A few months ago in the community in which I live, a local church, one which I admire for its strong sense of community and social activism, put up a sign outside the church stating “We stand with Ukraine.” That led to some reflection on my part.
What disturbs me about the slogan is the image it portrays of a united Ukraine. Did the church know that the country has been in a state of civil war since 2014, I wondered? Exactly which Ukrainians were they standing with?
In the endless media portrayal presented to us of a righteous and courageous Ukrainian government fighting an unprovoked and unjustified invasion by Russia, the plight of the people of Eastern Ukraine is rarely spoken about. No one seems to notice that civilian deaths and destruction have so far overwhelmingly taken place in the Russian speaking part of the country. For the first eight months of the war there was little to no fighting in western Ukraine.
The “We stand with Ukraine.” slogan Is ubiquitous across the media - which is why I was so pleased to discover “Don’t ‘Stand with Ukraine.’ Push for Peace instead.” It’s the title of a recent article in Passage, a moderately left leaning alternative media site. This is the first time I’ve seen a Canadian publication challenge the official narrative spewed out to us endlessly by government, our television sets and most media on-line sites. It’s a timely article, coming just after the Canadian government’s announcement that we will be sending a further $500 million more in military aid to Ukraine. We’ve already sent $600 million.
How much of Ukraine media coverage is propaganda?
Have you noticed how much the narrative we read or hear on mainstream media has been personalized to depict good vs evil? Google the words evil and Putin and check out the number of articles using words like murderous, deranged, kleptocratic, tyrant, etc. to describe him. At the very least, this is a massive insult to the Russian people who have repeatedly elected him president and whose support he still has after nine months of a very painful war.
Then there are the interviews, inevitably with "experts" who somehow almost always have a perspective that fits the paradigm of an unprovoked aggression. When was the last time you heard someone actually explain why the people of Donetsk and Luhansk felt so betrayed by the Kiev government that they declared themselves autonomous republics? Rarely does the media allude to the civil war that has been tearing Ukraine apart since 2014.
Instead, the media prefers a simplistic explanation for the invasion. A power hungry Russia is there to recapture territory lost after the fall of the USSR. We never question why Russia, the largest country in the world, would want to annex a nation burdened by fascist and Neo-Nazi influences, power hungry oligarchs, racism, corruption and a dislike and distrust of anything Russian amongst a sizeable part of the population.
But then we never hear about that on mainstream media, do we?
Let's talk about that civil war.
The Ukrainian civil war began after the February 14th, 2014 revolution or coup (depending on your information source) that ousted then President Yanukovych.
The first legislative act of the new government was to rescind the status of Russian as one of the two official languages of the country, in spite of the fact that approximately 30% of Ukrainians claim Russian as their native tongue. This was later followed by banning Russian as the language of instruction in public schools.
To put that in perspective, what do you think the response of Quebecers would be if these restrictions were imposed on them? I suspect, very much the same as that of Donetsk and Luhansk.
In May, 2014, Donetsk and Luhansk held referendums on separation and subsequently declared themselves autonomous (but not independent) republics. This was not to be allowed. Government forces attacked the region and that led to civil war and the direct death of 14,000 civilians over the next eight year. 81% of the casualities, according to a United Nations report, were Russian speaking.
Halfhearted attempts by Germany and France to broker a settlement through the Minsk Agreements failed as it became more and more clear that Zelensky was not interested, or not allowed, to enter into serious negotiations. In late 2021 there was a government buildup of forces along the border with the two republics. Clearly the war was heating up.
The ultimate trigger for the Russian invasion was the intensification of Ukrainian artillery shelling of the Russian speaking Donbas region starting on the 16th of February. This led to the Russian government finally recognizing the two republics and signing with them an agreement of cooperation, friendship and help. On the 24th of February Russian troops arrived in the republics.
Is the war in Ukraine a proxy war?
In a previous blog I suggested that Ukrainians might be the victims of a proxy war. By that I meant a war covertly planned and instigated by NATO countries to destabilize Russia without NATO having to get militarily involved itself. I speculated that Ukraine, with its existing tensions between the two linguistic/cultural groups, might have been seen as the perfect battleground.
Whether that was the case or not, it's clear by the massive amount of armaments that have continued to flow into Ukraine that NATO countries have been in no hurry to see this war end. Why is that?
For seven months the Russians confined their battles to pushing back government forces in the Russian speaking zone of Ukraine. During that period Putin repeatedly called for negotiations and made his bottom line clear. Ukraine was to be demilitarized, meaning no more attacks on Russian speaking areas of the country, and NATO was to withdraw its offer of membership to Ukraine. That included no NATO military in the country and an end to the multiple western financed biolabs in the country. Currently there are 46 of them.
To put the latter condition in perspective, how do you think the United States would react if Mexico were to allow Russian troops or biolabs in the country?
What's next for Ukraine?
On September 30th, following the referendums on joining Russia in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions on joining Russia, the Zalensky government officially decreed its refusal to negotiate with Putin.
Since that decision, Putin has been under pressure from a significant part of the Russian public who, fed up with a war they see no end to, question why Russia has not attacked Western Ukraine. That pressure has led to a shift in strategy with the Russian army now targeting electrical infrastructure throughout the country. That means a very hard winter for western Ukrainians. Expect a huge surge of refugees into Europe.
Anybody who thinks Ukraine is going to be able to put itself back together again when this war finally ends is naïve. This is a broken country, now bitterly divided between Ukrainian speakers in the west who see themselves as primarily European, and Russian speakers in the east who view themselves as proudly Slavic. Before 2014, the two groups could apparently live together in, perhaps shaky, but reasonable harmony. Not now, I suspect – not after so much bloodshed.
What's so discouraging in this war that could escalate into a nuclear disaster is that the public has not been given both sides of this conflict. Even more alarming, we don't seem to realize that we haven't been given both sides.
Have we somehow in western democracies become a population programmed to see things in stark black and white terms, with good guys and bad guys - and us, of course, always on the side of the righteous? There are alarming signs of that.
That's not the route towards peace.
For those who are looking for a different perspective on Ukraine, from what you get on mainstream media, I recommend The Postil Magazine - Uniting Wisdom with the Soul: Vivida Vis Animi.