Putin Russia Ukraine US-Russian Relations

Another Rusology Fail: U.S. Experts Continue to Lie About Russia and Ukraine

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by Gordon M. Hahn

{Updated from February 20, 2015}

Sorry to report this, but regrettably its constitutes the facts. Americans should be wary of what they read in the US mainstream media and from the DC think tank community. For example, the writer of the falsified article analyzed below is a frequent presenter on Russian politics at the Heritage Foundation and elsewhere. He is a former writer at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

In a recent post published in Johnson’s Russia List on February 20th, Paul Goble claimed that Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta editor Dmitrii Muratov discussed on the ‘Osoboe mnenie’ (Personal or Special Opinion) talk show on radio station Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) said a document in his possession “confirmed that ‘the plan of war in Ukraine was developed in the administration of the president of Russia,” that is, by Putin’s entourage” (Paul Goble, “Putin Aide Linked to Maidan Killings,” Window on Eurasia posted in Jounson’s Russia List, No. 32, 20 February 2015, http://russialist.org/putin-aide-linked-to-maidan-killings/).

Goble further claims: “The ‘document shows, Muratov said, that this plan was developed in the Kremlin between February 4 and February 15 of last year, that is, before Viktor Yanukovich fled from Kyiv’.” This misrepresentation was repeated by Catherine Fitzpatrick a week later in The Daily Beast by Catherine Fitzpatrick of the Mikhail Khodorkovskii’s The Interpreter (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/09/putin-s-usual-suspects-the-bullshit-chechen-charlie-hebdo-connection.html).

Again Goble has falsified Muratov’s claims: In fact, Muratov said nothing about the document being drafted ‘in the Kremlin.’ He said: “We can presuppose that this (the occurrence of the drafting) was in the period approximately from 4 to 15 February 2014, and there had still not been any overthrow of Yanukovich” (Russian: “Мы можем предположить, что это в период приблизительно от 4 до 15 февраля 2014 года, еще никакого свержения Януковича нет” – see echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1494328-echo/).

Goble and Fitzpatrick have falsified the facts. Nowhere in this interview or anywhere else does Muratov say that this particular document was planned in the Kremlin. Muratov said: “This document, which purportedly was prepared by a group of people, in which, purportedly, participated the well-known oligarch, a man, who stole credit in VTB (VneshTorgBank or the Foreign Trade Bank), who is close to AFK ‘Sistema’ (a major Russian hiolding company), a person who is the creator of his own large foundation – I have in mind that Orthodox Christian, major oligarch Konstantin Malofeev… (interviewer interrupts) … Someone from his circle, I think, that people (in his circle) have greater opportunity than he to go to the administration of the president, to the Kremlin, and they brought this scenario of possible events there” (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1494328-echo/).

So instead of a plan drafted in the Kremlin, as Goble falsely claims, the scenario was written by a private group. Some in the group, in the editor’s opinion, had better access to the Kremlin than the groups’s leader, the oligarch Malofeev, and, in Muratov’s opinion, they were in a position or actually took this draft of scenarios and contingencies to the Kremlin. Even if the report was brought or sent to the Kremlin, it would have been one of tens of such reports, some of which would have been from much more powerful entities than a private group – the SVR, GRU, FSB, and MoD, just to mention a few. I would expect that many of those reports contained proposals to annex/reunify Crimea to Russia.

The document is actually unimportant. Of course, the occupation and annexation/reunification would have been planned before the fact. Contingency plans for potential crises of all sorts are routine, indeed, obligatory practice for any military or intelligence organization. This is what they are paid to do.

Moreover, the annexation/reunification was a logical even understandable if excessive reaction, in my view, to the betrayal of the Kiev agreement of February 21 and the damage the inevitable entry into NATO by a Ukraine still in possession of Crimea. Indeed, in Sunday’s Russian state television documentary on the annexation/reunification, President Putin noted that he ordered the planning of an operation to secure Crimea’s return to the Russian state’s jurisdiction on February 23rd almost immediately in the wake of the betrayal of the February 21 agreement and the resulting flight of then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich from anarchic Kiev. Putin’s relatively quick decision somewhat confirms my suspicion that Putin’s overreaction was further driven by the fact that the betrayal in Kiev occurred on the background of Russia’s organizational, propaganda, and sporting triumphs at Sochi.

Goble also uncritically cites SBU chief Valentin Nalivaichenko’s claims that Putin aide Vladislav Surkov organized and coordinated the alleged police sniper attacks that killed tens of civilians on 20 February 2014 as evidence that Putin sponsored those attacks (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1494328-echo/). As usual Nalivaichenko presented no proof; he simply said they had evidence. As of one month after Nalivaichenko’s ‘reveleations’ neither he nor anyone else in the SBU or Maidan regime has provided any proof to support this claim.

Moreover, the preponderance of proof ever since the first days after those events shows that in fact neo-fascist elements within the Maidan protest movement were behind the sniper shootings, which targeted both police and demonstrators. A recent BBC report included claims by one armed demonstrator that he had fired at police. The work of  Katchanovskii is also recommended (www.academia.edu/8776021/The_Snipers_Massacre_on_the_Maidan_in_Ukraine), not to mention the well-publicized March 2014 audiotape of the Estonian foreign minister saying that the general opinion in Kiev was that the elements within the Maidan were responsible for the sniper attacks.

We have heard this type of thing before from the SBU and other Ukrainian leaders. Left out of Goble’s ‘report’ is that the SBU, including Nalivaichenko, have lied on numerous occasions about capturing 20, then 100 GRU agents and other matters going back to at least April of last year. The supposedly captured GRU agents were never shown in public, and after a few weeks were never even mentioned again.

Also in April last year, the SBU’s claim of evidence of one particular alleged GRU agent was exposed as fake, forcing the New York Times and NATO’s Atlantic Council to back off their claims based on the SBU-misrepresented photographs (see my post and another by Sergei Saradzhyan in JRL, No. 94, 24 April 2014, http://russialist.org/russia-ukraine-jrl-2014-94-contents-with-links-thursday-24-april-2014/).

More recently, Ukraine passed photographs of Russian tanks allegedly in Ukraine to a US Senator who presented them in a presentation on the floor of the Senate, but only to have them exposed this time by a surprisingly, suddenly wary NYT, which showed that the photographs were from the 2008 South Ossetiya war (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/02/14/world/europe/sifting-ukrainian-fact-from-ukrainian-fiction.html?referrer&_r=1).

The false line that a document prepared in the Kremlin before Yanukovich’s ouster represented an already existing plan to annex Crimea and so on will now become a mantra in the U.S. mainstream media; this, despite the fact that the very Russian opposition journalists who uncovered the document never said that and thus rejected that interpretation.

Such falsification of data is the direct result of Western, but especially Amercian rusology’s transformation from a scholarly field into one dominated by activists.


  1. The first victim of war is the truth and don’t make the mistake that we aren’t at war. We are in our 1939 moment and 6 short years later, 50 million people were dead.

  2. I’m surprised to see such a skewed interpretation of what Paul Goble wrote, as he did summarize what Dmitry Muratov did say, as I’ve read the full interview Muratov gave.

    Indeed Muratov implies exactly what Paul Goble describes. I added some more translation from Muratov’s interview in my own post:


    McClatchy has also now covered this story, independent of any of us:


    Thus three people have all independently read Muratov’s interview and all have understood him the same way: that the presidential administration, together with Malofeyev and others, developed the scenario to take over the Crimea and the Donbass before Yanukovych’s flight.

    We’ve covered the back story of Konstantin Malofeyev and Igor Strelkov and others for the past year.

    To describe Malofeyev as merely “a private group” is really, really stretching it when he backed the Kremlin’s Crimean operation and later the “Donetsk People’s Republic” adventure, and that’s all on the record from Oleg Kashin’s research which we’ve translated in the past.

    Muratov doesn’t refer to any “private group” or “Malofeyev’s group” anyway. He refers simply to “a group” *in which Malofeyev took part*. Here is my translation:

    “And suddenly, something imperceptible changed. That means that some sort of scenario was prepared. You know, it happens that we have good fortune. A document has come into our hands, several phrases of which I will quote. No one knows this document, it has not been published anywhere. We are preparing it for publication next week, therefore I will not cite it in whole now, you will be able to read it next Wednesday.

    This is a document which was presumably prepared by a group of people, in which, again presumably, a prominent oligarch took part, a man who stole a loan to the VTB, a man who is close to AFK Sistema, a man who created his own major fund — I mean the Russian Orthodox, the major oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev.”

    You don’t know that in fact that group DOESN’T contain presidential administration officials as it is done all the time — laws for the Duma are drafted in the presidential administration; think-tanks like Reshetnikov’s RISI draft scenarios together with the presidential administration, and it feeds into the Minsk agreement; Surkov’s shop is part of the drafting for the “Normandy 4” document that the separatists refused to sign. This is a very symbiotic and permeable process where the lines between government and corporations and research institutions are very much blurred and co-mingled because the state funds them, and because the oligarchs depend on the state, state loans, state good will, etc. to function.

    Malofeyev isn’t just some “private group” — he’s associated with Sistema, which is Yevtushenkov’s company — he is one of the top oligarchs and was associated with Yanukovych’s hunting club which has been reported by RBC.ru.

    There were reports that Malofeyev’s home and office were searched in connection with the Rostelekom case although he denies it; his partner, also searched, says he signed a non-disclosure agreement and cannot speak about it. That suggests something’s afoot.

    In any event, Muratov hasn’t released the entire document yet. It’s clear that this document isn’t just some memo feeding into the Kremlin among many from all over given that THIS is the scenario that in fact DID play out with indeed THESE cast of characters — with Col. Strelkov, associated with Malofeyev — in a starring role — until he was recalled.

    And perhaps that was the idea all along, to give it plausible deniability.

    But what Muratov stresses in this interview is that highly-connected people were discussing the storming of the Donbass — as the Ekho Moskvy journalist who interviews Muratov puts it “buildings were seized” — weeks before Yanukovych actually fled. That’s what’s key about this document for him, because as he explains — and I totally agree with him — central to the Kremlin version of this story was the notion that threats of a “coup” from Maidan forced him to flee.

    That’s false for other reasons that can be seen from our own extensive reporting at the time, which indicates a number of other factors with which Yanukovych was faced — the defection of the Party of Regions supporters to the opposition on the night of the 20th in the parliamentary meeting and defection of parts of the Berkut before February 21st.

    As for this entire tendentious story of the photographs, if the Ukrainian government had an incorrect photograph that anyone can instantly discover via Google image search was from Georgia in 2008, *it doesn’t matter* one whit as it is easily discovered and easily corrected — no one in this day and age with Google image search and related services can think something obviously fake will last for long.

    There are numerous other photos and videos that have been geolocated that show Russian tanks and other armor of the kind that can only come from Russia (like T-72BM3s or BPM-97s) have been located multiple times inside Ukraine. We at The Interpreter and other organizations like Bellingcat could send you stacks of such links; Robert McKay at the Times knows this and focused only on the incorrect photo which would hardly undermine the rest of the testimony which is credible and corroborated by other sources.

    The proof of the Russian military presence is at this point is overwhelming; no military functions without military intelligence, so while this or that incident of claimed GRU “gotchas” may not pan out, it doesn’t matter, because Russia made clear back in 2013 on its state television that it was training special forces to be deployed in other nearby countries to protect its interests, and has done so. The proof is in the pudding.

    As for the SBU’s claims about Surkov, I think this is a compressed version of a story that involves Surkov’s involvement in the political planning which represents a political decision to back up Yanukovych by force — which indeed was the case. And the SBU said in the announcement about Surkov that they had passports, hotel visits, and other documentation showing Surkov’s presence in Ukraine three times. No intelligence agency is going to show their entire file before the need to, and we must question how it was that Yanukovych, whose own guards fled, who was supposedly threatened by violent Maidan protesters, was in fact able to safely make his way first to Kharkiv, then to Rostov, and later even to Moscow, and there’s no indication that he had to do this all on his own, without Russian intelligence help, buying his own bus tickets. Indeed, Putin himself said in October 2014, “he asked to be driven away to Russia, which we did.”

    As for the Estonian audio tape intercepted by Russian intelligence, you’ve also misrepresented that as well, and hewed to the distorted spin that Kremlin propagandists put on it. In fact the Estonian Minister confirmed that he was in this conversation, but disavowed the spin. He said that he merely discussed with the Ukrainian physician Olga Bogomolets the various theories regarding the Maidan sniper deaths; neither he nor she were making an affirmation that the opposition was involved in the sniper deaths; indeed Bogomolets called for an international investigation.


    As for the “elements within Maidan behind the sniper shootings,” this is a longer story than you, the BNE or BBC have written it, for sure. The reality is that there is no explanation for police shooting so many *unarmed* demonstrators which is what they did. If the story was merely as Katchanovskii and you claim, that some armed demonstrators shot at police and police shot back at them — for which there is evidence — that doesn’t explain why more than 100 mainly unarmed people were gunned down and killed at all.

    The responsibility belongs to Yanukovych who passed draconian laws and ordered troops to crack down on the demonstrators, some of whom were killed by riot troops long before February 21; it belongs to Putin for supporting Yanukovych and then unleashing a war on Ukraine because he believed his arms and gas trade through Ukraine were threatened if Kiev turned toward the EU.

    1. Goble lied. Muratov did not say what Goble said he said. You simply don’t want to face it. He never said anything was drafted by or in the Kremlin. Goble never mentions the group outside the Kremlin which did draft the report. He is deliberately misrepresenting what Muratov said. The Right Sector snipers were shooting at police and demonstrators; hence the high number of civilian casualties. You can believe the narrative formulated by the mainstream media and the US government within hours of the event, That’s your choice, but the facts say otherwise, as even the Estonian ambassador said. I don;t need a translation of Russian, though Goble might.

    1. He did not “lie”. He said exactly what Muratov said. Ask Muratov! Read the text! He did indeed say it was *brought to the Kremlin*. The document was indeed taken there and that’s what he said. He said Malofeyev was in a group where it was discussed. You don’t know who else was in the group. When asked by the journalist what the document’s status was — she said it had gone around Kremlin offices — he said the proof was in *the deeds*. Since this scenario was indeed what was carried out, obviously the Kremlin approved it. The Kremlin would not allow Russian citizens to wage war on foreign soil without their knowledge and approval — it’s not Syria. These are all people with close ties to the Kremlin; Malofeyev is related to Sistema; he appeared at a Russian Orthodox Church conference in November on the same platform as Reshetnikov, former SVR director for decades, head of RISI, which is the Kremlin’s think-tank.

      It doesn’t matter what someone you know said; three people have read it independently and understood Muratov correctly. And this will only become more apparently when the document is released Wednesday.

      Say, when Daniel Ellsberg wrote a paper for the RAND Corporation, and this paper was discussed in the government, and then he leaked that paper and some other papers relevant to the Vietnam War, because he wanted to expose US policy in Vietnam, I don’t recall you or anyone else ever using the argument that gosh, RAND is a private research institute. Gosh, those papers weren’t government plans just because they were read in the government and formed government policy. Gosh, it has nothing to do with the government.

      This is a very similar scenario. The only difference as far as we know is that there is no Daniel Ellsberg coming forward the leaker is still hidden.

      To cling to a war-mongering government like this well beyond reason just doesn’t make intellectual sense.

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