DISINFO: Russia to intervene in Donbas if Ukraine boosts conflict
Donbas War in Ukraine NATO Human rights Military

DISINFO: Russia to intervene in Donbas if Ukraine boosts conflict


A ramping-up of the conflict would lead to the end of Ukraine, with the Kremlin forced to stand up for its citizens living on the territory of Donbas. In recent years, Moscow has made it much simpler for those living in Ukraine to get a Russian passport, and many have taken up the offer. Everything depends on what the scale of fighting will be. If there is, as Putin says, a Srebrenica, Russia will be forced to stand up for its citizens.


This is a reappearing disinformation message accompanying the current Russia’s military build-up near borders of Ukraine and on occupied Crimea.

Russia will be forced to intervene to defend its citizens if Ukraine launches an offensive in Donbas, according to a recent statement by Dmitry Kozak, Vladimir Putin’s deputy chief of staff. These words echo a 2019 statement by Putin, in which he compared this possibility with a massacre similar to that in Srebrenica in 1995. Bosnian Serb troops killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys back then in what is considered to be the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. Putin said that if Ukraine got control of the border between its breakaway region and Russia, local residents might be persecuted because they had been offered no security guarantees. The Russian may have forgotten, or ignores, the fact that Russia was the only member of the UN Security Council to veto the resolution in 2015 that would have described the Srebrenica massacre as "genocide".

The situation in Donbas is different to the war in former Yugoslavia. Ukraine is committed to a peaceful settlement in Crimea and Donbas, acts strictly in compliance with the 2014 Minsk Agreements and will not permit any arbitrary or extrajudicial executions in Donbas. It is the Moscow-backed separatists who systematically violate basic human rights in the region.

Regd. citizens: In 2019, Russia started a massive passportisation campaign in the occupied territories of Ukrainian Donbas. Apparently, the Russian government wants to repeat a Crimea-like scenario, when it portrayed the bearers of Russian passports as purported victims of aggression, so it had to interfere and save them from Ukrainian 'nationalists'. Article 4 of the Ukrainian Constitution stipulates that there is single citizenship in Ukraine. However, this does not mean that in case Ukrainian troops liberate the occupied territories, they will slaughter all those who bear Russian passports. Unofficial statistics indicate that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians may bear more than one passport, but there is no criminal responsibility for it. There is not foreseen any punitive measures against Donbas residents with two passports.

Regd. legal frameworks and the claim of "genocide": Moscow has accused Kyiv of genocide before. Initial reports about thousands of killed Donbas civilians appeared right after the outbreak of the Russian aggression in 2014. However, these claims were not found to be based on evidence; see details here about Council of Europe, OSCE and UN reports from 2014. In September 2016, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened cases against Ukrainian military commanders over the attempted genocide of Russian speakers in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Russian officials seem to have used the word genocide in many contexts regarding Ukraine. One such case is what Moscow calls linguistic genocide. i.e. the alleged official ban of the use of the Russian language in Ukraine, which is not true. In reality, ethnic Russians and Russian speakers are not threatened in Ukraine, although Putin has been using it as a pretext for aggression since 2014. Along with Russians, there are other ethnic groups in Ukraine, whose cultural and linguistic rights are not violated. Article 10 of the Ukrainian Constitution stipulates that the state language of Ukraine is Ukrainian and that the free development, use and protection of Russian and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine is guaranteed. What the Kremlin interprets as forced de-Russification and Ukrainisation is the state’s delayed attempt at strengthening the position of the Ukrainian language after centuries of oppression by both tsarist authorities and Communist leaders, but not at the expense of other languages spoken in Ukraine. The rights of other languages are protected by the Constitution.

Read more disinformation cases about alleged genocide against Russians in Ukraine.


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Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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