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FTR#1240 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lies?, Part 13

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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#1240 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Zelen­sky “nor­mal­izes” Stephan Ban­dera

Intro­duc­tion: Main­tain­ing the unten­able PR façade that the Naz­i­fi­ca­tion of Ukraine is a myth, Zelen­sky showed the “True Yel­low and Blue” in a video appear­ance before the Greek par­lia­ment.

Appear­ing with a mem­ber of the Nazi Azov fight­ing for­ma­tions, Zelen­sky man­i­fest­ed the grotesque polit­i­cal real­i­ty of which he is part.

“ . . . . On Thurs­day a major row erupt­ed when Zelen­sky brought along a Ukrain­ian sol­dier of Greek her­itage from the city of Mar­i­upol, who just hap­pened to be a mem­ber of the neo-Nazi Azov Reg­i­ment. Greece was under Nazi occu­pa­tion dur­ing World War II and fought a bit­ter par­ti­san war against Nazism (lat­er to be betrayed by Britain and the Unit­ed States.). . . . For­mer Finance Min­is­ter Yanis Varo­ufakis’  MeRA25 par­ty said the event turned into a ‘Nazi fies­ta.’. . .”

Recall that his polit­i­cal patron is Ihor Kolo­moisky, who financed Zelensky’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, owns the TV net­work that boost­ed him to pub­lic promi­nence, who was a major financier of the Azov Bat­tal­ion and who owned a con­trol­ling inter­est in Buris­ma, fea­tur­ing Hunter Biden on the board of direc­tors.

It was in his posi­tion as a Buris­ma direc­tor that Hunter expe­dit­ed the appar­ent bio­log­i­cal war­fare projects over­lap­ping those involved in the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.”

That places Hunter Biden in the mix of “The Ban­dera Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy,” if you will.

With alle­ga­tions of Russ­ian war crimes being bandied about and the hyper­bole of Joe Biden and oth­ers reach­ing new depths of dis­tor­tion and dis­hon­esty, we exam­ine a sto­ry that rais­es seri­ous ques­tions about anoth­er of the icon­ic “Russ­ian war crimes” inci­dents, the “bomb­ing” of the Mar­i­upol mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal.

Note that Mar­i­upol, like Bucha, is defend­ed by Azov/Nazi mil­i­tary units.

“ . . . .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 had 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. . . .”

“ . . . . 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. . . .”

Lviv, Ukaine, Sum­mer of 2018. Cel­e­bra­tion of the 75th anniver­sary of the 14th Waf­fen SS Divi­sion (Gali­cian). Note the Ukrain­ian hon­or guard in the back­ground.

Key points of analy­sis and dis­cus­sion include: Res­i­dents attempt­ing to flee the city were pre­vent­ed by the author­i­ties from doing so; the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal had been uti­lized by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary; despite the strong prob­a­bil­i­ty that the hos­pi­tal was dam­aged by an artillery shell, AP journalists—apparently embed­ded with Azov combatants—negated the tes­ti­mo­ny of hos­pi­tal patients about the artillery strike; the AP/A­zov-embed­ded jour­nal­ists prop­a­gat­ed the sto­ry that the hos­pi­tal had been hit by a delib­er­ate Russ­ian airstrike; the AP jour­nal­ist who had been the source of the “Russ­ian airstrike” sto­ry had also been at the Maid­an and sym­pa­thet­ic to the Nazi-rich milieu involved in that false-flag oper­a­tion; AP has been dis­trib­ut­ing Azov pho­tographs; the esti­mates of the casu­al­ties in the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal inci­dent are wild­ly incon­sis­tent; there are reports that sur­vivors of the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal attack may have been tak­en to the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater and posi­tioned at the exact place that the “Russ­ian mis­sile” struck in anoth­er dubi­ous “Russ­ian war crime;” West­ern nations have—so far—blocked a Russ­ian request to have the UN inves­ti­gate the Bucha “war crimes;” Both Azov com­bat­ants and Ukrain­ian police were engaged in “clean-up oper­a­tions” in which Russ­ian “col­lab­o­ra­tors” were “dealt with.”

We con­clude with analy­sis of the Geor­gian Legion, an ele­ment of the Ukrain­ian “For­eign Legion” which is impli­cat­ed in the false-flag sniper shoot­ings in the Maid­an coup and has admit­ted com­mit­ting sum­ma­ry exe­cu­tions of Russ­ian POW’s.

The Geor­gian Legion is not an iso­lat­ed, eclipsed enti­ty, but rather, one that is led by Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili, net­worked with ador­ing U.S. polit­i­cal fig­ures.

“ . . . . 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. . . .

As indi­cat­ed above, Mamu­lashvili is impli­cat­ed in the Maid­an false-flag shoot­ings:

“ . . . . [Pro­fes­sor] 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. . . .”

This dis­cus­sion will be con­tin­ued in the next broad­cast.

1.  Main­tain­ing the unten­able PR façade that the Naz­i­fi­ca­tion of Ukraine is a myth, Zelen­sky showed the “True Yel­low and Blue” in a video appear­ance before the Greek par­lia­ment.

Appear­ing with a mem­ber of the Nazi Azov fight­ing for­ma­tions, Zelen­sky man­i­fest­ed the grotesque polit­i­cal real­i­ty of which he is part.

Recall that his polit­i­cal patron is Ihor Kolo­moisky, who financed Zelensky’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, owns the TV net­work that boost­ed him to pub­lic promi­nence, who was a major financier of the Azov Bat­tal­ion and who owned a con­trol­ling inter­est in Buris­ma, fea­tur­ing Hunter Biden on the board of direc­tors.

It was in his posi­tion as a Buris­ma direc­tor that Hunter expe­dit­ed the appar­ent bio­log­i­cal war­fare projects over­lap­ping those involved in the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.”

That places Hunter Biden in the mix of “The Ban­dera Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy,” if you will.

  • “ . . . . On Thurs­day a major row erupt­ed when Zelen­sky brought along a Ukrain­ian sol­dier of Greek her­itage from the city of Mar­i­upol, who just hap­pened to be a mem­ber of the neo-Nazi Azov Reg­i­ment. Greece was under Nazi occu­pa­tion dur­ing World War II and fought a bit­ter par­ti­san war against Nazism (lat­er to be betrayed by Britain and the Unit­ed States.). . . .”
  • “ . . . . Alex­is Tsipras, leader of the main oppo­si­tion par­ty, SYRIZA-Pro­gres­sive Alliance, blast­ed the appear­ance of the Azov fight­er before par­lia­ment. . . .”
  • “ . . . . ‘The speech was a provo­ca­tion.’  He said Greek Prime Min­is­ter Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis ‘bears full respon­si­bil­i­ty.… He talked about a his­toric day but it is a his­tor­i­cal shame.’. . .”
  • “ . . . . For­mer Greek Prime Min­is­ter Anto­nis Sama­ras called the video being played in par­lia­ment a ‘big mis­take’. . . .”
  • “ . . . . For­mer For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Nikos Kotzias said: ‘The Greek gov­ern­ment irre­spon­si­bly under­mined the strug­gle of the Ukrain­ian peo­ple, by giv­ing the floor to a Nazi. The respon­si­bil­i­ties are heavy. The gov­ern­ment should pub­lish a detailed report of prepa­ra­tion and con­tacts for the event.’. . . .”
  • “ . . . . ‘The social­ist KINAL par­ty issued a state­ment ask­ing why Greek law­mak­ers had not been informed about the video inter­ven­tion of an Azov Bat­tal­ion mem­ber and called on the pres­i­dent of the Greek Par­lia­ment to bear respon­si­bil­i­ty. . . .”
  • “ . . . . For­mer Finance Min­is­ter Yanis Varo­ufakis’  MeRA25par­ty said the event turned into a ‘Nazi fies­ta.’. . .”
  • “ . . . . Ignor­ing Greece’s suf­fer­ing under Ger­man Nazism was a slight made worse by bring­ing a Nazi along to address Greek law­mak­ers. Zelen­sky has got­ten into trou­ble before by refer­ring to a nation’s his­to­ry in his address­es to par­lia­ments. He caused out­rage in Israel for com­par­ing what Ukraine is going through today to the Holo­caust while com­plete­ly ignor­ing the role Ukrain­ian fas­cists played in that Holo­caust. In his address to the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil on Tues­day Zelen­sky said Rus­sia had com­mit­ted the worst war crimes since World War II, ignor­ing the much big­ger crime of aggres­sion by the Unit­ed States against Iraq built total­ly on lies. Just as West­ern gov­ern­ments and cor­po­rate media are doing, the Ukrain­ian embassy in Athens denied Azov is a Neo-Nazi reg­i­ment, despite sport­ing the Waf­fen-SS Wolf­san­gel on their uni­forms and their open polit­i­cal align­ment with Nazism. . . .”
  • “ . . . . West­ern media have large­ly ignored the sto­ry. Nei­ther The New York Timesnor The Wash­ing­ton Post wrote any­thing about what hap­pened at the Greek par­lia­ment and The Wall Street Jour­nal only ran a pho­to sto­ry that didn’t men­tion the con­tro­ver­sy. . . .”

 “Out­rage as Azov Nazi Address­es Greek Par­lia­ment” by Joe Lau­ria; Con­sor­tium News; 4/8/2022.

Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky has been mak­ing a vir­tu­al world tour with video hookups to par­lia­ments around the globe, as well as to the Gram­my Awards and the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, some­times with trou­ble­some results.  

On Thurs­day a major row erupt­ed when Zelen­sky brought along a Ukrain­ian sol­dier of Greek her­itage from the city of Mar­i­upol, who just hap­pened to be a mem­ber of the neo-Nazi Azov Reg­i­ment. Greece was under Nazi occu­pa­tion dur­ing World War II and fought a bit­ter par­ti­san war against Nazism (lat­er to be betrayed by Britain and the Unit­ed States.)   

With Zelen­sky in the screen, the man, who gave only his first name, told Par­lia­ment: “I speak to you as a man of Greek descent. My name is Michail. My grand­fa­ther fought against the Nazis in the Sec­ond World War. I am born in Mar­i­upol and I am now also fight­ing to defend my city from the Russ­ian nazis.”   

Alex­is Tsipras, leader of the main oppo­si­tion par­ty, SYRIZA-Pro­gres­sive Alliance, blast­ed the appear­ance of the Azov fight­er before par­lia­ment.  

“Sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Ukrain­ian peo­ple is a giv­en. But nazis can­not be allowed to speak in par­lia­ment,” Tsipras said on social media. “The speech was a provo­ca­tion.”  He said Greek Prime Min­is­ter Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis “bears full respon­si­bil­i­ty.… He talked about a his­toric day but it is a his­tor­i­cal shame.”  

For­mer Greek Prime Min­is­ter Anto­nis Sama­ras called the video being played in par­lia­ment a “big mis­take”.

For­mer For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Nikos Kotzias said: “The Greek gov­ern­ment irre­spon­si­bly under­mined the strug­gle of the Ukrain­ian peo­ple, by giv­ing the floor to a Nazi. The respon­si­bil­i­ties are heavy. The gov­ern­ment should pub­lish a detailed report of prepa­ra­tion and con­tacts for the event.”

For­mer Finance Min­is­ter Yanis Varo­ufakis’  MeRA25 par­ty said the event turned into a “Nazi fies­ta.”

The Greek Reporter said a gov­ern­ment spokesman admit­ted the mis­take but then used it to smear SYRIZA as Russ­ian apol­o­gists:

“The social­ist KINAL par­ty issued a state­ment ask­ing why Greek law­mak­ers had not been informed about the video inter­ven­tion of an Azov Bat­tal­ion mem­ber and called on the pres­i­dent of the Greek Par­lia­ment to bear respon­si­bil­i­ty.

Gov­ern­ment spokesper­son Gian­nis Oikonomou said the inclu­sion of the Azov Bat­tal­ion mes­sage was ‘incor­rect and inap­pro­pri­ate.’ How­ev­er, he did not say who should be held respon­si­ble for this.

Oikonomou, nev­er­the­less, slammed SYRIZA for alleged­ly ‘using that mis­take… to jus­ti­fy the Russ­ian inva­sion. … It is time for a clear answer: are they on the side of the Ukraini­ans, who are fight­ing for their free­dom, or [on the side of] Putin’s invaders?’ he said.”

Zelensky’s Spot­ty Sense of His­to­ry

In his speech, Zelen­sky said:

“I have been wak­ing up every day for more than a month think­ing about Mar­i­upol, which is being destroyed by Russ­ian troops. There are still 100,000 peo­ple on the bor­der with Mar­i­upol. There is no build­ing left. Mar­i­upol has been destroyed …

Ukraine is one of the Ortho­dox coun­tries that was Chris­tianised by the Greeks. In Ukrain­ian cul­ture and his­to­ry it will be seen that we will lose a big part of his­to­ry if we lose the cul­ture brought by Greek cul­ture.

Free­dom or Death was what your rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies were say­ing. We are shout­ing the same today.” [a ref­er­ence to a slo­gan of the Greek Rev­o­lu­tion of 1821.]

Ignor­ing Greece’s suf­fer­ing under Ger­man Nazism was a slight made worse by bring­ing a Nazi along to address Greek law­mak­ers.

Zelen­sky has got­ten into trou­ble before by refer­ring to a nation’s his­to­ry in his address­es to par­lia­ments. He caused out­rage in Israel for com­par­ing what Ukraine is going through today to the Holo­caust while com­plete­ly ignor­ing the role Ukrain­ian fas­cists played in that Holo­caust.

In his address to the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil on Tues­day Zelen­sky said Rus­sia had com­mit­ted the worst war crimes since World War II, ignor­ing the much big­ger crime of aggres­sion by the Unit­ed States against Iraq built total­ly on lies.

Just as West­ern gov­ern­ments and cor­po­rate media are doing, the Ukrain­ian embassy in Athens denied Azov is a Neo-Nazi reg­i­ment, despite sport­ing the Waf­fen-SS Wolf­san­gel on their uni­forms and their open polit­i­cal align­ment with Nazism. The embassy instead tried to turn the tables. 

“For many years Rus­sia tried to ‘plant’ into Greek minds the myth that ‘Azov’ Reg­i­ment is a para­mil­i­tary inde­pen­dent unit oper­at­ing in Mar­i­upol,” the embassy said in a state­ment. “The video … has noth­ing to do to those Nazi deeds, Rus­sians com­mit on our land and against our peo­ple.” 

Indeed, West­ern media have large­ly ignored the sto­ry. Nei­ther The New York Times nor The Wash­ing­ton Post wrote any­thing about what hap­pened at the Greek par­lia­ment and The Wall Street Jour­nal only ran a pho­to sto­ry that didn’t men­tion the con­tro­ver­sy. 

Here is the full video of Zelensky’s per­for­mance (in Greek):

2. With alle­ga­tions of Russ­ian war crimes being bandied about and the hyper­bole of Joe Biden and oth­ers reach­ing new depths of dis­tor­tion and dis­hon­esty, we exam­ine a sto­ry that rais­es seri­ous ques­tions about anoth­er of the icon­ic “Russ­ian war crimes” inci­dents, the “bomb­ing” of the Mar­i­upol mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal.

Note that Mar­i­upol, like Bucha, is defend­ed by Azov/Nazi mil­i­tary units.

“ . . . .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 had 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. . . .”

“ . . . . 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. . . .”

 Key points of analy­sis and dis­cus­sion include: Res­i­dents attempt­ing to flee the city were pre­vent­ed by the author­i­ties from doing so; the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal had been uti­lized by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary; despite the strong prob­a­bil­i­ty that the hos­pi­tal was dam­aged by an artillery shell, AP journalists—apparently embed­ded with Azov combatants—negated the tes­ti­mo­ny of hos­pi­tal patients about the artillery strike; the AP/A­zov-embed­ded jour­nal­ists prop­a­gat­ed the sto­ry that the hos­pi­tal had been hit by a delib­er­ate Russ­ian airstrike; the AP jour­nal­ist who had been the source of the “Russ­ian airstrike” sto­ry had also been at the Maid­an and sym­pa­thet­ic to the Nazi-rich milieu involved in that false-flag oper­a­tion; AP has been dis­trib­ut­ing Azov pho­tographs; the esti­mates of the casu­al­ties in the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal inci­dent are wild­ly incon­sis­tent; there are reports that sur­vivors of the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal attack may have been tak­en to the Mar­i­upol dra­ma the­ater and posi­tioned at the exact place that the “Russ­ian mis­sile” struck in anoth­er dubi­ous “Russ­ian war crime;” West­ern nations have—so far—blocked a Russ­ian request to have the UN inves­ti­gate the Bucha “war crimes;” Both Azov com­bat­ants and Ukrain­ian police were engaged in “clean-up oper­a­tions” in which Russ­ian “col­lab­o­ra­tors” were “dealt with.”

 “New wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny about Mar­i­upol mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal ‘airstrike’ fol­lows pat­tern of Ukrain­ian decep­tions, media mal­prac­tice” by Kit Klaren­berg; The Gray Zone; 4/3/2022.

  •  “ . . . . In a video (above) reviewed by The Gray­zone which began cir­cu­lat­ing via Telegram April 1st, [Maria] 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.’’. . . .”
  • “ . . . . 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. . . . 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 reportby 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. . . .”
  • “ . . . . 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. . . We know about these sup­posed mass graves thanks to Asso­ci­at­ed Press cor­re­spon­dent Evge­ny Mal­o­let­ka, who has pub­lished pho­tosand 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 pro­fileof 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. . . .”
  • “ . . . . 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 rid­dledwith 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. . . 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 forcein 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 inves­ti­ga­tionof 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 ver­sion of the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal inci­dent, par­tic­u­lar­ly the wild­ly con­flict­ing esti­mates of casu­al­tiesand 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 had 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. . . .”
  • “ . . . . With­in hours of Russia’s with­draw­al from the Bucha on March 31st, its may­or announcedthat 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. . . .”
  • “ . . . . On April 2, with­in hours of the pub­li­ca­tionof 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, ‘fuck yeah!’ Korotkikh has since delet­ed the video, per­haps fear­ing it impli­cat­ed his unit in a war crime. . . .”
  • “ . . . . As Zelen­sky has made clear, Ukrain­ian forces are des­per­ate for direct West­ern inter­ven­tion – in par­tic­u­lar the so-called ‘clos­ing of the sky.’ With com­pelling but high­ly ques­tion­able atroc­i­ty pro­pa­gan­da fil­ter­ing from media oper­a­tions of the Azov Bat­tal­ion and the Asso­ci­at­ed Press, pub­lic pres­sure for a major esca­la­tion is ris­ing. . . .” 

. . . . 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 ver­sion 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 had 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.

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, “fuck yeah!” Korotkikh has since delet­ed the video, per­haps fear­ing it impli­cat­ed his unit in a war crime.

 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. 

What’s more, Rus­sia has vir­tu­al­ly elim­i­nat­ed Ukraine’s fight­ing and logis­tics capa­bil­i­ties in much of the coun­try, includ­ing its entire navy, air force, air defens­es, radar sys­tems, mil­i­tary pro­duc­tion and repairs facil­i­ties, and most fuel and ammu­ni­tion depots, leav­ing Kiev unable to trans­port large num­bers of troops between dif­fer­ent fronts, and con­sign­ing what forces remain in the east to encir­clement and almost inevitable defeat.

As Zelen­sky has made clear, Ukrain­ian forces are des­per­ate for direct West­ern inter­ven­tion – in par­tic­u­lar the so-called “clos­ing of the sky.” With com­pelling but high­ly ques­tion­able atroc­i­ty pro­pa­gan­da fil­ter­ing from media oper­a­tions of the Azov Bat­tal­ion and the Asso­ci­at­ed Press, pub­lic pres­sure for a major esca­la­tion is ris­ing. 

 3.  We con­clude with analy­sis of the Geor­gian Legion, an ele­ment of the Ukrain­ian “For­eign Legion” which is impli­cat­ed in the false-flag sniper shoot­ings in the Maid­an coup and has admit­ted com­mit­ting sum­ma­ry exe­cu­tions of Russ­ian POW’s.

The Geor­gian Legion is not an iso­lat­ed, eclipsed enti­ty, but rather, one that is led by Mamu­ka Mamu­lashvili, net­worked with ador­ing U.S. polit­i­cal fig­ures.

“ . . . . 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. . . .

As indi­cat­ed above, Mamu­lashvili is impli­cat­ed in the Maid­an false-flag shoot­ings:

“ . . . . [Pro­fes­sor] 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. . . .”

This dis­cus­sion will be con­tin­ued in the next broad­cast.

  • “. . . . 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. . . .
  • “. . . . 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 milesdown the road on March 30 as Russ­ian troops with­drew has received a more mut­ed response despite cov­er­age by the New York Times. . . .
  • . . . . 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. . . .
  • . . . . 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 mediathat 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 describedthe 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 describedthe 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. . . .”
  • . . . . Mamulashvili’s mul­ti­ple trips to the Unit­ed States have offered him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to attend eventsat 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 showMamu­lashvili 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 post­edto Face­book show the warlord’s sub­or­di­nates train­ing chil­dren (below) for bat­tle against Rus­sia. . . .
  • . . . . Hoeft told The Gray­zone thatmem­bers 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 pre­sent­edMamu­lashvili 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. . . .

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

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 EngelRep. Car­olyn Mal­oney, for­mer Rep. Sander LevinRep. 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.

———-

 

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR#1240 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lies?, Part 13”

  1. We’ve been get­ting an uptick in warn­ings about the risk of a Russ­ian tac­ti­cal nuclear weapon across the media this week, includ­ing a report out of Bloomberg cit­ing anony­mous Krem­lin insid­ers voic­ing their wor­ries about Vladimir Putin even­tu­al­ly resort­ing to tac­ti­cal nuclear weapons to achieve Rus­si­a’s objects in Ukraine. So how con­cerned should we actu­al­ly be about this pos­si­bil­i­ty? Are we just be sub­ject­ed to more hype or is this a real threat? That’s the ques­tion addressed in the fol­low­ing Newsweek arti­cle with com­ments from a num­ber of experts who warn that, yes, the risk of the use of tac­ti­cal nuclear weapons is indeed very real. But it’s the spe­cif­ic sce­nar­ios that these experts described as being the high­est risk for a nuclear exchange that should have us more con­cerned. Because the sce­nar­ios they’re describ­ing sure sound a lot like the plan. A plan to turn Ukraine into Rus­si­a’s New Afghanistan and set the stage for the crush­ing defeat of Rus­si­a’s con­ven­tion­al mil­i­tary forces.

    For starters, they warn that dev­as­tat­ing loss­es for Rus­si­a’s con­ven­tion­al forces rep­re­sent one of the fac­tors that could push Putin towards using tac­ti­cal nukes. How dev­as­tat­ing will those loss­es need to get before such mea­sures are con­sid­ered? It’s a good ques­tion, but the fact is that Rus­sia has already suf­fered a shock­ing lev­el of loss in its con­ven­tion­al forces already in this con­flict and at this point it does­n’t look like there’s any real hope for a quick end. So as the West floods Ukraine with the weapons need­ed to shred Rus­si­a’s con­ven­tion­al forces, keep in mind that we’re effec­tive­ly ask­ing the ques­tion “how bad can Rus­si­a’s con­ven­tion­al force loss­es get before the nukes get deployed?”

    Anoth­er pos­si­ble nuke sce­nario involves the threats to Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry. And that brings us to the still unde­fined ambi­tions of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary and its West­ern back­ers now that the fight­ing in Ukraine has turned towards the East. Is Ukraine plan­ning on ‘lib­er­at­ing’ the sep­a­ratist republics in the Donas? How about Crimea? And what is Rus­si­a’s response going to be if it looks like it’s going to lose any of these regions? Keep in mind that the civil­ian atroc­i­ties that will be expe­ri­enced by the eth­nic Rus­sians in those sep­a­ratist regions at the hands of Ukraine’s Nazi bat­tal­ions like Azov are exact­ly the kinds of events that could be seen as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the use of nukes in defense of those pop­u­la­tions.

    Final­ly, as these experts warn, this is no Cuban mis­sile cri­sis. We are already well past that lev­el of cri­sis. For starters, the Cuban mis­sile cri­sis was just 13 days. Nor was there an active hot war being waged inside Cuba at that time. And we’re already two months into the con­flict in Ukraine with no clear end in site and a major new phase of com­bat that could present a ‘make or break’ chal­lenge for Rus­si­a’s con­ven­tion­al forces:

    Newsweek

    Will Putin Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine?

    By Bren­dan Cole
    On 4/21/22 at 1:01 PM EDT

    Rus­sia has car­ried out its first suc­cess­ful test of a nuclear-capa­ble inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM), which Vladimir Putin said would make adver­saries “think twice.” What world lead­ers might be think­ing about even more is whether the Russ­ian pres­i­dent could resort to such weapons dur­ing his inva­sion of Ukraine.

    The launch of the Sar­mat mis­sile on Wednes­day from the north­west­ern Arkhangel­sk region comes in a week of mixed mes­sag­ing from Rus­sia in which its for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov told an inter­view­er with India Today it would use, in Ukraine, “con­ven­tion­al weapons only.”

    ...

    “The nature of a con­flict which involves both Rus­sia and NATO, even indi­rect­ly, is that there is bound to be a nuclear shad­ow over it,” said Mal­colm Chalmers, deputy direc­tor-gen­er­al of the Roy­al Unit­ed Ser­vices Insti­tute (RUSI) think tank in Lon­don. “That does not mean that the use of nuclear weapons is immi­nent or even like­ly. ”

    Chalmers said that there was sim­i­lar nuclear sig­nal­ing from Rus­sia after it seized Crimea in 2014 with the aim of deter­ring direct NATO and U.S. involve­ment.

    The pri­ma­ry nuclear prob­lem we could see in the com­ing peri­od would be in a sit­u­a­tion where Rus­sia feels increas­ing­ly frus­trat­ed by its abil­i­ty to achieve its objec­tives by the use of con­ven­tion­al force,” he told Newsweek.

    Rus­si­a’s inva­sion has stalled and its troops have retreat­ed from the Kyiv region, hit by a high loss of troops and equip­ment. The Krem­lin has been focus­ing its lat­est offen­sive on east­ern Ukraine with the aim of seiz­ing the Don­bas region.

    Chalmers said that using nuclear weapons would be a “tremen­dous gam­ble” for Rus­sia, but oth­er fac­tors might com­bine to push Putin towards the dras­tic move if he felt Rus­si­a’s red lines had been crossed, and that his own con­ven­tion­al options had been exhaust­ed.

    These could include the per­cep­tion that NATO forces are get­ting more direct­ly involved in the conflict—for instance if drones used in Ukraine were being oper­at­ed by alliance forces in NATO ter­ri­to­ry.

    Anoth­er nuclear risk fac­tor could be “if Rus­sia felt its own ter­ri­to­ry was under threat,” includ­ing Crimea.

    “If the bat­tle for Don­bas ends in a stale­mate, or Rus­sia has in some sense lost that bat­tle and Pres­i­dent Putin’s con­ven­tion­al options nar­row, will there be cir­cum­stances in which he wants to wave a nuclear card, or make a cred­i­ble nuclear threat to force Ukraine or indeed NATO to back off?” Chalmers said.

    In 2020, researchers at Prince­ton’s Pro­gram on Sci­ence and Glob­al Secu­ri­ty pub­lished an analy­sis of what might hap­pen if Russ­ian or NATO lead­ers used nuclear weapons first in a con­flict in Europe.

    Ini­tial “tac­ti­cal” nuclear det­o­na­tions could esca­late into a an exchange of ther­monu­clear weapons involv­ing Rus­si­a’s arse­nal of 1,450 strate­gic war­heads and the U.S. arse­nal of 1,350 strate­gic war­heads on its mis­siles and bombers.

    In such a sce­nario, more than 91 mil­lion peo­ple were pro­ject­ed to die in just the first few hours. Mil­lions more would die from expo­sure to radi­a­tion in the fol­low­ing years dur­ing which health, finan­cial, and eco­nom­ic sys­tems would col­lapse.

    “The dan­ger of nuclear weapons aris­es if the war were to widen out­side of Ukraine,” retired Lt. Col. Bill Astore, ex-pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at the U.S. Air Force Acad­e­my (USAF) told Newsweek.

    “For exam­ple, if NATO enforced a no-fly zone and start­ed shoot­ing down Russ­ian planes, I could see Putin respond­ing with a tac­ti­cal nuclear strike against a NATO air­base.

    “That would risk a wider nuclear war, tru­ly a hor­ri­fy­ing sce­nario, which is why those who are call­ing for NATO esca­la­tion and direct involve­ment in the war are being irre­spon­si­ble.”

    Lavrov’s com­ments this week echo those made by Krem­lin spokesman Dmit­ry Peskov who told PBS in March “no one is think­ing about” using a nuclear weapon. How­ev­er, Peskov was respond­ing to a ques­tion about ex-Pres­i­dent Dmit­ry Medvedev who had list­ed sce­nar­ios in which Rus­sia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons.

    “We should nev­er believe what the Krem­lin or Sergei Lavrov says at face val­ue, but it is pos­i­tive that they are rul­ing out the use of nuclear weapons in the assault on Ukraine,” said Daryl Kim­ball, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Arms Con­trol Asso­ci­a­tion who said such a prospect is “the­o­ret­i­cal­ly there but I think it is unlike­ly.”

    How­ev­er, the longer the con­flict con­tin­ues means that the height­ened risk of a direct NATO-Rus­sia encounter “will per­sist for many weeks, if not months.”

    “It is not like the [1962] Cuban mis­sile cri­sis,” Kim­ball told Newsweek, refer­ring to the brinkman­ship between the USSR and the U.S. “Back then the risk of nuclear use was high—but the cri­sis last­ed 13 days.

    “This cri­sis has last­ed well over 13 days. Unlike then when there was no direct shoot­ing we now have a hot con­flict that can eas­i­ly esca­late.

    “The risk of nuclear use is high­er than it has been since the end of the Cold War and it is going to last for some time to come,” he said.

    “As Putin might become more des­per­ate, as the war drags on and as his polit­i­cal posi­tion becomes more ten­u­ous, he could once again resort to nuclear threat mak­ing and we could have the poten­tial for mis­cal­cu­la­tion.”

    Alan Cafruny, pro­fes­sor of inter­na­tion­al affairs at Hamil­ton Col­lege in Clin­ton, New York said the use of nuclear weapons “is unlike­ly but not impos­si­ble,” and of con­cern is the esca­la­to­ry pres­sure from U.S. politi­cians call­ing for fur­ther NATO involve­ment.

    “Espe­cial­ly in the con­text of domes­tic volatil­i­ty in the Unit­ed States and con­tin­u­ing set­backs for Russ­ian forces, mis­takes and mis­per­cep­tions are cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble,” he told Newsweek.

    Krem­lin offi­cials told Bloomberg this week they are becom­ing “increas­ing­ly” wor­ried Putin could use lim­it­ed nuclear weapons. Mean­while, CIA direc­tor William Burns said Putin could use a tac­ti­cal or low-yield nuclear weapon out of “poten­tial des­per­a­tion,” although there was no evi­dence such an attack was imminent,according to The New York Times.

    Abby Schrad­er, his­to­ry pro­fes­sor at Franklin & Mar­shall Col­lege in Penn­syl­va­nia said that the lat­est ICBM test was not nec­es­sar­i­ly an indi­ca­tor of Putin’s inten­tions in Ukraine and was “macho saber rat­tling more than a real threat.”

    “Much more con­cern­ing to me is that Putin could well resort to the use of tac­ti­cal nuclear weapons,” she told Newsweek. “Old-school, low-yield nukes, with short-range deliv­ery sys­tems, sim­i­lar to those dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki.”

    “He would deploy these to dra­mat­i­cal­ly take out lim­it­ed tar­gets while stop­ping short of pro­vok­ing, as the old Cold War doc­trine put it, ‘mutu­al­ly assured destruc­tion.’ ”

    ...

    ———–

    “Will Putin Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine?” by Bren­dan Cole; Newsweek; 04/21/2022

    “Chalmers said that using nuclear weapons would be a “tremen­dous gam­ble” for Rus­sia, but oth­er fac­tors might com­bine to push Putin towards the dras­tic move if he felt Rus­si­a’s red lines had been crossed, and that his own con­ven­tion­al options had been exhaust­ed.

    It would indeed be a “tremen­dous gam­ble” for Rus­sia to use nuclear weapons. But as these experts warn, the kinds of sit­u­a­tions where Vladimir Putin might be tempt­ed to deploy nuclear weapons are exact­ly the kinds of sit­u­a­tions where you might expect him to be open to tak­ing tremen­dous gam­bles. Sit­u­a­tions like Rus­si­a’s con­ven­tion­al forces fail­ing to achieve his objec­tives in Ukraine. Or worse, los­ing out­right, leav­ing Rus­sia with an evis­cer­at­ed con­ven­tion­al army. Would Putin be will to make a tremen­dous nuclear gam­ble in order to pre­serve what’s left of his con­ven­tion­al forces fol­low­ing a bru­tal rout­ing in the Don­bas? These are the ques­tions we had bet­ter hope West­ern pol­i­cy­mak­ers are ask­ing them­selves now that the con­flict in Ukraine appears to have moved into a sec­ond phase of large armor-on-armor bat­tles in East­ern Ukraine. Will the third phase of the con­flict include tac­ti­cal nukes? That pre­sum­ably depends on how many of Rus­si­a’s con­ven­tion­al forces even sur­vive the com­ing bat­tles:

    ...
    “The nature of a con­flict which involves both Rus­sia and NATO, even indi­rect­ly, is that there is bound to be a nuclear shad­ow over it,” said Mal­colm Chalmers, deputy direc­tor-gen­er­al of the Roy­al Unit­ed Ser­vices Insti­tute (RUSI) think tank in Lon­don. “That does not mean that the use of nuclear weapons is immi­nent or even like­ly. ”

    Chalmers said that there was sim­i­lar nuclear sig­nal­ing from Rus­sia after it seized Crimea in 2014 with the aim of deter­ring direct NATO and U.S. involve­ment.

    The pri­ma­ry nuclear prob­lem we could see in the com­ing peri­od would be in a sit­u­a­tion where Rus­sia feels increas­ing­ly frus­trat­ed by its abil­i­ty to achieve its objec­tives by the use of con­ven­tion­al force,” he told Newsweek.
    ...

    Let’s also not for­get that there’s still a high degree of ambi­gu­i­ty in terms of what exact­ly Ukraine’s ambi­tions are for retak­ing ter­ri­to­ry in the East now that Russ­ian forces were effec­tive­ly expelled from the Kyiv area. Is the plan to ‘lib­er­ate’ the sep­a­ratist republics of Donet­sk and Luhan­sk too? How about Crimea? This remains an open open ques­tion. And as these experts warn, a per­ceived threat to Rus­si­a’s own ter­ri­to­ry is one of the oth­er obvi­ous major risks for the use nuclear weapons:

    ...
    These could include the per­cep­tion that NATO forces are get­ting more direct­ly involved in the conflict—for instance if drones used in Ukraine were being oper­at­ed by alliance forces in NATO ter­ri­to­ry.

    Anoth­er nuclear risk fac­tor could be “if Rus­sia felt its own ter­ri­to­ry was under threat,” includ­ing Crimea.

    “If the bat­tle for Don­bas ends in a stale­mate, or Rus­sia has in some sense lost that bat­tle and Pres­i­dent Putin’s con­ven­tion­al options nar­row, will there be cir­cum­stances in which he wants to wave a nuclear card, or make a cred­i­ble nuclear threat to force Ukraine or indeed NATO to back off?” Chalmers said.
    ...

    So would Putin con­sid­er the ‘lib­er­a­tion’ of those sep­a­ratist ter­ri­to­ries or threats to Crimea a threat to Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry? If so, that sug­gests we might already be on the direct path towards a nuclear exchange. And these sce­nar­ios don’t even obvi­ous esca­la­to­ry sce­nar­ios like a NATO-led no-fly zone or oth­er forms of direct NATO involve­ment:

    ...
    “The dan­ger of nuclear weapons aris­es if the war were to widen out­side of Ukraine,” retired Lt. Col. Bill Astore, ex-pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at the U.S. Air Force Acad­e­my (USAF) told Newsweek.

    “For exam­ple, if NATO enforced a no-fly zone and start­ed shoot­ing down Russ­ian planes, I could see Putin respond­ing with a tac­ti­cal nuclear strike against a NATO air­base.

    “That would risk a wider nuclear war, tru­ly a hor­ri­fy­ing sce­nario, which is why those who are call­ing for NATO esca­la­tion and direct involve­ment in the war are being irre­spon­si­ble.”
    ...

    And as these experts remind us, this isn’t the Cuban mis­sile cri­sis. We’re already in a sit­u­a­tion that dwarfs the Cuban mis­sile cri­sis in terms of chaos of the sit­u­a­tion. There was no direct shoot­ing war in Cuba in 1962 and we are well past 13 days with no end in sight:

    ...
    How­ev­er, the longer the con­flict con­tin­ues means that the height­ened risk of a direct NATO-Rus­sia encounter “will per­sist for many weeks, if not months.”

    “It is not like the [1962] Cuban mis­sile cri­sis,” Kim­ball told Newsweek, refer­ring to the brinkman­ship between the USSR and the U.S. “Back then the risk of nuclear use was high—but the cri­sis last­ed 13 days.

    “This cri­sis has last­ed well over 13 days. Unlike then when there was no direct shoot­ing we now have a hot con­flict that can eas­i­ly esca­late.

    “The risk of nuclear use is high­er than it has been since the end of the Cold War and it is going to last for some time to come,” he said.

    “As Putin might become more des­per­ate, as the war drags on and as his polit­i­cal posi­tion becomes more ten­u­ous, he could once again resort to nuclear threat mak­ing and we could have the poten­tial for mis­cal­cu­la­tion.”
    ...

    Did Putin walk into a trap in Ukraine? It sure looks like it and he very well may end up get­ting the Russ­ian con­ven­tion­al forces dec­i­mat­ed as a con­se­quence of that mis­cal­cu­la­tion. It’s the sce­nario pol­i­cy-mak­ers in the West are open­ly cheer­lead­ing. An com­plete and total mil­i­tary defeat for Rus­sia. It’s increas­ing­ly being sold to the pub­lic as the only viable solu­tion to the con­flict. And sure, a com­plete and total mil­i­tary for Rus­sia could be the con­di­tions that lead to an end of the con­flict. And maybe even the end of Putin’s rule. Maybe. Or maybe the start of a much larg­er kind of end­ing. And that’s why we should­n’t sole­ly be con­cerned about the tremen­dous gam­bles Putin alone might make. The tremen­dous gam­bles are already being made by all sides.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 21, 2022, 4:03 pm
  2. What hap­pens to the weapons sent to Ukraine? Who knows, but the risks of flood­ing Ukraine with pow­er­ful weapons sys­tems that can’t be tracked are less than the risks of not flood­ing Ukraine with pow­er­ful weapons sys­tems that can’t be tracked. That’s appar­ent­ly the offi­cial posi­tion of the US gov­ern­ment accord­ing to the fol­low­ing report.

    And while some of these weapon sys­tems would be dif­fi­cult to sell on the black mar­ket like mobile how­itzers, it’s the array of high­ly mobile weapons sys­tems that have experts con­cerned. Javelins, Stinger mis­siles, and Switch­blade drones are all exact­ly the kind of weapon we should expect to end up on the black mar­ket
    .

    But beyond the risks of these kinds of weapons being sold on the black mar­ket are the very direct risks of giv­ing these kind of weapons to Nazi groups like the Azov Bat­tal­ion that have an open desire to over­throw Ukraine’s democ­ra­cy and impose a fas­cist dic­ta­tor­ship. Some­thing like a Switch­blade drone is an ide­al polit­i­cal assassination/destabilization tool.

    Don’t for­get that we’ve already seen explo­sive drones used for polit­i­cal desta­bi­liza­tion pur­pos­es with the attack on Venezue­lan leader Nico­las Maduro back in 2018 by groups backed by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. It’s not exact­ly a stretch of the imag­ine to repur­pose these weapons for polit­i­cal ter­ror­ism pur­pos­es. While qua­si-autonomous in terms of the direct con­trol over the drone, Switch­blades still have a human oper­a­tor decide whether or not to attack a vehi­cle and which vehi­cle to attack. It has obvi­ous mas­sive poten­tial for polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tions. And we’re now flood­ing the mil­i­tary units of groups like Azov with these things.

    So while the many ques­tions loom­ing over this con­flict have obvi­ous­ly includ­ed ques­tions about how this war is going to polit­i­cal­ly desta­bi­lize Ukraine’s demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem of gov­er­nance in com­ing years, it’s going to be impor­tant to keep in mind that we could be look­ing at a com­ing rev­o­lu­tion in the art of polit­i­cal desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paigns. A glob­al rev­o­lu­tion in the art of polit­i­cal desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paigns thanks to the black mar­ket:

    CNN
    pol­i­tics

    What hap­pens to weapons sent to Ukraine? The US does­n’t real­ly know

    By Katie Bo Lil­lis, Jere­my Herb, Natasha Bertrand and Oren Lieber­mann, CNN
    Updat­ed 1:15 PM ET, Tue April 19, 2022

    Wash­ing­ton (CNN)The US has few ways to track the sub­stan­tial sup­ply of anti-tank, anti-air­craft and oth­er weapon­ry it has sent across the bor­der into Ukraine, sources tell CNN, a blind spot that’s due in large part to the lack of US boots on the ground in the coun­try — and the easy porta­bil­i­ty of many of the small­er sys­tems now pour­ing across the bor­der.

    It’s a con­scious risk the Biden admin­is­tra­tion is will­ing to take.

    In the short term, the US sees the trans­fer of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of equip­ment to be vital to the Ukraini­ans’ abil­i­ty to hold off Moscow’s inva­sion. A senior defense offi­cial said Tues­day that it is “cer­tain­ly the largest recent sup­ply to a part­ner coun­try in a con­flict.” But the risk, both cur­rent US offi­cials and defense ana­lysts say, is that in the long term, some of those weapons may wind up in the hands of oth­er mil­i­taries and mili­tias that the US did not intend to arm.

    “We have fideli­ty for a short time, but when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero,” said one source briefed on US intel­li­gence. “It drops into a big black hole, and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short peri­od of time.”

    In mak­ing the deci­sion to send bil­lions of dol­lars of weapons and equip­ment into Ukraine, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion fac­tored in the risk that some of the ship­ments may ulti­mate­ly end up in unex­pect­ed places, a defense offi­cial said.

    But right now, the offi­cial said, the admin­is­tra­tion views a fail­ure to ade­quate­ly arm Ukraine as a greater risk.

    Because the US mil­i­tary is not on the ground, the US and NATO are heav­i­ly reliant on infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment. Pri­vate­ly, offi­cials rec­og­nize that Ukraine has an incen­tive to give only infor­ma­tion that will bol­ster their case for more aid, more arms and more diplo­mat­ic assis­tance.

    “It’s a war — every­thing they do and say pub­licly is designed to help them win the war. Every pub­lic state­ment is an infor­ma­tion oper­a­tion, every inter­view, every Zelen­sky appear­ance broad­cast is an infor­ma­tion oper­a­tion,” said anoth­er source famil­iar with west­ern intel­li­gence. “It does­n’t mean they’re wrong to do it in any way.”

    For months, US and west­ern offi­cials have offered detailed accounts about what the West knows about the sta­tus of Russ­ian forces inside Ukraine: how many casu­al­ties they’ve tak­en, their remain­ing com­bat pow­er, their weapons stocks, what kinds of muni­tions they are using and where.

    But when it comes to Ukrain­ian forces, offi­cials acknowl­edge that the West — includ­ing the US — has some infor­ma­tion gaps.

    West­ern esti­mates of Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties are also fog­gy, accord­ing to two sources famil­iar with US and west­ern intel­li­gence.

    “It’s hard to track with nobody on the ground,” said one source famil­iar with the intel­li­gence.

    Vis­i­bil­i­ty Ques­tions

    The Biden admin­is­tra­tion and NATO coun­tries say they are pro­vid­ing weapons to Ukraine based on what the Ukrain­ian forces say they need, whether it’s portable sys­tems like Javelin and Stinger mis­siles or the Slo­va­kian S‑300 air defense sys­tem that was sent over the last week.

    Javelin and Stinger mis­siles and rifles and ammu­ni­tion are nat­u­ral­ly hard­er to track than larg­er sys­tems like the S‑300, which was shipped by rail. Although Javelins have ser­i­al num­bers, there is lit­tle way to track their trans­fer and use in real time, sources famil­iar with the mat­ter say.

    Last week the US agreed to pro­vide Kyiv with the types of high-pow­er capa­bil­i­ties some Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials viewed as too much of an esca­la­tion risk a few short weeks ago, includ­ing 11 Mi-17 heli­copters, 18 155 mm How­itzer can­nons and 300 more Switch­blade drones. But much of that sup­port has­n’t yet come online — and the Switch­blades are mobile, one-time use drones that would also like­ly be dif­fi­cult to track after the fact.

    “I could­n’t tell you where they are in Ukraine and whether the Ukraini­ans are using them at this point,” a senior defense offi­cial told reporters last week. “They’re not telling us every round of ammu­ni­tion they’re fir­ing and who and at when. We may nev­er know exact­ly to what degree they’ve using the Switch­blades.”

    The Defense Depart­ment does­n’t ear­mark the weapons it sends for par­tic­u­lar units, accord­ing to Pen­ta­gon press sec­re­tary John Kir­by.

    Trucks loaded with pal­lets of arms pro­vid­ed by the Defense Depart­ment are picked up by Ukrain­ian armed forces — pri­mar­i­ly in Poland — and then dri­ven into Ukraine, Kir­by said, “then it’s up to the Ukraini­ans to deter­mine where they go and how they’re allo­cat­ed inside their coun­try.”

    A con­gres­sion­al source point­ed out that while the US is not on the ground in Ukraine, the US has tools to learn what’s hap­pen­ing beyond what the Ukraini­ans are say­ing, not­ing the US has exten­sive use of satel­lite imagery and both the Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian mil­i­taries appear to be using com­mer­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment.

    Anoth­er con­gres­sion­al source said the US mil­i­tary’s views the infor­ma­tion it’s receiv­ing from Ukraine as gen­er­al­ly reli­able because the US has trained and equipped the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary for eight years now, devel­op­ing strong rela­tion­ships. But that does­n’t mean there aren’t some blind spots, the source said, such as on issues like the oper­a­tional sta­tus of Ukraine’s S‑300s.

    Jor­dan Cohen, a defense and for­eign pol­i­cy ana­lyst at the CATO insti­tute who focus­es on arms sales, said the biggest dan­ger sur­round­ing the flood of weapons being fun­neled into Ukraine is what hap­pens to them when the war ends or tran­si­tions into some kind of pro­tract­ed stale­mate.

    Such a risk is part of any con­sid­er­a­tion to send weapons over­seas. For decades, the US sent arms into Afghanistan, first to arm the mujahideen in their fight against the Sovi­et army, then to arm Afghan forces in their fight against the Tal­iban.

    Inevitably, some weapons end­ed up on the black mar­ket includ­ing anti-air­craft Stinger mis­siles, the same kind the US is now pro­vid­ing to Ukraine.

    The Unit­ed States famous­ly scram­bled to recov­er Stingers after the Sovi­et war in Afghanistan. It was­n’t suc­cess­ful in find­ing all of them and when the US itself invad­ed Afghanistan in 2001, some offi­cials feared that they could be used by the Tal­iban against the Unit­ed States.

    Oth­er weapons have end­ed up arm­ing US adver­saries. Much of what the US left behind to help Afghan forces became part of the Tal­iban arse­nal after the col­lapse of the Afghan gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary.

    The prob­lem is not unique to Afghanistan. Weapons sold to Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates found their way into the hands of fight­ers linked to al-Qae­da and Iran.

    The risk of a sim­i­lar sce­nario hap­pen­ing in Ukraine also exists, the defense offi­cial acknowl­edged. In 2020, the Defense Depart­ment inspec­tor gen­er­al released a report rais­ing con­cerns about the end-use mon­i­tor­ing of weapons being sent to Ukraine.

    But giv­en the near­ly insa­tiable short-term needs of Ukrain­ian forces for more arms and ammu­ni­tion, the long-term risk of weapons end­ing up on the black mar­ket or in the wrong hands was deemed accept­able, the offi­cial said.

    “This could be a prob­lem 10 years down the line, but that does­n’t mean it should­n’t be some­thing we’re think­ing about,” Cohen, the CATO ana­lyst, said. “Over 50 mil­lion rounds of ammu­ni­tion — all that ammu­ni­tion isn’t just going to be used to fight Rus­sians. Even­tu­al­ly that ammu­ni­tion is going to be mis­used, whether inten­tion­al­ly or not.”

    The Russ­ian Threat

    Offi­cials are less con­cerned — at least for now — that the weapons will fall into the hands of the Rus­sians. The source briefed on the intel­li­gence not­ed that Rus­si­a’s fail­ure to hold large swaths of ter­ri­to­ry or force the sur­ren­der of many Ukrain­ian units means that those arms have either been used or remain Ukrain­ian hands.

    And so far, it appears that Rus­sia has strug­gled to inter­cept or destroy the sup­ply ship­ments. A third source famil­iar with the intel­li­gence said that it does not appear that Rus­sia has been active­ly attack­ing west­ern weapons ship­ments enter­ing Ukraine — although it is unclear exact­ly why, espe­cial­ly since the US has intel­li­gence that the Rus­sians want to and have dis­cussed doing so both pub­licly and pri­vate­ly.

    There are a num­ber of the­o­ries for why the ship­ments have so far been spared, this per­son added, includ­ing that Russ­ian forces sim­ply can’t find them — the weapons and equip­ment are being sent over in unmarked vehi­cles and often trans­port­ed at night. It could also be that the Russ­ian forces are run­ning out of muni­tions and don’t want to waste them tar­get­ing ran­dom trucks unless they can be cer­tain they are part of an arms con­voy.

    ...

    ————

    “What hap­pens to weapons sent to Ukraine? The US does­n’t real­ly know” by Katie Bo Lil­lis, Jere­my Herb, Natasha Bertrand and Oren Lieber­mann; CNN; 04/19/2022

    “In the short term, the US sees the trans­fer of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of equip­ment to be vital to the Ukraini­ans’ abil­i­ty to hold off Moscow’s inva­sion. A senior defense offi­cial said Tues­day that it is “cer­tain­ly the largest recent sup­ply to a part­ner coun­try in a con­flict.” But the risk, both cur­rent US offi­cials and defense ana­lysts say, is that in the long term, some of those weapons may wind up in the hands of oth­er mil­i­taries and mili­tias that the US did not intend to arm.

    What are the long term risks of dump­ing large vol­umes of heavy weapon­ry into Ukraine? The same long term risks that came with every proxy con­flict of this nature: those weapons aren’t going to stay on the bat­tle­field. Nor are they nec­es­sar­i­ly going to stay in the hands of the intend­ed recip­i­ents. And the more portable the weapon, the more we should expect it to leave that con­flict zone and end up in the glob­al black mar­ket. What does a Stringer mis­sile or Javelin fetch on the black mar­ket? A whole bunch of groups in Ukraine are going to be in a good posi­tion to find out:

    ...
    “We have fideli­ty for a short time, but when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero,” said one source briefed on US intel­li­gence. “It drops into a big black hole, and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short peri­od of time.”

    In mak­ing the deci­sion to send bil­lions of dol­lars of weapons and equip­ment into Ukraine, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion fac­tored in the risk that some of the ship­ments may ulti­mate­ly end up in unex­pect­ed places, a defense offi­cial said.

    But right now, the offi­cial said, the admin­is­tra­tion views a fail­ure to ade­quate­ly arm Ukraine as a greater risk.

    ...

    Javelin and Stinger mis­siles and rifles and ammu­ni­tion are nat­u­ral­ly hard­er to track than larg­er sys­tems like the S‑300, which was shipped by rail. Although Javelins have ser­i­al num­bers, there is lit­tle way to track their trans­fer and use in real time, sources famil­iar with the mat­ter say.
    ...

    But when it comes to the con­flict in Ukraine, where Nazi bat­tal­ions are going to be some of the key recip­i­ents of these weapons, the con­cerns can’t be lim­it­ed to pow­er­ful weapons get­ting sold to ter­ror­ist groups on the black mar­ket. We have ever rea­son to expect these weapons to be used for regime change pur­pos­es as part of the long term goals of these move­ments. And while Javelin and Stinger mis­siles pose an obvi­ous poten­tial threat to elect­ed offi­cials — just how effec­tive would a hard­ened lim­ou­sine be against a Javelin mis­sile designed to blow up a tank? — it’s the large num­ber of Switch­blade drones that could prove to be the biggest risk to the gov­ern­ments tar­get­ed by these move­ments. How many more explod­ing drone attacks, like the 2018 attack on Nico­las Maduro, are we going to see against polit­i­cal lead­ers around the world in com­ing years?

    ...
    Last week the US agreed to pro­vide Kyiv with the types of high-pow­er capa­bil­i­ties some Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials viewed as too much of an esca­la­tion risk a few short weeks ago, includ­ing 11 Mi-17 heli­copters, 18 155 mm How­itzer can­nons and 300 more Switch­blade drones. But much of that sup­port has­n’t yet come online — and the Switch­blades are mobile, one-time use drones that would also like­ly be dif­fi­cult to track after the fact.

    “I could­n’t tell you where they are in Ukraine and whether the Ukraini­ans are using them at this point,” a senior defense offi­cial told reporters last week. “They’re not telling us every round of ammu­ni­tion they’re fir­ing and who and at when. We may nev­er know exact­ly to what degree they’ve using the Switch­blades.”
    ...

    But of all the weapon sys­tems flood­ing Ukraine, those Switch­blade drones may not actu­al­ly be the most use­ful tool for polit­i­cal ter­ror­ism. As the fol­low­ing WaPo arti­cle describes, the US just announced the deliv­ery of 120 Phoenix Ghost drones. They sound like they’re new and improved Switch­blade, described as hav­ing been “devel­oped for a set of require­ments that very close­ly match” the Ukraini­ans’ needs for oper­a­tions in Don­bas.

    There’s anoth­er key fea­ture of these Phoenix Ghost drones: they require min­i­mal train­ing for expe­ri­enced drone oper­a­tors. In oth­er words, basi­cal­ly any­one can use these things once they hit the black mar­ket:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    U.S. sends Ukraine new Phoenix Ghost drones, how­itzers for Don­bas bat­tle

    By Karoun Demir­jian and Amy Cheng
    04/22/2022 at 3:47 a.m. EDT

    Pres­i­dent Biden announced an addi­tion­al $800 mil­lion in mil­i­tary assis­tance for Ukraine on Thurs­day, with the ini­tial por­tion arriv­ing over the week­end. The pack­age, which rep­re­sents a sharp increase in artillery ship­ments, includes weapons that meet Ukraine’s spe­cif­ic needs on the bat­tle­field, which is shift­ing toward the Don­bas region in the east.

    The lat­est pack­age includes 72 155mm how­itzers and the tac­ti­cal vehi­cles to tow them, along with 144,000 artillery rounds. That is a sig­nif­i­cant increase over the 18 how­itzers in anoth­er ship­ment also announced in April, and it is enough to equip five bat­tal­ions, Pen­ta­gon spokesman John Kir­by said.

    By some expert esti­mates, the 144,000 rounds could last as long as four weeks. “The how­itzers are real­ly equip­ment designed to help Ukraini­ans hold the line against the forth­com­ing Russ­ian assaults,” said Samir Puri, a Sin­ga­pore-based mil­i­tary ana­lyst with the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies.

    Also in the pack­age are over 120 Phoenix Ghost Tac­ti­cal Unmanned Aer­i­al Sys­tems — drones that the U.S. Air Force devel­oped “in response, specif­i­cal­ly, to Ukrain­ian require­ments,” accord­ing to Kir­by. Lat­er in the day, he said the drones had actu­al­ly been “devel­oped for a set of require­ments that very close­ly match” the Ukraini­ans’ needs for oper­a­tions in Don­bas.

    “Its prin­ci­pal focus is attack,” he said.

    The Phoenix Ghosts, designed by Aevex Aero­space, are sim­i­lar to Switch­blade drones, small and pre­cise weapons packed with explo­sives that are able to strike tar­gets in “kamikaze” fash­ion. The Phoenix Ghost sys­tem will require min­i­mal train­ing for expe­ri­enced drone oper­a­tors, Kir­by said. Wash­ing­ton announced in March it would send 100 Switch­blades to Kyiv.

    ...

    Kyiv has found suc­cess with oth­er drones. Ukraine’s Turk­ish-made Bayrak­tar TB2, the size of a small air­plane and equipped with laser-guid­ed mis­siles, has wreaked hav­oc on Russ­ian tanks and trucks. Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin had pre­vi­ous­ly protest­ed to his Turk­ish coun­ter­part, Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, over the trans­fer of those arms to Ukraine.

    The Phoenix Ghost is a tac­ti­cal weapon designed to “deliv­er a punch” and would be use­ful against a num­ber of tar­gets, said a U.S. defense offi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty under terms set by the Pen­ta­gon.

    Such weapons are also light and portable, mak­ing them easy to ship from Ukraine’s NATO neigh­bors and from the country’s west to the east­ern front line, Puri said. By con­trast, deliv­er­ing how­itzers presents logis­ti­cal chal­lenges and greater risk of Russ­ian inter­dic­tion, he added.

    ———–

    “U.S. sends Ukraine new Phoenix Ghost drones, how­itzers for Don­bas bat­tle” by Karoun Demir­jian and Amy Cheng; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/22/2022

    Also in the pack­age are over 120 Phoenix Ghost Tac­ti­cal Unmanned Aer­i­al Sys­tems — drones that the U.S. Air Force devel­oped “in response, specif­i­cal­ly, to Ukrain­ian require­ments,” accord­ing to Kir­by. Lat­er in the day, he said the drones had actu­al­ly been “devel­oped for a set of require­ments that very close­ly match” the Ukraini­ans’ needs for oper­a­tions in Don­bas.”

    120 Phoenix Ghost drones. And that’s just this deliv­ery. There are pre­sum­ably going to be hun­dreds, per­haps thou­sands, more of these devices hand­ed over to Ukraine’s mil­i­tary in com­ing years should the con­flict drag on. And note hos these drones appar­ent­ly require min­i­mal train­ing. It’s a DIY fly­ing polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tion machine:

    ...
    The Phoenix Ghosts, designed by Aevex Aero­space, are sim­i­lar to Switch­blade drones, small and pre­cise weapons packed with explo­sives that are able to strike tar­gets in “kamikaze” fash­ion. The Phoenix Ghost sys­tem will require min­i­mal train­ing for expe­ri­enced drone oper­a­tors, Kir­by said. Wash­ing­ton announced in March it would send 100 Switch­blades to Kyiv.

    ...

    The Phoenix Ghost is a tac­ti­cal weapon designed to “deliv­er a punch” and would be use­ful against a num­ber of tar­gets, said a U.S. defense offi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty under terms set by the Pen­ta­gon.
    ...

    How long before we get reports of the first Phoenix Ghost attack on a world leader? Time will tell. But as the entire sto­ry of the rise of Nazism in Ukraine over the past eight years has demon­strat­ed, these kinds of groups don’t need to actu­al­ly assas­si­nate polit­i­cal lead­ers to get their way. They just need to con­vinc­ing­ly threat­en such action. The threats are quick often enough. Threats that now include anony­mous killer drone attacks. It’s a reminder that if we don’t see a wave of drone polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tions in com­ing years, it does­n’t mean these sys­tems aren’t being used by vio­lent extrem­ist groups to achieve polit­i­cal pow­er.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 22, 2022, 3:07 pm
  3. The white­wash­ing of WWII his­to­ry has been an endur­ing fea­ture of the con­flict in Ukraine since the Maid­an revolt of 2014. But it’s been a white­wash­ing of Ukraine’s WWII his­to­ry with a focus on Ukraine’s Nazi col­lab­o­rat­ing heroes. And then this hap­pened: The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment just had to apol­o­gize to Japan for the hor­rif­ic his­toric inac­cu­ra­cy in a video tweet­ed out by an offi­cial gov­ern­ment account.

    What was this egre­gious his­toric insult? Well, the video showed the pic­tures of Adolf Hitler, Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni, and Emper­or Hiro­hi­to. Beneath their pho­tos was were the words “Fas­cism and Nazism were defeat­ed in 1945.”

    That was the insult that sparked out­rage from Japan­ese con­ser­v­a­tives. Masahisa Sato, the head of the rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s for­eign pol­i­cy pan­el, even tweet­ed out that he had urged the For­eign Min­istry to protest to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, but then lat­er not­ed that the prob­lem­at­ic tweet had already been tak­en down by Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment. Yep, Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment replaced it with a video that removed Hiro­hi­to’s face. The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment went on to explain how the per­son who made the first video lacked an under­stand­ing of his­to­ry. It’s all a reminder that the gross white­wash­ing of Ukraine’s WWII his­to­ry isn’t the only gross white­wash­ing of WWII his­to­ry tak­ing place these days. And also a reminder that the white­wash­ing of his­to­ry is often a group effort:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Ukraine removes Hiro­hi­to from video after Japan protests

    By MARI YAMAGUCHI
    04/25/2022

    TOKYO (AP) — Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment has apol­o­gized and removed a pho­to of Japan­ese wartime Emper­or Hiro­hi­to from a video show­ing him with Adolf Hitler and Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni after Japan protest­ed, offi­cials said Mon­day.

    Japan will con­tin­ue to sup­port Ukraini­ans who are defend­ing their coun­try from Russia’s inva­sion despite the “com­plete­ly inap­pro­pri­ate” por­tray­al of Hiro­hi­to, Deputy Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hiko Isoza­ki said.

    The video, post­ed by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment on Twit­ter on April 1, crit­i­cized Russia’s inva­sion as “rashism.” Under­neath the pho­tos of the three World War II-era lead­ers were the words “Fas­cism and Nazism were defeat­ed in 1945.”

    Japan fought World War II in the name of Hiro­hi­to, who was revered as a god until he renounced his divin­i­ty after Japan’s defeat. His­tor­i­cal eval­u­a­tions of his role in the war remain divid­ed. He is known posthu­mous­ly in Japan as Emper­or Showa.

    “Por­tray­ing Hitler, Mus­soli­ni and Emper­or Showa in the same con­text is com­plete­ly inap­pro­pri­ate,” Isoza­ki told reporters. “It was extreme­ly regret­table.”

    Isoza­ki said Japan lodged a protest and demand­ed the removal of the emperor’s image, which Ukraine has done.

    “Our sin­cere apolo­gies to Japan for mak­ing this mis­take,” the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment tweet­ed Sun­day. “We had no inten­tion to offend the friend­ly peo­ple of Japan.”

    Ukraine Ambas­sador to Japan Sergiy Kor­sun­sky also apol­o­gized in a tweet Mon­day, say­ing the cre­ator of the video lacked an under­stand­ing of his­to­ry.

    Hirohito’s son, for­mer Emper­or Aki­hi­to, devot­ed his reign to aton­ing for the impact of the war in and out­side Japan.

    The video has been replaced with one with­out Hirohito’s pho­to, but many Japan­ese on social media con­tin­ued to crit­i­cize the orig­i­nal as an insult and said Japan should stop sup­port­ing Ukraine. Oth­ers said Hide­ki Tojo, the Japan­ese wartime prime min­is­ter who was lat­er con­vict­ed of war crimes and hanged, would have been a bet­ter choice than Hiro­hi­to for the video.

    Some, how­ev­er, raised con­cern that Japan’s demand that the video be revised was cen­sor­ship and said Ukraine’s con­ces­sion set a bad prece­dent that would embold­en Japan­ese con­ser­v­a­tives to fur­ther rewrite Japan’s wartime his­to­ry.

    ...

    ———–

    “Ukraine removes Hiro­hi­to from video after Japan protests” by MARI YAMAGUCHI; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 04/25/2022

    ““Por­tray­ing Hitler, Mus­soli­ni and Emper­or Showa in the same con­text is com­plete­ly inap­pro­pri­ate,” Isoza­ki told reporters. “It was extreme­ly regret­table.””

    Por­tray­ing Hitler, Mus­soli­ni, and Emper­or Hiro­hi­to in the same con­text is “com­plete­ly inap­pro­pri­ate”. That was the out­cry from Japan’s con­ser­v­a­tives, prompt­ing an apol­o­gy from Ukraine’s embassy explain­ing the cre­ator of this video ‘lack an under­stand­ing of his­to­ry’. So the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment puts out a tweet try­ing to equate Rus­si­a’s actions in Ukraine as being on par with the Axis pow­ers in WWII and ends up hav­ing to issue an apol­o­gy explain­ing how Impe­r­i­al Japan’s leader at the time was­n’t actu­al­ly part of that his­to­ry. This is where we are:

    ...
    Ukraine Ambas­sador to Japan Sergiy Kor­sun­sky also apol­o­gized in a tweet Mon­day, say­ing the cre­ator of the video lacked an under­stand­ing of his­to­ry.

    Hirohito’s son, for­mer Emper­or Aki­hi­to, devot­ed his reign to aton­ing for the impact of the war in and out­side Japan.

    The video has been replaced with one with­out Hirohito’s pho­to, but many Japan­ese on social media con­tin­ued to crit­i­cize the orig­i­nal as an insult and said Japan should stop sup­port­ing Ukraine. Oth­ers said Hide­ki Tojo, the Japan­ese wartime prime min­is­ter who was lat­er con­vict­ed of war crimes and hanged, would have been a bet­ter choice than Hiro­hi­to for the video.

    Some, how­ev­er, raised con­cern that Japan’s demand that the video be revised was cen­sor­ship and said Ukraine’s con­ces­sion set a bad prece­dent that would embold­en Japan­ese con­ser­v­a­tives to fur­ther rewrite Japan’s wartime his­to­ry.
    ...

    And now we have the prece­dent: you can’t refer to Emper­or Hiro­hi­to’s lead­er­ship role dur­ing WWII. That’s out of bounds. Inter­na­tion­al­ly. Or maybe this rule only applies to coun­tries ded­i­cat­ed to the reha­bil­i­ta­tion of the Nazi Ger­many’s col­lab­o­ra­tors. It’s unclear. But a prece­dent of some sort has been set by the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment itself. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, the head of the rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s for­eign pol­i­cy pan­el tweet­ed out that he had urged the For­eign Min­istry to protest to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, which then hap­pened:

    Bloomberg

    Anger in Japan as Ukraine Links Emper­or Hiro­hi­to to Adolf Hitler

    By Isabel Reynolds
    April 24, 2022, 10:01 PM CDT

    An offi­cial Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment Twit­ter account issued an apol­o­gy after show­ing a pic­ture of Japan’s wartime Emper­or Hiro­hi­to along­side Adolf Hitler and Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni in a social media video about the defeat of fas­cism.

    ...

    The tweet had cir­cu­lat­ed wide­ly over the week­end and prompt­ed an offi­cial protest from Japan. It also threat­ened to alien­ate some con­ser­v­a­tives from the Ukrain­ian cause in a coun­try that has been strong­ly sup­port­ive of Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy since the Russ­ian inva­sion began.

    Japan has joined its ally the U.S. and oth­er lead­ing democ­ra­cies in sanc­tions against Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s regime and has bro­ken with its paci­fist tra­di­tion by send­ing non-lethal mil­i­tary equip­ment to Ukraine. It has also tak­en the unusu­al step of open­ing its doors to a few hun­dred refugees flee­ing the war.

    Masahisa Sato, the head of the rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s for­eign pol­i­cy pan­el, said Sun­day on Twit­ter that he had urged the For­eign Min­istry to protest to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. He lat­er added the min­istry appeared to have done so, and the “prob­lem­at­ic” video was removed.

    ...

    ———–

    “Anger in Japan as Ukraine Links Emper­or Hiro­hi­to to Adolf Hitler” by Isabel Reynolds; Bloomberg; 04/24/2022

    Masahisa Sato, the head of the rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s for­eign pol­i­cy pan­el, said Sun­day on Twit­ter that he had urged the For­eign Min­istry to protest to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. He lat­er added the min­istry appeared to have done so, and the “prob­lem­at­ic” video was removed.”

    Yep, that’s the head of the rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s for­eign pol­i­cy pan­el who took steps to ensure the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment issues a for­mal protest. Which the for­eign min­istry pro­ceed­ed to do. And now we all know that Emper­or Hiro­hi­to had absolute­ly noth­ing to do with the events of WWII and any­one who says oth­er­wise does­n’t have an under­stand­ing of his­tor­i­cal events. It’s good the world could final­ly clear that up. And it’s all thanks, in part, to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s extreme will­ing­ness to play along with Japan’s pre­ferred nar­ra­tive. It will be inter­est­ing to see how Japan’s gov­ern­ment returns the white­wash­ing favor.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 25, 2022, 3:24 pm
  4. We got anoth­er round of warn­ings about the poten­tial use of nuclear weapons by Russ­ian forces. This time the warn­ing was issued by Putin direct­ly dur­ing an address to Russ­ian leg­is­la­tors where he made a pret­ty clear warn­ing to NATO that Rus­sia is pre­pared to response to any out­side pow­ers inter­fer­ing in Ukraine. This came days after Rus­sia test­ed the new Sar­mat 2 nuclear mis­sile. So with the world return­ing to a state of Cold War-style nuclear sabre-rat­tling, here’s a pair of arti­cles that high­light just how cav­a­lier the think­ing in the West appears to be get­ting in the face of this nuclear show­down.

    The first arti­cle below is basi­cal­ly the lat­est piece indi­cat­ing that the US’s direct involve­ment in the mil­i­tary actions in Ukraine are far deep­er than pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. In par­tic­u­lar when it comes to intel­li­gence shar­ing. Some of that intel­li­gence shar­ing has been used by the Ukraini­ans for defen­sive pur­pos­es. It sounds like Ukrain­ian air­craft and air defens­es have been moved dai­ly based on US intel­li­gence. The CIA has also appar­ent­ly been very involved in keep­ing Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy safe from Russ­ian forces. But there have also been offen­sive uses, like the appar­ent shoot down of a Russ­ian trans­port plane car­ry­ing a large num­ber of para­troop­ers in the ear­ly days fo the con­flict.

    Here’s the part of the report that is par­tic­u­lar­ly omi­nous regard­ing the pos­si­ble esca­la­tion of this con­flict into a nuclear war: Ear­li­er this month, the direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence with­drew and replaced a memo that pro­hib­it­ed intel­li­gence shar­ing for the pur­pos­es of regain­ing cap­tured ter­ri­to­ry or aid­ing Ukrain­ian strikes in Crimea or the Don­bas. So US intel­li­gence is poten­tial­ly going to be use for attacks on the sep­a­ratist republics or Crimea. How will the Krem­lin inter­pret US assis­tance in Ukrain­ian attacks on Crimea? We’re appar­ent­ly going to find out.

    So we aren’t just in a sit­u­a­tion where the US is exten­sive­ly help­ing Ukraine fight this con­flict and take that fight into Crimea. US is now open about this assis­tance. It’s exact­ly the kind of sto­ry that feeds into grow­ing Russ­ian para­noia that this “spe­cial mil­i­tary oper­a­tion” in Ukraine real­ly is an exis­ten­tial proxy bat­tle with NATO.

    And that brings us to the sec­ond arti­cle excerpt below, writ­ten by for­mer Reagan/Bush Deputy Under­sec­re­tary of the Navy Seth Cropsey. As Cropsey sees it, the risk of a Russ­ian use of tac­ti­cal nukes is very real, in part because a Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary win in the east­ern half of the coun­try still seems very plau­si­ble giv­en how poor­ly Rus­sia has fared so far and the exten­sive mil­i­tary sup­port Ukraine is get­ting from the West.

    So what does Cropsey rec­om­mend the US do in response to a Russ­ian tac­ti­cal nuke? Well, the way Cropsey sees it, the US should­n’t respond with the use of nukes of its own, but it can’t back down either. Instead, the US should take steps that give the Krem­lin pause about the via­bil­i­ty of a full-scale nuclear war with the West. Specif­i­cal­ly, Cropsey rec­om­mend­ed rearm­ing the US Navy’s sur­face ships with nuclear weapons, as was done dur­ing the Cold War.

    But it’s the sec­ond piece of advice that should send chills down the spine of every­one who wants to avoid a nuclear war: Cropsey sug­gest the US should hunt down and sink Russ­ian nuclear subs in response to the Russ­ian use of nukes. The idea being that those nuclear subs are crit­i­cal for Rus­si­a’s sec­ond-strike capac­i­ty, and if that sec­ond-strike capac­i­ty is tak­en out the Krem­lin would be much more wary of esca­lat­ing the sit­u­a­tion. In oth­er words, if Rus­sia uses a tac­ti­cal nuke, the West should knock out Rus­si­a’s sec­ond-strike capac­i­ty, leav­ing Rus­sia with its first-strike capac­i­ty alone! And that is appar­ent­ly what would prompt the Krem­lin to back down and avoid a nuclear cat­a­stro­phe.

    So how much res­o­nance do Cropsey’s ideas have in the Pen­ta­gon? We have now idea. At least not direct­ly. But as this con­flict plays out it’s becom­ing clear­er and clear­er that the West is plac­ing a mas­sive strate­gic mil­i­tary defeat for Rus­sia in Ukraine as a top pri­or­i­ty as this con­flict plays out. Which, of course, is pre­cise­ly the kind of sit­u­a­tion where we would expect Rus­sia to be tempt­ed to use nukes, as Cropsey acknowl­edges in his piece. It’s pret­ty obvi­ous the Pen­ta­gon has to be active­ly plan­ning for a sit­u­a­tion involv­ing the Russ­ian use of nukes because the broad­er plan appears to be lit­er­al­ly cre­at­ing the con­di­tions for that sit­u­a­tion. That’s what makes Cropsey’s piece so dis­turb­ing. It’s lit­er­al­ly a plan for court­ing a nuclear exchange and then deesca­lat­ing the sit­u­a­tion by dra­mat­i­cal­ly esca­lat­ing it. So when we’re ask­ing what the US and NATO has planned in response to the Russ­ian use of nuclear weapons, it’s hard to avoid the sus­pi­cions that Cropsey’s plans for deesca­la­tion through a dra­mat­ic esca­la­tion of the cri­sis is the plan. Deesca­la­tion through a dra­mat­ic esca­la­tion has been the plan the strat­e­gy in Ukraine this whole time, after all.

    Ok, first, here’s that NBC report describ­ing the inten­si­fy­ing coop­er­a­tion between the US mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and Ukraine’s forces. Intel­li­gence shar­ing that appar­ent­ly led to the shoot down of Russ­ian trans­port planes ear­ly on in the inva­sion and that now includes intel­li­gence for attacks in the Don­bas and Crimea:

    NBC News

    U.S. intel helped Ukraine pro­tect air defens­es, shoot down Russ­ian plane car­ry­ing hun­dreds of troops

    Ukrain­ian forces have used spe­cif­ic coor­di­nates shared by the U.S. to direct fire on Russ­ian posi­tions and air­craft, cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials tell NBC News.

    April 26, 2022, 11:00 AM CDT
    By Ken Dilan­ian, Court­ney Kube, Car­ol E. Lee and Dan De Luce

    As Rus­sia launched its inva­sion, the U.S. gave Ukrain­ian forces detailed intel­li­gence about exact­ly when and where Russ­ian mis­siles and bombs were intend­ed to strike, prompt­ing Ukraine to move air defens­es and air­craft out of harm’s way, cur­rent and for­mer U.S. offi­cials told NBC News.

    That near real-time intel­li­gence-shar­ing also paved the way for Ukraine to shoot down a Russ­ian trans­port plane car­ry­ing hun­dreds of troops in the ear­ly days of the war, the offi­cials say, help­ing repel a Russ­ian assault on a key air­port near Kyiv.

    It was part of what Amer­i­can offi­cials call a mas­sive and unprece­dent­ed intel­li­gence-shar­ing oper­a­tion with a non-NATO part­ner that they say has played a cru­cial role in Ukraine’s suc­cess to date against the larg­er and bet­ter-equipped Russ­ian mil­i­tary.

    The details about the air defens­es and the trans­port plane, which have not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, under­score why, two months into the war, offi­cials assess that intel­li­gence from U.S. spy agen­cies and the Pen­ta­gon has been an impor­tant fac­tor in help­ing Ukraine thwart Russia’s effort to seize most of the coun­try.

    “From the get-go, we leaned pret­ty heav­i­ly for­ward in shar­ing both strate­gic and action­able intel­li­gence with Ukraine,” a U.S. offi­cial briefed on the mat­ter told NBC News. “It’s been impact­ful both at a tac­ti­cal and strate­gic lev­el. There are exam­ples where you could tell a pret­ty clear sto­ry that this made a major dif­fer­ence.”

    In a state­ment, a spokesper­son for the White House Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil said, “We are reg­u­lar­ly pro­vid­ing detailed, time­ly intel­li­gence to the Ukraini­ans on the bat­tle­field to help them defend their coun­try against Russ­ian aggres­sion and will con­tin­ue to do so.”

    NBC News is with­hold­ing some spe­cif­ic details that the net­work con­firmed about the intel­li­gence shar­ing at the request of U.S. mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence offi­cials, who say report­ing on it could help the Rus­sians shut down impor­tant sources of infor­ma­tion.

    “There has been a lot of real-time intel­li­gence shared in terms of things that could be used for spe­cif­ic tar­get­ing of Russ­ian forces,” said a for­mer senior intel­li­gence offi­cial famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion. The infor­ma­tion includes com­mer­cial satel­lite images “but also a lot of oth­er intel­li­gence about, for exam­ple, where cer­tain types of Russ­ian units are active.”

    Ukraine con­tin­ues to move air defens­es and air­craft near­ly every day with the help of Amer­i­can intel­li­gence, which is one rea­son Rus­sia has not been able to estab­lish air dom­i­nance. In some cas­es, Ukraine moved the tar­get­ed air defense sys­tems or planes just in time, the offi­cials said.

    “The Russ­ian mil­i­tary has lit­er­al­ly been cra­ter­ing emp­ty fields where air defens­es were once set up,” one U.S. offi­cial said. “It has had an enor­mous impact on the Russ­ian military’s abil­i­ty on the ground.”

    While U.S.-Ukrainian coop­er­a­tion had been build­ing since Rus­sia seized Crimea in 2014, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion shift­ed into high gear in the weeks before the Russ­ian inva­sion, when a U.S. mil­i­tary team vis­it­ed to assess the state of Ukraine’s air defens­es. The Amer­i­cans pro­vid­ed Ukraine with detailed advice about how to dis­perse their air defense sys­tems, a move that U.S. offi­cials say helped Ukraine pre­vent Rus­sia from seiz­ing con­trol of the skies.

    Once the inva­sion got under­way, lawyers in the U.S. defense and intel­li­gence bureau­cra­cy imposed guid­ance that in some cas­es lim­it­ed the shar­ing of tar­get­ing infor­ma­tion that could enable lethal Ukrain­ian strikes against Rus­sians. But as Russia’s aggres­sion has deep­ened, and under pres­sure from Con­gress, all of those imped­i­ments have been removed, offi­cials say.

    Ear­li­er this month, for exam­ple, the direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence with­drew and replaced a memo that pro­hib­it­ed intel­li­gence shar­ing for the pur­pos­es of regain­ing cap­tured ter­ri­to­ry or aid­ing Ukrain­ian strikes in Crimea or the Don­bas, offi­cials said. NBC News was first to report on the expand­ed shar­ing.

    Intel has helped Ukraine defend, and also attack

    Even before the change, the U.S. had pro­vid­ed Ukraine with time­ly infor­ma­tion enabling it to bet­ter tar­get Russ­ian forces.

    Ukrain­ian forces have used spe­cif­ic coor­di­nates shared by the U.S. to direct fire on Russ­ian posi­tions and air­craft, cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials tell NBC News.

    Those ear­ly shoot-downs helped thwart the Russ­ian air assault oper­a­tion designed to take Hos­tomel Air­port near Kyiv, which would have allowed the Rus­sians to flood troops and equip­ment to the region around the cap­i­tal. The Rus­sians even­tu­al­ly took the air­port for a time, but nev­er had enough con­trol to fly in mas­sive amounts of equip­ment. That fail­ure had a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the bat­tle for Kyiv, U.S. offi­cials say.

    The CIA is also devot­ing sig­nif­i­cant resources, cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials say, to gath­er­ing intel­li­gence with the aim of pro­tect­ing Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy, whom the Rus­sians want to kill. The agency is con­sult­ing with the Ukraini­ans on “how best to move him around, mak­ing sure that he’s not co-locat­ed with his entire chain of com­mand, things like that,” a U.S. offi­cial said.

    “I would say where we are at is rev­o­lu­tion­ary in terms of what we have been able to do,” Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berri­er, direc­tor of the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency, told Con­gress last month in describ­ing the shar­ing of infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence between the U.S. and Ukraine.

    CIA Direc­tor William Burns told Con­gress last month that when he met with Zelen­skyy in Kiev in Jan­u­ary, “We shared with him intel­li­gence we had at the time about some of the most graph­ic and con­cern­ing details of Russ­ian plan­ning about Kyiv as well and we’ve con­tin­ued to do that every day since then.”

    White House press sec­re­tary Jen Psa­ki said last month that the U.S. has shared “a sig­nif­i­cant amount of detailed time­ly intel­li­gence on Russia’s plans and activ­i­ties with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to help Ukraini­ans defend them­selves,” adding that the mate­r­i­al “includes infor­ma­tion that should help them inform and devel­op their mil­i­tary response to Russia’s inva­sion, that’s what’s hap­pen­ing — or has been hap­pen­ing.”

    The U.S. mil­i­tary and the CIA began seek­ing to deep­en their rela­tion­ships with Ukrain­ian coun­ter­parts after Rus­sia seized Crimea in 2014. The CIA first helped Ukrain­ian ser­vices root out Russ­ian spies, the for­mer senior offi­cial said, and then pro­vid­ed train­ing and guid­ance. The U.S. mil­i­tary also trained Ukrain­ian sol­diers.

    “There has been a very robust rela­tion­ship between U.S. intel agen­cies and the Ukraini­ans for the last eight years,” the offi­cial said, adding that by the time Rus­sia invad­ed two months ago, the U.S. trust­ed Ukraine enough to pro­vide details of Russ­ian troops’ deploy­ment, attack routes and real-time tar­get­ing infor­ma­tion.

    “The fore­knowl­edge we had of Russ­ian plans and inten­tions shows that our intel­li­gence was very sol­id on the over­all sit­u­a­tion,” said John McLaugh­lin, a for­mer act­ing CIA direc­tor who now teach­es at the Johns Hop­kins School of Advanced Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies. “So just log­i­cal­ly, if we so earnest­ly want them to win as we have pub­licly said, it only fol­lows that we’d be giv­ing them the results of intel­li­gence. It would be along the lines of, ‘Here’s what we know — it doesn’t mat­ter how we know it.’”

    ...

    ————

    “U.S. intel helped Ukraine pro­tect air defens­es, shoot down Russ­ian plane car­ry­ing hun­dreds of troops” By Ken Dilan­ian, Court­ney Kube, Car­ol E. Lee and Dan De Luce; NBC News; 04/26/2022

    “I would say where we are at is rev­o­lu­tion­ary in terms of what we have been able to do,” Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berri­er, direc­tor of the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency, told Con­gress last month in describ­ing the shar­ing of infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence between the U.S. and Ukraine.”

    A “rev­o­lu­tion­ary” coop­er­a­tive rela­tion­ship between the US and Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence agen­cies has devel­oped. At least that’s how the direc­tor of the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency described it to Con­gress last month. The shar­ing is so exten­sive that Ukraine has been mov­ing air­craft and air defens­es dai­ly based on US intel­li­gence reports:

    ...
    That near real-time intel­li­gence-shar­ing also paved the way for Ukraine to shoot down a Russ­ian trans­port plane car­ry­ing hun­dreds of troops in the ear­ly days of the war, the offi­cials say, help­ing repel a Russ­ian assault on a key air­port near Kyiv.

    It was part of what Amer­i­can offi­cials call a mas­sive and unprece­dent­ed intel­li­gence-shar­ing oper­a­tion with a non-NATO part­ner that they say has played a cru­cial role in Ukraine’s suc­cess to date against the larg­er and bet­ter-equipped Russ­ian mil­i­tary.

    The details about the air defens­es and the trans­port plane, which have not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, under­score why, two months into the war, offi­cials assess that intel­li­gence from U.S. spy agen­cies and the Pen­ta­gon has been an impor­tant fac­tor in help­ing Ukraine thwart Russia’s effort to seize most of the coun­try.

    “From the get-go, we leaned pret­ty heav­i­ly for­ward in shar­ing both strate­gic and action­able intel­li­gence with Ukraine,” a U.S. offi­cial briefed on the mat­ter told NBC News. “It’s been impact­ful both at a tac­ti­cal and strate­gic lev­el. There are exam­ples where you could tell a pret­ty clear sto­ry that this made a major dif­fer­ence.”

    ...

    “There has been a lot of real-time intel­li­gence shared in terms of things that could be used for spe­cif­ic tar­get­ing of Russ­ian forces,” said a for­mer senior intel­li­gence offi­cial famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion. The infor­ma­tion includes com­mer­cial satel­lite images “but also a lot of oth­er intel­li­gence about, for exam­ple, where cer­tain types of Russ­ian units are active.”

    Ukraine con­tin­ues to move air defens­es and air­craft near­ly every day with the help of Amer­i­can intel­li­gence, which is one rea­son Rus­sia has not been able to estab­lish air dom­i­nance. In some cas­es, Ukraine moved the tar­get­ed air defense sys­tems or planes just in time, the offi­cials said.

    “The Russ­ian mil­i­tary has lit­er­al­ly been cra­ter­ing emp­ty fields where air defens­es were once set up,” one U.S. offi­cial said. “It has had an enor­mous impact on the Russ­ian military’s abil­i­ty on the ground.”
    ...

    Also note how the CIA has appar­ent­ly been act­ing as a kind of secret ser­vice pro­tec­tion advi­so­ry force force for Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy. It’s the lat­est exam­ple of a rela­tion­ship between the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and the CIA That’s been deep­en­ing since 2014, when the CIA first helped Ukrain­ian forces ‘root out Russ­ian spies’. You have to won­der how much of that coun­teres­pi­onage work involved actu­al­ly find­ing real Russ­ian spies vs sim­ply root­ing out any­one lack­ing a Ukrain­ian nation­al­is­tic fer­vor:

    ...
    The CIA is also devot­ing sig­nif­i­cant resources, cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials say, to gath­er­ing intel­li­gence with the aim of pro­tect­ing Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy, whom the Rus­sians want to kill. The agency is con­sult­ing with the Ukraini­ans on “how best to move him around, mak­ing sure that he’s not co-locat­ed with his entire chain of com­mand, things like that,” a U.S. offi­cial said.

    ...

    The U.S. mil­i­tary and the CIA began seek­ing to deep­en their rela­tion­ships with Ukrain­ian coun­ter­parts after Rus­sia seized Crimea in 2014. The CIA first helped Ukrain­ian ser­vices root out Russ­ian spies, the for­mer senior offi­cial said, and then pro­vid­ed train­ing and guid­ance. The U.S. mil­i­tary also trained Ukrain­ian sol­diers.
    ...

    But it’s the reports about lift­ing on the pro­hi­bi­tion of intel­li­gence shar­ing for the pur­pos­es of regain­ing cap­tured ter­ri­to­ry in Crimea or the Don­bas that are poten­tial­ly the most sig­nif­i­cant rev­e­la­tion here. Because it sig­nals to the Krem­lin that the US mil­i­tary isn’t just going to be assist­ing the Ukraini­ans in defend­ing the ter­ri­to­r­i­al bound­aries as they exist­ed in before this war. The US is going to pro­vid­ing real-time action­able bat­tle­field intel­li­gence that will be used to to expel Rus­sia out of Crimea and the cap­ture of the sep­a­ratist ter­ri­to­ries. It’s about as close as you can get to a NATO attack on Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry with­out tech­ni­cal­ly being one:

    ...
    Ear­li­er this month, for exam­ple, the direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence with­drew and replaced a memo that pro­hib­it­ed intel­li­gence shar­ing for the pur­pos­es of regain­ing cap­tured ter­ri­to­ry or aid­ing Ukrain­ian strikes in Crimea or the Don­bas, offi­cials said. NBC News was first to report on the expand­ed shar­ing.
    ...

    Will the Krem­lin agree that the US isn’t active­ly attack­ing Rus­sia if Ukraine ends up recap­tur­ing Crimea? It’s kind of hard to see that being the case. So how is this con­flict going to evolve if we con­tin­ue to see this NATO-backed Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary not only repel the Russ­ian inva­sion but active­ly start to recap­ture those ter­ri­to­ries? Isn’t this exact­ly the kind of sce­nario where we can expect the poten­tial use of tac­ti­cal nuclear weapons?

    Well, as the fol­low­ing Wall Street Jour­nal piece describes, yes, the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine is indeed careen­ing towards the kind of sit­u­a­tion where we can rea­son­ably fear the poten­tial use of nuclear weapons. And prop­er response by the US is to make clear to the Rus­sia that the the US will win a nuclear war. Yep, that’s the assess­ment by Seth Cropsey, a Rea­gan-era defense offi­cial who served as Deputy Under­sec­re­tary of the Navy dur­ing both the Regan and George H. W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion. Accord­ing to Cropsey, there are a num­ber of steps the US can can short of using nuclear weapons that would make the Rus­sians far more wary of rely­ing on nuclear weapons as an ulti­mate back­stop. For exam­ple, Cropsey sug­gests the US could place nuclear weapons on US Navy sur­face ships like was done dur­ing the Cold War.

    But it’s the sec­ond exam­ple Cropsey gives of a non-nuclear response to the Russ­ian use of nuclear weapons that is tru­ly alarm­ing to see pub­lished: Cropsey sug­gests the US should hunt down and sink Russ­ian nuclear subs as part of an effort to inca­pac­i­tate Rus­si­a’s sec­ond-strike capac­i­ty. Remov­ing that sec­ond-strike capac­i­ty, Putin would be forced to fear a decap­i­tat­ing NATO-first strike on the Krem­lin, which would make Vladimir Putin less like­ly to gam­ble on the use of nuclear weapons. That’s the kind of think­ing that is now being ampli­fied in the US press: The idea that we can scare the Rus­sians into avoid­ing nuclear war by sink­ing Russ­ian nuclear subs and oth­er con­ven­tion­al attacks on Rus­si­a’s nuclear capa­bil­i­ties:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal

    The U.S. Should Show It Can Win a Nuclear War

    Wash­ing­ton might study Cold War-era prac­tices that had a major effect on Sovi­et pol­i­cy mak­ing.

    By Seth Cropsey
    April 27, 2022 1:08 pm ET

    Rus­sia con­duct­ed its first test of the Sar­mat, an inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile that car­ries a heavy nuclear pay­load, on April 20. Vladimir Putin and his advis­ers have issued nuclear warn­ings through­out the war in Ukraine, threat­en­ing the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Orga­ni­za­tion with attack if they esca­late their involve­ment. Moscow recent­ly threat­ened Swe­den and Fin­land with a pre-emp­tive strike if they join NATO.

    The real­i­ty is that unless the U.S. pre­pares to win a nuclear war, it risks los­ing one. Robert C. O’Brien, a for­mer White House nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, pro­posed a series of con­ven­tion­al respons­es, which are nec­es­sary but not suf­fi­cient to deter Russ­ian nuclear esca­la­tion. Devel­op­ing a coher­ent Amer­i­can strat­e­gy requires under­stand­ing why Rus­sia threat­ens to use nuclear weapons and how the U.S. can recal­i­brate its strate­gic log­ic for a nuclear envi­ron­ment.

    Russia’s war is being fought on two lev­els. At the mil­i­tary lev­el, the bat­tle­fields have been restrict­ed to Ukrain­ian and, in a hand­ful of instances, Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry. But the con­flict is also a war against NATO, giv­en Ukraine’s posi­tion as an appli­cant, NATO’s mil­i­tary sup­port for Ukraine, and NATO’s will­ing­ness to embar­go Russ­ian prod­ucts and cut off Russ­ian ener­gy.

    Mr. Putin had two objec­tives in going to war. First, he hoped to destroy Ukraine as an inde­pen­dent state. Rus­sia planned to dri­ve into Kyiv with­in hours, install a quis­ling gov­ern­ment, and months lat­er stage ref­er­en­dums through­out the coun­try that would give the Krem­lin direct con­trol of its east and south. Alek­san­dr Lukashenko’s Belarus, and per­haps the Cen­tral Asian despots, would fall in line. Mr. Putin would there­fore recon­sti­tute an empire stretch­ing to the Pol­ish bor­der.

    Ukraini­ans thwart­ed that plan. Much depends on the next few weeks, as Rus­sia stages a major offen­sive in the east designed to destroy the Ukrain­ian military’s imme­di­ate com­bat capac­i­ty, tear off east­ern provinces, and solid­i­fy a land cor­ri­dor to Crimea. But there is a seri­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty that Ukraine wins this next round of fight­ing. Rus­sia has no reserves beyond its mobi­lized forces; its units have dwin­dling morale; and those for­ma­tions with­drawn from around Kyiv are trained to con­duct armored, mech­a­nized, and infantry oper­a­tions and poor­ly suit­ed for com­bat. Mean­time, the Ukraini­ans are receiv­ing heav­ier weapons from the West and have begun a coun­terof­fen­sive around Kharkiv, which, if suc­cess­ful, will spoil Russia’s attack.

    If Russia’s mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion appears dire, Mr. Putin has a dual incen­tive to use nuclear weapons. This is con­sis­tent with pub­licly stat­ed Russ­ian mil­i­tary doc­trine. A nuclear attack would present Ukraine with the same choice Japan faced in 1945: sur­ren­der or be anni­hi­lat­ed. Ukraine may not break. The haunt­ing images from Bucha, Irpin and else­where demon­strate Russia’s true inten­tions. A Russ­ian vic­to­ry would lead to mass killings, depor­ta­tion, rape and oth­er atroc­i­ties. The Ukrain­ian choice won’t be between death and sur­vival, but rather armed resis­tance and unarmed exter­mi­na­tion.

    Nuclear use would require NATO to respond. But a nuclear response could trig­ger retal­i­a­tion, drag­ging Rus­sia and NATO up the esca­la­tion lad­der to a wider nuclear con­fronta­tion.

    Per­haps a con­ven­tion­al response to a Russ­ian nuclear attack would be suf­fi­cient. What if the U.S. and its allies destroyed Russ­ian mil­i­tary units deployed to the Black Sea, Syr­ia and Libya; cut all oil pipelines to Rus­sia, and used their eco­nom­ic clout to threat­en Chi­na, and oth­er states con­duct­ing busi­ness with Rus­sia, with an embar­go?

    Each of these steps is nec­es­sary. But Russia’s goal in going nuclear is to knock NATO out of the war. The Krem­lin believes its resolve out­strips that of the U.S. A con­ven­tion­al Amer­i­can response would con­firm this—and cre­ate incen­tives for addi­tion­al Russ­ian nuclear use.

    ...

    This isn’t to say the U.S. should use nuclear weapons—again, a nuclear response would make glob­al nuclear war more like­ly. But Amer­i­ca and its allies can take steps against Russia’s nuclear arse­nal that under­mine the Russ­ian posi­tion at high­er esca­la­tion lev­els. The U.S. Navy’s sur­face ships, for exam­ple, could be re-equipped with nuclear weapons, as they were dur­ing the Cold War.

    Most crit­i­cal­ly, if Rus­sia used a nuclear weapon, the U.S. could use its naval pow­er to hunt down and destroy a Russ­ian nuclear-pow­ered bal­lis­tic-mis­sile sub­ma­rine, the back­bone of Russ­ian sec­ond-strike capa­bil­i­ty. Late in the Cold War the U.S. Navy threat­ened to do exact­ly that, pres­sur­ing the Sovi­et Union’s nuclear bas­tions, the pro­tect­ed lit­toral areas from which Sovi­et subs aimed to oper­ate with safe­ty. In a series of naval exer­cis­es dur­ing the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion, the U.S. and its allies sim­u­lat­ed assault­ing the Sea of Okhot­sk and Bar­ents Sea bas­tions, while U.S. sub­marines probed and shad­owed Sovi­et boats in both areas. Post-Cold War evi­dence reveals that Amer­i­can naval pres­sure had a major impact on Sovi­et pol­i­cy mak­ing: Despite Moscow’s pri­or­i­ty of arma­ments over all oth­er state needs, the U.S. showed it would still be able to fight and win a nuclear war.

    The abil­i­ty to win is the key. By arm­ing sur­face ships with tac­ti­cal nuclear weapons as well as attack­ing a nuclear-mis­sile sub and thus reduc­ing Russ­ian sec­ond-strike abil­i­ty, the U.S. under­mines Russia’s abil­i­ty to fight a nuclear war. The Sovi­ets were deeply afraid of a pre-emp­tive strike by NATO. That fear has mor­phed, under Mr. Putin’s regime, into a fix­a­tion on the “col­or rev­o­lu­tions,” pro-democ­ra­cy upris­ings in for­mer Sovi­et republics. Jeop­ar­diz­ing Russ­ian sec­ond-strike capa­bil­i­ty would tan­gi­bly raise the mil­i­tary stakes. Mr. Putin could no longer unleash his nuclear arse­nal with impuni­ty. Instead, he would need to reck­on with the pos­si­bil­i­ty that NATO could decap­i­tate the Kremlin—yes, suf­fer­ing casu­al­ties in the process, but still decap­i­tate it.

    A nuclear war should nev­er be fought. But the Krem­lin seems will­ing to fight one, at least a lim­it­ed one. If the U.S. demon­strates it is unwill­ing to do so, the chance that the Krem­lin will use nuclear weapons becomes dan­ger­ous­ly real.

    Mr. Cropsey is founder and pres­i­dent of the York­town Insti­tute. He served as a naval offi­cer and as deputy under­sec­re­tary of the Navy and is author of “May­day” and “Seablind­ness.”

    ———–

    “The U.S. Should Show It Can Win a Nuclear War” by Seth Cropsey; The Wall Street Jour­nal; 04/27/2022

    The real­i­ty is that unless the U.S. pre­pares to win a nuclear war, it risks los­ing one. Robert C. O’Brien, a for­mer White House nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, pro­posed a series of con­ven­tion­al respons­es, which are nec­es­sary but not suf­fi­cient to deter Russ­ian nuclear esca­la­tion. Devel­op­ing a coher­ent Amer­i­can strat­e­gy requires under­stand­ing why Rus­sia threat­ens to use nuclear weapons and how the U.S. can recal­i­brate its strate­gic log­ic for a nuclear envi­ron­ment.”

    The only way to pre­vent a nuclear war is to pre­pare to win one. So long MAD­ness. The idea that no one wins a nuclear war is being replaced with a new doc­trine. Now we’re going to keep the peace by pre­emp­tive­ly mak­ing it clear that the US has active plans to win a nuclear war with Rus­sia.

    And these aren’t the ran­dom mus­ings of a mil­i­tary aca­d­e­m­ic. As Cropsey points out, there is a seri­ous­ly pos­si­bil­i­ty that Ukraine wins the next round of fight­ing in the east of the coun­try too, which is exact­ly the kind of sce­nario that could entice Rus­sia into using tac­ti­cal nuclear weapons out of a per­ceived sheer neces­si­ty. The kind of emer­gency Cropsey is describ­ing isn’t a hypo­thet­i­cal. It’s a very real pos­si­bil­i­ty grow­ing more real with each bat­tle­field update:

    ...
    Mr. Putin had two objec­tives in going to war. First, he hoped to destroy Ukraine as an inde­pen­dent state. Rus­sia planned to dri­ve into Kyiv with­in hours, install a quis­ling gov­ern­ment, and months lat­er stage ref­er­en­dums through­out the coun­try that would give the Krem­lin direct con­trol of its east and south. Alek­san­dr Lukashenko’s Belarus, and per­haps the Cen­tral Asian despots, would fall in line. Mr. Putin would there­fore recon­sti­tute an empire stretch­ing to the Pol­ish bor­der.

    Ukraini­ans thwart­ed that plan. Much depends on the next few weeks, as Rus­sia stages a major offen­sive in the east designed to destroy the Ukrain­ian military’s imme­di­ate com­bat capac­i­ty, tear off east­ern provinces, and solid­i­fy a land cor­ri­dor to Crimea. But there is a seri­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty that Ukraine wins this next round of fight­ing. Rus­sia has no reserves beyond its mobi­lized forces; its units have dwin­dling morale; and those for­ma­tions with­drawn from around Kyiv are trained to con­duct armored, mech­a­nized, and infantry oper­a­tions and poor­ly suit­ed for com­bat. Mean­time, the Ukraini­ans are receiv­ing heav­ier weapons from the West and have begun a coun­terof­fen­sive around Kharkiv, which, if suc­cess­ful, will spoil Russia’s attack.

    If Russia’s mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion appears dire, Mr. Putin has a dual incen­tive to use nuclear weapons. This is con­sis­tent with pub­licly stat­ed Russ­ian mil­i­tary doc­trine. A nuclear attack would present Ukraine with the same choice Japan faced in 1945: sur­ren­der or be anni­hi­lat­ed. Ukraine may not break. The haunt­ing images from Bucha, Irpin and else­where demon­strate Russia’s true inten­tions. A Russ­ian vic­to­ry would lead to mass killings, depor­ta­tion, rape and oth­er atroc­i­ties. The Ukrain­ian choice won’t be between death and sur­vival, but rather armed resis­tance and unarmed exter­mi­na­tion.

    Nuclear use would require NATO to respond. But a nuclear response could trig­ger retal­i­a­tion, drag­ging Rus­sia and NATO up the esca­la­tion lad­der to a wider nuclear con­fronta­tion.

    ...

    A nuclear war should nev­er be fought. But the Krem­lin seems will­ing to fight one, at least a lim­it­ed one. If the U.S. demon­strates it is unwill­ing to do so, the chance that the Krem­lin will use nuclear weapons becomes dan­ger­ous­ly real.
    ...

    So when Cropsey makes these rec­om­men­da­tions, he’s doing so with the idea that we real­ly could be fac­ing a nuclear emer­gency in the com­ing months. That’s part of what makes his rec­om­men­da­tions so dis­turb­ing. As Cropsey sees it, the hunt­ing down and sink­ing of a Russ­ian nuclear sub could end up being one of the steps the US needs to take to deesca­late the sit­u­a­tion in the event of the use of Russ­ian tac­ti­cal nuke. Yes, attack­ing a nuclear sub to deesca­late. But a nuclear sub attack would just be one part of a large effort to inca­pac­i­tate Rus­si­a’s nuclear sec­ond-strike capa­bil­i­ties. So real­ly, it would have to be a joint attack on all of Rus­si­a’s nuclear subs. Along with the rest of Rus­si­a’s sec­ond-strike capa­bil­i­ty. Around the world. Would a mas­sive NATO con­ven­tion­al attack on Rus­si­a’s sec­ond-strike nuclear capa­bil­i­ties glob­al­ly suc­cess­ful­ly deesca­late the sit­u­a­tion? It’s hard to see that hap­pen­ing, but this is the kind of think­ing that at least some US mil­i­tary strate­gists are think­ing about:

    ...
    Per­haps a con­ven­tion­al response to a Russ­ian nuclear attack would be suf­fi­cient. What if the U.S. and its allies destroyed Russ­ian mil­i­tary units deployed to the Black Sea, Syr­ia and Libya; cut all oil pipelines to Rus­sia, and used their eco­nom­ic clout to threat­en Chi­na, and oth­er states con­duct­ing busi­ness with Rus­sia, with an embar­go?

    Each of these steps is nec­es­sary. But Russia’s goal in going nuclear is to knock NATO out of the war. The Krem­lin believes its resolve out­strips that of the U.S. A con­ven­tion­al Amer­i­can response would con­firm this—and cre­ate incen­tives for addi­tion­al Russ­ian nuclear use.

    ...

    This isn’t to say the U.S. should use nuclear weapons—again, a nuclear response would make glob­al nuclear war more like­ly. But Amer­i­ca and its allies can take steps against Russia’s nuclear arse­nal that under­mine the Russ­ian posi­tion at high­er esca­la­tion lev­els. The U.S. Navy’s sur­face ships, for exam­ple, could be re-equipped with nuclear weapons, as they were dur­ing the Cold War.

    Most crit­i­cal­ly, if Rus­sia used a nuclear weapon, the U.S. could use its naval pow­er to hunt down and destroy a Russ­ian nuclear-pow­ered bal­lis­tic-mis­sile sub­ma­rine, the back­bone of Russ­ian sec­ond-strike capa­bil­i­ty. Late in the Cold War the U.S. Navy threat­ened to do exact­ly that, pres­sur­ing the Sovi­et Union’s nuclear bas­tions, the pro­tect­ed lit­toral areas from which Sovi­et subs aimed to oper­ate with safe­ty. In a series of naval exer­cis­es dur­ing the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion, the U.S. and its allies sim­u­lat­ed assault­ing the Sea of Okhot­sk and Bar­ents Sea bas­tions, while U.S. sub­marines probed and shad­owed Sovi­et boats in both areas. Post-Cold War evi­dence reveals that Amer­i­can naval pres­sure had a major impact on Sovi­et pol­i­cy mak­ing: Despite Moscow’s pri­or­i­ty of arma­ments over all oth­er state needs, the U.S. showed it would still be able to fight and win a nuclear war.

    The abil­i­ty to win is the key. By arm­ing sur­face ships with tac­ti­cal nuclear weapons as well as attack­ing a nuclear-mis­sile sub and thus reduc­ing Russ­ian sec­ond-strike abil­i­ty, the U.S. under­mines Russia’s abil­i­ty to fight a nuclear war. The Sovi­ets were deeply afraid of a pre-emp­tive strike by NATO. That fear has mor­phed, under Mr. Putin’s regime, into a fix­a­tion on the “col­or rev­o­lu­tions,” pro-democ­ra­cy upris­ings in for­mer Sovi­et republics. Jeop­ar­diz­ing Russ­ian sec­ond-strike capa­bil­i­ty would tan­gi­bly raise the mil­i­tary stakes. Mr. Putin could no longer unleash his nuclear arse­nal with impuni­ty. Instead, he would need to reck­on with the pos­si­bil­i­ty that NATO could decap­i­tate the Kremlin—yes, suf­fer­ing casu­al­ties in the process, but still decap­i­tate it.
    ...

    What’s the Krem­lin going to do after Russ­ian nuclear subs are sunk and it’s one hair-trig­ger event away from full-blown war with NATO? Will the Krem­lin sud­den­ly back down and sue for peace? Or just con­clude that ‘all is lost’ and use that first-strike capac­i­ty, know­ing full well that the Russ­ian peo­ple will be oblit­er­at­ed in the ensu­ing sec­ond strike? Hope­ful­ly we won’t ever have to find out, but pol­i­cy-mak­ers sure seem keen on get­ting an answer to that ques­tion.

    It’s also worth keep­ing in mind here that Cold War plan­ning did­n’t just involve lessons about nuclear esca­la­tion and deesca­la­tion that we should be draw­ing from at this point. It also includ­ed exten­sive plans for how gov­ern­ments could sur­vive fol­low­ing the kind of full-scale nuclear exchange cur­rent­ly being court­ed. In oth­er words, if the strat­e­gy of deesca­la­tion-through-esca­la­tion is pred­i­cat­ed on the assump­tion that doing some­thing that could end the world is utter­ly unthink­able, per­haps we should rethink that assump­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 27, 2022, 4:47 pm
  5. How many pri­vate armies are being set up in Ukraine right now dur­ing this con­flict? That’s the dis­turb­ing ques­tion raised by a recent report out of Cana­da about one of the ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions’ oper­at­ing in Ukraine set up by a Cana­di­an mil­i­tary vet­er­an. That vet­er­an, who goes by the name ‘Hrulf’, has appar­ent­ly had some suc­cess in recruit­ing for­eign vol­un­teers to join his “Nor­man Brigade” unit. The unit is locat­ed some­where in south­east­ern Ukraine although we aren’t told exact­ly where, but it sounds like the unit is head­quar­tered in the home vil­lage of Hrulf’s Ukrain­ian wife and chil­dren.

    But accord­ing to a num­ber of these vol­un­teers, Hrulf has had far less suc­cess in recruit­ing some­thing else: weapons and oth­er equip­ment. These vol­un­teers describe the con­di­tions as effec­tive­ly sui­ci­dal, with enough weapons for only around 1/3 of the sol­diers. A num­ber of these vol­un­teers left the unit and went on to join the Inter­na­tion­al Legion that was set up by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary to for­mal­ly incor­po­rate for­eign vol­un­teers.

    So what is the rela­tion­ship between the Nor­man Legion and the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary? Well, this is where this sto­ry gets extra dis­turb­ing. Because accord­ing to these for­mer mem­bers of the Nor­man Brigade, they were shocked by how lit­tle Ukrain­ian offi­cial seemed to know about the unit. Beyond that, these for­mer mem­bers describe the whole endeav­or as an attempt to set up a pri­vate army for Hrulf’s per­son­al cru­sade of pro­tect­ing his wife’s vil­lage. Hrulf coun­tered this by assert­ing that the Nor­man Brigade is embed­ded with a bat­tal­ion of the vol­un­teer Ukrain­ian army.

    So who is cor­rect here? well, they might both be cor­rect depend­ing on what exact­ly Hrulf meant when he assert­ed that the brigade is embed­ded with a bat­tal­ion of the vol­un­teer Ukrain­ian army. Was he say­ing that the brigade was embed­ded with a unit of Ukraine’s for­mal mil­i­tary? Or was he say­ing that the brigade was embed­ded in the brigade of a dif­fer­ent ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ion’? Per­haps one of the ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions’ that’s already incor­po­rat­ed in the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard like Azov? In oth­er words, are the ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions’ in Ukraine set­ting up their own affil­i­ates that are bare­ly known by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary? We don’t know, and that’s one of the big mys­ter­ies raised by this report.

    Oh, and of course, it turns out Hrulf has a bunch of trou­bling tat­toos, includ­ing a “Black Sun” tat­too. He claims he has runic, Scan­di­na­vian and a mix of Indo-Euro­pean and Japan­ese tat­toos. So we are asked to assume that these tat­toos don’t indi­cate any extrem­ist sym­pa­thies and also that this pri­vate army is being estab­lished for pure­ly benign pur­pos­es. And who knows, maybe defend­ing his wife’s Ukrain­ian vil­lage real­ly is Hrulf’s pri­ma­ry con­cern. But when we’re hear­ing about how this Cana­di­an mil­i­tary vet­er­an was able to basi­cal­ly set up a pri­vate brigade over the last two months that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary bare­ly knows any­thing about and might be affil­i­at­ed with one of the oth­er ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions’ oper­at­ing the coun­try, we have to ask just how many oth­er pri­vate brigades are being set up right now. Because ‘Hrulf’ prob­a­bly isn’t the only per­son tak­ing advan­tage of this pri­vate army oppor­tu­ni­ty:

    Nation­al Post

    Incom­pe­tence or the real­i­ties of war? Tur­moil for Cana­di­an-led for­eign bat­tal­ion in Ukraine

    Ex-mem­bers say the ‘Nor­man Brigade’ is bad­ly run and under-equipped. But a well-known Cana­di­an sniper says the unit’s leader is a ‘good fight­er and war­rior’

    Author of the arti­cle:
    Tom Black­well
    Pub­lish­ing date:
    May 06, 2022 •

    The Cana­di­an mil­i­tary vet­er­an who calls him­self Hrulf says he real­ized after his first com­bat expe­ri­ence in Ukraine sev­er­al weeks ago that he could have died, mul­ti­ple times.

    Com­ing under small-arms, artillery and aer­i­al fire from Russ­ian forces was a “liv­ing hell,” he said.

    But the Que­bec native is now bat­tling a dif­fer­ent kind of foe, as he and the Nor­man Brigade for­eign-fight­er unit he com­mands come under seri­ous crit­i­cism from sev­er­al of the brigade’s for­mer mem­bers.

    Infantry vet­er­ans them­selves, they allege that the brigade run by Hrulf — a nom-de-guerre he adopt­ed for secu­ri­ty rea­sons — is reck­less, has lit­tle weapon­ry or pro­tec­tive equip­ment for the sol­diers he recruits and no offi­cial rela­tion­ship with the Ukrain­ian forces.

    Hrulf is essen­tial­ly build­ing a “pri­vate army” with vol­un­teers from around the world to defend the vil­lage of his Ukrain­ian wife and chil­dren, they charge.

    “He’s endan­ger­ing the lives of unsus­pect­ing young Cana­di­ans who just want to go and see com­bat,” says Paul, an Ottawa-based civ­il ser­vant who was the brigade sec­ond-in-com­mand before quit­ting and join­ing Ukraine’s offi­cial Inter­na­tion­al Legion. “It’s not right, it’s com­plete­ly irre­spon­si­ble, espe­cial­ly for a per­son claim­ing to be a com­man­der.”

    Like oth­er inter­na­tion­al troops quot­ed in this sto­ry, Paul asked that his full name not be pub­lished for secu­ri­ty rea­sons.

    Hrulf strong­ly denies the charges, and coun­ters that his crit­ics sim­ply want­ed to take over the brigade, pos­si­bly for their own per­son­al ben­e­fit.

    “This is not about glo­ry,” he says. “This is about win­ning the fight here.”

    And he has at least one promi­nent defend­er among for­eign­ers in Ukraine.

    Retired Cana­di­an army sniper Wali — also a nom-de-guerre — says he briefly was part of the brigade before quit­ting after Hrulf sug­gest­ed they set­tle their dif­fer­ences by fist fight.

    But “I per­son­al­ly like the NB com­man­der,” he said by email. “He is a good fight­er and war­rior…. We are all on the same side against Rus­sians and that’s what mat­ters the most.”

    Regard­less of who’s right, the dis­pute sug­gests for­eign­ers eager to come to Ukraine’s defence face not just a bru­tal adver­sary, but the chaos and lim­it­ed resources of a hasti­ly formed net­work of inter­na­tion­al com­bat­ants.

    The non-Ukrain­ian troops’ unusu­al role in the war was high­light­ed last week when fight­ers from the U.S., Britain and Den­mark were killed in action.

    Busi­ness­man Chris Eck­lund of Hamil­ton, Ont., who set up the FightforUkraine.ca orga­ni­za­tion to sup­port Cana­di­ans who take up arms there, said he’s rec­om­mend­ing that would-be defend­ers avoid the Nor­man Brigade for now, cit­ing a “huge lack of equip­ment.”

    “Until these things can be rec­ti­fied, it’s prob­a­bly not a good idea that you apply and head over.”

    Eck­lund said he’s always urged Cana­di­ans wish­ing to bat­tle the Russ­ian invaders to apply to the offi­cial Inter­na­tion­al Legion for the Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defence of Ukraine through the Ukrain­ian embassy in Ottawa. The Legion says more than 500 Cana­di­ans have joined via a sys­tem that screens appli­cants and now rejects those with­out com­bat expe­ri­ence.

    But Eck­lund said he reg­u­lar­ly encoun­ters peo­ple with lit­tle or no mil­i­tary back­ground who insist on trav­el­ling to Ukraine and join­ing an unof­fi­cial for­eign fight­er unit.

    “There has been a lot of peo­ple head­ing over doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “Dai­ly I’m basi­cal­ly talk­ing peo­ple out of going, which to me is a suc­cess.”

    Paul says the Nor­man Brigade lacks the kind of for­mal links to the Ukrain­ian armed forces that Eck­lund rec­om­mends for­eign­ers seek out, just a “hand-shake agree­ment” with local mili­tias.

    Hrulf responds that the brigade is in fact embed­ded with a bat­tal­ion of the vol­un­teer Ukrain­ian army, works with the country’s Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defence Force and is well known to the Defence Min­istry. Nei­ther the min­istry nor the defence attaché at Ukraine’s Ottawa embassy respond­ed to requests for com­ment on the brigade.

    It does seem to have devel­oped a promi­nent pro­file inter­na­tion­al­ly, main­ly through a Face­book page com­plete with fundrais­ing sales of T‑shirts and oth­er mer­chan­dise.

    The unit is based in a south­east­ern Ukrain­ian munic­i­pal­i­ty rel­a­tive­ly close to fierce fight­ing, but the Nation­al Post has agreed not to dis­close the exact loca­tion for secu­ri­ty rea­sons. Hrulf described to the Post how he and one oth­er brigade mem­ber took part in a Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tion on March 26, briefly re-cap­tur­ing a vil­lage occu­pied by the Rus­sians.

    But five oth­er for­mer brigade mem­bers — men from Cana­da, New Zealand, South Africa and the Unit­ed States who all say they’re com­bat vet­er­ans — each voiced con­cerns about how the unit was run.

    Paul, 27, said he knew the com­man­der from his time in the French For­eign Legion and orga­nized recruit­ment from Cana­da, before trav­el­ling to Europe on April 9 with a fel­low Legion vet­er­an from B.C.

    Hrulf had been at the “front” for two months already but had done lit­tle ground­work for the vol­un­teers Paul gath­ered, vet­er­ans he says have the kind of com­bat know-how Kyiv wants and who came to Ukraine at great per­son­al expense, often giv­ing up peace­ful lives at home.

    The two Cana­di­ans joined oth­er Nor­man Brigade recruits in Poland and even­tu­al­ly made their way to the city in south­ern Ukraine that was to be their train­ing base, shocked by how lit­tle any Ukrain­ian offi­cials seem to know of the unit.

    The accom­mo­da­tion Hrulf arranged in the city was like a “dun­geon,” he said. They had to sleep on the floor and were giv­en two meals a day — often just a thin soup — by Ukraini­ans who had no idea why they were there. Even­tu­al­ly num­ber­ing close to 30, the Nor­man Brigade recruits moved to a con­vert­ed school house that was to be their train­ing camp but was so drafty and damp, many of the sol­diers fell ill, says Paul.

    Hrulf told them to train on Ukrain­ian weapons, but among almost 30 sol­diers there were just sev­en or eight AK-47 assault rifles and a pal­try 30–60 bul­lets per per­son, says John, the B.C. man.

    “That is just insan­i­ty, actu­al sui­cide when you’re talk­ing about (fight­ing) the Russ­ian mil­i­tary.”

    As Paul pushed back against the com­man­der, Hrulf paid a vis­it to the train­ing base that only height­ened ten­sions, the crit­ics say. He and two brigade mem­bers arrived wear­ing body armour, loaded rifles and grenade launch­ers and tried to intim­i­date the sec­ond-in-com­mand into sub­mis­sion, say Paul, John and a South African vet­er­an who was also there.

    At one point they dis­cov­ered that Hrulf had a tat­too on his hand of a “black sun,” a sym­bol used by the SS in Nazi Ger­many and some­times by the Neo-fas­cist move­ment, Paul and John recalled.

    “My friend James who was there lit­er­al­ly spat on the ground in front of him … and said ‘this is every­thing our grand­fa­thers fought against in the Sec­ond World War.’”

    Asked about the ink work, Hrulf said he has runic, Scan­di­na­vian and a mix of Indo-Euro­pean and Japan­ese tat­toos. And he says he came heav­i­ly armed to that meet­ing at the base in case Russ­ian para­troop­ers launched an attack behind Ukrain­ian lines and he met them on the three-hour dri­ve there.

    Mean­while, oth­ers left before Paul and John even arrived because of what they called dan­ger­ous poli­cies.

    Joe, a New Zealand infantry vet­er­an, said he showed up with anoth­er group of main­ly “green-as-grass” Cana­di­an army reservists. Hrulf announced there were weapons for only 30 per cent of them. Those who weren’t armed were told to move clos­er to the front lines and dig trench­es, he said.

    “It was dis­gust­ing, absolute­ly … dis­gust­ing,” says Joe, 44, who even­tu­al­ly joined the Inter­na­tion­al Legion.

    ...

    Hrulf rejects the com­plaints about lack of equip­ment, while say­ing weapon­ry is in short sup­ply through­out Ukraine’s armed forces and that the recruits were sup­posed to bring as much equip­ment as they could them­selves.

    “Some of the new­com­ers want­ed to get armed 50 kilo­me­tres behind the front line which is not real­is­tic. There is a tight con­trol on weapons,” he said. “If you look at oth­er units like the Geor­gian Legion, they had one AK (rifle) for every three guys and they were rotat­ing, while we had at least 80 per cent of our per­son­nel armed.”

    ...

    Wali said he doesn’t believe the brigade was par­tic­u­lar­ly ill-sup­plied.

    “The NB was equipped the same way as many Ukrain­ian units,” the sniper said. “That means that many things West­ern­ers take for grant­ed are not avail­able. That includes pro­tec­tive equip­ment, med­ical sup­plies, weapons, ammu­ni­tion.”

    Regard­less, it appears that by April, the unit had made a name for itself sur­pris­ing­ly far afield. An Amer­i­can infantry vet­er­an who ini­tial­ly planned to join the orga­ni­za­tion said an FBI agent ques­tioned him and a friend about their plans at the air­port before they left the U.S. for Poland last month.

    “They were def­i­nite­ly track­ing the Nor­man Brigade,” he told the Post on the con­di­tion he remain anony­mous.

    Asked about the inci­dent, the bureau’s press office said “the FBI will decline to com­ment” but didn’t deny the brigade is on its radar.

    Paul and sev­er­al oth­er Nor­man Brigade recruits final­ly left the spar­tan base and joined the Inter­na­tion­al Legion, an orga­ni­za­tion they’re with now and which they say is much bet­ter equipped and led.

    Hrulf chal­lenges that notion, point­ing to a text he received from oth­er for­eign fight­ers, say­ing “we left the inter­na­tion­al legion due to the incom­pe­tence of the Ukrain­ian offi­cers.”

    He gen­er­al­ly bris­tles at sug­ges­tions of impro­pri­ety. The Que­be­cer says he set up the brigade to “do my part to defend Ukraine, my fam­i­ly and its val­ues” but said his wife and chil­dren are not cur­rent­ly in his oper­a­tions area.

    Paul and the oth­ers, though, insist Hrulf is recruit­ing fight­ers world­wide for what is essen­tial­ly a per­son­al cru­sade.

    “It’s him try­ing to cre­ate his own pri­vate army to defend him­self and his fam­i­ly, quite hon­est­ly,” the Ottawa res­i­dent said. “He’s set­ting him­self up as some kind of wacky East­ern Euro­pean com­man­der.”

    ———–

    “Incom­pe­tence or the real­i­ties of war? Tur­moil for Cana­di­an-led for­eign bat­tal­ion in Ukraine” by Tom Black­well; Nation­al Post; 05/06/2022

    “The two Cana­di­ans joined oth­er Nor­man Brigade recruits in Poland and even­tu­al­ly made their way to the city in south­ern Ukraine that was to be their train­ing base, shocked by how lit­tle any Ukrain­ian offi­cials seem to know of the unit.”

    We’ve long known there were inde­pen­dent ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions’ oper­at­ing in Ukraine. But the Nor­man Brigade appears to be far more inde­pen­dent than these for­eign vol­un­teers expect­ed. The Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary seemed to bare­ly know any­thing about Hrulf’s unit. Hrulf responds by assert­ing that the unit is actu­al­ly embed­ded with a bat­tal­ion of the vol­un­teer Ukrain­ian army. Keep in mind these aren’t nec­es­sary con­tra­dic­to­ry claims. Hrulf was basi­cal­ly say­ing the Nor­man Brigade is like an affil­i­ate of anoth­er unit ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ion’ that is more for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed into the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary. So giv­en that the Nor­man Brigade is based some­where in a south­east­ern Ukrain­ian munic­i­pal­i­ty, we have to ask: would that oth­er bat­tal­ion the Nor­man Brigade is embed­ded with hap­pen to be the Azov Bat­tal­ion? South­east­ern Ukraine cov­ers a lot of ter­ri­to­ry, but Azov being head­quar­tered in Mar­i­upol would be the most promi­nent vol­un­teer bat­tal­ion in the region that’s been embed­ded with the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard:

    ...
    Paul says the Nor­man Brigade lacks the kind of for­mal links to the Ukrain­ian armed forces that Eck­lund rec­om­mends for­eign­ers seek out, just a “hand-shake agree­ment” with local mili­tias.

    Hrulf responds that the brigade is in fact embed­ded with a bat­tal­ion of the vol­un­teer Ukrain­ian army, works with the country’s Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defence Force and is well known to the Defence Min­istry. Nei­ther the min­istry nor the defence attaché at Ukraine’s Ottawa embassy respond­ed to requests for com­ment on the brigade.

    It does seem to have devel­oped a promi­nent pro­file inter­na­tion­al­ly, main­ly through a Face­book page com­plete with fundrais­ing sales of T‑shirts and oth­er mer­chan­dise.

    The unit is based in a south­east­ern Ukrain­ian munic­i­pal­i­ty rel­a­tive­ly close to fierce fight­ing, but the Nation­al Post has agreed not to dis­close the exact loca­tion for secu­ri­ty rea­sons. Hrulf described to the Post how he and one oth­er brigade mem­ber took part in a Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tion on March 26, briefly re-cap­tur­ing a vil­lage occu­pied by the Rus­sians.
    ...

    Adding to any Azov-relat­ed sus­pi­cions is the fact that Hrulf is sport­ing tat­toos that just hap­pen to be favored by far right extrem­ists. Plus, this unit appears to be on the radar of the FBI. You have to won­der what the FBI knows about the peo­ple involved in this unit that we aren’t be told. The FBI isn’t talk­ing:

    ...
    At one point they dis­cov­ered that Hrulf had a tat­too on his hand of a “black sun,” a sym­bol used by the SS in Nazi Ger­many and some­times by the Neo-fas­cist move­ment, Paul and John recalled.

    “My friend James who was there lit­er­al­ly spat on the ground in front of him … and said ‘this is every­thing our grand­fa­thers fought against in the Sec­ond World War.’”

    Asked about the ink work, Hrulf said he has runic, Scan­di­na­vian and a mix of Indo-Euro­pean and Japan­ese tat­toos. And he says he came heav­i­ly armed to that meet­ing at the base in case Russ­ian para­troop­ers launched an attack behind Ukrain­ian lines and he met them on the three-hour dri­ve there.

    ...

    Regard­less, it appears that by April, the unit had made a name for itself sur­pris­ing­ly far afield. An Amer­i­can infantry vet­er­an who ini­tial­ly planned to join the orga­ni­za­tion said an FBI agent ques­tioned him and a friend about their plans at the air­port before they left the U.S. for Poland last month.

    “They were def­i­nite­ly track­ing the Nor­man Brigade,” he told the Post on the con­di­tion he remain anony­mous.

    Asked about the inci­dent, the bureau’s press office said “the FBI will decline to com­ment” but didn’t deny the brigade is on its radar.
    ...

    It’s that com­bi­na­tion of appar­ent far right sym­pa­thies and an appar­ent lack of any real con­nec­tions to the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary — out­side of a pos­si­ble affil­i­a­tion with one of the ‘vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions’ that has been for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed in the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard — that lends cred­i­bil­i­ty to the warn­ings we’re get­ting from mul­ti­ple for­mer Nor­man Brigade mem­bers: Hrulf is build­ing a pri­vate army:

    ...
    Hrulf is essen­tial­ly build­ing a “pri­vate army” with vol­un­teers from around the world to defend the vil­lage of his Ukrain­ian wife and chil­dren, they charge.

    ...

    Paul and sev­er­al oth­er Nor­man Brigade recruits final­ly left the spar­tan base and joined the Inter­na­tion­al Legion, an orga­ni­za­tion they’re with now and which they say is much bet­ter equipped and led.

    Hrulf chal­lenges that notion, point­ing to a text he received from oth­er for­eign fight­ers, say­ing “we left the inter­na­tion­al legion due to the incom­pe­tence of the Ukrain­ian offi­cers.”

    He gen­er­al­ly bris­tles at sug­ges­tions of impro­pri­ety. The Que­be­cer says he set up the brigade to “do my part to defend Ukraine, my fam­i­ly and its val­ues” but said his wife and chil­dren are not cur­rent­ly in his oper­a­tions area.

    Paul and the oth­ers, though, insist Hrulf is recruit­ing fight­ers world­wide for what is essen­tial­ly a per­son­al cru­sade.

    “It’s him try­ing to cre­ate his own pri­vate army to defend him­self and his fam­i­ly, quite hon­est­ly,” the Ottawa res­i­dent said. “He’s set­ting him­self up as some kind of wacky East­ern Euro­pean com­man­der.”
    ...

    What does Hrulf have in mind for his pri­vate army? Is it pure­ly about defend­ing the vil­lage of his Ukrain­ian wife and chil­dren? Because that’s sort of a best case sce­nario. What else might Hrulf have in mind? How about after the war? These are the ques­tions Ukrain­ian author­i­ties should real­ly be ask­ing. And yet there’s no indi­ca­tion any­one at all is actu­al­ly track­ing the activ­i­ty of units like the Nor­man Brigade...other than maybe the FBI. As these for­mer mem­bers tell it, the Ukrain­ian author­i­ties were bare­ly aware of their exis­tence. So if that’s the case, how many pri­vate armies are being set up in Ukraine right now? We don’t know. But if the expe­ri­ences of the guy who set up the FightforUkraine.ca web­site, Chris Eck­lund, are an indi­ca­tion of what to expect, we should prob­a­bly expect that a lot of oth­er pri­vate armies get­ting set up right now. Because the way Eck­lund describes it, advis­ing peo­ple to NOT trav­el to Ukraine to join one of these unof­fi­cial for­eign fight­er units is a dai­ly chal­lenge:

    ...
    Busi­ness­man Chris Eck­lund of Hamil­ton, Ont., who set up the FightforUkraine.ca orga­ni­za­tion to sup­port Cana­di­ans who take up arms there, said he’s rec­om­mend­ing that would-be defend­ers avoid the Nor­man Brigade for now, cit­ing a “huge lack of equip­ment.”

    “Until these things can be rec­ti­fied, it’s prob­a­bly not a good idea that you apply and head over.”

    Eck­lund said he’s always urged Cana­di­ans wish­ing to bat­tle the Russ­ian invaders to apply to the offi­cial Inter­na­tion­al Legion for the Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defence of Ukraine through the Ukrain­ian embassy in Ottawa. The Legion says more than 500 Cana­di­ans have joined via a sys­tem that screens appli­cants and now rejects those with­out com­bat expe­ri­ence.

    But Eck­lund said he reg­u­lar­ly encoun­ters peo­ple with lit­tle or no mil­i­tary back­ground who insist on trav­el­ling to Ukraine and join­ing an unof­fi­cial for­eign fight­er unit.

    “There has been a lot of peo­ple head­ing over doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “Dai­ly I’m basi­cal­ly talk­ing peo­ple out of going, which to me is a suc­cess.”
    ...

    Even with the Inter­na­tion­al Legion set up to offi­cial take these vol­un­teers, Eck­lund con­tin­ues to come across peo­ple insist­ing on join­ing these unof­fi­cial units. For what­ev­er rea­son, these unof­fi­cial brigades clear­ly have a lot of appeal for at least some peo­ple. What exact­ly is draw­ing them to these unof­fi­cial bat­tal­ions? We don’t know. But we’ll prob­a­bly get­ting a much bet­ter idea once this war and the offi­cial rea­son for these unof­fi­cial bat­tal­ions is no longer avail­able and all these pri­vate armies are forced to dis­solve or find a new rea­son to fight.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 7, 2022, 3:41 pm
  6. We just got a very dis­turb­ing update on the sta­tus of Ukraine’s democ­ra­cy and civ­il soci­ety: The Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment passed a law back in March that effec­tive­ly guts work­er rights in the coun­try. The law is intend­ed to be a tem­po­rary wartime mea­sure. But, of course, there’s now a push to make it per­ma­nent, and it looks like it has the sup­port in par­lia­ment need­ed to pass.

    But it’s impor­tant to note that the dri­ving force behind this ‘reform’ ini­tia­tive does­n’t appear to be domes­tic. Instead, it turns out this bill was orig­i­nal­ly designed by an NGO head­ed by for­mer Geor­gian pres­i­dent Mikheil Saakashvili, the Office of Sim­ple Solu­tions and Results, and co-devel­oped with a USAID pro­gram. So the gut­ting of Ukraine’s work­er rights appears to be a US gov­ern­ment project.

    They tried to pass it back in April of 2021 but there was­n’t enough sup­port. Dis­turbing­ly, some of that sup­port has come from for­mer mem­bers of the oppo­si­tion par­ties that were banned en-mass ear­li­er this month, so it appears that the crack­down on polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion in Ukraine is get­ting results. Results for the oli­garchy.

    Inter­est­ing, as experts point out, these ‘reforms’ are also in direct con­flict with the human rights and labor rights stan­dards that Ukraine agreed to be abide by as part of join­ing the EU Trade Asso­ci­a­tion. So, in the­o­ry, Ukraine’s unions could appeal to the EU for help. Of course, as we’ve also seen, the EU is keen­ly inter­est­ed in impos­ing bru­tal aus­ter­i­ty across Ukrain­ian soci­ety. That was the pri­ma­ry rea­son for­mer pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych ulti­mate­ly decid­ed not to enter Ukraine in the EU Trade Asso­ci­a­tion back in 2013, trig­ger­ing the Maid­an protests. So while the EU stands in sup­port of work­er rights in the­o­ry, that has­n’t real­ly been the case in prac­tice for Ukraine. Quite the oppo­site.

    Also note that Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy does indeed have the pow­er to veto this bill even if it pass­es. So Zelen­skiy’s pop­ulism is set for quite a test. Will he stand up for Ukrain­ian work­ers? Or stand with the oli­garchs and Ukraine’s spon­sors in the West? Zelen­skiy obvi­ous­ly does­n’t want to piss of Ukraine’s West­ern back­ers in the mid­dle of a war so we already know the answer: Ukraine is send­ing its labor law back to the 19th cen­tu­ry:

    Open Democ­ra­cy

    Ukraine’s new labour law could ‘open Pandora’s box’ for work­ers

    Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment set to vote on new labour law that threat­ens work­ers with a ‘roll­back to the 19th cen­tu­ry’

    Ser­hiy Guz
    20 May 2022, 11.00am

    “With one let­ter [our employ­er] sent us away, and our dia­logue turned into a mono­logue,” says Anton Gorb, a trade union rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Ukraine’s largest pri­vate postal ser­vice, New Post.

    Gorb is cur­rent­ly serv­ing in Ukraine’s armed forces as the coun­try fights against the Russ­ian inva­sion. But he still rep­re­sents his union mem­bers’ inter­ests, and man­ages to find time to speak to me about how Ukraine’s wartime labour leg­is­la­tion is affect­ing peo­ple in the coun­try.

    “We are not going to give up, we are try­ing to win some­thing back, but our rela­tion­ship with our employ­er can no longer be restored,” Gorb says.

    In March, the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment passed wartime leg­is­la­tion that severe­ly cur­tailed the abil­i­ty of trade unions to rep­re­sent their mem­bers, intro­duced ‘sus­pen­sion of employ­ment’ (mean­ing employ­ees are not fired, but their work and wages are sus­pend­ed) and gave employ­ers the right to uni­lat­er­al­ly sus­pend col­lec­tive agree­ments.

    This, Gorb explains, is what hap­pened at New Post (Nova Posh­ta), once a flag­ship for good work­ing rela­tions between Ukrain­ian unions and man­age­ment.

    But beyond this tem­po­rary mea­sure, a group of Ukrain­ian MPs and offi­cials are now aim­ing to fur­ther ‘lib­er­alise’ and ‘de-Sovi­etise’ the country’s labour laws. Under a draft law, peo­ple who work in small and medi­um-sized firms – those which have up to 250 employ­ees – would, in effect, be removed from the country’s exist­ing labour laws and cov­ered by indi­vid­ual con­tracts nego­ti­at­ed with their employ­er. More than 70% of the Ukrain­ian work­force would be affect­ed by this change.

    Against a back­ground of con­cerns that Ukrain­ian offi­cials are using Russia’s inva­sion to push through a long-await­ed rad­i­cal dereg­u­la­tion of labour laws, one expert has warned that the intro­duc­tion of civ­il law into labour rela­tions risks open­ing a “Pandora’s box” for work­ers.

    Under pres­sure

    “We had one of the best employ­ers in Ukraine and a good, work­ing col­lec­tive agree­ment,” says Gorb. “But now employ­ers have turned their backs on social dia­logue. We thought it was because of the start of the war, and then it turned out that they were wait­ing for the adop­tion of the law.”

    The inde­pen­dent trade union organ­i­sa­tion at New Post is one of the largest of its kind in Ukraine. Pri­or to Russia’s inva­sion, the union had more than 11,500 mem­bers (out of about 30,000 employ­ees), and had its first col­lec­tive agree­ment signed back in 2016.

    But in April, under Ukraine’s wartime sus­pen­sion of cer­tain labour rights – which was billed as ‘tem­po­rary’ – New Post’s man­age­ment revoked 30 points of the col­lec­tive agree­ment with the trade union.

    Most of these points relate to coor­di­na­tion of work­ing con­di­tions with trade unions, but also some social guar­an­tees, such as pro­vid­ing work­ers with uni­forms, the avail­abil­i­ty of a first-aid kit at the work­place, work­ing hours and oth­ers.

    ...

    To inform peo­ple, Social Move­ment, a Ukrain­ian civic organ­i­sa­tion, has cre­at­ed a ‘‘black list of employ­ers’. This includes com­pa­nies that have uni­lat­er­al­ly sus­pend­ed all or part of col­lec­tive agree­ments, or have sig­nif­i­cant­ly changed work­ing con­di­tions in vio­la­tion of Ukraine’s labour laws. Almost two dozen enter­pris­es are on the list, includ­ing the Cher­nobyl nuclear pow­er plant, Ukraine’s nation­al rail­way com­pa­ny, Ode­sa Port and the Kyiv Metro.

    Now, how­ev­er, Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have decid­ed to go even fur­ther and are look­ing to adopt a more rad­i­cal reform of the country’s labour laws, which would extend far beyond wartime.

    ‘Des­o­vi­eti­sa­tion’ plus lib­er­al­i­sa­tion

    The pro­posed new labour law, Bill 5371, was orig­i­nal­ly reg­is­tered in April 2021. But last week, Ukraine’s par­lia­ment sup­port­ed it for the first time – open­ing the way for it to be writ­ten into law.

    For­mal­ly, the draft law was filed on behalf of Haly­na Tretyako­va, head of the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on social pol­i­cy, and a num­ber of oth­er deputies from the rul­ing Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty. The bill was devel­oped by a Ukrain­ian NGO, the Office of Sim­ple Solu­tions and Results, which was set up by for­mer Geor­gian pres­i­dent Mikheil Saakashvili, togeth­er with Ukrain­ian employ­ers’ asso­ci­a­tions and a USAID pro­gramme.

    The bill’s authors argue that employ­ment rela­tions in Ukraine “are still reg­u­lat­ed by the out­dat­ed Labour Code, adopt­ed back in 1971 and devel­oped under the con­di­tions of the Sovi­et admin­is­tra­tive-com­mand econ­o­my”.

    As part of this prob­lem, they claim, Ukraine’s small and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es don’t have sat­is­fac­to­ry leg­is­la­tion for their devel­op­ment. The “out­dat­ed, eco­nom­i­cal­ly inad­e­quate meth­ods of state reg­u­la­tion of labour rela­tions in Ukraine” impact the country’s pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors.

    To fix this, the draft law will intro­duce indi­vid­ual con­tracts for peo­ple who work at small and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es, and give Ukrain­ian employ­ers the right to fire employ­ees with­out any rea­son. The lat­ter is cur­rent­ly strict­ly pro­hib­it­ed in the cur­rent labour leg­is­la­tion. It also plans to “reduce the bureau­crat­ic bur­den on labour rela­tions and busi­ness enti­ties”.

    These mea­sures, sup­port­ers of the bill argue, should ‘de-Sovi­etise’ employ­ment law in Ukraine. They refer to the “lib­er­al­i­sa­tion” of these rela­tions as “the intro­duc­tion of the most flex­i­ble and free regime for reg­u­lat­ing labour rela­tions.”

    “These inno­va­tions are ben­e­fi­cial to both par­ties, since con­trac­tu­al reg­u­la­tion can be more flex­i­ble than basic leg­is­la­tion,” says Han­na Lich­man MP, a mem­ber of the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. “For exam­ple, to include cer­tain addi­tion­al options and ben­e­fits for an employ­ee – these ele­ments of labour rela­tions are even more reli­able than sim­ple agree­ments.”

    This is labour slav­ery

    How­ev­er, Ukrain­ian trade unions and labour organ­i­sa­tions assess the prospects of the draft law quite dif­fer­ent­ly.

    Vitaliy Dudin, an expert on labour law and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Social Move­ment organ­i­sa­tion, says the pro­posed new law is the “most rad­i­cal approach to destroy­ing the social part­ner­ship mod­el”.

    For Dudin, the most destruc­tive part of the new leg­is­la­tion is the intro­duc­tion of Ukraine’s civ­il law into employ­ment rela­tions. Accord­ing to him, Ukraine’s civ­il law is based on the idea that two par­ties are equal, where­as the rela­tion­ship between an employ­er and employ­ee is not – the employ­er is always in a more advan­ta­geous posi­tion. “This is a roll­back to the 19th cen­tu­ry. By intro­duc­ing civ­il law into labour rela­tions, we can open Pandora’s box,” he says.

    George San­dul, a lawyer at Labor Ini­tia­tives pub­lic organ­i­sa­tion, also points out that an employ­ee always has less influ­ence than an employ­er – and notes that, at the inter­na­tion­al lev­el, numer­ous con­ven­tions issued by the Inter­na­tion­al Labor Orga­ni­za­tion (ILO) con­cern this issue.

    He says the main prob­lem with the pro­posed new law is the intro­duc­tion of indi­vid­ual con­tracts at small and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es.

    “De fac­to, this regime assumes that lit­er­al­ly any­thing can be entered into an employee’s employ­ment con­tract, with­out ref­er­ence to Ukrain­ian labour laws. For exam­ple, addi­tion­al grounds for dis­missal, lia­bil­i­ty, or even a 100-hour week,” explains San­dul.

    “Also, it is the indi­vid­ual labour con­tract that becomes the basis for reg­u­lat­ing all rela­tions at the enter­prise, which neu­tralis­es the role of col­lec­tive agree­ments and rel­e­gates trade unions to the back­ground.”

    Ukraine’s par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on EU inte­gra­tion pre­vi­ous­ly stat­ed that the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion “weak­ens the lev­el of labour pro­tec­tion, nar­rows the scope of labor rights and social guar­an­tees of employ­ees, in com­par­i­son with the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion”, there­by con­tra­dict­ing Ukraine’s oblig­a­tions under its Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment with the EU. The bill was also strong­ly crit­i­cised by the ILO in Ukraine.

    ...

    The rul­ing par­ty is advanc­ing

    For more than a year, the pro­posed bill failed to find sup­port among leg­is­la­tors.

    But this sit­u­a­tion changed in May, when sup­port­ing votes were pro­vid­ed by the Trust polit­i­cal par­ty, as well as by for­mer mem­bers of the pro-Russ­ian par­ty, Oppo­si­tion Platform/For Life, which was banned by Par­lia­ment this month. Per­haps the crack­down against the lat­ter par­ty – which now includes a pro­pos­al to deprive these MPs of their man­dates – made some of its MPs more will­ing to accom­mo­date the changes.

    Now the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment is in a hur­ry to pre­pare for a sec­ond read­ing under a so-called ‘accel­er­at­ed pro­ce­dure’, while there are enough votes to approve it. The key ques­tion is whether Ukrain­ian unions, in the cur­rent mil­i­tary envi­ron­ment, will be able to block this bill or achieve sig­nif­i­cant changes before the sec­ond read­ing takes place.

    San­dul says that while Ukrain­ian and inter­na­tion­al trade unions led a cam­paign against the pro­posed law last year, Russia’s inva­sion means there can be no protests, and there­fore “infor­ma­tion cam­paigns are now one lever of influ­ence on the sit­u­a­tion”. On 18 May, the Joint Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Office of Ukraine’s trade unions addressed an open let­ter to Ukrain­ian MPs, call­ing on them not to vote for bill 5371 in the sec­ond read­ing.

    Accord­ing to Lich­man, “there are many ways to find a com­pro­mise” on the draft law, includ­ing pro­pos­als from trade unions ahead of the sec­ond read­ing of the leg­is­la­tion. If the sit­u­a­tion dete­ri­o­rates, she says, then trade unions could ask Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyi to use his right to veto new leg­is­la­tion. Lich­man also told open­Democ­ra­cy that the con­cerns from the EU inte­gra­tion par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee have been pre­pared for inclu­sion in the sec­ond read­ing of the pro­posed law.

    Mean­while, Dudin believes Ukraine’s new EU bid could become a “trump card” in the hands of trade unions. “Now human rights, includ­ing labour rights, will be mon­i­tored by the EU. There­fore, trade unions, which are moral­ly right in this sit­u­a­tion – their mem­bers are also at war – can demand a mora­to­ri­um on such reforms in wartime con­di­tions in the spir­it of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion,” he says.

    Today, Ukraine’s econ­o­my and soci­ety are under extreme pres­sure from the Russ­ian inva­sion. Rough­ly 10 mil­lion peo­ple have left their homes, with many forced to flee abroad. But even among those who remain in Ukraine, mil­lions face los­ing their jobs “tem­porar­i­ly” or the threat of unem­ploy­ment.

    In this sense, these laws could wors­en the already des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion of many Ukraini­ans – an unjus­ti­fied test for peo­ple fight­ing against Russ­ian aggres­sion.

    ———–

    “But beyond this tem­po­rary mea­sure, a group of Ukrain­ian MPs and offi­cials are now aim­ing to fur­ther ‘lib­er­alise’ and ‘de-Sovi­etise’ the country’s labour laws. Under a draft law, peo­ple who work in small and medi­um-sized firms – those which have up to 250 employ­ees – would, in effect, be removed from the country’s exist­ing labour laws and cov­ered by indi­vid­ual con­tracts nego­ti­at­ed with their employ­er. More than 70% of the Ukrain­ian work­force would be affect­ed by this change.

    So long labor pro­tec­tions. For­ev­er. The tem­po­rary wartime leg­is­la­tion passed in March that severe­ly cur­tailed the rights of trade unions isn’t just going to be tem­po­rary. This is the big chance to per­ma­nent­ly ‘reform’ Ukraine’s econ­o­my. ‘Reform’ in the form of the per­ma­nent elim­i­na­tion of work­er rights. Includ­ing the work­ers at the Cher­nobyl nuclear plant, which has already been black­list­ed for uni­lat­er­al­ly sus­pend­ing parts of its col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ments:

    ...
    To inform peo­ple, Social Move­ment, a Ukrain­ian civic organ­i­sa­tion, has cre­at­ed a ‘‘black list of employ­ers’. This includes com­pa­nies that have uni­lat­er­al­ly sus­pend­ed all or part of col­lec­tive agree­ments, or have sig­nif­i­cant­ly changed work­ing con­di­tions in vio­la­tion of Ukraine’s labour laws. Almost two dozen enter­pris­es are on the list, includ­ing the Cher­nobyl nuclear pow­er plant, Ukraine’s nation­al rail­way com­pa­ny, Ode­sa Port and the Kyiv Metro.
    ...

    But this ‘reform’ was­n’t sim­ply a prod­uct of Ukraine’s oli­garchy. It was orig­i­nal­ly pro­posed in April 2021 after being devel­oped by a Ukrain­ian NGO, the Office of Sim­ple Solu­tions and Results, which was set up by Mikheil Saakashvili. This NGO worked with the Ukrain­ian employ­ers’ asso­ciates and a USAID pro­gram to devel­op the bill. In oth­er words, this is some­thing the Ukraine’s West­ern back­ers and want to see imposed for a while now. The war is just the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do it. Inter­est­ing­ly, the nec­es­sary sup­port for this bill in Ukraine’s par­lia­ment was deliv­ered by for­mer mem­bers of the oppo­si­tion par­ties that were banned ear­li­er this month. It’s part of the con­text of this impend­ing new set of ‘reforms’: It’s hap­pen­ing in the wake of the col­lapse of what we left of Ukraine’s democ­ra­cy:

    ...
    The pro­posed new labour law, Bill 5371, was orig­i­nal­ly reg­is­tered in April 2021. But last week, Ukraine’s par­lia­ment sup­port­ed it for the first time – open­ing the way for it to be writ­ten into law.

    For­mal­ly, the draft law was filed on behalf of Haly­na Tretyako­va, head of the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on social pol­i­cy, and a num­ber of oth­er deputies from the rul­ing Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty. The bill was devel­oped by a Ukrain­ian NGO, the Office of Sim­ple Solu­tions and Results, which was set up by for­mer Geor­gian pres­i­dent Mikheil Saakashvili, togeth­er with Ukrain­ian employ­ers’ asso­ci­a­tions and a USAID pro­gramme.

    ...

    For more than a year, the pro­posed bill failed to find sup­port among leg­is­la­tors.

    But this sit­u­a­tion changed in May, when sup­port­ing votes were pro­vid­ed by the Trust polit­i­cal par­ty, as well as by for­mer mem­bers of the pro-Russ­ian par­ty, Oppo­si­tion Platform/For Life, which was banned by Par­lia­ment this month. Per­haps the crack­down against the lat­ter par­ty – which now includes a pro­pos­al to deprive these MPs of their man­dates – made some of its MPs more will­ing to accom­mo­date the changes.
    ...

    And note just how extreme these new ‘reforms’ would be: it would be noth­ing less than the elim­i­na­tion of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights. Indi­vid­ual con­tracts, which absurd­ly assume the indi­vid­ual has equal pow­er in nego­ti­a­tions with an employ­er, will become the norm, along with fir­ings with­out rea­son. Ukraine is set to become an employ­er-dom­i­nat­ed socioe­co­nom­ic hell hole:

    ...
    The bill’s authors argue that employ­ment rela­tions in Ukraine “are still reg­u­lat­ed by the out­dat­ed Labour Code, adopt­ed back in 1971 and devel­oped under the con­di­tions of the Sovi­et admin­is­tra­tive-com­mand econ­o­my”.

    As part of this prob­lem, they claim, Ukraine’s small and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es don’t have sat­is­fac­to­ry leg­is­la­tion for their devel­op­ment. The “out­dat­ed, eco­nom­i­cal­ly inad­e­quate meth­ods of state reg­u­la­tion of labour rela­tions in Ukraine” impact the country’s pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors.

    To fix this, the draft law will intro­duce indi­vid­ual con­tracts for peo­ple who work at small and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es, and give Ukrain­ian employ­ers the right to fire employ­ees with­out any rea­son. The lat­ter is cur­rent­ly strict­ly pro­hib­it­ed in the cur­rent labour leg­is­la­tion. It also plans to “reduce the bureau­crat­ic bur­den on labour rela­tions and busi­ness enti­ties”.
    ...

    Vitaliy Dudin, an expert on labour law and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Social Move­ment organ­i­sa­tion, says the pro­posed new law is the “most rad­i­cal approach to destroy­ing the social part­ner­ship mod­el”.

    For Dudin, the most destruc­tive part of the new leg­is­la­tion is the intro­duc­tion of Ukraine’s civ­il law into employ­ment rela­tions. Accord­ing to him, Ukraine’s civ­il law is based on the idea that two par­ties are equal, where­as the rela­tion­ship between an employ­er and employ­ee is not – the employ­er is always in a more advan­ta­geous posi­tion. “This is a roll­back to the 19th cen­tu­ry. By intro­duc­ing civ­il law into labour rela­tions, we can open Pandora’s box,” he says.

    George San­dul, a lawyer at Labor Ini­tia­tives pub­lic organ­i­sa­tion, also points out that an employ­ee always has less influ­ence than an employ­er – and notes that, at the inter­na­tion­al lev­el, numer­ous con­ven­tions issued by the Inter­na­tion­al Labor Orga­ni­za­tion (ILO) con­cern this issue.

    He says the main prob­lem with the pro­posed new law is the intro­duc­tion of indi­vid­ual con­tracts at small and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es.

    “De fac­to, this regime assumes that lit­er­al­ly any­thing can be entered into an employee’s employ­ment con­tract, with­out ref­er­ence to Ukrain­ian labour laws. For exam­ple, addi­tion­al grounds for dis­missal, lia­bil­i­ty, or even a 100-hour week,” explains San­dul.

    “Also, it is the indi­vid­ual labour con­tract that becomes the basis for reg­u­lat­ing all rela­tions at the enter­prise, which neu­tralis­es the role of col­lec­tive agree­ments and rel­e­gates trade unions to the back­ground.”
    ...

    But also note the poten­tial role the EU could play in all this: the elim­i­na­tion of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights is in direct vio­la­tion of Ukraine’s oblig­a­tions under its Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment with the EU. So, in the­o­ry, Ukraine’s unions could appeal to the EU for a restora­tion of their rights:

    ...
    Ukraine’s par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on EU inte­gra­tion pre­vi­ous­ly stat­ed that the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion “weak­ens the lev­el of labour pro­tec­tion, nar­rows the scope of labor rights and social guar­an­tees of employ­ees, in com­par­i­son with the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion”, there­by con­tra­dict­ing Ukraine’s oblig­a­tions under its Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment with the EU. The bill was also strong­ly crit­i­cised by the ILO in Ukraine.

    ...

    Accord­ing to Lich­man, “there are many ways to find a com­pro­mise” on the draft law, includ­ing pro­pos­als from trade unions ahead of the sec­ond read­ing of the leg­is­la­tion. If the sit­u­a­tion dete­ri­o­rates, she says, then trade unions could ask Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyi to use his right to veto new leg­is­la­tion. Lich­man also told open­Democ­ra­cy that the con­cerns from the EU inte­gra­tion par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee have been pre­pared for inclu­sion in the sec­ond read­ing of the pro­posed law.

    Mean­while, Dudin believes Ukraine’s new EU bid could become a “trump card” in the hands of trade unions. “Now human rights, includ­ing labour rights, will be mon­i­tored by the EU. There­fore, trade unions, which are moral­ly right in this sit­u­a­tion – their mem­bers are also at war – can demand a mora­to­ri­um on such reforms in wartime con­di­tions in the spir­it of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion,” he says.
    ...

    But, of course, the EU isn’t just inter­est­ed in uphold­ing labor rights and oth­er human rights. It’s also extreme­ly inter­est­ed in impos­ing bru­tal aus­ter­i­ty on the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and soci­ety. Again, that was more or less the rea­son for­mer pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych ulti­mate­ly decid­ed not to enter Ukraine in the EU Trade Asso­ci­a­tion back in 2013, trig­ger­ing the Maid­an protests. The EU has long been forced to choose between uphold­ing human rights in Ukraine vs aus­ter­i­ty. Aus­ter­i­ty keeps win­ning. So we’ll see whether or not the appeals from Ukraine’s unions fall on deaf ears. Either way, it’s a reminder that accept­ing bru­tal neolib­er­al­ism and the ero­sion of work­er rights was always going to be part of the price Ukraine has to pay for join­ing ‘the West’. The kind of price that is iron­i­cal­ly much eas­i­er to pay when there’s a war to fight.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 21, 2022, 4:35 pm

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