Disinfo: Russophobia and Nazis are the main reasons for the conflict in Donbas

Summary

The main reasons for the conflict in Ukraine was that the Eastern regions rejected Russophobia, Nazi glorification and the ideology of Nazism. The tragedy of Donbas is that Russia did not come to the aid of local residents when the Ukrainian authorities sent tanks and artillery with aviation against unarmed civilians. […] in the cities of Donbas, women and their husbands met the heavy equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces with their bare hands.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the war in Ukraine, aiming to portray the conflict as Ukraine's civil war. The war in Eastern Ukraine is not a civil conflict, but a well-documented act of ongoing aggression by Russian armed forces, since February 2014. The military actions in Donbas began after separatist rebels and militants from Russia seized key areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. On 7 April, pro-Russian rebels took control of the SBU armoury in Donetsk. On the same day, they declared the so-called "Donetsk Peoples' Republic". On 12 April, 52 armed militants led by Igor Girkin (Strelkov), a retired colonel of Russia's military intelligence GRU, attacked governmental offices in the city of Sloviansk and later in Kramatorsk. Both cities were under militants' control until the beginning of July 2014. The Ukrainian government reacted to the attack by introducing an "anti-terrorist operation" in the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts which officially began on 15 April. Read similar disinformation alleging that Americans provoked the overthrow of legitimate authority in Ukraine and civil war in Donbas, that Donetsk and Luhansk independence triggered a Ukrainian military operation, that Euromaidan coup led to civil war in Donbas, that war in Ukraine is a civil war.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 202
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 15/06/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Russian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Ukraine, Russia
  • Keywords: Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine, Donbas, War in Ukraine
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Disinfo: In February 2014, a violent coup d'état took place in Kyiv

In February 2014, a violent coup d’état took place in Kyiv, when the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was forced to flee as a result of dozens of unsolved murders during the fighting between activists and police forces and violent threats by radical right-wing forces. With their first act in power, the Maidan forces showed what they were most interested in and thereby confirmed the fears that the Maidan revolution was much more of a nationalist coup d’état than an emancipatory act.

Disproof

There was no coup d’état in Kyiv in 2014; this is a longstanding pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Ukraine's Euromaidan protests. The spontaneous onset of the Euromaidan protests was a reaction from several segments of the Ukrainian population to former President Yanukovych’s sudden departure from the promised Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013, after pressure from Russia. See the full debunk The Western-backed coup in Ukraine has torn the country asunder.

Disinfo: American officials repeatedly promised Gorbachev that NATO would not expand eastward after the reunification of Germany

At the end of the 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to withdraw Soviet troops from Germany, American officials repeatedly promised Gorbachev that NATO would not expand eastward after the reunification of Germany.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about encircled Russia. Back in 2014, Gorbachev rejected this claim stating that the topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all. NATO Allies take decisions by consensus and these are recorded. There is no record of any decision that NATO would not to expand after the Cold War having been taken by the Alliance. Even if there was a personal assurance from an individual leader, it could not replace Alliance consensus and does not constitute a formal NATO agreement. Former Warsaw Pact countries began seeking NATO membership in the early 1990s. NATO actively sought to create a cooperative environment that was conducive to enlargement while simultaneously building special relations with Russia. NATO does not "expand" in the imperialistic sense described by pro-Kremlin media. Rather, it considers the applications of candidate countries who want to join the alliance based on their own national will. As such, NATO enlargement is not directed against Russia. NATO's "Open Door Policy" is based on Article 10 of the Alliance's founding document, the North Atlantic Treaty (1949). The Treaty states that NATO membership is open to any "European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area". Every sovereign nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements. This is a fundamental principle of European security and one to which Russia has also subscribed. Read here similar cases claiming that the US government promised Mikhail Gorbachev that the Atlantic Alliance would not expand to the East, that NATO forgot all the previously existing agreements and expanded despite promises made to Gorbachev.

Disinfo: NATO establishes a colonial relationship with Ukraine disguised as partnership

NATO issued another item in the long list of “incentives” designed to mock Ukraine. The organisation designed Ukraine as an “Enhanced Opportunities Partner” along with other five nations (Georgia, Sweden, Finland, Australia and Jordan), rewarding their important contributions to NATO operations and goals with the opportunity of increasing dialogue and cooperation with the Alliance. Given its long history of political and military interaction with NATO, including a decade-long military deployment in Afghanistan, Ukraine reached a level of interoperability with NATO higher than some actual member states. Ukraine resembles NATO, speaks like NATO, acts like NATO, but it is not NATO, and it won’t be. So the question is what kind of relation NATO has in mind regarding to Ukraine, given that it will never become a member. By granting the status of “Enhanced Opportunities Partner” to Ukraine and those other nations, NATO is expanding its military capabilities without assuming the risks linked to the expansion of its membership. Ukrainian troops can be sacrificed in far lands without any real security interest for the Ukrainian people, but NATO will never mobilise under Article 5 to help Kyiv in its own territory. The relation reflects that of a colonial master and its vassal, demanding a lot and delivering little.

Disproof

Recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about NATO and Ukraine. Contrary to the claim, the nature of Ukraine’s relation with the Atlantic Alliance is totally voluntary, as was the country’s participation in NATO missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan. The Enhanced Opportunities Partnership is a tailor-made programme to benefit both sides, not a colonial-style servitude. Kyiv requested formal membership of the Alliance in 2008, but plans to join it were shelved after Ukraine’s Parliament rejected it, and reemerged after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its sponsoring of the conflict in Donbas. In all these cases, the decision was taken solely by Ukrainian authorities. Though popular support for joining NATO was rather low among Ukrainians prior to 2014, it started to increase in that year due to Russia’s aggression against the country. In 2019, this support reached 53 percent, against 29 percent who oppose it. Other surveys confirmed these results. NATO membership is a stated goal of the current government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy. You can see other examples of these disinformation narratives in our database, such as claims that NATO instructors prepare Ukrainian soldiers to become war criminals, that Kyiv escalates the situation in the Azov Sea on behalf of the US and the Atlantic Alliance and prepares to build NATO bases in Donbas, that the Ukrainian government is a NATO puppet regime, or that NATO will invade Western regions of Ukraine.