Disinfo: 2014 Ukrainian coup led to civil war, Crimea referendum

Summary

Following the 2014 Western-backed coup in Kyiv, a civil war broke out in east Ukraine and the residents of Crimea held a referendum to rejoin Russia.

Disproof

This concise claim combines no fewer than three key narratives of Kremlin disinformation about Ukraine: that the 2014 Euromaidan revolution was a Western-backed coup; that Crimea "rejoined" Russia in a democratic "referendum"; and that the bloody conflict in east Ukraine is a civil war. By implication, the claim also paints Ukraine as a helpless non-entity caught between the meddling of Western governments and the incompetence of its own leaders. The onset of the Euromaidan protests was a reaction of numerous parts of the Ukrainian population to former President Yanukovych’s sudden departure from the promised Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013. See the full debunk here. See some more recent debunks of this claim here and here. Crimea did not "rejoin" Russia, as it remains a part of sovereign Ukrainian territory according to an overwhelming majority of UN member states. The so-called "referendum" was held at gunpoint and featured no recognised election observers, but did see the involvement of far-right Kremlin loyalists invited to "monitor" the sham procedure. The ludicrous official result of 97% in favour of annexation was contested by the Kremlin's own Human Rights Council. See the full debunk here. The statement presents the 2014 events in Crimea and the Donbas as a spontaneous response by swathes of Ukrainian society to the "coup" in Kyiv, which in turn escalated into a civil conflict. But Russian and Russia-sponsored actors had been busy fomenting separatist sentiments in east Ukraine since at least 2005. The active phase of the Donbas war was triggered with the 12 April 2014 assault on the city of Slovyans'k, led by Russian intelligence officer Igor Girkin. By September that year, Russia had sent up to 15,000 regular troops into the region. Aleksandr Boroday, Russian citizen and former "prime minister" of the "people's republic" of Donets'k, said that the "scenarios in Crimea and east Ukraine were prepared by the same team." The statement is all the more illuminating in the context of Putin's later admission that preparations for the Crimea landgrab had been under way since late February.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 157
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 04/07/2019
  • Outlet language(s) English
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Ukraine, Russia
  • Keywords: Eastern Ukraine, Manipulated elections/referendum, Ukrainian disintegration, International Law, Ukrainian statehood, Crimea, Referendum, Euromaidan, Donbas, Coup, War in Ukraine
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Ukraine is a buffer state for NATO without membership prospects

At present, NATO does not want to accept Ukraine and, probably, will never accept it. For the West, Ukraine is nothing more than a buffer zone, which separates Europe from its geopolitical rival – Russia – and its role is to put pressure on it.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation about Ukraine and its cooperation with NATO. Ukraine is a strategic partner for NATO in many areas. Since the 1990s, relations between NATO and Ukraine have developed into one of NATO’s most influential partnerships. Relations were strengthened with the signing of the 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, which established the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC). The Declaration of 2009 to Complement the NATO-Ukraine Charter mandated the NUC, through Ukraine’s Annual National Programme, to underpin Ukraine’s efforts to take forward reforms aimed at implementing Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. NATO's door remains open to any European country in a position to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. Currently, four partner countries have declared their aspirations to NATO membership: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, North Macedonia and Ukraine, according to NATO’s statement. In February 2019, the Parliament of Ukraine amended the Constitution and cemented Ukraine's course to the EU and NATO.

In Ukraine, the nationalists continue to violate the rights of the Russian-speaking population

Ukraine continues to violate the rights of the Russian-speaking population: nationalist ideas continue to dominate the country’s state policy, and the new President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cannot solve the problem with aggressive radicals and repeal the nationalist law, which forces Ukrainian citizens to speak only Ukrainian.

Disproof

This is another example of Russian disinformation about the law on the state language in Ukraine. Russia insists that the so-called "language law" violates the country's constitution and the rights of the Russian-speaking population. This is a constant narrative of Russian propaganda that the rights of Russians are violated in Ukraine, and the country's leadership is radically nationalist.

The US didn’t provide any proof that Russia violated the INF treaty

In October 2018, US President Donald Trump stated that the US would withdraw from the INF treaty due to Moscow’s violations of its commitments. However, the US didn’t provide any proof to support this claim.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative that the US is entirely responsible for the demise of the INF Treaty, and that Russia was fully compliant with it. In July 2014, President Obama officially accused Russia of testing an intermediate-range land-launched missile in violation of the INF. Russia’s violations were also acknowledged by NATO Foreign Ministers in a meeting in Brussels on 4 December 2018. NATO allies share the US government’s assessment that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. The US gathered detailed information on Russia’s flight-testing of the 9M792 missile to distances well over 500 kilometers, in violation of the INF, and provided Moscow with evidence about the 9M729’s violations, including geographic coordinates and dates for the tests. Russia has continually denied any wrongdoing. In a statement released on 1 February 2019, the North Atlantic Council noted that Russia had “taken no demonstrable steps toward returning to full and verifiable compliance” and that “Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the Treaty.” In February 2019, the US suspended its participation in the INF Treaty, stressing that nearly 6 years of diplomacy and more than 30 meetings have failed to convince Russia to return to compliance with the INF Treaty. On 3 July 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law on the suspension of the INF Treaty. On 5 July 2019, the Russia-NATO Council was held, following which Secretary-General of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said that NATO and the Kremlin have fundamental differences in this matter. More disinformation cases on the INF treaty can be found here.