The justifiable outrage at Western reporting on Ukraine

By Ariana Gic, for StopFake

On July 23, the BBC’s Panorama aired “The Faked Murder that Fooled the World”, about the staged murder of a Russian dissident journalist living in Kyiv at the end of May. The staged assassination was the stuff of spy novels – Ukraine’s Security Services convincingly staged Arkady Babchenko’s assassination as part of a special operation to prevent more than 30 Russian assassination efforts, including Babchenko’s, and to reveal a Russian intelligence ring in the country.

Unsurprisingly, many took the opportunity to again voice their disgust with the Ukrainian operation which saved dozens of lives, as they had in the immediate aftermath of the staged attack. Social media was once again flooded with criticism over Ukraine’s use of deception for a mere day to save the life of a journalist whose believed passing had previously been mourned with great passion.

The criticism of Ukraine’s efforts to save lives once again brought into sharp focus the serious – but almost entirely unacknowledged – problems of extreme bias and double standards when it comes to Ukraine.

Many of the same journalists and analysts who do not admit Moscow’s pervasive and years-long use of deception to discredit and bring harm to Ukraine, expressed total outrage at Ukraine’s brief use of deception for achieving good. Russia’s use of deception as a weapon against Ukraine has never sparked the same western fury as Ukraine’s use of deception as a shield has. Russia has denied waging what is now a nearly 5 year long undeclared war on Ukraine.

Many critics screamed that Ukraine “lost credibility”. But let’s be honest – Ukraine has never been treated as though it has real credibility, and is often denied the dignity and respect it should be afforded, including the right to its own voice representing its own interests. Instead Russians – nationals of the country waging war on Ukraine – were largely given that voice.

Change is long overdue. It is time for Ukraine to be given the respect it deserves. It is time for Ukrainian voices to be heard.

To the many westerners journalists and analysts who were “outraged” by the Babchenko operation, please know that after years of poor coverage of just about everything in Ukraine, Ukrainians are outraged too.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that your coverage of their country has created a grossly distorted picture of reality.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you still do not write that Russia invaded or occupies Ukraine, instead writing about “rebel held territories”. Ukrainians are outraged that you paint Moscow’s unlawful interstate war on Ukraine as a “separatist uprising” that Moscow “backs” or “leads”. Ukrainians are outraged that you call Russian nationals fighting on Ukrainian soil, “Ukrainian separatists”. Ukrainians are outraged that when you write about Russia’s invasion, you ensure it is “balanced”, often giving at least equal airtime and consideration to Kremlin lies about Ukraine, as you do to Ukraine’s truthful side of the story.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you wrote that “little green men” of “unknown origin” had invaded Crimea when it was abundantly clear these armed men were Russian soldiers. Ukrainians are outraged that you helped propagate the Kremlin lie that it was a civil uprising in Crimea against Ukrainian nationalists until Putin chose to admit that Moscow had occupied the peninsula. Only when the murderous war criminal admitted his crime did you bother to write the truth about it, without ever correcting your previous misinformation.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you continue to help with Russia’s propaganda efforts about Ukraine. You write that Crimeans “voted” in a “referendum”, instead of writing about how the referendum was no referendum at all, and that many voters were “voting” at the barrel of a Kalashnikov. Ukrainians are outraged that you don’t cover Moscow’s ethnic cleansing efforts of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea. You don’t write about how Russia has eradicated Ukrainian language instruction in all of occupied Ukraine, about Moscow’s destruction of all Ukrainian language texts in Crimea, or about many hundreds of thousands of transplanted Russian nationals to Crimea, as part of Moscow’s illegal policy to completely change the ethnic make-up of the region.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you don’t write about the 700 schools that Russia has damaged or destroyed in Ukraine over the course of its military invasion. About the names of the soldiers who die at a rate of about one to two per day defending their country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are angry that you don’t write about how Russia has made eastern Ukraine one of the most heavily mined place in the world today, or about how young children are maimed and killed by this insidious weapon.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that when in 2015, Russia shelled the city of Mariupol, killing civilians and destroying infrastructure, you wrote that “it was not known who was responsible for the attack”. They are outraged that you did not widely report the findings of the Ukrainian Security Services that showed Russians were directly responsible for the attack, dismissing the truth until non-Ukrainian citizen journalists published much of the same nearly three years later. Ukrainians are outraged that you ignored Ukraine when in July 2014, it said the Russian military was responsible for the downing of flight MH17, and instead only reported Russian disinformation designed to distract and pollute the information space.

Ukrainians are outraged that you didn’t report on any one of the Russian military’s cross border shellings of Ukraine from Russian territory. They are outraged that you didn’t report on how many Russian soldiers were involved in the Ilovaisk and Debaltsove tragedies, where you wrote disparagingly about the Ukrainian army instead.

Ukrainians are outraged that you paint Ukraine as the most corrupt country on the planet, and that no matter what the topic is – including Russia’s war – you write about the “scourge of corruption” in “irredeemably and uniquely” corrupt Ukraine.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you criticize them for defending their territory against invasion, for growing more patriotic when their sovereignty and independence are threatened, for daring to try to regain their own territory previously lost in battle against Russia. Ukrainians are outraged that you criticize Ukraine for fighting Kremlin information warfare, and absurdly misrepresent it as an unjustifiable restriction of “freedom of speech”. Ukrainians are outraged that you call Russian propaganda, “media”, and Russian propagandists, “journalists”.

Ukrainians are outraged that you grossly blow out of proportion the problem of the ultra-right, ignoring that they represent a marginal portion of society, and have a negligible role in politics. They are outraged that you do this while ignoring the real problem of neo-Nazi parties holding positions of power and championing Kremlin causes in your own countries.

Ukrainians are outraged that most of you didn’t know much, if anything, about Ukraine before you became “experts” on the country, and wrote things that weren’t true or accurate because you couldn’t possibly know better.

Ukrainians are outraged that you constantly criticize and belittle their country, and demand Ukraine meet standards your home countries do not meet.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that your first reaction to the news of Babchenko’s (staged) murder was to blame Ukraine for being such an unsafe place for journalists.

Ukrainians are outraged that many of you unjustifiably wield your pens as weapons against their country, and they don’t really care that you’re upset that deception was used to uncover a Russian intelligence ring that saved at least 30 lives.

By Ariana Gic, for StopFake