Ethnic Russians Are People, Too

Exclusive: There’s an odor of prejudice in how the mainstream U.S. news media treats the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, as if they are mindless beings, easily duped “minions” of Vladimir Putin. But this bias reflects more negatively on the U.S. press than on the people who are being insulted, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

So what does the New York Times have against Ukraine’s ethnic Russians? While the newspaper has fallen over itself insisting on the “legitimacy” of the coup regime in Kiev, despite its collaboration with neo-Nazis who spearheaded the Feb. 22 ouster of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, the Times editors can’t hurl enough insults at the ethnic Russians in the east who have resisted the regime’s authority.

For weeks, the Times has called the eastern Ukrainian rebel leaders “self-declared” and ridiculed the idea that there was any significant backing for the rejection of the Kiev-appointed regional leaders; all the trouble was simply stirred up by Vladimir Putin. Now, however, the referenda in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk have demonstrated what even a Times reporter acknowledged was “substantial popular support for the pro-Russian separatists in some areas.”

A Ukrainian woman voting in the May 11, 2014 referendum on independence for sections of eastern Ukraine. (Screen shot from RT video)

A Ukrainian woman voting in the May 11, 2014 referendum on independence for sections of eastern Ukraine. (Screen shot from RT video)

But the Times editors still won’t give up their prejudices. For instance, Tuesday’s lead editorial begins: “If there were questions about the legitimacy of the separatist referendums in eastern Ukraine, the farcical names of the entities on which people were asked to vote, the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk or Luhansk, surely answered them.”

So, the votes and the desires of eastern Ukrainians shouldn’t matter because the Times disapproves of “the farcical names of the entities” that people voted for.

The Times then suggests that violence that marred the referenda was the fault of the rebels, not the Kiev regime’s National Guard, which includes the neo-Nazi militias that threw fire bombs at police during the Maidan protests in February and are now carrying out the most lethal attacks against protesters in cities in the east and south.

Of course, according to the Times’ narrative, these neo-Nazis from western Ukraine don’t exist, so the violence must be palmed off on others or be treated like the natural occurrence of a spring thunderstorm. In Tuesday’s editorial, the Times wrote: “But the gathering rumble of violence accompanying the votes is serious and is driving the Ukrainian crisis in a direction that before long no one, not President Vladimir Putin of Russia, not authorities in Kiev, not the West, will be able to control.”

However, even the Times’ own field reporter noted that the violence during the referenda on Sunday was provoked by those new National Guard forces that attacked some polling places. The Times’ editors must assume that most of the newspaper’s readers aren’t paying close attention to the details.

The other part of the Times’ Ukraine narrative is that Putin provoked the unrest in Ukraine so he could seize territory, although no less an authority on power politics than former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says that notion “isn’t possible,” adding that Putin simply was reacting to events that caught him off-guard as he was coming out of the Winter Olympics at Sochi.

Yet, the Times ignores this more realistic scenario of a Western-pushed destabilization of the Yanukovych government that involved demands that Ukraine accept a harsh austerity plan from the International Monetary Fund and that spiraled into a violent “regime change” and instead puts the blame on Putin, who the Times says must be told to get “his minions in southeastern Ukraine in line.”

Otherwise, the Times blusters “the European Union and the United States will impose sanctions that will cut Russia off for a long time from Western sources of technology, arms and finance.”

While the Times editorial accurately reflects the swaggering belligerence of Official Washington, the editors still refuse to see the Ukraine crisis in objective terms, in which both the western Ukrainians who favor closer ties with Europe and the eastern Ukrainians whose economy is dependent on trade with Russia have legitimate concerns.

The ethnic Russians in the east are not simply dupes who fall for clumsy propaganda and mindlessly follow the dictates of Vladimir Putin. They are human beings who have their own legitimate view of their political situation and who can make judgments about what course of action is best for their interests. As difficult as life in Ukraine is, it is sure to be worse once the IMF’s harsh austerity is imposed on the country’s population.

The Times and many others in the Western media insult these ethnic Russians with a disdainful treatment that treats them as lesser beings and assumes that only the pro-European Ukrainians in the west deserve respect for their opinions.

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 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.

17 comments for “Ethnic Russians Are People, Too

  1. Vitaliy
    May 14, 2014 at 13:07

    It isn’t funny anecdote. I’m able to translate it, however I suppose you won’t like it =)

  2. Mike
    May 14, 2014 at 12:58

    Starting in the 1930’s entire populations of ethnic Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Ukrainians (to name a few) were relocated to gulags, forced labor camps, starved to death or simply shot and were replaced by ethnic Russian populations more loyal to Moscow. Dont expect me to have any sympathy for them.

    • May 14, 2014 at 23:41

      This is preposterous comment. Even if what you claimed was true it does not mean that the Russians are the culprits as you seem to imply. Stalin is, and Stalin was NOT Russian. He was a Georgian. So why don’t you blame the Georgians for everything that went wrong during the Stalin era?

      • Mike
        May 16, 2014 at 09:35

        Stalin may have been Georgian, but he understood the best way to keep uppity areas of the Soviet Union under control was through Russianization .

        Also, are you claiming Russianization was not carried out in these regions?

  3. Erin
    May 14, 2014 at 11:30

    It was be great to know what Popov said. Can anyone translate?

    • Yuri
      May 14, 2014 at 13:53

      It’s an anecdote about a lesson, geography one I presume, in an american school. The teacher asks students what are the meaning of the colours of the Russian flag. First the teacher asks about red colour, and one of the kids says that it represents the colour of blood that would spill when we slit their throats. Then the teacher asks about blue colour, and another kid says that it represents the colour of the rivers where we shall drown them. When the teacher asks about white colour no one raises their hands, and after a while yet another kid, who happened to be a descendant of Russian immigrants, says that it represents the colour of snow that all the present will be shoveling away for what they had just said.

    • from google translator
      May 14, 2014 at 15:01

      School . USA.
      – Children ! Today the lesson study Russian flag … How do you think it means red in the flag of Russian ?
      A forest of hands ….
      – Bill , answer !
      – Red color on the flag Russian means the color of blood , which we let out of their throats !
      – Good for Bill ! Excellent ! And how do you think it means blue in Russian flag ?
      A forest of hands ….
      – Come on , George , answer !
      – The blue color on the flag of Russian means the color of the rivers in which we drown Russian !
      – That’s right , George ! Excellent ! What can you say about the white flag on the Russian ?
      Silence … All wilted …. Only Little Vovochka , the son of Russian immigrants, pulls little hand … Teacher of despair raises Vovka …
      – Come Vova , answer …
      Vova slowly …
      A white flag on the Russian, means – color of white, cold, frozen Siberian snow, that you all will throw with shovels for yours dirty words …

  4. Michael Kenny
    May 14, 2014 at 09:18

    “As difficult as life in Ukraine is, it is sure to be worse once the IMF’s harsh austerity is imposed on the country’s population”. With that sentence, Mr Parry gives himself away. He doesn’t care one whit for the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine (and, being the result of Soviet-era colonisation, such minorities exist in all the provinces, even the most westerly). He is simply using them, and thereby not treating them as human beings, as a weapon to attack the EU, the destruction of which some Americans have elevated into an obsessive fetish. So let us take Mr Parry’s advice and not simply be dupes who fall for clumsy propaganda, in this case, his.

    • Gregory Kruse
      May 14, 2014 at 13:16

      The Walton family owns as much wealth as the bottom 40% of the US wealth scale. This is the result of neo-liberal policies spreading all over the world, and the IMF is the main spatula doing the spreading. If you don’t know that, you are either willfully ignorant or one of those neo-liberals. Propaganda is used by the rich and powerful to increase their wealth and power, not by poor journalists still concerned with truth.

  5. Duane
    May 13, 2014 at 22:26

    Living in the heart of North America we see daily propoganda and it’s not hard to see the gullibility of people uninformed ….and control through the centrally owned media and how masses can be manipulated…….just like in the Hitler days past.

  6. Socaldoc
    May 13, 2014 at 21:44

    Thank you for bringing this serious issue up! My father is from Western Ukraine, my mother is Russian, but we lived in Lithuania up until I was 19 y.o. . I have never been to Ukraine myself, but I can not watch and listen all the negativity and derogatory statements towards the Russian Ukrainians. I live in Los Angeles and here most people have no clue about the real facts and genocide that is going on in the Eastern Ukraine. I realize that truth is always in between, so I watch Ukrainian, Russian, European news, BBC, CNN. It is a shame that Russian Ukrainians have to live in fear now because these criminals, skinheads, and brainless crackheads make it their mission to kill Russians in their “ethnic cleansing” effort. And what makes most people amazed that so many countries support this genocide. Just watch the videos that the Right Sector posted of them laughing and joking about burning Russian-Ukrainians in Odessa Trade Center when they go through the corpses as they count how many they have burnt. How can anyone support these neo-Nazis who strangled the pregnant woman and then burnt her, or killed a woman with kids. And it all because they had a different point of view. Thank you for writing about this on your site, as it appears Jen Psaki is clueless about what she is talking about as she repeats like a parrot everything Ukrainian junta tells the US. Apparently, killing people on the streets and burning them alive is USA approved since they conveniently call them “terrorists”.

    • WiseMonkey
      May 14, 2014 at 00:04

      I feel the same exact way you do. It’s painful to see how people here in the US don’t know any facts, but most importantly, don’t want to know. No one cares to check different sources in order to get a more or less objective picture. People just mindlessly repeat the MSM propaganda they are bombarded with all day long. I am in LA too btw. I also check every media source I can to compare information. And my parents are originally from Ukraine, so I have been indirectly affected by all the bloody history of the region and all the collective trauma. That’s why I don’t even want to talk to Americans about it. I know they will never understand..

      • Katherine
        May 14, 2014 at 10:43

        Bravo! Such a relief to hear some sense being spoken of Russians, or “ethnic Russians,” or “Russian speakers,” or “pro-Russian Ukrainians,” or whatever the phrase du jour. I am really appalled at the ignorance shown by the NYT. New York is supposed to be a cosmopolitan place. These are articles sound as though they emanate from some bayou backwater. Actually, I expect the backwater bayous may be home to more human and also sophisticated viewpoints than the “Gray Lady.” Gray Lady, what has happened to your gray cells?

        Residents of Eastern Ukraine are probably a good bit more politically astute than NYT writers.

    • May 14, 2014 at 11:15

      Could you post some of the videos here? One pretty good video was posted by MarkU some time ago:
      I think it summarizes it well.
      Pick the best video and send it to all your friends. (If you pick more than one they will not watch any.)

  7. Bill Jones
    May 13, 2014 at 19:09

    It’s odd, or not, how little the concept of “Consent of the governed” has been aired in the West’s media whorehouses..

  8. Frank Benjamin
    May 13, 2014 at 16:45

    My whole life, we’ve been told, “Amerika good, Russia bad!”
    The last leader, who tried to humanize the Russian people, and pay tribute to Russia’s enormous sacrifice during WW2, lost his head in Dallas.
    No politician wants a motorcade through Dallas!

  9. Yaroslav
    May 13, 2014 at 16:04

    There are many similar questions. So most of Americans beleive in the official versions (it seems there aren’t many mass protests against evident lie and hypocrisy). Why?
    E.g. demonization of Putin. Is Putin an all-mighty devil and are all Russians just his brainless puppets? Or are they speechless slaves? Or are all Russians inborn evils? So what did Russians (in Russia!) do so bad to an average American?

    Or do Americans just like fairy-tales with monsters confusing fantasy and reality?
    (or elusive Putins minions at eastern Ukraine…)

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