”And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Luke 6:41, Matthew 7:3
Europe needs peace now. The greatest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe which is threatening the health and life of millions of people in Eastern Ukraine must be solved.
The largest obstacle to peace is those who claim that only the other side of the conflict has to follow the agreements made and signed. The way the West says that Russia is the only actor who must follow the Minsk II agreement is creating passivity and prolonged human suffering. Replacing the facts about what is happening on the ground with speculations about motives and to pretend that these guesses are the truth is another way to stop Europe from take steps towards peace.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports from the front line of a ”creeping offensive” where the Ukrainian side inch by inch gets further into the grey demilitarized area – January, 30 2017.
On the ground, the Ukrainian forces and the volunteer battalions have advanced in what is labelled as a ”creeping offensive” by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). This means that the Ukrainian forces are advancing into the grey zone and this is in direct conflict with the Minsk II agreement. During the last two weeks, this advancement has – with the help of tanks and other weaponry who are forbidden close to the contact line – taking place along the front line and especially in the triangle of Avdeevka-Yasinovataya-Donetsk Airport. The creeping offensive have also seen the use of proscribed weaponry by the Donetsk forces. The water filtration station located in the Donetsk’s Peoples Republic (DPR) have been damaged by the Ukrainian aggression and this cause severe problems in Donetsk, but also in Avdeevka as the plant serves about 400 000 customers in areas located on both sides of the contact line.
Hayla Coynash from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group succumbs to speculation – February, 2 2017.
Some Western sources avoid addressing facts on the ground and replace this by speculation. To Halya Coynash writing on the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KhPG) web site an important reason for why Ukraine is not on the offensive causing the recent escalation is the timing which made “most western analysts and media assume that Moscow had orchestrated the offensive against Avdiivka.” The shelling began the day after the first telephone conversation between Putin and Trump. According to this speculation avoiding the facts on the ground this is proof that one side started and not the other.
Euromaidan Press writes about recent escalations in Eastern Ukraine – February, 2 2017.
Unlike KhPG Euromaidan Press do not avoid the facts on the ground. But the creeping Ukrainian offensive is actually the opposite – a “separatists’ offence” which “can be a response to Ukrainian maneuvers”. Regardless the facts on the ground to Euromaidan press turns this and many other events during the war into something else than what actually happens. In this case a Ukrainian offensive is turned into maneuvers as if suddenly Ukrainian forces by chance happens to be in the grey zone and the culprit are the separatist forces responding to the Ukrainian advancement.
Christopher Miller, a correspondent for RFE/RL, writes in his coverage that “since mid-December Ukraine’s armed forces have edged further into parts of the gray zone in or near the war-torn cities of Avdiivka, Debaltseve, Dokuchaievsk, Horlivka, and Mariupol, shrinking the space between them and the separatist fighters.” Alexander Hug, principal deputy chief monitor of the OSCE SMM to Ukraine, quoted in RFE/RL article, said that “direct result of forward moves is escalation in tension.” The Ukrainian side, however, claim that the creeping offensive is not violating the Minsk agreements as they were not crossing the demarcation line and only entered in the zone forbidden to enter by military forces according to agreements made by the contact group with all parties from DPR and LPR as well as Ukraine and OSCE as a tool to implement the Minsk II agreement.
If this by Ukraine is not called breaking the Minsk II agreement it is only an attempt to avoid facts on the ground. It is clear that both sides shoot at each other but this time it is also clear that it is the Ukrainian side that has caused the rising tension by moving forward closer to the separatist forces causing the recent escalation. Regardless of how one looks at the war as a whole the recent escalation is the result of Ukraine being the aggressor.
Non-sanctioned economic blockade of railway transport with DPR and LPR.
The banner reads: “No financing to terrorists! Trading with occupiers means doing business on blood!”
Photo: Штаб блокади
Simultaneously with the Ukrainian creeping offensive ultra nationalist has enforced an economic blockade against DPR and LPR by blocking all railway transport violating the Minsk II agreement and against the will of the Ukrainian national security council. Since January, 26 2017; 74000 train cars laden with anthracite coal from mines in the separatist region states Fred Weir in a report in Christian Science Monitor one month after the blockade started. He writes – Backed by a coalition of oligarchs, nationalist militias, and opposition politicians, the aim of the blockade is apparently to compel a beleaguered President Poroshenko to abandon hopes of integrating the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk back into Ukraine , as called for under the Minsk II agreements.
By attacking the trade seeing Ukrainian iron ore shipped to steel mills in Donbass, and coal and steel shipped back the hope is to declare DPR and LPR occupied Russian territory according to Weir. So far Poroshenko is helplessly declaring the blockade illegal but unable to enforce law and order. The Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman states that the loss of mining and metallurgical complex of Ukraine from the blockade of the railway in the Donbass will be 3.5 billion dollars of foreign exchange earnings and 75 000 jobs will be lost. As the companies involved in the trading across the frontline by rail are registered in Ukraine and thus pay taxes to the Ukrainian state is the blockade a blow to the Ukrainian economy. In response after having sent a ultimatum demanding an end to the blockaded have the DPR and LPR authorities on March, 1 2017 nationalised the industries trying to sell their products through Russia instead.
Homepage for European Parliament – Ukrainan delegation.
During a session in the European Parliament February, 14 2017; this situation is presented in a contra factual way. Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corozza Bildt stated that Russia, since there was uncertainty due to a new administration in Washington, was guilty of the escalation during the last weeks. She concluded with: ”As Russia is testing the US reaction, the EU should show leadership and firmly condemn Russia’s attacks”.
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski from Poland, a country that together with Sweden headed the EU:s expansion through the Eastern Partnership project towards Ukraine and other countries, stated the following: ”The more we hesitate the further Russia goes; that is new… There are 36 000 Russian troops, some regular mercenaries and others in disguise. It is necessary to leave the harmful fiction of separatists and civil war”. In this statement, the local population filling the ranks of the separatist forces are turned into pawns in a game between great powers as EU seeing Russia as an enemy. Those who emphasise such enemy images also promote that EU should throw Russia out of the UN security council and that it is better to abandon the Minsk II agreement. If this is not possible, it is seen as a must to give arms to Ukraine.
Dariusz Rosati contributed to the contra factual statements as he said that ”Renewed attacks by Russian regular and proxy troops against the Ukrainian military and civilians in the Avdiivka region have cost many human lives, caused significant material damage and represent yet another blatant violation of the Minsk Agreements.”. He said this with the assumption that this was not a blatant violation by the Ukrainian side. Black is turned into white in the European Parliament.
Sandra Kalniete, stated on behalf of the PPE group that ”we have a vital interest in stopping Putin before he moves on to other countries in Europe”. She praised the EU initiative East Stratcom which is said to stop disinformation and so called hybrid information.
East Stratcom’s Disinformation Review – February, 13 2017.
February, 13 2017; East Stratcom presented a report on ”pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign” in Scandinavia. Two Swedish cases were singled out. One was a false personal accusation against a known pro-NATO journalist. This false accusation was posted on a facebook group opposing Western politics in Ukraine and the post was taken away later during the day when administrators noticed it. Months later, the person in question was sentenced in court for libel. This was certainly not part of a campaign, but rather seen as an act against the interest of those questioning Swedish and Western influence in the Ukrainian conflict.
East Stratcom also highlights the acts of another individual who, under the name of Egor Putilov, wrote articles published in Sweden. Putilov started writing articles accusing left activists. This included a political refugee from Russia who had opposed the government and had to flee the country. He was accused of being Putin’s agent. Putilov’s articles accused all left voices that had opposed the Swedish Ukrainian policy and labelled them as Putin’s agents.
Later the same Putilov. sometimes using different names. turned up as being employed by the right wing populist party Swedish Democrats. He now produced articles with the same conspiracy theory methods as he used against those he claimed to be Putin’s agents, but this time he addressed migrant issues in the way which suited the party who employed him inside the parliament building. Putilov was also a Russian refugee and he had written critical articles against the Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. Putilov also bought a house in Stockholm from a convicted Russian businessman, who was married to a senior figure in the Russian tax authority in Sankt Petersburg and the story goes that Putilov possibly gained huge amounts of money from the affair.
The methods used by Putilov and his connections with a shady Russian business man caused a great alarm in the Swedish parliament and among journalists. Some of those who raised their voices was the same journalists who earlier on had promoted Putilov’s accusations against those voices opposing the Swedish Ukrainian policy as being Putin’s agents. In this case, Putilov himself was portrayed in the same manner he had portrayed others; by guilt by association methods.
East Stratcom Disinformation Digest summarizes: ”Swedish media have reported concerns that Mr Putilov’s access to the parliament posed a major security concern. … This scandal comes after the Digest reported that several security services in Europe have warned of the threat of Russian disinformation activities”.
East Stratcom follows the footsteps of NATO friendly journalists in Sweden which initially, for their own interests, used Putilovs attacks against those who were critical towards the Russian government but at the same time also was critical towards the Ukrainian government. Such persons were, with help of Putilov, accused of being tools for Russian Propaganda. Then, the NATO friendly journalists concealed that Putilov always had been anti-Putin in his writings in order to better attack him for being the ideal person to accuse for being a Putin agent inside the parliament. East Stratcom uses the case of Putilov in the same way. The content of what Putilov writes about Russia and Ukraine is here wiped out of the reader’s attention. Instead of the content, is the methods Putilov uses claimed to be typical of Russian propaganda.
When East Stratcom claims to expose serious Russian propaganda in Sweden they end up with a first case of personal defamation of a journalist seen by few and discarded as soon as the administrators had a chance to take it away. The second case is even more questionable as Putilov was an anti-Putin propagandist causing trouble for the peace opinion, a person who suddenly was useful as the ideal Putin agent, not because of his opinions on Russia, but by his methods. This is McCarthyism and not a serious effort to counteract Russian state disinformation.
While MEPs in the European parliament is, in a mass scale, using disinformation against the public about the current situation in Eastern Ukraine and try to undermine the Minsk II agreement, the East Stratcom produces disinformation about Putin agents in Sweden (and elsewhere) by grossly exaggerating the effects of small incidents or by concealing the actual anti-Putin message made by the accused Russian propaganda maker.
A clearer case of when someone attacks another for what he himself is doing is hard to find. This is an act which is morally and strongly criticised already in the bible. It is about time that the constituencies in the European parliament strongly denounce what has taken place among the MEPs elected to be responsible for the Ukrainian issues. The way they disinform the public and undermine diplomatic efforts is a threat to peace in Europe.
- Activists for peace: The left made itself passive, Activists for peace blog, March, 5 2017.
- Activists for peace: Egor Putilov becomes useful again during summer 2016, Activists for peace blog, March, 5 2017.
- Coynash, Halya: KHP: Avdiivka Offensive Aimed at Kremlin ‘Dialogue’ with Trump & Undermining Minsk Agreement. Kharkiv Human Rights Protextion Group, February, 2 2017.
- East Stratcom: Intimidation as a propaganda tool in the Nordic countries, Disinformation Review, February, 13 2017.
- Leander, Per: Arbetaren hetsar mot ryska demokratiska vänstern (In Swedish). Internationalen, November, 12 2014.
- Miller, Chistopher: Anxious Ukraine Risks Escalation In ‘Creeping Offensive’, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January, 30 2017.
- Newsmaker: Groysman estimated the loss from the blockade of Donbass, Ukrop News 24, March, 24 2017.
- Oksanen, Patrik: Stoppa statliga pengar till Putinkrigarna (In Swedish), Dalarnas tidningar ledare, March, 12 2015.
- Oksanen, Patrik: Putilovaffären: Historien om Kent Ekeroths anställningar och Sverigedemokraternas europeiska nätverk (In Swedish), Hela Hälsingland ledare, September, 23 2016.
- Putiov, Egor: Teknologerna bakom Putins propagandakrig (In Swedish), Arbetaren, November, 7 2014.
- Röstlund, Lisa, Aschberg, Richard and Sandberg, Mattias: Alexander, 34, är SD:s hemliga desinformatör (In Swedish), Aftonbladet, September, 2 2016.
- Röstlund, Lisa and Putilov, Egor: AFTONBLADET AVSLÖJAR: V gav bistånd till pro-ryssar (In Swedish), Aftonbladet, March, 11 2015.
- Ukrainian delagation in the Europan Parliament: Debate in the European parliament by members and substitues, Ukrainian delegation, February, 14 2017. The speeches are published at each MEP’s side on the delegation’s homepage.
- Ukraineworld Group: Escalation in Avdiivka, Eastern Ukraine: key facts and sources, Euromaidan press, February, 1 2017.
- Weir, Fred: In Ukraine, blockade threatens to force issue at heart of civil war. Christian Science Monitor, February, 28 2017.