Surrounding every conflict are rumors, innuendo, and error — and that’s not even considering deliberate disinformation along the lines of what we’re now seeing in the Ukraine conflict. Putin is a past master at this; leading up to the war were so many denials that it was going to happen, announcements of withdrawal, and so on that, for many of us, the waters were effectively muddied. And Zelensky himself is a consummate performer, a trained and experienced actor playing the greatest role of all time.
So what’s real, and what’s not? What’s worth worrying about and what’s worth forgetting? Above all: What’s about to happen?
The answer to that last is: I don’t know. I’ve got some good educated guesses, but that’s all they are — and anyone else who says differently is lying to you.
Putin tried but failed to justify his war to the West. He did fool a lot of people leading up to the conflict, but since then he’s been overmatched; Europe has learned to fear and mistrust him, and much of the United States loves an underdog too much to want to believe him. Here are a few of his claims (and some others from across the internet), and the actual truth behind them; the most surprising part might well be how much truth there actually is:
Statement: The UN says Ukraine is not a country.
Ukraine was recognized by the United Nations and several other nations — including Russia — shortly after its independence in 1991. There’s one fellow named Simon Parkes (who I wouldn’t call a conspiracy theorist because he makes legitimate conspiracy theorists look bad -Editor) that put this one out there in late February, including what look like quotes from former Sec. General Ban Ki-moon and referencing treaties, but which is actually incoherent nonsense with no basis in reality.
Statement: There was a violent coup in Ukraine in 2014, so the current government is not legitimate.
Well, yes and no. There was a violent populist uprising that went on for several months in late 2013, culminating in the downfall of that administration. It began when then-President Yanukovych abruptly refused to sign an economic treaty with the EU that had widespread support not only among the public but overwhelmingly so in the legislature. Riots shut down the capitol and only worsened when the government started enforcing brutal anti-protest laws.
An interim government under Yatsenyuk was formed and new elections were held; Petro Poroshenko won in a landslide. During the crisis, Russia annexed the Crimea and a portion of the Donbas region with the consent and cooperation of a large percentage of the local populace.
Russia refuses to acknowledge the present government as legitimate, but it was elected in a landslide, as was its predecessor. One might as readily say the present Russian government is illegitimate because it sprang from the August Coup in 1991. As such, the only evident foundation for Russia’s continued objection is political expediency.
Statement: Pro-Russian political parties have been banned and Nazis encouraged.
In 2015, a set of laws forbidding Communist and Nazi symbolism in current politics were passed. These were designed in part to punish the Ukrainian Communist Party (the KPU), which was actively pro-Soviet, and which commanded a large percentage of the popular vote as late as 1999. However, by 2010 it had degraded to a fringe movement, though one with a very loyal membership — as many as 3% of voters. During the Russian annexation, the KPU actively supported the separatists and the government attempted to outlaw them as a party, in the process eliminating two smaller yet similar organizations. As a result, many of the affiliated politicians deserted the KPU for other opposition parties.
At present, however, it must be acknowledged that there exists a strong pro-Russian party in the Ukrainian parliament, the Opposition Platform, which is openly allied with Putin’s own party in Russia. They control around 10% of parliamentary seats.
If there were a single proto-Nazi party, it would have to be Svoboda, an ultra-nationalist group descended from the now-defunct Social Nationalists. They hold a single seat in Parliament and no longer officially employ the disputed Wolfsangel-related symbol that had drawn the fire of Naziphobes. Their doctrines are, however, sadly reminiscent of the Third Reich.
Statement: The use of the Russian language has been suppressed, and native Russian speakers oppressed.
Russian is a widely recognized second language in Ukraine, although Ukrainian is the official language as well as the native tongue of the majority of the country. In certain regions, Russian has been legally acknowledged as an official regional language. Ukrainian is, however, required to be taught in all schools, and is the only language used for teaching high school.
The official use of Russian is a local dividing issue exploited by politicians in every election; many use it to curry favor with one or another voting bloc. However, since its use is explicitly protected by the Constitution, no change ever takes place.
In 2017, the importation of books from Russia was banned, and as of January 2022 a law has come into force which requires every newspaper to be printed in Ukrainian even if the target audience is overwhelmingly Russian. This latter is expected to be challenged and has received a great deal of criticism. Nevertheless, this does confirm certain of the accusations.
Statement: The Ukrainian “Azov” battalion is neo-Nazi.
Possibly; I’m honestly not sure of anything except that they’re strongly nationalist, and I’ve dug through their websites, their literature, and that of their forebears. There’s no shortage of neo-Nazi sentiment in the region, so it’s not unlikely, and I’m certain there are soldiers who sport SS emblems. The Russians have a neo-Nazi unit, the “Spartans”, based in the same region. I suppose the question I’d pose is this: Who out there is objecting to two groups of neo-Nazis shooting each other?
Statement: But, no, seriously. They use this crossed Z symbol that the Nazis used. I read about it on…
The symbol to which you refer isn’t a crossed Z. It’s a N with an I stuck through it, the old Social-Nationalist Party logo. It stood for something which could be translated as “Idea of the Nation”, but is more like “Soul” in the original Ukrainian.
It’s no coincidence that it’s reminiscent of the Wolfsangel, which some of the more dogged WWII SS units also used. A wolfsangel is a particularly horrible wolf-trap, a sharpened hook placed inside meat. A carnivore would swallow it without noticing the attached chain, and it would kill them… slowly and painfully, over a period of weeks, as gangrene set in from the inside out. It’s a geographic identifier all through the region, and has been on flags and coats-of-arms for a thousand years, and it was first used by a populist anti-government uprising. The Nazis used it to appeal to nationalist sentiment, for much the same reason the Confederates used a red, white, and blue flag — but the “go ahead and try swallowing us” concept has, admittedly, a potent appeal to people of a certain mindset.
It would be a dog-whistle (pun intended -Editor) to fans of the Nazis, one that most normal people would miss. The same could be said of this:
No, you blinkered Americo-centric, that’s not Dixie’s flag. It’s the jack of the Russian navy, and it’s the proposed flag of Novorussia, the two breakaway ethnic Russian territories on the far eastern border of Ukraine. You’ll see Russian tanks flying it, and I don’t guarantee none will be named the “General Lee”, but its origin has nothing to do with slavery.
Statement: Aha! But they also wear copies of the SS “Totenkopf” skull badge! Surely that means they’re Nazis!
Skull badges have been used by armies since time out of mind, both formally and informally. Right now there is a Kiev-based brand called “R3ich” (Is that a dog-whistle or what?) producing PVC skull badges with hidden Nazi symbols. There are others without the symbols, and anyone who’s not a SJW or a military historian would have trouble telling the difference.
Speaking of military history: The German army issued skull badges to every elite unit that was deemed worthy of mechanization from the late 1920s through to the end of the war. The 1st SS Panzers were the first party troops to earn the designation, and even their non-tank detachments (like the prison guards) thought they were cool and wore them prominently. It’s difficult to imagine anyone making a skull-and-crossbones symbol look bad, but the SS managed it.
Having said that, you wouldn’t call pirates Nazis just because they hoist a black flag with a skull on it, just like you wouldn’t call someone a genocidal maniac just because they happen to own the latest Chinese-made iPhone (“Now made from 50% genuine Uighur bone-meal plastic!”)
Statement: But surely we shouldn’t ally with Nazis, or people who accept Nazis, or people who…
Some of the citizens of your own country are members of the KKK. One of the biggest prison gangs is the Aryan Nation; upon learning that, we didn’t instantly stop sending people to prison. Until a couple of years ago, several Democrats in the Senate were opposed to the integration of our schools back in the 60s; one of them is our current President. There is no ideologically pure nation, or cause, or religion, or political party. There’s always some nut out there who has odious ideas, and one of them is always on your side. I’m not telling you to like it or even accept it, but I will say it’s a bloody stupid thing to worry about in the middle of a shooting war.
Statement: The Pentagon is running bioweapons research plants in Ukraine, and Russia is taking them out.
UPDATE: RT recently rebroadcast a segment of Undersecretary Nuland’s testimony before Congress about this, taken out of context in order to be deliberately misleading. Full testimony is here:
This has been verified as Russian-origin propaganda, and it’s not new. The first accusations came out in 2016, and were broadcast on Russian state media channels to justify operations in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. ZeroHedge picked it up from RT in early 2022 and broadcast it to 1.2 million Twitter followers with no follow-up or verification. There is no substance to the story whatsoever. Maps which are said to reference these facilities instead point to a Cold War-era junkyard in the middle of the woods, a spot under Chernobyl’s defunct nuclear plant, the center of a plot of farmland, and other locations with no power or infrastructure.
The Pentagon does run biotech research. There are facilities, both government and corporate, centered on Ft. Detrick in central Maryland and running through to Rockville. The locations are no accident: Militarily, these are some of the most secure points in the country; logistically, they have excellent highway access; infrastructure-wise, they access three major power grids, no two of which have ever been down simultaneously. NIST, the NIH, and “No Such Agency” all have massive campuses there, and it’s no coincidence that one of the major bunker shelter complexes is located just down the road in the town of Olney.
These are not secret facilities; the Pentagon does their research openly, and puts up very large signs announcing what it is that they do, along with heavily guarded gateposts, massive wrought-iron and concrete fences, and anti-missile batteries. This is due to the potential consequences of any attack on a bio-research facility, and it’s the reason there are no secret ones except, possibly, on other military bases.
As a conspiracy theory, this one ranks south of tinfoil hats; as propaganda, it’s ludicrous. It’s not even plausible. I can’t believe I have to write about it, and I hate you all just a little for falling for it.
Statement: Refugees are facing severe racial discrimination at the Ukraine border.
Reports started coming as early as the 22nd of February that people who weren’t white were being turned back at train stations and at the border. Government policy was that all males of fighting age were to be held in-country, but this doesn’t apply to non-citizens.
Policy notwithstanding, there are several well-documented instances of Ukrainian border control officers according preferential treatment to Ukrainian citizens, women, and children beyond the scope of their instructions, and some of them barred non-citizen transit entirely for anyone without official American, Chinese, or European documentation. Africans and central Asians were definitely the majority of this group.
Reports are mixed as to whether this was a result of language difficulties or appearance, with some asserting racism and others saying it was merely due to prioritizing Ukrainians. Either way, however, the results are the same, so, yes, there was undeniably some racial discrimination going on.
Border controls have relaxed since the opening days of the war, and these reports no longer appear to be coming in.
There are other viral stories, mostly false, that need to be mentioned:
- Miss Ukraine is not actually a member of the armed forces; she posted a picture of herself with an AirSoft gun as a message of support.
- The road sign that says “Go f**k yourself back to Russia” was digitally altered, yes — but it was done as an ad by the Ukraine government urging citizens to deface or remove road signs. It became a meme on its own.
- “Put these sunflower seeds in your pocket, please” is an entirely legitimate quote that went viral.
- The garrison of Snake Island did say “Russian Warship, go f**k yourself” in response to a demand for surrender. There is dispute about whether or not they survived the following bombardment and assault.
- Footage of “crisis actors” filming a fake war in Ukraine was actually taken from a movie documentary about the film “Invasion Planet Earth”, which was shot in Birmingham, U.K.
- A news reporter talking in front of people in body bags, one of whom unzipped and got up during the shot, was actually covering a climate protest in Austria. It had nothing to do with Ukraine.
- The “Ghost of Kiev” footage actually came from a video game. There’s no official information about the legendary pilot one way or the other, merely some rumors.
- Ukraine has not been committing mass genocide on their Russian citizens. The native Ukrainians would never stand for it; they’re probably cousins. Plus, as open a country as Ukraine is, someone would have noticed and put it on Twitter by now. Seriously; this is so far-fetched I almost didn’t bother — but then it occurred to me: Some of you will believe anything, no matter how nuts. This one is insane.
- As always, Sam Hyde and Bernie Gores aren’t really dead or Russian or Ukrainian or anything other than gifted and prolific internet trolls, demonstrating to us all that we really need to fact-check everything.
There’s a lot more out there to be debunked, and I’ll add a few things as and when I find them. Thanks go out to Snopes, EU vs Disinfo, and a zillion other groups that do this professionally; only about half of this article is based primarily on TNFN research.
As always: If what you’re reading appeals to you, if it justifies your own biases perfectly, and above all if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If what you just read pisses you off, that’s not because it’s wrong. People are wrong every day and it doesn’t get to you. If you’re upset by this article, it’s because deep down you’re afraid it’s true.
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