSev­er­al 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 broad­castwhat 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. 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. . . .”
  • “ . . . . CNN has also claimed that 300 civil­ians were killed inside the the­ater. The BBC also echoedthe 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 reportersclaimed 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.’ . . .”
  • “ . . . . 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. . . .”
  • “ . . . . On March 17, the day after the the­ater inci­dent, Becha­ga and Khimi­ak report­edthat ‘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. 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.’. . .”
  • “ . . . . As The Gray­zone report­edin 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. . . .

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

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 the 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 NATOSev­er­al 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.

[broad­cast see 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 the­atre. So, it wasn´t a bomb­ing but an explosion?–Nothing land­ed on it, it explod­ed from inside. Did 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.

———-

 

Discussion

20 comments for “FTR#1237 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lie?, Part 10”

  1. Claims of war crimes are again being lev­eled against the Russ­ian mil­i­tary in Ukraine. The alleged indis­crim­i­nate slaugh­ter of civil­ians by with­draw­ing Russ­ian troops took place in Bucha, a sub­urb of Kyiv, where Ukrain­ian author­i­ties showed videos of a block where a mass grave of over 200 peo­ple was found. Tor­ture cham­bers were dis­cov­ered. But per­haps the most shock­ing of the alleged atroc­i­ties was a block where around 20 bod­ies were just lay­ing in the road, shot exe­cu­tion-style in the head with hands bound. It was was the kind of scene that, if it real­ly was done by Russ­ian forces, would have effec­tive­ly been not just been a war crime but effec­tive­ly an act of ter­ror­ism. Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy has already called it an act of geno­cide with Ukraine’s for­eign min­is­ter declared that Rus­sia is now worse than ISIS.

    As we might expect in the wake of these claims, the calls across the West for a dra­mat­ic esca­la­tion in the amount of mil­i­tary aid for Ukraine have sud­den­ly grown much loud­er. As we should also expect, Rus­sia is con­demn­ing these claims are a Ukrain­ian provo­ca­tion com­mit­ted by Ukrain­ian rad­i­cals and has asked the UN secu­ri­ty coun­cil to con­vene to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion.

    So with the alleged Russ­ian mas­sacre of Bucha now the focus of this con­flict, here’s a pair of arti­cles about anoth­er Ukrain­ian town, Trostyanets, that was also recent­ly tak­en back by Ukrain­ian forces and the sto­ries of the civil­ian atroc­i­ties that took place there. As we’re going to see, there are some impor­tant details in the sto­ries com­ing out of Trostyanets that could give us a bet­ter idea of what might be dri­ving these civil­ian deaths.

    First, it sounds like the Russ­ian troops were gen­er­al­ly quite friend­ly, if con­fused, dur­ing the first phase of Trostyanet­s’s occu­pa­tion. But that changed in mid-March when the Russ­ian troops rotat­ed out and sep­a­ratist fight­ers from the Don­bass region were brought in. It was then when the atroc­i­ties began to mount.

    Over­all, it’s a sce­nario that sounds quite plau­si­ble. Those sep­a­ratists pre­sum­ably have sig­nif­i­cant grudges against their for­mer fel­low Ukraini­ans. But that’s also a very dif­fer­ent sce­nario from Russ­ian sol­diers engag­ing in atroc­i­ties, and clos­er to the kind of bru­tal­i­ties we trag­i­cal­ly should expect to erupt in a civ­il war. So that’s one angle that should be asked about all of the rest of the towns in Ukraine that are poised to change hands as Russ­ian and sep­a­ratist forces pull back: was it the Russ­ian sol­diers occu­py­ing the area, or sep­a­ratists? Yes, it’s hor­rif­ic if the sep­a­ratists are com­mit­ting war crimes, but it’s also an impor­tant dis­tinc­tion to make just in terms of under­stand­ing what is actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing and dri­ving civil­ian mas­sacres.

    It turns out there was also an attack on town hos­pi­tal the day before the Russ­ian-backed forces pulled out of the town. It does­n’t appear any­one was killed in the attack. One doc­tor and nurse were at the hos­pi­tal at the time and moved patients to the base­ment. It sounds like a tank shell hit the build­ing, although some reports describe it as artillery.

    Locals accuse the Russ­ian forces of fir­ing into the hos­pi­tal. Impor­tant­ly, this attack on the hos­pi­tal hap­pened dur­ing a bat­tle between the Ukrain­ian forces that had then sur­round­ed the town and the retreat­ing Russ­ian forces. And that reminds us of a rather cru­cial detail to keep in mind dur­ing this phase of the con­flict where Russ­ian-occu­pied towns are being sur­ren­dered to Ukrain­ian forces: it’s now the Ukrain­ian forces who are forced attack their own towns. That’s how you dis­lodge the Russ­ian forces there. And there should be every expec­ta­tion that these bat­tles are going to gen­er­ate quite a few civil­ian casu­al­ties as Ukrain­ian forces retake these towns. So when it comes to the inves­ti­ga­tions into the mass graves in par­tic­u­lar, it’s going to be grim­ly inter­est­ing to see how many peo­ple were killed via a gun shot exe­cu­tion-style vs being caught in the cross-fire between two armies engaged in mech­a­nized urban com­bat.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, as we’re going to see in the sec­ond AFP arti­cle below, it sounds like the Russ­ian forces put up lit­tle to no resis­tance dur­ing this peri­od of intense shelling on March 25/26th. No Russ­ian bod­ies lit­tered the streets and the only street bat­tles that took place dur­ing that evening hap­pened near the hos­pi­tal.

    It’s also worth not­ing that Ukrain­ian author­i­ties accused the occu­py­ing forces of min­ing the hos­pi­tal on March 27, the day after the town’s lib­er­a­tion. That sug­gests that the Russ­ian forces were using the struc­ture defen­sive­ly dur­ing that final bat­tle.

    Final­ly, as we’re going to see, there’s the oth­er side of the coin when it comes to reprisals: attacks on Ukrain­ian civil­ians accused of col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Rus­sians. Or sim­ply neigh­bors deal­ing using the war to resolve old grudges against each oth­er.

    It sounds like police chief is now forced to wade through all sorts of reports of towns­peo­ple who had col­lab­o­rat­ed with the occu­pa­tion forces. It points to one of the impor­tant details any inves­ti­ga­tion into tor­ture vic­tims will have to explore: were the tor­ture vic­tims accused of being Russ­ian sym­pa­thiz­ers or col­lab­o­ra­tors?

    Ok, first, here’s a NY Times piece on the rough­ly month-long occu­pa­tion. As the arti­cle describes, the Russ­ian (or sep­a­ratist?) forces fled on the evening of March 25 amid a bat­tle with Ukraine’s 93rd Mech­a­nized Brigade, described as “a unit of expe­ri­enced vet­er­ans who had seen com­bat off and on in the country’s sep­a­ratist regions for the past sev­en years”. The Ukrain­ian forces sur­round­ed the town, hit the Russ­ian forces with artillery based at the train sta­tion. It was dur­ing this bat­tle that the hos­pi­tal was struck. Fol­low­ing the with­draw­al of the occu­py­ing forces, the town author­i­ties are now left to deal with a flood of neigh­bor-against-neigh­bor accu­sa­tions of Russ­ian col­lab­o­ra­tion:

    The New York Times

    ‘This Is True Bar­bar­i­ty’: Life and Death Under Russ­ian Occu­pa­tion

    The town of Trostyanets was occu­pied by Russ­ian forces for a month before the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary lib­er­at­ed it. Res­i­dents described weeks of hunger and hor­ror.

    By Thomas Gib­bons-Neff and Natalia Yer­mak
    April 3, 2022

    TROSTYANETS, Ukraine — The last three Russ­ian sol­diers in this Ukrain­ian town are in the morgue, their uni­forms blood­ied and torn. The first one’s face is frozen in pain. The sec­ond has his wood­en pipe in his lap. The third is stuffed in his sleep­ing bag.

    These dead are not all that was left behind in Trostyanets, a strate­gi­cal­ly locat­ed town in the country’s north­east, where Russ­ian forces fled sev­er­al days ago in the face of an orches­trat­ed Ukrain­ian assault. A month­long Russ­ian occu­pa­tion reduced much of the town to rub­ble, a dec­i­mat­ed land­scape of man­gled tank hulks, snapped trees and rat­tled but resilient sur­vivors.

    There are also sto­ries, impos­si­ble to ver­i­fy, high­light­ing the kind of hate left in an occupation’s wake and shar­ing a com­mon thread of bru­tal­i­ty: chil­dren held at knife point; an old woman forced to drink alco­hol as her occu­piers watched and laughed; whis­pers of rape and forced dis­ap­pear­ances; and an old man found tooth­less, beat­en in a ditch and defe­cat­ed on.

    “Oh, God, how I want­ed to spit on them or hit them,” said Yev­dokiya Kone­va, 57, her voice steely as she pushed her aging bicy­cle toward the cen­ter of town on Fri­day.

    Ukrain­ian forces are now gain­ing ground, as more than a month into the war Russ­ian forces are pulling back from their posi­tions north of Kyiv, even as Ukrain­ian sol­diers are mak­ing progress here in the north­east. This area was sup­posed to be lit­tle more than a speed bump for a sprawl­ing mil­i­tary cam­paign that would quick­ly take the country’s cap­i­tal and leave the east in Russ­ian hands.

    Instead, a com­bi­na­tion of logis­tics issues, low morale and poor plan­ning among Russ­ian forces allowed an embold­ened Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary to go on the offen­sive along mul­ti­ple axes, grind­ing down the occu­py­ing forces and splin­ter­ing their front lines.

    The Ukrain­ian vic­to­ry in Trostyanets came on March 26 — what res­i­dents call “Lib­er­a­tion Day” — and is an exam­ple of how dis­ad­van­taged and small­er Ukrain­ian units have launched suc­cess­ful coun­ter­at­tacks.

    It also shows how the Russ­ian military’s inabil­i­ty to win a quick vic­to­ry — in which it would “lib­er­ate” a friend­ly pop­u­la­tion — left its sol­diers in a posi­tion that they were vast­ly unpre­pared for: hold­ing an occu­pied town with an unwel­com­ing local pop­u­lace.

    “We didn’t want this dread­ful ‘lib­er­a­tion,’” said Nina Ivaniv­na Panchenko, 64, who was walk­ing in the rain after col­lect­ing a pack­age of human­i­tar­i­an aid. “Just let them nev­er come here again.”

    Inter­views with more than a dozen res­i­dents of Trostyanets, a mod­est town of about 19,000 sit­u­at­ed in a bowl of rolling hills rough­ly 20 miles from the Russ­ian bor­der, paint a stark pic­ture of strug­gle and fear dur­ing the Russ­ian occu­pa­tion. The unre­lent­ing vio­lence from both Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces fight­ing to retake and hold the town raged for weeks and drove peo­ple into base­ments or any­where they could find shel­ter.The unre­lent­ing vio­lence from both Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces fight­ing to retake and hold the town raged for weeks and drove peo­ple into base­ments or any­where they could find shel­ter.

    On Fri­day, dazed res­i­dents walked through the destroyed town, sort­ing through the debris as some pow­er was restored for the first time in weeks. Vik­tor Panov, a rail­way work­er, was help­ing to clear the shrap­nel-shat­tered train sta­tion of unex­plod­ed shells, grenades and oth­er scat­tered explo­sives. Oth­er men can­ni­bal­ized destroyed Russ­ian armored vehi­cles for parts or work­ing machin­ery.

    “I can’t wrap my head around how this war with tanks and mis­siles is pos­si­ble,” said Ole­na Volko­va, 57, the head doc­tor at the hos­pi­tal and the deputy head of the town coun­cil. “Against who? The peace­ful civil­ians?”

    “This is true bar­bar­i­ty,” she said.

    The war began in Trostyanets on Feb. 24, the day the Rus­sians launched their inva­sion of Ukraine. The town quick­ly became a thor­ough­fare for advanc­ing Russ­ian tank columns as they punched far­ther west, part of their north­east­ern offen­sive toward Kyiv, the cap­i­tal. Thou­sands of armored vehi­cles rolled through, break­ing high­way guard rails and chew­ing up roads.

    “As the Rus­sians drove in, for the first two days, our guys fought back well, so long as they had heavy weapons,” said Mr. Panov, 37. “After they ran out of those, they were left only with rifles.”

    Far­ther west, the offen­sive blitz toward Kyiv soon encoun­tered fierce Ukrain­ian resis­tance, stop­ping the Rus­sians short of the cap­i­tal, mean­ing that sol­diers would have to occu­py Trostyanets rather than just move through it. Rough­ly 800 troops fanned out, con­struct­ing a dozen or so check­points that cut the town into a grid of iso­lat­ed neigh­bor­hoods.

    Res­i­dents say they rarely tried to move through the Russ­ian posi­tions, though they described the occu­py­ing sol­diers as ami­able enough in the first days of the occu­pa­tion, and more con­fused than any­thing.

    “The first brigade of Russ­ian forces that came in were more or less tol­er­a­ble,” Dr. Volko­va said. “They said, ‘OK, we will help you.’”

    That help, Dr. Volko­va explained, was just allow­ing them to pull corpses off the streets. She added that rough­ly 20 peo­ple had been killed dur­ing the occu­pa­tion and the ensu­ing fight­ing — 10 had suf­fered gun­shot wounds.

    On a few occa­sions, the Russ­ian troops opened “green cor­ri­dors” for civil­ians to leave the town, though that was when some peo­ple — most­ly younger, mil­i­tary-age men — were abduct­ed.

    Ear­ly in the occu­pa­tion, Trostyanets’s police offi­cers took off their uni­forms and blend­ed into the pop­u­lace. Those who were in Ukraine’s Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense, the equiv­a­lent of the Nation­al Guard, slipped out to the town’s periph­ery and worked as par­ti­sans — doc­u­ment­ing Russ­ian troop move­ment and report­ing it to the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary.

    Oth­ers remained in the town, qui­et­ly mov­ing to help res­i­dents where they could, even as Russ­ian sol­diers hunt­ed them. “We were here dur­ing the whole time of occu­pa­tion, work­ing to the best of our abil­i­ties,” explained the police chief, Volodymyr Bogachy­ov, 53.

    As the days and weeks went by, food became scarce and any good will from the sol­diers van­ished, too. Res­i­dents boiled snow for water and lived off what they had stored from their small gar­dens. Russ­ian sol­diers, with­out a prop­er logis­tics pipeline, began loot­ing people’s homes, shops and even the local choco­late fac­to­ry. One butch­er spray paint­ed “ALREADY LOOTED” on his shop so the sol­diers would not break in. On anoth­er store, anoth­er deter­rence: “EVERYTHING IS TAKEN, NOTHING LEFT.”

    By mid-March, the Russ­ian sol­diers were rotat­ed out of the town and replaced by sep­a­ratist fight­ers who were brought in from the south­east.

    It was then, res­i­dents said, that atroc­i­ties began to mount.

    “They were brash and angry,” Dr. Volko­va said. “We could not nego­ti­ate with them about any­thing. They would not give us any green cor­ri­dors, they searched the apart­ments, took away the phones, abduct­ed peo­ple — they took them away, most­ly young men, and we still don’t know where these peo­ple are.”

    As of Fri­day, the town’s police had received 15 reports of miss­ing peo­ple.

    In the morgue, beside the three dead Russ­ian sol­diers, Dr. Volko­va point­ed to a body bag in the cor­ner of the room. “This per­son was tor­tured to death,” she said. “His hands and legs are tied up with sticky tape, his teeth are miss­ing and almost all of his face is gone. It’s unknown what they want­ed from him.”

    Out­side the town, Ukraine’s 93rd Mech­a­nized Brigade, a unit of expe­ri­enced vet­er­ans who had seen com­bat off and on in the country’s sep­a­ratist regions for the past sev­en years, slow­ly moved into posi­tion. Then, on March 23, they attacked with a bom­bard­ment of artillery fire.

    The next day, the town’s hos­pi­tal was shelled. It is not entire­ly clear who hit the build­ing, but local res­i­dents accuse the Rus­sians of fir­ing into the struc­ture. The hos­pi­tal had been oper­a­tional for the dura­tion of the occu­pa­tion, treat­ing every­one, includ­ing Russ­ian sol­diers. Dur­ing the shelling, only one doc­tor and one nurse were still work­ing there, and they moved into the base­ment with patients.

    “In the morn­ing, we went away on foot with the last two women still remain­ing in the mater­ni­ty ward, one preg­nant and one that had just giv­en birth,” said Xenia Grit­sayenko, 45, a mid­wife who had returned to work on Fri­day to clean up the ward. Tank shells had gone through the walls, shred­ding baby posters and light­ing at least one room on fire. “It was the cry from the bot­tom of the soul.”

    The Russ­ian forces fled on the night of the 25th. Their demol­ished artillery posi­tion in the train sta­tion square showed signs of an under­sup­plied and ad hoc force. For­ti­fi­ca­tions includ­ed ammu­ni­tion crates loaded with sand and thick can­dy bar wrap­pers bun­dled in rolls and used to shore up shat­tered win­dows instead of sand­bags. Uni­forms lay in soaked pud­dles. Russ­ian sup­ply doc­u­ments blew aim­less­ly in the wind.

    A near­by mon­u­ment that com­mem­o­rates the World War II vic­to­ry to retake the town, affixed with an aging Sovi­et tank, was dam­aged, but not destroyed. It had sur­vived one more bat­tle.

    By Fri­day after­noon, Mr. Bogachy­ov, the police chief, was sort­ing through reports of towns­peo­ple who had col­lab­o­rat­ed with the for­mer occu­piers, as well as try­ing to address con­tin­ued loot­ing. Yet no one had issues siphon­ing fuel from the aban­doned Russ­ian tanks dot­ting the roads.

    “The info is such as, ‘This per­son was talk­ing or drink­ing vod­ka with the Rus­sians,’ and, ‘This per­son point­ed to them where is the home of the per­son they were look­ing for,’” he said.

    “There is no infor­ma­tion on col­lab­o­ra­tions such as our cit­i­zens tak­ing arms along with the occu­pants or treat­ing their own cit­i­zens with vio­lence,” Mr. Bogachy­ov said, acknowl­edg­ing that it was hard to tell if he was con­tend­ing with Russ­ian spies or just neigh­bor­ly grudges.

    The morn­ing rain had burned off by the after­noon. The long lines around human­i­tar­i­an aid dis­tri­b­u­tion points dis­si­pat­ed. A garbage truck mean­dered by, loaded to the brim with war detri­tus and Russ­ian Army rations. A few peo­ple took self­ies in front of the last Russ­ian piece of self-pro­pelled artillery that was still rec­og­niz­able.

    ...

    ———–

    “‘This Is True Bar­bar­i­ty’: Life and Death Under Russ­ian Occu­pa­tion” by Thomas Gib­bons-Neff and Natalia Yer­mak; The New York Times; 04/03/2022

    “Inter­views with more than a dozen res­i­dents of Trostyanets, a mod­est town of about 19,000 sit­u­at­ed in a bowl of rolling hills rough­ly 20 miles from the Russ­ian bor­der, paint a stark pic­ture of strug­gle and fear dur­ing the Russ­ian occu­pa­tion. The unre­lent­ing vio­lence from both Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces fight­ing to retake and hold the town raged for weeks and drove peo­ple into base­ments or any­where they could find shel­ter.The unre­lent­ing vio­lence from both Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces fight­ing to retake and hold the town raged for weeks and drove peo­ple into base­ments or any­where they could find shel­ter.

    Unre­lent­ing vio­lence between the Russ­ian forces try­ing to hold the city and Ukrain­ian forces try­ing to take it back. That’s how the occu­pa­tion of Trostyanets end­ed. But it sounds like the vio­lence real­ly got start­ed in mid-March after the Russ­ian troops were replaced with sep­a­ratist fight­ers from the Don­bass region. Keep in mind that many of these sep­a­ratists prob­a­bly know peo­ple liv­ing in this area. So if there were reprisal killings com­mit­ted by these sep­a­ratists that would­n’t be entire­ly unsur­pris­ing. At the same time, as Dr. Volko­va acknowl­edges in the case of an obvi­ous tor­ture vic­tim, she can’t say who or why they were tor­tured. She can only say they were tor­tured. Was this tor­ture vic­tim accused of being a Russ­ian col­lab­o­ra­tor? It’s a pret­ty cru­cial ques­tion to answer in these cas­es but for now we have no idea:

    ...
    The war began in Trostyanets on Feb. 24, the day the Rus­sians launched their inva­sion of Ukraine. The town quick­ly became a thor­ough­fare for advanc­ing Russ­ian tank columns as they punched far­ther west, part of their north­east­ern offen­sive toward Kyiv, the cap­i­tal. Thou­sands of armored vehi­cles rolled through, break­ing high­way guard rails and chew­ing up roads.

    ...

    Res­i­dents say they rarely tried to move through the Russ­ian posi­tions, though they described the occu­py­ing sol­diers as ami­able enough in the first days of the occu­pa­tion, and more con­fused than any­thing.

    “The first brigade of Russ­ian forces that came in were more or less tol­er­a­ble,” Dr. Volko­va said. “They said, ‘OK, we will help you.’”

    That help, Dr. Volko­va explained, was just allow­ing them to pull corpses off the streets. She added that rough­ly 20 peo­ple had been killed dur­ing the occu­pa­tion and the ensu­ing fight­ing — 10 had suf­fered gun­shot wounds.

    On a few occa­sions, the Russ­ian troops opened “green cor­ri­dors” for civil­ians to leave the town, though that was when some peo­ple — most­ly younger, mil­i­tary-age men — were abduct­ed.

    ...

    As the days and weeks went by, food became scarce and any good will from the sol­diers van­ished, too. Res­i­dents boiled snow for water and lived off what they had stored from their small gar­dens. Russ­ian sol­diers, with­out a prop­er logis­tics pipeline, began loot­ing people’s homes, shops and even the local choco­late fac­to­ry. One butch­er spray paint­ed “ALREADY LOOTED” on his shop so the sol­diers would not break in. On anoth­er store, anoth­er deter­rence: “EVERYTHING IS TAKEN, NOTHING LEFT.”

    By mid-March, the Russ­ian sol­diers were rotat­ed out of the town and replaced by sep­a­ratist fight­ers who were brought in from the south­east.

    It was then, res­i­dents said, that atroc­i­ties began to mount.

    “They were brash and angry,” Dr. Volko­va said. “We could not nego­ti­ate with them about any­thing. They would not give us any green cor­ri­dors, they searched the apart­ments, took away the phones, abduct­ed peo­ple — they took them away, most­ly young men, and we still don’t know where these peo­ple are.”

    As of Fri­day, the town’s police had received 15 reports of miss­ing peo­ple.

    In the morgue, beside the three dead Russ­ian sol­diers, Dr. Volko­va point­ed to a body bag in the cor­ner of the room. “This per­son was tor­tured to death,” she said. “His hands and legs are tied up with sticky tape, his teeth are miss­ing and almost all of his face is gone. It’s unknown what they want­ed from him.
    ...

    But while we don’t know who tor­tured these peo­ple or why they were tor­tured, it’s very clear that there are plen­ty of peo­ple being accused by their fel­low towns­peo­ple of col­lab­o­rat­ing with the occu­piers. And again, after the sep­a­ratist forces moved in, we real­ly should­n’t be shocked if those forces real­ly were min­gling with some of the towns­peo­ple. They prob­a­bly knew each oth­er from before the civ­il war. So that’s going to be anoth­er impor­tant aspect of this sto­ry to keep an eye on as Ukrain­ian forces retake towns: just how wide­spread are the accu­sa­tions of col­lab­o­ra­tion and what hap­pened to the accused col­lab­o­ra­tors?

    ...
    By Fri­day after­noon, Mr. Bogachy­ov, the police chief, was sort­ing through reports of towns­peo­ple who had col­lab­o­rat­ed with the for­mer occu­piers, as well as try­ing to address con­tin­ued loot­ing. Yet no one had issues siphon­ing fuel from the aban­doned Russ­ian tanks dot­ting the roads.

    “The info is such as, ‘This per­son was talk­ing or drink­ing vod­ka with the Rus­sians,’ and, ‘This per­son point­ed to them where is the home of the per­son they were look­ing for,’” he said.

    “There is no infor­ma­tion on col­lab­o­ra­tions such as our cit­i­zens tak­ing arms along with the occu­pants or treat­ing their own cit­i­zens with vio­lence,” Mr. Bogachy­ov said, acknowl­edg­ing that it was hard to tell if he was con­tend­ing with Russ­ian spies or just neigh­bor­ly grudges.

    The morn­ing rain had burned off by the after­noon. The long lines around human­i­tar­i­an aid dis­tri­b­u­tion points dis­si­pat­ed. A garbage truck mean­dered by, loaded to the brim with war detri­tus and Russ­ian Army rations. A few peo­ple took self­ies in front of the last Russ­ian piece of self-pro­pelled artillery that was still rec­og­niz­able.
    ...

    Final­ly, note how the Russian/separatist forces pulled out basi­cal­ly the same evening the hos­pi­tal was attacked. And while locals accuse the Russ­ian forces of car­ry­ing out the attack, no one actu­al­ly knows. What we don’t know is that Ukraine’s 93rd Mech­a­nized Brigade was engaged in a heavy assault on Russ­ian forces head­quar­tered in the train sta­tion. And we also know that Ukraine accused the occu­py­ing forces of min­ing the area out­side the hos­pi­tal. So while it would­n’t be sur­pris­ing if a Russ­ian tank shell did indeed hit the hos­pi­tal that evening, it’s dif­fi­cult to see why we should con­clude that’s the case giv­en that it was the Ukrain­ian forces that had to effec­tive retake that hos­pi­tal:

    ...
    Out­side the town, Ukraine’s 93rd Mech­a­nized Brigade, a unit of expe­ri­enced vet­er­ans who had seen com­bat off and on in the country’s sep­a­ratist regions for the past sev­en years, slow­ly moved into posi­tion. Then, on March 23, they attacked with a bom­bard­ment of artillery fire.

    The next day, the town’s hos­pi­tal was shelled. It is not entire­ly clear who hit the build­ing, but local res­i­dents accuse the Rus­sians of fir­ing into the struc­ture. The hos­pi­tal had been oper­a­tional for the dura­tion of the occu­pa­tion, treat­ing every­one, includ­ing Russ­ian sol­diers. Dur­ing the shelling, only one doc­tor and one nurse were still work­ing there, and they moved into the base­ment with patients.

    “In the morn­ing, we went away on foot with the last two women still remain­ing in the mater­ni­ty ward, one preg­nant and one that had just giv­en birth,” said Xenia Grit­sayenko, 45, a mid­wife who had returned to work on Fri­day to clean up the ward. Tank shells had gone through the walls, shred­ding baby posters and light­ing at least one room on fire. “It was the cry from the bot­tom of the soul.”

    The Russ­ian forces fled on the night of the 25th. Their demol­ished artillery posi­tion in the train sta­tion square showed signs of an under­sup­plied and ad hoc force. For­ti­fi­ca­tions includ­ed ammu­ni­tion crates loaded with sand and thick can­dy bar wrap­pers bun­dled in rolls and used to shore up shat­tered win­dows instead of sand­bags. Uni­forms lay in soaked pud­dles. Russ­ian sup­ply doc­u­ments blew aim­less­ly in the wind.
    ...

    Ok, and now here’s an AFP piece that gives us a few more details on the inten­si­ty of the fight­ing between Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian forces on March 25. As the arti­cle makes clear, the Ukrain­ian bom­bard­ment of the Russ­ian posi­tions was so intense those areas of basi­cal­ly rub­ble now. Russ­ian posi­tions that were locat­ed in the heart of the town at that the train sta­tion square. In oth­er words, dis­lodg­ing the Russian/separatist forces out of Trostyanets required the lev­el­ing of parts of the town:

    AFP News

    Rus­sians leave behind wreck­age, hunger in Ukraine town of Trostyanets

    Issued on: 30/03/2022 — 14:22
    Mod­i­fied: 30/03/2022 — 14:20

    Trostyanets’ (Ukraine) (AFP) – Dazed res­i­dents emerge from their homes to search for food while Ukrain­ian sol­diers sal­vage what they can from dam­aged Russ­ian vehi­cles aban­doned amid the ruins.

    A month under Russ­ian occu­pa­tion has left deep scars in the north­east­ern town of Trostyanets.

    Rus­si­a’s 4th Guards Tank Divi­sion, con­sid­ered an elite armoured unit, rolled into Trostyanets, which is just 30 kilo­me­tres (20 miles) from the bor­der on the sec­ond day of the war.

    But it encoun­tered fierce resistence from Ukrain­ian forces when ele­ments tried to push fur­ther south­west, as the remains of burnt out tanks scat­tered along a sec­ondary road attest.

    The Rus­sians set up head­quar­ters in Trostyanets’ train sta­tion, and the sur­rounds are bad­ly dam­aged after heavy bom­bard­ment aimed at dis­lodg­ing them.

    A dozen destroyed or dam­aged tanks and oth­er armoured vehi­cles, plus a mas­sive self-pro­pelled how­itzer lit­ter the area. The ground is torn up by artillery shells, jagged lumps of shrap­nel lie about.

    The near­by bus sta­tion and shops where Russ­ian sol­diers had bed­ded down and stored their equip­ment are in ruins. Upturned, emp­ty wood­en ammu­ni­tion cas­es are strewn across the ground.

    “Shells were com­ing in from all sides. In the night of the 25th to 26th they just up and left,” said Pavlo, who spent the past month hun­kered down in the base­ment of his home locat­ed just near­by.

    “Our sol­diers aimed well, with drones or with I don’t know what,” he added.

    Dan­ger­ous to walk by here

    The Rus­sians quit the city in the end, putting up lit­tle to no resis­tance, and there are no bod­ies of dead Russ­ian sol­diers in the streets.

    The only street bat­tles took place in the south of the city near the hos­pi­tal, where there was also dam­age to build­ings.

    “It was dan­ger­ous to walk by here,” Pavlo said of the area around the rail sta­tion where the Rus­sians had set up.

    “They arrest­ed peo­ple and stole their phones so they could call home,” he said.

    There were Rus­sians, Chechens and even pro-Russ­ian Ukrain­ian sep­a­ratists from the Don­bas region, who were the “most cru­el, forc­ing out peo­ple and tak­ing their homes”, said Pavlo.

    No food, water, elec­tric­i­ty

    Even­tu­al­ly, “there was noth­ing left to eat in the town, no water and no elec­tric­i­ty”, he added.

    With a well in his yard and ample pro­vi­sions in his base­ment, Pavlo did­n’t suf­fer ter­ri­bly.

    Oth­ers were less for­tu­nate.

    Olga Kolcheniyenko and her hus­band did­n’t have it as easy in their third floor apart­ment with­out water and elec­tric­i­ty.

    “We’re still in shock,” said the Eng­lish teacher in her six­ties — her face pale — mak­ing her first for­ay into the cen­tre of town since it was retak­en by Ukrain­ian sol­diers three days ago.

    The shops were still closed, but get­ting sup­plies was a top pri­or­i­ty for many peo­ple, with long lines snaking out­side food banks.

    “Peo­ple are hun­gry,” said Kate­ri­na, 18, who was stand­ing in line with her moth­er at a local church hand­ing out food.

    She spent the month shut­tling between her apart­ment and the build­ing’s base­ment, as well as search­ing for food.

    “I had to go out every day to help my moth­er find some­thing to eat. Can you imag­ine, no bread for a month?” said Kate­ri­na.

    Peo­ple were also hun­gry for infor­ma­tion. The town was brim­ming with rumours about civil­ians killed, women raped or men tak­en hostage.

    Kolcheniyenko said she heard one of her 13-year-old stu­dents had been shot by Rus­sians, but, “No one real­ly knows. The tele­phone net­work is still bro­ken.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Rus­sians leave behind wreck­age, hunger in Ukraine town of Trostyanets”; AFP News; 03/30/2022

    The Rus­sians quit the city in the end, putting up lit­tle to no resis­tance, and there are no bod­ies of dead Russ­ian sol­diers in the streets.”

    By all accounts, there was a pitched bat­tle to retake Trostyanets on March 25/26. But a fair­ly one-sided bat­tle, with the Russ­ian forces appar­ent­ly only putting up resis­tance in the south of the city near the hos­pi­tal. So while we don’t have num­bers of how many civil­ians were killed in that bat­tle, we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent that the major­i­ty of those deaths would have been due to Ukrain­ian fire. The Russian/separatists most­ly just ran:

    ...
    The Rus­sians set up head­quar­ters in Trostyanets’ train sta­tion, and the sur­rounds are bad­ly dam­aged after heavy bom­bard­ment aimed at dis­lodg­ing them.

    A dozen destroyed or dam­aged tanks and oth­er armoured vehi­cles, plus a mas­sive self-pro­pelled how­itzer lit­ter the area. The ground is torn up by artillery shells, jagged lumps of shrap­nel lie about.

    The near­by bus sta­tion and shops where Russ­ian sol­diers had bed­ded down and stored their equip­ment are in ruins. Upturned, emp­ty wood­en ammu­ni­tion cas­es are strewn across the ground.

    “Shells were com­ing in from all sides. In the night of the 25th to 26th they just up and left,” said Pavlo, who spent the past month hun­kered down in the base­ment of his home locat­ed just near­by.

    ...

    The only street bat­tles took place in the south of the city near the hos­pi­tal, where there was also dam­age to build­ings.
    ...

    And, again, note the reports about the Ukrain­ian sep­a­ratists being the pri­ma­ry sources of cru­el­ty and loot­ing. It under­scores how one of the biggest unan­swered ques­tions right now: how much of the actu­al atroc­i­ties against civil­ians are acts of retal­i­a­tion between Ukrain­ian Nazis and vio­lent sep­a­ratists and/or old score-set­tling?

    ...
    “It was dan­ger­ous to walk by here,” Pavlo said of the area around the rail sta­tion where the Rus­sians had set up.

    “They arrest­ed peo­ple and stole their phones so they could call home,” he said.

    There were Rus­sians, Chechens and even pro-Russ­ian Ukrain­ian sep­a­ratists from the Don­bas region, who were the “most cru­el, forc­ing out peo­ple and tak­ing their homes”, said Pavlo.
    ...

    So with the world out­raged over the scenes com­ing out of Bucha and the grue­some images and claims of geno­cide and war crimes, it’s going to be impor­tant to keep in mind that, beyond the fact that we don’t actu­al­ly know who killed these civil­ians, we also don’t yet even know yet which ‘side’ of this con­flict they were on. Are these ran­dom cit­i­zens? Ukrain­ian par­ti­sans? Ukrain­ian Nazi extrem­ists? Or peo­ple accused of col­lab­o­rat­ing with the occu­piers. And as the sto­ries com­ing out of Trostyanets make clear, we can’t begin to make sense of this sit­u­a­tion until we answer those basic ques­tions. Let’s hope inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tors are able to mean­ing­ful­ly inves­ti­gate what hap­pened in Bucha. Because there was either some egre­gious war crimes com­mit­ted by Russ­ian forces/separatist occu­piers. Or a pret­ty egre­gious staged atroc­i­ty. Both wor­thy of inter­na­tion­al con­dem­na­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 4, 2022, 3:26 pm
  2. @Pterrafractyl–

    Sev­er­al of your points–especially the obser­va­tion about the “score-set­tling” that might have dri­ven sep­a­ratist fight­ers from Don­bas to say “pay­back time.”

    Also the “score set­tling” that may have tak­en place against those–rightly or wrongly–viewed as “Russ­ian col­lab­o­ra­tors” needs to be con­sid­ered.

    Sev­er­al sup­ple­men­tal obser­va­tions: Almost all of the “evi­dence” in these and oth­er com­bat fatal­i­ties are what would be called “hearsay evi­dence” in a court of law, and inad­mis­si­ble as such.

    One the day pre­vi­ous to the “New York Times” arti­cle you cit­ed, anoth­er sto­ry from the Gray Lady not­ed the Ukrain­ian unit involved in the com­bat in Bucha: the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/03/world/europe/russia-war-crimes-ukraine.html

    When­ev­er they are observed, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of false-flags should not only be con­sid­ered but viewed as prob­a­ble.

    They are Nazis.

    Also: anoth­er “Russ­ian War Crimes” sto­ry comes from some­one referred to as Anton Heraschenko, an aide to the Ukrain­ian inte­ri­or min­istry.
    https://www.yahoo.com/news/village-leader-family-found-buried-102801663.html

    This was not a name with which I was famil­iar, but after a lit­tle inter­net search­ing, I dis­cov­ered that the “H” was the newest Ukrain­ian translit­er­a­tion of “Geraschenko.”

    Yes, it’s our old friend Anton Geraschenko, who was the babysit­ter for “Pro­fex­or” the mys­te­ri­ous Ukrain­ian hack­er behind the [alleged] hack of the DNC.

    Ol’ Profexor–you recall–couldn’t find any mal­ware to use oth­er than an out­dat­ed PAS shell and then hard-cod­ed his IP address into it.

    This sug­gests the old “paint­ing [Lee Har­vey] Oswald “red” sce­nario.

    This does not rein­force the cred­i­bil­i­ty of Heraschenko/Geraschenko.

    On the new Patre­on site I have launched, there is a more detailed analy­sis of not only some of the Bucha pho­to­graph­ic evi­dence but also oth­er, anom­alous cov­er­age from NYT.

    I am going to do some more on this sub­ject.

    Both pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sion and the forth­com­ing mate­r­i­al can be found at: https://www.patreon.com/DaveEmory

    Keep up the great work!

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 4, 2022, 4:29 pm
  3. As out­rage con­tin­ues to build over the alleged civil­ian mas­sacres by Russ­ian forces in Bucha, we’re see­ing a dis­turb­ing if pre­dictable con­se­quence of that out­rage: talk of peace nego­ti­a­tions have ground to a halt.

    Even worse, we’re now hear­ing talk out of Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky that could be inter­pret­ed as a pledge to effec­tive­ly recap­ture the sep­a­ratists republics in the Don­bass. At least that’s one way to inter­pret Zelen­skiy’s com­ments assert­ing that the future of Ukraine will not be that of a a de-mil­i­ta­rized neu­tral state like Switzer­land, but instead fol­low the hyper-mil­i­ta­rized mod­el of Israel. As Zelen­skiy put it, “We will not be sur­prised that we will have rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Armed Forces or the Nation­al Guard in all insti­tu­tions, super­mar­kets, cin­e­mas, there will be peo­ple with weapons. I am sure that our secu­ri­ty issue will be num­ber one in the next ten years.” Yep, Zelen­skiy is open­ly pre­dict­ing armed mem­bers of Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard — the insti­tu­tion that has for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed Nazi units like the Azov Bat­tal­ion — are going to be rou­tine­ly sta­tioned in all insti­tu­tions, super­mar­kets, and cin­e­mas a decade from now. Armed fas­cist mil­i­tants every­where wield­ing the force of the state.

    But that Israel anal­o­gy also rais­es the oth­er unspo­ken part of that future for Ukraine: plans to recap­ture the break­away republics, and pre­sum­ably quell those insur­gen­cies with the kind of police-state tac­tics Israel deploys against the Pales­tini­ans. Yes, Zelen­skiy did­n’t open­ly say that. But it sure was hint­ed at. At least if there real­ly are plans to recap­ture those republics.

    Also keep in mind that if we do end up see­ing a pat­tern emerge of reprisal killings and score set­tling car­ried out by sep­a­ratist forces work­ing with the Russ­ian forces — like what may have tak­en place in the town of Trostyanets — that’s only going to make Ukraine more deter­mined to recap­ture those break­away republics. Which, again, rais­es the ques­tion: what sort of long-term mod­el for secur­ing those Republics does the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment have in mind that does­n’t more less fol­low the Israeli mod­el of a hyper-mil­i­ta­rized state?

    This talk of the ‘Israeliza­tion’ of Ukraine is also coin­cid­ing with grow­ing demands for some sort of secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees for Ukraine from West­ern states, in par­tic­u­lar the US. It sounds like Zelen­skiy wants a kind of Ukraine-cen­tric NATO-like treaty, where guar­an­tor states would agree to an array of respons­es, from sanc­tions to mil­i­tary aid, the moment Ukraine is threat­ened by Rus­sia. As Zelen­skiy put it, “We need seri­ous play­ers who are ready for any­thing. We need a cir­cle of states that are ready to pro­vide any weapons with­in 24 hours. We need indi­vid­ual coun­tries on which sanc­tions pol­i­cy real­ly depends, so that these sanc­tions are deeply elab­o­rat­ed in advance. So that in the first sec­ond when we feel the threat from the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, these states will unite and with­in three days intro­duce every­thing at once, block every­thing.” Keep in mind that it was just last week that Zelen­skiy was open­ly express­ing his will­ing­ness to adopt a neu­tral sta­tus as part of a peace deal. It’s a reminder of how rapid­ly these peace nego­ti­a­tions can be derailed.

    And then there’s the dynam­ic tak­ing place inside Rus­sia. As we’ll see in the sec­ond TPM piece below, there’s already open calls by Russ­ian hard­lin­ers to accept noth­ing less than the full defeat of the Ukraine. Talk of peace is being com­pared to the 1994 peace treaty signed with Chech­nya, and which obvi­ous­ly did­n’t last. And it’s not just known far right hard­lin­ers like Vladimir Zhiri­novsky mak­ing these demands. Igor Korotchenko, a mem­ber of the civ­il coun­cil of Russia’s Min­istry of Defense and edi­tor-in-chief of the Nation­al Defense mag­a­zine, wrote on Telegram this week that “A peace agree­ment with Ukraine will not only be a mis­take, but it will be a betray­al.”

    So it’s look­ing like the prospects for peace talks aren’t just dwin­dling but effec­tive­ly already gone and replaced with pledges of total vic­to­ry. Which means if you’re some­one who is hop­ing to see an extend­ed blood­ing con­flict that bleeds Rus­sia and turns Ukraine into a rad­i­cal­ized per­ma­nent­ly mil­i­ta­rized state, total vic­to­ry is in sight.

    Ok, first, here’s a Jer­sualem Post arti­cle about Zelen­skiy’s omi­nous pre­dic­tion about Ukraine’s future. A pre­dic­tion not of a de-mil­i­ta­rized neu­tral state like Switzer­land, but a hyper-mil­i­ta­rized state like Israel with armed mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and Nation­al Guard (e.g. Azov) in all insti­tu­tions and pub­lic places and a spe­cial NATO-like secu­ri­ty agree­ment with guar­an­teed respons­es against future Russ­ian aggres­sion:

    The Jerusalem Post

    Zelen­sky: Ukraine will be like Israel, not demil­i­ta­rized like Switzer­land after war
    Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky said that Ukraine will not be demil­i­ta­rized like Switzer­land, but a “big Israel.”

    By TOVAH LAZAROFF
    Pub­lished: APRIL 5, 2022 21:27

    Ukraine plans to mod­el itself after Israel and not Switzer­land in the after­math of the Russ­ian inva­sion when it comes to issues of nation­al secu­ri­ty, Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky said on Tues­day.

    “I think all our peo­ple will be our great army. We can­not talk about ‘Switzer­land of the future’ — prob­a­bly, our state will be able to be like this a long time after,” Zelen­sky said. “But we will def­i­nite­ly become a ‘big Israel’ with its own face.”

    “We will not be sur­prised that we will have rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Armed Forces or the Nation­al Guard in all insti­tu­tions, super­mar­kets, cin­e­mas, there will be peo­ple with weapons. I am sure that our secu­ri­ty issue will be num­ber one in the next ten years,” he explained.

    Ukraine has per­sis­tent­ly resist­ed Russ­ian demands that it de-mil­i­ta­rize, with Zelen­sky clar­i­fy­ing on Tues­day that his coun­try must have an army to defend its peo­ple against Russ­ian aggres­sion in the future.

    There will also need to be coun­tries that pro­vide Ukraine with secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees, Zelen­sky said as he list­ed Israel as one of those coun­tries.

    “All this is being dis­cussed at the lev­el of advis­ers and lead­ers with France, the Unit­ed States, Turkey, the Unit­ed King­dom, Poland, Italy, Israel, and there are many friends who want to join,” Zelen­sky said. “So far, we have not received a spe­cif­ic list of guar­an­tees and a list of coun­tries that are ready to join us 100%.”

    Ukraine needs a small cir­cle of states ready to help it with its defen­sive needs, Zelen­sky explained.

    “We need seri­ous play­ers who are ready for any­thing. We need a cir­cle of states that are ready to pro­vide any weapons with­in 24 hours. We need indi­vid­ual coun­tries on which sanc­tions pol­i­cy real­ly depends, so that these sanc­tions are deeply elab­o­rat­ed in advance. So that in the first sec­ond when we feel the threat from the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, these states will unite and with­in three days intro­duce every­thing at once, block every­thing,” Zelen­sky said.

    ...

    ———–

    “Zelen­sky: Ukraine will be like Israel, not demil­i­ta­rized like Switzer­land after war” by TOVAH LAZAROFF; The Jerusalem Post; 04/05/2022

    ““We will not be sur­prised that we will have rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Armed Forces or the Nation­al Guard in all insti­tu­tions, super­mar­kets, cin­e­mas, there will be peo­ple with weapons. I am sure that our secu­ri­ty issue will be num­ber one in the next ten years,” he explained.”

    Yes, not only is the ‘de-mil­i­ta­riza­tion’ of Ukraine not hap­pen­ing, but we’re look­ing at the like­ly mil­i­ta­riza­tion of pub­lic life in Ukraine for the fore­see­able future. As well as a pre­sumed ongo­ing hyper-mil­i­ta­riza­tion of Ukraine in prepa­ra­tion for future con­flicts with Rus­sia. A mil­i­tary build up that would be backed by the secu­ri­ty-arrange­ment Ukraine is hop­ing to estab­lish with as many West­ern part­ners as it can get:

    ...
    There will also need to be coun­tries that pro­vide Ukraine with secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees, Zelen­sky said as he list­ed Israel as one of those coun­tries.

    “All this is being dis­cussed at the lev­el of advis­ers and lead­ers with France, the Unit­ed States, Turkey, the Unit­ed King­dom, Poland, Italy, Israel, and there are many friends who want to join,” Zelen­sky said. “So far, we have not received a spe­cif­ic list of guar­an­tees and a list of coun­tries that are ready to join us 100%.”

    Ukraine needs a small cir­cle of states ready to help it with its defen­sive needs, Zelen­sky explained.

    “We need seri­ous play­ers who are ready for any­thing. We need a cir­cle of states that are ready to pro­vide any weapons with­in 24 hours. We need indi­vid­ual coun­tries on which sanc­tions pol­i­cy real­ly depends, so that these sanc­tions are deeply elab­o­rat­ed in advance. So that in the first sec­ond when we feel the threat from the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, these states will unite and with­in three days intro­duce every­thing at once, block every­thing,” Zelen­sky said.
    ...

    At least there isn’t more talk about rearm­ing Ukraine with nuclear weapons, although that’s pre­sum­ably going to be just a mat­ter of time if we end up see­ing Ukraine and Rus­sia fight to a kind of stale­mate.

    And that brings us to the fol­low­ing TPM piece about the increas­ing demands inside Rus­sia for a total vic­to­ry and the capit­u­la­tion of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. Demands that are being open­ly made by fig­ures in the gov­ern­ment, like Igor Korotchenkoon the civ­il coun­cil of Russia’s Min­istry of Defense. As Korotchenkoon puts it, “A peace agree­ment with Ukraine will not only be a mis­take, but it will be a betray­al”:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Muck­rak­er

    Hard­core Russ­ian Nation­al­ists Rage Over Any Ukraine Com­pro­mise

    By Josh Koven­sky
    April 1, 2022 10:14 a.m.

    Ukraini­ans aren’t the only ones wor­ried about giv­ing up too much in peace talks.

    Puta­tive talks over a poten­tial peace deal between the two coun­tries led to an out­cry among a vocal core of Rus­sians against any­thing oth­er than Ukraine’s uncon­di­tion­al sur­ren­der.

    “A peace agree­ment with Ukraine will not only be a mis­take, but it will be a betray­al,” Igor Korotchenko, a mem­ber of the civ­il coun­cil of Russia’s Min­istry of Defense and a com­men­ta­tor, wrote on Telegram this week.

    Many, includ­ing Korotchenko, com­pared any agree­ment with Ukraine at this stage to the Khasavyurt Accord, which brought the first Chechen war to an end under Boris Yeltsin in 1996. That agree­ment saw Rus­sia agree to with­draw its forces from Chech­nya in exchange for its cap­i­tal, Grozny, being demil­i­ta­rized.

    Three years lat­er, Rus­sia invad­ed Chech­nya again, with then-Prime Min­is­ter Vladimir Putin announc­ing the start of the land war. Putin gained mas­sive pub­lic sup­port dur­ing the course of that war, and took over from Yeltsin as Pres­i­dent at the end of 1999.

    ...

    It’s not clear how real the will­ing­ness is on the Russ­ian side to nego­ti­ate with Ukraine, but what emerged from the talks in Turkey was a pro­pos­al that some Russ­ian nego­tia­tors said would be accept­able. Ukraine would renounce its NATO ambi­tions and agree to take the ques­tions of Crimea and the proxy republics off the table for the fore­see­able future.

    Egor Khol­mogorov, a Russ­ian nation­al­ist pun­dit, wrote on Telegram that a peace deal would be “rec­og­niz­ing the defeat of Rus­sia and vic­to­ry of Ukraine in a ‘war of inde­pen­dence.’”

    “The con­se­quences of such an agree­ment for Rus­sia will be cat­a­stroph­ic,” he added.

    Oth­ers who have been direct­ly involved in Russ­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tions have made sim­i­lar cri­tiques.

    ...

    Meduza, an inde­pen­dent Russ­ian out­let based in Latvia, pub­lished a report on Thurs­day sug­gest­ing that news reports on state tele­vi­sion about the impend­ing “cap­ture of Kyiv” had unleashed a process that it could not com­plete­ly con­trol.

    “What do you say after that? That we changed our minds about tak­ing Kyiv?” the out­let quot­ed a source close to the Russ­ian pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion as say­ing. “Yes, there aren’t that many real, con­vinced sup­port­ers of war to the end, but it’s a very loud part of soci­ety, and it’s already start­ed to make noise.”

    All this paints a pic­ture of an impasse, with Russia’s next steps remain­ing deeply unclear. But pres­sure on the regime to con­tin­ue fight­ing remains strong.

    “It would be Khasavyurt and the Brest-Litovsk peace tak­en togeth­er, only much worse,” Korotchenko, the mil­i­tary pun­dit, said of a poten­tial peace deal, refer­ring also to the 1918 agree­ment that saw Rus­sia cede the Baltic states and much of Ukraine. “The spe­cial mil­i­tary oper­a­tion must be con­duct­ed until Ukraine is rout­ed, and then the capit­u­la­tion of the Nazi regime. And a new Nurem­burg tri­al for the main Ukrain­ian war crim­i­nals.”

    ————-

    “Hard­core Russ­ian Nation­al­ists Rage Over Any Ukraine Com­pro­mise” by Josh Koven­sky; Talk­ing Points Memo; 04/01/2022

    ““A peace agree­ment with Ukraine will not only be a mis­take, but it will be a betray­al,” Igor Korotchenko, a mem­ber of the civ­il coun­cil of Russia’s Min­istry of Defense and a com­men­ta­tor, wrote on Telegram this week.”

    If a peace treaty with Ukraine is seen as a betray­al by Rus­si­a’s hard­lin­ers, that real­ly only leaves one option. And yet, that option — the com­plete mil­i­tary capit­u­la­tion of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment — does­n’t appear to be real­is­tic. At least not with­out the effec­tive lev­el­ing of Kyiv. And even they do lev­el Kyiv, it’s unclear if that would be enough to induce a col­lapse of the Ukrain­ian resis­tance. The kind of vic­to­ry Rus­si­a’s hard­lin­ers are demand­ing at this point is effec­tive­ly impos­si­ble. And yet thanks to mis­lead­ing overop­ti­mistic Russ­ian media reports, the cap­ture of Kyiv appeared to be just a mat­ter of time. It’s the kind of dynam­ic that points towards Putin hav­ing no option but dou­bling and tripling down on this con­flict. But it’s also the kind of dynam­ic that sug­gests we could see moves to oust Putin should this con­flict go hor­ri­bly awry for Rus­sia:

    ...
    Meduza, an inde­pen­dent Russ­ian out­let based in Latvia, pub­lished a report on Thurs­day sug­gest­ing that news reports on state tele­vi­sion about the impend­ing “cap­ture of Kyiv” had unleashed a process that it could not com­plete­ly con­trol.

    “What do you say after that? That we changed our minds about tak­ing Kyiv?” the out­let quot­ed a source close to the Russ­ian pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion as say­ing. “Yes, there aren’t that many real, con­vinced sup­port­ers of war to the end, but it’s a very loud part of soci­ety, and it’s already start­ed to make noise.”
    ...

    Who is most like­ly to replace Putin should his grip on pow­er weak­en as a con­se­quence of los­ing this war? A pro-West­ern fig­ure like Alex­ei Naval­ny or an ultra-nation­al­ist like Vladimir Zhiri­novsky? Let’s hope West­ern pol­i­cy-mak­ers pin­ing for an extend­ed bloody con­flict that drains Putin of his pop­u­lar sup­port are seri­ous­ly ask­ing these kinds of ques­tions. Because the answers pre­sum­ably depend quite a bit on whether or not the peo­ple oust­ing Putin feel­ing like the war was a hor­ri­ble mis­take or an exis­ten­tial neces­si­ty. Which, in turn, will depend quite a bit on the future stance Ukraine takes towards issues of neu­tral­i­ty and its offi­cial embrace of Nazi-like move­ments like Azov. Answers that we kind of already have.

    So with the prospects for peace look­ing extreme­ly unlike­ly, and both sides look­ing like they are prepar­ing for a drawn-out con­flict that could last for years, it’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind that Gaza might be a more appro­pri­ate anal­o­gy for Ukraine’s peace-free future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 5, 2022, 4:07 pm
  4. Here’s some­thing you don’t see every day: NATO offi­cials are say­ing the qui­et part out loud about their thoughts on the con­flict in Ukraine, albeit anony­mous­ly in most cas­es. The qui­et part about how this war is viewed by some as a proxy war being fought on behalf of Europe. And a con­flict they don’t want to see end­ing with­out a deci­sive Russ­ian defeat. If Ukraini­ans need to con­tin­ue fight­ing and dying in order to ensure Vladimir Putin isn’t able to secure any­thing that can be spun as a vic­to­ry, so be it. That’s the price that needs to be paid in order to stop Putin from fur­ther attacks on Euro­pean ter­ri­to­ries. Any­thing less is an invi­ta­tion for future war. The fight in Ukraine is the front-line in an exis­ten­tial broad­er con­flict between Russ­ian and a free Europe.That’s appar­ent­ly the atti­tudes held by a num­ber of NATO mem­ber gov­ern­ments, in par­tic­u­lar in the Baltics.

    It also sounds like these NATO gov­ern­ments view any sort of ter­ri­to­r­i­al con­ces­sions as part of a pos­si­ble peace treaty with Ukraine as a dan­ger­ous prece­dent. It’s not entire­ly clear if they’re refer­ring to addi­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry out­side of Crimea and the sep­a­ratist republics. But the fact that these NATO mem­bers are also appar­ent­ly uncom­fort­able with the idea of Ukraine giv­ing up its NATO ambi­tions sug­gests there real­ly is a goal of not just repelling this inva­sion but recap­tur­ing the sep­a­ratist regions and maybe even Crimea. Because there’s no join­ing NATO while those regions are occu­pied and the bor­ders are unre­solved.

    Also keep in mind that the recap­ture of that ter­ri­to­ry will like­ly be con­duct­ed with Nazi units like the Azov Bat­tal­ion lead­ing the way. In oth­er words, while we haven’t yet heard reports about civil­ian atroc­i­ties being com­mit­ted in the sep­a­ratist regions, that phase of this con­flict is com­ing. It might take months or years. But if the NATO plan is to see Ukraine recap­ture all of their ter­ri­to­ries, it’s just a mat­ter of time:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    NATO says Ukraine to decide on peace deal with Rus­sia — with­in lim­its

    By Michael Birn­baum and Mis­sy Ryan

    April 5, 2022 at 2:03 p.m. EDT

    Ukraine’s West­ern back­ers have vowed to respect Kyiv’s deci­sions in any set­tle­ment to end the war with Rus­sia, but with larg­er issues of glob­al secu­ri­ty at stake, there are lim­its to how many com­pro­mis­es some in NATO will sup­port to win the peace.

    How to end the fight­ing and sup­port Ukraine will be among the sharpest dis­cus­sions at a gath­er­ing of NATO for­eign min­is­ters in Brus­sels that starts Wednes­day. The Unit­ed States and its allies say that Ukraine must be the ulti­mate decider as it defends itself, and that it shouldn’t be pushed to make com­pro­mis­es or encour­aged to fight longer than it is will­ing.

    But Kyiv’s deci­sions — and any con­ces­sions Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky might embrace — will help deter­mine whether the Krem­lin is chas­tened or embold­ened, and nations that have ter­ri­to­r­i­al ambi­tions over their neigh­bors, such as Chi­na, will be watch­ing the out­come. Some NATO allies are espe­cial­ly cau­tious about ced­ing Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry to Rus­sia and giv­ing Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin any sem­blance of vic­to­ry, accord­ing to alliance pol­i­cy­mak­ers and ana­lysts.

    While Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials remain skep­ti­cal that the Ukrain­ian government’s nego­ti­a­tions with Rus­sia will lead to a swift deal, offi­cials say they are con­sid­er­ing how a set­tle­ment — or any end to the fight­ing, how­ev­er that might occur — will impact the secu­ri­ty of NATO nations.

    “We believe that our job is to sup­port the Ukraini­ans,” nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Jake Sul­li­van said this week. “They will set the mil­i­tary objec­tives. They will set the objec­tives at the bar­gain­ing table. And I am quite cer­tain they are going to set those objec­tives at suc­cess, and we are going to give them every tool we can to help them achieve that suc­cess. But we are not going to define the out­come of this for the Ukraini­ans.”

    Some Euro­pean coun­tries, espe­cial­ly for­mer­ly com­mu­nist ones with bit­ter mem­o­ries of Russ­ian inva­sion or occu­pa­tion, are espe­cial­ly ner­vous about how the con­flict will evolve, see­ing them­selves as next on the Kremlin’s tar­get list. If Putin feels he has prof­it­ed from the inva­sion, by win­ning ter­ri­to­ry, polit­i­cal con­ces­sions or oth­er ben­e­fits, he may even­tu­al­ly be inspired to try the same thing against oth­er neigh­bors, pol­i­cy­mak­ers say.

    The Ukraini­ans, as a result, are involved in a broad­er fight on behalf of Europe, NATO lead­ers say.

    “I hope they will be hard as steel. I sup­port max­i­mum mil­i­tary sup­port and max­i­mum sanc­tions,” Lat­vian Defense Min­is­ter Artis Pabriks said in an inter­view. “Rus­sia must lose and crim­i­nals should stand in court.”

    Even a Ukrain­ian vow not to join NATO — a con­ces­sion that Zelen­sky has float­ed pub­licly — could be a con­cern to some neigh­bors. That leads to an awk­ward real­i­ty: For some in NATO, it’s bet­ter for the Ukraini­ans to keep fight­ing, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too ear­ly or at too high a cost to Kyiv and the rest of Europe.

    “Many of us have, and it’s absolute­ly human, a will­ing­ness to see that the war ends as soon as pos­si­ble, that peo­ple are not suf­fer­ing, not dying, and that there are no bomb­ings,” said a senior Euro­pean diplo­mat who, like oth­ers, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to talk frankly about sen­si­tive secu­ri­ty issues. “There is an unfor­tu­nate dilem­ma. The prob­lem is that if it ends now, there is a kind of time for Rus­sia to regroup, and it will restart, under this or anoth­er pre­text. Putin is not going to give up his goals.

    While U.S. offi­cials say they are not try­ing to pres­sure Ukraine into a deal, the nego­ti­a­tions have been a fre­quent top­ic in the reg­u­lar dis­cus­sions between Sec­re­tary of State Antony Blinken and his Ukrain­ian coun­ter­part, Dmytro Kule­ba. Blinken has pro­vid­ed infor­mal input about the talks dur­ing those calls. Kule­ba will trav­el to Brus­sels to join the NATO meet­ings this week.

    ...

    The Ukraini­ans have pow­er of their own: Zelen­sky has been will­ing to crit­i­cize his West­ern back­ers when he has felt they weren’t doing enough to help him. If he pub­li­cized any attempt to pres­sure him to accept a set­tle­ment, or to reject one, that effort could back­fire. And with Ukraini­ans doing the fight­ing, they aren’t as sus­cep­ti­ble to West­ern pres­sure as weak­er coun­tries might be.

    If Ukraine and Rus­sia agree to a peace set­tle­ment, Wash­ing­ton and the Euro­pean Union will face a sep­a­rate ques­tion about whether to offer sanc­tions relief to the Krem­lin. The answer is not an auto­mat­ic yes, some pol­i­cy­mak­ers said.

    “It’s a lit­tle tricky for the U.S. and oth­er allies. … They don’t want some­thing to come out of the nego­ti­a­tion that isn’t imple­mentable,” said Alexan­der Ver­sh­bow, a for­mer NATO deputy sec­re­tary gen­er­al. “If the Ukraini­ans accept­ed a deal that does involve ter­ri­to­r­i­al con­ces­sions, it may be good enough for Ukraine in some cir­cum­stances, depend­ing on what else they get, but it could set a bad prece­dent in terms of fur­ther legit­imiz­ing chang­ing bor­ders by force and by bru­tal, rapa­cious con­quest, as the Rus­sians are doing in many parts of Ukraine.”

    NATO mem­bers them­selves do not appear unit­ed on how much of a direct threat Rus­sia pos­es to the alliance, with offi­cials in Paris, Berlin and else­where more inclined than their allies in East­ern Europe to feel that Putin’s aims stop at the NATO bor­der. French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron — who this month is fac­ing a surg­ing far-right elec­tion oppo­nent, Marine Le Pen — has spo­ken to Putin at least 16 times since the start of the year to try to pre­empt or end the con­flict, French offi­cials said. Le Pen has espoused pro-Russ­ian views in the past.

    For coun­tries that are clos­er to the war, there is a belief that they have more at stake.

    “This is a major issue for us,” said a senior diplo­mat from a coun­try that bor­ders Ukraine. “A divid­ed, frag­ment­ed, frozen con­flict in Ukraine is a very bad deal for us. An active Ukraine-NATO rela­tion­ship is cru­cial for the Black Sea region. If that is bro­ken, we will have a prob­lem of unchecked Rus­sians and the need for even stronger pres­ence by NATO allies.”

    For now, the math that would favor a nego­ti­at­ed set­tle­ment does not appear to add up, ana­lysts and pol­i­cy­mak­ers said, despite some pos­i­tive noise after dis­cus­sions last week between Ukraine and Rus­sia. With Rus­sia pulling back from Kyiv and oth­er cities, Ukraini­ans feel that the momen­tum is on their side. And the accounts of atroc­i­ties under Russ­ian rule in Bucha, Lot­skyne and else­where make it hard­er for Kyiv to con­cede an inch of ter­ri­to­ry, since there are now fears for the fate of Ukrain­ian cit­i­zens under any Russ­ian rule.

    “Who are we to tell Ukraini­ans what to do? How can we imag­ine a sit­u­a­tion where­by giv­en all of the destruc­tion, all of the mas­sacres, we just say, ‘Okay, that’s fine,’ ” said Nathalie Toc­ci, head of the Ital­ian Insti­tute of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs and an advis­er to E.U. pol­i­cy­mak­ers in Brus­sels.

    The Krem­lin, too, may be unable to back down, since its cit­i­zens have been fed a steady stream of lies and pro­pa­gan­da about what is hap­pen­ing on the ground, and they have been told they are win­ning.

    “I don’t see any indi­ca­tion that we’re any­where close to a nego­ti­at­ed solu­tion on this,” said Andrew Weiss, a for­mer top White House advis­er on Rus­sia who is now vice pres­i­dent of stud­ies at the Carnegie Endow­ment. “The Rus­sians are pre­pared to con­tin­ue doing hor­ri­ble things in Ukraine with the goal of get­ting the Ukraini­ans to sur­ren­der and the West to back off, and the Ukraini­ans are pre­pared to fight. I don’t see the con­di­tions for a set­tle­ment in place.”

    While NATO offi­cials say they are not try­ing to dic­tate terms of a poten­tial deal to Kyiv, some West­ern offi­cials have pro­vid­ed Ukraine with analy­sis of the country’s options and poten­tial out­comes relat­ed to nego­ti­a­tions and the war.

    Alliance coun­tries — and par­tic­u­lar­ly the Unit­ed States, giv­en the scale of its mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine — may have exert­ed their most sig­nif­i­cant sway in an indi­rect, per­haps unin­ten­tion­al man­ner, in their deci­sions about which weapons they will or will not sup­ply to Ukraine. Those deci­sions have had a direct impact on the bat­tle­field sit­u­a­tion and, in turn, the Ukrain­ian government’s approach to peace talks.

    Ukraine has said that in exchange for agree­ing to give up its NATO aspi­ra­tions, it would want legal­ly bind­ing secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees from the Unit­ed States and oth­ers to defend it if it were attacked. A U.S. offi­cial said the U.S. mil­i­tary has not been con­sult­ed about what West­ern secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees for Ukraine would look like. The offi­cial said there wasn’t a lot of appetite among senior mil­i­tary lead­ers for such a notion.

    “It appears like they’re look­ing for the same thing as Arti­cle V with­out being a NATO nation, and that prob­a­bly would be a very rough row to hoe with the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” the offi­cial said, refer­ring to NATO’s core col­lec­tive-defense guar­an­tee.

    No mat­ter how the war ends, the Unit­ed States plans to review its mil­i­tary pos­ture in Europe. Before the con­flict, there were more than 80,000 U.S. troops on the con­ti­nent. Today, with tem­po­rary deploy­ments designed to shore up NATO’s east­ern flank, there are more than 100,000, the offi­cial said.

    ————

    “NATO says Ukraine to decide on peace deal with Rus­sia — with­in lim­its” by Michael Birn­baum and Mis­sy Ryan; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/05/2022

    “Even a Ukrain­ian vow not to join NATO — a con­ces­sion that Zelen­sky has float­ed pub­licly — could be a con­cern to some neigh­bors. That leads to an awk­ward real­i­ty: For some in NATO, it’s bet­ter for the Ukraini­ans to keep fight­ing, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too ear­ly or at too high a cost to Kyiv and the rest of Europe.

    Yes, the fact that some Ukraine’s NATO ‘part­ners’ would rather see Ukraini­ans keep fight­ing an dying in order to avoid a peace that would be seen as ‘too cost­ly’ is indeed an ‘awk­ward real­i­ty’. Very awk­ward.

    But part of what makes that real­i­ty so awk­ward is what appears to be viewed as ‘too cost­ly’ a con­ces­sion for peace. Like ter­ri­to­r­i­al con­ces­sions. It’s a stance that implies the goal of these NATO mem­bers real­ly is to see Ukraine recap­tures the sep­a­ratist regions in the Don­bas and poten­tial­ly even Crimea. At least that’s what we can infer from the log­ic that views any ter­ri­to­r­i­al con­ces­sions as an invi­ta­tion for future inva­sions else­where in Europe. It even sounds like we could see a sit­u­a­tion where Ukraine and Rus­sia arrive at a peace treaty that includes ter­ri­to­r­i­al con­ces­sions, but the West keeps the sanc­tions on Rus­sia indef­i­nite­ly in response to those con­ces­sions:

    ...
    Some Euro­pean coun­tries, espe­cial­ly for­mer­ly com­mu­nist ones with bit­ter mem­o­ries of Russ­ian inva­sion or occu­pa­tion, are espe­cial­ly ner­vous about how the con­flict will evolve, see­ing them­selves as next on the Kremlin’s tar­get list. If Putin feels he has prof­it­ed from the inva­sion, by win­ning ter­ri­to­ry, polit­i­cal con­ces­sions or oth­er ben­e­fits, he may even­tu­al­ly be inspired to try the same thing against oth­er neigh­bors, pol­i­cy­mak­ers say.

    The Ukraini­ans, as a result, are involved in a broad­er fight on behalf of Europe, NATO lead­ers say.

    ...

    “Many of us have, and it’s absolute­ly human, a will­ing­ness to see that the war ends as soon as pos­si­ble, that peo­ple are not suf­fer­ing, not dying, and that there are no bomb­ings,” said a senior Euro­pean diplo­mat who, like oth­ers, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to talk frankly about sen­si­tive secu­ri­ty issues. “There is an unfor­tu­nate dilem­ma. The prob­lem is that if it ends now, there is a kind of time for Rus­sia to regroup, and it will restart, under this or anoth­er pre­text. Putin is not going to give up his goals.

    ...

    If Ukraine and Rus­sia agree to a peace set­tle­ment, Wash­ing­ton and the Euro­pean Union will face a sep­a­rate ques­tion about whether to offer sanc­tions relief to the Krem­lin. The answer is not an auto­mat­ic yes, some pol­i­cy­mak­ers said.

    “It’s a lit­tle tricky for the U.S. and oth­er allies. … They don’t want some­thing to come out of the nego­ti­a­tion that isn’t imple­mentable,” said Alexan­der Ver­sh­bow, a for­mer NATO deputy sec­re­tary gen­er­al. “If the Ukraini­ans accept­ed a deal that does involve ter­ri­to­r­i­al con­ces­sions, it may be good enough for Ukraine in some cir­cum­stances, depend­ing on what else they get, but it could set a bad prece­dent in terms of fur­ther legit­imiz­ing chang­ing bor­ders by force and by bru­tal, rapa­cious con­quest, as the Rus­sians are doing in many parts of Ukraine.”
    ...

    But also note how, while the West insists Ukraine is in con­trol of these nego­ti­a­tions, there’s still quite a bit of indi­rect lever­age and influ­ence West­ern nations have over the direc­tion these nego­ti­a­tions take. Not only in terms of the type of vol­ume of mil­i­tary aide, but just final­ly giv­ing Ukraine a hard ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on NATO mem­ber­ship. Don’t for­get that the unre­solved sta­tus of the sep­a­ratist republics and Crimea are one of the rules that pre­vents Ukraine from join­ing NATO right now, so con­tin­u­ing to dan­gle the prospects of NATO mem­ber­ship direct­ly incen­tivizes the recap­ture of those ter­ri­to­ries. Will that dan­gling con­tin­ue through­out this con­flict?

    ...
    While NATO offi­cials say they are not try­ing to dic­tate terms of a poten­tial deal to Kyiv, some West­ern offi­cials have pro­vid­ed Ukraine with analy­sis of the country’s options and poten­tial out­comes relat­ed to nego­ti­a­tions and the war.

    Alliance coun­tries — and par­tic­u­lar­ly the Unit­ed States, giv­en the scale of its mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine — may have exert­ed their most sig­nif­i­cant sway in an indi­rect, per­haps unin­ten­tion­al man­ner, in their deci­sions about which weapons they will or will not sup­ply to Ukraine. Those deci­sions have had a direct impact on the bat­tle­field sit­u­a­tion and, in turn, the Ukrain­ian government’s approach to peace talks.

    Ukraine has said that in exchange for agree­ing to give up its NATO aspi­ra­tions, it would want legal­ly bind­ing secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees from the Unit­ed States and oth­ers to defend it if it were attacked. A U.S. offi­cial said the U.S. mil­i­tary has not been con­sult­ed about what West­ern secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees for Ukraine would look like. The offi­cial said there wasn’t a lot of appetite among senior mil­i­tary lead­ers for such a notion.

    “It appears like they’re look­ing for the same thing as Arti­cle V with­out being a NATO nation, and that prob­a­bly would be a very rough row to hoe with the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” the offi­cial said, refer­ring to NATO’s core col­lec­tive-defense guar­an­tee.
    ...

    Final­ly, with these anony­mous NATO offi­cials sound­ing like they’re active­ly hop­ing to see Ukrain­ian forces ful­ly recap­ture the sep­a­ratist Don­bass regions, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that if there’s one thing that could be guar­an­teed to inflame the pas­sions of the Russ­ian pop­u­lace and shore up any wan­ing sup­port for Rus­sian’s inva­sion of Ukraine, it would be reports of the mas­sacre of eth­nic Rus­sians liv­ing in those sep­a­ratists regions. Espe­cial­ly if those mas­sacres were com­mit­ted by Ukrain­ian Nazi units like the Azov Bat­tal­ion. And we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent there’s going to be some bru­tal reprisals against civil­ians in those ter­ri­to­ries at this point if Ukrain­ian forces real­ly do push to retake those them. So if the recap­ture of those ter­ri­to­ries is seen as the end of this con­flict by break­ing the will of the Russ­ian pub­lic, pol­i­cy-mak­ers may want to recon­sid­er that strat­e­gy. But that’s assum­ing see­ing an end to this con­flict is a strate­gic goal.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 6, 2022, 3:54 pm
  5. There was a griz­zly update to the the sto­ry of the alleged civil­ian mas­sacres in Bucha and the mass grave seem­ing­ly dis­cov­ered out­side a church by Ukrain­ian forces short­ly after the recap­ture of the Kyiv sub­urb. The NY Times report­ed on a new video float­ing around Telegram of Ukrain­ian sol­diers exe­cut­ing Russ­ian POWs. The video shows a still liv­ing man in a Russ­ian sol­dier’s uni­form being shot to death, next to three oth­er dead bod­ies in Russ­ian uni­forms with their hands bound behind their backs and bloody pools near their heads. “These are not even humans,” states one of the sol­diers.

    It’s not entire­ly clear which Ukrain­ian units car­ried this out, but a Ukrain­ian new agency post­ed the video on March 30 claim­ing it was mem­bers of the Geor­gian Legion. Recall how Pro­fes­sor Katchanovski’s foren­sic analy­sis of the 2014 Maid­an sniper attacks cov­ered the five Geor­gians who tes­ti­fied that they received weapons, pay­ments, and orders to mas­sacre both police and pro­test­ers. Those orders came from spe­cif­ic Maid­an and Geor­gian politi­cians and instruc­tions from a far-right linked ex-US Army sniper. They also tes­ti­fied that they saw Geor­gian, Baltic States, and Right Sec­tor-linked Ukrain­ian snipers shoot­ing from Maid­an-con­trolled build­ings. Giv­en that recent his­to­ry, it should­n’t be too sur­pris­ing to learn that a unit of Geor­gian vol­un­teers was indis­crim­i­nate­ly killing POWs.

    Of course, when you have a unit of for­eign fight­ers known for their bru­tal­i­ty and track-record for killing civil­ians dur­ing false flag oper­a­tions, the dis­cov­ery of this video should raise all sorts of ques­tions about how many of the recent­ly dis­cov­ered civil­ian atroc­i­ties in the Bucha area were actu­al­ly car­ried about by these Geor­gians or oth­er for­eign fight­ers. Don’t for­get that the Russ­ian with­draw­al from Bucha was pre­ced­ed by weeks of intense fight­ing in that area between Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces. That’s an enor­mous oppor­tu­ni­ty for civil­ian deaths, both acci­den­tal and inten­tion­al.

    Anoth­er part of what makes the video so sig­nif­i­cant in rela­tion to the alleged Bucha civil­ian mas­sacres is fact that this video appears to have been shot from a loca­tion just sev­en miles south of Bucha. As we’ll see, when Ukrain­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Dmytro Kule­ba addressed these appar­ent war crimes, he seem­ing­ly par­tial­ly excused the exe­cu­tions by point­ing out that the sol­diers who did this have have been shocked by the atroc­i­ties they wit­nessed in the area. Note that, if this expla­na­tion is accu­rate, it implies the sol­diers who car­ried out this ambush had already rout­ed the Russ­ian troops from Bucha and seen the mass grave before the March 30 ambush.

    But anoth­er part of what makes this video poten­tial­ly so sig­nif­i­cant is the tim­ing. Because the world did­n’t receive videos and news about the civil­ian mas­sacres in Bucha until around April 3. Rus­sia denials that it com­mit­ted the atroc­i­ties revolved on claims that its forces with­drew on March 31. This led to a series of back-and-forth accu­sa­tions that even­tu­al­ly led to the pub­li­ca­tion of satel­lite images by a pri­mate firm, Maxar, seem­ing­ly show­ing how rough­ly a dozen bod­ies that jour­nal­ists found lin­ing a road in Bucha had been lay­ing there for weeks.

    And while the evi­dence of those bod­ies lay­ing there for weeks was quite com­pelling, it’s also been effec­tive­ly used as fur­ther evi­dence that the sus­pect­ed hun­dreds of bod­ies in a mass grave at the church were also vic­tims of the Russ­ian occu­pa­tion in what amount­ed to a civil­ian ter­ror cam­paign, where the mass slaugh­ter of civil­ians isn’t even cov­ered up but just left there for the world to find in a mass grave.

    And that brings us to what could end up being a cru­cial piece of evi­dence in terms of who filled that mass grave and when it was filled with bod­ies: The same satel­lite firm, Maxar, also pub­lished a report seem­ing­ly show­ing the build­ing of the mass grave at that church. Maxar pub­lished a ‘before’ pho­to from March 10 that shows what it claims is the start of the exca­va­tion process, although it’s not at all clear there’s any sort of grave site exca­va­tion going on. And then an ‘after’ pho­to from March 31 show­ing what appears to be a large grave site.

    Now, accord­ing to reports, Russ­ian troops were dri­ven from Bucha by March 30, in keep­ing with the videos post on March 30 of the exe­cut­ed Russ­ian POWs just sev­en miles south of Bucha. In fact, we are told by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment that the cap­ture of these exe­cut­ed POWs took place dur­ing an ambush of with­draw­ing troops.

    And that rais­es the ques­tion: are there satel­lite images of a mass grave site in that same spot from, say, March 25-March 30? How much time does it take to for mech­a­nized armed forces to dig a large ditch, fill them with bod­ies, and par­tial­ly cov­er them with dirt? More than a day? Because if Russ­ian sol­diers were fill­ing that mass grave with their civil­ian vic­tims before being dri­ven out of Bucha there pre­sum­ably would be satel­lite image evi­dence of them, right? So does Maxar have any pho­tos of that area dur­ing this peri­od? Was there cloud cov­er­age block­ing the view? If there’s pho­to­graph­ic evi­dence of a large ditch that’s already been filled when the Russ­ian sol­diers were clear­ly in con­trol of the area, mys­tery solved! And thanks to this POW video, it’s becom­ing clear that Russ­ian forces were effec­tive­ly get­ting rout­ed from the area by March 30. But Maxar only released March 10 and March 31 pho­tos for some rea­son.

    Ok, first, here’s the NY Times ‘live update’ from April 6 about the video of the killed POWs. Video that has not only been ver­i­fied by the NY Times but con­firmed by the Ukrain­ian for­eign min­istry. What has yet to be con­firmed is whether or not it real­ly is the Geor­gian For­eign Legion who car­ried it out:

    The New York Times

    Video appears to show Ukrain­ian troops killing cap­tured Russ­ian sol­diers.

    Evan Hill
    April 6, 2022

    A video post­ed online on Mon­day and ver­i­fied by The New York Times appears to show a group of Ukrain­ian sol­diers killing cap­tured Russ­ian troops out­side a vil­lage west of Kyiv.

    “He’s still alive. Film these maraud­ers. Look, he’s still alive. He’s gasp­ing,” a man says as a Russ­ian sol­dier with a jack­et pulled over his head, appar­ent­ly wound­ed, is seen still breath­ing. A sol­dier then shoots the man twice. After the man keeps mov­ing, the sol­dier shoots him again, and he stops.

    At least three oth­er appar­ent Russ­ian sol­diers, includ­ing one with an obvi­ous head wound who has his hands tied behind his back, can be seen dead near the vic­tim. All are wear­ing cam­ou­flage, and three have white arm bands com­mon­ly worn by Russ­ian troops. Equip­ment is scat­tered around them and there are blood stains near each man’s head.

    ...

    The video was filmed on a road just north of the vil­lage of Dmytriv­ka, around sev­en miles south­west of Bucha, where the dis­cov­ery of hun­dreds of corpses of peo­ple in civil­ian clothes in recent days has prompt­ed accu­sa­tions that Russ­ian troops killed civil­ians as they retreat­ed.

    The killings appear to have been the result of a Ukrain­ian ambush of a Russ­ian col­umn that occurred on or around March 30, as Russ­ian troops were with­draw­ing from small towns west of Kyiv that have been the scene of fierce fight­ing for weeks. Oz Kater­ji, a free­lance jour­nal­ist, post­ed videos and pic­tures of the destroyed col­umn on Twit­ter on April 2 and wrote that sol­diers told him that the Rus­sians had been ambushed 48 hours ear­li­er.

    Ukraine’s Defense Min­istry also tweet­ed about the destruc­tion of the Russ­ian con­voy, call­ing it “pre­cise work” by Ukrain­ian forces. “These are not even humans,” a Ukrain­ian sol­dier says in the video as he walks among the wrecked vehi­cles, adding that two Russ­ian lieu­tenants had been tak­en pris­on­er.

    The Ukrain­ian sol­diers are iden­ti­fi­able by their flag patch­es and blue arm bands and repeat “glo­ry to Ukraine” mul­ti­ple times. Their unit is unclear, but in the video of the killing, one of the men refers to some of them as “Bel­gravia lads,” like­ly refer­ring to a hous­ing devel­op­ment called Bel­gravia locat­ed a few hun­dred yards from the inci­dent.

    A Ukrain­ian news agency that post­ed a video of the after­math of the ambush on March 30 described it as the work of the “Geor­gian Legion,” a para­mil­i­tary unit of Geor­gian vol­un­teers that formed to fight on behalf of Ukraine in 2014.

    ———–

    “Video appears to show Ukrain­ian troops killing cap­tured Russ­ian sol­diers.” by Evan Hill; The New York Times; 04/06/2022

    The killings appear to have been the result of a Ukrain­ian ambush of a Russ­ian col­umn that occurred on or around March 30, as Russ­ian troops were with­draw­ing from small towns west of Kyiv that have been the scene of fierce fight­ing for weeks. Oz Kater­ji, a free­lance jour­nal­ist, post­ed videos and pic­tures of the destroyed col­umn on Twit­ter on April 2 and wrote that sol­diers told him that the Rus­sians had been ambushed 48 hours ear­li­er.”

    Weeks of intense fight­ing around Kiev forced the with­draw of these Russ­ian forces who end­ed up get­ting ambushed and exe­cut­ed on or before March 30. An ambush that took place just sev­en mils south­west of Bucha. And while the Ukrain­ian unit in the video isn’t clear, Ukrain­ian news agen­cies described it as the work of the Geor­gian Legion:

    ...
    The video was filmed on a road just north of the vil­lage of Dmytriv­ka, around sev­en miles south­west of Bucha, where the dis­cov­ery of hun­dreds of corpses of peo­ple in civil­ian clothes in recent days has prompt­ed accu­sa­tions that Russ­ian troops killed civil­ians as they retreat­ed.

    ...

    The Ukrain­ian sol­diers are iden­ti­fi­able by their flag patch­es and blue arm bands and repeat “glo­ry to Ukraine” mul­ti­ple times. Their unit is unclear, but in the video of the killing, one of the men refers to some of them as “Bel­gravia lads,” like­ly refer­ring to a hous­ing devel­op­ment called Bel­gravia locat­ed a few hun­dred yards from the inci­dent.

    A Ukrain­ian news agency that post­ed a video of the after­math of the ambush on March 30 described it as the work of the “Geor­gian Legion,” a para­mil­i­tary unit of Geor­gian vol­un­teers that formed to fight on behalf of Ukraine in 2014.
    ...

    Next, here’s a CNN piece on the video that men­tions a sec­ond video tak­en from the inci­dent and post­ed. The arti­cle also includes state­ments by Ukrain­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Dmytro Kule­ba, who con­firmed that a poten­tial war crime did take place, but then went on to sug­gest that these sol­diers crim­i­nal acts may have been moti­vat­ed by atroc­i­ties they saw in Bucha. Which, if true, would be fur­ther evi­dence that Ukrain­ian forces had large­ly dri­ven the Russ­ian forces out of Bucha by March 30:

    CNN

    Video appears to show exe­cu­tion of Russ­ian pris­on­er by Ukrain­ian forces

    By Nathan Hodge, Eoin McSweeney and Niamh Kennedy, CNN
    Updat­ed 5:09 PM ET, Thu April 7, 2022

    Lviv, Ukraine (CNN)CNN has geolo­cat­ed a recent video that appears to show the exe­cu­tion of a Russ­ian pris­on­er by Ukrain­ian forces fol­low­ing recent fight­ing in the Kyiv region.

    ...

    A per­son nar­rat­ing to the cam­era then turns to film a Russ­ian infantry fight­ing vehi­cle with a “V” mark­ing sim­i­lar to that seen on Russ­ian mil­i­tary hard­ware oper­at­ed by many units in Ukraine. “A lit­tle tro­phy,” the man says.

    Some­one off cam­era says, “Sla­va Ukrayi­ni!” — glo­ry to Ukraine, a patri­ot­ic greet­ing, and a beard­ed man steps in the frame and replies, “Glo­ry the heroes,” the stan­dard reply.

    The exact time and date of the video, which appeared on a pro-Russ­ian Telegram chan­nel, is unclear. The loca­tion of the video match­es that of a video pub­lished on Twit­ter by Ukraine’s Min­istry of Defense. That video, post­ed on April 2, shows a blast­ed Russ­ian armored col­umn. “Hand­i­work of Ukrain­ian defend­ers in the Kyiv region,” the cap­tion reads.

    A dif­fer­ent video of the scene, filmed from a dif­fer­ent angle, appeared on the Telegram chan­nel of UNIAN, a Ukrain­ian news agency, on March 30. It shows the same beard­ed man and the cap­tion says the video shows the Geor­gian Legion, a group of vol­un­teers fight­ing on the Ukrain­ian side, in an oper­a­tion to clear the Kyiv region of Russ­ian troops.

    The video of the pur­port­ed exe­cu­tion comes days after hor­rif­ic images emerged of the appar­ent slaugh­ter of civil­ians by Russ­ian forces in the Kyiv sub­urb of Bucha.

    Asked about the video at a NATO press con­fer­ence in Brus­sels, Ukrain­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Dmytro Kule­ba said, “I haven’t seen it. I heard about it. I want to reas­sure you that Ukrain­ian army observes the rules of war­fare.”

    Kule­ba added, “There might be iso­lat­ed inci­dents of the vio­la­tion of these rules and they will be def­i­nite­ly inves­ti­gat­ed. But I want­ed to dou­ble check the date of this of this video, because you should under­stand one thing now (or) you will not under­stand it. I’m sor­ry, but you don’t under­stand how it feels after see­ing pic­tures on Bucha. Talk­ing to peo­ple who escaped, know­ing that that per­son you know was raped four days in a row. And when she final­ly made it to Kyiv, she was direct­ly tak­en to the psy­chi­a­trist.”

    “This is not an excuse to those who vio­late the rules of war­fare on either side or the front­line,” Kule­ba con­tin­ued. “But there are some things which we sim­ply can’t under­stand.”

    ———–

    “Video appears to show exe­cu­tion of Russ­ian pris­on­er by Ukrain­ian forces” by Nathan Hodge, Eoin McSweeney and Niamh Kennedy; CNN; 04/07/2022

    “A dif­fer­ent video of the scene, filmed from a dif­fer­ent angle, appeared on the Telegram chan­nel of UNIAN, a Ukrain­ian news agency, on March 30. It shows the same beard­ed man and the cap­tion says the video shows the Geor­gian Legion, a group of vol­un­teers fight­ing on the Ukrain­ian side, in an oper­a­tion to clear the Kyiv region of Russ­ian troops.”

    Is the mys­tery beard­ed man seen in both videos a mem­ber of the Geor­gian Legion or not? It seems like that should be ver­i­fi­able at some point.

    And note the impli­ca­tions from the com­ments from Ukrain­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Dmytro Kule­ba about the troops poten­tial­ly hav­ing been moti­vat­ed to car­ry out these exe­cu­tions due what they saw in Bucha. It will be inter­est­ing to see what if any future reports we’re going to hear about the Geor­gian Legion play­ing an impor­tant role in the lib­er­a­tion of Bucha:

    ...
    Asked about the video at a NATO press con­fer­ence in Brus­sels, Ukrain­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Dmytro Kule­ba said, “I haven’t seen it. I heard about it. I want to reas­sure you that Ukrain­ian army observes the rules of war­fare.”

    Kule­ba added, “There might be iso­lat­ed inci­dents of the vio­la­tion of these rules and they will be def­i­nite­ly inves­ti­gat­ed. But I want­ed to dou­ble check the date of this of this video, because you should under­stand one thing now (or) you will not under­stand it. I’m sor­ry, but you don’t under­stand how it feels after see­ing pic­tures on Bucha. Talk­ing to peo­ple who escaped, know­ing that that per­son you know was raped four days in a row. And when she final­ly made it to Kyiv, she was direct­ly tak­en to the psy­chi­a­trist.”

    “This is not an excuse to those who vio­late the rules of war­fare on either side or the front­line,” Kule­ba con­tin­ued. “But there are some things which we sim­ply can’t under­stand.”
    ...

    Now, here’s a piece in Time from April 3 about the ini­tial reports of civil­ian mas­sacres in Bucha. Accord­ing to the report. the Russ­ian troops rolled into Bucha in the ear­ly days of the inva­sion and stayed up until March 30. So the day the video was first post­ed of that ambush exe­cu­tion of Russ­ian POWs was the same day Rus­sians were flee­ing Bucha:

    Time

    Ukrain­ian Troops Find 410 Mas­sa­cred Civil­ians, Some Bound and Shot, After Lib­er­at­ing City of Bucha

    By Olek­san­dr Sta­shevsyi and Nebi Qena/AP
    Updat­ed: April 3, 2022 10:54 PM EDT | Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished: April 3, 2022 11:03 AM EDT

    (BUCHA, Ukraine) — Bod­ies with bound hands, close-range gun­shot wounds and signs of tor­ture lay scat­tered in a city on the out­skirts of Kyiv after Russ­ian sol­diers with­drew from the area. Ukrain­ian author­i­ties accused the depart­ing forces on Sun­day of com­mit­ting war crimes and leav­ing behind a “scene from a hor­ror movie.”

    ...

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press jour­nal­ists saw the bod­ies of at least 21 peo­ple in var­i­ous spots around Bucha, north­west of the cap­i­tal. One group of nine, all in civil­ian clothes, were scat­tered around a site that res­i­dents said Russ­ian troops used as a base. They appeared to have been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs, one was shot in the head, and another’s legs were bound.

    Ukrain­ian offi­cials laid the blame for the killings square­ly at the feet of Russ­ian troops, with the pres­i­dent call­ing them evi­dence of geno­cide. But Russia’s Defense Min­istry reject­ed the accu­sa­tions as “provo­ca­tion.”

    The dis­cov­er­ies fol­lowed the Russ­ian retreat from the area after Moscow said it was focus­ing its offen­sive on the country’s east. Russ­ian troops had rolled into Bucha in the ear­ly days of the inva­sion and stayed up until March 30.

    ...

    ———

    “Ukrain­ian Troops Find 410 Mas­sa­cred Civil­ians, Some Bound and Shot, After Lib­er­at­ing City of Bucha” By Olek­san­dr Sta­shevsyi and Nebi Qena/AP; Time; 04/03/2022

    “The dis­cov­er­ies fol­lowed the Russ­ian retreat from the area after Moscow said it was focus­ing its offen­sive on the country’s east. Russ­ian troops had rolled into Bucha in the ear­ly days of the inva­sion and stayed up until March 30.

    So with March 30 being the date Rus­sians left Bucha, that rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not there’s any evi­dence of the exis­tence of that mass grave site pre-March 30. And that brings us to Maxar, which showed the a March 10 satel­lite image show what the com­pa­ny claims was the start of the exca­va­tion process at that site, although its very unclear what if any­thing is tak­ing place in that area. Along with a March 31 satel­lite image show­ing what looks like what could be a filled grave site in that same spot. So there’s a 21 day gap between those before and after videos, with the ‘after’ video com­ing a day after Rus­sia lost con­trol of the area. Does Maxar hap­pen to have any pho­tos of that area around March 25–30th?:

    Reuters

    Satel­lite images show long trench at Ukrain­ian mass grave site, Maxar says

    April 3, 2022 5:47 PM CDT Updat­ed

    April 3 (Reuters) — Satel­lite images show a 45-foot-longtrench dug into the grounds of a Ukrain­ian church where a mass grave was found this week after Russ­ian forces with­drew from the town of Bucha, a pri­vate U.S. com­pa­ny said on Sun­day.

    Reuters jour­nal­ists who vis­it­ed Bucha on Sat­ur­day saw bod­ies lying on the streets of the town, 37 km (23 miles) north­west of the cap­i­tal Kyiv. A mass grave at one church was still open, with hands and feet pok­ing through the red clay heaped on top. read more

    ...

    Maxar Tech­nolo­gies, which col­lects and pub­lish­es satel­lite imagery of Ukraine, said the first signs of exca­va­tion for a mass grave at the Church of St. Andrew and Pyer­voz­van­no­ho All Saints were seen on March 10.

    More recent cov­er­age on March 31st shows the grave site with an approx­i­mate­ly 45-foot-long trench in the south­west­ern sec­tion of the area near the church,” Maxar (MAXR.N) said.

    Reuters could not imme­di­ate­ly ver­i­fy the images. It was not clear if the images dis­sem­i­nat­ed by Maxar were of the same church vis­it­ed by Reuters jour­nal­ists on Sat­ur­day.

    ———–

    “Satel­lite images show long trench at Ukrain­ian mass grave site, Maxar says”; Reuters; 04/03/2022

    “Reuters could not imme­di­ate­ly ver­i­fy the images. It was not clear if the images dis­sem­i­nat­ed by Maxar were of the same church vis­it­ed by Reuters jour­nal­ists on Sat­ur­day.

    Yeah, it’s not actu­al­ly clear if Maxar’s pho­tos even cor­re­spond to the same church where the mass grave was found. Should­n’t that be rel­a­tive­ly easy to con­firm? Are we deal­ing with ‘before’/‘after’ satel­lite pho­tos for a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent church? If so, that rais­es even more ques­tions about the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pho­tos for the actu­al church where the mass grave was found.

    But the gen­er­al ques­tion looms over this mass grave sto­ry: how long does it take a mech­a­nized com­bat unit to dig a large grave the size of what was dis­cov­ered in Bucha and fill it with bod­ies? If the answer is ‘only about a day’, that rais­es all sorts of obvi­ous ques­tions about when exact­ly that mass grave was cre­at­ed and who cre­at­ed it. But if the answer is ‘much longer than a day’, then the satel­lite imagery of that grave should exist, right?

    More gen­er­al­ly, what about the larg­er com­mer­cial space offer­ing satel­lite imagery of places around world. Sure­ly Maxar has­n’t been the only satel­lite com­pa­ny keep­ing an eye on this area. Do any oth­er satel­lite imagery com­pa­nies have any­thing to share? We’ll see. Or not see, as the case may be.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 7, 2022, 3:56 pm
  6. @Pterrafractyl–

    The series I am doing is titled: “How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lies?”

    In that regard, a con­sum­mate­ly impor­tant adden­dum to your con­tri­bu­tion con­cerns the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion of lying.

    The firm Dig­i­tal Globe (“Dig­i­tal­Globe”) is a sub­sidiary of Maxar!!

    And they have a proven his­to­ry of pro­vid­ing b.s. images con­cern­ing Ukraine!

    And I have cov­ered the com­pa­ny in numer­ous pre­vi­ous pro­grams about Ukraine going back years!

    Do take note of who is behind the Maxar sub­sidiary of Dig­i­tal­Globe.

    https://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-811-walkin-the-snake-in-ukraine-part‑4/

    More about the firm and its founders in this pro­gram, from August of 2014.
    https://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-808-walkin-the-snake-in-ukraine-part-3-how-many-lies-can-you-allow-yourself-to-believe-before-you-belong-to-the-lie/

    That pro­gram was sub­ti­tled “How Many Lies etc.”

    Dis­cussed at length in that pro­gram, the bet­ter part of eight years ago, was the prospect of a major war in Europe, stem­ming from all these lies.

    There is no rea­son to assume that Maxar–parent firm of DigitalGlobe–is being hon­est.

    Also: this the age of the “Deep Fake.” The Maxar satel­lite image of the “bod­ies” is not “com­pelling.” Mak­ing that assump­tion excludes the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Maxar/DigitalGlobe–elements and indi­vid­u­als who are alum­ni of the Rea­gan Strate­gic Defense Ini­tia­tive and net­worked with Bormann/Underground Reich–would not tell a lie.

    No, sure­ly, not them!

    Last, but sure­ly not least, con­cerns a major ele­ment of the Ukrain­ian com­bat­ants fight­ing in Bucha (drum roll, fanfare)–the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    https://thegrayzone.com/2022/04/03/testimony-mariupol-hospital-ukrainian-deceptions-media-malpractice/

    The “Gray Zone” high­lights ele­ments of the Azov units in Bucha as hunt­ing “Russ­ian sabo­teurs and col­lab­o­ra­tors.” They are also dis­cussing if they can kill peo­ple not wear­ing blue arm­bands, iden­ti­fy­ing them as Ukrain­ian defend­ers.

    Are the bod­ies those of Azov vic­tims, sub­ject­ed to sum­ma­ry jus­tice?

    And the Azov would not com­mit atroc­i­ties, nor would they lie about doing so.

    No, sure­ly, not them!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 7, 2022, 4:51 pm
  7. @Dave: There was a rather remark­able piece just pub­lished by NBC News that direct­ly address­es the waves of mis­in­for­ma­tion and skewed cov­er­age of these events. But the arti­cle address­es it in a very unex­pect­ed man­ner. Unex­pect­ed­ly hon­est about the lev­els of offi­cial dis­hon­esty being deployed as part of a cam­paign of con­scious­ly weaponiz­ing the news.

    The arti­cle includes a num­ber of anony­mous sources from with­in the US and West­ern intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty describ­ing how the US has delib­er­ate­ly been pub­lish­ing warn­ings and nar­ra­tives based on ‘less than con­fi­dent’ intel­li­gence. And it has been doing this quite delib­er­ate­ly for a range of rea­sons, from ‘mess­ing with Vladimir Putin’s head’ to ‘pre­empt­ing Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion’.

    Are there con­cerns about cre­at­ing a ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect? Yes. But those con­cerns are appar­ent­ly being over­rid­den by a deep sense that the US has been ‘win­ning the pro­pa­gan­da war’ over the last few months in ways that it has nev­er before.

    Part of what’s fas­ci­nat­ing about this emerg­ing ‘offi­cial good lies’ doc­trine are the many par­al­lels to the strat­e­gy of pub­lic attri­bu­tion and warn­ings of reprisals in cyber­at­tacks pio­neered by Dmitri Alper­ovitch. As we’ve seen, Alper­ovitch was frus­trat­ed by how the inabil­i­ty to con­clu­sive­ly iden­ti­fy the cul­prit behind a hack was effec­tive­ly pre­vent­ing any sort of retal­i­a­tion, so he cham­pi­oned the idea of hav­ing the US gov­ern­ment just come out and declare that it knows for cer­tain that a cer­tain gov­ern­ment (Rus­sia or Chi­na) was behind a hack and there will be very seri­ous con­se­quences of the hacks con­tin­ue. Yes, this is a wild­ly reck­less pol­i­cy that is basi­cal­ly an open invi­ta­tion for false flag hack­ing oper­a­tions, but the US gov­ern­ment has nonethe­less appeared to adopt this strat­e­gy for deal­ing with hacks. And now we appear to be see­ing an expan­sion of this same pol­i­cy — a pol­i­cy of mak­ing pub­lic high-con­fi­dence asser­tions about thing you aren’t actu­al­ly high­ly con­fi­dent about now — get­ting applied dur­ing a war. A war where one of the pri­ma­ry objects in of the Ukraini­ans is con­vinc­ing the world that they are expe­ri­ence one atroc­i­ty after anoth­er.

    How long before we have an inci­dent where the US is basi­cal­ly caught lying about an atroc­i­ty in an absolute­ly unde­ni­able man­ner? It’s the kind of sce­nario the US is clear­ly invit­ing giv­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine where claims of geno­cide are becom­ing rou­tine at the same time we have the Rus­sians engag­ing Nazi units like the Azov Bat­tal­ion fight­ing in urban com­bat in still-heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed cities. We’ll see, but the fact that we already have anony­mous intel­li­gence offi­cials effec­tive­ly telling the pub­lic that they’ve been hyp­ing the facts on the ground could sug­gests this report could, itself, be part of a pre­emp­tive move to address exact­ly that kind of even­tu­al­i­ty:

    NBC News

    In a break with the past, U.S. is using intel to fight an info war with Rus­sia, even when the intel isn’t rock sol­id

    “It doesn’t have to be sol­id intel­li­gence,” one U.S. offi­cial said. “It’s more impor­tant to get out ahead of them [the Rus­sians], Putin specif­i­cal­ly, before they do some­thing.”

    By Ken Dilan­ian, Court­ney Kube, Car­ol E. Lee and Dan De Luce
    April 6, 2022, 3:43 AM CDT

    It was an atten­tion-grab­bing asser­tion that made head­lines around the world: U.S. offi­cials said they had indi­ca­tions sug­gest­ing Rus­sia might be prepar­ing to use chem­i­cal agents in Ukraine.

    Pres­i­dent Joe Biden lat­er said it pub­licly. But three U.S. offi­cials told NBC News this week there is no evi­dence Rus­sia has brought any chem­i­cal weapons near Ukraine. They said the U.S. released the infor­ma­tion to deter Rus­sia from using the banned muni­tions.

    It’s one of a string of exam­ples of the Biden administration’s break­ing with recent prece­dent by deploy­ing declas­si­fied intel­li­gence as part of an infor­ma­tion war against Rus­sia. The admin­is­tra­tion has done so even when the intel­li­gence wasn’t rock sol­id, offi­cials said, to keep Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin off bal­ance. Coor­di­nat­ed by the White House Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, the unprece­dent­ed intel­li­gence releas­es have been so fre­quent and volu­mi­nous, offi­cials said, that intel­li­gence agen­cies had to devote more staff mem­bers to work on the declas­si­fi­ca­tion process, scrub­bing the infor­ma­tion so it wouldn’t betray sources and meth­ods.

    Observers of all stripes have called it a bold and so far suc­cess­ful strat­e­gy — although not one with­out risks.

    “It’s the most amaz­ing dis­play of intel­li­gence as an instru­ment of state pow­er that I have seen or that I’ve heard of since the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis,” said Tim Wein­er, the author of a 2006 his­to­ry of the CIA and 2020’s “The Fol­ly and the Glo­ry,” a look at the U.S.-Russia rival­ry over decades. “It has cer­tain­ly blunt­ed and defused the dis­in­for­ma­tion weapon­ry of the Krem­lin.”

    Four days before the end of the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis in 1962, the U.S. pub­li­cized spy plane pho­tos to show the Sovi­et Union had deployed nuclear mis­siles not far from Florida’s coast. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion began releas­ing reams of intel­li­gence about what it said were Putin’s plans and inten­tions even before the inva­sion of Ukraine began.

    Just this week, nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Jake Sul­li­van stood at the White House podi­um and read out what offi­cials said was more declas­si­fied intel­li­gence, assert­ing that Russia’s pull­out from areas around Kyiv wasn’t a retreat but a strate­gic rede­ploy­ment that sig­nals a sig­nif­i­cant assault on east­ern and south­ern Ukraine, one that U.S. offi­cials believe could be a pro­tract­ed and bloody fight.

    The idea is to pre-empt and dis­rupt the Kremlin’s tac­tics, com­pli­cate its mil­i­tary cam­paign, “under­mine Moscow’s pro­pa­gan­da and pre­vent Rus­sia from defin­ing how the war is per­ceived in the world,” said a West­ern gov­ern­ment offi­cial famil­iar with the strat­e­gy.

    Mul­ti­ple U.S. offi­cials acknowl­edged that the U.S. has used infor­ma­tion as a weapon even when con­fi­dence in the accu­ra­cy of the infor­ma­tion wasn’t high. Some­times it has used low-con­fi­dence intel­li­gence for deter­rent effect, as with chem­i­cal agents, and oth­er times, as an offi­cial put it, the U.S. is just “try­ing to get inside Putin’s head.”

    Some offi­cials believe, how­ev­er, that try­ing to get into Putin’s head is a mean­ing­less exer­cise, because he will do what he wants regard­less.

    After this sto­ry was pub­lished, a U.S. offi­cial told NBC News that “the U.S. government’s effort to strate­gi­cal­ly down­grade intel­li­gence to share with allies and the pub­lic is under­pinned by a rig­or­ous review process by the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and the Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty to val­i­date the qual­i­ty of the infor­ma­tion and pro­tect sources and meth­ods.” The offi­cial added that “we only approve the release of intel­li­gence if we are con­fi­dent those two require­ments are met.”

    ‘Spot on’

    The biggest suc­cess of the U.S. infor­ma­tion offen­sive may have been delay­ing the inva­sion itself by weeks or months, which offi­cials believe they did with accu­rate pre­dic­tions that Rus­sia intend­ed to attack, based on defin­i­tive intel­li­gence. By the time Rus­sia moved its troops in, the West pre­sent­ed a uni­fied front.

    Before the inva­sion, the U.S. assert­ed that Rus­sia intend­ed to stage a false flag attack against mem­bers of Ukraine’s Russ­ian-speak­ing pop­u­la­tion as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for war and that the plans includ­ed a video fea­tur­ing fake corpses. The video nev­er mate­ri­al­ized; Rus­sia has con­sis­tent­ly claimed it was invad­ing to pro­tect eth­nic Rus­sians from “Nazis” in Ukraine.

    The U.S. accu­rate­ly pre­dict­ed that Putin intend­ed to go through with the attack, even as oth­er West­ern coun­tries, notably France, argued oth­er­wise. The head of France’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency stepped down last week over the wrong call.

    A for­mer U.S. offi­cial said admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials believe the strat­e­gy delayed Putin’s inva­sion from the first week of Jan­u­ary to after the Olympics and that the delay bought the U.S. valu­able time to get allies on the same page in terms of the lev­el of the Russ­ian threat and how to respond.

    CIA Direc­tor William Burns, a for­mer ambas­sador to Rus­sia, told law­mak­ers at a con­gres­sion­al threats hear­ing last month that “in all the years I spent as a career diplo­mat, I saw too many instances in which we lost infor­ma­tion wars with the Rus­sians.”

    Now, he said, “by being care­ful about this we have stripped away the pre­text that Putin, in par­tic­u­lar, often uses.”

    “That has been a real ben­e­fit, I think, to Ukraini­ans,” he said.

    ...

    But the strat­e­gy has its dan­gers. One of them, the West­ern offi­cial said, is that get­ting some­thing clear­ly wrong would be extreme­ly dam­ag­ing to U.S. cred­i­bil­i­ty and play into Moscow’s hands.

    Dis­clo­sure as a deter­rent

    As the war has pro­ceed­ed, the admin­is­tra­tion has used intel­li­gence to warn of pos­si­ble Russ­ian actions and draw atten­tion to Russ­ian mil­i­tary fail­ings.

    At times, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has released infor­ma­tion in which it has less con­fi­dence or about things that are pos­si­ble rather than tru­ly like­ly.

    Last week, U.S. offi­cials told reporters they had intel­li­gence sug­gest­ing Putin is being mis­led by his own advis­ers, who are afraid to tell him the truth.

    But when Biden was asked about the dis­clo­sure lat­er in the day — after it made head­lines around the globe — he was less than defin­i­tive.

    “That’s an open ques­tion. There’s a lot of spec­u­la­tion,” Biden told reporters. “But he seems to be — I’m not say­ing this with a cer­tain­ty — he seems to be self-iso­lat­ing.”

    The degree to which Putin is iso­lat­ed or rely­ing on flawed infor­ma­tion can’t be ver­i­fied, said Paul Pil­lar, a retired career U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cer. “There’s no way you can prove or dis­prove that stuff,” he said.

    Two U.S. offi­cials said the intel­li­gence about whether Putin’s inner cir­cle was lying to him wasn’t con­clu­sive — based more on analy­sis than hard evi­dence. Oth­er offi­cials dis­put­ed that, say­ing the intel­li­gence was very reli­able and had been vet­ted at the high­est lev­els.

    In anoth­er dis­clo­sure, U.S. offi­cials said one rea­son not to pro­vide Ukraine with MiG fight­er jets is that intel­li­gence showed Rus­sia would view the move as esca­la­to­ry.

    That was true, but it was also true of Stinger mis­siles, which the Biden admin­is­tra­tion did pro­vide, two U.S. offi­cials said, adding that the admin­is­tra­tion declas­si­fied the MiG infor­ma­tion to bol­ster the argu­ment not to pro­vide them to Ukraine.

    Like­wise, a charge that Rus­sia had turned to Chi­na for poten­tial mil­i­tary help lacked hard evi­dence, a Euro­pean offi­cial and two U.S. offi­cials said.

    The U.S. offi­cials said there are no indi­ca­tions Chi­na is con­sid­er­ing pro­vid­ing weapons to Rus­sia. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion put that out as a warn­ing to Chi­na not to do so, they said.

    The Euro­pean offi­cial described the dis­clo­sure as “a pub­lic game to pre­vent any mil­i­tary sup­port from Chi­na.”

    Game or not, U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials say it has been suc­cess­ful. Intel­li­gence is rarely defin­i­tive, and Biden offi­cials have cal­cu­lat­ed in some cas­es that it’s bet­ter to pre-empt some­thing that might not hap­pen, rather than stay silent and watch it unfold.

    “It doesn’t have to be sol­id intel­li­gence when we talk about it,” a U.S. offi­cial said. “It’s more impor­tant to get out ahead of them — Putin specif­i­cal­ly — before they do some­thing. It’s pre­ven­ta­tive. We don’t always want to wait until the intel­li­gence is 100 per­cent cer­tain­ty that they are going to do some­thing. We want to get out ahead to stop them.”

    The offi­cial said there was an exten­sive dis­cus­sion about whether to reveal that the Rus­sians had a black­list of Ukrain­ian ene­mies whom they intend­ed to arrest and pos­si­bly kill once they seized con­trol. Offi­cials weighed the poten­tial harm of divulging the intel­li­gence. “That was a big deci­sion,” the offi­cial said.

    But the intel­li­gence appears to have been borne out by wit­ness accounts from towns Russ­ian once occu­pied and has now left, where polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tions have been doc­u­ment­ed.

    Lean­ing for­ward

    Some U.S. offi­cials have advo­cat­ed a strat­e­gy of lean­ing fur­ther for­ward in declas­si­fy­ing and releas­ing intel­li­gence for years, as U.S. adver­saries became adept at using mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­forms to spread pro­pa­gan­da.

    In 2020, nine of 11 U.S. mil­i­tary com­bat­ant com­man­ders signed a memo urg­ing the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty to declas­si­fy more infor­ma­tion to counter dis­in­for­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da from Moscow and Bei­jing.

    The U.S. can bol­ster sup­port from allies only by “wag­ing the truth in the pub­lic domain against America’s 21st cen­tu­ry chal­lengers,” the offi­cers wrote. But efforts to com­pete in the bat­tle of ideas, they added, are ham­strung by over­ly strin­gent secre­cy prac­tices.

    “We request this help to bet­ter enable the US, and by exten­sion its allies and part­ners, to win with­out fight­ing, to fight now in so-called gray zones, and to sup­ply ammu­ni­tion in the ongo­ing war of nar­ra­tives,” the four-star gen­er­als wrote to the act­ing direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence at the time, Joseph Maguire.

    “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we con­tin­ue to miss oppor­tu­ni­ties to clar­i­fy truth, counter dis­tor­tions, punc­ture false nar­ra­tives, and influ­ence events in time to make a dif­fer­ence,” the gen­er­als said.

    In the past, the U.S. had sat on its hands as Rus­sia waged infor­ma­tion war.

    In 2014, days before Rus­sia invad­ed Ukraine’s Crimean penin­su­la, Rus­sia released a record­ing of an appar­ent phone con­ver­sa­tion between senior U.S. diplo­mat Vic­to­ria Nuland and the ambas­sador to Ukraine at the time, in which Nuland dis­par­aged the Euro­pean Union.

    The move was part of a wave of dis­in­for­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da from Moscow sur­round­ing the seizure of Crimea. But the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion didn’t react.

    That’s because the U.S. had opt­ed out of the great pow­er pro­pa­gan­da wars after the 9/11 attacks, Wein­er said.

    “So what was the Unit­ed States’ response to all of this?” Wein­er asked. “Crick­ets, noth­ing, zip. They had no response.”

    The Biden strat­e­gy has been dif­fer­ent.

    Pil­lar said the Biden admin­is­tra­tion took a sig­nif­i­cant risk in pre­dict­ing Rus­sia would invade Ukraine, a bold move that was vin­di­cat­ed by Putin’s actions.

    “That sug­gests that there are some pret­ty strong bases for this infor­ma­tion,” Pil­lar said. “Not only did it turn out to be cor­rect ... but evi­dent­ly it had been pre­sent­ed to the pres­i­dent with enough con­fi­dence that he felt con­fi­dent going out on the limb as far as he did.”

    Said Pil­lar, “Boy, if there wasn’t an inva­sion, this would have a huge ‘cry wolf’ effect and make our pres­i­dent look pret­ty bad.”

    ————

    “In a break with the past, U.S. is using intel to fight an info war with Rus­sia, even when the intel isn’t rock sol­id” by Ken Dilan­ian, Court­ney Kube, Car­ol E. Lee and Dan De Luce; NBC News; 04/06/2022

    It’s one of a string of exam­ples of the Biden administration’s break­ing with recent prece­dent by deploy­ing declas­si­fied intel­li­gence as part of an infor­ma­tion war against Rus­sia. The admin­is­tra­tion has done so even when the intel­li­gence wasn’t rock sol­id, offi­cials said, to keep Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin off bal­ance. Coor­di­nat­ed by the White House Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, the unprece­dent­ed intel­li­gence releas­es have been so fre­quent and volu­mi­nous, offi­cials said, that intel­li­gence agen­cies had to devote more staff mem­bers to work on the declas­si­fi­ca­tion process, scrub­bing the infor­ma­tion so it wouldn’t betray sources and meth­ods.”

    It’s the New Nor­mal: pub­licly acknowl­edg­ing that the US gov­ern­ment is ‘stretch­ing the truth’, but doing so for a good cause. Or to ‘get into Putin’s head’. Or some­thing like that. There are a lot of good caus­es.

    And what about the inevitable con­se­quences of the ero­sion of US cred­i­bil­i­ty? Well, that’s obvi­ous­ly a risk here. A risk the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty acknowl­edges. But also a risk that has appar­ent­ly been deemed accept­able giv­en the sheer vol­ume of dis­in­for­ma­tion we’re see­ing:

    ...
    Observers of all stripes have called it a bold and so far suc­cess­ful strat­e­gy — although not one with­out risks.

    “It’s the most amaz­ing dis­play of intel­li­gence as an instru­ment of state pow­er that I have seen or that I’ve heard of since the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis,” said Tim Wein­er, the author of a 2006 his­to­ry of the CIA and 2020’s “The Fol­ly and the Glo­ry,” a look at the U.S.-Russia rival­ry over decades. “It has cer­tain­ly blunt­ed and defused the dis­in­for­ma­tion weapon­ry of the Krem­lin.”

    ...

    Mul­ti­ple U.S. offi­cials acknowl­edged that the U.S. has used infor­ma­tion as a weapon even when con­fi­dence in the accu­ra­cy of the infor­ma­tion wasn’t high. Some­times it has used low-con­fi­dence intel­li­gence for deter­rent effect, as with chem­i­cal agents, and oth­er times, as an offi­cial put it, the U.S. is just “try­ing to get inside Putin’s head.”

    Some offi­cials believe, how­ev­er, that try­ing to get into Putin’s head is a mean­ing­less exer­cise, because he will do what he wants regard­less.

    ...

    But the strat­e­gy has its dan­gers. One of them, the West­ern offi­cial said, is that get­ting some­thing clear­ly wrong would be extreme­ly dam­ag­ing to U.S. cred­i­bil­i­ty and play into Moscow’s hands.

    ...

    At times, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has released infor­ma­tion in which it has less con­fi­dence or about things that are pos­si­ble rather than tru­ly like­ly.

    ...

    Like­wise, a charge that Rus­sia had turned to Chi­na for poten­tial mil­i­tary help lacked hard evi­dence, a Euro­pean offi­cial and two U.S. offi­cials said.

    The U.S. offi­cials said there are no indi­ca­tions Chi­na is con­sid­er­ing pro­vid­ing weapons to Rus­sia. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion put that out as a warn­ing to Chi­na not to do so, they said.

    The Euro­pean offi­cial described the dis­clo­sure as “a pub­lic game to pre­vent any mil­i­tary sup­port from Chi­na.”

    Game or not, U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials say it has been suc­cess­ful. Intel­li­gence is rarely defin­i­tive, and Biden offi­cials have cal­cu­lat­ed in some cas­es that it’s bet­ter to pre-empt some­thing that might not hap­pen, rather than stay silent and watch it unfold.

    “It doesn’t have to be sol­id intel­li­gence when we talk about it,” a U.S. offi­cial said. “It’s more impor­tant to get out ahead of them — Putin specif­i­cal­ly — before they do some­thing. It’s pre­ven­ta­tive. We don’t always want to wait until the intel­li­gence is 100 per­cent cer­tain­ty that they are going to do some­thing. We want to get out ahead to stop them.”
    ...

    But let’s also keep in mind that the pri­ma­ry risks to this strat­e­gy of pre­emp­tive offen­sive dis­in­for­ma­tion and the ero­sion of cred­i­bil­i­ty are real­ly only applic­a­ble when the lies are even­tu­al­ly revealed to the pub­lic. At least revealed in a mean­ing­ful way were the audi­ences of the orig­i­nal dis­in­for­ma­tion even­tu­al­ly learn about that dis­in­for­ma­tion.

    And that brings us to the that piece in The Gray Zone about the many ques­tions raised about what actu­al­ly hap­pened at the Mar­i­upol hos­pi­tal where the mater­ni­ty ward was struck back on March 9th in what has wide­ly been report­ed as a delib­er­ate Russ­ian airstrike. As we’ll see, while the hos­pi­tal was indeed hit with two explo­sions, the evi­dence against it being an airstrike was basi­cal­ly ignored in the AP reports on the event. This was even the case when one of the wit­ness­es was one of the preg­nant women wide­ly pho­tographed and shown to the world. That woman, Mar­i­ana Vishe­girskaya, was evac­u­at­ed out of Mar­i­upol to Belarus and has been telling her ver­sion of events in a large­ly ignored inter­view. Accord­ing to Vishe­girskaya, not only was there no sound of air­craft before the strike — sug­gest­ing pos­si­ble artillery strikes — but the hos­pi­tal had effec­tive­ly been tak­en over by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary days before the attack and turned into a mil­i­tary base of oper­a­tions. Effec­tive­ly none of this was con­veyed in the AP reports on strike. Instead, the reports appeared to be intent on send­ing the mes­sage that this was a delib­er­ate Russ­ian airstrike on the hos­pi­tal.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, the AP reporters Vishe­girskaya spoke with were the same ones who were escort­ed out of that hos­pi­tal and Mar­i­upol entire­ly on March 15, one day before the March 16 dra­ma the­ater bomb­ing, in what sounds like a res­cue oper­a­tion con­duct­ed by Ukrain­ian sol­diers at that hos­pi­tal for the expressed pur­posed of get­ting those AP jour­nal­ists out of Mar­i­upol before Russ­ian forces cap­tured them. These were report­ed­ly the last two inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ists still in Mar­i­upol at that time. So this sur­vivor of that hos­pi­tal strike is claim­ing that the jour­nal­ists who were exfil­trat­ed out of Mar­i­upol by Ukrain­ian forces were also dis­tort­ing the sto­ry of that hos­pi­tal strike. All in all, it’s the kind of infor­ma­tion envi­ron­ment that sug­gests the cham­pi­ons of the new US pol­i­cy of pub­licly pro­claim­ing ‘less con­fi­dent intel­li­gence’ as sol­id prob­a­bly don’t have to wor­ry too much about being called out for ques­tion­able pro­nounce­ments:

    The Gray Zone

    New wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny about Mar­i­upol mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal ‘airstrike’ fol­lows pat­tern of Ukrain­ian decep­tions, media mal­prac­tice

    Kit Klaren­berg
    April 3, 2022

    A key wit­ness to the wide­ly pub­li­cized inci­dent at the Mar­i­upol mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal has punc­tured the offi­cial nar­ra­tive of a Russ­ian airstrike on the facil­i­ty, and raised seri­ous ques­tions about West­ern media ethics. Mean­while, news of a mas­sacre in the city of Bucha con­tains sus­pi­cious ele­ments.

    On March 9th, shock­ing news of a delib­er­ate Russ­ian airstrike on a mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal in Mar­i­upol, east­ern Ukraine, began spread­ing wide­ly via social media and news out­lets.

    Fiery con­dem­na­tion from West­ern offi­cials, pun­dits, and jour­nal­ists was imme­di­ate. Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, for his part, claimed the act was proof of the “geno­cide” Rus­sia was per­pe­trat­ing against the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, and urged Euro­pean lead­ers to con­demn the “war crime” and “strength­en sanc­tions” to stop the Kremlin’s “evil” deeds in the coun­try. NPR sug­gest­ed the attack was part of Russia’s “ter­ri­ble wartime tra­di­tion” of pur­pose­ful­ly tar­get­ing health facil­i­ties and medics dur­ing con­flicts, dat­ing back to Chech­nya.

    But new­ly released tes­ti­mo­ny from one of the incident’s main wit­ness­es punc­tures the offi­cial nar­ra­tive about a tar­get­ed Russ­ian airstrike on the hos­pi­tal. The wit­ness account indi­cates the hos­pi­tal had been turned into a base of oper­a­tions by Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary forces and was not tar­get­ed in an airstrike, as West­ern media claimed. Her tes­ti­mo­ny also raised seri­ous ques­tions about whether at least some ele­ments of the event were staged for pro­pa­gan­da pur­pos­es – and with the coop­er­a­tion of the Asso­ci­at­ed Press.

    The new tes­ti­mo­ny (watch below) comes on the heels of evi­dence strong­ly sug­gest­ing that the destruc­tion of a dra­mat­ic the­ater in Mar­i­upol on March 16 was staged by the Azov Bat­tal­ion, and that near­ly all civil­ians had evac­u­at­ed a day before. And as we will see below, new reports of a Russ­ian mas­sacre of scores of civil­ians in the town of Bucha also con­tain sus­pi­cious details sug­gest­ing a pat­tern of infor­ma­tion manip­u­la­tion aimed at trig­ger­ing West­ern mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion.

    At that moment we heard an explo­sion. Instinc­tive­ly I per­son­al­ly put a duvet on myself. That’s when we heard the sec­ond explo­sion. I got cov­ered by glass par­tial­ly. I had small cuts on my nose, under my lips and at the top of my fore­head but it was noth­ing seri­ous…

    Mar­i­ana Vishe­girskaya, a preg­nant res­i­dent of Donet­sk who was present at the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal dur­ing the wide­ly report­ed inci­dent, has evac­u­at­ed from Mar­i­upol and is now speak­ing out. Pho­tos show­ing a blood­ied Vish­nevskaya flee­ing the build­ing with her per­son­al belong­ings became a cen­ter­piece of cov­er­age of the attack, along with a pho­to of anoth­er woman being car­ried away pale and uncon­scious on a stretch­er.

    In the wake of the inci­dent, Russ­ian offi­cials false­ly claimed the pair were the same per­son, cit­ing Vishegirskaya’s back­ground as a blog­ger and Insta­gram per­son­al­i­ty as evi­dence she was a cri­sis actor and the inci­dent a false flag. Though that asser­tion was not true, as we shall see, the hos­pi­tal had been almost com­plete­ly tak­en over by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary.

    In a video (above) reviewed by The Gray­zone which began cir­cu­lat­ing via Telegram April 1st, Vishe­girskaya offers a clear and detailed account of what took place on and in the days lead­ing up to March 9th. The wit­ness begins by not­ing how many res­i­dents of Mar­i­upol attempt­ed to evac­u­ate fol­low­ing Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine on Feb­ru­ary 24th, but says author­i­ties ensured it was “impos­si­ble to leave.”

    On March 6th, with the birth of her child impend­ing, she checked into mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal num­ber three, the city’s “most mod­ern” facil­i­ty. She was not there long before the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary arrived and evict­ed all the hospital’s patients, as they sought access to the building’s solar pan­els, one of the last remain­ing sources of elec­tric­i­ty in the besieged city.

    “We were moved to the only small mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal left. It had only one small gen­er­a­tor… Hus­bands of women in labor set­tled in the base­ment and cooked meals for us on the street. Res­i­dents of neigh­bor­ing hous­es also brought us meals,” Vishe­girskaya says. “One day sol­diers came. They didn’t help with any­thing. They were told the food is for women, how could they ask for it? They replied they hadn’t eat­en in five days, took our food and said, ‘you can cook some more.’”

    On the night of the 8th, the preg­nant women “slept peace­ful­ly” as there were “no shootouts.” The next day, the soon-to-be moth­ers heard a shell explode out­side. Vishe­girskaya “instinc­tive­ly” cov­ered her­self with her duvet, but still, shat­tered glass from a near­by win­dow cut her lip, nose and fore­head, though she says it was “noth­ing seri­ous.”

    “After the sec­ond explo­sion we got evac­u­at­ed to the base­ment,” Vishe­girskaya recalled. “We pro­ceed­ed to dis­cuss whether it was an airstrike. They said it was no airstrike. So our opin­ion got con­firmed. We didn’t hear the air­plane, they didn’t hear it either. They told us it was a shell. After the first two explo­sions there were no oth­er explo­sions.”

    As she wait­ed, she noticed “a sol­dier with a hel­met” tak­ing pic­tures of her, and demand­ed he stop, “because obvi­ous­ly it was not a good time for that,” and she did not want to be pho­tographed in her cur­rent state. The sol­dier com­plied. Back upstairs, the same indi­vid­ual began film­ing her and oth­ers again, refus­ing to stop until his sub­jects had demand­ed sev­er­al times he do so.

    Vishegirskaya’s hus­band lat­er told her the man wasn’t a sol­dier, but an Asso­ci­at­ed Press cor­re­spon­dent, one of many on the scene at the time. She believes these jour­nal­ists had been there “from the begin­ning,” as they were ready and wait­ing out­side to snap the woman being led away on a stretch­er, the first to emerge from the build­ing in the wake of the shell attack, “as soon as she came out.”

    The next day, after her baby was deliv­ered via cesare­an sec­tion, the same Asso­ci­at­ed Press staffers inter­viewed her, ask­ing her to describe what hap­pened. They enquired point blank if an airstrike had tak­en place, to which she respond­ed, “no, even the peo­ple that were on the streets didn’t hear any­thing, nor did any­one.”

    Lat­er, when she was in safer “ liv­ing con­di­tions,” Vishe­girskaya began scour­ing the inter­net, attempt­ing to track down the inter­view. She found “every­thing else” the Asso­ci­at­ed Press staffers record­ed – but not her denials that an airstrike had occurred.

    The AP’s nar­ra­tive on the hos­pi­tal inci­dent grows shaky

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press’ ini­tial report by Evgeniy Mal­o­let­ka on the March 9th inci­dent pro­vid­ed the pri­ma­ry foun­da­tion and fram­ing of all main­stream cov­er­age there­after. It cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly assert­ed the hos­pi­tal was tar­get­ed by a delib­er­ate “airstrike,” which “ripped away much of the front of one build­ing” in the hos­pi­tal com­plex and left near­by streets strewn with “burn­ing and man­gled cars and trees shat­tered.” The report sug­gest­ed that the heinous act was a tes­ta­ment to Russia’s inva­sion force “strug­gling more than expect­ed.”

    Count­less West­ern news out­lets recy­cled this con­tent, with par­tic­u­lar empha­sis on the claimed “airstrike.” These out­lets served as eager con­duits six days lat­er when Asso­ci­at­ed Press issued a fol­lowup, reveal­ing that the preg­nant moth­er being stretchered out of the hos­pi­tal had died, as had her unborn child. A doc­tor stat­ed her pelvis had been crushed and “hip detached,” which the agency attrib­uted to the hos­pi­tal hav­ing been “bom­bard­ed” by the Russ­ian air force.

    How­ev­er, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press made no men­tion in its fol­low-up report of any part of any build­ing being “ripped away.” In fact, the words attrib­uted by the AP to Vishe­girskaya indi­cate she was com­plete­ly unaware of how the dam­age was actu­al­ly caused.

    “We were lying in wards when glass, frames, win­dows and walls flew apart,” she told the AP. “We don’t know how it hap­pened [empha­sis added]. We were in our wards and some had time to cov­er them­selves, some didn’t.”

    Did the Asso­ci­at­ed Press insert ambi­gu­i­ty and uncer­tain­ty into Vishegirskaya’s mouth in order to main­tain the bogus nar­ra­tive of an airstrike? Even if quot­ed accu­rate­ly, she could eas­i­ly have been describ­ing an explo­sion near­by which inflict­ed shock­wave dam­age on the build­ing.

    Rein­forc­ing that inter­pre­ta­tion, an Asso­ci­at­ed Press video pur­port­ing to doc­u­ment the after­math of the “airstrike” showed a large hole in the ground with­in the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal com­plex grounds, said to be “a blast crater” from the wider assault. Was this mere­ly the impact zone of a shell that inten­tion­al­ly or not land­ed near the build­ing, rather than one ves­tige of a tar­get­ed aer­i­al onslaught?

    What­ev­er the truth of the mat­ter, oth­er aspects of Vishegirskaya’s new­ly released tes­ti­mo­ny relate to major mys­ter­ies sur­round­ing the Mar­i­upol mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal bomb­ing. For exam­ple, she affect­ing­ly attests that the preg­nant woman stretchered out of the build­ing died. Yet for all the super­fi­cial dam­age inflict­ed, no pho­to or video evi­dence yet to emerge from the scene – bar a seem­ing­ly blood-soaked mat­tress – indi­cates how and where the fatal injuries could have been inflict­ed.

    Even more curi­ous­ly, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press implau­si­bly claimed that due to “chaos after the airstrike,” no one on the ground learned the dead woman’s name before her hus­band arrived to col­lect her body – her iden­ti­ty remains unknown to this day. Still, doc­tors were “grate­ful” the name­less woman did not end up buried in one of the mass graves dug for Mariupol’s dead.

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press embeds with the Azov Bat­tal­ion

    The num­ber of peo­ple who lost their lives in the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal inci­dent, and pre­cise­ly how, are like­wise conun­drums. In a tele­vised address that evening, Zelen­sky claimed three indi­vid­u­als, includ­ing a child, had been slain via “airstrike,” while oth­ers remained trapped under rub­ble. The next day, though, Donet­sk region­al gov­ern­ment chief Pavlo Kyrylenko said zero deaths had been con­firmed, and there were no con­firmed injuries among chil­dren.

    By con­trast, numer­ous media out­lets have since report­ed, or at least heav­i­ly implied, that sev­er­al chil­dren were killed, and their bod­ies deposit­ed in the afore­men­tioned mass graves on the “out­skirts” of Mar­i­upol. Why it would be nec­es­sary or sen­si­ble to trans­port corpses far away from the city cen­ter, and why a child’s par­ents would con­sent to such an undig­ni­fied bur­ial, remains unclear.

    We know about these sup­posed mass graves thanks to Asso­ci­at­ed Press cor­re­spon­dent Evge­ny Mal­o­let­ka, who has pub­lished pho­tos and authored arti­cles detail­ing their con­struc­tion. His con­tent has been wide­ly repur­posed by oth­er West­ern out­lets, the grim images trav­el­ing far and wide.

    Mal­o­let­ka also hap­pened to be an eye­wit­ness to the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal inci­dent; he took the infa­mous shot of the preg­nant woman being stretchered out of the build­ing. Mal­o­let­ka, in fact, has man­aged to place him­self in the vicin­i­ty of many dra­mat­ic events instant­ly por­trayed as titan­ic Russ­ian war crimes.

    A glow­ing March 19th Wash­ing­ton Post pro­file of Mal­o­let­ka praised him for shar­ing “the hor­ror sto­ries of Mar­i­upol with the world.” The arti­cle described the Ukrain­ian as a “long­time free­lancer” for Asso­ci­at­ed Press, pre­vi­ous­ly cov­er­ing the Maid­an “rev­o­lu­tion” and “con­flicts in Crimea” for the agency. There was no men­tion of the fact that Mal­o­let­ka was a fer­vent sup­port­er of the “rev­o­lu­tion,” how­ev­er.

    In a lengthy mul­ti­me­dia pre­sen­ta­tion on the coup and resul­tant war in Don­bas fea­tured on his per­son­al web­site, Mal­o­let­ka claims to be “indif­fer­ent to the sit­u­a­tion in my coun­try.” How­ev­er, his affini­ties are abun­dant­ly clear. He frames the US-backed regime change oper­a­tion as a coura­geous fight against “cor­rup­tion and social injus­tice,” while mak­ing no ref­er­ence to both the Maid­an pro­test­ers and their lead­er­ship being rid­dled with neo-Nazis.

    This may be rel­e­vant to con­sid­er, giv­en Mal­o­let­ka has also been a key source of pho­tos of train­ing pro­vid­ed to Ukrain­ian civil­ians by Azov Bat­tal­ion. Whether he sym­pa­thizes with the paramilitary’s fas­cist pol­i­tics is unclear, but there can be lit­tle doubt he has been in extreme­ly close quar­ters with the neo-Nazi reg­i­ment since the war began.

    Maloletka’s pro­tec­tion, that of his Asso­ci­at­ed Press cowork­ers, and their col­lec­tive abil­i­ty to pro­vide West­ern media an unend­ing del­uge of atroc­i­ty pro­pa­gan­da can only be guar­an­teed through the Azov Bat­tal­ion, the pri­ma­ry defense force in Mar­i­upol. This has obvi­ous ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the objec­tiv­i­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty of all Asso­ci­at­ed Press cov­er­age of the war.

    As The Grayzone’s Max Blu­men­thal revealed in his inves­ti­ga­tion of the sus­pi­cious March 16th Mar­i­upol the­ater inci­dent, Asso­ci­at­ed Press pub­lished pho­tos of the site bear­ing Azov Battalion’s water­mark and a link to the neo-Nazi unit’s Telegram chan­nel.

    The dubi­ous nar­ra­tive of the explo­sion at the Mar­i­upol the­ater bears strong sim­i­lar­i­ties to the offi­cial ver­son of the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal inci­dent, par­tic­u­lar­ly the wild­ly con­flict­ing esti­mates of casu­al­ties and pur­port­ed pres­ence of the same peo­ple at both sites. Sky News alleged March 26th that preg­nant women res­cued from the hos­pi­tal had been moved to the the­ater “for safe­ty,” being coin­ci­den­tal­ly housed at “exact­ly the point” lat­er said to have been bombed by Russ­ian forces, of all places.

    The per­ish­ing of eye­wit­ness­es to the real events at the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal is con­ve­nient for the Asso­ci­at­ed Press and Azov Bat­tal­ion alike. After all, dead peo­ple tell no tales. Hav­ing any­one able to tes­ti­fy to the on-the-ground real­i­ty of inci­dents such as the dubi­ous the­ater bomb­ing or the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal “airstrike” is inher­ent­ly prob­lem­at­ic to the Ukrain­ian cause.

    And though the AP has has reporters on the ground in Ukraine through­out the con­flict with Rus­sia, the orga­ni­za­tion remains silent about trans­gres­sions unfold­ing right before the eyes of its staff.

    Case in point: the pres­ence of an AP pho­tog­ra­ph­er at the hos­pi­tal gave it a front row seat for Azov Battalion’s occu­pa­tion of the facil­i­ty and its trans­for­ma­tion of the site into a base of oper­a­tions. But the agency avoid­ed any men­tion of this crit­i­cal piece of con­text, show­ing West­ern audi­ences what Azov Bat­tal­ion wants them to see – and what its overt­ly pro-Kiev staff deem fit for pub­lic con­sump­tion.

    The infor­ma­tion war esca­lates in Bucha

    Hours before the pub­li­ca­tion of this arti­cle, on April 2nd, claims of Russia’s most hideous alleged war crime to date erupt­ed across social media. Footage and pho­tos of scores of dead bod­ies – some with their hands tied – lit­ter­ing the streets of Bucha, a small city near Kiev, tes­ti­fied to an appar­ent mas­sacre of mil­i­tary-aged men by Russ­ian troops, as they retreat­ed from the bat­tered city two days ear­li­er.

    The grue­some visu­als have trig­gered inten­si­fied calls for direct West­ern mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia. But as with the inci­dent at the mater­ni­ty ward in Mar­i­upol and numer­ous oth­er high pro­file events ini­tial­ly por­trayed by Ukrain­ian author­i­ties as Russ­ian mas­sacres, a series of details cast doubt on the offi­cial sto­ry out of Bucha.

    With­in hours of Russia’s with­draw­al from the Bucha on March 31st, its may­or announced that his city had been lib­er­at­ed from “Russ­ian orcs,” employ­ing a dehu­man­iz­ing term wide­ly used by Azov Bat­tal­ion. An accom­pa­ny­ing arti­cle not­ed the Rus­sians had “mined civil­ian build­ings and infra­struc­ture,” but no men­tion was made of any mass killing of local cit­i­zens, let alone scores of corpses left in the street, which one might rea­son­ably expect would be top of any news outlet’s agen­da when report­ing on the event.

    #Bucha — a thread.March 31. May­or of Bucharest records a video, say­ing Russ­ian troops have left. Not a word about “mas­sacre”. 1/ pic.twitter.com/M7lmzQ46Jj— Iri­na Molo­to­va (@IrinaGalushkoRT) April 3, 2022

    On April 2, with­in hours of the pub­li­ca­tion of pho­tos and videos pur­port­ing to show vic­tims of an alleged Russ­ian mas­sacre, Ukrain­ian media report­ed that spe­cial­ist units had begun “clear­ing the area of sabo­teurs and accom­plices of Russ­ian troops.” Noth­ing was said about dead bod­ies in the streets.

    The Nation­al Police of Ukraine announced that day that they were “clean­ing the territory…from the assis­tants of Russ­ian troops,” pub­lish­ing video that showed no corpses in the streets of Bucha and Ukrain­ian forces in full con­trol of the city.

    A clip of the report­ed “clean-up oper­a­tion” pub­lished by Sergey Korotkikh, a noto­ri­ous neo-Nazi Azov mem­ber, shows one mem­ber of his unit ask­ing anoth­er if he can shoot “guys with­out blue arm­bands,” refer­ring to those with­out the mark­ing worn by Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary forces. The mil­i­tant stri­dent­ly responds, “fu ck yeah!” Korotkikh has since delet­ed the video, per­haps fear­ing it impli­cat­ed his unit in a war crime.

    Lat night, Sergey “Boats­man” Korotkikh, infa­mous Neo-Nazi & mem­ber of Azov, post­ed a video titled “The BOATSMAN BOYS in Bucha”. At the 6 sec­ond mark you can clear­ly hear the dialogue:“There are guys with­out blue arm­bands, can I shoot them?”“Fu ck yeah” pic.twitter.com/n8WY1D0xRe— Rus­sians With Atti­tude (@RWApodcast) April 3, 2022

    Whether real or fake, and who­ev­er the per­pe­tra­tors are, the alleged exter­mi­na­tion of civil­ians comes at a crit­i­cal time for the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. Evi­dence of atroc­i­ties and war crimes com­mit­ted by Ukrain­ian troops against civil­ians and cap­tured Rus­sians – includ­ing the shoot­ing of help­less Russ­ian POWs in their knees, and oth­er heinous forms of tor­ture – has come to light for the first time.

    ...

    ————

    “New wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny about Mar­i­upol mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal ‘airstrike’ fol­lows pat­tern of Ukrain­ian decep­tions, media mal­prac­tice” by Kit Klaren­berg; The Gray Zone; 04/03/2022

    “But new­ly released tes­ti­mo­ny from one of the incident’s main wit­ness­es punc­tures the offi­cial nar­ra­tive about a tar­get­ed Russ­ian airstrike on the hos­pi­tal. The wit­ness account indi­cates the hos­pi­tal had been turned into a base of oper­a­tions by Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary forces and was not tar­get­ed in an airstrike, as West­ern media claimed. Her tes­ti­mo­ny also raised seri­ous ques­tions about whether at least some ele­ments of the event were staged for pro­pa­gan­da pur­pos­es – and with the coop­er­a­tion of the Asso­ci­at­ed Press.”

    Was the Mar­i­upol hos­pi­tal hit in that alleged airstrike being effec­tive­ly used as an Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary base by that point? We did­n’t hear any­thing about that in the ear­li­er reports. But now that one of the preg­nant women famous­ly pho­toed in the after­math of the strikes on the hos­pi­tal are claim­ing it was­n’t an airstrike, and that the hos­pi­tal had effec­tive­ly been tak­en over and turned into a mil­i­tary hub — there does­n’t appear to be much media inter­est in her sto­ry. Or clar­i­fy­ing ear­li­er report­ing or under­stand­ing what actu­al­ly took place.

    Now, yes, the fact that this woman, Mar­i­ana Vishe­girskaya, was even­tu­al­ly evac­u­at­ed to Belarus will cause many to under­stand­ably assume she’s being held pris­on­er and forced to make these claims. But the fact that she’s a known fash­ion blog­ger means this isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a sto­ry that’s just going to fade away. This is some­one who pre­sum­ably has an audi­ence of her own. That’s part of what makes her claims so com­pelling and a sto­ry to keep an eye on:

    ...
    At that moment we heard an explo­sion. Instinc­tive­ly I per­son­al­ly put a duvet on myself. That’s when we heard the sec­ond explo­sion. I got cov­ered by glass par­tial­ly. I had small cuts on my nose, under my lips and at the top of my fore­head but it was noth­ing seri­ous…

    Mar­i­ana Vishe­girskaya, a preg­nant res­i­dent of Donet­sk who was present at the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal dur­ing the wide­ly report­ed inci­dent, has evac­u­at­ed from Mar­i­upol and is now speak­ing out. Pho­tos show­ing a blood­ied Vish­nevskaya flee­ing the build­ing with her per­son­al belong­ings became a cen­ter­piece of cov­er­age of the attack, along with a pho­to of anoth­er woman being car­ried away pale and uncon­scious on a stretch­er.

    In the wake of the inci­dent, Russ­ian offi­cials false­ly claimed the pair were the same per­son, cit­ing Vishegirskaya’s back­ground as a blog­ger and Insta­gram per­son­al­i­ty as evi­dence she was a cri­sis actor and the inci­dent a false flag. Though that asser­tion was not true, as we shall see, the hos­pi­tal had been almost com­plete­ly tak­en over by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary.

    In a video (above) reviewed by The Gray­zone which began cir­cu­lat­ing via Telegram April 1st, Vishe­girskaya offers a clear and detailed account of what took place on and in the days lead­ing up to March 9th. The wit­ness begins by not­ing how many res­i­dents of Mar­i­upol attempt­ed to evac­u­ate fol­low­ing Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine on Feb­ru­ary 24th, but says author­i­ties ensured it was “impos­si­ble to leave.”

    On March 6th, with the birth of her child impend­ing, she checked into mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal num­ber three, the city’s “most mod­ern” facil­i­ty. She was not there long before the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary arrived and evict­ed all the hospital’s patients, as they sought access to the building’s solar pan­els, one of the last remain­ing sources of elec­tric­i­ty in the besieged city.

    “We were moved to the only small mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal left. It had only one small gen­er­a­tor… Hus­bands of women in labor set­tled in the base­ment and cooked meals for us on the street. Res­i­dents of neigh­bor­ing hous­es also brought us meals,” Vishe­girskaya says. “One day sol­diers came. They didn’t help with any­thing. They were told the food is for women, how could they ask for it? They replied they hadn’t eat­en in five days, took our food and said, ‘you can cook some more.’”

    On the night of the 8th, the preg­nant women “slept peace­ful­ly” as there were “no shootouts.” The next day, the soon-to-be moth­ers heard a shell explode out­side. Vishe­girskaya “instinc­tive­ly” cov­ered her­self with her duvet, but still, shat­tered glass from a near­by win­dow cut her lip, nose and fore­head, though she says it was “noth­ing seri­ous.”

    “After the sec­ond explo­sion we got evac­u­at­ed to the base­ment,” Vishe­girskaya recalled. “We pro­ceed­ed to dis­cuss whether it was an airstrike. They said it was no airstrike. So our opin­ion got con­firmed. We didn’t hear the air­plane, they didn’t hear it either. They told us it was a shell. After the first two explo­sions there were no oth­er explo­sions.”
    ...

    Anoth­er part of what makes this sto­ry is intrigu­ing is the fact that the AP team that was there at the hos­pi­tal was effec­tive­ly the last inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­is­tic team in Mar­i­upol at the time. It’s these reporters that Vishe­girskaya claimed mis­rep­re­sent­ed her state­ments in the reports to make it sound like there was an airstrike that caused the explo­sions. Recall how we learned that these were the last inter­na­tion­al reporters in Mar­i­upol in a March 22 AP report where these reporters recount­ed their own har­row­ing expe­ri­ences escap­ing from the city. As they described it in their report, on March 15 the hos­pi­tal was sur­round­ed by Russ­ian forces. But Ukrain­ian sol­diers brave­ly fought their way into the hos­pi­tal, look­ing for the two AP reporters. The sol­diers informed the jour­nal­ists that they need­ed to get out of Mar­i­upol before the Russ­ian forces cap­tured them and forced them to give dis­tort­ed reports. Notably, this all hap­pened one day before the March 16 explo­sion at the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater, ensur­ing that all infor­ma­tion about that event was effec­tive­ly get­ting fil­tered through Azov’s pub­lic rela­tions units. So by their own accounts, these AP reporters were seen as high­ly valu­able fig­ures. High­ly valu­able fig­ures who were exfil­trat­ed from the city one day before the dra­ma the­ater bomb­ing. That’s all part of the con­text of Vishe­girskaya’s claims that her words were being dis­tort­ed by these AP reporters:

    ...
    As she wait­ed, she noticed “a sol­dier with a hel­met” tak­ing pic­tures of her, and demand­ed he stop, “because obvi­ous­ly it was not a good time for that,” and she did not want to be pho­tographed in her cur­rent state. The sol­dier com­plied. Back upstairs, the same indi­vid­ual began film­ing her and oth­ers again, refus­ing to stop until his sub­jects had demand­ed sev­er­al times he do so.

    Vishegirskaya’s hus­band lat­er told her the man wasn’t a sol­dier, but an Asso­ci­at­ed Press cor­re­spon­dent, one of many on the scene at the time. She believes these jour­nal­ists had been there “from the begin­ning,” as they were ready and wait­ing out­side to snap the woman being led away on a stretch­er, the first to emerge from the build­ing in the wake of the shell attack, “as soon as she came out.”

    The next day, after her baby was deliv­ered via cesare­an sec­tion, the same Asso­ci­at­ed Press staffers inter­viewed her, ask­ing her to describe what hap­pened. They enquired point blank if an airstrike had tak­en place, to which she respond­ed, “no, even the peo­ple that were on the streets didn’t hear any­thing, nor did any­one.”

    Lat­er, when she was in safer “ liv­ing con­di­tions,” Vishe­girskaya began scour­ing the inter­net, attempt­ing to track down the inter­view. She found “every­thing else” the Asso­ci­at­ed Press staffers record­ed – but not her denials that an airstrike had occurred.

    ...

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press’ ini­tial report by Evgeniy Mal­o­let­ka on the March 9th inci­dent pro­vid­ed the pri­ma­ry foun­da­tion and fram­ing of all main­stream cov­er­age there­after. It cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly assert­ed the hos­pi­tal was tar­get­ed by a delib­er­ate “airstrike,” which “ripped away much of the front of one build­ing” in the hos­pi­tal com­plex and left near­by streets strewn with “burn­ing and man­gled cars and trees shat­tered.” The report sug­gest­ed that the heinous act was a tes­ta­ment to Russia’s inva­sion force “strug­gling more than expect­ed.”

    Count­less West­ern news out­lets recy­cled this con­tent, with par­tic­u­lar empha­sis on the claimed “airstrike.” These out­lets served as eager con­duits six days lat­er when Asso­ci­at­ed Press issued a fol­lowup, reveal­ing that the preg­nant moth­er being stretchered out of the hos­pi­tal had died, as had her unborn child. A doc­tor stat­ed her pelvis had been crushed and “hip detached,” which the agency attrib­uted to the hos­pi­tal hav­ing been “bom­bard­ed” by the Russ­ian air force.

    How­ev­er, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press made no men­tion in its fol­low-up report of any part of any build­ing being “ripped away.” In fact, the words attrib­uted by the AP to Vishe­girskaya indi­cate she was com­plete­ly unaware of how the dam­age was actu­al­ly caused.

    “We were lying in wards when glass, frames, win­dows and walls flew apart,” she told the AP. “We don’t know how it hap­pened [empha­sis added]. We were in our wards and some had time to cov­er them­selves, some didn’t.”

    Did the Asso­ci­at­ed Press insert ambi­gu­i­ty and uncer­tain­ty into Vishegirskaya’s mouth in order to main­tain the bogus nar­ra­tive of an airstrike? Even if quot­ed accu­rate­ly, she could eas­i­ly have been describ­ing an explo­sion near­by which inflict­ed shock­wave dam­age on the build­ing.

    ...

    By con­trast, numer­ous media out­lets have since report­ed, or at least heav­i­ly implied, that sev­er­al chil­dren were killed, and their bod­ies deposit­ed in the afore­men­tioned mass graves on the “out­skirts” of Mar­i­upol. Why it would be nec­es­sary or sen­si­ble to trans­port corpses far away from the city cen­ter, and why a child’s par­ents would con­sent to such an undig­ni­fied bur­ial, remains unclear.

    We know about these sup­posed mass graves thanks to Asso­ci­at­ed Press cor­re­spon­dent Evge­ny Mal­o­let­ka, who has pub­lished pho­tos and authored arti­cles detail­ing their con­struc­tion. His con­tent has been wide­ly repur­posed by oth­er West­ern out­lets, the grim images trav­el­ing far and wide.

    Mal­o­let­ka also hap­pened to be an eye­wit­ness to the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal inci­dent; he took the infa­mous shot of the preg­nant woman being stretchered out of the build­ing. Mal­o­let­ka, in fact, has man­aged to place him­self in the vicin­i­ty of many dra­mat­ic events instant­ly por­trayed as titan­ic Russ­ian war crimes.
    ...

    Final­ly, regard­ing the video that emerged on April 2 with what appear to be a “clean-up oper­a­tion” car­ried out by mem­bers of Azov under the com­mand of Sergey Korotkikh where they talk about shoot­ing any­one not wear­ing a blue arm­band, note how the Nation­al Police of Ukraine announced on April 2 that they were ““clean­ing the territory…from the assis­tants of Russ­ian troops,” which cer­tain­ly sounds like inten­tions on killing accused col­lab­o­ra­tors. It’s the kind of state­ment by Ukrain­ian author­i­ties that sug­gests the killing of civil­ians by Azov units was still tak­ing place at that time:

    ...
    With­in hours of Russia’s with­draw­al from the Bucha on March 31st, its may­or announced that his city had been lib­er­at­ed from “Russ­ian orcs,” employ­ing a dehu­man­iz­ing term wide­ly used by Azov Bat­tal­ion. An accom­pa­ny­ing arti­cle not­ed the Rus­sians had “mined civil­ian build­ings and infra­struc­ture,” but no men­tion was made of any mass killing of local cit­i­zens, let alone scores of corpses left in the street, which one might rea­son­ably expect would be top of any news outlet’s agen­da when report­ing on the event.

    #Bucha — a thread.March 31. May­or of Bucharest records a video, say­ing Russ­ian troops have left. Not a word about “mas­sacre”. 1/ pic.twitter.com/M7lmzQ46Jj— Iri­na Molo­to­va (@IrinaGalushkoRT) April 3, 2022

    On April 2, with­in hours of the pub­li­ca­tion of pho­tos and videos pur­port­ing to show vic­tims of an alleged Russ­ian mas­sacre, Ukrain­ian media report­ed that spe­cial­ist units had begun “clear­ing the area of sabo­teurs and accom­plices of Russ­ian troops.” Noth­ing was said about dead bod­ies in the streets.

    The Nation­al Police of Ukraine announced that day that they were “clean­ing the territory…from the assis­tants of Russ­ian troops,” pub­lish­ing video that showed no corpses in the streets of Bucha and Ukrain­ian forces in full con­trol of the city.

    A clip of the report­ed “clean-up oper­a­tion” pub­lished by Sergey Korotkikh, a noto­ri­ous neo-Nazi Azov mem­ber, shows one mem­ber of his unit ask­ing anoth­er if he can shoot “guys with­out blue arm­bands,” refer­ring to those with­out the mark­ing worn by Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary forces. The mil­i­tant stri­dent­ly responds, “fu ck yeah!” Korotkikh has since delet­ed the video, per­haps fear­ing it impli­cat­ed his unit in a war crime.

    Lat night, Sergey “Boats­man” Korotkikh, infa­mous Neo-Nazi & mem­ber of Azov, post­ed a video titled “The BOATSMAN BOYS in Bucha”. At the 6 sec­ond mark you can clear­ly hear the dialogue:“There are guys with­out blue arm­bands, can I shoot them?”“Fu ck yeah” pic.twitter.com/n8WY1D0xRe— Rus­sians With Atti­tude (@RWApodcast) April 3, 2022

    Whether real or fake, and who­ev­er the per­pe­tra­tors are, the alleged exter­mi­na­tion of civil­ians comes at a crit­i­cal time for the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. Evi­dence of atroc­i­ties and war crimes com­mit­ted by Ukrain­ian troops against civil­ians and cap­tured Rus­sians – includ­ing the shoot­ing of help­less Russ­ian POWs in their knees, and oth­er heinous forms of tor­ture – has come to light for the first time.
    ...

    Don’t for­get that it’s at this moment when Russ­ian forces have with­drawn and Ukrain­ian forces move in when the atroc­i­ties by groups like Azov can be most eas­i­ly car­ried out. Espe­cial­ly when all it appar­ent­ly takes is charges of being a Russ­ian col­lab­o­ra­tor.

    So are Azov units still “cleans­ing” the area around Bucha of “the assis­tants of Russ­ian troops” right now? At this point we don’t know, in large part because we have so few reports out of this area. But as this war plays out and more and more evi­dence builds of civil­ian atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Russ­ian forces and Ukrain­ian forces, it’s going to be grim­ly inter­est­ing to see how these which of sto­ries of atroc­i­ties get report­ed and which get com­plete­ly ignored. Just as it’s going to be grim­ly inter­est­ing to see how many claims by the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that turn out to be hyped bogus end up get­ting exposed in fol­low up report­ing. It’s hard enough get­ting an idea of what’s actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing when you have The Boy Who Cried Wolf run­ning around. Now imag­ine The Boy Who Cried Wolf has spe­cial priv­i­leges. This is where we are.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 8, 2022, 4:47 pm
  8. @Pterrafractyl–

    Yikes!!! I did­n’t real­ize those were the same reporters who had been evac­u­at­ed.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 8, 2022, 5:04 pm
  9. How long before we have an Azov pres­i­dent of Ukraine? That was one of the ques­tions raised by a chill­ing dis­play of Azov’s pre­em­i­nent impor­tance in Ukrain­ian soci­ety as a con­se­quence of Rus­si­a’s inva­sion. Dur­ing an invit­ed address to Greece’s par­lia­ment, Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy invit­ed a Greek mem­ber of the Azov bat­tal­ion to also address the par­lia­ment. Adding insult to injury, the man even made a ref­er­ence to how his Greek grand­fa­ther fought against the Nazis, telling the audi­ence, “I address you, as a Greek by ori­gin. I am Mikhail, my grand­fa­ther fought against the Nazis... I par­tic­i­pate in the defence of Ukraine through the Azov Bat­tal­ion.” It was like transna­tion­al his­toric trolling.

    As one might expect, this dis­play did­n’t go over well with the mem­bers of Greece’s par­lia­ment, with Alex­is Tsipras tweet­ing out, “Sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Ukrain­ian peo­ple is a giv­en. But the Nazis can not have a say in par­lia­ment.” Tsipras’s for­mer eco­nom­ics min­is­ter, Yanis Varo­ufakis, sim­i­lar­ly tweet­ed:

    Pres­i­dent Zelen­s­ki just abused the Greek Par­lia­men­t’s invi­ta­tion by shar­ing its plat­form with mem­bers of the neoN­azi Azov Bat­tal­ion, thus under­min­ing the Ukrain­ian peo­ple’s hero­ic resis­tance to Putin’s crim­i­nal inva­sion. We stand with Ukraine, not with the Azov neoN­azi Bat­tal­ion— Yanis Varo­ufakis (@yanisvaroufakis) April 7, 2022

    So how did Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment respond to this out­rage over the Greek Azov fight­er? By denounc­ing those who denounce Azov. Of course. And that’s, again, why we real­ly should be ask­ing how long it’s going to be before we have an Azov pres­i­dent of Ukraine. Because as this sad sto­ry demon­strates, Azov is attained offi­cial hero sta­tus, and that sta­tus is only going to be ele­vat­ed high­er the longer this war goes on:

    Reuters

    Azov fight­er video over­shad­ows Zelen­skiy’s address to Greek law­mak­ers

    Report­ing by Renee Mal­te­zou and Karoli­na Tagaris; Edit­ing by San­dra Maler
    April 7, 2022 3:34 PM CDT Updat­ed

    ATHENS, April 7 (Reuters) — Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodomyr Zelen­skiy’s address to the Greek par­lia­ment on Thurs­day caused an out­rage from oppo­si­tion par­ties after a man who iden­ti­fied him­self as an eth­nic Greek mem­ber of Ukraine’s ultra­na­tion­al­ist Azov bat­tal­ion appeared on a video.

    Zelen­skiy spoke about the destruc­tion of the Russ­ian-besieged Ukrain­ian port of Mar­i­upol — home to thou­sands of eth­nic Greeks — and appealed to Athens for help. read more

    Dur­ing his speech he showed a video with a mes­sage by a man who iden­ti­fied him­self as a mem­ber of the Azov bat­tal­ion, a far-right mili­tia now part of Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard.

    “I address you, as a Greek by ori­gin. I am Mikhail, my grand­fa­ther fought against the Nazis... I par­tic­i­pate in the defence of Ukraine through the Azov Bat­tal­ion,” he said.

    Zelen­skiy, who was invit­ed to address the Greek par­lia­ment by con­ser­v­a­tive Prime Min­is­ter Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis, received a stand­ing ova­tion from law­mak­ers present in the room.

    But the video caused a back­lash on social media and an angry reac­tion from left­ist par­ties.

    Short­ly after the speech, the head of the left­ist Syriza par­ty Alex­is Tsipras said the inci­dent was a provo­ca­tion. “Sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Ukrain­ian peo­ple is a giv­en. But the Nazis can not have a say in par­lia­ment,” he tweet­ed.

    His tweet had won more than 3,900 likes by Thurs­day evening.

    A Greek gov­ern­ment spokesman respond­ed that the mes­sage of a mem­ber of the Azov Bat­tal­ion was “mis­tak­en and inap­pro­pri­ate”.

    ...

    Ukraine’s embassy in Athens said the Azov reg­i­ment, set up as a far right group in 2014, has been reformed and inte­grat­ed into the Nation­al Guard of Ukraine.

    “For many years Rus­sia tried to ‘plant’ into Greek minds the myth that “Azov” Reg­i­ment is a para­mil­i­tary inde­pen­dent unit oper­at­ing in Mar­i­upol,” it said.

    “The video ... has noth­ing to do to those Nazi deeds, Rus­sians com­mit on our land and against our peo­ple.”

    ————

    “Azov fight­er video over­shad­ows Zelen­skiy’s address to Greek law­mak­ers” by Renee Mal­te­zou and Karoli­na Tagaris; Reuters; 04/07/2022

    “Short­ly after the speech, the head of the left­ist Syriza par­ty Alex­is Tsipras said the inci­dent was a provo­ca­tion. “Sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Ukrain­ian peo­ple is a giv­en. But the Nazis can not have a say in par­lia­ment,” he tweet­ed.”

    Those were refresh­ing words of con­dem­na­tion from Alex­is Tsipras. Note how even the Greek con­ser­v­a­tive gov­ern­ment did­n’t even defend Azov:

    ...
    A Greek gov­ern­ment spokesman respond­ed that the mes­sage of a mem­ber of the Azov Bat­tal­ion was “mis­tak­en and inap­pro­pri­ate”.
    ...

    And as expect­ed, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s response was to essen­tial­ly white­wash Azov, in part by claim­ing the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment actu­al­ly has a great deal of con­trol over Azov fol­low­ing its incor­po­ra­tion into the Nation­al Guard:

    ...
    Ukraine’s embassy in Athens said the Azov reg­i­ment, set up as a far right group in 2014, has been reformed and inte­grat­ed into the Nation­al Guard of Ukraine.

    “For many years Rus­sia tried to ‘plant’ into Greek minds the myth that “Azov” Reg­i­ment is a para­mil­i­tary inde­pen­dent unit oper­at­ing in Mar­i­upol,” it said.

    “The video ... has noth­ing to do to those Nazi deeds, Rus­sians com­mit on our land and against our peo­ple.”
    ...

    But what is most amaiz­ing here is why? Why on earth would Zelen­skiy invite such a fig­ure to address the Greek gov­ern­ment? The optics were about as bad as you could get. And yet, he went ahead with it and then the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment force­ful­ly and open­ly defend­ed Azov fol­low­ing the out­cry from across Greece’s polit­i­cal spec­trum. It’s the kind of move that sug­gests Azov’s grip on pow­er is lit­er­al­ly grow­ing in real time as this con­flict con­tin­ues.

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle bne Intellinews arti­cle from back in August of 2021 describes, that grip on pow­er was­n’t look­ing so secure back then. Quite the oppo­site. Fol­low­ing the sud­den res­ig­na­tion of Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arson Avakov in July 2021, Ukraine appeared to be quick­ly descend­ing into a kind of far right turf war, with the SBU crack­ing down on groups like Azov and Azov respond­ing with direct threats against Zelen­skiy and even an armed attack on his office. Yep, that was the news about Azov back in August, with none oth­er than Sergey Korotkikh play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role in that news. The same Sergey “Boats­man” Korotkhikh who was alleged­ly giv­ing orders to shoot “any­one with­out a blue arm­band” in Bucha in a released video. Korotkikh, the leader of Azov’s busi­ness oper­a­tions, was close asso­ciate with one Azov fig­ure who showed up dead in a Kyiv park the day before a fel­low asso­ci­at­ed with banned from entry into Ukraine by the SBU. And this was all hap­pen­ing amid an SBU crack­down on Azov rack­e­teer­ing oper­a­tion. A crack­down that observers see as part of a far right turf war between groups asso­ci­at­ed with the SBU on one side and Azov on the oth­er side.

    But as the arti­cle points out, there was anoth­er key con­text to all of these events: Zelen­skiy wag­ing an anti-oli­garch cam­paign under US pres­sure. A cam­paign that end­ed up arrest­ing a num­ber of senior exec­u­tives as Pri­vat­Bank, the for­mer bank of Ihor Kolo­moisky. And that’s all part of the broad­er con­text of the alleged Krem­lin-backed coup plots Zelen­skiy was pub­licly warn­ing about back in Novem­ber. A coup plot that, as we’ve seen, looks a lot more like a Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist oli­garchic coup plot giv­en the fig­ures seem­ing­ly involved.

    And as events have clear­ly demon­strat­ed, Azov was nev­er real­ly ful­ly cracked down on and instead is being cel­e­brat­ed as nation­al heroes. Sim­i­lar­ly, the anti-oli­garch ini­tia­tives are obvi­ous­ly on hold indef­i­nite­ly. Instead, Ukraine is in a state of per­ma­nent war. Azov heav­en.

    And that’s all part of the chill­ing con­text of sto­ry of the Azov fight­ing being invit­ed to address the Greek par­lia­ment. Just months before the con­flict it looked like Azov might actu­al­ly lose its spe­cial sta­tus. Instead, that sta­tus is more spe­cial than ever. War is a mul­ti-dimen­sion­al hell:

    bne Intellinews

    Ukraine’s law enforce­ment clash­es with far right Azov move­ment
    The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment appears to be crack­ing down on far right group Azov, but the whole of East­ern Europe has a con­flict­ed rela­tion­ship with the far right.

    By Ben Aris in Berlin
    August 17, 2021

    Ukrain­ian law enforcers vio­lent­ly clashed with mem­bers of the far right Azov move­ment on August 14 as the author­i­ties attempt­ed to crack down on the crim­i­nal schemes the move­ment uses to make mon­ey.

    Police offi­cers and a Nation­al Guard ser­vice­man were injured after they tried to halt a group of Azov pro­test­ers mov­ing towards Banko­va, the pres­i­den­tial offices in Kyiv. They tried to search the mem­bers of Azov but were assault­ed by the pro­test­ers. Sev­er­al police offices were injured and tak­en to hos­pi­tal for treat­ment.

    “The police decid­ed to inspect the items that the [Azov] pro­test­ers could bring to the Pres­i­den­t’s Office. How­ev­er, the activists cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly refused to be inspect­ed and were giv­en a com­mand to attack the Nation­al Police and the Guard,” the head of the Nation­al Police Igor Kli­menko said in a state­ment.

    “We are against provo­ca­tions and for the peace­ful con­duct of any action. The pres­ence of police offi­cers and the Nation­al Guard are the nec­es­sary mea­sures to ensure order in the area where the actions are held,” he added.

    ...

    Their pres­ence in the demon­stra­tions and street fight­ing with for­mer pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych’s police in 2014 led the Krem­lin to claim that Maid­an was a right wing-dri­ven coup d’é­tat, a claim that was vir­u­lent­ly denied at the time by pro-Ukrain­ian com­men­ta­tors, but in ret­ro­spect clear­ly has an ele­ment of truth.

    After the regime change the group was qui­et­ly sub­sumed into the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary as a sep­a­rate unit but it main­tains its own clear iden­ti­ty and enjoys close ties with senior fig­ures in the gov­ern­ment. It has been allowed to con­tin­ue to oper­ate its crim­i­nal schemes with impuni­ty.

    At home the group ran var­i­ous schemes and have been accused of rack­e­teer­ing and extor­tion. The group has been asso­ci­at­ed with the recent­ly depart­ed pow­er­ful inte­ri­or min­is­ter Arsen Avakov and the police action this week­end is believed by com­men­ta­tors to be a result of a house clean­ing now that his pro­tec­tion has been with­drawn.

    Con­sid­ered to be the sec­ond most pow­er­ful man in the coun­try, who served under four prime min­is­ters and was also the longest serv­ing min­is­ter in office, Avakov sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion on July 13, with­out giv­ing a rea­son for his deci­sion.

    His depar­ture was seem by some ana­lysts as part of a gov­ern­ment shake up by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy, who is try­ing to con­sol­i­date his grip on pow­er as part of a slow mov­ing crack­down on cor­rup­tion.

    Zelen­skiy nom­i­nat­ed Denys Monastyrskyi to replace Avakov. Monastyrskyi is a lawyer and a mem­ber of Zelenskiy’s Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty. The for­mer head of the parliament’s Law Enforce­ment Com­mit­tee, Monastyrskyi’s appoint­ment gives Zelen­skiy more direct con­trol over the police force and Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (SBU).

    Avakov’s res­ig­na­tion may be con­nect­ed to Zelenskiy’s crack­down on the influ­ence of the oli­garchs, ana­lysts have spec­u­lat­ed. Avakov allied him­self with busi­ness mag­nate and Zelenskiy’s for­mer busi­ness part­ner Ihor Kolo­moisky in 2014 when they began cre­at­ing vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions fight­ing Rus­sia and its prox­ies in east­ern Ukraine. This alliance appears to have remained in place, reports the Kyiv Post.

    Under US pres­sure Zelen­skiy launched a cam­paign with an oli­garch speech in March and since then has passed a num­ber of laws restrict­ing their con­tacts with gov­ern­ment as well as clos­ing some of the loop­holes that allowed them to run eco­nom­ic rent schemes that have made them fab­u­lous­ly wealthy. At the same time Zelen­skiy appears to be try­ing to crack down on cor­rup­tion in gen­er­al as sev­er­al mid­dle tier offi­cials have been arrest­ed recent­ly on cor­rup­tion charges. Most notably sev­er­al senior man­agers of Pri­vat­Bank, that used to belong to Kolo­moisky who is accused of steal­ing $5.5bn from the bank, were arrest­ed or had arrest war­rants issued in their names in Feb­ru­ary.

    Far right and Belarus oppo­si­tion

    Azov is deeply entrenched in Ukraine. The group also has mul­ti­ple ties with lead­ing Belaru­sian oppo­si­tion fig­ures, many of whom have main­tained close ties with Azov mem­bers in a fact that the inter­na­tion­al media remains squea­mish about report­ing. The Kremlin’s claims that Maid­an was a far right coup con­tra­dict the west­ern nar­ra­tive that Maid­an was a pop­u­lar upris­ing by reg­u­lar Ukraini­ans yearn­ing to join Europe and so the bulk of inter­na­tion­al report­ing on Ukraine has become shy of the top­ic of Ukraine’s very obvi­ous prob­lem with far right affil­i­a­tions.

    Every year the far right stage a major torch lit march down Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main thor­ough­fare, attend­ed by thou­sands of afi­ciona­dos, some of whom are in full Nazi uni­form, but the event is reg­u­lar­ly ignored by the inter­na­tion­al press, or at best giv­en a cou­ple of col­umn inch­es. This year it was not report­ed at all. Like­wise, the ties between promi­nent Belaru­sian oppo­si­tion fig­ures and Azov have been sparse­ly report­ed.

    As bne IntelliNews has report­ed there is a val­ues fault line that runs down the mid­dle of Europe to the right of which val­ues are dis­tinct­ly less lib­er­al than to the left – includ­ing affil­i­a­tion with far right ideas. For exam­ple, despite the Baltic states’ rep­u­ta­tion for adop­tion of Euro­pean val­ues, the region remains homo­pho­bic and also has Nazi sym­pa­this­ers that reg­u­lar­ly parade in pub­lic.

    The for­mer edi­tor-in-chief of the Belaru­sian Telegram chan­nel Nex­ta Roman Pro­ta­se­vich became a cause célèbre after Belarus’ Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lukashenko forced a com­mer­cial Ryanair flight to land in Min­sk and arrest­ed Pro­ta­se­vich and his girl­friend on May 23.

    Accord­ing to cred­itable reports Pro­ta­se­vich served with an Azov bat­tal­ion in Don­bas and pho­tos have emerged of him in uni­form car­ry­ing a machine gun. Pro­ta­se­vich does not deny either serv­ing with Azov nor being on the front­line in Don­bas, but claims he was there exclu­sive­ly as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er and did not fight. How­ev­er, no pho­tos or sto­ries have been pro­duced to sup­port this ver­sion of events.

    A man who bears a very strong resem­blance to Pro­ta­se­vich appeared on the cov­er of the Azov recruit­ment mag­a­zine “The Black Sun” in uni­form and car­ry­ing a weapon, in a pho­to that has been wide­ly shared on Russ­ian social media claim­ing it is Pro­ta­se­vich.

    [see pho­to of Azov recruit­ment mag­a­z­ing with The Black Sun on the cov­er]

    Vitaly Shishov, the head of Belaru­sian House, an oppo­si­tion group that offers aid to Belaru­sians that flee to Ukraine, was found hanged in a tree in a Kyiv park on August 3. Shishov also had close ties to Azov via his fel­low Belarus House part­ner Rodi­on Bat­ulin and Sergey Korotkikh, a Belaru­sian with ties to Russia’s FSB and one of the founders of Russia’s largest neo-nazi plat­form before mov­ing to Ukraine and join­ing Azov.

    A day after Shishov was found hanged in a park, with bruis­es on his body, his part­ner Bat­ulin, an MMA fight­er and also an Azov vet­er­an from Latvia, was banned from enter­ing Ukraine by the SBU as a “threat to nation­al secu­ri­ty” but no fur­ther details were giv­en.

    Bat­ulin is also an asso­ciate of Korotkikh, who claims to know Shishov and rose to promi­nence in Ukraine where pres­i­dent Poroshenko grant­ed him cit­i­zen­ship after two years and per­son­al­ly hand­ed him a new pass­port..

    Korotkikh is believed to be run­ning the Azov movement’s busi­ness oper­a­tions, accord­ing to Leonid Ragozin, a promi­nent Russ­ian jour­nal­ist based in Latvia who pre­vi­ous­ly worked for the BBC, who wrote a long thread on Shishov’s sto­ry.

    “A week ago, SBU clamped down on Azov’s rack­e­teer­ing busi­ness in Kharkiv, the movement’s alma mater. Sev­en men, includ­ing some, but not all, of the top fig­ures got arrest­ed,” Ragozin report­ed. The arrests came short­ly before Bat­ulin attempt­ed to re-enter Ukraine and some ana­lysts have linked the two events, although the author­i­ties have said lit­tle about either inci­dent.

    Shishov’s Azov con­nec­tion con­fus­es the inves­ti­ga­tion into his death and police say they have not ruled out “mur­der dressed up as sui­cide”. Shishov friends that have seen the corpse report that his face was blood­ied and his nose bro­ken, strong­ly sug­gest­ing foul play.

    Com­men­ta­tors have sug­gest­ed that Shishov was killed by Belaru­sian KGB agents work­ing in Ukraine and Shishov also report­ed­ly said he believed he was being fol­lowed in the weeks before his death. Pro­ta­se­vich also report­ed that he was being fol­lowed by “Russ­ian speak­ing” men, that he assumed were KGB agents, while in Athens short­ly before board­ing his fate­ful flight home. The KGB hit squad remains the most like­ly option, but his asso­ci­a­tion with Azov, which engages in crim­i­nal activ­i­ties and is well known for its vio­lence, adds a new con­fus­ing ele­ment to the sto­ry.

    An inves­ti­ga­tion into Shishov pub­lished after his death sug­gests that he was not deeply involved in Azov, nor its busi­ness, and the main inter­est Azov had in Belarus House was as a recruit­ing plat­form for its own move­ment as well as a mon­ey-mak­ing scheme: Belarus House would charge immi­grants fees of up to sev­er­al thou­sand dol­lars to help expe­dite get­ting Ukrain­ian res­i­den­cy doc­u­ments amongst oth­er ser­vices.

    Fol­low­ing the oper­a­tion in Kharkiv where sev­er­al Azov mem­bers were arrest­ed an anony­mous video was sent to sev­er­al Ukrain­ian blog­gers, which con­tained footage pur­port­ing that Korotkikh agreed to be an FSB agent dur­ing a crack­down on his Nazi net­work in Rus­sia 15 years ago, report­ed Ragozin.

    “The footage must have been some­how leaked from the FSB (or released by it),” Ragozin spec­u­lat­ed.

    Dur­ing his years in Rus­sia Korotkikh spent two years train­ing at the FSB acad­e­my and is assumed to have main­tained ties to the Russ­ian secu­ri­ty forces.

    Then on August 9, the Azov move­ment lead­er­ship claimed that the SBU was plan­ning a raid on its main base at Atek plant in Kiev, which hous­es a recruit­ment cen­tre, bar­racks and Azov’s own sergeant school of dubi­ous legal­i­ty, Ragozin report­ed. The promised raid failed to mate­ri­alise.

    Last week the lead­ers of the Azov move­ment began to pub­li­cal­ly accuse Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy of “mop­ping up patri­ots and vet­er­ans” in prepa­ra­tion tofor­sign­ing a humil­i­at­ing peace deal with Rus­sia, although no deal is antic­i­pat­ed and Banko­va and the Krem­lin have lit­tle direct report­ed con­tact. Nev­er­the­less Avoz announced a protest action out­side Zelenskiy’s office where the bloody clash with police took place.

    “Does it all mean that Korotkikh, an extreme­ly dark and con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure as he is, could be linked to the death of his pro­tégé, Vitaly Shishov? Not nec­es­sar­i­ly,” said Ragozin. “The sus­pect­ed assas­si­na­tion and sub­se­quent events come in the wake of the res­ig­na­tion of inte­ri­or min­is­ter Arsen Avakov, the polit­i­cal patron of Azov move­ment. They should be under­stood in the con­text of long-run­ning stand­off between SBU and inte­ri­or min­istry.”

    A bit­ter rival­ry between far right groups, asso­ci­at­ed with SBU, on the one side and the Azov move­ment on the oth­er is one of sev­er­al man­i­fes­ta­tions of that con­fronta­tion.

    The role Avoz and the far right groups play in Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics remains very murky. Senior mem­bers of gov­ern­ment have been fre­quent­ly seen in the com­pa­ny of Azov lead­ers as well as the elite of oth­er extreme groups such as Evgen Karass, the leader of C14, anoth­er noto­ri­ous far right group, who was invit­ed to a cer­e­mo­ny also attend­ed by Poroshenko, while he was still pres­i­dent.

    SBU-linked groups fea­ture in sev­er­al inves­ti­ga­tions into polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tions in post-Maid­an Ukraine, said Ragozin, who is writ­ing a book about the death of jour­nal­ist Pavel Sheremet, anoth­er Belaru­sian who also had ties with Azov and was killed with a car bomb in 2016.

    “Bot­tom line, it’s hard to pin down any­one in those games of secu­ri­ty bod­ies and free­lanc­ing far right thugs with their shift­ing loy­al­ties. From pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence, sad­ly, it is unlike­ly that offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion will end up with a defin­i­tive answer as to who killed Shishov,” said Ragozin.

    ———-

    “Ukraine’s law enforce­ment clash­es with far right Azov move­ment” by Ben Aris in Berlin; bne Intellinews; 08/17/2021

    Police offi­cers and a Nation­al Guard ser­vice­man were injured after they tried to halt a group of Azov pro­test­ers mov­ing towards Banko­va, the pres­i­den­tial offices in Kyiv. They tried to search the mem­bers of Azov but were assault­ed by the pro­test­ers. Sev­er­al police offices were injured and tak­en to hos­pi­tal for treat­ment.”

    A group of Azov ‘pro­tes­tors’ lit­er­al­ly attacked a group of police offi­cer and a Nation­al Guard ser­vice­man as they were try­ing to get into Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy’s office. Pre­sum­ably it was one of the non-Azov mem­bers of the Nation­al Guard who was attacked.

    So what pro­voked this attack? The police decid­ed to inspect the items they could bring into the office. Yep. So a group a angry Azov ‘pro­tes­tors’ show up at Zelen­skiy’s office, demand that be allowed to see him with­out any inspec­tions, and attack the police and a Nation­al Guards­man when those demands are declined. It sure sounds like a thwart­ed coup attempt. A thwart­ed coup attempt by a group that can oper­ate with vir­tu­al impuni­ty:

    ...
    “The police decid­ed to inspect the items that the [Azov] pro­test­ers could bring to the Pres­i­den­t’s Office. How­ev­er, the activists cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly refused to be inspect­ed and were giv­en a com­mand to attack the Nation­al Police and the Guard,” the head of the Nation­al Police Igor Kli­menko said in a state­ment.

    “We are against provo­ca­tions and for the peace­ful con­duct of any action. The pres­ence of police offi­cers and the Nation­al Guard are the nec­es­sary mea­sures to ensure order in the area where the actions are held,” he added.

    ...

    After the regime change the group was qui­et­ly sub­sumed into the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary as a sep­a­rate unit but it main­tains its own clear iden­ti­ty and enjoys close ties with senior fig­ures in the gov­ern­ment. It has been allowed to con­tin­ue to oper­ate its crim­i­nal schemes with impuni­ty.
    ...

    So why would a group that can already oper­ate with impuni­ty stage an attack on the pres­i­dent? Well, based on the cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence, it looks like the pos­si­ble lift­ing of that impuni­ty that may have been what pro­voked the con­flict. Specif­i­cal­ly, the res­ig­na­tion of Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s long-stand­ing and pow­er­ful Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter, in July of 2021. Avakov’s replace­ment with Denys Monastyrskyi, of Zelen­skiy’s Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty, was seen as giv­ing Zelen­skiy more direct con­trol of the police and SBU.

    But beyond Avakov’s replace­ment is a larg­er anti-oli­garch ini­tia­tive Zelen­skiy start­ed putting in place last year under pres­sure from the US. This oli­garch crack­down includes the arrest of cor­rupt offi­cials, includ­ing sev­er­al senior man­agers of Pri­vat­Bank. Recall how the FBI raid­ed the Cleve­land and Mia­mi office of Ihor Kolo­moisky back in August of 2020 in rela­tion to a mon­ey laun­der­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into Pri­vat­Bank. This FBI raid was pre­ced­ed by a report­ed Novem­ber 2019 meet­ing between Kolo­moisky and Rudy Giu­liani where Kolo­moisky report­ed­ly offered to push a fab­ri­cat­ed nar­ra­tive about Joe Biden. So Zelenksiy’s crack­down on Pri­vat­Bank under pres­sure from the US gov­ern­ment was just the lat­est in a long-stand­ing US inter­est in Kolo­moisky’s busi­ness and influ­ence. as real­ly part of a larg­er inter­na­tion­al squeeze on Kolo­moisky’s busi­ness­es. But Kolo­moisky, being one of the wealth­i­est and most pow­er­ful fig­ures in Ukraine and a major spon­sor of the far right ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions’, clear­ly isn’t some­one who is just going allow their grip on pow­er slip away with­out a fight. It’s hard to see why the res­ig­na­tion of Avakov was­n’t seen as a major threat to Kolo­moisky’s pow­er base. The move hand­ed more con­trol of the SBU over to Zelen­skiy while poten­tial­ly lift­ing the umbrel­la of impuni­ty that groups like Azov have enjoyed. And it hap­pened into the con­text of a US-backed anti-oli­garch crack­down. Then, a few months lat­er, we get reports about an impend­ing Kremin-blacked coup plot rat­tling the Zelen­skiy admin­is­tra­tion, and yet that coup plot seemed to revolve around Rinat Akhme­tov, a fig­ure who does­n’t fit the Krem­line stooge pro­file. Quite the oppo­site. And as more infor­ma­tion about this coup plot comes out, it appears to have hard-line Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist fig­ures and oli­garchs at its core. That’s all why we have every rea­son to sus­pect this thwart­ed Azov attack against Zelen­skiy back in August of 2021 had the back­ing of more than just Azov:

    ...
    At home the group ran var­i­ous schemes and have been accused of rack­e­teer­ing and extor­tion. The group has been asso­ci­at­ed with the recent­ly depart­ed pow­er­ful inte­ri­or min­is­ter Arsen Avakov and the police action this week­end is believed by com­men­ta­tors to be a result of a house clean­ing now that his pro­tec­tion has been with­drawn.

    Con­sid­ered to be the sec­ond most pow­er­ful man in the coun­try, who served under four prime min­is­ters and was also the longest serv­ing min­is­ter in office, Avakov sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion on July 13, with­out giv­ing a rea­son for his deci­sion.

    His depar­ture was seem by some ana­lysts as part of a gov­ern­ment shake up by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy, who is try­ing to con­sol­i­date his grip on pow­er as part of a slow mov­ing crack­down on cor­rup­tion.

    Zelen­skiy nom­i­nat­ed Denys Monastyrskyi to replace Avakov. Monastyrskyi is a lawyer and a mem­ber of Zelenskiy’s Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty. The for­mer head of the parliament’s Law Enforce­ment Com­mit­tee, Monastyrskyi’s appoint­ment gives Zelen­skiy more direct con­trol over the police force and Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (SBU).

    Avakov’s res­ig­na­tion may be con­nect­ed to Zelenskiy’s crack­down on the influ­ence of the oli­garchs, ana­lysts have spec­u­lat­ed. Avakov allied him­self with busi­ness mag­nate and Zelenskiy’s for­mer busi­ness part­ner Ihor Kolo­moisky in 2014 when they began cre­at­ing vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions fight­ing Rus­sia and its prox­ies in east­ern Ukraine. This alliance appears to have remained in place, reports the Kyiv Post.

    Under US pres­sure Zelen­skiy launched a cam­paign with an oli­garch speech in March and since then has passed a num­ber of laws restrict­ing their con­tacts with gov­ern­ment as well as clos­ing some of the loop­holes that allowed them to run eco­nom­ic rent schemes that have made them fab­u­lous­ly wealthy. At the same time Zelen­skiy appears to be try­ing to crack down on cor­rup­tion in gen­er­al as sev­er­al mid­dle tier offi­cials have been arrest­ed recent­ly on cor­rup­tion charges. Most notably sev­er­al senior man­agers of Pri­vat­Bank, that used to belong to Kolo­moisky who is accused of steal­ing $5.5bn from the bank, were arrest­ed or had arrest war­rants issued in their names in Feb­ru­ary.
    ...

    Then there’s the role Azov mem­ber Sergey “Boats­man” Korotkikh plays in all this, and the appar­ent gang war­fare between rival far right groups inside the SBU that appears to have been play­ing out last fall. First, there’s dis­cov­ery of Vitaly Shishov’s hang­ing body in a Kyiv park on August 3. Shishov, the head of a Belaru­sian oppo­si­tion group, was known to have close ties to both Korotkikh and fel­low Belarus House part­ner Rodi­on Bat­ulin, who is also close to Korotkikh. The next day, the SBU banned Bat­ulin from enter­ing Ukraine on the groups that he was a “threat to nation­al secu­ri­ty”. And this all hap­pened short­ly after the SBU cracked down on Azov’s rack­e­teer­ing busi­ness in Kharkiv. Note that Korotkikh is believed to be run­ning the Azov movement’s busi­ness oper­a­tions. So the guy who runs Azov’s busi­ness oper­a­tions is close asso­ciates of the guy who showed up hang­ing in park in Kyiv and their mutu­al asso­ciate who was banned from the coun­try by the SBU the next day. And this all hap­pened days after a crack­down on Azov’s rack­e­teer­ing oper­a­tions and just weeks after the res­ig­na­tion of Avakov, one of Azov’s biggest boost­ers in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. That’s also pre­sum­ably all part of the con­text of the August 14 assault by Azov ‘pro­tes­tors’ out­side Zelen­skiy’s office:

    ...
    Vitaly Shishov, the head of Belaru­sian House, an oppo­si­tion group that offers aid to Belaru­sians that flee to Ukraine, was found hanged in a tree in a Kyiv park on August 3. Shishov also had close ties to Azov via his fel­low Belarus House part­ner Rodi­on Bat­ulin and Sergey Korotkikh, a Belaru­sian with ties to Russia’s FSB and one of the founders of Russia’s largest neo-nazi plat­form before mov­ing to Ukraine and join­ing Azov.

    A day after Shishov was found hanged in a park, with bruis­es on his body, his part­ner Bat­ulin, an MMA fight­er and also an Azov vet­er­an from Latvia, was banned from enter­ing Ukraine by the SBU as a “threat to nation­al secu­ri­ty” but no fur­ther details were giv­en.

    Bat­ulin is also an asso­ciate of Korotkikh, who claims to know Shishov and rose to promi­nence in Ukraine where pres­i­dent Poroshenko grant­ed him cit­i­zen­ship after two years and per­son­al­ly hand­ed him a new pass­port..

    Korotkikh is believed to be run­ning the Azov movement’s busi­ness oper­a­tions, accord­ing to Leonid Ragozin, a promi­nent Russ­ian jour­nal­ist based in Latvia who pre­vi­ous­ly worked for the BBC, who wrote a long thread on Shishov’s sto­ry.

    “A week ago, SBU clamped down on Azov’s rack­e­teer­ing busi­ness in Kharkiv, the movement’s alma mater. Sev­en men, includ­ing some, but not all, of the top fig­ures got arrest­ed,” Ragozin report­ed. The arrests came short­ly before Bat­ulin attempt­ed to re-enter Ukraine and some ana­lysts have linked the two events, although the author­i­ties have said lit­tle about either inci­dent.

    Shishov’s Azov con­nec­tion con­fus­es the inves­ti­ga­tion into his death and police say they have not ruled out “mur­der dressed up as sui­cide”. Shishov friends that have seen the corpse report that his face was blood­ied and his nose bro­ken, strong­ly sug­gest­ing foul play.

    Com­men­ta­tors have sug­gest­ed that Shishov was killed by Belaru­sian KGB agents work­ing in Ukraine and Shishov also report­ed­ly said he believed he was being fol­lowed in the weeks before his death. Pro­ta­se­vich also report­ed that he was being fol­lowed by “Russ­ian speak­ing” men, that he assumed were KGB agents, while in Athens short­ly before board­ing his fate­ful flight home. The KGB hit squad remains the most like­ly option, but his asso­ci­a­tion with Azov, which engages in crim­i­nal activ­i­ties and is well known for its vio­lence, adds a new con­fus­ing ele­ment to the sto­ry.

    ...

    Also, just five days before the August 14 attack out­side Zelen­skiy’s office, the Azov lead­er­ship claimed the SBU was plan­ning a raid on its main base in Kiev, although those raids nev­er mate­ri­al­ized. At the same time, Azov began pub­licly accus­ing Zelen­skiy of “mop­ping up patri­ots and vet­er­ans” in prepa­ra­tion for sign­ing a humil­i­at­ing peace deal with Rus­sia. It was protest over that alleged peace deal that formed the pre­text for the August 14 protest out­side the pres­i­den­tial office:

    ...
    Then on August 9, the Azov move­ment lead­er­ship claimed that the SBU was plan­ning a raid on its main base at Atek plant in Kiev, which hous­es a recruit­ment cen­tre, bar­racks and Azov’s own sergeant school of dubi­ous legal­i­ty, Ragozin report­ed. The promised raid failed to mate­ri­alise.

    Last week the lead­ers of the Azov move­ment began to pub­li­cal­ly accuse Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy of “mop­ping up patri­ots and vet­er­ans” in prepa­ra­tion tofor­sign­ing a humil­i­at­ing peace deal with Rus­sia, although no deal is antic­i­pat­ed and Banko­va and the Krem­lin have lit­tle direct report­ed con­tact. Nev­er­the­less Avoz announced a protest action out­side Zelenskiy’s office where the bloody clash with police took place.
    ...

    As the arti­cle puts it, we can’t real­ly under­stand these events out­side of the con­text of a long-run­ning stand­off between rival far groups with­in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. And based on the tim­ing of all this, it appears that the res­ig­na­tion of Arsen Avakov in the con­text of Zelen­skiy’s anti-oli­garch ini­tia­tive was the spark that lit this con­flict:

    ...
    “Does it all mean that Korotkikh, an extreme­ly dark and con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure as he is, could be linked to the death of his pro­tégé, Vitaly Shishov? Not nec­es­sar­i­ly,” said Ragozin. “The sus­pect­ed assas­si­na­tion and sub­se­quent events come in the wake of the res­ig­na­tion of inte­ri­or min­is­ter Arsen Avakov, the polit­i­cal patron of Azov move­ment. They should be under­stood in the con­text of long-run­ning stand­off between SBU and inte­ri­or min­istry.”

    A bit­ter rival­ry between far right groups, asso­ci­at­ed with SBU, on the one side and the Azov move­ment on the oth­er is one of sev­er­al man­i­fes­ta­tions of that con­fronta­tion.
    ...

    So as we’re watch­ing the war play out, with grow­ing reports indi­cat­ing civil­ian mas­sacres are being car­ried out by groups like Azov — like the appar­ent video of Korotkikh telling sol­diers they can shoot any­one with­out a blue arm­band — it’s going tobe impor­tant to keep in mind that the Ukrain­ian state had already been fight­ing a war to remove Azov’s seem­ing impuni­ty in the months lead­ing up to this con­flict. And whether or not the ele­ments in the SBU try­ing to crack down on Azov were hav­ing any suc­cess, that suc­cess is obvi­ous­ly going to be com­plete­ly reversed. The Azov move­ment are the offi­cial heroes of Ukraine right now. The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment made that clear in Greece, if it was­n’t already obvi­ous. Heroes who are going to be allowed to con­tin­ue to act with impuni­ty for the fore­see­able future. Which is why we should­n’t just be ask­ing when we’re going to see the next Azov pres­i­dent. An Azov Furher seems a lot more like­ly at this point.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 9, 2022, 4:25 pm
  10. Fol­low­ing up on the video of the exe­cu­tion of Russ­ian POWs by sol­diers who appear to be mem­bers of the Geor­gian Legion, there was a recent piece on the Gray Zone that sum­ma­rizes the myr­i­ad of rea­sons why the Geor­gian Legion’s pres­ence in Ukraine real­ly is a giant scan­dal. Not just a giant scan­dal over the still unre­solved role the Legion played in car­ry­ing out false flag sniper attacks on the Maid­an square dur­ing the 2014 Maid­an protests. It’s a giant transna­tion­al scan­dal that includes the US gov­ern­ments warm embrace of a group that is demon­stra­bly full of war crim­i­nals. Includ­ing US war crim­i­nals like neo-Nazi Craig Lang, who is cur­rent­ly fac­ing war crimes charges in the US over alle­ga­tions of the tor­ture of civil­ians in Ukraine dur­ing his time with Right Sec­tor, before Lang moved over to the Geor­gian Legion.

    Yes, despite the fact that the Geor­gian Legion is an inter­na­tion­al hub of vio­lent extrem­ists, includ­ing US neo-Nazis want­ed for war crimes, the leader of the group has received mul­ti­ple warm wel­comes from the US Con­gress. So if you’re won­der­ing what the odds are that the video evi­dence of these war crimes in Bucha by the Geor­gian Legion will be inves­ti­gat­ed by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, keep in mind that the guy brag­ging about these war crimes is a very good terms with the US con­gress:

    The Gray Zone

    US law­mak­ers wel­comed noto­ri­ous Geor­gian war­lord now boast­ing of war crimes in Ukraine

    Alexan­der Rubin­stein
    April 8, 2022

    Top law­mak­ers in US Con­gress host­ed Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili, an infa­mous Geor­gian Legion war­lord who has boast­ed of autho­riz­ing field exe­cu­tions of cap­tive Russ­ian sol­diers in Ukraine.

    Hav­ing tak­en up arms against Rus­sia for a fifth time, Geor­gian Legion com­man­der Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili has bragged on video about his unit car­ry­ing out field exe­cu­tions of cap­tured Russ­ian sol­diers in Ukraine.

    While West­ern media pun­dits howled about images of dead bod­ies in the city of Bucha, echo­ing Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelenksy’s accu­sa­tion that Rus­sia is guilty of “geno­cide,” they have large­ly over­looked the appar­ent admis­sion of atroc­i­ties by an avowed ally of the Unit­ed States who was wel­comed on Capi­tol Hill by senior law­mak­ers over­see­ing con­gres­sion­al for­eign pol­i­cy com­mit­tees.

    Hav­ing fought in four wars against Rus­sia, and despite alle­ga­tions that he played a lead­ing role in the mas­sacre of 49 pro­test­ers in Kiev’s Maid­an Square in 2014, Mamu­lashvili has tak­en mul­ti­ple trips to the Unit­ed States, where he received a warm wel­come from mem­bers of Con­gress, the New York Police Depart­ment, and Ukrain­ian dias­po­ra com­mu­ni­ty.

    In an inter­view this April, Mamu­lashvili, was asked about a video show­ing Russ­ian fight­ers who had been extra­ju­di­cial­ly exe­cut­ed in Dmitro­v­ka, a town just five miles from Bucha. Mamu­lashvili was can­did about his unit’s take-no-pris­on­ers tac­tics, though he has denied involve­ment in the spe­cif­ic crimes depict­ed.

    “We will not take Russ­ian sol­diers, as well as Kady­rovites [Chech­nyan fight­ers]; in any case, we will not take pris­on­ers, not a sin­gle per­son will be cap­tured,” Mamu­lashvili said, imply­ing that his fight­ers exe­cute POWs.

    The warlord’s bat­tle dress shirt was embla­zoned with a patch read­ing, “Mama says I’m spe­cial.”

    Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili, com­man­der of the “Geor­gian Nation­al Legion” in Ukraine: “Yes, we tie their hands and feet some­times. I speak for the Geor­gian Legion, we will nev­er take Russ­ian sol­diers pris­on­er. Not a sin­gle one of them will be tak­en pris­on­er.” pic.twitter.com/4GM9nHsOMo— Rus­sians With Atti­tude (@RWApodcast) April 6, 2022

    “Yes, we tie their hands and feet some­times. I speak for the Geor­gian Legion, we will nev­er take Russ­ian sol­diers pris­on­er. Not a sin­gle one of them will be tak­en pris­on­er,” Mamu­lashvili empha­sized

    Exe­cu­tions of ene­my com­bat­ants are con­sid­ered war crimes under the Gene­va Con­ven­tion.

    War crimes on the front lines

    West­ern gov­ern­ments con­tin­ue to block a Russ­ian request for a Unit­ed Nations inves­ti­ga­tion into alleged mas­sacres in Bucha, where scores of corpses were pho­tographed fol­low­ing the Russ­ian with­draw­al from the city, some with hands bound and shot exe­cu­tion style – as Mamu­lashvili described doing to pris­on­ers.

    While the events in Bucha have become a source of out­rage and heat­ed con­tention, a clear case of war crimes by Ukrain­ian forces which took place just five miles down the road on March 30 as Russ­ian troops with­drew has received a more mut­ed response despite cov­er­age by the New York Times.

    The macabre footage shows Russ­ian para­troop­ers dead or bleed­ing out in the road, some with their hands clear­ly bound — report­ed­ly the hand­i­work of the Geor­gian Legion.

    Cel­e­brat­ing the ambush’s suc­cess, the video­g­ra­ph­er calls the atten­tion of his fel­low sol­diers: “Geor­gians! Bel­gravia, boys!” Bel­gravia refers to a near­by hous­ing com­plex from which some of the non-Geor­gian fight­ers pre­sum­ably hail.

    “Look, he is still alive,” one of the fight­ers says as a Russ­ian writhes in a pool of blood. He was then shot three times at close range.

    Oz Kater­ji, a neo­con­ser­v­a­tive British-Lebanese oper­a­tive who has gen­er­at­ed atten­tion by send­ing threat­en­ing What­sapp mes­sages to jour­nal­ists opposed to the US-backed dirty war in Syr­ia, fan­ta­siz­ing about police tor­tur­ing Gray­zone edi­tor Max Blu­men­thal, hys­ter­i­cal­ly heck­ling for­mer UK Labour leader Jere­my Cor­byn at an anti­war meet­ing, and embed­ding with CIA-backed armed gangs in Syr­ia, wound up at the site of the Russ­ian con­voy two days after it was destroyed.

    Film­ing him­self against the back­drop of numer­ous burned out Russ­ian tanks, Kater­ji tweet­ed that sol­diers told him “they had removed eight Russ­ian corpses from the bat­tle­field yes­ter­day.”

    An equal­ly san­i­tized depic­tion of the scene was pub­lished by the Min­istry of Defense of Ukraine on Twit­ter, which com­piled shots of the destruc­tion and an inter­view with a sol­dier over an inter­mit­tent elec­tron­ic sound­track.

    ???????????? ?????? ??????????? ?????????? ?? ????????. ???????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????? ???, ??? ??? ????? ?????????? ???????? “???????? ??????” ? ?????????? ??????????? ????????? ????????? ?? pic.twitter.com/uLm4ANgvt5— Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) April 2, 2022

    In the orig­i­nal war crimes video, one of the men who gloat­ed at the scene of the killings has been iden­ti­fied as Khizan­ishvili Tey­mu­raz of the Geor­gian Legion. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Tey­mu­raz served as a body guard to for­mer Geor­gian pres­i­dent and Mamu­lashvili ally Mikheil Saakashvili.

    A pet project of Wash­ing­ton neo­con­ser­v­a­tives, Saakashvili met dis­grace after lead­ing a dis­as­trous war of choice against Rus­sia over South Osse­tia in 2008. He even­tu­al­ly accept­ed an offer from Ukraine to serve as gov­er­nor in Odessa in 2015.

    “It is nec­es­sary to cre­ate chaos on the Maid­an”

    The most dead­ly inci­dent dur­ing the 2013–14 riots and protests on Kiev’s Maid­an Square that even­tu­al­ly led to the ouster of Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych was the mas­sacre of 49 demon­stra­tors on Feb­ru­ary 20, 2014. The inci­dent gal­va­nized inter­na­tion­al out­rage against Yanukovych and weak­ened his government’s nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion. Yet it remains shroud­ed in intrigue.

    Dur­ing the col­or rev­o­lu­tion on the Maid­an, Mamu­lashvili ral­lied his old war bud­dies to take up Ukraine’s cause. Near the cen­tral square, his group was report­ed­ly “told to ensure order so that there were no drunks, to main­tain dis­ci­pline and iden­ti­fy rab­ble-rousers sent in by the author­i­ties.”

    Mamulashvili’s for­mer com­rades told Russ­ian media that he even­tu­al­ly told them “it is nec­es­sary to cre­ate chaos on the Maid­an, using weapons against any tar­gets, pro­test­ers and police — no dif­fer­ence.”

    Pres­i­dent Vlodymyr Zelen­sky has described the killings on the Maid­an as “the most com­pli­cat­ed case in our coun­try,” not­ing that the crime scene was tam­pered with and doc­u­ments have mys­te­ri­ous­ly dis­ap­peared.

    Inter­na­tion­al bod­ies also remain befud­dled. While the NATO-fund­ed Atlantic Coun­cil think tank has described the mat­ter as “unsolved,” the Unit­ed Nations has not­ed that “jus­tice remains elu­sive.”

    Today, some researchers point to Mamu­lashvili and his Geor­gian Legion­naires as key sus­pects behind the mys­te­ri­ous killings. Ivan Katchanovs­ki, a pro­fes­sor of polit­i­cal sci­ence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ottawa, is among those who believe Mamulashvili’s allies were like­ly among those who fired on pro­test­ers from build­ings over Maid­an Square, gen­er­at­ing blood­shed that was ulti­mate­ly blamed on Ukraine’s then-gov­ern­ment.

    “Tes­ti­monies by sev­er­al Geor­gian self-admit­ted mem­bers of Maid­an sniper groups for the Maid­an mas­sacre tri­al and inves­ti­ga­tion and their inter­views in Amer­i­can, Ital­ian and Israeli TV doc­u­men­taries and Mace­don­ian and Russ­ian media are gen­er­al­ly con­sis­tent with find­ings of my aca­d­e­m­ic stud­ies of the Maid­an mas­sacre,” Katchanovs­ki com­ment­ed to The Gray­zone.

    While Katchanovs­ki said his aca­d­e­m­ic research did not focus on the involve­ment of spe­cif­ic indi­vid­u­als in the mas­sacre, he stat­ed that most of the Geor­gians who tes­ti­fied in the tri­al revealed their names, pass­port num­bers and bor­der stamps, copies of plane tick­ets, videos and pho­tos in Ukraine or Geor­gian mil­i­tary, and oth­er evi­dence to affirm their cred­i­bil­i­ty. He added that some of their iden­ti­ties were ver­i­fied by the Ukrain­ian bor­der guard ser­vice and the Armen­ian and Belaru­sian author­i­ties for the Maid­an mas­sacre tri­al in Ukraine.

    “The Maid­an mas­sacre tri­al in Novem­ber 2021 admit­ted and showed as evi­dence a tes­ti­mo­ny of one of these Geor­gians who con­fessed of being a mem­ber of a group of Maid­an snipers,” Katchanovs­ki stat­ed.

    Tes­ti­monies of 7 Geor­gians cor­rob­o­rate find­ings of my aca­d­e­m­ic stud­ies that both Maid­an pro­test­ers & police were mas­sa­cred by snipers in Maid­an-con­trolled Music Con­ser­va­to­ry & Hotel Ukraina in false flag mas­sacre with Maid­an lead­ers & far right involve­ment https://t.co/4HVM9TK7an— Ivan Katchanovs­ki (@I_Katchanovski) Decem­ber 21, 2021

    The US mem­bers of Con­gress that host­ed Mamu­lashvili were either unaware of these alle­ga­tions or believed the Geor­gian war­lord was sim­ply inno­cent.

    A war­lord goes to Wash­ing­ton

    As this reporter recent­ly doc­u­ment­ed for The Gray­zone, pho­tos post­ed by Mamu­lashvili on his Face­book page show the Geor­gian hard-man inside the US Capi­tol rub­bing elbows with some of the top fig­ures on the House For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee.

    His hosts includ­ed then-Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Car­olyn Mal­oney, for­mer Rep. Sander Levin, Rep. Andre Car­son, Rep. Doug Lam­born, and for­mer Rep. Dana Rohrabach­er.

    Addi­tion­al pho­tos show him vis­it­ing Sen­ate offices, includ­ing that of Sen. Dianne Fein­stein, the for­mer chair of the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and Kris­ten Gili­brand, who sits on the Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee as well as the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

    ...

    Mamulashvili’s mul­ti­ple trips to the Unit­ed States have offered him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to attend events at the Ukrain­ian embassy in Wash­ing­ton, give talks at Saint George Acad­e­my, a Ukrain­ian Catholic School in the Low­er East Side of Man­hat­tan, and hold forth in an inter­view with the Wash­ing­ton office of US government’s Voice of Amer­i­ca in 2015. He has even posed for pho­to ops with offi­cers of the New York City Police Depart­ment.

    Addi­tion­al pho­tos show Mamu­lashvili hold­ing the flag of the Geor­gian Legion with Nadiya Sha­poryn­s­ka, the founder and pres­i­dent of US Ukrain­ian Activists, a DC-based non-prof­it that has lob­bied mem­bers Con­gress to take mea­sures against Rus­sia, held dai­ly ral­lies out­side of the White House, and fundraised tens of thou­sands of dol­lars to pro­cure sup­plies for the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary and refugees.

    In between these trips, Mamu­lashvili con­struct­ed three train­ing bases and recruit­ed hun­dreds of fight­ers. Some pho­tos he post­ed to Face­book show the warlord’s sub­or­di­nates train­ing chil­dren (below) for bat­tle against Rus­sia. The prac­tice of cul­ti­vat­ing chil­dren for war­fare is shared by Ukraine’s more noto­ri­ous Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    US vol­un­teer with the Geor­gian Legion details exe­cu­tions, flees after threats

    In March, this reporter inter­viewed Hen­ry Hoeft, a US army vet­er­an who accept­ed Zelensky’s appeal for for­eign fight­ers and vol­un­teered for the Geor­gian Legion.

    Hoeft told The Gray­zone that mem­bers of the legion threat­ened to kill him when he refused to go to the front lines with­out a weapon. Heft also recalled how Geor­gian fight­ers put bags over the heads of two men who blew through a check­point and exe­cut­ed them on the spot, accus­ing them of being spies for Rus­sia.

    While West­ern reporters have pre­sent­ed Mamu­lashvili as a brave and tac­ti­cal­ly deft bat­tle­field com­man­der since he entered the fight against Rus­sia in Ukraine, his unit has also received men­tion in arti­cles over the years on the unsa­vory fig­ures it has wel­comed into its ranks: neo-Nazis, bank rob­bers and fugi­tives like Craig Lang, who is want­ed in the Unit­ed States on sus­pi­cion of mur­der­ing a mar­ried cou­ple in Flori­da.

    In the east of Ukraine, where Lang spoke to the media on behalf of the Geor­gian Legion (then some­times called the “For­eign Legion”) from the front lines, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and FBI have inves­ti­gat­ed Lang and sev­en oth­er Amer­i­cans for war crimes. The group alleged­ly took “non-com­bat­ants” as pris­on­ers and tor­tured them, some­times to death before bur­ial in an unmarked grave.

    Mamulashvili’s Face­book page con­tains an un-cap­tioned pho­to­graph of the Amer­i­can fugi­tive.

    As the war in Ukraine inten­si­fies and the US deep­ens its com­mit­ment to esca­lat­ing it, top for­eign pol­i­cy fig­ures in Wash­ing­ton are wag­ging a fin­ger at Rus­sia with one hand and lit­er­al­ly shak­ing the hand of Mamu­lashvili, an avowed war crim­i­nal, with the oth­er.

    ———-

    “US law­mak­ers wel­comed noto­ri­ous Geor­gian war­lord now boast­ing of war crimes in Ukraine” by Alexan­der Rubin­stein; The Gray Zone; 04/08/2022

    “In an inter­view this April, Mamu­lashvili, was asked about a video show­ing Russ­ian fight­ers who had been extra­ju­di­cial­ly exe­cut­ed in Dmitro­v­ka, a town just five miles from Bucha. Mamu­lashvili was can­did about his unit’s take-no-pris­on­ers tac­tics, though he has denied involve­ment in the spe­cif­ic crimes depict­ed.”

    Yes, Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili did­n’t actu­al­ly deny com­mit­ting war crimes in that recent inter­view when shown a video of Russ­ian POWs exe­cut­ed extra­ju­di­cial­ly. He just denied com­mit­ting spe­cif­ic war crimes. But he did­n’t mince words: under his orders, the Geor­gian Legion is def­i­nite­ly going to be exe­cut­ing POWs. Every sin­gle POW they come across. Some­times they’re killed with their hands and feet bound. Some­times not. But all POWs under their care will be exe­cut­ed. And in case he was­n’t clear, the sum­ma­ry exe­cu­tion of POWs in these videos should make that abun­dant­ly clear. They aren’t hid­ing this stuff:

    ...

    “We will not take Russ­ian sol­diers, as well as Kady­rovites [Chech­nyan fight­ers]; in any case, we will not take pris­on­ers, not a sin­gle per­son will be cap­tured,” Mamu­lashvili said, imply­ing that his fight­ers exe­cute POWs.

    The warlord’s bat­tle dress shirt was embla­zoned with a patch read­ing, “Mama says I’m spe­cial.”

    ...

    “Yes, we tie their hands and feet some­times. I speak for the Geor­gian Legion, we will nev­er take Russ­ian sol­diers pris­on­er. Not a sin­gle one of them will be tak­en pris­on­er,” Mamu­lashvili empha­sized

    Exe­cu­tions of ene­my com­bat­ants are con­sid­ered war crimes under the Gene­va Con­ven­tion.

    ...

    The macabre footage shows Russ­ian para­troop­ers dead or bleed­ing out in the road, some with their hands clear­ly bound — report­ed­ly the hand­i­work of the Geor­gian Legion.

    Cel­e­brat­ing the ambush’s suc­cess, the video­g­ra­ph­er calls the atten­tion of his fel­low sol­diers: “Geor­gians! Bel­gravia, boys!” Bel­gravia refers to a near­by hous­ing com­plex from which some of the non-Geor­gian fight­ers pre­sum­ably hail.

    “Look, he is still alive,” one of the fight­ers says as a Russ­ian writhes in a pool of blood. He was then shot three times at close range.
    ...

    But the exe­cu­tion of POWs is just one of major forms of crime we can attribute to Mamu­lashvili and his Geor­gian Legion. Because as we’ve seen, the foren­sic analy­sis by Pro­fes­sor Ivan Katchanovs­ki of the sniper attacks dur­ing the Maid­an protests that led up to the col­lapse of Vik­tor Yanukovy­ch’s pres­i­den­cy in 2014 point­ed the fin­ger direct­ly at mem­bers of the Geor­gian Legion car­ry­ing out the attack against both pro­tes­tors and the police. Actu­al­ly, it was more the mem­bers of the Geor­gian Legion who them­selves admit­ted this and Katchanovski’s analy­sis that found their admis­sions where con­sis­tent with the rest of the avail­able evi­dence:

    ...
    The most dead­ly inci­dent dur­ing the 2013–14 riots and protests on Kiev’s Maid­an Square that even­tu­al­ly led to the ouster of Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych was the mas­sacre of 49 demon­stra­tors on Feb­ru­ary 20, 2014. The inci­dent gal­va­nized inter­na­tion­al out­rage against Yanukovych and weak­ened his government’s nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion. Yet it remains shroud­ed in intrigue.

    Dur­ing the col­or rev­o­lu­tion on the Maid­an, Mamu­lashvili ral­lied his old war bud­dies to take up Ukraine’s cause. Near the cen­tral square, his group was report­ed­ly “told to ensure order so that there were no drunks, to main­tain dis­ci­pline and iden­ti­fy rab­ble-rousers sent in by the author­i­ties.”

    Mamulashvili’s for­mer com­rades told Russ­ian media that he even­tu­al­ly told them “it is nec­es­sary to cre­ate chaos on the Maid­an, using weapons against any tar­gets, pro­test­ers and police — no dif­fer­ence.”

    ...

    Today, some researchers point to Mamu­lashvili and his Geor­gian Legion­naires as key sus­pects behind the mys­te­ri­ous killings. Ivan Katchanovs­ki, a pro­fes­sor of polit­i­cal sci­ence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ottawa, is among those who believe Mamulashvili’s allies were like­ly among those who fired on pro­test­ers from build­ings over Maid­an Square, gen­er­at­ing blood­shed that was ulti­mate­ly blamed on Ukraine’s then-gov­ern­ment.

    “Tes­ti­monies by sev­er­al Geor­gian self-admit­ted mem­bers of Maid­an sniper groups for the Maid­an mas­sacre tri­al and inves­ti­ga­tion and their inter­views in Amer­i­can, Ital­ian and Israeli TV doc­u­men­taries and Mace­don­ian and Russ­ian media are gen­er­al­ly con­sis­tent with find­ings of my aca­d­e­m­ic stud­ies of the Maid­an mas­sacre,” Katchanovs­ki com­ment­ed to The Gray­zone.

    While Katchanovs­ki said his aca­d­e­m­ic research did not focus on the involve­ment of spe­cif­ic indi­vid­u­als in the mas­sacre, he stat­ed that most of the Geor­gians who tes­ti­fied in the tri­al revealed their names, pass­port num­bers and bor­der stamps, copies of plane tick­ets, videos and pho­tos in Ukraine or Geor­gian mil­i­tary, and oth­er evi­dence to affirm their cred­i­bil­i­ty. He added that some of their iden­ti­ties were ver­i­fied by the Ukrain­ian bor­der guard ser­vice and the Armen­ian and Belaru­sian author­i­ties for the Maid­an mas­sacre tri­al in Ukraine.

    “The Maid­an mas­sacre tri­al in Novem­ber 2021 admit­ted and showed as evi­dence a tes­ti­mo­ny of one of these Geor­gians who con­fessed of being a mem­ber of a group of Maid­an snipers,” Katchanovs­ki stat­ed.
    ...

    And then there’s Craig Lang’s his­to­ry with this group. Recall how Ukrain­ian courts refused to turn Lang over to US inves­ti­ga­tors after he claimed asy­lum. Also recall how Lang end­ed up join­ing the Geor­gian Nation­al Legion after leav­ing Right Sec­tor. Dur­ing his time with Right Sec­tor, Lang was also involved in recruit­ing anoth­er Amer­i­can, Jar­ret William Smith, to join the group, but warned Smith that “you may also be asked to kill cer­tain peo­ple who become on the bad graces of cer­tain groups.” Smith end­ed up join­ing the US mil­i­tary in 2017. So to learn that Lang is now being inves­ti­gat­ed by the US for alleged war crimes dur­ing his time in Ukraine with the Geor­gian Legion is about as unsur­pris­ing an update as we could expect:

    ...
    In between these trips, Mamu­lashvili con­struct­ed three train­ing bases and recruit­ed hun­dreds of fight­ers. Some pho­tos he post­ed to Face­book show the warlord’s sub­or­di­nates train­ing chil­dren (below) for bat­tle against Rus­sia. The prac­tice of cul­ti­vat­ing chil­dren for war­fare is shared by Ukraine’s more noto­ri­ous Azov Bat­tal­ion.

    ...

    In March, this reporter inter­viewed Hen­ry Hoeft, a US army vet­er­an who accept­ed Zelensky’s appeal for for­eign fight­ers and vol­un­teered for the Geor­gian Legion.

    Hoeft told The Gray­zone that mem­bers of the legion threat­ened to kill him when he refused to go to the front lines with­out a weapon. Heft also recalled how Geor­gian fight­ers put bags over the heads of two men who blew through a check­point and exe­cut­ed them on the spot, accus­ing them of being spies for Rus­sia.

    While West­ern reporters have pre­sent­ed Mamu­lashvili as a brave and tac­ti­cal­ly deft bat­tle­field com­man­der since he entered the fight against Rus­sia in Ukraine, his unit has also received men­tion in arti­cles over the years on the unsa­vory fig­ures it has wel­comed into its ranks: neo-Nazis, bank rob­bers and fugi­tives like Craig Lang, who is want­ed in the Unit­ed States on sus­pi­cion of mur­der­ing a mar­ried cou­ple in Flori­da.

    In the east of Ukraine, where Lang spoke to the media on behalf of the Geor­gian Legion (then some­times called the “For­eign Legion”) from the front lines, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and FBI have inves­ti­gat­ed Lang and sev­en oth­er Amer­i­cans for war crimes. The group alleged­ly took “non-com­bat­ants” as pris­on­ers and tor­tured them, some­times to death before bur­ial in an unmarked grave.

    Mamulashvili’s Face­book page con­tains an un-cap­tioned pho­to­graph of the Amer­i­can fugi­tive.

    As the war in Ukraine inten­si­fies and the US deep­ens its com­mit­ment to esca­lat­ing it, top for­eign pol­i­cy fig­ures in Wash­ing­ton are wag­ging a fin­ger at Rus­sia with one hand and lit­er­al­ly shak­ing the hand of Mamu­lashvili, an avowed war crim­i­nal, with the oth­er.
    ...

    It’s worth not­ing that the inves­ti­ga­tion into Lang’s war crimes against civil­ians appears to be focused on his time with Right Sec­tor, before he joined the Geor­gian Legion. But we obvi­ous­ly should­n’t assume Lang’s war crimes end­ed after join­ing the Geor­gian Legion, as Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili made abun­dant­ly clear in that recent POW exe­cu­tion video.

    And that’s all why the ques­tions about pos­si­ble war crimes com­mit­ted by the Geor­gian Legion in the area around Bucha should­n’t be lim­it­ed to ques­tions about this noto­ri­ous Geor­gian mer­ce­nar­ies with a track record for false flag oper­a­tions.
    It also includes ques­tions about all the for­eign Nazi war crim­i­nals like Craig Lang who have sub­se­quent­ly joined the group in recent years. Includ­ing ques­tions like whether or not Lang is ever going to be extra­dit­ed back the US or just live as a war hero in Ukraine indef­i­nite­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 11, 2022, 4:31 pm
  11. Here’s a pair of arti­cles relat­ed to the ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into the alleged civil­ian atroc­i­ties and war crimes com­mit­ted by Russ­ian forces in Bucha. As we’ve seen, one of the ques­tions raised by the war crimes claims is whether or not any satel­lite evi­dence exists of the mass grave dur­ing the time that Russ­ian forces were occu­py­ing the city since the pho­tos we have been shown were from March 31, short­ly after Russ­ian sol­diers left the area. That with­draw­al date from Bucha was March 29 accord­ing to the fol­low­ing WSJ arti­cle. An arti­cle that pro­vides some cru­cial con­text to what was actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing in Bucha. Specif­i­cal­ly, intense urban com­bat that began almost from the very begin­ning.

    Sim­i­lar to the sto­ries we heard out of Trostyanets — where Russ­ian occu­piers were ini­tial­ly quite friend­ly until they were rotat­ed out and replaced with sol­diers from the sep­a­ratist regions who were far more bru­tal — it sounds like the Russ­ian forces were also quite friend­ly at first. But after around a week a intense fight­ing that friend­li­ness gave way to an announced 4 PM cur­few. The cur­few was focused on Yablun­ska Street, the street where all of the bod­ies were found lay­ing there after Russ­ian forces pulled out. Any­one found on the street after the cur­few would be shot. Peo­ple still attempt­ed to trav­el down Yablun­ska, despite the warn­ings. And they were indeed shot. It’s a pret­ty remark­able sto­ry over­all.

    The cur­few did­n’t address the sol­diers secu­ri­ty con­cerns and the fight­ing con­tin­ues. On March 10, Russ­ian spe­cial forces began door-to-door raids in res­i­den­tial areas look­ing for peo­ple col­lab­o­rat­ing with the insur­gency. We’re told men began dis­ap­pear­ing around this time, with their bod­ies reap­pear­ing on the street days lat­er with their wrists fas­tened behind their backs.

    So based on that report, the Russ­ian occu­pa­tion of Bucha does­n’t sound like it was intend­ing on ter­ror­iz­ing the pop­u­lace and car­ry­ing out geno­cide like we’re being told. Instead, this sounds like the kind of trag­i­cal­ly typ­i­cal urban com­bat tac­tics we should expect when there’s an intense insur­gency. And as we’re going to see in the sec­ond arti­cle excerpt below, that’s more or less the assess­ment of anony­mous US and UK mil­i­tary ana­lysts who once again spoke with vet­er­an war report Bill Arkin to share their con­cerns about how the pub­lic nar­ra­tives about this con­flict aren’t ground­ed in real­i­ty.

    And, of course, with the recent reports about the Geor­gian Legion exe­cut­ing Russ­ian POWs — a war crime — we are oblig­at­ed to ask the obvi­ous ques­tion about how many of these dead civil­ians were killed by the Ukrain­ian mili­tias fight­ing in this area.

    Ok, first, here’s the WSJ arti­cle describ­ing the civil­ians expe­ri­ence in Bucha. An expe­ri­ence that sounds like an occu­pa­tion that start­ed off friend­ly but became very unfriend­ly as Ukraine’s insur­gency effec­tive­ly beat the Russ­ian sol­diers back into a state of pan­ic and extreme para­noia. An extreme para­noia that man­i­fest­ed in the cur­few being declared around Yablun­ska Street and repeat­ed­ly being vio­lat­ed with lethal con­se­quences:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal

    Hor­rors of Ukraine’s Bucha Laid Bare on Yablun­ska Street
    Russ­ian sol­diers were polite at first, but as their loss­es mount­ed they turned on the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion

    By Breet For­rest and James Mar­son
    April 7, 2022 6:59 pm ET

    BUCHA, Ukraine—In ear­ly March, Volodymyr Borovchenko walked uphill on Yablun­ska Street to get to his job at a home for spe­cial-needs children—and straight into a Russ­ian mil­i­tary no-go zone.

    Russ­ian troops, halt­ed in their advance on Kyiv by Ukrain­ian forces, had occu­pied Bucha days ear­li­er. Telling local res­i­dents they were wor­ried that some­body was report­ing their posi­tions to Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, the Russ­ian sol­diers ordered peo­ple to stay off the street, which runs par­al­lel to the Bucha Riv­er on the south­ern edge of town.

    For Mr. Borovchenko, Yablun­ska was the only way to get to work. A sniper shot the 68-year-old super­in­ten­dent, drop­ping him to the road in front of a shrap­nel-rid­dled green gate, said a friend who lives at the scene. By the time Russ­ian forces retreat­ed last week, 17 corpses lay on Yablun­ska, accord­ing to the friend, who only gave his first and mid­dle names, Vasyl Myko­lay­ovych.

    The shoot­ings on Yablun­ska were part of what res­i­dents and Ukrain­ian offi­cials say was a spree of killing, rap­ing and loot­ing that marked Russia’s month­long occu­pa­tion of Bucha, a well-heeled town on the north­west­ern out­skirts of Kyiv. Sev­er­al hun­dred civil­ians were killed there, say Ukrain­ian offi­cials, who want to make Bucha a prime exhib­it for an inves­ti­ga­tion into poten­tial war crimes in areas occu­pied by Russ­ian forces.

    Moscow has denied tar­get­ing civil­ians in its mil­i­tary assault on Ukraine and called the video and pho­to­graph­ic images from Bucha staged.

    Inter­cept­ed radio com­mu­ni­ca­tions by the Ger­man for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice BND record Russ­ian troops talk­ing about the killing of civil­ians in Bucha and oth­er areas in Ukraine before they retreat­ed. The inter­cepts, first report­ed by the Ger­man mag­a­zine Spiegel, were described to Ger­man politi­cians and offi­cials on Wednes­day, accord­ing to one per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    Fac­ing mount­ing loss­es amid stiff resis­tance from Ukrain­ian forces, the Russ­ian sol­diers sta­tioned through­out the city turned their frus­tra­tion on the locals, accord­ing to res­i­dents and Ukrain­ian offi­cials. They killed some to instill ter­ror and oth­ers whom they sus­pect­ed of giv­ing away Russ­ian troop posi­tions, res­i­dents said.

    “They turned into beasts,” said Maria Rusyn, a 48-year-old who said two peo­ple were exe­cut­ed in front of her garage. Blood stains are still vis­i­ble on the garage door.

    Her neigh­bor, Vla­dyslav Ver­hyn­skiy, 31, an army vet­er­an, didn’t return from tak­ing out the trash two weeks ago.

    His moth­er, Lyud­my­la Ver­hyn­s­ka, said she plead­ed with Russ­ian troops sta­tioned in a near­by apart­ment block to pro­vide his loca­tion, to no avail.

    A week lat­er, she said she was scav­eng­ing for fire­wood in the yard of a near­by house when she found her son lying in a pool of blood with most of the front of his face miss­ing. Two neigh­bors who had tak­en refuge in their apart­ment lay beside him.

    Civil­ian deaths piled up so quick­ly in Bucha that the morgue ran out of space, accord­ing to local offi­cials. Some of the dead were buried in a mass grave beside St. Andrew’s Church in the cen­ter of town, and also in hasti­ly dug pits and holes. Dozens of bod­ies lay in the streets.

    “Things you wouldn’t see in a night­mare were hap­pen­ing here,” Ms. Rusyn said.

    On Thurs­day, munic­i­pal work­ers loaded bod­ies col­lect­ed in the past three days into a van at Bucha ceme­tery. Thir­ty-three black body bags lay on the ground, some with names marked on red tape: “Aunt Masha,” “Anya,” “Zhan­na.” Police­men opened the bags and checked them before they were hauled away. One bag con­tained the remains of a boy of around 12 years old. They were trans­port­ed to morgues in near­by cities.

    Russ­ian forces entered Bucha on the fourth day of the war, Feb. 27, as part of the Kremlin’s plan for a light­ning offen­sive to take Ukraine’s cap­i­tal and over­throw its lead­ers. The Russ­ian mil­i­tary, how­ev­er, ran into fierce resis­tance.

    Tanks and oth­er armored vehi­cles coursed down Vokzal­na Street toward the Bucha Riv­er, one of the last nat­ur­al bar­ri­ers between them and Kyiv. A group of 50 Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers on the oth­er side repelled sev­er­al vehi­cles that tried to cross a bridge, send­ing them back past the inter­sec­tion with Yablun­ska. As the armored col­umn moved past tidy gat­ed homes, Ukrain­ian artillery and drones let loose a bar­rage, destroy­ing much of the con­voy and burn­ing Russ­ian sol­diers alive.

    “On the 27th, we went out to look at the destroyed equip­ment,” said Vik­tor Shaty­lo, who lived near the attack site. “We thought that every­thing was already fin­ished, but this was only the begin­ning.”

    After quick­ly push­ing out the Ukrain­ian defend­ers, Russ­ian forces occu­pied Bucha in ear­ly March.

    Locals found the Russ­ian mil­i­tary unpre­pared for occu­pa­tion. Adorned with the let­ter Z in white paint, Russ­ian trucks and cars often lost their way as they drove through town. A group of Russ­ian sol­diers drove up to city hall and ripped a sou­venir map from the wall, a local man said.

    Russ­ian troops occu­pied homes emp­tied by those who had fled, and set up bases and posts through­out town with duty offi­cers work­ing around the clock and cam­ou­flaged armored vehi­cles parked near­by.

    In the occupation’s ear­ly days, some locals said, the Rus­sians treat­ed locals polite­ly, and some troops con­fid­ed that they didn’t under­stand the rea­son for com­ing to Bucha or why such a war was worth it.

    Lora Khvorosty­na, who took charge of a kinder­garten where sev­er­al hun­dred locals had sought refuge in the base­ment, went to search for fuel for a gen­er­a­tor when, she said, she bumped into two Russ­ian tanks.

    “Are you f—ing crazy? There’s a sniper here,” she recalled the tank com­man­der warn­ing her.

    He siphoned fuel from an aban­doned car and gave it to her, she said. “If my grand­fa­ther found out I was here, he’d turn in his grave,” she recalled him say­ing. His grand­fa­ther, the man said, was born in Cherni­hiv, in north­ern Ukraine.

    About a week into the occu­pa­tion, locals said, the atmos­phere dark­ened. New mil­i­tary vehi­cles arrived in Bucha car­ry­ing the V.

    Russ­ian troops estab­lished a cur­few, telling locals to remain indoors after 4 p.m., and placed snipers in the town’s tallest build­ings. Locals said they smelled alco­hol on the breath of the Russ­ian sol­diers at check­points.

    Yablun­ska Street became a focus of ten­sion. Across the Bucha Riv­er lay the town of Irpin, where fight­ing was rag­ing between Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian forces. One turn from Yablun­ska and onto Vokzal­na led quick­ly to Irpin.

    Sol­diers warned res­i­dents they had orders to shoot any­one who stepped out onto the street, said Ser­hiy Zubenko, a 56-year-old res­i­dent who lived on Yablun­ska.

    Behind 306B Yablun­ska Street, two Russ­ian sol­diers checked the doc­u­ments of a man named Leonid, as Iry­na Hry­horiv­na, who gave only her first and mid­dle names, watched from her apart­ment win­dow. When Leonid turned to walk away, one of the sol­diers pulled out a gun.

    “He shot him right in the head,” she said. “He fell right next to the car near our win­dow. They stepped over him and left.”

    Russ­ian sol­diers broke into the house of a 39-year-old woman named Natalya, and found audio record­ings on her husband’s cell­phone describ­ing Russ­ian troop move­ments, the woman said.

    They cov­ered her husband’s eyes with a tow­el held in place with tape, Natalya said, and took him to an emp­ty house along the street. Through a small slit, he saw them take away two oth­er men and then heard two shots. Alone on the street for a moment, he made a run for it through yards and over fences.

    The sol­diers returned to Natalya’s house and took her and her 19-year-old son to the base­ment of a near­by res­i­den­tial build­ing where the local com­man­der was based.

    “Take her away and shoot her,” she recalled one of the sol­diers say­ing. They didn’t, she said, and instead kept her cap­tive in her home, wait­ing for her husband’s return.

    Far­ther down Yablun­ska Street, Russ­ian troops took over the Bucha Glass­works Fac­to­ry, which locals said became a site of dis­ap­pear­ances and mur­der.

    From the bal­cony on her near­by eighth-floor apart­ment, a woman eaves­dropped on Russ­ian sol­diers who lived on the floor above her. They were dis­cussing a group of three men who had emerged from a base­ment and were crouched in the court­yard around an open fire to cook a meal. She watched as bul­lets rained down on the men, felling them all.

    Around Bucha, Russ­ian forces were get­ting bogged down. Ukrain­ian army detach­ments worked secret­ly in Bucha and oth­er Russ­ian-occu­pied areas. Spe­cial-forces units lobbed grenades at Russ­ian posts, helped guide artillery strikes and fired small arms from high win­dows. The Russ­ian sol­diers began to scru­ti­nize the local pop­u­la­tion more fierce­ly, accord­ing to res­i­dents.

    “They saw a spot­ter in every per­son who lived on the fifth floor,” said Leonid Cherkassy, a Bucha res­i­dent. “They saw a com­man­do in each of us.”

    On March 10, spe­cial Russ­ian units swept through Bucha’s res­i­den­tial sec­tors, destroy­ing doors with fire axes and storm­ing homes, try­ing to root out the cause for their con­tin­u­ing local trou­bles. Search­ing for men on a list of those who had fought in Ukraine’s Don­bas region, which Rus­sia covert­ly invad­ed in 2014, they round­ed up any­one who aroused their sus­pi­cion.

    Around Bucha, Russ­ian forces were get­ting bogged down. Ukrain­ian army detach­ments worked secret­ly in Bucha and oth­er Russ­ian-occu­pied areas. Spe­cial-forces units lobbed grenades at Russ­ian posts, helped guide artillery strikes and fired small arms from high win­dows. The Russ­ian sol­diers began to scru­ti­nize the local pop­u­la­tion more fierce­ly, accord­ing to res­i­dents.

    “They saw a spot­ter in every per­son who lived on the fifth floor,” said Leonid Cherkassy, a Bucha res­i­dent. “They saw a com­man­do in each of us.”

    Around Bucha, men began dis­ap­pear­ing, their bod­ies reap­pear­ing on the street days lat­er with their wrists fas­tened behind their backs.

    “They killed a lot of peo­ple, pulled them out of the base­ment and killed them,” said a man from Bucha who gave his name as Olek­san­dr Vik­torovych. “They tied their hands, made them squat down and killed them.”

    The Russ­ian units col­lect­ed their tanks and artillery bat­ter­ies along the town’s indus­tri­al edges, which gave them a van­tage point to spot any­one who might be spy­ing on their posi­tions.

    Russ­ian troops told locals they were not to leave their court­yards, that the streets were off lim­its, espe­cial­ly Yablun­ska, which Russ­ian com­man­ders had estab­lished as the town’s south­ern bound­ary.

    The war had now come to Bucha in earnest, with Ukrain­ian forces approach­ing and shelling Russ­ian posi­tions.

    Locals were faced with an impos­si­ble deci­sion: with­stand the fight­ing in Bucha or brave an exit through it. Pri­vate cars packed with fam­i­lies edged out onto the road toward Kyiv. Russ­ian troops shot at cars and evac­u­a­tion bus­es.

    “A car with a man with two chil­dren was pass­ing by us, and it was shot,” said a woman who gave her first and mid­dle names as Iry­na Hry­horiv­na. “He drove into a three-sto­ry house and the car caught fire. The chil­dren escaped. He was burned alive.”

    In the after­noons, as cur­few set in, Russ­ian snipers ascend­ed to posi­tions in high ris­es tri­an­gu­lat­ed on the inter­sec­tion of Yablun­ska and Vokzal­na Streets.

    “They told us, ‘You can­not cross along the road,’ ” Iry­na Hry­horiv­na said. “ ‘At all. You can’t go any­where. If you set foot on the side­walk or the road, you were imme­di­ate­ly killed.’ ”

    Peo­ple des­per­ate to flee still made a break for it along the road toward Irpin. The first killing on Yablun­ska befell a woman on a bicy­cle, said Mr. Shaty­lo, who wit­nessed it from his home near the inter­sec­tion with Vokzal­na Street. “First I heard a shot, then I saw her,” he said. “How could a grand­moth­er on a bicy­cle inter­fere with any­one?”

    Sev­er­al days lat­er, Mr. Shaty­lo, peer­ing through a gap in his front gate, saw a man walk­ing up Yablun­ska car­ry­ing a sack of pota­toes. “Then I heard his screams,” he said. “I heard a shot, but I didn’t under­stand what had hap­pened. Every day, new corpses appeared on the street. These were sin­gle, tar­get­ed shots.”

    The Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary pushed toward Bucha from the west and south, and the Russ­ian forces fled the town on March 29.

    ...

    ———–

    “Hor­rors of Ukraine’s Bucha Laid Bare on Yablun­ska Street” By Breet For­rest and James Mar­son; The Wall Street Jour­nal; 04/07/2022

    “The shoot­ings on Yablun­ska were part of what res­i­dents and Ukrain­ian offi­cials say was a spree of killing, rap­ing and loot­ing that marked Russia’s month­long occu­pa­tion of Bucha, a well-heeled town on the north­west­ern out­skirts of Kyiv. Sev­er­al hun­dred civil­ians were killed there, say Ukrain­ian offi­cials, who want to make Bucha a prime exhib­it for an inves­ti­ga­tion into poten­tial war crimes in areas occu­pied by Russ­ian forces.

    Were war crimes com­mit­ted in Bucha? The Ukrain­ian author­i­ties are insist­ing that the case. But with first inter­na­tion­al foren­sic inves­ti­ga­tors only hav­ing arrived in Bucha yes­ter­day to help Ukrain­ian author­i­ties with the inves­ti­ga­tion, it’s not clear how much that much of evi­dence is going to be objec­tive­ly avail­able for a real inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tion. What is clear from all of the eye-wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny is that the occu­pa­tion in Bucha played out much like we’ve heard in oth­er parts of Ukraine: ini­tial­ly, the Russ­ian sol­diers were quite friend­ly, even warn­ing civil­ians about snipers (Ukrain­ian snipers?). But that good­will quick­ly fad­ed after fac­ing stiff resis­tance from the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary and mili­tias. And it sounds like they were fac­ing stiff resis­tance in Bucha almost imme­di­ate­ly, with major fight­ing in Irpin tak­ing place near­by:

    ...
    Russ­ian troops, halt­ed in their advance on Kyiv by Ukrain­ian forces, had occu­pied Bucha days ear­li­er. Telling local res­i­dents they were wor­ried that some­body was report­ing their posi­tions to Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, the Russ­ian sol­diers ordered peo­ple to stay off the street, which runs par­al­lel to the Bucha Riv­er on the south­ern edge of town.

    For Mr. Borovchenko, Yablun­ska was the only way to get to work. A sniper shot the 68-year-old super­in­ten­dent, drop­ping him to the road in front of a shrap­nel-rid­dled green gate, said a friend who lives at the scene. By the time Russ­ian forces retreat­ed last week, 17 corpses lay on Yablun­ska, accord­ing to the friend, who only gave his first and mid­dle names, Vasyl Myko­lay­ovych.

    ...

    Russ­ian forces entered Bucha on the fourth day of the war, Feb. 27, as part of the Kremlin’s plan for a light­ning offen­sive to take Ukraine’s cap­i­tal and over­throw its lead­ers. The Russ­ian mil­i­tary, how­ev­er, ran into fierce resis­tance.

    Tanks and oth­er armored vehi­cles coursed down Vokzal­na Street toward the Bucha Riv­er, one of the last nat­ur­al bar­ri­ers between them and Kyiv. A group of 50 Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers on the oth­er side repelled sev­er­al vehi­cles that tried to cross a bridge, send­ing them back past the inter­sec­tion with Yablun­ska. As the armored col­umn moved past tidy gat­ed homes, Ukrain­ian artillery and drones let loose a bar­rage, destroy­ing much of the con­voy and burn­ing Russ­ian sol­diers alive.

    ...

    In the occupation’s ear­ly days, some locals said, the Rus­sians treat­ed locals polite­ly, and some troops con­fid­ed that they didn’t under­stand the rea­son for com­ing to Bucha or why such a war was worth it.

    Lora Khvorosty­na, who took charge of a kinder­garten where sev­er­al hun­dred locals had sought refuge in the base­ment, went to search for fuel for a gen­er­a­tor when, she said, she bumped into two Russ­ian tanks.

    “Are you f—ing crazy? There’s a sniper here,” she recalled the tank com­man­der warn­ing her.

    He siphoned fuel from an aban­doned car and gave it to her, she said. “If my grand­fa­ther found out I was here, he’d turn in his grave,” she recalled him say­ing. His grand­fa­ther, the man said, was born in Cherni­hiv, in north­ern Ukraine.
    ...

    It was about a week into the occu­pa­tion (so the first week of March?) when a a PM cur­few was imposed, and res­i­dents were warned that they could be shot for leav­ing their homes. It sounds like was specif­i­cal­ly around Yablun­ska where this cur­few was enforced with the most aggres­sive­ly:

    ...
    About a week into the occu­pa­tion, locals said, the atmos­phere dark­ened. New mil­i­tary vehi­cles arrived in Bucha car­ry­ing the V.

    Russ­ian troops estab­lished a cur­few, telling locals to remain indoors after 4 p.m., and placed snipers in the town’s tallest build­ings. Locals said they smelled alco­hol on the breath of the Russ­ian sol­diers at check­points.

    Yablun­ska Street became a focus of ten­sion. Across the Bucha Riv­er lay the town of Irpin, where fight­ing was rag­ing between Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian forces. One turn from Yablun­ska and onto Vokzal­na led quick­ly to Irpin.

    Sol­diers warned res­i­dents they had orders to shoot any­one who stepped out onto the street, said Ser­hiy Zubenko, a 56-year-old res­i­dent who lived on Yablun­ska.

    ...

    Around Bucha, Russ­ian forces were get­ting bogged down. Ukrain­ian army detach­ments worked secret­ly in Bucha and oth­er Russ­ian-occu­pied areas. Spe­cial-forces units lobbed grenades at Russ­ian posts, helped guide artillery strikes and fired small arms from high win­dows. The Russ­ian sol­diers began to scru­ti­nize the local pop­u­la­tion more fierce­ly, accord­ing to res­i­dents.

    “They saw a spot­ter in every per­son who lived on the fifth floor,” said Leonid Cherkassy, a Bucha res­i­dent. “They saw a com­man­do in each of us.”
    ...

    Then, on March 10, a kind of counter-assault by the Russ­ian forces against the Ukrain­ian insur­gents was con­duct­ed. Peo­ple were told not to leave their homes, espe­cial­ly around Yablun­ska. Over­all, the pic­ture emerges of intense urban war­fare between Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian forces focused on the area around Yablun­ska, with counter-insur­gency oper­a­tions and asso­ci­at­ed civil­ian casu­al­ties that we should expect in this kind of urban war­fare com­bat envi­ron­ment:

    ...
    On March 10, spe­cial Russ­ian units swept through Bucha’s res­i­den­tial sec­tors, destroy­ing doors with fire axes and storm­ing homes, try­ing to root out the cause for their con­tin­u­ing local trou­bles. Search­ing for men on a list of those who had fought in Ukraine’s Don­bas region, which Rus­sia covert­ly invad­ed in 2014, they round­ed up any­one who aroused their sus­pi­cion.

    Around Bucha, Russ­ian forces were get­ting bogged down. Ukrain­ian army detach­ments worked secret­ly in Bucha and oth­er Russ­ian-occu­pied areas. Spe­cial-forces units lobbed grenades at Russ­ian posts, helped guide artillery strikes and fired small arms from high win­dows. The Russ­ian sol­diers began to scru­ti­nize the local pop­u­la­tion more fierce­ly, accord­ing to res­i­dents.

    “They saw a spot­ter in every per­son who lived on the fifth floor,” said Leonid Cherkassy, a Bucha res­i­dent. “They saw a com­man­do in each of us.”

    Around Bucha, men began dis­ap­pear­ing, their bod­ies reap­pear­ing on the street days lat­er with their wrists fas­tened behind their backs.

    “They killed a lot of peo­ple, pulled them out of the base­ment and killed them,” said a man from Bucha who gave his name as Olek­san­dr Vik­torovych. “They tied their hands, made them squat down and killed them.”

    The Russ­ian units col­lect­ed their tanks and artillery bat­ter­ies along the town’s indus­tri­al edges, which gave them a van­tage point to spot any­one who might be spy­ing on their posi­tions.

    Russ­ian troops told locals they were not to leave their court­yards, that the streets were off lim­its, espe­cial­ly Yablun­ska, which Russ­ian com­man­ders had estab­lished as the town’s south­ern bound­ary.

    The war had now come to Bucha in earnest, with Ukrain­ian forces approach­ing and shelling Russ­ian posi­tions.
    ...

    Also note that there were appar­ent­ly quite a few civil­ians who went ahead and tried to flee down the Yablun­ska street even after this lethal cur­few was imposed. It points towards the lev­els of poten­tial des­per­a­tion in that area, weeks into the occu­pa­tion. But it also pro­vides a grim expla­na­tion for why there were so many bod­ies on that road fol­low­ing the with­draw­al of Russ­ian forces:

    ...
    Locals were faced with an impos­si­ble deci­sion: with­stand the fight­ing in Bucha or brave an exit through it. Pri­vate cars packed with fam­i­lies edged out onto the road toward Kyiv. Russ­ian troops shot at cars and evac­u­a­tion bus­es.

    “A car with a man with two chil­dren was pass­ing by us, and it was shot,” said a woman who gave her first and mid­dle names as Iry­na Hry­horiv­na. “He drove into a three-sto­ry house and the car caught fire. The chil­dren escaped. He was burned alive.”

    In the after­noons, as cur­few set in, Russ­ian snipers ascend­ed to posi­tions in high ris­es tri­an­gu­lat­ed on the inter­sec­tion of Yablun­ska and Vokzal­na Streets.

    “They told us, ‘You can­not cross along the road,’ ” Iry­na Hry­horiv­na said. “ ‘At all. You can’t go any­where. If you set foot on the side­walk or the road, you were imme­di­ate­ly killed.’ ”

    Peo­ple des­per­ate to flee still made a break for it along the road toward Irpin. The first killing on Yablun­ska befell a woman on a bicy­cle, said Mr. Shaty­lo, who wit­nessed it from his home near the inter­sec­tion with Vokzal­na Street. “First I heard a shot, then I saw her,” he said. “How could a grand­moth­er on a bicy­cle inter­fere with any­one?”

    Sev­er­al days lat­er, Mr. Shaty­lo, peer­ing through a gap in his front gate, saw a man walk­ing up Yablun­ska car­ry­ing a sack of pota­toes. “Then I heard his screams,” he said. “I heard a shot, but I didn’t under­stand what had hap­pened. Every day, new corpses appeared on the street. These were sin­gle, tar­get­ed shots.”
    ...

    Final­ly, just note the spe­cif­ic date we’re giv­en for the with­draw­al of Russ­ian forces out of Bucha: March 29, which is the ear­li­est with­draw­al date we’ve seen report­ed, with most of the reports giv­ing a March 30 or 31 date. It’s also two days before the March 31 satel­lite image pro­vid­ed by Maxar show­ing what appears to be a filled in mass grave near­by a church. So based on this report­ing, the Russ­ian forces had left the area about two days before hta satel­lite pho­to was tak­en, which again rais­es the ques­tion of why we haven’t seen any satel­lite pho­tos of that same area in the days before the Russ­ian forces left:

    ...
    The Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary pushed toward Bucha from the west and south, and the Russ­ian forces fled the town on March 29.
    ...

    And of course we can’t ignore the real­i­ty that the Nazi mili­tia units engaged in urban com­bat in Bucha are them­selves prime sus­pects for civil­ian killings. Or at least should be con­sid­ered prime sus­pects.

    But even if ignore the pos­si­bil­i­ty of civil­ian exe­cu­tions by these mili­tia groups, the trag­ic real­i­ty hav­ing two well equipped armies fight­ing across Bucha — with fight­ing focused on Yablun­ska street — is the kind of sit­u­a­tion where we should expect quite a few civil­ian casu­al­ties. That’s not because Russ­ian troops are bar­bar­ians who are intent on ter­ror­iz­ing the pop­u­lace. It’s because war is pre­dictable hell. And when you fac­tor in the scale of the civil­ian deaths in Bucha with the over­all pop­u­la­tion of the city and the inten­si­ty of the fight­ing, the claims of geno­cide just don’t remote­ly add up. That’s the mes­sage from a group of anony­mous US and UK mil­i­tary ana­lysts who have once against spo­ken with vet­er­an war reporter Bill Arkin to share their con­cerns about how divorced the nar­ra­tive about the con­flict is get­ting from real­i­ty. Con­cerns that include the poten­tial inabil­i­ty to arrive at a peace treaty when you’re lev­el­ing geno­cide accu­sa­tions at every oppor­tu­ni­ty. As these ana­lysts put it, the big les­son out of Bucha is the les­son we should already know: you can’t avoid civil­ian deaths in urban com­bat sit­u­a­tion. What hap­pened in Bucha was­n’t an out­ra­geous war crime that trans­gressed the rules of war. Quite the con­trary, it was the large­ly unavoid­able con­se­quence of intense urban fight­ing and what we should expect in cities across Urkaine as long as the con­flict con­tin­ues. Which is why avoid­ing war in the first place and end­ing it as soon as pos­si­ble should the top pri­or­i­ties:

    Newsweek

    How U.S. Intel­li­gence Sees Rus­si­a’s Behav­ior After Bucha

    By William M. Arkin On 4/12/22 at 11:09 AM EDT

    U.S. intel­li­gence sources call it the Bucha Effect. After Kyiv tri­umphant­ly announced last week­end that Ukrain­ian forces had regained con­trol of Bucha and oth­er north­ern towns, ela­tion quick­ly turned to anguish as civil­ian corpses were found on the streets, some with their hands tied behind their backs, evi­dent­ly shot at close range.

    The images of civil­ian deaths halt­ed nego­ti­a­tions by the two sides, par­tic­u­lar­ly as Kyiv and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty lev­eled accu­sa­tions of war crimes and geno­cide on the part of Rus­sia — accu­sa­tions it has denied.

    Last Wednes­day, Bucha May­or Ana­tolii Fedoruk said that 320 peo­ple had been killed in the town of 37,000. For­eign Min­is­ter Kule­ba called the deaths “mass mur­ders,” claim­ing as well that Russ­ian killing of civil­ians was pre­med­i­tat­ed.

    Mykhai­lo Podolyak, an offi­cial in Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky’s office, said that NATO and the Unit­ed States shared some blame for the civil­ian deaths, say­ing that the pres­sure not to pro­voke Rus­sia had ham­strung Ukraine. “Rus­sia has been shelling and bomb­ing res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods and shoot­ing civil­ians en masse for more than a month now,” he said. The result of the world hold­ing back on sup­port, Podolyak said, was the “anti-human­i­ty of Bucha and oth­er towns.”

    “Hun­dreds, thou­sands mur­dered, torn apart, raped, tied up, raped and mur­dered again. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peace­ful cit­i­zens of Ukraine. Killed with par­tic­u­lar bru­tal­i­ty,” he said.

    “It is ugly,” a senior offi­cial with the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency tells Newsweek. “But we for­get that two peer com­peti­tors fought over Bucha for 36 days, and that the town was occu­pied, that Russ­ian con­voys and posi­tions inside the town were attacked by the Ukraini­ans and vice ver­sa, that ground com­bat was intense, that the town itself was lit­er­al­ly fought over.”

    The offi­cial, who has been con­duct­ing intel­li­gence analy­sis of the Ukraine war and request­ed anonymi­ty to dis­cuss clas­si­fied mat­ters and share per­son­al views, says the Bucha effect led to frozen nego­ti­a­tions and a skewed view of the war.

    “I am not for a sec­ond excus­ing Rus­si­a’s war crimes, nor for­get­ting that Rus­sia invad­ed the coun­try,” says the DIA offi­cial. “But the num­ber of actu­al deaths is hard­ly geno­cide. If Rus­sia had that objec­tive or was inten­tion­al­ly killing civil­ians, we’d see a lot more than less than .01 per­cent in places like Bucha.”

    Behind the polit­i­cal rhetoric lev­eled by Ukrain­ian and west­ern offi­cials, British mil­i­tary intel­li­gence seems to agree with the DIA offi­cial. “Rus­si­a’s depar­ture from north­ern Ukraine leaves evi­dence of the dis­pro­por­tion­ate tar­get­ing of non-com­bat­ants includ­ing the pres­ence of mass graves, the fatal use of hostages as human shields, and min­ing of civil­ian infra­struc­ture,” it said in a tepid state­ment on Sat­ur­day.

    “Dis­pro­por­tion­ate tar­get­ing” is an inter­na­tion­al law stan­dard that bal­ances mil­i­tary objec­tives with the oblig­a­tion to cause the least amount of dam­age to achieve those objec­tives, refer­ring exclu­sive­ly to what hap­pens inside a war—even an ille­gal war.

    “Have the Rus­sians been indis­crim­i­nate? Absolute­ly. But it should­n’t too sur­pris­ing. It’s part and par­cel of the Russ­ian way of war, lin­ing up their artillery guns and let­ting loose,” the DIA offi­cial says. “But here in par­tic­u­lar, in Bucha and the oth­er towns around it—Irpin and Hostomel—there was intense ground fight­ing that involved almost 20 bat­tal­ion tac­ti­cal groups.”

    Inten­si­fy­ing the anger, Russ­ian shelling of Ukrain­ian forces in the south­ern vil­lage of Kram­a­torsk hit a rail­way sta­tion Fri­day, killing some 40 civil­ians, accord­ing to Kyiv.

    “This is an evil that has no bor­ders,” Zelen­sky said, refer­ring to the attack. “Russ­ian non-humans do not aban­don their meth­ods. With­out the strength and courage to oppose us on the bat­tle­field, they are cyn­i­cal­ly destroy­ing the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion.” Kram­a­torsk was pre­sent­ed as anoth­er Bucha, and again pro­voked inter­na­tion­al out­rage.

    But British intel­li­gence was also more cir­cum­spect regard­ing Kram­a­torsk. On Fri­day, it released its dai­ly take on the war, say­ing that “Rus­sia con­tin­ues to hit Ukrain­ian non-com­bat­ants, such as those killed in yes­ter­day’s rock­et strike on Kram­a­torsk rail­way sta­tion in east­ern Ukraine.” It used the word “hit” rather than “tar­get­ed,” sug­gest­ing that the attacks may not have been inten­tion­al.

    Now that Russ­ian forces have com­plet­ed their with­draw­al from north­ern Ukraine, their focus has whol­ly shift­ed to the south­east­ern quad­rant, around Kram­a­torsk. There a com­bi­na­tion of air, mis­sile and artillery strikes pound Ukrain­ian defend­ers.

    Despite the trag­ic lev­els of civil­ian casu­al­ties and dam­age in besieged Mar­i­upol and Kharkiv, the Rus­sians have still not been able to cap­ture any of the cities that have been fought over for weeks. In Don­bas, Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces con­tin­ue to fight over con­trol of the town of Lysy­chan­sk, Popas­na, Rubizne, and Severo­den­sk.

    Ukrain­ian defend­ers have also man­aged to push Russ­ian forces away from Myko­laiv (out­side Don­bas and fur­ther west) and they have made some progress in their move south to recap­ture Kher­son, the first major town that Russ­ian occu­pied in Feb­ru­ary. Ukrain­ian forces are also advanc­ing towards Vol­no­vakha in the south with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of break­ing through to relieve besieged Mar­i­upol, the true site of civil­ian cat­a­stro­phe, where as many as 5,000 res­i­dents have died.

    ...

    On Mon­day, the Office of the Unit­ed Nations High Com­mis­sion­er for Human Rights said it had record­ed 1,793 deaths and 2,439 injuries to civil­ians in all of Ukraine since the war began on Feb­ru­ary 24. U.S. intel­li­gence believes that the true num­ber is some five times greater, as pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by Newsweek.

    “It’s bad,” the DIA offi­cial says. “And I don’t want to say it’s not too bad. But I can’t help but stress that beyond the clam­or, we are not see­ing the war clear­ly. Where there has been intense ground fight­ing and a stand­off between Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces, the destruc­tion is almost total. But in terms of actu­al dam­age in Kyiv or oth­er cities out­side the bat­tle zone, and with regard to the num­ber of civil­ian casu­al­ties over­all, the evi­dence con­tra­dicts the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive.”

    Asked if Bucha and Kram­a­torsk are war crimes, the offi­cial says that that’s an issue for the courts to decide. “A huge part of all of the vocal out­break over war crimes is as much to moti­vate the Ukrain­ian peo­ple to out­rage and sac­ri­fice, as well as to prod a flag­ging pub­lic in the U.S. to con­tin­ue to care.

    “I’m not argu­ing that there aren’t war crimes, but just because there are ter­ri­ble images, it does­n’t mean that there are ... in every case.”

    The offi­cial says that it is dan­ger­ous to attribute one or even sev­er­al graves and scenes of civil­ian dis­as­ter to Russ­ian bar­barism rather than just being real­is­tic about the depre­da­tions of war.

    The offi­cial also wor­ries that attribut­ing the destruc­tive­ness only to Russ­ian con­duct, rather than to war itself, cre­ates future dan­gers.

    “If we blame all the dam­age on Putin, as if he com­mand­ed it and that it is due sole­ly to Russ­ian war crimes, we are going to walk away from Ukraine with some illu­sion in our heads that mod­ern war­fare can be fought more clean­ly, that the Ukraine war is an anom­aly sole­ly cre­at­ed by Rus­si­a’s behav­ior. This war is just demon­strat­ing how destruc­tive any war on this scale would be.”

    “Every­one is now talk­ing about mod­ern­iza­tion of the NATO armies and spend­ing more on prepar­ing for con­ven­tion­al war in the future,” the offi­cial added.

    The offi­cial says that the Ukraine war should be a warn­ing of how impor­tant it is to stop war from start­ing in the first place, and how much more impor­tant it is to have the right defense: strong ter­ri­to­r­i­al forces with abun­dant anti-tank weapons and robust air defens­es.

    “Rus­sia is a paper tiger, a mean and angry tiger, one who will claw us to death if we’re not vig­i­lant. But it’s time, though, to rethink what the defense of Europe should look like rather than to just pile on more arms in the future, as if noth­ing has changed.”

    While the infor­ma­tion war behind the ground war is stalled on the sub­ject of atroc­i­ties, U.S. mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence experts say that nei­ther side has much prospect of defeat­ing the oth­er in the short term. And as a result of that dead­lock, Ukraine is again call­ing for nego­ti­a­tions.

    On Sun­day, Ukrain­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Dmytro Kule­ba told NBC News that if nego­ti­a­tions with Rus­sia help pre­vent at least one more blood­shed, the oppor­tu­ni­ty should be seized.

    “It is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to even think about sit­ting down at the nego­ti­at­ing table with peo­ple who com­mit or seek jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for all these atroc­i­ties and war crimes that have caused such mon­strous dam­age to Ukraine,” he said. “But I under­stand one thing ... I must seize this oppor­tu­ni­ty what­ev­er I feel. If I have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to save a human life, a vil­lage, a city from destruc­tion I will take this oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

    Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky also spoke of nego­ti­a­tions on Sun­day, telling 60 Min­utes of a pos­si­ble meet­ing with Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, tak­ing a shot at NATO and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty for a “bureau­crat­ic” approach to diplo­ma­cy.

    “That’s why the way I am talk­ing to them [the Rus­sians] is absolute­ly jus­ti­fied,” Zelen­sky said. I don’t have any more lives to give. I don’t have any more emo­tions. I’m no longer inter­est­ed in their diplo­ma­cy that leads to the destruc­tion of my coun­try.”

    Zelen­sky says that he envi­sions that the two coun­tries would “fight and bar­gain for a long time” over the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, in essence admit­ting that a ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties could come before Rus­sia with­draws.

    “Maybe it’s heart­less to urge that we look at Ukraine with pre­ci­sion, with­out human emo­tion,” says the DIA offi­cial.

    “But for those who think tens of thou­sands have died and Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly killing civil­ians and pur­su­ing geno­cide, I say that’s even more of an argu­ment to find a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion to cease fight­ing. But noth­ing is going to hap­pen in the com­ing days or weeks to change the real­i­ty on the bat­tle­field. That’s why stop­ping the fight­ing should be our high­est pri­or­i­ty.”

    ————

    “How U.S. Intel­li­gence Sees Rus­si­a’s Behav­ior After Bucha” by William M. Arkin; Newsweek; 04/12/2022

    ““It is ugly,” a senior offi­cial with the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency tells Newsweek. “But we for­get that two peer com­peti­tors fought over Bucha for 36 days, and that the town was occu­pied, that Russ­ian con­voys and posi­tions inside the town were attacked by the Ukraini­ans and vice ver­sa, that ground com­bat was intense, that the town itself was lit­er­al­ly fought over.”

    It was indeed easy to for­get or not even rec­og­nize that there was intense urban com­bat in Bucha from basi­cal­ly the begin­ning of that occu­pa­tion. And as these anony­mous US mil­i­tary ana­lysts relayed to Bill Arkin in this report, as heart­less as it might sound, the real­i­ty is that the lev­el of civil­ian deaths we’re now see­ing in Bucha is more or less exact­ly what we should have expect­ed under an intense urban com­bat envi­ron­ment and a far cry from the grow­ing calls of geno­cide:

    ...
    The offi­cial, who has been con­duct­ing intel­li­gence analy­sis of the Ukraine war and request­ed anonymi­ty to dis­cuss clas­si­fied mat­ters and share per­son­al views, says the Bucha effect led to frozen nego­ti­a­tions and a skewed view of the war.

    “I am not for a sec­ond excus­ing Rus­si­a’s war crimes, nor for­get­ting that Rus­sia invad­ed the coun­try,” says the DIA offi­cial. “But the num­ber of actu­al deaths is hard­ly geno­cide. If Rus­sia had that objec­tive or was inten­tion­al­ly killing civil­ians, we’d see a lot more than less than .01 per­cent in places like Bucha.”

    Behind the polit­i­cal rhetoric lev­eled by Ukrain­ian and west­ern offi­cials, British mil­i­tary intel­li­gence seems to agree with the DIA offi­cial. “Rus­si­a’s depar­ture from north­ern Ukraine leaves evi­dence of the dis­pro­por­tion­ate tar­get­ing of non-com­bat­ants includ­ing the pres­ence of mass graves, the fatal use of hostages as human shields, and min­ing of civil­ian infra­struc­ture,” it said in a tepid state­ment on Sat­ur­day.

    “Dis­pro­por­tion­ate tar­get­ing” is an inter­na­tion­al law stan­dard that bal­ances mil­i­tary objec­tives with the oblig­a­tion to cause the least amount of dam­age to achieve those objec­tives, refer­ring exclu­sive­ly to what hap­pens inside a war—even an ille­gal war.

    “Have the Rus­sians been indis­crim­i­nate? Absolute­ly. But it should­n’t too sur­pris­ing. It’s part and par­cel of the Russ­ian way of war, lin­ing up their artillery guns and let­ting loose,” the DIA offi­cial says. “But here in par­tic­u­lar, in Bucha and the oth­er towns around it—Irpin and Hostomel—there was intense ground fight­ing that involved almost 20 bat­tal­ion tac­ti­cal groups.”

    ...

    “It’s bad,” the DIA offi­cial says. “And I don’t want to say it’s not too bad. But I can’t help but stress that beyond the clam­or, we are not see­ing the war clear­ly. Where there has been intense ground fight­ing and a stand­off between Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces, the destruc­tion is almost total. But in terms of actu­al dam­age in Kyiv or oth­er cities out­side the bat­tle zone, and with regard to the num­ber of civil­ian casu­al­ties over­all, the evi­dence con­tra­dicts the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive.”
    ...

    And as these ana­lyst warn, there are a very real poten­tial con­se­quences to these loose calls of geno­cide, with one major con­se­quence being that it instills in the glob­al pop­u­lace the idea that urban war­fare is indeed some­thing that can be done in a man­ner that avoids civil­ian casu­al­ties, which is a com­plete fan­ta­sy. But more imme­di­ate­ly, it make it rather dif­fi­cult to arrive at a peace agree­ment when you’re accus­ing the oth­er side of war crimes, espe­cial­ly if those war crimes did­n’t actu­al­ly hap­pen:

    ...

    The offi­cial says that it is dan­ger­ous to attribute one or even sev­er­al graves and scenes of civil­ian dis­as­ter to Russ­ian bar­barism rather than just being real­is­tic about the depre­da­tions of war.

    The offi­cial also wor­ries that attribut­ing the destruc­tive­ness only to Russ­ian con­duct, rather than to war itself, cre­ates future dan­gers.

    “If we blame all the dam­age on Putin, as if he com­mand­ed it and that it is due sole­ly to Russ­ian war crimes, we are going to walk away from Ukraine with some illu­sion in our heads that mod­ern war­fare can be fought more clean­ly, that the Ukraine war is an anom­aly sole­ly cre­at­ed by Rus­si­a’s behav­ior. This war is just demon­strat­ing how destruc­tive any war on this scale would be.”

    “Every­one is now talk­ing about mod­ern­iza­tion of the NATO armies and spend­ing more on prepar­ing for con­ven­tion­al war in the future,” the offi­cial added.

    ...

    “Maybe it’s heart­less to urge that we look at Ukraine with pre­ci­sion, with­out human emo­tion,” says the DIA offi­cial.

    “But for those who think tens of thou­sands have died and Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly killing civil­ians and pur­su­ing geno­cide, I say that’s even more of an argu­ment to find a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion to cease fight­ing. But noth­ing is going to hap­pen in the com­ing days or weeks to change the real­i­ty on the bat­tle­field. That’s why stop­ping the fight­ing should be our high­est pri­or­i­ty.”
    ...

    So how many of the civil­ian deaths were due to the Nazi Ukrain­ian mili­tia groups like Azov or the Geor­gian Legion also fight­ing in Bucha at this time? We’ll prob­a­bly nev­er know. But it would be a lunatic assump­tion to con­clude that these groups weren’t the source of quite a few of these killings. Don’t for­get that the same log­ic of try­ing to route out ‘spot­ters’ poten­tial­ly applied to the Ukrain­ian resis­tance too. And when you com­bine that log­ic with the raw bru­tal­i­ty of these Nazi units that already have a long track record of ter­ror­iz­ing the Ukrain­ian civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, and add in the fact that these groups know that almost any civil­ian atroc­i­ties they com­mit will end up being blamed on the Russ­ian occu­piers, and you’re look­ing at the per­fect storm for Nazi atroc­i­ties.

    And don’t for­get the oth­er side of this equa­tion: as the Ukrain­ian forces press into the Don­bas area with the poten­tial goal of ‘lib­er­at­ing’ the sep­a­ratist republics, all of the log­ic of urban war­fare goes in reverse. It’s going to be Ukrain­ian forces occu­py­ing those cities. Don’t for­get that if Ukraine intends on recap­tur­ing those ter­ri­to­ries it’s look­ing at a years of a poten­tial occu­pa­tion of that area. When Volodymyr Zelen­skiy warned that the future of Ukraine is going to look like Israel, he was­n’t kid­ding. But if these mil­i­tary ana­lysts are cor­rect, we should absolute­ly expect the same kinds of civil­ian casu­al­ties when the ‘lib­er­a­tion’ of Don­bas occurs. What kind of inter­na­tion­al response is there going to be to the inevitable civil­ian casu­al­ties expe­ri­enced there? Since it will prob­a­bly be an Israeli-like years-long occu­pa­tion, we’ll have plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to find out.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 13, 2022, 4:36 pm
  12. Here’s an arti­cle from a few weeks ago that flesh­es out some of back­ground con­text of the dis­turb­ing reports of open war crimes being com­mit­ted by the Geor­gian Legion fol­low­ing the release of videos show­ing the exe­cu­tion of Russ­ian POWs in the area near Bucha. As we saw, the leader of the Geor­gian Legion, Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili, was very open in inter­views about how his unit was not going to take any live pris­on­ers. Mamu­lashvili has pre­vi­ous­ly been wel­comed by mem­bers of con­gress in the US. Mamu­lashvili is turn­ing into a rather ‘clas­sic’ fig­ure in terms of US for­eign pol­i­cy: a bru­tal war crim­i­nal who con­ve­nient­ly shares the US’s adver­saries.

    As we’re going to see in the fol­low­ing Politi­co arti­cle, Mamu­lashvili is devel­op­ing stronger ties to the US via this con­flict in anoth­er way: direct­ly recruit­ing US mil­i­tary vet­er­ans to serv­er in the Geor­gian Legion. As Mamu­lashvili describes it, they don’t sim­ply need peo­ple will­ing to fight. They need expe­ri­enced vet­er­ans with bat­tle­field expe­ri­ence. And if you’re recruit­ing around the globe for peo­ple with bat­tle­field expe­ri­ence, it’s hard to find a place with more vet­er­ans of fight­ing age than the US. Sure enough, it sounds like the major­i­ty of Mamu­lashvil­i’s Geor­gian Legion in Ukraine is now com­prised of recruits from the US, UK, and Geor­gia.

    Beyond that, the new­ly formed Inter­na­tion­al Legion of Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense of Ukraine — which is sep­a­rate from the Geor­gian Legion — is also recruit­ing heav­i­ly from the US. Cana­da, with its large Ukrain­ian-Cana­di­an dias­po­ra, is also turn­ing out to be a major source of recruit­ment.

    So the next time we hear about the open war crimes being com­mit­ted by the Geor­gian Legion or any of the oth­er for­eign vol­un­teer units oper­at­ing in Ukraine, it’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind that there’s a grow­ing num­ber of US, UK, and Cana­di­an war vet­er­ans who are going to be embed­ded in these units:

    Politi­co

    Band of oth­ers: Ukraine’s legions of for­eign sol­diers are on the front­line

    Up to 20,000 vol­un­teers — from all over the world — have joined up to fight Russ­ian invaders. The com­man­ders say they’re weed­ing out “blood­thirsty guys” and “extrem­ists.”

    By Andy Blatch­ford
    03/24/2022 05:33 PM EDT
    Updat­ed: 03/25/2022 03:58 PM EDT

    Com­man­der Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili says he ques­tions the inten­tions of every vol­un­teer who wants to join his for­eign fight­er bat­tal­ion in Ukraine.

    “I need only one moti­va­tion … to save peo­ple and save civil­ians,” Mamu­lashvili, who leads around 700 sol­diers in the Geor­gian Legion, told POLITICO in a phone inter­view from an undis­closed loca­tion in Ukraine.

    “I don’t want blood­thirsty guys who want to come and just shoot some­body.”

    Mamu­lashvili has been weed­ing out recruits with rad­i­cal views or with ties to right-wing orga­ni­za­tions: “We are avoid­ing extrem­ists — we don’t want them here.”

    His fight­ers are now at war with Rus­sia, and he’s look­ing for more vol­un­teers.

    A month into Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s full-scale assault on Ukraine, fight­ing groups made up of vet­er­ans from abroad are see­ing com­bat.

    Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy said ear­li­er this month that 16,000 for­eign­ers had trav­eled to his coun­try to fight Russ­ian forces. A few days lat­er, the vol­un­teer ranks were esti­mat­ed at 20,000, Ukrain­ian Brigadier Gen­er­al Kyry­lo Budanov told CNN.

    Mamu­lashvili com­mands pro­fes­sion­al sol­diers from dozens of coun­tries, the bulk of which come from the Unit­ed States, Unit­ed King­dom and his native Geor­gia — which has also been invad­ed by Rus­sia.

    He offered a clos­er look at the work of the Geor­gian Legion, which has been recruit­ing and train­ing bat­tal­ions in Ukraine since April 2014, just weeks after Rus­sia start­ed its annex­a­tion of Crimea.

    Mamu­lashvili said he has per­son­al­ly led sol­diers into bat­tle against the Russ­ian mil­i­tary since Moscow’s full-scale inva­sion began on Feb. 24. Mem­bers of his legion were the first to con­front Rus­sians at the air­port in Hos­tomel, in the Kyiv region, he said.

    Asked what it’s like on the front line, Mamu­lashvili says one thing that’s changed dur­ing the past eight years of com­bat is the pound­ing from above.

    “It’s airstrikes — per­ma­nent airstrikes and bal­lis­tic mis­siles that are shelling us all the time,” he said, adding a no-fly zone could “save a lot of lives.”

    “Now, while I’m talk­ing with you, I hear heavy shelling. This shelling is not just a sound — it is the lives of chil­dren, women and most­ly the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion. … Bombs are falling on our heads, and we can do noth­ing.”

    His group, he said late last week, had only one injury and no deaths.

    The Geor­gian Legion, which has been work­ing on a con­tract with the Ukrain­ian armed forces, isn’t the only for­eign fight­er orga­ni­za­tion in Ukraine.

    Zelen­skyy estab­lished anoth­er inter­na­tion­al legion short­ly after last month’s Russ­ian inva­sion.

    Cpl. Damien Magrou, a spokesper­son for the Inter­na­tion­al Legion of Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense of Ukraine, says his fight­ing force is made of a large con­tin­gent of British, Amer­i­can and Pol­ish vol­un­teers.

    But fight­ers from the Baltic coun­tries and Cana­da, which has the world’s largest Ukrain­ian dias­po­ra after Rus­sia, have shown up in siz­able num­bers. Clus­ters of sol­diers, who know each oth­er well, are arriv­ing togeth­er to join the legion.

    Magrou said he’s wel­comed packs of Cana­di­ans who fought along­side each oth­er in Afghanistan and even a band of neigh­bors from the same Geor­gian vil­lage.

    “The com­mon feel­ing for every­one who’s come and signed up in the legion is that we had an urge to do some­thing about it,” Magrou told POLITICO in a phone inter­view from Ukraine. “We can’t just watch pas­sive­ly as the bombs are falling on civil­ian tar­gets in the big cities of Ukraine.”

    Magrou, a Nor­we­gian who has lived in Kyiv for sev­er­al years, declined to pro­vide specifics on the total num­ber of legionar­ies or details on how many have come from which part of the world.

    When it comes to qual­i­fi­ca­tions, Magrou said a mil­i­tary back­ground on its own isn’t good enough. The legion is look­ing for for­eign fight­ers with live com­bat expe­ri­ence.

    “What we want is for peo­ple to come that have already been in the line of fire,” he said.

    For this rea­son, Amer­i­cans with “con­crete com­bat expe­ri­ence” are very attrac­tive can­di­dates.

    Magrou says U.S. vol­un­teers tend to have back­grounds from a wide vari­ety of con­flict zones — every­thing from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syr­ia, Libya as well as fight­ers with pri­vate con­trac­tor expe­ri­ence in Africa.

    For many of the recruits from Cen­tral and East­ern Europe, he said the fight is per­son­al — they’re going to the front lines to defend the region, not just Ukraine.

    “Kyiv is, in a way, my home as well,” Magrou said of his deci­sion to join the legion as sup­port staff. “And I don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly appre­ci­ate being kicked out of my home by invaders, espe­cial­ly not when it’s done with such ghast­ly bru­tal­i­ty.”

    The legion has already sent units into com­bat.

    “For now, they’re being inte­grat­ed into local com­mand struc­tures,” said Magrou. He declined to say if any legionar­ies have been injured or killed, cit­ing the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary pol­i­cy of not com­ment­ing on its own casu­al­ties.

    The war’s death toll is believed to already be in the thou­sands.

    A NATO esti­mate this week said between 7,000 and 15,000 Russ­ian sol­diers had been killed dur­ing the first four weeks. About two weeks after the inva­sion, Zelen­skyy said some 1,300 mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary had been killed.

    Russ­ian forces have appeared to tar­get for­eign vol­un­teers. This month, Russ­ian rock­ets killed 25 peo­ple in a strike on a mil­i­tary train­ing cen­ter in the west­ern Ukrain­ian city of Yavoriv.

    The base, about 15 miles from the Pol­ish bor­der, was train­ing hun­dreds of vol­un­teers at the time of the attack, accord­ing to an ABC News report.

    Magrou wouldn’t con­firm or deny that mem­bers of the legion were using the facil­i­ty at the time. He insist­ed that no legionar­ies were injured by the mis­siles.

    The legions’ for­eign recruits are wel­come to bring pret­ty much any piece of equip­ment with them, includ­ing bul­let­proof vests, as long as it’s not a weapon.

    Magrou declined, how­ev­er, to get into specifics about the weapons and full pro­tec­tive gear that vol­un­teers receive before head­ing into the bat­tle­field.

    At the Geor­gian Legion, Mamu­lashvili said only pro­fes­sion­al sol­diers are accept­ed. Most receive an AK assault rifle and, for those who know how to use them, anti-tank weapons.

    To Mamu­lashvili, it makes no dif­fer­ence where the recruits come from.

    “I’m not count­ing nation­al­i­ties,” he said.

    While most legion recruits have come from Geor­gia, the U.S. and the U.K., the group has fight­ers from more than 30 coun­tries.

    Despite being born under so many dif­fer­ent flags, the com­man­der says it’s been “easy” for the sol­diers to work togeth­er, in squads of rough­ly 14 peo­ple. Many have sim­i­lar com­bat expe­ri­ence from such deploy­ments as Iraq and Afghanistan.

    While Mamulashvili’s group has com­bined units of dif­fer­ent nation­al­i­ties, Magrou says the Ukrain­ian legion has made efforts to keep sol­diers togeth­er based on coun­try of ori­gin and lan­guage.

    For exam­ple, the Cana­di­ans in Ukraine’s legion make up a unique con­tin­gent.

    A “large, large major­i­ty” of the Cana­di­an recruits are of Ukrain­ian descent and many have arrived with “old com­rades-in-arms” from their tours in Afghanistan, Magrou said.

    In Ukraine, Cana­di­ans who know each oth­er have been grouped in pla­toons, along with oth­er Eng­lish-speak­ing vol­un­teers.

    Zelen­skyy used an emo­tion­al speech to Canada’s Par­lia­ment last week to call on Cana­di­ans with Ukrain­ian roots — who num­ber around 1.4 mil­lion — to help his coun­try.

    “This is a his­tor­i­cal moment and we need your sup­port — your prac­ti­cal sup­port,” said Zelen­skyy, who stopped short of specifics. “We hope that with your prac­ti­cal steps you will show that you are part of more than Ukrain­ian his­to­ry.”

    Magrou said he heard in Zelenskyy’s mes­sage an appeal for Ukrain­ian-Cana­di­ans to take up arms against Rus­sia.

    The Cana­di­an Armed Forces has instruct­ed its mem­bers — includ­ing those in its reg­u­lar force, reserves and those on leave — to stay away from the region.

    Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen, Canada’s vice-chief of the defense staff, told a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee Wednes­day that the direc­tive came from Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre. The only excep­tion to the pro­hi­bi­tion are per­son­nel with approval from Eyre, she said.

    Cana­da has warned would-be fight­ers about the risks of going to Ukraine’s con­flict zone as well as the pos­si­bil­i­ty the Russ­ian regime could use the pres­ence of Cana­di­an mer­ce­nar­ies as part of the Kremlin’s pro­pa­gan­da machine. Allen warned that Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion may use the engage­ment of for­eign fight­ers in Ukraine in “coun­ter­pro­duc­tive” ways that could com­pro­mise the efforts of Ukraine’s West­ern allies.

    Magrou said Geor­gians have also arrived in groups.

    “I remem­ber one of the first days we had a large group of Geor­gians who all came from one small vil­lage in Geor­gia,” he said. “It was like half the vil­lage had decid­ed to come and fight.”

    The more-estab­lished Geor­gian Legion, Mamu­lashvili says, has noth­ing in com­mon with the new­er Inter­na­tion­al Legion of Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense of Ukraine.

    Mamu­lashvili him­self has an exten­sive mil­i­tary back­ground and, as a vet­er­an of the Russ­ian-Geor­gian war, sig­nif­i­cant expe­ri­ence fight­ing Russ­ian forces.

    At 14 years old, he said he and his father — a mil­i­tary gen­er­al — were cap­tured by Rus­sians. Mamu­lashvili was swapped for anoth­er pris­on­er after three months in cap­tiv­i­ty, while his father was held for two years.

    “The sto­ry of our family’s fight against Russ­ian impe­r­i­al ambi­tions takes us very, very deep in his­to­ry,” he said. “We were fight­ing Rus­sia for a long time, and for me it became very nat­ur­al.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Band of oth­ers: Ukraine’s legions of for­eign sol­diers are on the front­line” By Andy Blatch­ford; Politi­co; 03/24/2022

    “Mamu­lashvili has been weed­ing out recruits with rad­i­cal views or with ties to right-wing orga­ni­za­tions: “We are avoid­ing extrem­ists — we don’t want them here.””

    Mamu­lashvili is doing the extrem­ism fil­ter­ing him­self. Isn’t that reas­sur­ing. The guy who was just brag­ging in video about how no Russ­ian pris­on­ers will be tak­en alive is the per­son mak­ing the ‘extrem­ist’ judge­ment call.

    But as is always the case with these kinds of con­flicts, the con­cerns about extrem­ists get­ting mil­i­tary train­ing isn’t lim­it­ed to con­cerns about how those extrem­ists are going to be behave in the war zone. Those extrem­ists are going to even­tu­al­ly head back home with now mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence and affil­i­a­tions with a glob­al net­work of fel­low extrem­ists.

    But also note the tar­get recruit that Mamu­lashvili is describ­ing: US war vets with com­bat expe­ri­ence. Even more dis­turb­ing is that it sounds like the Geor­gian Legion has had quite a bit of suc­cess in recruit­ing vets from both the US and UK:

    ...
    Mamu­lashvili com­mands pro­fes­sion­al sol­diers from dozens of coun­tries, the bulk of which come from the Unit­ed States, Unit­ed King­dom and his native Geor­gia — which has also been invad­ed by Rus­sia.

    ...

    When it comes to qual­i­fi­ca­tions, Magrou said a mil­i­tary back­ground on its own isn’t good enough. The legion is look­ing for for­eign fight­ers with live com­bat expe­ri­ence.

    “What we want is for peo­ple to come that have already been in the line of fire,” he said.

    For this rea­son, Amer­i­cans with “con­crete com­bat expe­ri­ence” are very attrac­tive can­di­dates.

    Magrou says U.S. vol­un­teers tend to have back­grounds from a wide vari­ety of con­flict zones — every­thing from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syr­ia, Libya as well as fight­ers with pri­vate con­trac­tor expe­ri­ence in Africa.
    ...

    And it’s not just the Geor­gian Legion seek­ing out US vet­er­ans with bat­tle­field expe­ri­ence. The Inter­na­tion­al Legion of Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense of Ukraine also report­ed­ly has a large num­ber of US and UK vol­un­teers. Along with a sub­stan­tial Ukrain­ian-Cana­di­an pres­ence:

    ...
    The Geor­gian Legion, which has been work­ing on a con­tract with the Ukrain­ian armed forces, isn’t the only for­eign fight­er orga­ni­za­tion in Ukraine.

    Zelen­skyy estab­lished anoth­er inter­na­tion­al legion short­ly after last month’s Russ­ian inva­sion.

    Cpl. Damien Magrou, a spokesper­son for the Inter­na­tion­al Legion of Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense of Ukraine, says his fight­ing force is made of a large con­tin­gent of British, Amer­i­can and Pol­ish vol­un­teers.

    ...

    While Mamulashvili’s group has com­bined units of dif­fer­ent nation­al­i­ties, Magrou says the Ukrain­ian legion has made efforts to keep sol­diers togeth­er based on coun­try of ori­gin and lan­guage.

    For exam­ple, the Cana­di­ans in Ukraine’s legion make up a unique con­tin­gent.

    A “large, large major­i­ty” of the Cana­di­an recruits are of Ukrain­ian descent and many have arrived with “old com­rades-in-arms” from their tours in Afghanistan, Magrou said.
    ...

    It’s worth recall­ing how the Cana­di­an mil­i­tary has already been caught train­ing mem­bers of the Nazi Azov bat­tal­ion on Cana­di­an soil. Giv­en that the Cana­di­ans trav­el­ing to fight in Ukraine are like­ly to be com­bat vet­er­ans, you have to won­der how many of them had pre­vi­ous­ly trained with Azov back in Cana­da.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 14, 2022, 4:07 pm
  13. Here’s some info relat­ed to the still unre­solved ques­tion sur­round­ing when exact­ly the mass grave in Bucha was actu­al­ly cre­at­ed. As we’ve seen, an out­lines of a time­line for the mass grave near a Bucha church was appar­ent­ly gen­er­at­ed by satel­lite oper­a­tor Maxar, which released to the pub­lic a pho­to it claims were from March 10 show­ing what is pos­si­bly the start of some sort of exca­va­tion near the site where the grave was even­tu­al­ly found, and a lat­er pho­to tak­en from March 31 show­ing what appears to be the filled up mass grave. And this 21 day before/after gap raised a num­ber of obvi­ous ques­tions. For starters, does Maxar pos­sess any oth­er pho­tos of that site dur­ing the peri­od from March 10–31? Because with the Rus­sians hav­ing report­ed­ly left Bucha as ear­ly as March 29 in the face of intense urban war­fare from stiff Ukrain­ian resis­tance along with video evi­dence that the Ukrain­ian resis­tance in that area include extrem­ist ‘vol­un­teer’ bat­tal­ions that were filmed exe­cut­ing Russ­ian POWs, it’s pret­ty impor­tant to con­firm that this large ditch was dug and filled before the Russ­ian forces left.

    Now, as we’ve also seen, the mass grave near a church is one of two sites of large civil­ian casu­al­ties that have been cit­ed as acts of geno­cide by Ukrain­ian author­i­ties, the oth­er being the large num­ber of bod­ies found on Yablun­ska Street. Accord­ing to reports, as the urban com­bat with the Ukrain­ian resis­tance was heat­ing up the Russ­ian forces warned civil­ians that any­one found on Yablun­ska would be shot, which is a reminder that these civil­ian deaths were tak­ing place amidst heavy fight­ing rais­ing ques­tions about how many of these deaths were a result of that cross­fire.

    And when it comes to the bod­ies found on Yablunksa Street, Maxar has also been pro­vid­ing images that appear to sup­port the asser­tion that these bod­ies were lay­ing in the streets for weeks. As we’re going to see in the fol­low NY Times arti­cle from April 4, right when the Maxar pho­tos were first released, we were shown satel­lite images of Yablun­ska alleged­ly from March 11 show­ing objects in the same loca­tion where the bod­ies were even­tu­al­ly found by Ukrain­ian author­i­ties sev­er weeks lat­er. So that March 11 satel­lite image was appar­ent­ly one day after the March 10 pho­to of the church Maxar also released.

    But then Maxar released some addi­tion­al satel­lite pho­tos of Yablun­ska street from around a week lat­er. These pho­tos were from March 20 and 21, show­ing addi­tion­al objects on Yablun­ska that aligned with where the bod­ies were even­tu­al­ly found.

    And that release of those March 20/21 satel­lite pho­tos rais­es a bit of a mys­tery: where are the satel­lite pho­tos of the church from March 20/21? Because Yablun­ska street is only blocks from the church were the mass grave was found. That’s almost noth­ing from per­spec­tive of a satel­lite. Should­n’t those pho­tos be read­i­ly avail­able? Why not release them?

    And of course it gets weird­er. Because it turns out ANYONE can eas­i­ly browse the satel­lite archives Maxar has avail­able. It’s actu­al­ly a very neat web tool. Just go to https://discover.digitalglobe.com/, and type in “Kyiv” into the search bar and jump to the Kyiv area. You’ll see “Irpin” show up on the map and if you zoom in a lit­tle bit (using the “+” and “-” but­tons) you’ll see “Bucha” right above it.

    You can than click the “Area of Inter­est” option below the search bar and select either a rec­tan­gle or poly­gon of your choice to cre­ate an area of inter­est. The tool then shows you ALL of the avail­able satel­lite shots that cov­er your area of inter­est. The search results show the name of the satel­lite, the date of the image, and oth­er image meta­da­ta. If you select a par­tic­u­lar satellite/date, that image will show up on the map.

    And while you can’t zoom in ALL the way with this free online tool, you actu­al­ly can zoom in enough to make out the church! It’s right there in the satel­lite images, along with the sur­round­ing struc­tures. It’s not a clear pic­ture, but it’s clear­ly the same object in the high res­o­lu­tion before/after March 10/31 pho­tos Maxar released to the pub­lic.

    So if you draw an “Area of Inter­est” around that church, you can find a record of the March 31 pho­to. But then there are also records from March 21 AND March 18, but no records from March 10. The ear­li­est pri­or record is Feb 28. But that’s just what you get when you use the default fil­ter set­tings. If you click on the “Fil­ter” tab and move the “Area Cloud Cov­er” and “Area Off Nadir” fil­teres all the way to the right (so you are allow­ing for high­er cloud cov­er­age and more-angled pho­tos), you’ll find that Maxar has cov­er­age of this area for almost every sin­gle day in March. The clouds com­plete­ly obscure the cov­er­age in the first week of March but after that it’s pret­ty clear.

    And the same mys­tery applies to the pho­tos released of Yablun­ska Street. You can draw an area of inter­est around the entire street and find images for basi­cal­ly every day of March.

    But as we’re going to see, per­haps the biggest mys­tery here is why any­one is rely­ing on Maxar to assess the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine at all. Maxar isn’t the only play­er in the satel­lite imag­ing mar­ket. Nor is it the only play­er that offers free tri­al use of its tools. It turns out Plan­et Lab has a very impres­sive satel­lite imag­ing suite and ANYONE can sign up for a free 90 day tri­al. Now, you won’t be able to access to the full high-res­o­lu­tion images. But you will be able to see what images Plan­et Lab has avail­able. And it’s basi­cal­ly the entire plan­et. Every day. Some­one just needs to pay for that access.

    That’s the frus­trat­ing mys­tery here: we can actu­al­ly answer a lot of these ques­tions with a pret­ty high degree of pre­ci­sion. Dai­ly satel­lite updates of Bucha — and effec­tive­ly the rest of Ukraine — are read­i­ly avail­able to any­one with the mon­ey to pay for it. So why is the entire word still rely­ing on Maxar’s pub­licly released pho­tos when dai­ly image updates are avail­able from mul­ti­ple sources?

    And it’s not as of jour­nal­is­tic orga­ni­za­tions don’t have access to these satel­lite com­pa­nies. The BBC explic­it­ly states that it com­pared Maxar’s images to images from two oth­er satel­lite com­pa­nies (Plan­et­Lab and Apol­lo Map­ping) when con­firm­ing the valid­i­ty of Maxar’s satel­lite images of the Yablun­ska Street bod­ies. So Plan­et­Lab’s and Maxar’s incred­i­ble dai­ly archive is avail­able to jour­nal­ists, but the only appar­ent use of that archive has been to val­i­date Maxar’s pho­tos. What is going on here? It’s not just a ques­tion about Maxar — which pur­chased Dig­i­tal­Globe in 2017and the high­ly ‘spooky’ Dig­i­tal­Globe. These are ques­tions that include the rest of the satel­lite imag­ing indus­try and all of the jour­nal­is­tic orga­ni­za­tions cov­er­ing this sto­ry. Why has­n’t Plan­et Lab come for­ward with a dai­ly pho­to time­line of that church or Yablun­ska street? And why haven’t any enti­ties on the plan­et with the resources to do so just paid the damn fees to get those images to release to the world? Heck, even the Krem­lin could do it in the­o­ry. Why are none of the sides of this con­flict uti­liz­ing the com­mer­cial­ly avail­able data?

    Ok, first, here’s a NY Times arti­cle from April 4 about Maxar’s release of satel­lite pho­tos that appear to show civil­ians lay­ing in the streets as far back as March 11, with addi­tion­al pho­tos we are told were from March 20 and 21:

    The New York Times

    Satel­lite images show bod­ies lay in Bucha for weeks, despite Russ­ian claims.

    Malachy Browne, David Bot­ti and Haley Willis
    April 4, 2022, 3:16 p.m. ET

    Update: New video shows Russ­ian sol­diers open­ing fire on a cyclist in Bucha.

    An analy­sis of satel­lite images by The New York Times rebuts claims by Rus­sia that the killing of civil­ians in Bucha, a sub­urb of Kyiv, occurred after its sol­diers had left the town.

    When images emerged over the week­end of the bod­ies of dead civil­ians lying on the streets of Bucha — some with their hands bound, some with gun­shot wounds to the head — Russia’s Min­istry of Defense denied respon­si­bil­i­ty. In a Telegram post on Sun­day, the min­istry sug­gest­ed that the bod­ies had been recent­ly placed on the streets after “all Russ­ian units with­drew com­plete­ly from Bucha” around March 30.

    Rus­sia claimed that the images were “anoth­er hoax” and called for an emer­gency U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil meet­ing on what it called “provo­ca­tions of Ukrain­ian rad­i­cals” in Bucha.

    But a review of videos and satel­lite imagery by The Times shows that many of the civil­ians were killed more than three weeks ago, when Russia’s mil­i­tary was in con­trol of the town.

    One video filmed by a local coun­cil mem­ber on April 1 shows mul­ti­ple bod­ies scat­tered along Yablon­s­ka Street in Bucha. Satel­lite images pro­vid­ed to The Times by Maxar Tech­nolo­gies show that at least 11 of those had been on the street since March 11, when Rus­sia, by its own account, occu­pied the town.

    To con­firm when the bod­ies appeared, and when the civil­ians were like­ly killed, the Visu­al Inves­ti­ga­tions team at The Times con­duct­ed a before-and-after analy­sis of satel­lite imagery. The images show dark objects of sim­i­lar size to a human body appear­ing on Yablon­s­ka Street between March 9 and March 11. The objects appear in the pre­cise posi­tions in which the bod­ies were found after Ukrain­ian forces reclaimed Bucha, as the footage from April 1 shows. Fur­ther analy­sis shows that the objects remained in those posi­tion for over three weeks.

    Where Bod­ies Were Found in a Kyiv Sub­urb

    The caus­es of death are unclear. Some of the bod­ies were beside what appears to be an impact crater. Oth­ers were near aban­doned cars. Three of the bod­ies lay beside bicy­cles. Some have their hands bound behind their backs with white cloth. The bod­ies were scat­tered over more than half a mile of Yablon­s­ka Street.

    A sec­ond video tak­en on Yablon­s­ka Street shows three more bod­ies. One lies beside a bicy­cle, anoth­er near an aban­doned car. Satel­lite imagery shows that the aban­doned cars and the near­by body appear between March 20 and 21.

    ...

    ————

    “Satel­lite images show bod­ies lay in Bucha for weeks, despite Russ­ian claims.” by Malachy Browne, David Bot­ti and Haley Willis; The New York Times; 04/04/2022

    “One video filmed by a local coun­cil mem­ber on April 1 shows mul­ti­ple bod­ies scat­tered along Yablon­s­ka Street in Bucha. Satel­lite images pro­vid­ed to The Times by Maxar Tech­nolo­gies show that at least 11 of those had been on the street since March 11, when Rus­sia, by its own account, occu­pied the town.”

    Maxar does indeed pos­sess satel­lite images from March 11 show­ing objects that appear to be civil­ian bod­ies. As well as images from March 20 and 21. But based on its own pub­licly avail­able image archives, Maxar pos­sess a lot more pic­tures than that. Images from almost every day of the month of March are avail­able:

    ...
    A sec­ond video tak­en on Yablon­s­ka Street shows three more bod­ies. One lies beside a bicy­cle, anoth­er near an aban­doned car. Satel­lite imagery shows that the aban­doned cars and the near­by body appear between March 20 and 21.
    ...

    Why has this much large image cat­a­log been large­ly ignored? Not just ignored by Maxar, but the rest of the world. We don’t know, but it’s clear from the fol­low­ing BBC report — which pur­ports to debunk Russ­ian claims that these image cat­a­logs are being manip­u­lat­ed — that the BBC is at least work­ing with Maxar and two oth­er satel­lite imag­ing com­pa­nies in its report­ing on what hap­pened in Bucha:

    BBC News

    Bucha killings: Satel­lite image of bod­ies site con­tra­dicts Russ­ian claims

    By Real­i­ty Check and BBC Mon­i­tor­ing
    04/12/2022

    A satel­lite image of Bucha in Ukraine appears to show bod­ies lying in the street near­ly two weeks before the Rus­sians left the town.

    The image from 19 March, first report­ed by the New York Times and con­firmed by the BBC, direct­ly con­tra­dicts Russ­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov’s claim that footage of bod­ies in Bucha, that has emerged in recent days, was “staged” after the Rus­sians with­drew.

    The satel­lite image shows objects that appear to be bod­ies in the exact loca­tions where they were sub­se­quent­ly found by Ukrain­ian forces when they regained con­trol of the town north of Kyiv.

    Along anoth­er sec­tion of the road, the image shows what appear to be more bod­ies on the ground.

    There is an ear­li­er satel­lite image avail­able from Maxar on 11 March. It appears to show bod­ies in the same loca­tions but is less clear than the one on 19 March.

    Rus­sia has made a series of unfound­ed claims relat­ing to images from Bucha — here’s what the evi­dence tells us.

    Claim: ‘Faked dead bod­ies’

    Rus­sia says its forces with­drew from Bucha on 30 March. The Ukraini­ans say this hap­pened in the ear­ly hours of 31 March.

    On 1 April, footage was post­ed filmed from a car dri­ving through the town which showed bod­ies on either side of a road.

    Rus­sia has claimed it shows “fake dead bod­ies” and was “staged” after its troops left the town.

    We com­pared the car footage with the satel­lite imagery of Bucha from 19 March (when the Rus­sians were in con­trol).

    In both, there are bod­ies lying in the same parts of the road (marked in red) and near vehi­cles (marked in yel­low).

    Pro-Russ­ian social media accounts also cir­cu­lat­ed a slowed-down ver­sion of the footage on the same road, claim­ing that the arm on one of the bod­ies moved.

    The video is grainy but a clos­er analy­sis of it shows that what is claimed to be a mov­ing arm, is actu­al­ly a mark in the bot­tom right cor­ner of the vehi­cle’s wind­screen.

    We’ve cir­cled this mark — which looks like a rain­drop or a speck of dirt — along with sim­i­lar marks vis­i­ble on the wind­screen ear­li­er in the video.

    Anoth­er Russ­ian claim focus­es on a dif­fer­ent part of the footage. The car pass­es anoth­er body, lying next to a pave­ment with red and yel­low stones and shat­tered brown fenc­ing.

    As it dri­ves on, the body can be seen briefly in the right-hand wing mir­ror. Pro-Russ­ian accounts claim the body “sits up”.

    But a slowed-down ver­sion of the video shows the wing mir­ror is clear­ly dis­tort­ing the reflec­tion of the body, as well as hous­es in the back­ground.

    The same effect can be seen in videos of sim­i­lar wing mir­rors post­ed on the inter­net.

    The BBC has matched both bod­ies from the video (post­ed on 2 April) with high-res­o­lu­tion pho­tos pro­vid­ed by Get­ty Images and AFP on 3 April.

    ...

    Claim: Satel­lite images were tak­en after Rus­sians depart­ed

    A pro-Russ­ian social media account, Rybar, says the Maxar satel­lite images shown in this arti­cle were not tak­en on 19 March — but on 1 April, the day after Russ­ian forces depart­ed.

    Rus­sia has made unfound­ed claims the killings were car­ried out by Ukraini­ans, but if the bod­ies were there on 19 March as the satel­lite images show, that can­not be the case. At that time Rus­sia con­trolled the area.

    Rybar says its con­clu­sions are based on an analy­sis of shad­ows from images down­loaded from the Maxar data­base, reveal­ing the date and time at which the pho­to­graph was tak­en.

    We con­tact­ed Maxar, who said it appeared Rybar had used the com­pa­ny’s image search tools wrong­ly, and that if cor­rect­ly used, the images can clear­ly be shown to be from 19 March.

    The BBC has also checked this analy­sis, com­par­ing images from three sep­a­rate com­pa­nies (Plan­et­Lab, Apol­lo Map­ping and Maxar) tak­en from the avail­able satel­lite imagery over this peri­od.

    We’ve deter­mined that the lengths of the shad­ows (and there­fore the angle of the sun) is con­sis­tent with the satel­lite images hav­ing been tak­en on the morn­ing of 19 March and not on 1 April.

    ...

    ———–

    “Bucha killings: Satel­lite image of bod­ies site con­tra­dicts Russ­ian claims” by Real­i­ty Check and BBC Mon­i­tor­ing; BBC News; 04/12/2022

    “A pro-Russ­ian social media account, Rybar, says the Maxar satel­lite images shown in this arti­cle were not tak­en on 19 March — but on 1 April, the day after Russ­ian forces depart­ed.”

    Is “Rybar” just pro­mot­ing dis­in­fo? It’s very pos­si­ble, but it’s worth not­ing that Maxar’s rebut­tal of Rybar’s analy­sis does­n’t real­ly make sense. Rybar was claim­ing a March 19 pho­to of Yablunksa street was actu­al­ly from April 1 based on the shad­ows. Maxar respond­ed that Rybar has used the com­pa­ny’s image search tools wrong­ly and the images can clear­ly be shown to be from 19 March when those search tools are used cor­rect­ly. Think about that. Rybar claims an analy­sis of the shad­ows reveals the true date and Maxar replies with a response that does­n’t even address the shad­ow analy­sis at all but instead seems to assume Rybar just messed up an image search. It’s like a non-answer answer:

    ...
    Rus­sia has made unfound­ed claims the killings were car­ried out by Ukraini­ans, but if the bod­ies were there on 19 March as the satel­lite images show, that can­not be the case. At that time Rus­sia con­trolled the area.

    Rybar says its con­clu­sions are based on an analy­sis of shad­ows from images down­loaded from the Maxar data­base, reveal­ing the date and time at which the pho­to­graph was tak­en.

    We con­tact­ed Maxar, who said it appeared Rybar had used the com­pa­ny’s image search tools wrong­ly, and that if cor­rect­ly used, the images can clear­ly be shown to be from 19 March.
    ...

    But then the BBC appears to con­duct a shad­ow analy­sis of its own by cross ref­er­enc­ing Maxar’s March 19 image with images from Plan­et­Lab and Apol­lo Map­ping:

    ...
    The BBC has also checked this analy­sis, com­par­ing images from three sep­a­rate com­pa­nies (Plan­et­Lab, Apol­lo Map­ping and Maxar) tak­en from the avail­able satel­lite imagery over this peri­od.

    We’ve deter­mined that the lengths of the shad­ows (and there­fore the angle of the sun) is con­sis­tent with the satel­lite images hav­ing been tak­en on the morn­ing of 19 March and not on 1 April.
    ...

    Now, who knows about the rig­or deployed in the BBC’s shad­ow analy­sis. Maybe it was real or maybe it was just some­one eye­balling two dif­fer­ent pho­tos and mak­ing a judge­ment call. But the fact that the BBC did this analy­sis at all using images from Plan­et­Lab and Apol­lo Map­ping just under­scores the fact that there is no rea­son the world should be rely on pub­lic releas­es by Maxar about what may have hap­pened in Bucha. The entire world has mul­ti­ple satel­lite firms offer­ing effec­tive­ly dai­ly cov­er­age of these areas. It’s all com­mer­cial­ly avail­able to any­one with the cash to pay. And yet, to this day, the whole world is still rely­ing the images Maxar decid­ed to high­light to the pub­lic. You’d think this would be a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for these com­pa­nies that are osten­si­bly in com­pe­ti­tion with each oth­er to show­case their respec­tive capa­bil­i­ties. Nope. Instead, we have Maxar releas­ing just a hand­ful of its avail­able pho­tos while seem­ing­ly play­ing dumb about the rest of all of the images they clear­ly pos­sess. And the rest of the world plays dumb­er. It’s a mys­tery. A frus­trat­ing­ly dumb mys­tery.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 15, 2022, 3:39 pm
  14. @Pterrafractyl–

    Remem­ber two key things: “Deep Fakes” are now part of our media and cog­ni­tive polit­i­cal land­scape.

    Reports of atroc­i­ties are com­ing exclu­sive­ly through Ukrain­ian author­i­ties, most­ly the police, i.e. the pro­teges of for­mer Azov deputy com­man­der Vadim Troy­an and the Azov Druzhy­na mili­tia and the C14 Svo­bo­da mili­tia.

    And of course, they would NEVER lie, would they?

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 16, 2022, 4:09 pm
  15. Wars rarely have just one front. That’s been clear from the begin­ning of the Russ­ian inva­sion of Ukraine, where Russ­ian forces have been bogged down on mul­ti­ple fronts in the north­ern and east­ern parts of the coun­try. But as the fol­low­ing Gray­zone piece reminds us, wars often have anoth­er front in the bat­tle: a domes­tic war of polit­i­cal ‘cleans­ing’, osten­si­bly as part of the war effort. And as we’re going to see, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has been win­ning one deci­sive vic­to­ry on that front after anoth­er. Vic­to­ries in the form of not just the ban­ning of oppo­si­tion par­ties — gen­er­al­ly left-lean­ing par­ties — but also the open polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tion cam­paigns against politi­cians declared to be ‘pro-Russ­ian’.

    And, of course, while much of this open repres­sion appears to be car­ried out direct­ly by the Ukraine’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices (SBU), groups like Azov are doing this dirty work them­selves. Even worse, we have exam­ples of the SBU and Azov work­ing togeth­er in kid­nap­ping and tor­tur­ing some of these fig­ures.

    And this all appears to be car­ried up with the bless­ing of Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy’s office. And that brings us to what might be the most dis­turb­ing aspect of this sto­ry. Because if there’s been one con­sis­tent theme with Zelen­skiy’s term in office, it’s that it’s nev­er been entire­ly clear how much free­dom he real­ly had to oper­ate under the threat of vio­lence from groups like Azov and their back­ers in the nation­al secu­ri­ty state like Geraschenko. As we saw in that fas­ci­nat­ing bne Intellinews arti­cle from back in August of 2021, Azov lit­er­al­ly staged a vio­lent attack out­side Zelen­skiy’s office in response to secu­ri­ty ser­vices attempt­ing to sim­ply inspect a group of Azov pro­test­ers who were demand­ing to be allowed to see Zelen­skiy. And that attack appears to be tied to a larg­er anti-cor­rup­tion/an­ti-oli­garch effort Zelen­skiy was wag­ing under pres­sure from the US. In oth­er words, Zelen­skiy’s own grip on pow­er was being open­ly chal­lenged with threats of vio­lence from groups like Azov in the lead up to this con­flict. And now that the con­flict is under­way, Zelen­skiy’s office has basi­cal­ly giv­en its bless­ing to see­ing a new broad­er form of ‘lus­tra­tion’ and polit­i­cal repres­sion.

    And the polit­i­cal groups tar­get­ed aren’t just those deemed to be ‘pro-Russ­ian’. It’s Ukraine’s left­ists too. This is turn­ing into an ide­o­log­i­cal purge under the guise of a gross ‘anti-Russ­ian’ pre­tense. Not just par­ty mem­bers but ran­dom cit­i­zens who end­ed up on the radar of one of these far right groups.

    So as the world lis­tens to the del­uge of reports about civil­ian atroc­i­ties being com­mit­ted in Ukraine, it’s going to be increas­ing­ly impor­tant to keep in mind that Ukraine’s SBU has now offi­cial­ly teamed up with groups like Azov to purge Ukraine of those deemed to be a dan­ger to the state. And that’s the kind of def­i­n­i­tion that, when defined by groups like Azov, is going to include a large por­tion of the Ukrain­ian pop­u­lace:

    The Gray­zone

    “One less trai­tor”: Zelen­sky over­sees cam­paign of assas­si­na­tion, kid­nap­ping and tor­ture of polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion

    Max Blu­men­thal and Esha Krish­naswamy
    April 17, 2022

    While claim­ing to defend democ­ra­cy, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelen­sky has out­lawed his oppo­si­tion, ordered his rivals’ arrest, and presided over the dis­ap­pear­ance and assas­si­na­tion of dis­si­dents across the coun­try.

    Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky has framed his country’s war against Rus­sia as a bat­tle for democ­ra­cy itself. In a care­ful­ly chore­o­graphed address to US Con­gress on March 16, Zelen­sky stat­ed, “Right now, the des­tiny of our coun­try is being decid­ed. The des­tiny of our peo­ple, whether Ukraini­ans will be free, whether they will be able to pre­serve their democ­ra­cy.”

    US cor­po­rate media has respond­ed by show­er­ing Zelen­sky with fawn­ing press, dri­ving a cam­paign for his nom­i­na­tion for the Nobel Peace Prize and inspir­ing a flam­boy­ant musi­cal trib­ute to him­self and the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary dur­ing the 2022 Gram­my awards cer­e­mo­ny on April 3.

    West­ern media has looked the oth­er way, how­ev­er, as Zelen­sky and top offi­cials in his admin­is­tra­tion have sanc­tioned a cam­paign of kid­nap­ping, tor­ture, and assas­si­na­tion of local Ukrain­ian law­mak­ers accused of col­lab­o­rat­ing with Rus­sia. Sev­er­al may­ors and oth­er Ukrain­ian offi­cials have been killed since the out­break of war, many report­ed­ly by Ukrain­ian state agents after engag­ing in de-esca­la­tion talks with Rus­sia.

    “There is one less trai­tor in Ukraine,” Inter­nal Affairs Min­istry advi­sor Anton Geraschenko stat­ed in endorse­ment of the mur­der of a Ukrain­ian may­or accused of col­lab­o­rat­ing with Rus­sia.

    Zelen­sky has fur­ther exploit­ed the atmos­phere of war to out­law an array of oppo­si­tion par­ties and order the arrest of his lead­ing rivals. His author­i­tar­i­an decrees have trig­gered the dis­ap­pear­ance, tor­ture and even mur­der of an array of human rights activists, com­mu­nist and left­ist orga­niz­ers, jour­nal­ists and gov­ern­ment offi­cials accused of “pro-Russ­ian” sym­pa­thies.

    The Ukrain­ian SBU secu­ri­ty ser­vices has served as the enforce­ment arm of the offi­cial­ly autho­rized cam­paign of repres­sion. With train­ing from the CIA and close coor­di­na­tion with Ukraine’s state-backed neo-Nazi para­mil­i­taries, the SBU has spent the past weeks fill­ing its vast arch­i­pel­ago of tor­ture dun­geons with polit­i­cal dis­si­dents.

    On the bat­tle­field, mean­while, the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary has engaged in a series of atroc­i­ties against cap­tured Russ­ian troops and proud­ly exhib­it­ed its sadis­tic acts on social media. Here too, the per­pe­tra­tors of human rights abus­es appear to have received approval from the upper ech­e­lons of Ukrain­ian lead­er­ship.

    While Zelen­sky spouts bro­mides about the defense of democ­ra­cy before wor­ship­ful West­ern audi­ences, he is using the war as a the­ater for enact­ing a blood-drenched purge of polit­i­cal rivals, dis­si­dents and crit­ics.

    “The war is being used to kid­nap, imprison and even kill oppo­si­tion mem­bers who express them­selves crit­i­cal of the gov­ern­ment,” a left-wing activist beat­en and per­se­cut­ed by Ukraine’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices com­ment­ed this April. “We must all fear for our free­dom and our lives.”

    Tor­ture and enforced dis­ap­pear­ances “com­mon prac­tices” of Ukraine’s SBU

    When a US-backed gov­ern­ment seized pow­er in Kiev fol­low­ing the Euro­maid­an regime change oper­a­tion of 2013–14, Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment embarked on a nation­wide purge of polit­i­cal ele­ments deemed pro-Russ­ian or insuf­fi­cient­ly nation­al­is­tic. The pas­sage of “decom­mu­niza­tion” laws by the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment fur­ther eased the per­se­cu­tion of left­ist ele­ments and the pros­e­cu­tion of activists for polit­i­cal speech.

    The post-Maid­an regime has focused its wrath on Ukraini­ans who have advo­cat­ed a peace set­tle­ment with pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the country’s east, those who have doc­u­ment­ed human rights abus­es by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, and mem­bers of com­mu­nist orga­ni­za­tions. Dis­si­dent ele­ments have faced the con­stant threat of ultra-nation­al­ist vio­lence, impris­on­ment, and even mur­der.

    The Ukrain­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vice known as the SBU has served as the main enforcer of the post-Maid­an government’s cam­paign of domes­tic polit­i­cal repres­sion. Pro-West­ern mon­i­tors includ­ing the Unit­ed Nations Office of the High Com­mis­sion (UN OHCR) and Human Rights Watch have accused the SBU of sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly tor­tur­ing polit­i­cal oppo­nents and Ukrain­ian dis­si­dents with near-total impuni­ty.

    The UN OHCR found in 2016 that “arbi­trary deten­tion, enforced dis­ap­pear­ances, tor­ture and ill-treat­ment of such con­flict-relat­ed detainees were com­mon prac­tice of SBU… A for­mer Kharkiv SBU offi­cer explained, ‘For the SBU, the law vir­tu­al­ly does not exist as every­thing that is ille­gal can be either clas­si­fied or explained by refer­ring to state neces­si­ty.”

    Yevhen Karas, the founder of the infa­mous neo-Nazi C14 unit, has detailed the close rela­tion­ship his gang and oth­er extreme right fac­tions have enjoyed with the SBU. The SBU “informs not only us, but also Azov, the Right Sec­tor, and so on,” Karas boast­ed in a 2017 inter­view.

    Kiev offi­cial­ly endors­es assas­si­nat­ing Ukrain­ian may­ors for nego­ti­at­ing with Rus­sia

    Since Rus­sia launched its mil­i­tary oper­a­tion inside Ukraine, the SBU has hunt­ed down local offi­cials that decid­ed to accept human­i­tar­i­an sup­plies from Rus­sia or nego­ti­at­ed with Russ­ian forces to arrange cor­ri­dors for civil­ian evac­u­a­tions.

    On March 1, for exam­ple, Volodymyr Strok, the may­or of the east­ern city of Kreminna in the Ukrain­ian-con­trolled side of Lugan­sk, was kid­napped by men in mil­i­tary uni­form, accord­ing to his wife, and shot in the heart.

    On March 3, pic­tures of Strok’s vis­i­bly tor­tured body appeared. A day before his mur­der, Struk had report­ed­ly urged his Ukrain­ian col­leagues to nego­ti­ate with pro-Russ­ian offi­cials.

    Anton Gerashchenko, an advi­sor to the Ukrain­ian Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs, cel­e­brat­ed the mayor’s mur­der, declar­ing on his Telegram page (see below): “There is one less trai­tor in Ukraine. The may­or of Kreminna in Luhan­sk region, for­mer deputy of Luhan­sk par­lia­ment was found killed.”

    Accord­ing to Geraschenko, Strok had been judged by the “court of the people’s tri­bunal.”

    The Ukrain­ian offi­cial there­fore deliv­ered a chill­ing mes­sage to any­one choos­ing to seek coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia: do so and lose your life.

    On March 7, the may­or of Gos­tomel, Yuri Prylip­ko, was found mur­dered. Prylip­ko had report­ed­ly entered into nego­ti­a­tions with the Russ­ian mil­i­tary to orga­nize a human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor for the evac­u­a­tion of his city’s res­i­dents – a red line for Ukrain­ian ultra-nation­al­ists who had long been in con­flict with the mayor’s office.

    Next, on March 24, Gen­nady Mat­sego­ra, the may­or of Kupyan­sk in north­east­ern Ukraine, released a video (below) appeal­ing to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky and his admin­is­tra­tion for the release of his daugh­ter, who had been held hostage by agents of the Ukrain­ian SBU intel­li­gence agency.

    Then there was the mur­der of Denis Kireev, a top mem­ber of the Ukrain­ian nego­ti­at­ing team, who was killed in broad day­light in Kiev after the first round of talks with Rus­sia. Kireev was sub­se­quent­ly accused in local Ukrain­ian media of “trea­son.”

    Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelensky’s state­ment that “there would be con­se­quences for col­lab­o­ra­tors” indi­cates that these atroc­i­ties have been sanc­tioned by the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

    As of today, eleven may­ors from var­i­ous towns in Ukraine are miss­ing. West­ern media out­lets have been fol­low­ing the Kiev line with­out excep­tion, claim­ing that all may­ors been arrest­ed by the Russ­ian mil­i­tary. The Russ­ian Min­istry of Defense has denied the charge, how­ev­er, and lit­tle evi­dence exists to cor­rob­o­rate Kiev’s line about the miss­ing may­ors.

    Zelen­sky out­laws polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion, autho­rizes arrest of rivals and war pro­pa­gan­da blitz

    When war erupt­ed with Rus­sia this Feb­ru­ary, Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky issued a series of decrees for­mal­iz­ing Kiev’s cam­paign against polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion and dis­si­dent speech.

    In a March 19 exec­u­tive order, Zelen­sky invoked mar­tial law to ban 11 oppo­si­tion par­ties. The out­lawed par­ties con­sist­ed of the entire left-wing, social­ist or anti-NATO spec­trum in Ukraine. They includ­ed the For Life Par­ty, the Left Oppo­si­tion, the Pro­gres­sive Social­ist Par­ty of Ukraine, the Social­ist Par­ty of Ukraine, Union of Left Forces, Social­ists, the Par­ty of Shariy, Ours, State, Oppo­si­tion Bloc and the Volodymyr Sal­do Bloc.

    Open­ly fas­cist and pro-Nazi par­ties like the Azov Nation­al Corps were left untouched by the pres­i­den­tial decree, how­ev­er.

    “The activ­i­ties of those politi­cians aimed at divi­sion or col­lu­sion will not suc­ceed, but will receive a harsh response,” Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky stat­ed.

    As he wiped out his oppo­si­tion, Zelen­sky ordered an unprece­dent­ed domes­tic pro­pa­gan­da ini­tia­tive to nation­al­ize all tele­vi­sion news broad­cast­ing and com­bine all chan­nels into a sin­gle 24 hour chan­nel called “Unit­ed News” to “tell the truth about war.”

    Next, on April 12, Zelen­sky announced the arrest of his prin­ci­pal polit­i­cal rival, Vik­tor Medved­chuk, by Ukraine’s SBU secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    Medvedchuk’s face is clear­ly bruised, appar­ent­ly a result of beat­ings from Zelensky’s SBU goons. Don’t expect any ques­tions about this image to appear in the pages of the NYT or in CNN’s 24 hour media cir­cus. Can’t allow any­thing to under­mine the pro-war nar­ra­tive. pic.twitter.com/A0qhhmeaj8— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) April 12, 2022

    The founder of the sec­ond largest par­ty in Ukraine, the now-ille­gal Patri­ots for Life, Medved­chuk is the de fac­to rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the country’s eth­nic Russ­ian pop­u­la­tion. Though Patri­ots for Life is regard­ed as “pro-Rus­sia,” in part because of his close rela­tions with Vladimir Putin, the new chair­man of the par­ty has con­demned Russia’s “aggres­sion” against Ukraine.

    Mem­bers of the state-spon­sored neo-Nazi Azov Battalion’s Nation­al Corps attacked Medvedchuk’s home in March 2019, accus­ing him of trea­son and demand­ing his arrest.

    In August 2020, Azov’s Nation­al Corps opened fire on a bus car­ry­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Medvedchuk’s par­ty, wound­ing sev­er­al with rub­ber-coat­ed steel bul­lets.

    Zelensky’s admin­is­tra­tion esca­lat­ed the assault on his top oppo­nent in Feb­ru­ary 2021 when he shut­tered sev­er­al media out­lets con­trolled by Medved­chuk. The US State Depart­ment open­ly endorsed the president’s move, declar­ing that the Unit­ed States “sup­ports Ukrain­ian efforts to counter Russia’s malign influ­ence…”

    Three months lat­er, Kiev jailed Medved­chuk and charged him with trea­son. Zelen­sky jus­ti­fied lock­ing away his lead­ing rival on the grounds that he need­ed to “fight against the dan­ger of Russ­ian aggres­sion in the infor­ma­tion are­na.”

    Medved­chuk escaped house arrest at the onset of the war between Rus­sia and Ukraine, but is a cap­tive once again, and may be used as col­lat­er­al for a post-war pris­on­er swap with Rus­sia.

    Under Zelensky’s watch, “the war is being used to kid­nap, imprison and even kill oppo­si­tion mem­bers”

    Since Russ­ian troops entered Ukraine on Feb­ru­ary 24, Ukraine’s SBU secu­ri­ty ser­vice had been on a ram­page against any and all iter­a­tions of inter­nal polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion. Left­ist Ukrain­ian activists have faced par­tic­u­lar­ly harsh treat­ment, includ­ing kid­nap­ping and tor­ture.

    This March 3 in the city of Dnipro, SBU offi­cers accom­pa­nied by Azov ultra-nation­al­ists raid­ed the home of activists with the Liviz­ja (Left) orga­ni­za­tion, which has orga­nized against social spend­ing cuts and right-wing media pro­pa­gan­da. While one activist said the Azov mem­ber “cut my hair off with a knife,” the state secu­ri­ty agents pro­ceed­ed to tor­ture her hus­band, Alexan­der Matjuschenko, press­ing a gun bar­rel to his head and forc­ing him to repeat­ed­ly belt out the nation­al­ist salute, “Sla­va Ukrai­ni!”

    “Then they put bags over our heads, tied our hands with tape and took us to the SBU build­ing in a car. There they con­tin­ued to inter­ro­gate us and threat­ened to cut off our ears,” Matjuschenko’s wife told the left­ist Ger­man pub­li­ca­tion Junge Welt.

    The Azov mem­bers and SBU agents record­ed the tor­ture ses­sion and pub­lished images of Matjuschenko’s blood­ied face online.

    Matjuschenko was jailed on the grounds that he was “con­duct­ing an aggres­sive war or mil­i­tary oper­a­tion,” and now faces 10 to 15 years in prison. Despite endur­ing sev­er­al bro­ken ribs from the beat­ing by state-backed ultra-nation­al­ists, he has been denied bail. Mean­while, dozens of oth­er left­ists have been jailed on sim­i­lar charges in Dnipro.

    Among those tar­get­ed by the SBU were Mikhail and Alek­sander Kononovich, mem­bers of the out­lawed Lenin­ist Com­mu­nist Youth Union of Ukraine. Both were arrest­ed and jailed on March 6 and accused of “spread­ing pro-Russ­ian and pro-Belaru­sian views.”

    In the fol­low­ing days, the SBU arrest­ed broad­cast jour­nal­ist Yan Taksyur and charged him with trea­son; human rights activist Ele­na Berezh­naya; Ele­na Viach­eslavo­va, a human rights advo­cate whose father, Mikhail, was burned to death dur­ing the May 2, 2014 ultra-nation­al­ist mob attack on anti-Maid­an pro­test­ers out­side the Odessa House of Trade Unions; inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ist Yuri Tkachev, who was charged with trea­son, and an untold num­ber of oth­ers; dis­abled rights activist Oleg Novikov, who was jailed for three years this April on the grounds that he sup­port­ed “sep­a­ratism.”

    The list of those impris­oned by Ukraine’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices since the out­break of war grows by the day, and is too exten­sive to repro­duce here.

    Oleg Novikov—opposition activist from my city, Kharkov, per­se­cut­ed in the past by the Zelen­sky regime—was kid­napped 5/04/22 at 6am by the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine (SBU) and tak­en to an unknown place. Oleg is dis­abled and has 3 young chil­dren. (Pic is from a pre­vi­ous arrest) pic.twitter.com/KSeHYC7DWJ— Gon­za­lo Lira (@realGonzaloLira) April 9, 2022

    Per­haps the most ghast­ly inci­dent of repres­sion took place when neo-Nazis backed by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment kid­napped Max­im Ryn­dovskiy, a pro­fes­sion­al MMA fight­er, and bru­tal­ly tor­tured him for the crime of train­ing with Russ­ian fight­ers at a gym in Chech­nya. Ryn­dovskiy also hap­pened to be Jew­ish, with a Star of David tat­tooed on his leg, and had spo­ken out on social media against the war in east­ern Ukraine.

    In Kyiv, local [I don’t know to fuc king call them] extrem­ists caught and bru­tal­ly tor­ture a famous Ukrain­ian ath­lete, MMA fight­er, Max­im Ryn­dovsky. All his fault is that he trained with the Chechen club “Akhmat”. pic.twitter.com/og1Psly7SE— Maria Duboviko­va (@politblogme) March 5, 2022

    Ukraine’s SBU has even hunt­ed oppo­si­tion fig­ures out­side the country’s bor­ders. As jour­nal­ist Dan Cohen report­ed, Ana­toly Shariy of the recent­ly banned Par­ty of Shariy said he was the tar­get of a recent SBU assas­si­na­tion attempt. Shariy has been an out­spo­ken oppo­nent of the US-backed Maid­an regime, and has been forced to flee into exile after endur­ing years of harass­ment from nation­al­ists.

    This March, the lib­er­tar­i­an politi­cian and online pun­dit received an email from a friend, “Igor,” seek­ing to arrange a meet­ing. He sub­se­quent­ly learned that Igor was held by the SBU at the time and being used to bait Shariy into dis­clos­ing his loca­tion.

    For his part, Shariy has been placed on the noto­ri­ous Myrotvorets pub­lic black­list of “ene­mies of the state” found­ed by Anton Geraschenko – the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs advi­sor who endorsed the assas­si­na­tion of Ukrain­ian law­mak­ers accused of Russ­ian sym­pa­thies. Sev­er­al jour­nal­ists and Ukrain­ian dis­si­dents, includ­ing the promi­nent colum­nist Oles Buz­i­na, were mur­dered by state-backed death squads after their names appeared on the list.

    Com­mon Ukrain­ian cit­i­zens have also been sub­ject­ed to tor­ture since the start of the war this Feb­ru­ary. Seem­ing­ly count­less videos have appeared on social media show­ing civil­ians tied to lamp posts, often with their gen­i­tals exposed or their faces paint­ed green. Car­ried out by Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense vol­un­teers tasked with enforc­ing law and order dur­ing wartime, these acts of humil­i­a­tion and tor­ture have tar­get­ed every­one from accused Russ­ian sym­pa­thiz­ers to Roma peo­ple to alleged thieves.

    Roma peo­ple (“gyp­sies”) left Kiev as refugees and went to bor­der town, Lviv, where they are fac­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion by Ukraini­ans. Like here, tied to poles. A pop­u­lar Ukrain­ian Telegram chan­nel cel­e­brates this action and mocks the vic­tims.#Kyiv #Ukraine #Rus­sia #Nazi pic.twitter.com/3cWZ9a78uA— Glob­al Pol­i­tics (@Geopol2030) March 21, 2022

    Roma peo­ple (“gyp­sies”) left Kiev as refugees and went to bor­der town, Lviv, where they are fac­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion by Ukraini­ans. Like here, tied to poles. A pop­u­lar Ukrain­ian Telegram chan­nel cel­e­brates this action and mocks the vic­tims.#Kyiv #Ukraine #Rus­sia #Nazi pic.twitter.com/3cWZ9a78uA— Glob­al Pol­i­tics (@Geopol2030) March 21, 2022

    Ukraine’s SBU stud­ies tor­ture and assas­si­na­tion from the CIA

    Vass­i­ly Pro­zorov, a for­mer SBU offi­cer who defect­ed to Rus­sia fol­low­ing the Euro­maid­an coup, detailed the post-Maid­an secu­ri­ty ser­vices’ sys­temic reliance on tor­ture to crush polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion and intim­i­date cit­i­zens accused of Russ­ian sym­pa­thies.

    Accord­ing to Pro­zorov, the ex-SBU offi­cer, the Ukrain­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices have been direct­ly advised by the CIA since 2014. “CIA employ­ees have been present in Kiev since 2014. They are resid­ing in clan­des­tine apart­ments and sub­ur­ban hous­es,” he said. “How­ev­er, they fre­quent­ly come to the SBU’s cen­tral office for hold­ing, for exam­ple, spe­cif­ic meet­ings or plot­ting secret oper­a­tions.”

    Below, Russia’s RIA Novosti pro­filed Pro­zorov and cov­ered his dis­clo­sures in a 2019 spe­cial.

    Jour­nal­ist Dan Cohen inter­viewed a Ukrain­ian busi­ness­man named Igor who was arrest­ed by the SBU for his finan­cial ties with Russ­ian com­pa­nies and detained this March in the secu­ri­ty service’s noto­ri­ous head­quar­ters in down­town Kiev. Igor said he over­heard Russ­ian POWs being beat­en with pipes by Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense vol­un­teers being coached by SBU offi­cers. Pum­meled to the sound of the Ukrain­ian nation­al anthem, the Russ­ian pris­on­ers were bru­tal­ized until they con­fessed their hatred for Putin.

    Then came Igor’s turn. “They used a lighter to heat up a nee­dle, then put it under my fin­ger­nails,” he told Cohen. “The worst was when they put a plas­tic bag over my head and suf­fo­cat­ed me and when they held the muz­zle of a Kalash­nikov rifle to my head and forced me to answer their ques­tions.”

    Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko, the first head of the SBU after the Euro­maid­an regime change oper­a­tion of 2013–14, nur­tured close ties to Wash­ing­ton when he served as gen­er­al con­sul to the Ukrain­ian embassy to the US dur­ing the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion. Dur­ing that time, Naly­vaichenko was recruit­ed by the CIA, accord­ing to his pre­de­ces­sor at the SBU, Alexan­der Yaki­menko, who served under the Russ­ian-ori­ent­ed gov­ern­ment of deposed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych.

    In 2021, Zelen­sky appoint­ed one of Ukraine’s most noto­ri­ous intel­li­gence fig­ures, Olek­sander Pok­lad, to lead SBU’s coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence divi­sion. Pok­lad is nick­named “The Stran­gler,” a ref­er­ence to his rep­u­ta­tion for using tor­ture and assort­ed dirty tricks to set-up his boss­es’ polit­i­cal rivals on trea­son charges.

    This April, a vivid illus­tra­tion of the SBU’s bru­tal­i­ty emerged in the form of video (below) show­ing its agents pum­mel­ing a group of men accused of Russ­ian sym­pa­thies in the city of Dnipro.

    Ukrain­ian SBU is arrest­ing civil­ians in Dnipropetro­vsk. pic.twitter.com/bbHFeADnqg— Vera Van Horne (@VeraVanHorne) April 5, 2022

    “We will nev­er take Russ­ian sol­diers pris­on­er”: Ukraine’s mil­i­tary flaunts its war crimes

    While the West­ern media has focused square­ly on alleged Russ­ian human rights abus­es since the out­break of war, Ukrain­ian sol­diers and pro-Ukrain­ian social media accounts have proud­ly exhib­it­ed sadis­tic war crimes, from field exe­cu­tions to the tor­ture of cap­tive sol­diers.

    This March, a pro-Ukrain­ian Telegram chan­nel called White Lives Mat­ter released a video of a Ukrain­ian sol­dier call­ing the fiancee of a Russ­ian pris­on­er of war, seen below, and taunt­ing her with promis­es to cas­trate the cap­tive.

    Ukrain­ian sol­diers’ use of the cell­phones of dead Russ­ian sol­diers to mock and hec­tor their rel­a­tives appears to be a com­mon prac­tice. In fact, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has begun using noto­ri­ous­ly inva­sive facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy from Clearview AI, a US tech com­pa­ny, to iden­ti­fy Russ­ian casu­al­ties and taunt their rel­a­tives on social media.

    ...

    This April, a pro-Ukrain­ian Telegram chan­nel called fckrussia2022 post­ed a video depict­ing a Russ­ian sol­dier with one of his eyes ban­daged, sug­gest­ing it had been gouged dur­ing tor­ture, and mocked him as a “one-eyed” pig.

    Per­haps the most grue­some image to have appeared on social media in recent weeks is the pho­to of a tor­tured Russ­ian sol­dier who had one of his eyes gouged before he was killed. The accom­pa­ny­ing post was cap­tioned, “look­ing for Nazis.”

    Video has also emerged this April show­ing Ukrain­ian sol­diers shoot­ing defense­less Russ­ian POWs in the legs out­side the city of Kharkov. A sep­a­rate video pub­lished by Ukrain­ian and US-backed Geor­gian Legion sol­diers showed the fight­ers car­ry­ing out field exe­cu­tions of wound­ed Russ­ian cap­tives near a vil­lage out­side Kiev.

    It is like­ly that these sol­diers had been embold­ened by their supe­ri­ors’ bless­ings. Mamu­la Mamu­lashvili, the com­man­der of the Geor­gian Legion, which par­tic­i­pat­ed in the field exe­cu­tions of wound­ed Russ­ian POW’s, boast­ed this April that his unit freely engages in war crimes: “Yes, we tie their hands and feet some­times. I speak for the Geor­gian Legion, we will nev­er take Russ­ian sol­diers pris­on­er. Not a sin­gle one of them will be tak­en pris­on­er.”

    Sim­i­lar­ly, Gen­nadiy Druzenko, the head of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary med­ical ser­vice, stat­ed in an inter­view with Ukraine 24 that he “issued an order to cas­trate all Russ­ian men because they were sub­hu­man and worse than cock­roach­es.”

    Ukrain­ian offi­cials present woman tor­tured and killed by Azov as vic­tim of Rus­sia

    While West­ern media homes in on Russ­ian human rights vio­la­tions at home and inside Ukraine, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has autho­rized a pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign known as “Total War” that includes the plant­i­ng of bogus images and false sto­ries to fur­ther impli­cate Rus­sia.

    In one espe­cial­ly cyn­i­cal exam­ple of the strat­e­gy, Ukraine 24 – a TV chan­nel where guests have called for the geno­ci­dal exter­mi­na­tion of Russ­ian chil­dren – pub­lished a pho­to this April depict­ing a female corpse brand­ed with a bloody swasti­ka on her stom­ach. Ukraine 24 claimed that it found this woman in Gos­tumel, one of the regions in the Kiev Oblast that the Rus­sians vacat­ed on March 29.

    Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrain­ian mem­ber of par­lia­ment, and Olek­siy Arestovych, the top advi­sor to Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky, pub­lished the pho­to of the defiled female corpse on social media. While Vasylenko left the pho­to online, Arestovych delet­ed it eight hours after post­ing when con­front­ed with the fact that he had pub­lished a fake.

    In fact, the image was pulled from footage orig­i­nal­ly record­ed by Patrick Lan­cast­er, a Donet­sk-based US jour­nal­ist who had filmed the corpse of a woman tor­tured and mur­dered by mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian Azov Bat­tal­ion in a Mar­i­upol school base­ment they had con­vert­ed into a base.

    At 2:31 in Lancaster’s video, the woman’s corpse can be seen clear­ly.

    ...

    ————

    ““One less trai­tor”: Zelen­sky over­sees cam­paign of assas­si­na­tion, kid­nap­ping and tor­ture of polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion” by Max Blu­men­thal and Esha Krish­naswamy; The Gray­zone; 04/17/2022

    “The Ukrain­ian SBU secu­ri­ty ser­vices has served as the enforce­ment arm of the offi­cial­ly autho­rized cam­paign of repres­sion. With train­ing from the CIA and close coor­di­na­tion with Ukraine’s state-backed neo-Nazi para­mil­i­taries, the SBU has spent the past weeks fill­ing its vast arch­i­pel­ago of tor­ture dun­geons with polit­i­cal dis­si­dents.”

    Repres­sion of any­thing deemed ‘pro-Russ­ian’ has been a fea­ture of Ukraine’s polit­i­cal and legal land­scape ever since the 2014 Maid­an regime change and the pas­sage of the “lus­tra­tion” laws fol­low­ing that effec­tive­ly purged Ukraine of fig­ures asso­ci­at­ed with the oust­ed Yanukovych gov­ernent. But that trend has been kicked into high gear with the out­break of this war. The SBU’s tor­ture dun­geons are fill­ing up. It’s not some­thing we need to spec­u­late about. The SBU and Ukrain­ian author­i­ties have been quite open about it. For years now. Along with the Nazi groups like C14 empow­ered by author­i­ties to help wage these purge. That’s why inter­na­tion­al observers like the Unit­ed Nations Office of the High Com­mis­sion have issue reports explic­it­ly accus­ing the SBU of polit­i­cal dis­ap­pear­ances. Reports that are now going to be rel­a­tive­ly tame com­pared to what’s going on in Ukraine right now:

    ...
    “The war is being used to kid­nap, imprison and even kill oppo­si­tion mem­bers who express them­selves crit­i­cal of the gov­ern­ment,” a left-wing activist beat­en and per­se­cut­ed by Ukraine’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices com­ment­ed this April. “We must all fear for our free­dom and our lives.”

    ...

    When a US-backed gov­ern­ment seized pow­er in Kiev fol­low­ing the Euro­maid­an regime change oper­a­tion of 2013–14, Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment embarked on a nation­wide purge of polit­i­cal ele­ments deemed pro-Russ­ian or insuf­fi­cient­ly nation­al­is­tic. The pas­sage of “decom­mu­niza­tion” laws by the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment fur­ther eased the per­se­cu­tion of left­ist ele­ments and the pros­e­cu­tion of activists for polit­i­cal speech.

    The post-Maid­an regime has focused its wrath on Ukraini­ans who have advo­cat­ed a peace set­tle­ment with pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the country’s east, those who have doc­u­ment­ed human rights abus­es by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, and mem­bers of com­mu­nist orga­ni­za­tions. Dis­si­dent ele­ments have faced the con­stant threat of ultra-nation­al­ist vio­lence, impris­on­ment, and even mur­der.

    The Ukrain­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vice known as the SBU has served as the main enforcer of the post-Maid­an government’s cam­paign of domes­tic polit­i­cal repres­sion. Pro-West­ern mon­i­tors includ­ing the Unit­ed Nations Office of the High Com­mis­sion (UN OHCR) and Human Rights Watch have accused the SBU of sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly tor­tur­ing polit­i­cal oppo­nents and Ukrain­ian dis­si­dents with near-total impuni­ty.

    The UN OHCR found in 2016 that “arbi­trary deten­tion, enforced dis­ap­pear­ances, tor­ture and ill-treat­ment of such con­flict-relat­ed detainees were com­mon prac­tice of SBU… A for­mer Kharkiv SBU offi­cer explained, ‘For the SBU, the law vir­tu­al­ly does not exist as every­thing that is ille­gal can be either clas­si­fied or explained by refer­ring to state neces­si­ty.”

    Yevhen Karas, the founder of the infa­mous neo-Nazi C14 unit, has detailed the close rela­tion­ship his gang and oth­er extreme right fac­tions have enjoyed with the SBU. The SBU “informs not only us, but also Azov, the Right Sec­tor, and so on,” Karas boast­ed in a 2017 inter­view.
    ...

    Notably, one of the Ukrain­ian fig­ures who has been open­ly cel­e­brat­ing the SBU’s dis­si­dent assas­si­na­tion cam­paign is advi­sor to the Ukrain­ian Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs Anton Geraschenko. As we’ve seen, Geraschenko has been one of the strongest defend­ers of groups like Azov against charges of Nazism. So we should­n’t be sur­prised when we find Geraschenko cel­e­brat­ing how there’s “one less trai­tor” killed by a “court of the people’s tri­bunal” fol­low­ing reports that the SBU had hunt­ed down, tor­tured, and killed the anti-war may­or of the Ukrain­ian-con­trolled town of Lugan­sk:

    ...
    Since Rus­sia launched its mil­i­tary oper­a­tion inside Ukraine, the SBU has hunt­ed down local offi­cials that decid­ed to accept human­i­tar­i­an sup­plies from Rus­sia or nego­ti­at­ed with Russ­ian forces to arrange cor­ri­dors for civil­ian evac­u­a­tions.

    On March 1, for exam­ple, Volodymyr Strok, the may­or of the east­ern city of Kreminna in the Ukrain­ian-con­trolled side of Lugan­sk, was kid­napped by men in mil­i­tary uni­form, accord­ing to his wife, and shot in the heart.

    On March 3, pic­tures of Strok’s vis­i­bly tor­tured body appeared. A day before his mur­der, Struk had report­ed­ly urged his Ukrain­ian col­leagues to nego­ti­ate with pro-Russ­ian offi­cials.

    Anton Gerashchenko, an advi­sor to the Ukrain­ian Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs, cel­e­brat­ed the mayor’s mur­der, declar­ing on his Telegram page (see below): “There is one less trai­tor in Ukraine. The may­or of Kreminna in Luhan­sk region, for­mer deputy of Luhan­sk par­lia­ment was found killed.”

    Accord­ing to Geraschenko, Strok had been judged by the “court of the people’s tri­bunal.”

    The Ukrain­ian offi­cial there­fore deliv­ered a chill­ing mes­sage to any­one choos­ing to seek coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia: do so and lose your life.
    ...

    But it’s not like all the tar­gets of these extra­ju­di­cial assas­si­na­tions are eas­i­ly explain­able. Recall the bizarre mur­der Ukrain­ian peace nego­ti­a­tion Denis Kireev. We still have no idea why exact­ly he was killed by the SBU. But we we do know is that the SBU was clear­ly try­ing to send a mes­sage by leav­ing his dead body to be found on the streets. It was like an act of ter­ror­ism direct­ed at Ukraine’s dis­si­dent with­in the gov­ern­ment:

    ...
    On March 7, the may­or of Gos­tomel, Yuri Prylip­ko, was found mur­dered. Prylip­ko had report­ed­ly entered into nego­ti­a­tions with the Russ­ian mil­i­tary to orga­nize a human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor for the evac­u­a­tion of his city’s res­i­dents – a red line for Ukrain­ian ultra-nation­al­ists who had long been in con­flict with the mayor’s office.

    Next, on March 24, Gen­nady Mat­sego­ra, the may­or of Kupyan­sk in north­east­ern Ukraine, released a video (below) appeal­ing to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky and his admin­is­tra­tion for the release of his daugh­ter, who had been held hostage by agents of the Ukrain­ian SBU intel­li­gence agency.

    Then there was the mur­der of Denis Kireev, a top mem­ber of the Ukrain­ian nego­ti­at­ing team, who was killed in broad day­light in Kiev after the first round of talks with Rus­sia. Kireev was sub­se­quent­ly accused in local Ukrain­ian media of “trea­son.”

    Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelensky’s state­ment that “there would be con­se­quences for col­lab­o­ra­tors” indi­cates that these atroc­i­ties have been sanc­tioned by the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment.
    ...

    But this polit­i­cal repres­sion isn’t just com­ing in the form of assas­si­na­tions and tar­get­ed bru­tal­i­ty. 11 oppo­si­tion par­ties were just banned out­right on March 19 via an invo­ca­tion of mar­tial law. It’s like a tur­bo-charged lus­tra­tion 2.0:

    ...
    In a March 19 exec­u­tive order, Zelen­sky invoked mar­tial law to ban 11 oppo­si­tion par­ties. The out­lawed par­ties con­sist­ed of the entire left-wing, social­ist or anti-NATO spec­trum in Ukraine. They includ­ed the For Life Par­ty, the Left Oppo­si­tion, the Pro­gres­sive Social­ist Par­ty of Ukraine, the Social­ist Par­ty of Ukraine, Union of Left Forces, Social­ists, the Par­ty of Shariy, Ours, State, Oppo­si­tion Bloc and the Volodymyr Sal­do Bloc.

    Open­ly fas­cist and pro-Nazi par­ties like the Azov Nation­al Corps were left untouched by the pres­i­den­tial decree, how­ev­er.

    “The activ­i­ties of those politi­cians aimed at divi­sion or col­lu­sion will not suc­ceed, but will receive a harsh response,” Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky stat­ed.

    As he wiped out his oppo­si­tion, Zelen­sky ordered an unprece­dent­ed domes­tic pro­pa­gan­da ini­tia­tive to nation­al­ize all tele­vi­sion news broad­cast­ing and com­bine all chan­nels into a sin­gle 24 hour chan­nel called “Unit­ed News” to “tell the truth about war.”

    Next, on April 12, Zelen­sky announced the arrest of his prin­ci­pal polit­i­cal rival, Vik­tor Medved­chuk, by Ukraine’s SBU secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    ...

    The founder of the sec­ond largest par­ty in Ukraine, the now-ille­gal Patri­ots for Life, Medved­chuk is the de fac­to rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the country’s eth­nic Russ­ian pop­u­la­tion. Though Patri­ots for Life is regard­ed as “pro-Rus­sia,” in part because of his close rela­tions with Vladimir Putin, the new chair­man of the par­ty has con­demned Russia’s “aggres­sion” against Ukraine.

    Mem­bers of the state-spon­sored neo-Nazi Azov Battalion’s Nation­al Corps attacked Medvedchuk’s home in March 2019, accus­ing him of trea­son and demand­ing his arrest.

    In August 2020, Azov’s Nation­al Corps opened fire on a bus car­ry­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Medvedchuk’s par­ty, wound­ing sev­er­al with rub­ber-coat­ed steel bul­lets.
    ...

    And note how it’s note just the SBU car­ry­ing out this cam­paign of ter­ror. Some­times it’s the SBU work­ing with Azov to kid­nap, tor­ture, and kill dis­si­dents:

    ...
    This March 3 in the city of Dnipro, SBU offi­cers accom­pa­nied by Azov ultra-nation­al­ists raid­ed the home of activists with the Liviz­ja (Left) orga­ni­za­tion, which has orga­nized against social spend­ing cuts and right-wing media pro­pa­gan­da. While one activist said the Azov mem­ber “cut my hair off with a knife,” the state secu­ri­ty agents pro­ceed­ed to tor­ture her hus­band, Alexan­der Matjuschenko, press­ing a gun bar­rel to his head and forc­ing him to repeat­ed­ly belt out the nation­al­ist salute, “Sla­va Ukrai­ni!”

    “Then they put bags over our heads, tied our hands with tape and took us to the SBU build­ing in a car. There they con­tin­ued to inter­ro­gate us and threat­ened to cut off our ears,” Matjuschenko’s wife told the left­ist Ger­man pub­li­ca­tion Junge Welt.

    The Azov mem­bers and SBU agents record­ed the tor­ture ses­sion and pub­lished images of Matjuschenko’s blood­ied face online.

    Matjuschenko was jailed on the grounds that he was “con­duct­ing an aggres­sive war or mil­i­tary oper­a­tion,” and now faces 10 to 15 years in prison. Despite endur­ing sev­er­al bro­ken ribs from the beat­ing by state-backed ultra-nation­al­ists, he has been denied bail. Mean­while, dozens of oth­er left­ists have been jailed on sim­i­lar charges in Dnipro.

    Among those tar­get­ed by the SBU were Mikhail and Alek­sander Kononovich, mem­bers of the out­lawed Lenin­ist Com­mu­nist Youth Union of Ukraine. Both were arrest­ed and jailed on March 6 and accused of “spread­ing pro-Russ­ian and pro-Belaru­sian views.”

    ...

    Along those lines, also note how the “Myrotvorets” group — ded­i­cat­ed to black­list­ing and doxxing thou­sands of local and inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ists deemed “ene­mies of Ukraine” and pro­mot­ed by Anton Geraschenko — is play­ing a role in this cam­paign of polit­i­cal repres­sion. Which is more or less what we should have expect­ed:

    ...
    Ukraine’s SBU has even hunt­ed oppo­si­tion fig­ures out­side the country’s bor­ders. As jour­nal­ist Dan Cohen report­ed, Ana­toly Shariy of the recent­ly banned Par­ty of Shariy said he was the tar­get of a recent SBU assas­si­na­tion attempt. Shariy has been an out­spo­ken oppo­nent of the US-backed Maid­an regime, and has been forced to flee into exile after endur­ing years of harass­ment from nation­al­ists.

    This March, the lib­er­tar­i­an politi­cian and online pun­dit received an email from a friend, “Igor,” seek­ing to arrange a meet­ing. He sub­se­quent­ly learned that Igor was held by the SBU at the time and being used to bait Shariy into dis­clos­ing his loca­tion.

    For his part, Shariy has been placed on the noto­ri­ous Myrotvorets pub­lic black­list of “ene­mies of the state” found­ed by Anton Geraschenko – the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs advi­sor who endorsed the assas­si­na­tion of Ukrain­ian law­mak­ers accused of Russ­ian sym­pa­thies. Sev­er­al jour­nal­ists and Ukrain­ian dis­si­dents, includ­ing the promi­nent colum­nist Oles Buz­i­na, were mur­dered by state-backed death squads after their names appeared on the list.
    ...

    Final­ly, we have to keep in mind that all of these dead bod­ies have to be explained. And while the SBU is clear­ly not shy about tout­ing its assas­si­na­tion cam­paign in some cas­es, it’s a safe bet that a lot of these exe­cu­tions are not some­thing the SBU and its Azov allies want the world to know about. And that’s why we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent that this sto­ry of Azov tor­tur­ing and killing a woman, and then hav­ing the inci­dent passed off by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment as per­pe­trat­ed by the Rus­sians, is the kind of thing we can be con­fi­dent is hap­pen­ing far more than is being report­ed:

    ...
    While West­ern media homes in on Russ­ian human rights vio­la­tions at home and inside Ukraine, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has autho­rized a pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign known as “Total War” that includes the plant­i­ng of bogus images and false sto­ries to fur­ther impli­cate Rus­sia.

    In one espe­cial­ly cyn­i­cal exam­ple of the strat­e­gy, Ukraine 24 – a TV chan­nel where guests have called for the geno­ci­dal exter­mi­na­tion of Russ­ian chil­dren – pub­lished a pho­to this April depict­ing a female corpse brand­ed with a bloody swasti­ka on her stom­ach. Ukraine 24 claimed that it found this woman in Gos­tumel, one of the regions in the Kiev Oblast that the Rus­sians vacat­ed on March 29.

    Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrain­ian mem­ber of par­lia­ment, and Olek­siy Arestovych, the top advi­sor to Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky, pub­lished the pho­to of the defiled female corpse on social media. While Vasylenko left the pho­to online, Arestovych delet­ed it eight hours after post­ing when con­front­ed with the fact that he had pub­lished a fake.

    In fact, the image was pulled from footage orig­i­nal­ly record­ed by Patrick Lan­cast­er, a Donet­sk-based US jour­nal­ist who had filmed the corpse of a woman tor­tured and mur­dered by mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian Azov Bat­tal­ion in a Mar­i­upol school base­ment they had con­vert­ed into a base.

    At 2:31 in Lancaster’s video, the woman’s corpse can be seen clear­ly.
    ...

    How many more videos of peo­ple tor­tured and killed by Azov are we even­tu­al­ly going to see per­co­lat­ing through the inter­net with claims of Russ­ian civil­ian atroc­i­ties? We’ll nev­er real­ly know. It’s part of what’s so awful about this con­flict. In the end, there’s going to be a mind-numb­ing num­ber of atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted where we can’t ever real­ly know who com­mit­ted it. War is hell and part of that hell is the unavail­abil­i­ty of any mean­ing­ful jus­tice in so many cas­es. But that does­n’t mean there won’t be enor­mous efforts to spin what hap­pened. Espe­cial­ly by the groups doing the killing. And right now it appears to be ‘open sea­son’ on left­ists and any­one deemed to be ‘pro-Russ­ian’ in Ukraine. That’s going to require a lot of spin.

    And that’s why it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that one of the biggest things the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty can do to dis­in­cen­tivize this kind of ram­pant kid­nap­ping and tor­ture of civil­ians by groups like Azov is to stop tak­ing groups like Azov at their word when­ev­er they deny atroc­i­ties and start tak­ing them at their word when they cel­e­brate these atroc­i­ties. As long as groups like Azov and their SBU spon­sors know they can kill civil­ians basi­cal­ly with impuni­ty — with the added bonus of being able to gen­er­ate inter­na­tion­al out­rage by video­ing the tor­tured bod­ies and blam­ing it on Rus­sia — they’re going to keep doing it with greater enthu­si­asm. In oth­er words, yes, this is a sto­ry about the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s col­lu­sion with Ukraine’s Nazis to oppor­tunis­ti­cal­ly purge the coun­try of its left­ists and eth­nic Russ­ian pop­u­la­tion. But it’s also a much large sto­ry about how Ukraine’s allies in the West and the inter­na­tion­al media have large­ly con­doned this ongo­ing ‘cleans­ing’ of Ukraine.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 18, 2022, 4:51 pm
  16. @Pterrafractyl–

    Pic­tures of Ukraine’s present and Ukraine’s past present a hor­ri­fy­ing and dra­mat­ic con­ti­nu­ity:

    A twit­ter video of a par­tial­ly stripped woman from the arti­cle above: https://twitter.com/TheUN_voice/status/1510670788499685377?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1510671456698396674%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es2_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F

    We present a pho­to essay of the 6/30/1941 pogrom in Lviv.

    That pogrom has been–in effect–celebrated with Shukhevy­ch­fest.

    Strip­ping female vic­tims would appear to be a pop­u­lar recre­ation­al exer­cise in Ukraine.

    https://www.vintag.es/2016/10/30-shocking-historical-photos-of-lviv.html

    No protest from Amer­i­can fem­i­nists, appar­ent­ly.

    Keep up the great work!

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 18, 2022, 5:21 pm
  17. Here’s a WaPo arti­cle from last week relat­ed to ongo­ing ques­tions about civil­ian mas­sacres in Bucha. In par­tic­u­lar, ques­tions about the extent of the Azov Bat­tal­ion oper­a­tions in the area dur­ing that Russ­ian occu­pa­tion and what role Azov may have played in those civil­ian deaths.

    As we’ve seen, it sounds like the Russ­ian forces start­ed the occu­pa­tion of Bucha off in a rel­a­tive­ly polite and friend­ly man­ner in the ear­ly days. https://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr1237-how-many-lies-before-you-belong-to-the-lie-part-10/comment-page‑1/#comment-370768 Russ­ian forces declared Yablun­ska Street to be a no-go zone and warned that any­one trav­el­ing on the street will be shot. Civil­ians nonethe­less trav­eled on the street, result­ing in the gory images of bod­ies lin­ing that road fol­low­ing the Russ­ian pull out. So while a nar­ra­tive about the indis­crim­i­nate ter­ror­is­tic killing of civil­ians by Russ­ian forces in Bucha soon took hold, these reports instead point towards Bucha being the site of intense urban com­bat between oppos­ing forces. Exact­ly the kind of sit­u­a­tion where you would expect a lot of civil­ian deaths.

    But then there’s the ques­tions about which Ukrain­ian forces were fight­ing in Bucha. Was the Azov Bat­tal­ion one of those units? If so, that should raise an array of ques­tions about the source of these civil­ian deaths. As we’ve seen, groups like Azov have been open­ly bru­tal­iz­ing civil­ians accus­ing of ‘pro-Russ­ian’ sym­pa­thies, or for just being left­ists, since the start of the war.

    And all those ques­tions about whether or not Azov was oper­at­ing in Bucha were piqued with the video released on April 3, sev­er­al days after the Russ­ian forces with­drew from Bucha, that appears to show Sergey “Boats­man” Korotkikh in Bucha giv­ing troops per­mis­sion to shoot any­one not wear­ing a blue arm­band. Yes, this noto­ri­ous Azov leader just hap­pened to show up in Bucha right after the Rus­sians left in a video that appears to show Korotkikh giv­ing orders to kill peo­ple indis­crim­i­nate­ly.

    Also recall the fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry from August of 2021 involv­ing Korotkikh’s role as the leader of Azov’s busi­ness oper­a­tions. The report was about an August 14 attack on the pres­i­den­tial office of Vlolodymyr Zelen­skiy in Kiev by a group of Azov pro­tes­tors demand­ing to be allowed to see Zelen­skiy. When the police forced the pro­tes­tors to sub­mit to an inspec­tion before being allowed to see Zelen­skiy, the pro­tes­tors were issued an order to attack the police, wound­ing sev­er­al offi­cers an a mem­ber of the Nation­al Guard who had to be tak­en to the hos­pi­tal.

    And while we don’t know exact­ly what these pro­tes­tors were plan­ning on address­ing with Zelen­skiy, the sur­round­ing cir­cum­stances give a big clue. This inci­dent hap­pened amid an SBU crack­down on Azov’s rack­e­teer­ing prac­tices as part of a larg­er US-backed anti-oli­garch crack­down. And one of the oligrachs appar­ent­ly tar­get­ed in this crack­down includes Igor Kolo­moisky, a major polit­i­cal patron of both Zelen­skiy and the Azov Bat­tal­ion. In addi­tion, Arsen Avakov — Azov’s long-stand­ing spon­sor in the Inte­ri­or Min­istry — resigned in July.

    But then there’s the angle Korotkikh played in this sto­ry if an appar­ent foiled Azov attack on Zelen­skiy: Vitaly Shishov, the head of Belaru­sian House, an oppo­si­tion group that offers aid to Belaru­sians that flee to Ukraine, was found hanged in a tree in a Kyiv park on August 3. Shishov also had close ties to Azov via his fel­low Belarus House part­ner Rodi­on Bat­ulin and Sergey Korotkikh. Korotkikh is believed to be run­ning Azov’s busi­ness oper­a­tions.

    So a week and a half after Korotkikh’s Belarus House asso­ciate was found hang­ing in a park in Kiev amidst a SBU crack­down on both oligrachs and Azov’s rack­e­teer­ing busi­ness, we have an Azov assault on Zelen­skiy’s pres­i­den­tial office.

    Then, a few months lat­er, we get reports about an impend­ing Kremin-backed coup plot rat­tling the Zelen­skiy admin­is­tra­tion, and yet that coup plot seemed to revolve around Rinat Akhme­tov, a fig­ure who doesn’t fit the Krem­line stooge pro­file. Quite the oppo­site. The fig­ures who appear to be involved with this plot were staunch Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists.

    That’s all part of the con­text of what was hap­pen­ing inside Ukraine in the months lead­ing up to the Russ­ian inva­sion. A kind of civ­il war had already bro­ken out, with Zelen­skiy and a new­ly Avakov-free SBU seem­ing­ly engaged in a rig­or­ous enough crack­down to not only trig­ger that Azov attack on Zelen­skiy’s office in August but may have also played a role in the coup plot warn­ings we were get­ting from Zelen­skiy just a few months lat­er.

    And it’s a con­text where Sergey “Boats­man” Korotkikh is play­ing a key lead­er­ship role inside the Azov move­ment. So when that video of Korotkikh giv­ing the indis­crim­i­nate kill orders in Bucha sur­faced, the ques­tions about Azov’s role in the killing of civil­ians only grew more urgent.

    And that brings us the fol­low­ing WaPo arti­cle last week about the events in Bucha. It turns out Korotkikh decid­ed to get involved with the inter­na­tion­al debate over what exact­ly hap­pened in Bucha and when. Recall how satel­lite images released by the com­mer­cial satel­lite oper­a­tor Maxar were being used to show when bod­ies were show­ing up on Yablun­ska Street. Also recall how Maxar puz­zling­ly only released a few days of satel­lite images despite seem­ing­ly hav­ing new high res­o­lu­tion images of Bucha from each day in March. Even more puz­zling is that anoth­er com­mer­cial satel­lite oper­a­tor, Plan­et­Lab, also has dai­ly satel­lite images of Bucha and those appear to be entire­ly ignored by the world. Who knows why exact­ly all of this rich satel­lite data is being sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ignored by the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty, but as a result, any addi­tion­al evi­dence about the fight­ing in Bucha is still use­ful for under­stand­ing what hap­pened when.

    So it turns out Korotkikh is the source of six new drone videos, appar­ent­ly tak­en around March 19–21, that shows Russ­ian armored vehi­cles on the streets near where blown up cars and bod­ies were found. Or at least it’s assumed that these are Russ­ian armored vehi­cles based on the fact that the vehi­cles have “V” paint­ed on them are are of mod­el that is almost exclu­sive­ly used by Russ­ian air­borne units. The tim­ing of the videos has report­ed­ly been con­firmed by the WaPo, based in part on com­par­ing the videos to the satel­lite images released by Maxar and Plan­et­Labs.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, the oth­er mil­i­tary that is known to use these same types of vehi­cles is Ukraine, but the experts cit­ed in the arti­cle spec­u­late that Ukraine has already lost most of those vehi­cles in the fight­ing. So actu­al­ly, tech­ni­cal­ly, Ukraine could have just paint­ed some “V“s on its own stock of these vehi­cle and sent them to Yablun­ska Street. And let’s also not for­get the grow­ing vol­ume of cap­tures Russ­ian vehi­cles. It’s a reminder that, as video evi­dence is increas­ing­ly used to estab­lish what hap­pened in this con­flict, it’s not actu­al­ly going to be that dif­fi­cult to cre­ate videos using the side’s vehi­cles. They’re basi­cal­ly the same vehi­cles, but some­times with a “V” paint­ed on them.

    Now, giv­en that the Russ­ian forces pre­sum­ably had Yablun­ska Street fair­ly well cov­ered at this point and they were in the mid­dle of intense urban com­bat with the Ukrain­ian forces, it’s not at all hard to believe that those real­ly were Russ­ian armored vehi­cles. Don’t for­get that Yablunksa Street con­nects Bucha to Irpin, where intense fight­ing was also going on at this time. It’s part of why the bod­ies found on Yablun­ska Street should­n’t real­ly be put in the same cat­e­go­ry as the mass grave found at the near­by church. The mass grave was a very delib­er­ate act. Yablun­ska Street, on the oth­er hand, was an active war zone for most of the occu­pa­tion. It’s hard­ly shock­ing if Russ­ian troops were videoed in armored vehi­cles on that street. They prob­a­bly would have been shot by Ukrain­ian snipers if they had­n’t been.

    So while the release of these videos by Korotkikh was treat­ed by the press as seem­ing­ly fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion of Russ­ian atroc­i­ties in Bucha, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that the videos don’t real­ly tell us any­thing we did­n’t already know about what the Russ­ian forces were doing in Bucha. But they do tell us some­thing quite impor­tant that we had­n’t had con­firmed before: Sergey “Boats­man” Korotkikh and his forces were oper­at­ing in or new Bucha dur­ing the weeks lead­ing up to the Russ­ian with­draw:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Russ­ian armored vehi­cles seen on Bucha street strewn with bod­ies, video shows

    By Jonathan Baran, Sarah Cahlan and Jon Swaine
    April 14, 2022|Updated April 14, 2022 at 2:45 a.m. EDT

    Drone videos cap­tured over sev­er­al days in late March show mil­i­tary vehi­cles used by Russ­ian air­borne units near at least eight bod­ies lying along a street in Bucha, a sub­urb north­west of Kyiv.

    The time frame over­laps with pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished videos show­ing armored vehi­cles fir­ing on civil­ians. These new videos fur­ther con­firm that Russ­ian mil­i­tary occu­pied this inter­sec­tion when Ukrain­ian civil­ians were shot at and killed.

    The six videos, record­ed by a per­son known to be affil­i­at­ed with neo-Nazis, were obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post and first report­ed on by Meduza, a Russ­ian news out­let banned by the Krem­lin from oper­at­ing in the coun­try.

    After Russ­ian forces pulled back from the area around Kyiv in late March, videos of bod­ies along Yablon­s­ka Street spread on social media. Krem­lin-backed media quick­ly denounced them, claim­ing Rus­sia was the tar­get of “elab­o­rate hoax” staged to impli­cate it in war crimes. The Post ver­i­fied the authen­tic­i­ty of sev­er­al of the videos from Bucha.

    ...

    Based on meta­da­ta and avail­able satel­lite imagery, The Post deter­mined that this most recent set of videos were tak­en after March 19. The Post com­pared the appear­ance of destroyed vehi­cles, dead bod­ies and dam­age to build­ings along Yablon­s­ka Street in the drone videos with their appear­ance in images from Plan­et Labs and Maxar Tech­nolo­gies. In satel­lite imagery cap­tured on March 19 destroyed cars are not vis­i­ble, but they are in pho­tos tak­en on March 21.

    The armored vehi­cles seen in the video were iden­ti­fied by experts as Russ­ian BMD‑2 and BTR‑D, who not­ed that the col­or and white ‘V’ mark­ings are con­sis­tent with Russ­ian vehi­cles seen in Ukraine.

    The types of armored vehi­cles in the images are almost exclu­sive­ly used by Russ­ian air­borne units, also known as the VDV. Ukraine’s armed forces has oper­at­ed a small num­ber of these vehi­cles, but it’s unclear how many of these still remain oper­a­tional after recent skir­mish­es accord­ing to Amaël Kot­lars­ki, an expert in infantry weapons at defense intel­li­gence provider Janes.

    “Only the VDV oper­ates BMDs in the Russ­ian Armed Forces,” said Kot­lars­ki, who iden­ti­fied an armored vehi­cle hid­den behind a fence as a Russ­ian BTR‑D. “The pike nose is the biggest give­away.”

    Sergey Korotkikh, the Azov Bat­tal­ion com­man­der who dis­trib­uted the videos, did not respond to a mes­sage from The Post. On Telegram, he shared a mes­sage that praised him for releas­ing the video footage. The admin­is­tra­tor of Korotkikh’s offi­cial Telegram cha­t­room, who gave his name as Drew, con­firmed that Korotkikh gave the footage to Meduza.

    The Azov Bat­tal­ion is a high­ly skilled mili­tia unit fight­ing against the Russ­ian inva­sion of Ukraine. It is con­tro­ver­sial for its far-right nation­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy and accep­tance of white suprema­cists with­in its ranks.

    A spokesman for Korotkikh who iden­ti­fied him­self as Denis said Korotkikh was “not in town” and unavail­able for com­ment. He did not respond to fur­ther ques­tions. Korotkikh said in a Telegram post on Mon­day that he had been at Ukraine’s bor­der with Belarus.

    ———–

    “Russ­ian armored vehi­cles seen on Bucha street strewn with bod­ies, video shows” by Jonathan Baran, Sarah Cahlan and Jon Swaine; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/14/2022

    The six videos, record­ed by a per­son known to be affil­i­at­ed with neo-Nazis, were obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post and first report­ed on by Meduza, a Russ­ian news out­let banned by the Krem­lin from oper­at­ing in the coun­try.

    Six drone videos “record­ed by a per­son known to be affil­i­at­ed with neo-Nazis”. That per­son is, of course, him­self an out­spo­ken neo-Nazi too: Sergey Korotkikh. And it sounds like Korotkikh him­self record­ed them. In oth­er words, that drone was like­ly col­lect­ing infor­ma­tion Korotkikh was using for real-time oper­a­tions in that area. Inter­est­ing­ly, note now there were new­ly destroyed cars in the video from March 21 that weren’t there on March 19. While it’s cer­tain­ly plau­si­ble des­per­ate civil­ians tried to flee down that street and were killed by Russ­ian forces, giv­en the tim­ing we have to ask if those fresh­ly destroyed cars being used mil­i­tary oper­a­tions being car­ried out by Korotkikh dur­ing this time. Korotkikh’s forces obvi­ous­ly had an inter­est in the area at that time:

    ...
    Based on meta­da­ta and avail­able satel­lite imagery, The Post deter­mined that this most recent set of videos were tak­en after March 19. The Post com­pared the appear­ance of destroyed vehi­cles, dead bod­ies and dam­age to build­ings along Yablon­s­ka Street in the drone videos with their appear­ance in images from Plan­et Labs and Maxar Tech­nolo­gies. In satel­lite imagery cap­tured on March 19 destroyed cars are not vis­i­ble, but they are in pho­tos tak­en on March 21.

    ...

    Sergey Korotkikh, the Azov Bat­tal­ion com­man­der who dis­trib­uted the videos, did not respond to a mes­sage from The Post. On Telegram, he shared a mes­sage that praised him for releas­ing the video footage. The admin­is­tra­tor of Korotkikh’s offi­cial Telegram cha­t­room, who gave his name as Drew, con­firmed that Korotkikh gave the footage to Meduza.
    ...

    Also note how the pri­ma­ry ‘aha’ moment in these videos is the fact that there are BMD‑2 and BTR‑D vehi­cles with “V” in the videos. Only Rus­si­a’s air­borne units use these vehicles...with the one excep­tion of Ukraine which also has a small sup­ply. Now, it’s very plau­si­ble that those are indeed Russ­ian vehi­cles in the video, but it’s just worth keep­ing in mind that these vehi­cles aren’t appar­ent­ly being used as evi­dence of Russ­ian activ­i­ty despite the fact that Ukraine does indeed own their own:

    ...
    The armored vehi­cles seen in the video were iden­ti­fied by experts as Russ­ian BMD‑2 and BTR‑D, who not­ed that the col­or and white ‘V’ mark­ings are con­sis­tent with Russ­ian vehi­cles seen in Ukraine.

    The types of armored vehi­cles in the images are almost exclu­sive­ly used by Russ­ian air­borne units, also known as the VDV. Ukraine’s armed forces has oper­at­ed a small num­ber of these vehi­cles, but it’s unclear how many of these still remain oper­a­tional after recent skir­mish­es accord­ing to Amaël Kot­lars­ki, an expert in infantry weapons at defense intel­li­gence provider Janes.

    “Only the VDV oper­ates BMDs in the Russ­ian Armed Forces,” said Kot­lars­ki, who iden­ti­fied an armored vehi­cle hid­den behind a fence as a Russ­ian BTR‑D. “The pike nose is the biggest give­away.”
    ...

    Final­ly, it’s also worth not­ing the inter­est­ing com­ment Korotkikh made last week about his where­abouts when these videos were released: he had been at Ukraine’s bor­der with Belarus:

    ...
    A spokesman for Korotkikh who iden­ti­fied him­self as Denis said Korotkikh was “not in town” and unavail­able for com­ment. He did not respond to fur­ther ques­tions. Korotkikh said in a Telegram post on Mon­day that he had been at Ukraine’s bor­der with Belarus.
    ...

    Keep in mind that the Russ­ian-Ukraine peace talks are being held in the town of Homel on the bor­der of Ukraine and Belarus. Giv­en Korotkikh’s promi­nent role in Azov, and the fact that he’s a Belu­russ­ian with an alleged his­to­ry with Rus­si­a’s FSB before join­ing Azov, you have to won­der if he’s play­ing any sort of role in those peace nego­ti­a­tions. Let’s hope not. Espe­cial­ly since that role would pre­sum­ably be threat­en­ing the lives of Ukraine’s nego­tia­tors should they arrive at an agree­ment.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 19, 2022, 4:27 pm
  18. So why exact­ly did Ukraine’s pow­er­ful long-time Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov sud­den­ly resign back in July of 2021? It’s a ques­tion that con­tin­ues to linger over Ukraine’s future as the Russ­ian inva­sion plays out. It’s an espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant ques­tion giv­en the ascen­dance of the Nazi move­ments like Azov as a result of this inva­sion. Nazi move­ments that Avakov was noto­ri­ous­ly close to and ele­vat­ed from the 2014–2021 while in office. And as we saw the fas­ci­nat­ing bne Intellinews report from back in August about an attack on Zelen­skiy’s pres­i­den­tial offices the month after Avakov’s res­ig­na­tion, the ten­sions between Zelen­skiy and Ukraine’s Nazis were only heat­ing up fol­low­ing Avakov’s depar­ture from the Zelen­skiy admin­is­tra­tion. Ten­sions that were, at least tem­porar­i­ly, redi­rect­ed towards Rus­sia fol­low­ing the inva­sion.

    But those ten­sions between Ukraine’s pres­i­dent and Ukraine’s Nazis are pre­sum­ably going to come roar­ing back assum­ing Ukraine isn’t turned into a pile in a per­ma­nent state of war, which is part of the rea­son the lin­ger­ing ques­tions about why exact­ly Avakov sud­den­ly resigned remain quite rel­e­vant. As we’ll see, the man was con­sid­ered effec­tive­ly untouch­able, man­i­fest­ing in the fact that he was the only mem­ber of Petro Poroshenko’s gov­ern­ment Zelen­skiy kept after tak­ing office in 2019. Zelen­skiy was appar­ent­ly impressed with the fact the Avakov was direct­ing his resources against Poroshenko dur­ing that elec­tion. ‘Resources’ like Azov’s polit­i­cal wing — Nation­al Corps — wag­ing pub­lic anti-cor­rup­tion protests against Poroshenko in the days before the elec­tion. Or Azov’s role as elec­tion mon­i­tors. Those ‘resources’ are report­ed­ly why Zelen­skiy decid­ed Avakov was the only mem­ber of Poroshenko’s cab­i­net to keep.

    So, again, why did Avakov sud­den­ly resign? Well, it sounds like the unre­solved inves­ti­ga­tion into the assas­si­na­tion of Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ist Pavel Sheremet could be a major fac­tor. Short­ly after get­ting elect­ed, Zelen­skiy ordered Avakov to com­plete the inves­ti­ga­tion that had been lan­guish­ing for years. The fol­low­ing month, three peo­ple were arrest­ed in what appeared to many to be a sham inves­ti­ga­tion. Zelen­skiy lat­er pub­licly stat­ed that if there turns out to be prob­lems with the inves­ti­ga­tion Avakov would be in trou­ble. Ques­tions about the verac­i­ty

    Recall how Sheremet’s assas­si­na­tion appears to have been the work of the SBU. So when Zelen­skiy demand­ed Avakov come up with a mean­ing­ful res­o­lu­tion to that inves­ti­ga­tion, he was basi­cal­ly ask­ing for an inves­ti­ga­tion into the SBU. Which obvi­ous­ly was­n’t going to real­ly hap­pen.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, in addi­tion­al to be close asso­ciates with Azov fig­ures Andriy Bilet­sky and Vadym Troy­an, Avakov is also report­ed­ly quite close to Sergey “boats­man” Korotkikh accord­ing to the fol­low­ing Meduza report. As we saw in the bne Intellinews report, Korotkikh is report­ed­ly the head of Azov’s busi­ness oper­a­tions and a close asso­ciate was found hang­ing from a tree in Kyiv in ear­ly August. Zelen­skiy’s gov­ern­ment was run­ning an anti-rack­e­teer­ing oper­a­tion against Azov at this time. Again, this was all less than a month after Avakov’s res­ig­na­tion. It hints at the kind of pro­tec­tive role Avakov was play­ing for Azov this whole time.

    Oh, and it sounds like the per­son who replaced Avakov, Denys Monastyrsk, has been described as “Avakov’s man”. Even when he’s gone, he’s still there. That’s pow­er. Which is all part of what we still need to ask why exact­ly Arsen Avakov resigned. But more impor­tant­ly, we still have to ask what he’s plan­ning on doing next with all that lin­ger­ing pow­er:

    Meduza

    The pow­er­ful and unpop­u­lar Why the sud­den res­ig­na­tion of Ukraine’s top police offi­cial is an impor­tant polit­i­cal event

    Sto­ry by Kate­ri­na Ser­gatsko­va in Kyiv

    Trans­la­tion by Eil­ish Hart
    2:30 pm, July 15, 2021

    On July 13, Ukraine’s top police offi­cial, Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov, filed a let­ter of res­ig­na­tion. On July 15, the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment sup­port­ed his deci­sion to step down. Avakov assumed office sev­en years ago, imme­di­ate­ly after the end of the Euro­maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion in Feb­ru­ary 2014. He remained inte­ri­or min­is­ter through­out Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko’s entire term (2014–2019) despite repeat­ed shuf­fles in the cab­i­net. Avakov held on to his posi­tion even under Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, who ini­ti­at­ed a rad­i­cal renew­al of gov­ern­ment per­son­nel. Although Avakov is extreme­ly unpop­u­lar in Ukraine, Zelen­sky has still said that “there’s no bet­ter min­is­ter.” Meduza explains why.

    From the ‘par­ty of war’

    Arsen Avakov is one of the most pow­er­ful gov­ern­ment offi­cials in Ukraine. Until 2010, he was gov­er­nor of the Kharkiv region. In 2012, he was elect­ed to the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment as a mem­ber of the Father­land par­ty (led by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko). In 2014, he was elect­ed to par­lia­ment once again — this time as a mem­ber of the People’s Front, which, amid the most acute peri­od of the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine, was referred to as the “par­ty of war.”

    After becom­ing Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter, Avakov’s first move was to reestab­lish the Nation­al Guard — a mil­i­tary force with law enforce­ment func­tions — on the basis of the Inte­ri­or Ministry’s Inter­nal Troops. The Nation­al Guard is referred to in Ukraine as Avakov “per­son­al army.” Along with reg­u­lar Ukrain­ian troops, Nation­al Guard units were sent to fight the sep­a­ratists and Russ­ian armed forces in Don­bas.

    Vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions fight­ing in east­ern Ukraine were also brought under the Inte­ri­or Min­istry. The most famous among them is the Azov Bat­tal­ion, which lat­er became the Azov Reg­i­ment of the Nation­al Guard. One of Azov’s founders, right-wing nation­al­ist Andriy Bilet­sky, has been a close asso­ciate of Avakov since his time Kharkiv. Bilet­sky was involved with the Kharkiv branch of the far-right Social-Nation­al Assem­bly Par­ty (now the Svo­bo­da par­ty) and co-found­ed its off-shoot, the ultra-nation­al­ist and neo-Nazi move­ment Social-Nation­al Assem­bly.

    Belaru­sian neo-Nazi Ser­i­hy Korotkykh, oth­er­wise known as “Bots­man,” also fought with Azov and lat­er end­ed up close to Avakov. Long before he moved to Ukraine, Korotkykh found­ed the Russ­ian far-right group Nation­al Social­ist Soci­ety, whose mem­bers have been accused of com­mit­ting mur­ders moti­vat­ed by racial hatred. In Rus­sia, Korotkykh went by the nick­name “Malyu­ta” and befriend­ed well-known neo-Nazi Max­im “Tesak” Martsinke­vich — togeth­er, they car­ried out a rad­i­cal project dubbed “Occu­py Pedophil­ia,” tak­ing pub­lic actions to “hunt” men iden­ti­fied as “pedophiles.” Accord­ing to his Ukrain­ian asset dec­la­ra­tions, Korotkykh worked as the head of the Inte­ri­or Ministry’s Police Depart­ment for the Secu­ri­ty of Strate­gic Objects from 2015 to 2018.

    In addi­tion, Bilet­sky and Korotkykh’s com­rade — the Azov Battallion’s for­mer deputy com­man­der, Vadym Troy­an — served as Avakov’s deputy for a long time.

    Police ‘reformer’

    Soon after the Euro­maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion, known in Ukraine as the Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­ni­ty, expat reform­ers began arriv­ing in the coun­try. In late 2014, Arsen Avakov appoint­ed for­mer Geor­gian offi­cial Eka Zgu­ladze as Ukraine’s First Deputy Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter. Zgu­ladze worked for the Geor­gian Inte­ri­or Min­istry for sev­en years dur­ing the tenure of Pres­i­dent Mikheil Saakashvili, and car­ried out a rad­i­cal and effec­tive police reform in Geor­gia. As part of Ukraine’s police reform, the police ser­vice changed its name from Mil­it­siya to Polit­siya, and anoth­er for­mer Geor­gian offi­cial from Saakashvili’s cir­cle — Kha­tia Dekanoidze — was made Chief of the new Ukrain­ian Nation­al Police. Dekanoidze pre­vi­ous­ly direct­ed the police acad­e­my in Geor­gia and trained patrol offi­cers. Ukraine’s new police offi­cers were trained with the help of instruc­tors from the Unit­ed States.

    That said, Avakov’s rela­tion­ship with Saakashvili him­self was com­plete­ly dys­func­tion­al. After the for­mer Geor­gian Pres­i­dent was appoint­ed gov­er­nor of Ukraine’s Ode­sa region in 2015, he reg­u­lar­ly made pub­lic accu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion against Avakov’s People’s Front par­ty. It got to the point where, dur­ing a meet­ing of Ukraine’s Nation­al Coun­cil for Reforms in Decem­ber 2015, and in the pres­ence of then-Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, Avakov threw a glass of water at Saakashvili after the Ode­sa gov­er­nor called him a thief.

    ...

    In the fall of 2020, the Kyiv-based Demo­c­ra­t­ic Ini­tia­tives Foun­da­tion con­duct­ed a soci­o­log­i­cal sur­vey, which showed that 80 per­cent Ukraini­ans have a neg­a­tive opin­ion of Avakov’s work — only 18.1 per­cent gave his activ­i­ties a pos­i­tive assess­ment. By this time, protest ral­lies under the wide­ly-used slo­gan “Avakov is the dev­il” were reg­u­lar occur­rences in Kyiv.

    The Sheremet Case

    When Volodymyr Zelen­sky was elect­ed pres­i­dent of Ukraine in 2019, he changed the entire lead­er­ship of the secu­ri­ty bloc, from the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (SBU) to the Defense Min­istry. Only Arsen Avakov remained in his place, pri­mar­i­ly due to the fact that he “pro­vid­ed Zelen­sky with fair elec­tions” — and direct­ed his own resources against Petro Poroshenko. For exam­ple, the far-right Nation­al Druzhy­na mili­tia, which is part of the Azov move­ment, orga­nized protests against the incum­bent pres­i­dent, and then took part in mon­i­tor­ing the elec­tions.

    Alleged­ly, Zelen­sky left Avakov in place on the con­di­tion that he prop­er­ly inves­ti­gate the mur­der of well-known jour­nal­ist Pavel Sheremet, who worked in Rus­sia and Belarus, as well as Ukraine. Sheremet was killed by a car bomb in cen­tral Kyiv on July 20, 2016 — for the next sev­er­al years, the Inte­ri­or Min­istry didn’t report any results from the inves­ti­ga­tion into his mur­der.

    In Octo­ber 2019, Zelen­sky told jour­nal­ists that he had giv­en Avakov until the end of the year to show progress in the inves­ti­ga­tion. Lit­er­al­ly a month lat­er, law enforce­ment began arrest­ing sus­pects. The Inte­ri­or Min­istry named three vol­un­teers who had assist­ed the Ukrain­ian army in Don­bas as the per­pe­tra­tors: Andriy Anto­nenko, Yulia Kuz­menko, and Yana Duhar. The arrests drew a flur­ry of crit­i­cism, main­ly because the inves­ti­ga­tion pro­vid­ed incon­clu­sive evi­dence to back up the accu­sa­tions.

    The Sheremet case is now under con­sid­er­a­tion in court, but the mas­ter­minds and orga­niz­ers behind the journalist’s mur­der have yet to be iden­ti­fied. At the end of May 2021, Zelen­sky announced that if the sus­pects in the case were to be unlaw­ful­ly con­vict­ed, Avakov would face prob­lems.

    Ukrain­ian law­mak­er Iry­na Vereshchuk, from Zelensky’s Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty, has already hint­ed to jour­nal­ists that the inte­ri­or minister’s res­ig­na­tion is con­nect­ed to the inves­ti­ga­tion into Pavel Sheremet’s killing. “At a [meet­ing] of the [Ser­vant of the Peo­ple] fac­tion the pres­i­dent said that he sum­moned Avakov and invit­ed him to write his res­ig­na­tion,” Vereshchuk told the Ukrain­ian news out­let Censor.net. “I only know that the pres­i­dent had ques­tions about the Sheremet case. You remem­ber that he spoke open­ly about the fact that if there’s no evi­dence, we will make deci­sions. Per­haps this was the last straw.”

    The suc­ces­sor

    In accor­dance with the Ukrain­ian Con­sti­tu­tion, the Verk­hov­na Rada (the country’s par­lia­ment) had to approve Avakov’s res­ig­na­tion. The Rada’s law­mak­ers already tried to dis­miss the inte­ri­or min­is­ter back in 2017, after his son — Olek­san­dr Avakov — was accused of embez­zling gov­ern­ment funds. Only 31 deputies sup­port­ed the dis­missal and the charges against Avakov Jr. were soon dropped. How­ev­er, judg­ing by com­ments from Deputy Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Anton Herashchenko, Avakov’s advi­sor Zoryan Shkiryak, and mem­bers of the rul­ing par­ty fac­tion (which holds a major­i­ty in par­lia­ment), this time around Avakov’s removal was pre­de­ter­mined.

    More­over, when Avakov announced his res­ig­na­tion, the Ser­vant of the Peo­ple fac­tion imme­di­ate­ly announced the name of his suc­ces­sor. The inte­ri­or minister’s seat is set to be tak­en up by Denys Monastyrsk, a Ser­vant of the Peo­ple law­mak­er. Monastyrsk is close­ly linked to peo­ple in Avakov’s cir­cle — before being elect­ed to the Rada, he was an expert on the law enforce­ment sys­tem at the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of the Future and an aide to Anton Herashchenko (he was an MP at the time, but is now the deputy inte­ri­or min­is­ter).

    Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Monastyrsky is being called “Avakov’s man.” By all appear­ances, the out­go­ing inte­ri­or min­is­ter will retain his influ­ence in the secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus even after his res­ig­na­tion. And this means that Avakov won’t dis­ap­pear from high-lev­el Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics in the years to come.

    ———–

    “The pow­er­ful and unpop­u­lar Why the sud­den res­ig­na­tion of Ukraine’s top police offi­cial is an impor­tant polit­i­cal event” by Kate­ri­na Ser­gatsko­va; Meduza; 07/15/2021

    “Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Monastyrsky is being called “Avakov’s man.” By all appear­ances, the out­go­ing inte­ri­or min­is­ter will retain his influ­ence in the secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus even after his res­ig­na­tion. And this means that Avakov won’t dis­ap­pear from high-lev­el Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics in the years to come.”

    Yikes. The way this arti­cle describes it, Avakov was poised to be a kind Ukrain­ian Allen Dulles, a for­mer all pow­er­ful spy chief who nev­er real­ly goes away. The fact that he was fired and replaced with some­one from Zelen­skiy’s own par­ty who is still seen as “Avakov’s man” is an indi­ca­tion that Avakov has no inten­tion of going away.

    But it’s not just Avakov’s influ­ence over the SBU that makes him such an intim­i­dat­ing fig­ure. It’s also the fact that Avakov effec­tive­ly turned the Nation Guard into his “per­son­al army”. Then he incor­po­rat­ed the “vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions” like the Azov Bat­tal­ion in the Nation­al Guard while main­tain­ing close per­son­al con­tacts with lead­ing Azov fig­ures like Andriy Bilet­sky and Sergey Korotikh. Avakov even had Azov’s for­mer deputy com­man­der, Vadym Troy­an, serve has his deputy. That’s, of course, in addi­tion to Troy­an’s appoint­ment in 2014 as the head of the Kiev region Chief of police. Avakov has been sur­round­ing him­self with the Ukraine’s extrem­ists from basi­cal­ly the entire­ty of his term as Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter:

    ...
    After becom­ing Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter, Avakov’s first move was to reestab­lish the Nation­al Guard — a mil­i­tary force with law enforce­ment func­tions — on the basis of the Inte­ri­or Ministry’s Inter­nal Troops. The Nation­al Guard is referred to in Ukraine as Avakov “per­son­al army.” Along with reg­u­lar Ukrain­ian troops, Nation­al Guard units were sent to fight the sep­a­ratists and Russ­ian armed forces in Don­bas.

    Vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions fight­ing in east­ern Ukraine were also brought under the Inte­ri­or Min­istry. The most famous among them is the Azov Bat­tal­ion, which lat­er became the Azov Reg­i­ment of the Nation­al Guard. One of Azov’s founders, right-wing nation­al­ist Andriy Bilet­sky, has been a close asso­ciate of Avakov since his time Kharkiv. Bilet­sky was involved with the Kharkiv branch of the far-right Social-Nation­al Assem­bly Par­ty (now the Svo­bo­da par­ty) and co-found­ed its off-shoot, the ultra-nation­al­ist and neo-Nazi move­ment Social-Nation­al Assem­bly.

    Belaru­sian neo-Nazi Ser­i­hy Korotkykh, oth­er­wise known as “Bots­man,” also fought with Azov and lat­er end­ed up close to Avakov. Long before he moved to Ukraine, Korotkykh found­ed the Russ­ian far-right group Nation­al Social­ist Soci­ety, whose mem­bers have been accused of com­mit­ting mur­ders moti­vat­ed by racial hatred. In Rus­sia, Korotkykh went by the nick­name “Malyu­ta” and befriend­ed well-known neo-Nazi Max­im “Tesak” Martsinke­vich — togeth­er, they car­ried out a rad­i­cal project dubbed “Occu­py Pedophil­ia,” tak­ing pub­lic actions to “hunt” men iden­ti­fied as “pedophiles.” Accord­ing to his Ukrain­ian asset dec­la­ra­tions, Korotkykh worked as the head of the Inte­ri­or Ministry’s Police Depart­ment for the Secu­ri­ty of Strate­gic Objects from 2015 to 2018.

    In addi­tion, Bilet­sky and Korotkykh’s com­rade — the Azov Battallion’s for­mer deputy com­man­der, Vadym Troy­an — served as Avakov’s deputy for a long time.
    ...

    Anoth­er sign of Avakov’s deeply felt influ­ence in Ukraine’s polit­i­cal estab­lish is the fact that only 31 deputies vot­ed to dis­miss him in 2017 fol­low­ing reports that his son was embez­zling gov­ern­ment funds and those charges were even­tu­al­ly dropped. Almost no one in pow­er want­ed to cross Avakov:

    ...
    In accor­dance with the Ukrain­ian Con­sti­tu­tion, the Verk­hov­na Rada (the country’s par­lia­ment) had to approve Avakov’s res­ig­na­tion. The Rada’s law­mak­ers already tried to dis­miss the inte­ri­or min­is­ter back in 2017, after his son — Olek­san­dr Avakov — was accused of embez­zling gov­ern­ment funds. Only 31 deputies sup­port­ed the dis­missal and the charges against Avakov Jr. were soon dropped. How­ev­er, judg­ing by com­ments from Deputy Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Anton Herashchenko, Avakov’s advi­sor Zoryan Shkiryak, and mem­bers of the rul­ing par­ty fac­tion (which holds a major­i­ty in par­lia­ment), this time around Avakov’s removal was pre­de­ter­mined.
    ...

    And when Zelen­skiy was elect­ed in 2019, only Avakov was kept from the Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion. The appar­ent rea­son for this was that Avakov “pro­vid­ed Zelen­sky with fair elec­tions” and even uti­lized his own resources against Poroshenko. And the exam­ple of those resources being used against Poroshenko include Azov’s protests against Poroshenko and the fact that Azov was grant­ed elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing pow­ers:

    ...
    When Volodymyr Zelen­sky was elect­ed pres­i­dent of Ukraine in 2019, he changed the entire lead­er­ship of the secu­ri­ty bloc, from the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (SBU) to the Defense Min­istry. Only Arsen Avakov remained in his place, pri­mar­i­ly due to the fact that he “pro­vid­ed Zelen­sky with fair elec­tions” — and direct­ed his own resources against Petro Poroshenko. For exam­ple, the far-right Nation­al Druzhy­na mili­tia, which is part of the Azov move­ment, orga­nized protests against the incum­bent pres­i­dent, and then took part in mon­i­tor­ing the elec­tions.
    ...

    But despite Zelen­skiy’s deci­sion to keep Avakov, there was a con­di­tion imposed: Avakov need­ed to final­ly inves­ti­gate the death of Ukrain­ian inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Pavel Sheremet. Recall how evi­dence already exists point­ing strong­ly towards Sheremet’s death an assas­si­na­tion by the SBU. So Zelen­skiy was basi­cal­ly demand­ing that Avakov inves­ti­gate the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. And when Avakov pre­sent­ed a group of high­ly ques­tion­able cul­prits less than a month lat­er, that appeared to be the begin­ning of the end for Avakov:

    ...
    Alleged­ly, Zelen­sky left Avakov in place on the con­di­tion that he prop­er­ly inves­ti­gate the mur­der of well-known jour­nal­ist Pavel Sheremet, who worked in Rus­sia and Belarus, as well as Ukraine. Sheremet was killed by a car bomb in cen­tral Kyiv on July 20, 2016 — for the next sev­er­al years, the Inte­ri­or Min­istry didn’t report any results from the inves­ti­ga­tion into his mur­der.

    In Octo­ber 2019, Zelen­sky told jour­nal­ists that he had giv­en Avakov until the end of the year to show progress in the inves­ti­ga­tion. Lit­er­al­ly a month lat­er, law enforce­ment began arrest­ing sus­pects. The Inte­ri­or Min­istry named three vol­un­teers who had assist­ed the Ukrain­ian army in Don­bas as the per­pe­tra­tors: Andriy Anto­nenko, Yulia Kuz­menko, and Yana Duhar. The arrests drew a flur­ry of crit­i­cism, main­ly because the inves­ti­ga­tion pro­vid­ed incon­clu­sive evi­dence to back up the accu­sa­tions.

    The Sheremet case is now under con­sid­er­a­tion in court, but the mas­ter­minds and orga­niz­ers behind the journalist’s mur­der have yet to be iden­ti­fied. At the end of May 2021, Zelen­sky announced that if the sus­pects in the case were to be unlaw­ful­ly con­vict­ed, Avakov would face prob­lems.

    Ukrain­ian law­mak­er Iry­na Vereshchuk, from Zelensky’s Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty, has already hint­ed to jour­nal­ists that the inte­ri­or minister’s res­ig­na­tion is con­nect­ed to the inves­ti­ga­tion into Pavel Sheremet’s killing. “At a [meet­ing] of the [Ser­vant of the Peo­ple] fac­tion the pres­i­dent said that he sum­moned Avakov and invit­ed him to write his res­ig­na­tion,” Vereshchuk told the Ukrain­ian news out­let Censor.net. “I only know that the pres­i­dent had ques­tions about the Sheremet case. You remem­ber that he spoke open­ly about the fact that if there’s no evi­dence, we will make deci­sions. Per­haps this was the last straw.”
    ...

    So was the endur­ing cov­er up of Pavel Sheremet’s mur­der, like by the SBU, the real rea­son for Avakov’s sud­den res­ig­na­tion back in July? Who knows, but it will be inter­est­ing to see what hap­pens to not just this inves­ti­ga­tion but all the oth­er lin­ger­ing inves­ti­ga­tions from the past eight years now that this war has bro­ken out. After all, it’s not like the assas­si­na­tion of Pavel Sheremet is the only unre­solved major inves­ti­ga­tion that could rock Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment to its core should it ever be allowed to hap­pen. In oth­er words, Arsen Avakov’s work clear­ly isn’t done, which is why real­ly need to keep ask­ing how he’s wield­ing in pow­er. It may be unof­fi­cial pow­er at this point, but unof­fi­cial pow­er is very real. Just ask the ghost of Allen Dulles. Or the ghost of JFK. There’s unfor­tu­nate­ly an abun­dance of ghosts one could ask about that top­ic.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 20, 2022, 4:18 pm
  19. The first round of for­mal war crime accu­sa­tions were just filed over the Russ­ian inva­sion of Ukraine: 10 Russ­ian sol­diers are charge with hold­ing civil­ians hostage and mis­treat­ing them in Bucha.

    So with inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tions into what actu­al­ly hap­pened in Bucha already under­way, here’s a set of arti­cle that point to a rather intrigu­ing mys­tery regard­ing the mass grave of ~300 bod­ies seem­ing­ly dis­cov­ered by Ukrain­ian author­i­ties only after the Russ­ian with­draw­al from the Kyiv sub­urb. As we’re going to see, it appears that the ear­li­est report­ing on the mass grave in Bucha has a very dif­fer­ent spin on what hap­pened. Accord­ing to the AFP, the may­or of Bucha, Ana­toly Fedoruk, told an AFP reporter on April 2 that “we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves,” adding that the heav­i­ly destroyed town’s streets are lit­tered with corpses.

    Yes, accord­ing to Bucha’s may­or, “we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves.” That’s what the AFP report on April 2. By April 3, all of the oth­er reports we find ref­er­enc­ing this mass grave refer to it as some­thing that was just kind of dis­cov­ered.

    Recall how one of the strange mys­ter­ies loom­ing over the sto­ry of the Bucha mass grave is the fact that ear­ly ‘evi­dence’ of Russ­ian cul­pa­bil­i­ty for this mass grave was pro­vid­ed by satel­lite image providers Maxar, which released images from March 11 and March 31 of the area where the mass grave was ulti­mate­ly found. And yet, as we’ve seen, com­mer­cial satel­lite imagery of that area is read­i­ly avail­able for not just Maxar but oth­er com­mer­cial satel­lite image providers for every sin­gle day in March. So why aren’t we see­ing more pho­tos of that area that could elu­ci­date who did what when? That’s part of the con­text of this seem­ing­ly for­got­ten admis­sion by the may­or of Bucha that “we” filled that grave.

    Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the AFP actu­al­ly links back to this same report in its own ‘AFP Factcheck’ that was attempt­ing to debunk the claims about staged atroc­i­ties in Bucha. In that AFP Fact Check, it adds con­text to Fedoruk’s quote by point­ing out that the bod­ies were dumped in a mass grave because they could not be buried in the ceme­ter­ies of Bucha:

    ...
    On April 2, Fedorouk said that “280 peo­ple” had been buried “in mass graves” because they could not be buried in the ceme­ter­ies of Bucha.

    The exact num­ber of vic­tims is not yet known, the may­or of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, told AFP after he vis­it­ed Bucha on April 3. “We think that more than 300 civil­ians died,” he said.
    ...a

    Keep in mind that, based on the avail­able accounts of the inten­si­ty of the fight­ing in Bucha, it’s not at all out­landish to imag­ine that the num­ber of bod­ies in that city — includ­ing the bod­ies of Russ­ian sol­diers — vast­ly exceed­ed the avail­able capac­i­ty of both the morgue and the local ceme­ter­ies. Plus, there may have been logis­ti­cal hur­dle to even access the ceme­ter­ies. Hun­dreds of bod­ies had to be buries, whether they were killed by Russ­ian sol­diers, Ukrain­ian resis­tance, or were vic­tims of Ukrain­ian Nazi bat­tal­ions oper­at­ing in the area.

    Also recall how the noto­ri­ous Azov leader, Sergey ‘Boats­man’ Korotkikh, released drone footage of Bucha that he appar­ent­ly cap­tured him­self around March 19, demon­strat­ing that Azov was oper­at­ing in that area in the weeks lead­ing up to the Russ­ian with­draw­al. How many civil­ians were liq­ui­dat­ed by Azov dur­ing this peri­od and what did they end up doing with those bod­ies? It’s been a major ques­tion loom­ing over the events of Bucha all along. But when we take into account that ini­tial char­ac­ter­i­za­tion by the may­or of the Bucha mass grave as some­thing “we” did in order to deal with all the bod­ies, the ques­tion of who actu­al­ly killed those vic­tims looms ever larg­er.

    Anoth­er inter­est­ing twist in this sto­ry is that when we use the inter­net archive to go back and look at the ear­li­er iter­a­tions of that April 2 AFP piece with the may­or’s remark­able claims that “we” had filled those grave, the ear­li­est archived ver­sion of the arti­cle is lit­er­al­ly just two sen­tences relay­ing the may­or’s com­ments and the sub­ti­tle of the piece is the may­or’s quote about “In Bucha, we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves”:

    Agence France-Presse

    Almost 300 Peo­ple Buried In “Mass Grave” In Bucha Out­side Kyiv: May­or
    “In Bucha, we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves,” may­or Ana­toly Fedoruk said.

    Updat­ed: April 02, 2022 10:44 pm IST

    Almost 300 Peo­ple Buried In ‘Mass Grave’ In Bucha Out­side Kyiv: May­or
    Bucha, Ukraine:

    Almost 300 peo­ple have been buried in a mass grave in Bucha, a com­muter town out­side Ukraine’s cap­i­tal Kyiv, its may­or told AFP Sat­ur­day after the Ukrain­ian army retook con­trol of the key town from Rus­sia.

    “In Bucha, we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves,” may­or Ana­toly Fedoruk told AFP by phone. He said the heav­i­ly destroyed town’s streets are lit­tered with corpses.

    (This sto­ry has not been edit­ed by NDTV staff and is auto-gen­er­at­ed from a syn­di­cat­ed feed.)

    ———-

    “Almost 300 Peo­ple Buried In “Mass Grave” In Bucha Out­side Kyiv: May­or”; Agence France-Presse (via Inter­net Archive); 04/02/2022

    That’s it. That’s the entire report. So when it comes to ques­tions of whether or not this AFP report maybe had a trans­la­tion issue or per­haps mis­heard the may­or, this very con­cise report makes it clear that the may­or of Bucha spoke direct­ly to an AFP reporter on April 2 about how Bucha was forced to cre­at­ed a mass grave to deal with the excess of bod­ies.

    Also note that, while this AFP report goes through a num­ber of updates if you look at its inter­net archives, that quote by Fedoruk nev­er changes or gets updat­ed. At the same time, it appears to be the only report in exis­tence where Fedoruk makes this admis­sion. All oth­er reports from oth­er news out­lets con­vey the mes­sage that this mass grave was just sud­den­ly found. And yet, again, the AFP’s own “Fact Check” page links back to this same report and adds the con­text that the mass grave was cre­at­ed because there was­n’t enough space in the city ceme­ter­ies.

    But there’s anoth­er major twist in this sto­ry: it turns out there’s a March 14 BBC report that describes mass graves being dug in Ukraine. By Ukraini­ans. The cities were mass graves were already being report­ed includ­ed Mar­i­upol, Bucha and neigh­bor­ing Irpin. The mass grave being dug in Bucha is described as being next to a church! And it does­n’t sound like the mass grave was dug by Russ­ian sol­diers but instead by doc­tors who were over­whelmed with bod­ies. 60 bod­ies were in the Bucha mass grave at time accord­ing to the report.

    So there were reports of Ukrain­ian-built mass graves two weeks before Antoly Fedoruk told an AFP reporter that “we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves” in Bucha. And then, all of a sud­den, Fedoruk’s admis­sion falls down the mem­o­ry hole and a nar­ra­tive about Russ­ian mass graves takes root.

    Ok, first, here’s that March 14 BBC report describ­ing mass graves already being dug in Ukraine. By Ukraini­ans. Includ­ing one in Bucha next to a church and appar­ent­ly used by the hos­pi­tal in neigh­bor­ing Irpin to deal with all the dead:

    BBC News

    Mass graves in Ukraine: Bat­tered cities are dig­ging makeshift bur­ial sites

    By Lau­rence Peter
    Pub­lished
    14 March, 2022

    The Russ­ian bom­bard­ment of some places in Ukraine is so intense that towns and cities are being forced to uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly bury dozens of civil­ian vic­tims in mass graves.

    Nowhere is this grim real­i­ty of war more appar­ent than in Mar­i­upol, a key port city dev­as­tat­ed by con­stant shelling, where sev­er­al bur­ial sites have been hasti­ly dug in the past two weeks.

    “We can’t bury [the vic­tims] in pri­vate graves, as those are out­side the city and the perime­ter is con­trolled by Russ­ian troops,” Mar­i­upol’s deputy may­or Ser­hiy Orlov told the BBC by phone.

    Loca­tions include a retired city ceme­tery that has now been re-opened, Mr Orlov said.

    Warn­ing: This arti­cle con­tains images that some may find upset­ting

    On Sun­day, the city coun­cil said the civil­ian death toll had risen above 2,100. The heavy Russ­ian shelling has pre­vent­ed any mass evac­u­a­tion from Mar­i­upol, despite efforts to open a safe exit route.

    Mr Orlov could not give a total for dead civil­ians buried in mass graves, but said 67 bod­ies were at one site. “Some we can’t iden­ti­fy but some had doc­u­ments.”

    Thou­sands of res­i­dents are hid­ing in cel­lars and in some cas­es, he said, peo­ple are bury­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers pri­vate­ly in court­yards or gar­dens.

    The bat­tered city’s street clean­ers and road repair teams were col­lect­ing bod­ies in the streets, he said, as munic­i­pal ser­vices had col­lapsed. “Some peo­ple were killed dur­ing those col­lec­tions. We’ve had no elec­tric­i­ty, or heat­ing, san­i­ta­tion, water, food for 11 days,” he said.

    Four-hun­dred miles to the north west, on the edge of the cap­i­tal Kyiv, a mass grave was dug near a church in the town of Bucha, local MP Mykhai­ly­na Sko­ryk-Shkarivs­ka said. It con­tains more than 60 bod­ies.

    Video of the bur­ial was post­ed on Face­book by a doc­tor work­ing in near­by Irpin, Andriy Lev­kivsky. Doc­tors buried the vic­tims, who had been brought to Irpin hos­pi­tal.

    Ms Sko­ryk-Shkarivs­ka told the BBC that a “rit­u­al ser­vice” was con­duct­ed at the hos­pi­tal before bur­ial. Not all had been iden­ti­fied and “nobody knows exact­ly where the rel­a­tives are,” she said.

    “Now we’re dis­cussing with vol­un­teers how to cre­ate a dig­i­tal sys­tem to iden­ti­fy peo­ple and trace miss­ing rel­a­tives,” she said.

    Russ­ian troops cap­tured the hos­pi­tal on Sat­ur­day and told the doc­tors to leave, she said, speak­ing by phone from west­ern Ukraine. Bucha and half of Irpin are now in Russ­ian hands, she said.

    The return of mass graves is a shock for Ukraini­ans. Many have bit­ter fam­i­ly mem­o­ries of World War Two, when Jews and Sovi­et par­ti­sans were mur­dered by Nazis, and the Holodomor — the famine cre­at­ed in Ukraine by Sovi­et seizure of grain and live­stock in the 1930s.

    “My uncle is 92 and even he com­pared it with his child­hood in the war,” said Ms Sko­ryk-Shkarivs­ka, who empha­sised it is “impor­tant for us to bury rel­a­tives tra­di­tion­al­ly, the Chris­t­ian way, with pray­ing”.

    “Even now in war peo­ple some­times ask priests to do that,” she said.

    In north­ern Ukraine the cities of Kharkiv, Cherni­hiv and Sumy are sur­round­ed by Russ­ian troops and relent­less shelling has killed many civil­ians there too.

    On 6 March Olek­san­dra Matvi­ichuk, a civ­il lib­er­ties cam­paign­er, tweet­ed a pho­to of coffins in a trench, accom­pa­nied by the mes­sage: “Thus, civil­ians killed in the Russ­ian bomb­ing of Cherni­hiv are buried in trench­es. Since the main city ceme­tery in Yat­se­vo is under con­stant shelling by the Russ­ian occu­piers, the vic­tims are buried in the Yalivshchy­na for­est.”

    Olek­san­dr Lomako, sec­re­tary of Cherni­hiv city coun­cil, told the BBC that vic­tims of Russ­ian air raids and shelling were being buried in a tem­po­rary ceme­tery. He con­firmed that the city’s main ceme­tery was now inac­ces­si­ble, with Russ­ian troops sur­round­ing the city on three sides, the near­est about 10km (six miles) away.

    “After the war we will rebury the dead,” he said, esti­mat­ing the city’s civil­ian death toll in the Russ­ian bom­bard­ment to be about 200.

    ...

    ———-

    “Mass graves in Ukraine: Bat­tered cities are dig­ging makeshift bur­ial sites” by Lau­rence Peter; BBC News; 03/14/2022

    “Four-hun­dred miles to the north west, on the edge of the cap­i­tal Kyiv, a mass grave was dug near a church in the town of Bucha, local MP Mykhai­ly­na Sko­ryk-Shkarivs­ka said. It con­tains more than 60 bod­ies.

    A mass grave dug near a church in Bucha and appar­ent­ly filled with bod­ies over­flow­ing from Irpin’s hos­pi­tal and buried by the Irpin doc­tors them­selves. Rit­u­al ser­vices were con­duct­ed at the hos­pi­tal and vic­tims. That was the BBC’s report­ing on March 14:

    ...
    Video of the bur­ial was post­ed on Face­book by a doc­tor work­ing in near­by Irpin, Andriy Lev­kivsky. Doc­tors buried the vic­tims, who had been brought to Irpin hos­pi­tal.

    Ms Sko­ryk-Shkarivs­ka told the BBC that a “rit­u­al ser­vice” was con­duct­ed at the hos­pi­tal before bur­ial. Not all had been iden­ti­fied and “nobody knows exact­ly where the rel­a­tives are,” she said.

    “Now we’re dis­cussing with vol­un­teers how to cre­ate a dig­i­tal sys­tem to iden­ti­fy peo­ple and trace miss­ing rel­a­tives,” she said.
    ...

    Ok, now flash for­ward to April 6, and we find this AFP ‘Fact Check’ piece pur­port­ed debunk­ing the claims of staged atroc­i­ties in Bucha. And in this piece we find the AFP direct­ly ref­er­enc­ing its report­ing from April 2 where the may­or of Bucha tells the AFP “we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves.” The AFP Fact Check does­n’t include that exact quote, but it does link back to the AFP report­ing that includ­ed the quote, and also adds the con­text that the mass graves were used because they could­n’t be buried in local ceme­ter­ies dur­ing the con­flict. So this AFP ‘Fact Check’ that was try­ing to debunk ques­tions about the alleged Russ­ian atroc­i­ties in Bucha actu­al­ly con­tains some of the most impor­tant expu­la­to­ry evi­dence avail­able to us:

    Agence France Press
    AFP Fact Check

    No, the dis­cov­ery of bod­ies in Ukraine’s Bucha was not ‘staged’ with ‘actors’

    Pub­lished on Wednes­day 06 April 2022 at 05:32
    Updat­ed on Wednes­day 06 April 2022 at 11:34

    Ukraine author­i­ties have said bod­ies dis­cov­ered on April 2, 2022 in the small town of Bucha were civil­ians killed by retreat­ing Russ­ian forces, alle­ga­tions which Moscow has denied. Sev­er­al posts shared on social net­works — includ­ing from Russ­ian author­i­ties — have claimed that the scene was staged by Ukrain­ian forces and some of the so-called bod­ies were filmed mov­ing. But AFP jour­nal­ists on the ground con­firmed they saw dead bod­ies that had been left for sev­er­al days; footage used to sup­port the mis­lead­ing claims does not show the bod­ies mov­ing, AFP’s inves­ti­ga­tion found.

    On April 3 the Russ­ian defence min­istry shared on its Telegram feed — which has near­ly 200,000 fol­low­ers — a 21-sec­ond video of the scene along­side a com­ment that it was “fake”.

    “The video with the bod­ies is puz­zling: here, at 12 sec­onds, the “corpse” on the right moves its hand. At 30 sec­onds in the rearview mir­ror, the “corpse” sits down. The bod­ies in the video seem to have been delib­er­ate­ly laid out in order to cre­ate a more dra­mat­ic pic­ture,” the Telegram post reads.

    On its Twit­ter account, the Russ­ian embassy in Cana­da also post­ed the video, along­side a claim that it was staged and showed “faked dead bod­ies”.

    “Slowed down ver­sion clear­ly shows a “corpse” moves his hand and then sits up after the car pass­es by (seen in the rear mir­ror),” it claims.

    The claim that the footage had been manip­u­lat­ed spread quick­ly on social net­works in sev­er­al lan­guages.

    “After a car pass­es one of the bod­ies lying on the ground we see in the rearview mir­ror an actor get­ting up,” reads a French-lan­guage Twit­ter post that shared the same video.

    The same video was viewed more than 800,000 times after it was shared along­side a sim­i­lar claim on Chi­na’s Twit­ter-like social media plat­form Wei­bo here, here, and here.
    Twit­ter screen­grab, tak­en on April, 4 2022

    Where is the video from?

    Appar­ent­ly filmed from a vehi­cle fol­low­ing a Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary con­voy, the video shows sev­er­al bod­ies lying on a war-dam­aged street in the town of Bucha, which is north­west of Kyiv.

    AFP geolo­cat­ed the video clip to Yablon­s­ka street.

    The video was pub­lished on April 2 on the YouTube chan­nel of Ukrain­ian chan­nel Espreso.TV.

    The jour­nal­ist describes the images as proof of “atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the Russ­ian occu­piers of Bucha”.

    A longer, high­er-qual­i­ty ver­sion of the video was pub­lished the same day on the Twit­ter feed of the Ukrain­ian defence min­istry.

    It claims: “Local civil­ians were being exe­cut­ed arbi­trar­i­ly.”

    Bod­ies that move?

    In the mis­lead­ing posts, the video has been slowed down. The qual­i­ty is also dimin­ished in com­par­i­son with the video shared by the Ukrain­ian defence min­istry.

    But, as many social media users have spot­ted (1,2,3), if we look close­ly at the sequence in high­er qual­i­ty footage, the bod­ies do not move.

    The first man on the right-hand side of the video does not raise his arm — the mov­ing object is actu­al­ly a droplet of rain on the wind­shield of the vehi­cle where the video was filmed from:

    Get­ting fed up of this “it’s a mov­ing arm” bullsh….. it’s a rain­drop on the wind­screen, along­side an invert­ed chan­nel ver­sion for more clar­i­ty. The whole arm mov­ing thing is just ridicu­lous. pic.twitter.com/ZiuEX4rFWc— Auro­ra Intel (@AuroraIntel) April 3, 2022

    AFP team on the ground con­firms the scene

    AFP jour­nal­ists entered Bucha on April 2 and con­firmed the pres­ence of about 20 bod­ies in civil­ian cloth­ing. One of them has its hands tied, they said.

    The team con­sist­ed of jour­nal­ist Dan­ny Kemp; pho­tog­ra­ph­er Ronal­do Schemidt; and video jour­nal­ist Nico­las Gar­cia.

    They arrived on the scene on April 2 at around 3.30pm local time, Kemp told AFP Factuel.

    In an email, he said: “As soon as we arrived, we could see that the street was lit­tered with bod­ies. We first saw a group of three and then noticed there were more in either direc­tion.

    “They were spaced out along the street at irreg­u­lar inter­vals over a dis­tance of around 400 metres, some alone and some in small groups of two or three. We walked along the entire length of the scene at least twice. We count­ed the bod­ies, not­ing that there were 20, pho­tographed them, and filmed them. At no time did we see any of them move.

    “Dur­ing that time we not­ed that the bod­ies were all wear­ing civil­ian cloth­ing. They had waxy, sal­low skin, and had stiff-look­ing fin­gers, with some hav­ing dis­coloured fin­ger­nails. Some had limbs in awk­ward pos­es.

    “Some had their eyes open, some had their mouths gap­ing open. They had clear­ly been dead for a num­ber of days, if not longer.”

    We com­pared the images being shared in mis­lead­ing posts with the pho­tos tak­en by AFP at the scene.

    There are sev­er­al signs that show they show the same scene.

    AFP has cir­cled in red the body of the vic­tim and in green the dam­aged vehi­cle, a sign­post, and part of the pave­ment:

    ...

    Dan­ny Kemp sent us two pic­tures that he took on April 2, the same day the bod­ies were found:

    ...

    Two oth­er AFP pho­tographs — tak­en a day lat­er by a sec­ond team that arrived at the scene — show a Bucha munic­i­pal work­er about to put the same body in a mor­tu­ary bag:

    ...

    The body that some posts claim moves appears twice in the video of April 2, first­ly on the ground and two sec­onds lat­er in the rearview mir­ror of the vehi­cle from which it was filmed:

    ...

    It was also pho­tographed by AFP on April 3 in the same posi­tion and the same loca­tion:

    ...

    “Wit­ness­es in Bucha told us they saw a col­umn of some 70 Russ­ian armoured vehi­cles leav­ing the town on the evening of Tues­day March 29 but that Russ­ian shelling con­tin­ued heav­i­ly on Wednes­day March 30, and that the last shelling they heard was on Thurs­day March 31,” Kemp said.

    “AFP jour­nal­ists in the area around Irpin, next to Bucha, heard shelling on Thurs­day. It was impos­si­ble to access the area until Fri­day as Ukrain­ian author­i­ties said it was not safe to enter. AFP entered Irpin on Fri­day, April 1 and Bucha on Sat­ur­day, April 2.”

    An inves­ti­ga­tion by the BBC also con­clud­ed that alle­ga­tions the mas­sacre was “staged” are unfound­ed.

    Accord­ing to the BBC report, a body that appears to rise up in the video — from the per­spec­tive of the vehi­cle’s rearview mir­ror — has like­ly been dis­tort­ed by the reflec­tion.

    What we know about the deaths in Bucha

    The small town of Bucha was occu­pied by the Russ­ian army on Feb­ru­ary 27 and remained inac­ces­si­ble for more than one month.

    The bomb­ings stopped on March 31 and Ukrain­ian forces were only able to enter the whole town a few days ago.

    Ukraine accused the Rus­sians of being respon­si­ble for these deaths.

    This was denied by Moscow which announced it would inves­ti­gate what it said was a “heinous provo­ca­tion” to blame Russ­ian forces.

    Accord­ing to the may­or of Bucha, Ana­toly Fedoruk, these peo­ple were killed by Russ­ian sol­diers with “a bul­let in the neck”.

    The bod­ies of 57 peo­ple were also found in a mass grave, local res­cue chief Sergei Kaplytch­ny said on Sun­day, April 3, show­ing the site to an AFP team.

    A dozen bod­ies were vis­i­ble, some only par­tial­ly buried, behind a church in the city cen­tre.

    Sev­er­al were in black body bags and those that could be seen were wear­ing civil­ian clothes.

    On April 2, Fedorouk said that “280 peo­ple” had been buried “in mass graves” because they could not be buried in the ceme­ter­ies of Bucha.

    The exact num­ber of vic­tims is not yet known, the may­or of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, told AFP after he vis­it­ed Bucha on April 3. “We think that more than 300 civil­ians died,” he said.

    ...

    ———-

    “No, the dis­cov­ery of bod­ies in Ukraine’s Bucha was not ‘staged’ with ‘actors’ ”; Agence France Press; 4/06/2022

    “On April 2, Fedorouk said that “280 peo­ple” had been buried “in mass graves” because they could not be buried in the ceme­ter­ies of Bucha.”

    It’s cer­tain­ly a rea­son­able expla­na­tion for why Bucha may have need­ed a mass grave dur­ing the month of March. Ceme­tery access was pre­sum­ably high­ly lim­it­ed. But that’s still VERY dif­fer­ent from the ‘Rus­sians slaugh­tered civil­ians and dumped them in a mass grave’ nar­ra­tive we start­ed get­ting short­ly after Fedoruk made this admis­sion. And then this AFP ‘Fact Check’ links to its own piece, first report­ed on April 2, where Fedoruk acknowl­edges that, yes, it was Ukraini­ans who filled this mass grave out of neces­si­ty:

    Agence France-Presse

    Mass Grave Of 280 As Ukraine Counts The Dead In Town Seized From Rus­sia

    Ukraine Rus­sia War: “In Bucha, we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves,” may­or Ana­toly Fedoruk said.

    Updat­ed: April 03, 2022 11:21 am IST

    Bucha, Ukraine:

    Almost 300 peo­ple have been buried in a mass grave in Bucha, a com­muter town out­side Ukraine’s cap­i­tal Kyiv, its may­or told AFP Sat­ur­day after the Ukrain­ian army retook con­trol of the key town from Rus­sia.

    “In Bucha, we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves,” may­or Ana­toly Fedoruk told AFP by phone. He said the heav­i­ly destroyed town’s streets are lit­tered with corpses.

    AFP saw at least 20 bod­ies — men in civil­ian clothes — lying in a sin­gle street in Bucha on Sat­ur­day.

    “All these peo­ple were shot, killed, in the back of the head,” Fedoruk said.

    He said the vic­tims were men and women, and that he had seen a 14-year-old boy among the dead.

    Many of the bod­ies had white ban­dages on them “to show that they were unarmed,” he said.

    The town still had cars in the streets with “entire fam­i­lies killed: chil­dren, women, grand­moth­ers, men,” he added.

    The corpses were still in the streets because sap­pers have not worked there yet, Fedoruk said.

    He claimed some of the vic­tims had tried to cross the Buchanka riv­er to Ukrain­ian-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry and had been killed.

    “These are the con­se­quences of Russ­ian occu­pa­tion,” he said.

    ...

    (This sto­ry has not been edit­ed by NDTV staff and is auto-gen­er­at­ed from a syn­di­cat­ed feed.)

    ———-

    “Mass Grave Of 280 As Ukraine Counts The Dead In Town Seized From Rus­sia”; Agence France-Presse; 04/03/2022

    As we can see, the AFP did­n’t rescind this report. Instead, it ref­er­enced it in its own ‘Fact Check’ a few days lat­er. The may­or Bucha real­ly did tell this AFP reporter that “we have already buried 280 peo­ple in mass graves” and it was­n’t just a report­ing mishap. It’s also quite con­sis­tent with that March 14 BBC report about Ukraini­ans dig­ging mass graves out of pure neces­si­ty. Includ­ing, per­haps, the neces­si­ty of doing some­thing with all the bod­ies cre­at­ed by the the Azov Bat­tal­ion’s own civil­ian atroc­i­ties. They had to go some­where. And that’s why the inves­ti­ga­tion into these mass graves real­ly should include a very thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion about not just who resides in those graves but who exact­ly killed them.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 29, 2022, 3:18 pm
  20. The issue of war crimes in Ukraine had a poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant update: the UK is report­ed­ly open to some sort of inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal tri­bunal try­ing Vladimir Putin and oth­er Russ­ian lead­ers over war crimes in Ukraine. Who knows how real­is­tic that sce­nario is, but it under­scores the grow­ing impor­tance of actu­al­ly get­ting real inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tions that can stand up to inter­na­tion­al scruti­ny, as opposed to just uncrit­i­cal­ly accept­ing alle­ga­tions as has been the case with the alle­ga­tions of mass graves in Bucha, which Ukrain­ian author­i­ties pre­vi­ous­ly admit­ted dig­ging them­selves in mid-March before that detail fell down the mem­o­ry hole.

    So it’s with not­ing a rather curi­ous war crime claim that’s emerged over the past month: Russ­ian use of anti-per­son­nel flechette artillery muni­tions. While the rounds aren’t banned entire­ly in war, their use in civil­ian areas is con­sid­ered a war crime. But we are now told that Russ­ian forces used them against civil­ians in places like Bucha and Irpin.

    The ini­tial claims of flechette usage first pop up in a Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle back on April 18. In that report, a res­i­dent of Bucha, Svit­lana Chmut, asserts that she wit­nessed their usage by Russ­ian forces on either March 25 or 26. This was days before the Russ­ian with­draw­al from the area in the face of a Ukrain­ian counter-offen­sive.

    So how do we know that it was the Russ­ian shell, and not Ukrain­ian? Well, that’s nev­er explained. We’re just told it was the Russ­ian who fired it. But it gets much more bizarre. Because it also turns out that it was Russ­ian troops and artillery that were sta­tioned in the yards near Chmut’s house. Yep. Chmut even spec­u­lates in the arti­cle that maybe the Rus­sians acci­den­tal­ly shelled their own troops.

    No Russ­ian troops were ulti­mate­ly killed in the attack which is attrib­uted to the fact that they were tak­ing up res­i­dences in local homes at night and flechettes are real­ly only use­ful against sol­diers in an open area. Still, that’s what we’re being asked to believe: the Rus­sians shelled their own troops with these flechette weapons.

    We did­n’t real­ly get many updates on the use of flechettes until a few days ago when we got a new report. In this report, a civil­ian in the town of Irpin claims he first wit­nessed their usage on March 5, about a week into the fight­ing over Irpin. So it’s pos­si­ble these types of muni­tions were used rather exten­sive­ly through­out the rough­ly month-long occu­pa­tion of that region. And as we’re going to see in the third arti­cle excerpt below, foren­sic doc­tors have already deter­mined that dozens of civil­ians in Bucha were killed by these flechettes. So whichev­er side end­ed up using these things in civil­ian areas was def­i­nite­ly com­mit­ting a war crime. And we’re told it was the Rus­sians who did it. But we’re also told that the Rus­sians did it to them­selves:

    CNN

    Lethal Russ­ian flechette pro­jec­tiles hit homes in Ukrain­ian town of Irpin. ‘They are every­where,’ say res­i­dents

    By Ivana Kot­tasová, Olek­san­dra Ochman and David von Blohn, CNN

    Updat­ed 4:47 AM ET, Mon May 16, 2022

    Irpin, Ukraine (CNN)More than a month after the Ukrain­ian army retook Irpin from the Rus­sians, Volodymyr Kli­ma­shevskyi is still find­ing the lit­tle nail-like pro­jec­tiles scat­tered around his gar­den and embed­ded deep in the walls of his house.

    “You can’t take them out with your hands, you need to use pli­ers,” Kli­ma­shevskyi said, point­ing to the wall dot­ted with the dark darts.

    Called flechettes — French for “lit­tle arrows” — these razor-sharp, inch-long pro­jec­tiles are a bru­tal inven­tion of World War I when the Allies used them to strike as many ene­my sol­diers as pos­si­ble. They are packed into shells that are fired by tanks. When the shell det­o­nates, sev­er­al thou­sands of the pro­jec­tiles are sprayed over a large area.

    Flechette shells are not banned, but their use in civil­ian areas is pro­hib­it­ed under human­i­tar­i­an law, because of their indis­crim­i­nate nature. They cause severe dam­age as they rip through the body, twist­ing and bend­ing — and can be lethal.

    The Unit­ed States used them dur­ing the Viet­nam War and the UN Office for the Coor­di­na­tion of Human­i­tar­i­an Affairs accused the Israeli mil­i­tary of using them against civil­ians in 2010 in Gaza, accord­ing to a report by the US State Depart­ment. But oth­er than that, they have been rarely used in mod­ern war­fare.

    After Russ­ian forces retreat­ed from the towns and vil­lages north of Kyiv that they had occu­pied in March, evi­dence emerged that they had been using them dur­ing their assault.

    Irpin, a sub­urb of Kyiv, isn’t the only place where that evi­dence emerged.

    In the vil­lage of Andri­iv­ka, about 12 miles (20 kilo­me­ters) west of Irpin, farmer Vadim Bozhko told CNN that he found flechettes scat­tered along the road lead­ing to his house. Bozhko and his wife hid in the base­ment as his home was shelled. It has been almost com­plete­ly destroyed by a shell.

    The darts were also found in the bod­ies of peo­ple who were killed in the Kyiv sub­urb of Bucha, accord­ing to Liud­mi­la Deniso­va, Ukraine’s ombuds­man for human rights.

    Deniso­va said last month that after “the lib­er­a­tion of cities in the Kyiv region, new atroc­i­ties of Russ­ian troops are revealed.”

    “Foren­sic experts found flechettes in the bod­ies of res­i­dents of Bucha and Irpin. The [Rus­sians] launched shells with them, and used them to bomb res­i­den­tial build­ings in cities and sub­urbs,” Deniso­va said in a state­ment. It is unclear whether the flechettes were what killed the vic­tims.

    Kli­ma­shevskyi, 57, still clear­ly remem­bers the day the flechettes start­ed rain­ing down on him. It was March 5 and he was lying on the floor in his house, away from the win­dow, tak­ing cov­er. A shell hit the house next door, but failed to explode.

    The darts cov­ered the area and destroyed the win­dow in his car, he said.

    His neigh­bors Anzhe­li­ka Kolomiec, 53, and Ihor Novo­hat­niy, 64, fled Irpin amid the worst fight­ing in March. When they came back after sev­er­al weeks away, they said they found numer­ous flechettes scat­tered around their gar­den and on top of their roof.

    ...

    ———

    “Lethal Russ­ian flechette pro­jec­tiles hit homes in Ukrain­ian town of Irpin. ‘They are every­where,’ say res­i­dents” By Ivana Kot­tasová, Olek­san­dra Ochman and David von Blohn; CNN; 05/16/2022

    Flechette shells are not banned, but their use in civil­ian areas is pro­hib­it­ed under human­i­tar­i­an law, because of their indis­crim­i­nate nature. They cause severe dam­age as they rip through the body, twist­ing and bend­ing — and can be lethal.”

    Flechettes aren’t banned entire­ly from war, but they are banned in civil­ian areas. So whichev­er side used the­ses things did indeed com­mit a war crime. The big ques­tion is which side actu­al­ly used them. In one case we have evi­dence of flechettes being used the vil­lage of Andri­iv­ka, and accord­ing to Liud­mi­la Deniso­va, Ukraine’s ombuds­man for human rights, these were deliv­ered from Russ­ian fired artillery. But we’re talk­ing about towns that were ini­tial­ly shelled by Russ­ian forces but lat­er shelled by the Ukrain­ian forces try­ing to dis­lodge the Russ­ian occu­piers. For exam­ple, accord­ing to this REFL video report out of Andri­iv­ka, the Ukrain­ian forces were hit­ting the Rus­sians occu­py­ing forces in the town with artillery (~1:20 in the video). So while foren­sics experts can cer­tain­ly deter­mine whether or not these flechettes were used, it’s unclear how they know which site it was used against. Except, of course, if there’s dead sol­diers near the impact area. The nation­al­i­ties of those sol­diers will more or less tell us which side launched the attack:

    ...
    In the vil­lage of Andri­iv­ka, about 12 miles (20 kilo­me­ters) west of Irpin, farmer Vadim Bozhko told CNN that he found flechettes scat­tered along the road lead­ing to his house. Bozhko and his wife hid in the base­ment as his home was shelled. It has been almost com­plete­ly destroyed by a shell.

    The darts were also found in the bod­ies of peo­ple who were killed in the Kyiv sub­urb of Bucha, accord­ing to Liud­mi­la Deniso­va, Ukraine’s ombuds­man for human rights.

    Deniso­va said last month that after “the lib­er­a­tion of cities in the Kyiv region, new atroc­i­ties of Russ­ian troops are revealed.”

    “Foren­sic experts found flechettes in the bod­ies of res­i­dents of Bucha and Irpin. The [Rus­sians] launched shells with them, and used them to bomb res­i­den­tial build­ings in cities and sub­urbs,” Deniso­va said in a state­ment. It is unclear whether the flechettes were what killed the vic­tims.
    ...

    Sim­i­lar­ly, note how the account we got from a res­i­dent of Irpin indi­cat­ed that first time he expe­ri­enced a Flechette shell was on March 5. This would have been a week into the Bat­tle of Irpin. So it sounds like the flechettes start­ed being used as the Bat­tle of Irpin was real­ly get­ting under­way, after the Russ­ian forces had already occu­pied the area. Odd­ly, he also claims the attack came when a shell hit the neigh­bor’s house but failed to explode. Do these darts erupt out of non-explod­ed shells? It’s a con­fus­ing account:

    ...
    More than a month after the Ukrain­ian army retook Irpin from the Rus­sians, Volodymyr Kli­ma­shevskyi is still find­ing the lit­tle nail-like pro­jec­tiles scat­tered around his gar­den and embed­ded deep in the walls of his house.

    ...

    Kli­ma­shevskyi, 57, still clear­ly remem­bers the day the flechettes start­ed rain­ing down on him. It was March 5 and he was lying on the floor in his house, away from the win­dow, tak­ing cov­er. A shell hit the house next door, but failed to explode.

    The darts cov­ered the area and destroyed the win­dow in his car, he said.

    His neigh­bors Anzhe­li­ka Kolomiec, 53, and Ihor Novo­hat­niy, 64, fled Irpin amid the worst fight­ing in March. When they came back after sev­er­al weeks away, they said they found numer­ous flechettes scat­tered around their gar­den and on top of their roof.
    ...

    Part of the sig­nif­i­cance of this civil­ian’s claim that he first expe­ri­ence these flechettes in use on March 5 is that it’s three weeks before the pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed ear­li­est use, which was report­ed in an April 18 Wash­ing Post arti­cle that appears to be the first news report on the use of flechettes. In that arti­cle, a res­i­dent of Bucha, Svit­lana Chmut, claims she wit­nessed the use of flechettes on March 25–26, days before Russ­ian forces with­drew from the area. So for the past month, Chmut’s recount­ing was more or less our best guess in terms of when these muni­tions were used. A best guess that sug­gest­ed the flechettes were only being used in the final days before the Russ­ian forces were dri­ven out of the region. But then we just got the above account from a few days ago that puts the first use of these weapons at March 5, sug­gest­ing they may have been used far more exten­sive­ly dur­ing this fight­ing.

    As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, part of the rea­son flechettes are rarely used these days is because they’re real­ly only use­ful for spe­cial cir­cum­stances, like troops gath­ered over an open area. They aren’t actu­al­ly very use­ful against peo­ple in build­ings. So when we’re told that Russ­ian troops were using flechettes against civil­ians in urban areas, it does­n’t real­ly make sense even of Russ­ian sol­ders intend­ed to kill civil­ians. It’s the wrong kind of weapon. But it’s the right kind of weapon against occu­py­ing Russ­ian troops sta­tioned in fixed posi­tions out­side.

    And that brings us to the oth­er rather amaz­ing claim made by Svit­lana Chmut in this ini­tial report on the use of flechettes: she claimed the attack struck an area pop­u­lat­ed by Russ­ian troops and artillery. Yes, we are told the Rus­sians attacked their own troops with flechettes. The only rea­son there weren’t a bunch of dead or injured Russ­ian sol­diers after the attack was that they were tak­ing up res­i­dences in local homes for the evening:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Lethal darts were fired into a Ukrain­ian neigh­bor­hood by the thou­sands

    By Alex Hor­ton
    April 18, 2022 at 3:05 a.m. EDT

    BUCHA, Ukraine — At Svit­lana Chmut’s house out­side Kyiv, there are car­rots in her gar­den and dead­ly Russ­ian mini-arrows in her yard.

    A pile of the sharp, finned pro­jec­tiles round­ed up by Chmut are now gath­er­ing rust in the spring’s fine mist. She combed her walled court­yard for them, she said, after a Russ­ian artillery shell car­ry­ing them burst some­where over­head days before the Rus­sians with­drew late last month, seed­ing the area with thou­sands of poten­tial­ly lethal darts. Some were embed­ded in the tarp that cov­ered her vehi­cle, as if some­one nailed them to her car.

    “If you look close­ly on the ground around my house, you will find a lot more of them,” said Chmut, 54.

    These pro­jec­tiles, called fléchettes, are rarely seen or used in mod­ern con­flict, experts have said. Many land­ed in the street in the strike, Chmut said, includ­ing some observed by Wash­ing­ton Post reporters, among fields of gear and the occa­sion­al liquor bot­tle or choco­late bar aban­doned by retreat­ing Russ­ian sol­diers.

    At three cen­time­ters in length, these fléchettes look like tiny arrows. They have a long his­to­ry in war — a ver­sion of them was dropped from air­planes in World War I and used by the Unit­ed States in Viet­nam — but are not in com­mon use today. Shells packed with fléchettes are primed to explode over infantry for­ma­tions and spew pro­jec­tiles in a con­i­cal pat­tern, with some ver­sions dis­pers­ing fléchettes across an area three foot­ball fields wide.

    Chmut found the pro­jec­tiles in her car the morn­ing of March 25 or 26, she said, after a night of intense shelling on both sides. It’s not clear if Russ­ian troops were wound­ed by their own shell. The sol­diers set up artillery posi­tions and parked tanks in yards near Chmut’s home but would move into civil­ian hous­es at night, she said. Fléchettes would not pose a dan­ger to peo­ple inside build­ings.

    Fléchettes are nar­row­ly shaped to achieve aero­dy­nam­ic sta­bil­i­ty and with sim­ple, nail-like man­u­fac­tur­ing in mind, said Neil Gib­son, a muni­tions expert at the U.K.-based Fenix Insights group. The fléchettes recov­ered from Chmut’s yard prob­a­bly came from a 122 mm 3Sh1 artillery round, he said, which is among a few Russ­ian muni­tions that car­ry the pro­jec­tiles.

    Gib­son has reviewed pho­tos of those artillery rounds left behind by Russ­ian troops but has not seen their doc­u­ment­ed use in Ukraine, he said. Maj. Volodymyr Fito, a spokesper­son for Ukrain­ian land forces com­mand, said the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary does not use shells with fléchettes.

    Some human rights groups have decried the use of fléchettes because they are indis­crim­i­nate weapons that can strike civil­ians even if they are aimed at mil­i­tary for­ma­tions. They are not banned by inter­na­tion­al con­ven­tions, but “they should nev­er be used in built-up civil­ian areas,” Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al has said.

    Fléchettes drew wide con­cern in the 1970s among inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions but have most­ly avoid­ed bans because they were not used en masse in con­flicts after the Viet­nam War, when the focus turned to clus­ter and incen­di­ary muni­tions, inter­na­tion­al rela­tions pro­fes­sor Eitan Barak wrote in his book “Dead­ly Met­al Rain.”

    The excep­tion, Barak notes, is the Israeli use of fléchettes in the Gaza Strip. Israel began phas­ing out tank rounds with the pro­jec­tiles in 2010, two years after sol­diers fired a fléchette-packed sal­vo at a Reuters cam­era­man when they mis­took his cam­era for a weapon, killing him along with eight civil­ians.

    It is already ille­gal to tar­get civil­ians, and the irreg­u­lar frag­men­ta­tion of a typ­i­cal artillery shell prob­a­bly caus­es more dam­age to a body than fléchettes, which pro­duce wounds clos­er to gun­shots, Gib­son said. They are also gen­er­al­ly less use­ful, he said, because they are most­ly appro­pri­ate for spe­cif­ic cir­cum­stances, like strik­ing troops in the open gath­ered across a large area.

    Bucha, which has seen some of the gravest atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Russ­ian forces, was dev­as­tat­ed by shelling through­out Russia’s failed bid to take the cap­i­tal, includ­ing in Chmut’s neigh­bor­hood, when acrid smoke and gun­pow­der over­pow­ered the sens­es.

    “Every­thing around us was burn­ing,” she said. “There was no fresh air, and you could not see the sun.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Lethal darts were fired into a Ukrain­ian neigh­bor­hood by the thou­sands” By Alex Hor­ton; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/18/2022

    “It is already ille­gal to tar­get civil­ians, and the irreg­u­lar frag­men­ta­tion of a typ­i­cal artillery shell prob­a­bly caus­es more dam­age to a body than fléchettes, which pro­duce wounds clos­er to gun­shots, Gib­son said. They are also gen­er­al­ly less use­ful, he said, because they are most­ly appro­pri­ate for spe­cif­ic cir­cum­stances, like strik­ing troops in the open gath­ered across a large area.

    You don’t use flechettes for reg­u­lar artillery strikes. They’re only real­ly use­ful for spe­cif­ic sit­u­a­tions: like strik­ing troops gath­ered in the open in large areas. But they aren’t real­ly effec­tive against peo­ple in build­ings. So when we hear claims that the Rus­sians were shelling civil­ian urban areas with these attacks, it does­n’t real­ly make sense unless the intent was killing large groups of civil­ians gath­ered out­side. Attack­ing Russ­ian troops sta­tioned at fixed posi­tions out­side, on the oth­er hand, seems like a very plau­si­ble use for flechettes. That’s part of what makes the account by Svit­lana Chmut in Bucha so notable: Accord­ing to Chmut, the flechette attack that took place out­side her home took place before the Rus­sians with­drew from the area. Those troops had artillery posi­tions set up in yards near her home. So we’re being asked to believe that the Rus­sians shelled their own troops with these flechette rounds days before their retreat. It’s not exact­ly a com­pelling nar­ra­tive:

    ...
    A pile of the sharp, finned pro­jec­tiles round­ed up by Chmut are now gath­er­ing rust in the spring’s fine mist. She combed her walled court­yard for them, she said, after a Russ­ian artillery shell car­ry­ing them burst some­where over­head days before the Rus­sians with­drew late last month, seed­ing the area with thou­sands of poten­tial­ly lethal darts. Some were embed­ded in the tarp that cov­ered her vehi­cle, as if some­one nailed them to her car.

    “If you look close­ly on the ground around my house, you will find a lot more of them,” said Chmut, 54.

    These pro­jec­tiles, called fléchettes, are rarely seen or used in mod­ern con­flict, experts have said. Many land­ed in the street in the strike, Chmut said, includ­ing some observed by Wash­ing­ton Post reporters, among fields of gear and the occa­sion­al liquor bot­tle or choco­late bar aban­doned by retreat­ing Russ­ian sol­diers.

    At three cen­time­ters in length, these fléchettes look like tiny arrows. They have a long his­to­ry in war — a ver­sion of them was dropped from air­planes in World War I and used by the Unit­ed States in Viet­nam — but are not in com­mon use today. Shells packed with fléchettes are primed to explode over infantry for­ma­tions and spew pro­jec­tiles in a con­i­cal pat­tern, with some ver­sions dis­pers­ing fléchettes across an area three foot­ball fields wide.

    Chmut found the pro­jec­tiles in her car the morn­ing of March 25 or 26, she said, after a night of intense shelling on both sides. It’s not clear if Russ­ian troops were wound­ed by their own shell. The sol­diers set up artillery posi­tions and parked tanks in yards near Chmut’s home but would move into civil­ian hous­es at night, she said. Fléchettes would not pose a dan­ger to peo­ple inside build­ings.
    ...

    So did the Rus­sians just hap­pen to shell their own troops on March 25–26, days before they pulled out of Bucha under fire from a Ukrain­ian counter-offen­sive? That’s what we’re being asked to believe.

    It rais­es the ques­tion of how many of the dead Russ­ian sol­diers’ bod­ies left in Kyiv sub­urbs had flechette wounds. We haven’t had any reports of that yet. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, foren­sic doc­tors have indeed deter­mined that “dozens” of civil­ians were killed by flechettes in Bucha alone. So whichev­er side was using these flechettes end­ed up killing quite a few civil­ians:

    The Guardian

    Dozens of Bucha civil­ians were killed by met­al darts from Russ­ian artillery

    Foren­sic doc­tors dis­cov­er fléchettes – rarely used in mod­ern war­fare – in bod­ies found in mass graves

    Loren­zo Ton­do in Kyiv
    Sun 24 Apr 2022 11.52 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Tue 26 Apr 2022 11.19 EDT

    Dozens of civil­ians who died dur­ing the Russ­ian occu­pa­tion of the Ukrain­ian city of Bucha were killed by tiny met­al arrows from shells of a type fired by Russ­ian artillery, foren­sic doc­tors have said.

    Pathol­o­gists and coro­ners who are car­ry­ing out post­mortems on bod­ies found in mass graves in the region north of Kyiv, where occu­py­ing Russ­ian forces have been accused of atroc­i­ties, said they had found small met­al darts, called fléchettes, embed­ded in people’s heads and chests.

    “We found sev­er­al real­ly thin, nail-like objects in the bod­ies of men and women and so did oth­ers of my col­leagues in the region,” Vla­dyslav Pirovskyi, a Ukrain­ian foren­sic doc­tor, told the Guardian. “It is very hard to find those in the body, they are too thin. The major­i­ty of these bod­ies come from the Bucha-Irpin region.”

    Inde­pen­dent weapons experts who reviewed pic­tures of the met­al arrows found in the bod­ies, seen by the Guardian, con­firmed that they were fléchettes, an anti-per­son­nel weapon wide­ly used dur­ing the first world war.

    These small met­al darts are con­tained in tank or field gun shells. Each shell can con­tain up to 8,000 fléchettes. Once fired, shells burst when a timed fuse det­o­nates and explodes above the ground.

    Fléchettes, typ­i­cal­ly between 3cm and 4cm in length, release from the shell and dis­perse in a con­i­cal arch about 300m wide and 100m long. On impact with a victim’s body, the dart can lose rigid­i­ty, bend­ing into a hook, while the arrow’s rear, made of four fins, often breaks away caus­ing a sec­ond wound.

    Accord­ing to a num­ber of wit­ness­es in Bucha, fléchette rounds were fired by Russ­ian artillery a few days before forces with­drew from the area at the end of March.

    Svit­lana Chmut, a res­i­dent of Bucha, told the Wash­ing­ton Post she had found sev­er­al nailed on her car.

    Although human rights groups have long sought a ban on fléchette shells, the muni­tions are not pro­hib­it­ed under inter­na­tion­al law. How­ev­er, the use of impre­cise lethal weapons in dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed civil­ian areas is a vio­la­tion of human­i­tar­i­an law.

    Accord­ing to Neil Gib­son, a weapons expert at the UK-based Fenix Insight group, who has reviewed the pho­tos of the pro­jec­tiles seen, they include the 122mm 3Sh1 artillery round, in use by Russ­ian artillery and which are filled with fléchettes.

    ...

    Russ­ian forces cap­tured Bucha, 18.5 miles (30km) north-west of Kyiv, after fero­cious fight­ing a few days after the inva­sion began in Feb­ru­ary. They were giv­en an order to retreat at the end of March and in the sub­se­quent days, mass gravescon­tain­ing the bod­ies of hun­dreds of peo­ple who had appar­ent­ly been mas­sa­cred came to light.

    ...

    ———–

    “Dozens of Bucha civil­ians were killed by met­al darts from Russ­ian artillery” by Loren­zo Ton­do; The Guardian; 04/24/2022

    Dozens of civil­ians who died dur­ing the Russ­ian occu­pa­tion of the Ukrain­ian city of Bucha were killed by tiny met­al arrows from shells of a type fired by Russ­ian artillery, foren­sic doc­tors have said.”

    Dozens of civil­ians killed in Bucha alone by these flechettes. That was the esti­mates from these foren­sic doc­tors who keep find­ing these met­al objects in bod­ies. And note how, as of this April 24 report, the first eye-wit­ness account of these flechettes being used was from Svit­lana Chmut in Bucha who wit­nessed their use on March 25–26, right as Russ­ian sol­diers were being dri­ven out of the area. But in that above report from a few days ago, a civil­ian in Irpin, Volodymyr Kli­ma­shevskyi, claims he first wit­nessed the flechettes being used on March 5, around a week after the ini­tial occu­pa­tion of the area. So the time­line for when and where these flechettes were used was pushed for­ward by three weeks with the lat­est report. It will be inter­est­ing to see how many bod­ies of sol­diers, on either the Russ­ian or Ukrain­ian side, end up being found to be casu­al­ties of flechette muni­tions. Along those lines, it will be inter­est­ing to see if those sta­tis­tics are ever made pub­licly avail­able:

    ...
    Accord­ing to a num­ber of wit­ness­es in Bucha, fléchette rounds were fired by Russ­ian artillery a few days before forces with­drew from the area at the end of March.

    Svit­lana Chmut, a res­i­dent of Bucha, told the Wash­ing­ton Post she had found sev­er­al nailed on her car.

    ...

    Russ­ian forces cap­tured Bucha, 18.5 miles (30km) north-west of Kyiv, after fero­cious fight­ing a few days after the inva­sion began in Feb­ru­ary. They were giv­en an order to retreat at the end of March and in the sub­se­quent days, mass gravescon­tain­ing the bod­ies of hun­dreds of peo­ple who had appar­ent­ly been mas­sa­cred came to light.
    ...

    As is so often the case in these kinds of inves­ti­ga­tions cloud­ed by the fog of war, the dev­il is in the details. And those details do indeed point towards the use of fla­chette muni­tions in civil­ians areas. Those details are unde­ni­able. Just as there’s also no deny­ing that the very first eye wit­ness account includ­ed the detail that these muni­tions were used against Russ­ian sol­diers. Not that there’s any­thing stop­ping unde­ni­able details from falling down the mem­o­ry hole.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 18, 2022, 3:58 pm

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