Exclusive: When Ukrainian neo-Nazis infuriated over the killing of an ultranationalist leader surrounded the Parliament in Kiev, the incident presented a problem for the U.S. news media which has been trying to airbrush the neo-Nazis out of the Ukraine narrative, Robert Parry reports.
By Robert Parry
The U.S. media’s take on the Ukraine crisis is that a “democratic revolution” ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, followed by a “legitimate” change of government. So, to mention the key role played neo-Nazi militias in the putsch or to note that Yanukovych was democratically elected and then illegally deposed gets you dismissed as a “Russian propagandist.”
But Ukraine’s neo-Nazis are not some urban legend. Their presence is real, as they swagger in their paramilitary garb through the streets of Kiev, displaying Nazi insignias, honoring SS collaborators from World War II, and hoisting racist banners, including the white-power symbol of the Confederate battle flag.
Over the past few days, the neo-Nazis have surged to the front of Ukraine’s unrest again by furiously protesting the killing of one of their leaders, Oleksandr Muzychko, known as Sashko Bily. The Interior Ministry reported that Muzychko died in a Monday night shoot-out with police in Rivne in western Ukraine.
But the right-wing paramilitaries claim that Muzychko was murdered in a cold-blooded contract hit, and these modern-day storm troopers have threatened to storm the parliament building if the interim Interior Minister is not fired.
This renewed disorder has complicated the storytelling of the major U.S. news media by challenging the sweetness-and-light narrative preferred by U.S. policymakers. The New York Times, the Washington Post and other leading news outlets have worked hard to airbrush the well-established fact that neo-Nazi militants spearheaded the coup on Feb. 22.
To dismiss that inconvenient fact, the major U.S. media has stressed that the extreme rightists made up a minority of the demonstrators, which while true is largely irrelevant since it was the paramilitary Right Sektor that provided the armed force that removed Yanukovych and then dominated the “transition” period by patrolling key government buildings. As a reward, far-right parties were given control of four ministries.
Some U.S. outlets also have picked up on the unsubstantiated U.S. government theme that Russia is dispatching unidentified “provocateurs” to destabilize the coup regime in Kiev, though it doesn’t seem like Moscow would have to do much besides stand aside and watch the interim government’s unruly supporters turn on each other.
But reality has stopped playing much of a role in the U.S. news media’s Ukraine reporting as the U.S. press continues to adjust the reality to fit with the desired narrative. For instance, the New York Times, in its boilerplate account of the uprising, has removed the fact that more than a dozen police were among the 80 or so people killed. The Times now simply reports that police fired on and killed about 80 demonstrators.
Fitting with its bowdlerized account, the Times also ignores evidence that snipers who apparently fired on both police and protesters before the coup may have been working for the opposition, not Yanukovych’s government. An intercepted phone call by two European leaders discussed those suspicions as well as the curious decision of the post-coup government not to investigate who the snipers really were.
Surrounding the Parliament
But most significantly, the U.S. mainstream media has struggled to downplay the neo-Nazi angle as was apparent in the Times’ report on President Vladimir Putin’s call on Friday to President Barack Obama to discuss possible steps to defuse the crisis. Putin noted that neo-Nazis had surrounded the parliament.
“In citing extremist action, Mr. Putin sought to capitalize on a tense internal showdown in Kiev,” the Times wrote. “The presence of masked, armed demonstrators threatening to storm the Parliament building offered the Russian government an opportunity to bolster its contention that the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a Moscow ally, after pro-European street protests last month was an illegal coup carried out by right-wing extremists with Western encouragement.”
But the Times couldn’t simply let those facts speak for themselves, though they were all true: right-wing extremists did provide the key manpower and organization to overrun government buildings on Feb. 22 and there is no doubt that these right-wing elements were getting Western encouragement, including a shoulder-to-shoulder appearance by Sen. John McCain.
The Times felt compelled to interject an argumentative counterpoint, saying: “In fact, the nationalist groups, largely based in western Ukraine, had formed just one segment of a broad coalition of demonstrators who occupied the streets of Kiev for months demanding Mr. Yanukovych’s ouster.”
And, that has been a consistent pattern for the supposedly objective U.S. news media. If the Russians say something, even if it is clearly true, the point must be contradicted. However, when a U.S. official states something about the Ukraine crisis, the claim goes unchallenged no matter how absurd.
For example, when Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Putin’s intervention in Crimea by declaring, “you just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext,” mainstream U.S. news outlets simply let the statement stand without noting that Kerry himself had voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
You might think that Kerry’s breathtaking hypocrisy would be newsworthy or at least a relevant fact that should be pointed out to readers, but no. The Times also has routinely distorted Crimea’s secession from Ukraine. The Black Sea peninsula, a longtime Russian province that was only attached to Ukraine for administrative purposes during Soviet days, asserted its independence after the coup ousting Yanukovych, who had won Crimea overwhelmingly.
No one seriously doubts that the vast majority of Crimean citizens wanted to escape the disorder and hardship enveloping Ukraine and to return to Russia with its higher per capita income and functioning national government but the Obama administration and the dutiful U.S. news media have pretended otherwise.
In New York Times speak, Crimea’s popular vote to secede from Ukraine and to join Russia was simply Putin’s “seizure” of Crimea. The Times and other mainstream news outlets dismissed Crimea’s March 16 referendum as somehow rigged citing the 96 percent tally for secession as presumptive evidence of fraud although there was no actual evidence of election rigging. Exit polls confirmed the overwhelming majority favoring secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia.
And, really, who could blame the people of Crimea? As Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has said, Ukraine “is on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy” and the International Monetary Fund agreed to throw a financial lifeline only if Ukraine imposes “reforms” that Yatsenyuk has admitted are “very unpopular, very difficult, very tough.”
They will be toughest on average Ukrainians who will face severe public sector budget cuts, slashed pensions, soaring heating costs and rapid inflation due to changes in the exchange rate. The cumulative impact of these IMF “reforms” is expected to result in a 3 percent contraction of Ukraine’s already depressed economy.
Yet, much of the mainstream U.S. media ignores the understandable desire of the Crimean people to bail out on the failed Ukrainian state. Instead, the MSM pretends that Russia simply invaded Crimea and now is threatening to do the same in eastern Ukraine, or as the Times put it, Putin has engaged in “provocative moves punctuated by a menacing buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border.”
The bottom line is that the U.S. government and media have constructed a substantially false narrative for the American people, all the better to manufacture consent behind a $1 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine and the launch of a new Cold War with the expectation of many more exciting confrontations to come in places like Syria and Iran all justifying fatter military budgets.
A more objective and less alarmist narrative on the Ukraine crisis would describe Putin’s actions as primarily defensive and reactive. He was distracted by the Winter Olympics in Sochi and was caught off-guard by the violent putsch that removed Yanukovych.
In light of Yanukovych’s democratic election victory in 2010 and his agreement on Feb. 21 to speed up new elections (a deal that was negated within hours by the U.S./EU-supported coup), Russia has a legitimate argument that the coup regime in Kiev is illegitimate.
The removal of Yanukovych not only was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias but subsequent parliamentary actions to “impeach” him did not follow Ukraine’s constitutional rules. The putsch essentially disenfranchised the large ethnic-Russian populations in the east and south, where Yanukovych had his political base.
Then, the rump parliament in Kiev reflecting the intense Ukrainian nationalism in the western section passed punitive laws targeting these Russian speakers, including elimination of Russian as an official language. For Putin to be troubled by this crisis on his border — and to take action — was neither surprising nor particularly provocative.
If the New York Times and other leading U.S. outlets did their journalism in a professional way, the American people would have had a more nuanced understanding of what happened in Ukraine and why. Instead, the Times and the rest of the MSM resumed their roles as U.S. propagandists, much as they did in Iraq in 2002-03 with their usual preference for a simplistic “good-guy/bad-guy” dichotomy.
In the case of Ukraine, that happy dichotomy has been challenged again by the reemergence of those inconvenient neo-Nazis.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Danger of False Narrative.”]
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.
Nice to see that in the west still exists opinion different from the opinion of the popular media. I’m scared of what the world sees in Russia monsters and do not want to see that the annexation of the Crimea was the only possible way. NATO in Crimea for us it’s like the Russian army in Mexico for americans. I never voted for Putin, but if he gave Crimea for EU/US it fell on my eyes even more.
In my opinion the only practical peaceful way to save Ukraineâ€™s Potemkinin villages as independent united state â€“ Crimea excluded – is that the political elites from moderate opposition parties now ruling in Kiev and Party of regions plus other parties from ousted government as well oligarchs behind them join their forces to slam The Right Sector and similar groups down. One possible way of preserving territorial integrity would be decentralization â€” giving more autonomy to the different regions of Ukraine. Although federalization – even confederation – is seen in Kiev and western Ukraine as a step toward ultimate partition, it could in fact help hold Ukraine together. (P.S: More in â€œFarewell Ukrainian Independency And Democracyâ€ – http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/farewell-ukrainian-independency-and-democracy/ )
“But reality has stopped playing much of a role in the U.S. news mediaâ€™s Ukraine reporting…”
It’s not just in relation to the reports of what’s going on in the Ukraine. It’s how the media handles all the news. They put their own special slant on all of it.
While I agree with almost all of this analysis, in regards to the intercepted phone call of Estonian Foreign Minister, the doctor he quotes Dr. Olga Bogomolets as saying the sniper bullets killing protesters and policeman were the same has since denied saying any of this in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. I would not doubt it if she backed off because of fear of reprisal, but nevertheless a second hand quote that has been refuted by the ultimate source could undermine your very valid argument. Russian Minsister Lavrov now claims he has irrefutable evidence that the Right Sector was behind the sniper shootings. Maybe this could prove to be more solid evidence.
You are doing fine work! As the old saying goes: Lies get halfway around the world before the truth even gets its boots on. The liars have a big head start on you but you are gaining on them. Alas virtually everything in our government (society?) is now little more than a complete tissue of lies. Keep smacking these villains with the truth!
On March 27, 2014 in the New York Times (USA) Financial Post (Canada) and Haaretz (Israel) the combined Jewish communities of Ukraine published an open letter to Vladimir Putin of Russia.
The letter made it clear that there were no Neo Nazis, xenophobia or anti-semitims in Ukraine.
They were clear in stating that there was a BIG NEO NAZI movement in Russia which was trying to export it’s racism to Ukraine where none existed.
I appreciate Mr. Parry’s relentless defense of the truth.
From the published ‘shoot-out’ scene photographs, Sashko Bily’s body showed greenish discoloration over the abdomen – suggesting he has been killed earlier than the’ Monday night shoot out’ – whatever that means. Anyway the Satraps of Kiev have been busy cleaning up the dog droppings before inviting the international bankers to the garden party. Couldn’t have our roving Ambassadress Victoria (‘F— the EU’) Nuland arm in arm with her old comrade Sashko.
If they were smart they’d go after Greystone Limited and Blackwater/Academi inside the Ukraine first. That will be who they will be facing if they try an uprising against the Vatican controlled Maidan sniper brigade.
Radio Free Europe says: “Sashko Biliy,” was a frequent target of Russian authorities looking to portray Euromaidan protesters as neo-Nazis and fascists…At the time of his death, he was under investigation by a Ukrainian organized-crime unit.” Not much of a Ukrainian leader; even for a wanna be.
Lucas, It is widely known that RFE employed many Ukrainian Nazis after WWII, including Stepan Bandera. I note that you keep mentioning UCCA, OUN, Pravy Sektor and Svoboda talking points, then claim to be bewildered when anyone corrects your misinformation. For instance, you keep saying you don’t understand why the interim government is illegitimate when a 450 member Verkhova Rada majority voted. Only 328 members were allowed to vote, and their constitution requires a majority of 338 to impeach. I suggest you read, “7 Decades of Nazi Collaboration: US’s Dirty Little Ukraine Secret”, by Paul H. Rosenberg. Helpful references include “Blowback”, by Christopher Simpson and “Old Nazis, The New Right And The Republican Party” by Russ Bellant. Your repeated objections to the same facts indicate that you are either senile or a partisan SOCK PUPPET.
Interesting that you rail against RFE, who agrees with you about the legality of the vote. I would still argue that Yanukovych abandoned his post to avoid impeachment until he received support from Putin, and that a parliamentary body is more democratic than a Presidency.
There was no proper impeachment of Yanukovych, and about sixty deputies from the Party of Regions became “independent” and voted for Yanukovych’s ousting under pressure and death threats from Majdan armed thugs, who were present in unprotected Parliament during its “revolutionary” session….
I’m not going to bother looking up the “talking points” of UCCA, OUN, Pravy Sektor and Svoboda. I’m going to assume by your context that they are nazi movements. I have no doubt that there are extremist there. I expect there are more per capita than there are here in the US. I just don’t buy the premise that they are behind all of this. I think they are just taking advantage of the chaos. It bothers me that some of them have been placed into key positions. We will see.