Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass

Exclusive: As the post-coup regime in Ukraine sends troops and paramilitaries to crack down on ethnic Russian protesters in the east, the U.S. news media continues to feed the American public a steady dose of anti-Russian propaganda, often wrapped in accusations of “Russian propaganda,” Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

The acting president of the coup regime in Kiev announces that he is ordering an “anti-terrorist” operation against pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine, while his national security chief says he has dispatched right-wing ultranationalist fighters who spearheaded the Feb. 22 coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

On Tuesday, Andriy Parubiy, head of the Ukrainian National Security Council, went on Twitter to declare, “Reserve unit of National Guard formed #Maidan Self-defense volunteers was sent to the front line this morning.” Parubiy was referring to the neo-Nazi militias that provided the organized muscle that overthrew Yanukovych, forcing him to flee for his life. Some of these militias have since been incorporated into security forces as “National Guard.”

Ukrainian Secretary for National Security Andriy Parubiy.

Ukrainian Secretary for National Security Andriy Parubiy.

Parubiy himself is a well-known neo-Nazi, who founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991. The party blended radical Ukrainian nationalism with neo-Nazi symbols. Parubiy also formed a paramilitary spinoff, the Patriots of Ukraine, and defended the awarding of the title, “Hero of Ukraine,” to World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, whose own paramilitary forces exterminated thousands of Jews and Poles in pursuit of a racially pure Ukraine.

During the months of protests aimed at overthrowing Yanukovych, Parubiy became the commandant of “Euromaidan,” the name for the Kiev uprising, and – after the Feb. 22 coup – Parubiy was one of four far-right Ukrainian nationalists given control of a ministry, i.e. national security.

But the U.S. press has played down his role because his neo-Nazism conflicts with Official Washington’s narrative that the neo-Nazis played little or no role in the “revolution.” References to neo-Nazis in the “interim government” are dismissed as “Russian propaganda.”

Yet there Parubiy was on Tuesday bragging that some of his neo-Nazi storm troopers – renamed “National Guard” – were now being sicced on rebellious eastern Ukraine as part of the Kiev government’s “anti-terrorist” operation.

The post-coup President Oleksandr Turchynov also warned that Ukraine was confronting a “colossal danger,” but he insisted that the suppression of the pro-Russian protesters would be treated as an “anti-terrorist” operation and not as a “civil war.” Everyone should understand by now that “anti-terror” suggests extrajudicial killings, torture and “counter-terror.”

Yet, with much of the Ukrainian military of dubious loyalty to the coup regime, the dispatch of the neo-Nazi militias from western Ukraine’s Right Sektor and Svoboda parties represents a significant development. Not only do the Ukrainian neo-Nazis consider the ethnic Russians an alien presence, but these right-wing militias are organized to wage street fighting as they did in the February uprising.

Historically, right-wing paramilitaries have played crucial roles in “counter-terror” campaigns around the world. In Central America in the 1980s, for instance, right-wing “death squads” did much of the dirty work for U.S.-backed military regimes as they crushed social protests and guerrilla movements.

The merging of the concept of “anti-terrorism” with right-wing paramilitaries represents a potentially frightening development for the people of eastern Ukraine. And much of this information – about Turchynov’s comments and Parubiy’s tweet – can be found in a New York Times’ dispatch from Ukraine.

Whose Propaganda?

However, on the Times’ front page on Wednesday was a bizarre story by David M. Herszenhorn accusing the Russian government of engaging in a propaganda war by making many of the same points that you could find – albeit without the useful context about Parubiy’s neo-Nazi background – in the same newspaper.

In the article entitled “Russia Is Quick To Bend Truth About Ukraine,” Herszenhorn mocked Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev for making a Facebook posting that “was bleak and full of dread,” including noting that “blood has been spilled in Ukraine again” and adding that “the threat of civil war looms.”

The Times article continued, “He [Medvedev] pleaded with Ukrainians to decide their own future ‘without usurpers, nationalists and bandits, without tanks or armored vehicles – and without secret visits by the C.I.A. director.’ And so began another day of bluster and hyperbole, of the misinformation, exaggerations, conspiracy theories, overheated rhetoric and, occasionally, outright lies about the political crisis in Ukraine that have emanated from the highest echelons of the Kremlin and reverberated on state-controlled Russian television, hour after hour, day after day, week after week.”

This argumentative “news” story spilled from the front page to the top half of an inside page, but Herszenhorn never managed to mention that there was nothing false in what Medvedev said. Indeed, it was the much-maligned Russian press that first reported the secret visit of CIA Director John Brennan to Kiev.

Though the White House has since confirmed that report, Herszenhorn cites Medvedev’s reference to it in the context of “misinformation” and “conspiracy theories.” Nowhere in the long article does the Times inform its readers that, yes, the CIA director did make a secret visit to Ukraine last weekend. Presumably, that reality has now disappeared into the great memory hole along with the on-ground reporting from Feb. 22 about the key role of the neo-Nazi militias.

The neo-Nazis themselves have pretty much disappeared from Official Washington’s narrative, which now usually recounts the coup as simply a case of months of protests followed by Yanukovych’s decision to flee. Only occasionally, often buried deep in news articles with the context removed, can you find admissions of how the neo-Nazis spearheaded the coup.

A Wounded Extremist

For instance, on April 6, the New York Times published a human-interest profile of a Ukrainian named Yuri Marchuk who was wounded in clashes around Kiev’s Maidan square in February. You have to read far into the story to learn that Marchuk was a Svoboda leader from Lviv, which – if you did your own research – you would discover is a neo-Nazi stronghold where Ukrainian nationalists hold torch-light parades in honor of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

Without providing that context, the Times does mention that Lviv militants plundered a government weapons depot and dispatched 600 militants a day to do battle in Kiev. Marchuk also described how these well-organized militants, consisting of paramilitary brigades of 100 fighters each, launched the fateful attack against the police on Feb. 20, the battle where Marchuk was wounded and where the death toll suddenly spiked into scores of protesters and about a dozen police.

Marchuk later said he visited his comrades at the occupied City Hall. What the Times doesn’t mention is that City Hall was festooned with Nazi banners and even a Confederate battle flag as a tribute to white supremacy.

The Times touched on the inconvenient truth of the neo-Nazis again on April 12 in an article about the mysterious death of neo-Nazi leader Oleksandr Muzychko, who was killed during a shootout with police on March 24. The article quoted a local Right Sektor leader, Roman Koval, explaining the crucial role of his organization in carrying out the anti-Yanukovych coup.

“Ukraine’s February revolution, said Mr. Koval, would never have happened without Right Sector and other militant groups,” the Times wrote. Yet, that reality – though actually reported in the New York Times – has now become “Russian propaganda,” according to the New York Times.

This upside-down American narrative also ignores the well-documented interference of prominent U.S. officials in stirring up the protesters in Kiev, which is located in the western part of Ukraine and is thus more anti-Russian than eastern Ukraine where many ethnic Russians live and where Yanukovych had his political base.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland was a cheerleader for the uprising, reminding Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” discussing who should replace Yanukovych (her choice, Arseniy Yatsenyuk became the new prime minister), and literally passing out cookies to the protesters in the Maidan. (Nuland is married to neoconservative superstar Robert Kagan, a founder of the Project for the New American Century.)

During the protests, neocon Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, took the stage with leaders of Svoboda – surrounded by banners honoring Stepan Bandera – and urged on the protesters. Even before the demonstrations began, prominent neocon Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, had dubbed Ukraine “the biggest prize.” [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “What’s the Matter with John Kerry?”]

Indeed, in my four-plus decades in journalism, I have never seen a more thoroughly biased and misleading performance by the major U.S. news media. Even during the days of Ronald Reagan – when much of the government’s modern propaganda structure was created – there was more independence in major news outlets. There were media stampedes off the reality cliff during George H.W. Bush’s Persian Gulf War and George W. Bush’s Iraq War, both of which were marked by demonstrably false claims that were readily swallowed by the big U.S. news outlets.

But there is something utterly Orwellian in the current coverage of the Ukraine crisis, including accusing others of “propaganda” when their accounts – though surely not perfect – are much more honest and more accurate than what the U.S. press corps has been producing.

There’s also the added risk that this latest failure by the U.S. press corps is occurring on the border of Russia, a nuclear-armed state that – along with the United States – could exterminate all life on the planet. The biased U.S. news coverage is now feeding into political demands to send U.S. military aid to Ukraine’s coup regime.

The casualness of this propaganda – as it spreads across the U.S. media spectrum from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times – is not just wretched journalism but it is reckless malfeasance jeopardizing the lives of many Ukrainians and the future of the planet.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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26 comments on “Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass

  1. lumpentroll on said:

    …in my four-plus decades in journalism, I have never seen a more thoroughly biased and misleading performance by the major U.S. news media.

    This is absolutely correct.

    Everywhere the necons are taking losses and their media looks panicky. Putin has again shown himself to be too wily to take the bait. Ukrainian soldiers and security personel have been mostly unwilling to kill their own people and the result has been a sudden collapse in the perceived authority of Victoria Nuland’s gangsters. The authority of the putschists in Kiev is rapidly disintegrating.

    I have noticed other signs of panic including the censoring of several websites critical of Israeli crackdowns on Christians and Palestinians in Jerusalem in Canada (easily circumvented). Try this link:

    nsnbc.me

    We are in one of those in between moments when it becomes difficult or impossible to sustain the mirage of consensus reality.

  2. F. G. Sanford on said:

    The linguistic allusions to non-existent threats have become almost pornographic. Consider the supposed Russian troop movements. First, there’s all this “massing” we hear about, and these masses are “thrusting”. Of course, there was a similar US tactic employed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we called that “surging”. Massing, apparently, is a surge without any actual penetration. But we must recall that penetration, no matter how slight, constitutes completion of the act. Massing does not constitute penetration, but it certainly confirms the intention to thrust if in fact penetration does occur.

    Russian “massing” has evolved from the same linguistic cesspool that gave us the Iranian nuclear “capability”. They have no weapons program, but they have nuclear “capability”. Ergo, they too have latent “thrusting” intentions.

    Eastern Ukrainians are protesting the fascist neo-Nazi puppet government installed by the US, so they are, by definition, “Pro-Russian”. Obviously, that makes Russia responsible for any anti-Nazi sentiment toward the tanks, armed personnel carriers and soldiers dispatched to bring enlightenment to Eastern Ukraine.

    But what to our wondering eyes should appear, but those tanks and soldiers seem to be defecting in droves to the Eastern cause. That makes them Pro-Russian too. So, are they guilty of massing, thrusting, penetrating, retreating, early withdrawal, or premature ejaculation?

    Meanwhile, Russia’s Gazprom just signed a deal with China likely to bitch-slap the petrodollar. In the midst of a dispute over Senkaku between a militarily resurgent Japan and a not too worried about it China, Hagel has reassured both sides that the US has no official position. La Merkel is so frustrated by the whole mess that she’s vacationing in “Sunny Italy”. William Shirer, in his “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, was fond of calling it that. The big story in Europe is that Putin called, and she couldn’t say enough about the Bucatini al Sugo di Coniglio. Gee, I wonder how he got her number? So…I wonder how the Neocons and the mainstream media will spin all this when Kiev’s slapstick bunch of clowns masquerading as a government finally crumbles?

    • lumpentroll on said:

      We are all Eastern Ukrainians now!

      And we have a template for resistance to oligarchy.

      • adfadf on said:

        For the love of whatever, nuke the damn Russians.

        • Eugen on said:

          Bring it on, Yankee. I will gladly burn in nuclear fire with you. We may be separated by ocean, but we will share the same fate. Isn’t that romantic?

  3. jaycee on said:

    The coverage has been distinctly Orwellian, textbook doublethink plus the Daily Hate session. The New York Times itself reported accurately the central role of the neo-Nazi militias in its reports from February 21/22. Since, its been journalism on autopilot.

    • Like in the US, there is a “far right” party in Ukraine. In the last election they represent less than 1% of the voters..more recently they have grown in number and are still under 10% of the citizenry.. that percentage is naturally higher in some provinces in the west.. but still, a small minority. However, like most extremist, they are very vocal and very scary. Thankfully the current government that is still in control is much more Centrist and supported by the majority.

  4. lumpentroll on said:

    How Putin stopped regime change in Ukraine:

    Step 1 — Russia bans GMO

    http://csglobe.com/putin-russia-must-protect-citizens-gmos/

    Step 2 — Devastate Ukrainian army by sharing non-GMO food.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/17/ukrainian-troops-surrender-to-unarmed-pro-russian-protesters.html

  5. Cringleburt on said:

    Now lets take this times article and change a few things, you can easily flip this and it matches pretty well:

    “It is an extraordinary propaganda campaign that political analysts say reflects a new brazenness on the part of (American) officials. And in recent days, it has largely succeeded — at least for (America’s) domestic audience — in painting a picture of chaos and danger in eastern Ukraine, although it was pro-(Western) forces themselves who created it by seizing public buildings and setting up roadblocks.

    In essence, (America’s) state-controlled news media outlets are loudly and incessantly calling on Ukraine and the international community to calm a situation that (Crimea), the (Russians) and the (East) say the (USA) is doing its best to destabilize.

    Even the United Nations weighed in. In a report released Tuesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that threats to ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, cited repeatedly by (American) officials and in the (American) news media as a potential rationale for (United States) military action, were exaggerated and that some participants in the protests in the region came from (the United States).”

    Sound familiar at all?

  6. florin on said:

    Does the Jewishness of the neocons, much of the major media, the relevant actors in the State Dept (and treasury) and the handpicked new Ukrainian leader and oligarchs (Jews are less than 1% of their pop.) And of most of the oligarchs Putin prosecuted and chased from Russia have nothing to do with the story?

    Nothing at all?

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      I suggest substituting “Bolshevists” for “Neocons”, then re-read the script and see if it retains ideological continuity. Who, after all were the Bolshevists? The EU (read European Soviet Neocon Republics) has simply become the mirror image of what used to be the USSR. Out with one set of oligarchs, and in with another. “Communism” never actually existed. It was a cover story for a bunch of plutocrats who raped half the world with austerity falsely branded as collectivism.

  7. Sam Williams on said:

    I’m not sure all the protesters in eastern Ukraine are “Pro-Russian.” The term does satisfy certain propagandistic goals, though. Maybe “Anti-Coup” is more accurate. If Congress suddenly deposed Obama and appointed as president someone the Canadian Ambassador selected, I might occupy city hall to prevent a regime-dispatched apparatchik from replacing our mayor. But that wouldn’t make me “Pro-Mexican” – even if Mexico was the only country declaring that congress had staged a coup.

  8. elmerfudzie on said:

    Since the early nineties, Russia may indeed have suffered a precipitous fall in GDP, rumored to be equivalent to the Netherlands, even so, she remains a formidable influence both political and economic over it’s immediate neighbors, who happen to be customers and end users of it’s gas and oil. Add to this equation, a new and enormous petroleum reserve discovery in the Astrakhan region. My point is, Russia is much more than just a so called, nuclear “banana republic”. It has great scientific prowess and political savvy, enough to pull Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire during recent developments in Syria. Derogatory statements and provocations from Senator John McCain and his Neo-Con clique are not what’s needed now. As a matter of fact, McCain looks a bit stiff in front of the camera these days, he should take two aspirin and just go to bed. Eventually our country will need Russian support for the USD’s stability and value. The BRICs and PIIGS nations will gradually form an alliance to challenge our reserve currency privilege, frankly when that day comes, I’d rather give Putin a telephone call than members of the CCP. You can bet that the Japanese will be of like mind in all this. So Mr. President, be nice to Lavrov and give him a hug, politically speaking we’ve had strange bed fellows before, eh?

  9. Russia on said:

    Thank you for the truth

  10. Dmitry on said:

    Hi from Russia guys! It’s a pity but whats written here is not so far from reality, i’m living just 100 km away from Eastern Ukraine and as other russians do have realtives and friends in there. I know for most of yours views on Ukraine are based on CNN and BBC but the real thing is that Ukraine is too close for civil war. The really sad thing is that US and Russia are making troble where it shouldn’t be, at least here everyone knows that Wester part of Ukraine is backed by EU and US and East is backed by Russians. The true is that there’s no russian military in Donets and other eastern regions, but the fact is that Russians are supporting at least verbally “rebells
    ‘ from the East. People there ( i’ve spoken with few people from Ukraine) really want referendum, russian as second national language and federalization. People from western part want NATO and become part of EU in near future. The main trouble is that the wealthiest part is Eastern pro-russian part and in case of new born Ukrainian state it’ll collapse due to default and economic crack down and i believe people in Kiev understand it clearly. I really hope that Russia and US will not start a new “cold” war since its contrproductive and make people decide what they want. Probably federalization or by splitting up in 2 new states is the best decision, anyway let people decid what they want.

  11. seriously,thanks.voice of reason.god bless you, mr.Parry.the truth always comes to the surface. it was with Georgia and will with Ukraine. Russia can wait.

  12. mrtmbrnmn on said:

    Once again Robert Parry you are doing the Lord’s work. This US-NeoConcocted Ukraine clown show is more absurd than “Duck Soup”. Hail! Hail! Freedonia! Where is Rufus T. Firefly when we need him?? And as for the New York Times (Slimes?), it has become such a toxic rag of lies, it would kill a parrot if you lined the bottom of a birdcage with it.
    Keep up the good work, sir!

  13. Rollin on on said:

    Russia really should just roll over the fascist pigs that have been unleashed in Ukraine. Hell, if the USA can launch shock and awe on Iraq without any justification whatsoever (and without any consequences), then no one should question the Russians on anything they do in Ukraine. At least they have a reason to be there. The US set the precedent; why not jump on the bandwagon?

  14. And main stream media wonders why their subscriptions have been dropping through the floor.