photo newspapers

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.