The free press in the West (4)

The current pattern in a lot of Western reporting on Russia is to produce relatively objective articles for about 90% of the piece. The last 10% though is given over to a spoiler – rubbing home an entirely negative, and usually


The free press in the West (3)

This web site has reviewed coverage of the Ukraine crisis here and here.

This is just an addendum. Of all the propagandists Reuters seems to be the most shameless.

This is an article by Reuters about the NATO Commander Breedlove (an impossible name for a

The ‘free’ press in the West (part 2)

This web site published an article in May 2014 about the Western media reporting on the situation in Ukraine. Through a careful reading of the details of multiple press reports we demonstrated how the Western press was collusive in telling tales about what is happening in Ukraine. All semblance of factual reporting had been lost. Reports used selectivity with facts, mis-reports and elaborate language to create a narrative fully in-synch with that of the Western political class. Everything was filtered through the interpretation of the Western political establishment. The story was about how a “new government” came to power in Kiev after “peaceful protests”. They did nothing wrong. They (all Ukraine) just wants to be part of the EU. The Russians responded by annexing Crimea at gunpoint and then stirring up a war in the East. All because they are “aggressive”.

This piece is a stock take one year later. Is the “free press” in the West still producing hysterical and one-sided propaganda which white-washes Western intervention in Ukraine? The method is the same. A number of articles from the news agencies and UK press are selected (mostly at random) and reviewed for factual accuracy and propaganda intention.


This is from Reuters in a piece discussing NATO’s plans to increase its posture in the member states around Russia:

NATO has made clear it will not intervene in Ukraine but will bolster the defenses of nervous eastern allies who were under Moscow’s domination for four decades until 1989

It may be the case that NATO is not going to intervene officially in Ukraine. However, the US, NATO’s biggest contributor, is already intervening heavily. The US is already supplying “non-lethal” weapons. [1] The US is planning to send military trainers. [2] NATO has officially left it up to individual members to arm Kiev. [3] According to Russia several members are in a programme to arm Kiev which is coordinated with the US. [4]. The Ukrainian Defence Minister has confirmed that they are receiving arms from NATO members. [5] NATO member Poland has indicated it is willing to sell arms to Kiev. [6] The US is openly mulling whether to send “lethal”, as opposed to “non-lethal” arms to Kiev. [7] Â In effect they are intervening while attempting to avoid doing so publicly by delegating the decisions to individual regions. Interestingly this is what they accuse Moscow of doing. The US and NATO have a long history of accusing the other side of what they are doing. So. To clarify; NATO may have “made it clear” they will not intervene in Ukraine. However, in effect, they are intervening. Reuters is free to report on NATO’s statements as matters of fact; or, to probe, question and try to tell something resembling the truth. If they choose the former, as they do here, they are acting as a kind of press arm of NATO.

The “eastern allies” were not under Moscow’s, (as in the current Moscow, capital of Russia), domination for four decades. They were part of the Soviet Union. Reuters is confusing present-day Russia with the Soviet Union. No doubt intentionally. Given the way that the Baltic States were incorporated it is fair (if a summary) to say they were “dominated” by the Soviet Union. Perhaps, again in general terms, the same can be said of Romania. But hasn’t Reuters noticed; the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991? The “Moscow” who dominated these countries was the Soviet Union. The Moscow of today is the capital of Russia. A democratic country – with no foreign countries under its “domination”. Who is revising Cold War era politics – Moscow or Reuters/NATO?

The report details how NATO is going to set up new bases in the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. 30,000 troops are earmarked as a rapid reaction force. Reuters comments that:

NATO officials believe its measures comply with the alliance’s 1997 commitment not to permanently station substantial combat forces in eastern Europe while providing allies in the region with a visible assurance that the rest of NATO would come to their aid if they were attacked.

NATO is trying to build up forces in the Baltic States and in the Black Sea by endlessly re-cycling training exercises. It is true in a sense that “NATO believes” etc. But to report that “NATO believes” is a kind of tactic of propaganda. It can be said to be reportage because it has attributed the source. But the Russian side quite understandably sees this for what it is. A build up of NATO forces on their door-step. Reuters report has nothing to say about this. It is thus one-sided. It could printed in a NATO PR sheet with no embarrassment.


This is from AFP.

It is typical of much of current Western reporting on Ukraine.

It doesn’t specifically misrepresent anything. US Vice-President Biden is quoted without AFP taking a view. As such it qualifies as factual reporting.

Biden is quoted:

Russia cannot be allowed to redraw the map of Europe.

President Putin continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside, and he absolutely ignores every agreement his country has signed in the past

The US narrative blames Russia for everything. The role of the US in stoking the conflict is white-washed out. There is no mention here for US plans to send military advisers to Ukraine. [2] Nor of the “non-lethal” arms already sent. [1] Nor of the open discussions about sending lethal arms. [7] So; US military equipment is already flowing through the Ukrainian countryside. As concerns Putin “ignoring agreements he has signed”. This again is a consistent narrative line issuing from the State Department propaganda machine.  One is reminded of the agreement of 21st February 2014 between the then President Yanokovich and the then opposition, which was brokered by France, Germany and Russia. It was immediately “absolutely” broken by the opposition. [8]  No one in the US called for this agreement to be honoured. For a short-while the West cast around for the narrative line to deal with this, before finding it. It was Yanokovich who broke the agreement by “fleeing”. No mention of the violent and armed mob outside his windows which drove him out. Neither side has implemented the Minsk agreement [9]. In particular the US sending arms to Kiev (to follow-on from their existing supplies of “non-lethal” material or war) seems difficult to reconcile with support for a ceasefire.

The AFP piece also reports comments by Donald Tusk, the ex Polish premier. He is also on-message with the narrative line:

We cannot compromise on Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity

Is it “balanced reporting” to report what are obviously the “politically-motivated” narrative positions of the US machine being presented by US leaders (and their NATO allies) without comment, criticism or doubt?

It seems that “balanced reporting” may mean giving balance say to both sides of the arguments about a government health insurance programme but when it comes to Russia v. the West it is all tribal. Only “our side” is right. This is a disappointment to those who hoped that truth might extend beyond national boundaries.


This is from SkyNews.

Pro-Russian rebels annexed the Crimea region of southern Ukraine last year and have also taken control of areas in the east of the country, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Whatever view you take on how Crimea has rejoined Russia there is no way that it was an “annexation” by armed “rebels”. This story-line cannot even be supported with a selective use of the facts. There was a free election organised by a legitimate regional government – which the Western Media, including Sky News, was able to witness and report on. On 2/3/2014 Sky TV News reported “The Pro-Russian parliament of Crimea decides to join Russia. Now the narrative has become “Pro-Russian rebels annexed the Crimea region”. This is a nice example of the way the Western media delivers a narrative line. When they think no one is looking they’ll just change it. Narrative lines unlike reportage are not bound to facts.


This is an editorial piece in the Daily Telegraph.

It’s included here because of the synching between its narrative line and that of the US administration. It also provides an example of what Professor Furedi has called “shallow posturing and empty moralising“.

Although Mr Obama won’t be bandying around the appeasement word, as the hawkish senator John McCain did at last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, he will have demanded assurances that Germany and France are not about to cut a weak and misguided deal with Vladimir Putin

So. We know here that the author is inline with the most right-wing elements in the US political scene who say that negotiating a peace deal in Ukraine is “defeatism” or failing to “defend freedom”. Of course they do; if the US sends more weapons to Ukraine the war won’t be on America’s doorstep.

The author continues:

For all the formulaic professions of unity at yesterday’s press conference in Washington, the Obama administration was rattled by the decision of Mrs Merkel and Franois Hollande to go racing off to Moscow last week on a mission that looked dangerously like rewarding bad behaviour.

“Rewarding bad behaviour”. Thousands of people have died in Eastern Ukraine. From both sides in the conflict. Though it has to be said that civilians have been hard-hit in Eastern Ukraine. Many have died at the hand’s of Kiev’s indiscriminate shelling. [10]. In fact this sentence reflects two aspects of the official right-wing Western narrative on Ukraine. It white-washes Kiev’s crimes. And it reduces a complex conflict with a long history to the level of school rules and “morality”.

For the last few weeks the Kremlin has continued to pour men and materiel into eastern Ukraine, while Mr Putin sets conditions for talks that sceptics fear will buy him time to continue re-drawing Europe’s borders ‘at the barrel of a gun’, as Mr Obama put it.

Well. There seems to be surprising little evidence for the men and material which “Mr Putin” is sending to Eastern Ukraine. Anyway. Here we have the “at the barrel of a gun” narrative line. It looks like this one was patched up between the US President and David Cameron. The latter used a variant “at the barrel of a Kalashnikov” to describe the referendum in Crimea. It’s worth pointing out that no less a figure than former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy has commented that he thinks the Crimea joining Russia was legal and analogous to Kosovo gaining its independence under his Premiership. What we see here is, again, what Frank Furedi would call “shallow posturing and empty moralising, always with an eye to making an impact with the media”.

At the heart of that disagreement exposed by more hawkish voices in the US administration who want to send defensive weapons to Ukraine is whether at this juncture it is worth negotiating with Mr Putin at all.

Mr Foster is right on track here with the US narrative. In fact they are already sending “non-lethal” military support. [11] This includes kit such as night-vision googles; which are designed to support offensive operations. Now we have the new euphemism from the US; anti-tank weapons [12] are described as “defensive weapons”. Mr Foster doesn’t miss a beat in echoing the correct narrative line. In fact he even goes further when he uses the term “defensive weapons”. The US President describes them as “lethal defensive weapons”.

The risk, as Mr Obama implied in his press conference with Mrs Merkel, is that Mr Putin will talk he might even sign a deal but will soon break any commitments as he prosecutes his ultimate ambition, which is to hive off a significant portion of Ukraine and open a land bridge to Crimea.

It isn’t clear whether this is Mr Foster’s opinion or if he is reporting on what the US President said at the Press Conference. This seems to be a transcript of a least part of President Obama’s press conference.

When it comes to military intervention Mr Obama has always been cautious, but as conditions worsen on the ground he is under mounting pressure to authorize defensive weapon shipments to the Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank missiles and high-tech radars

Nope. As President Obama candidly admits in the Press conference comments linked above the US is already involved militarily in Ukraine.

Mr Obama has resisted has resisted such calls before, most notably when it came to arming Syrian rebels, but such are the stakes in Ukraine, there are those who believe that this most reluctant of interventionists may be forced to concede, at least partially, to the hawks.

Factual error. The US is arming Syrian rebels. [13] As for “most reluctant of interventionists” that seems to something of a misnomer. Libya would be another case where the US under Obama has intervened.  [14] In this case the US coordinated arms being sent from Qatar. [15] He is also over-seeing a world-wide programme of drone strikes.

President Obama does not believe that he is the “most reluctant of interventionists”. This is him speaking to Vox magazine:

My administration is very aggressive and internationalist in wading in and taking on and trying to solve problems.

And so it continues:

That might mean sending not anti-tank weapons, but some less offensive weapons, such as Humvees and medical transport vehicles, the lack of which are preventing Ukrainian casualties from receiving timely medical attention.

They are already sending Humvee vehicles. [16] Another factual error.

In the end, that could ultimately play into the hands of Angela Merkel who, if weapons are to be provided, is determined that she will have demonstrated to her own gun-shy public that she did everything possible to engage Mr Putin before conceding the necessity of providing military assistance to Kiev.

The necessity? We couldn’t help it your Honour. We “had” to do it.

Peter Foster, the author of this tosh, is the Telegraph‘s bureau chief in Washington. It serves as a good example of how some sections of the Western press apparently simply see their job as being repeating the narrative lines being constructed by the political leadership. Little echoes.

14/2/2015 – satellite pictures and narrative lines

The US Ambassador to Ukraine has published some satellite photographs on his “Twitter” feed. These are supposed to show “Russian military not separatist” artillery pieces near the contested village of Debaltsevo. The images were taken by a commercial satellite company.

The first image shows some grey blobs in a field somewhere. Let’s assume that these are indeed artillery pieces, that they are in the location we are told they are and the images have been taken recently.

The US Ambassador headlines his “Tweet”:

We are confident these are Russian military, not separatist, systems

An account which appears to be owned by the BBC has Tweeted the Ambassador:

BBC News are keen to use the satellite images you’re posting. Are we clear to use them on our outlets? Please follow and DM us.

Thus are narratives constructed.

What does the claim “We are confident these are Russian military, not separatist, systems” mean? It means, one supposes, that these artillery pieces are supplied by Russia. And maybe a claim that they are manned by Russian soldiers as well. Rather than being equipment which the “separatists” have captured from the Ukrainian army. Or have bought. The problem is that there is nothing in the image (image 1) which supports such an assertion. Nothing. Zero. Even if it is an artillery piece etc. how does the image show that it is “Russian military”? If the claim is based on an analysis of the type of artillery piece then the Ambassador has not shared that with us. And given the fact that the images show no detail at all it is far from clear that it would be even theoretically possible to work out the type of weapon.

But the BBC is apparently lapping it all up.

The release of such an image on the US Ambassador’s Tweet stream is not the casual almost chatty act it appears to be. Such a post will have been put together by a team of people whose job it is to create a certain narrative line for public consumption using available evidence. This is one of the tasks of intelligence agencies. For example Scott Ritter detailed an MI6 information project in the book War on Iraq. [17] The aim is to manipulate the press into producing the preferred narrative line. And thus the population into believing it. In this case: Russia is sending heavy weapons into Eastern Ukraine. Thus do our modern democratic governments behave.

The claim that the (supposed) artillery pieces are “Russian” is not evidenced by the image. The claim accompanies the image. The image is just there to sex up the claim. And to make it something which gets published. Media outlets love a good photo. As it stands there is no evidence here for the claim about Russian artillery pieces. It is just an assertion made by the Ambassador. Is the Western media responsible, and for that matter, good enough at journalism to spot the difference?

This is how the BBC did indeed pick up the ‘Ambassador’s’ story:

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, also said on Twitter that Russian units along the border were preparing a large shipment of supplies to separatist fighters.

He pointed to satellite images of what he said was Russian artillery north of Debaltseve, taken on Thursday.

The BBC is careful enough not to reproduce the image on their own web site. But; absent is any critical questioning of the images. Or of the forces behind them. This is characteristic of much current Western media reporting on Ukraine. It is less absurdly one-sided than during the heady days of Russia’s “invasion” of Crimea. But it remains one-sided in that it publishes claims and narrative fabrication efforts by Western politicians without comment or question. It provides a service where these narrative lines are amplified and broadcast to the population. The BBC acts, you might say, as a propaganda bullhorn.

15/2/2015 – more lies

The US narrative building plot around satellite images worked well (see above post for 14/2/2015). To clarify the Ambassador’s 3 blurry pictures show (allegedly):

i. Artillery pieces near Debaltsevo

ii. Artillery Pieces near Debaltsevo

iii. “Russian multiple rocket launcher deployment” at Molodyy Shakhtar

Molodyy Shakhtar is inside Ukraine in rebel held territory. This image helpfully has an arrow leading from Russia into Ukraine.

As we discussed above (post for 14/2/2015) not one of theses images provides any evidence for Russia arming the separatists. Even if we allow that the blurry images do indeed show artillery and rocket launchers in the locations and at the times claimed this does not establish that the weapons are either supplied by or operated by Russia. The weapons systems are not identified as Russian. There is no supporting evidence to explain why they cannot have been captured from Ukrainian supplies. There is no evidence that they are operated by Russian soldiers. There is no evidence of movement across the border. There is no evidence of Russian government involvement. The images accompany the claims but provide no evidence for them. But the images create a kind of media frenzy. A picture is worth more than a thousand words…(even if the picture provides no actual information).

The Daily Mail takes the bait and writes:

Vladimir Putin’s position is, of course, absurd. He denies supplying weapons and men to the rebels in Ukraine but both Nato and Western intelligence have no doubt he is lying. They say there is plenty of proof that Russia has not only been supplying the rebels with heavy weaponry but that Russian regular soldiers are fighting alongside the separatists.

US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, yesterday said satellite photos showed large numbers of weaponry being massed on the border with Ukraine and said that some of the tanks being used ‘are Russian military, not separatist systems’. Pyatt added: ‘The separatists now have more tanks, APCs, artillery and missile systems than some European Nato countries.’

This report in the Daily Mail fails even to report the Ambassador’s Tweets correctly. The images are claimed to show artillery pieces not tanks. But, “of course”, “tanks” makes a better story than artillery pieces. And while the Ambassador does indeed claim that image 3 shows supplies being massed at the border the location given is inside Ukraine – not inside Russia. The “at the border” fib told by the Ambassador and repeated by the Daily Mail is necessary to spin along the narrative line “Russia is invading Ukraine”.

Thus does the media collude with US imperialism in create narratives for public consumption.

To the credit of the Daily Mail writer he does at least acknowledge that the narrative line “Russia is expansionist and belligerent” is an opinion not a fact:

The rebels’ arms can only be coming from Russia. Many western countries believe they are working according to a plan by Putin to rebuild a new Russian-led empire.

Nonetheless it is a pity that the alternative analysis – that Russia is in self-defence mode and is concerned about a) having NATO bases along its entire Western flank and b) has a genuine interest in supporting and defending ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine from Ukrainian nationalists is not mentioned. Again; the Western media by only mentioning one point of view (the view of NATO and imperialist Western politicians) acts as a kind of propaganda conduit for this view.

In another Daily Mail piece the same images are said to show anti-aircraft weapons! The Ambassador claims artillery. The Daily Mail claims first tanks and then anti-aircraft weapons. The images are being used by the Daily Mail to evidence just about anything. This aptly illustrates the point we are making about the relationship between the images and the Ambassador’s claims. The actual images don’t really show anything but they can be used to add spice to any claim at all. The Ambassador started the ball rolling and the Western media duly picks it up and further expands it. (The Ambassador has indeed claimed that Russia is supplying tanks and anti-aircraft systems to the rebels though that was a separate claim to the tweeted images of “artillery pieces” and “rocket launchers”. [18] )

23/2/2015 – more lies from Reuters

This is a piece of particularly shameless lying from Reuters.


Does the Kremlin really call the Eastern provinces of Ukraine New Russia? Certainly some of the “separatists” do – but the Kremlin? It seems unlikely given that their stated policy all along (and since before the war started) has been to propose a federal Ukraine. But this fits the narrative about “Russian invasion” and “annexation” etc.

As for:

Germany and France mediated the peace deal that came into effect a week ago. They still hope it can be resurrected, even though the rebels ignored it to inflict to seize the town of Debaltseve after encircling thousands of Ukrainian troops

Fantastic. No mention of Russia who was one of 4 parties to this deal. As far “the rebels ignored it”. Time for a fact check. Debaltseve was behind the ceasefire lines of both sides. This is shown for example on this map produced of the Minsk 2 ceasefire lines by the Ukrainian side. Incidentally the BBC report on that page is far more objective than Reuters. It presents quotes from several sides and acknowledges that both sides in the fighting are in breech of the ceasefire.

This kind of blatantly dishonest reporting – telling lies that can easily be verified as lies – is a hallmark of Reuters reporting on the Ukraine conflict. Someone somewhere must be pulling the strings. Reuters is owned by Thomson Reuters, which is a publicly traded company. Reuters has its headquarters in Canary Wharf in London. It is therefore at the heart of Western finance capital. The project to bring Ukraine into the orbit of Western finance capital through EU membership, IMF programmes and a military intervention is well supported by the corporate media.

23/2/2015 – the warmongering Western press

Today, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has made an important speech at the UN on the occasion of the UN’s 70th birthday. He comments on how the UN is being side-lined by the US/UK alliance. They use the UN to approve their actions and if they don’t succeed they either go ahead anyway – or they abuse the resolutions. This is consistent with facts. On Syria for example, when Russia indicated it would not sign a resolution authorising bombing the UK described Russia as “obstructing” the UN.

This is RT’s report on Sergey Lavrov’s speech. (The incompetent journalist has confused Syria with Serbia in her piece to camera).

This is important stuff. The role of the UN and the entire shaping of the international order is at stake. Even if you don’t agree with the Russian analysis it behoves the press in a “democracy” to report the speech made to the UN by one of the 5 permanent members.

Yahoo News however is instead today covering the comments by a US Senator, John McCain that he feels “ashamed” that his country has allowed the “dismemberment” of a European state. He is presumably referring to the “annexation” of Crimea.

This prioritising of editorial subject matter shows a lack of balance. These kinds of editorial choices have an impact of public opinion and thus, to some extent, effect what kind of answers and explanations the political class needs to give. By making this kind of choice Yahoo is seeing to it that an open discussion about the role of the UN is less likely to take place. The debate they shape is one which is already at the “right” of the possible spectrum. Should  we bomb or just sanction Russia? Peace, rational negotiations, international democracy are excluded.

Yahoo is a publicly traded company. That is another media outlet owned by finance capital.

The finance capital owned Western media is actively waging war on behalf of the project of Western finance capital to capture Ukraine, lock, stock and barrel. In international affairs at any rate the Western media does not provide a balanced range of opinion which would promote rational and informed debate and decision making.

26/6/2015 – lots of little lies

This is a Daily Mail story about a) the display of NATO armoured vehicles in Estonia within 300m of the border with Russia and b) the situation with gas in Eastern Ukraine.

The paper tells its readers:

Putin this week began supplying gas direct to areas of eastern Ukraine which are now controlled by pro-Moscow rebels who are, the West allege, propped up by the Russian army.

He lambasted Kiev for switching off gas to the region, notwithstanding Russian gas monopoly Gazprom’s threat to cut Ukraine off entirely – a block which would affect Europe’s pipeline supply

It’s not a huge lie. Kiev has switched off the gas supply to parts of Eastern Ukraine. They claimed that this was due to damaged pipes. It is possible to see it as a punitive measure. They previously cut of pensions and banking services to the rebel area. The threat by Gazprom to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine is because Ukraine is on an advance payment model and they haven’t paid for next month’s supply. There is a dispute. Russia is regarding gas which they supplied to Eastern Ukraine when Kiev cut off the pipes as part of the gas which has been pre-paid for by Ukraine. (Naturally perhaps since this is gas which was consumed in Ukraine and which Kiev would have used if they hadn’t shut down the pipes to Eastern Ukraine). Ukraine disputes this view. Thus there is a dispute about the current balance of account.

It appears that there is a reckless strategy from Kiev which is saying to Russia something like “if you want to support these rebellious regions then go ahead and bear the costs”.

Either way; the indication by Gazprom that they will cut off the gas relates to non-payment. It is not on the same level as Kiev shutting off gas supply to the rebel regions – whatever the actual reason for that.

The Daily Mail’s report gives a misleading impression of this dispute. It creates an image of Russia belligerently using gas supplies as a weapon. All they are trying to do is get paid. Putin’s warning to Europe is a matter of fact not a threat. If they stop supplying Ukraine because of a payment dispute then supplies to Europe may be effected. Putin may be trying to prompt the EU to help Ukraine resolve the payment issue. The Daily Mail’s report rendering though fits with the belligerent Russia narrative line.

Some paragraphs later in the article there is the detail that Kiev stopped supplying gas because the pipeline was damaged. And, to be fair, it quotes Putin in some detail. Nonetheless the overall narrative explains Russia’s actions as a tit-for-tat measure – and makes no mention at all of the fact the Gazprom simply wants to get paid for gas.

It’s not a big lie. But it is an example of the kind of journalism where the facts are selected to fit the narrative rather than the narrative being established by the facts.

The same article contains the absurd claim that a Russian exercise “swooped” on an area within Russian territory in response to the NATO parade in Estonia, 300m from Russia’s border – a parade that can only be seen as a deliberate provocation. This shows we are in the world of Russia hysteria. Objectively speaking holding a parade of NATO armoured vehicles 300m from Russia’s border in a Baltic state is obviously a provocation. But these are described as a “small contingent” and to do with “exercises”. Whereas a Russian exercise inside their own borders held in response (apparently) is described in colourful language of “swooping”.

This kind of reporting is typical of the current level of inaccuracy on reporting on Ukraine. It is no longer the hysterical reporting about the “Russian invasion” of Crimea. It gives the point of view of Russia. But only up to a point. The overall narrative is still largely in line with the NATO story about “Russian aggression”. In  a way then it is even more insidious as it gives the impression of being “balanced” while in fact still being written as if it had to be approved by a censor in NATO HQ.

Here is another little lie from the Daily Mail.

It will be watched warily by the UK, which has led calls for a string of punishing economic sanctions against Moscow for arming pro-Kremlin separatists who have taken over huge swathes of territory

In fact sanctions were started when Russia “annexed” Crimea. They were not initially applied because of events in Eastern Ukraine. They were also applied long before the Western powers started claiming that they “know” that Russia is arming the “pro-Kremlin separatists”. The phrase “pro-Kremlin separatists” serves a number of propaganda purposes. It completely buries the fact that the rebels in Eastern Ukraine have their own agenda. And, (at least from their point of view), a legitimate fight. And it subtly tells the viewer that Russia is under some kind of Kremlin led dictatorship. This sentence is not entirely not true. It could probably even be defended successfully in a libel action. But it nonetheless spreads multiple lies in a kind of insidious way. The interesting question is the extent to which this is done deliberately or it just the result of lazy “journalists” who somehow instinctively know how to cover up the West’s guilt.


This is a story by AFP about the arrest of suspects in the case of the assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. It is pretty much as we would expect. There is no praise for the Russian police in bringing suspects in and charging them. Though the arrests have only just happened AFP remarks that the investigators have given no information about who ordered the hit. This is then followed up with repeated remarks about a “string of other killings of Russian opposition figures” – in which investigators also failed to blame Putin, sorry, identify the forces who ordered the killings. As so often the Western propaganda machine has to ignore the actual facts which it itself reports. The facts, as reported by AFP, are that the suspects have been remanded in custody for two months for investigations to take place. If the investigators had announced a result within 2 days no doubt AFP would have printed a story about how “Kremlin investigators rushed out a conclusion….”. The objective is to taint Putin and any measures are allowed.

Even if Putin didn’t “order” it he is still to blame according to AFP:

Many Russians say that failing direct involvement, Putin is still to blame for whipping up hatred against the opposition by regularly referring to them as a “fifth column” of traitors and spies — a message spread daily by all-powerful state media.

One wonders who the “many Russians” are? A few Russian ÊmigrÊs who work for AFP perhaps? Putin has popularity ratings of around 83% [19][Gallup poll] and the murdered Boris Nemtsov as a member of the liberal opposition could count on perhaps 1% of the electorate according to opinion polls. [20] So is it really the case that “many Russians” blame Putin. No, of course not. This is a Western propaganda line which they validate by finding a few Russians to agree to it.

Putin doesn’t refer to the opposition as “traitors and spies”. He does, it is entirely true, distinguish between a patriotic opposition and an opposition which he sees as not supporting Russian national interests. However he is on record as saying that in his discussions with this opposition he still learns something and that everyone has something to offer. He may have used the term “fifth column” – but “frequently”? And is this message spread “daily” by “powerful state media”? Well; there is nothing like this on the front-page of today (6/3/15) – and probably won’t be most days you care to look. In Russia the neo-liberal pro-Western opposition is a niche interest. It is the Western political class and media who talk about it.

If Putin referred to the liberal opposition as a “fifth-column” perhaps that was an entirely accurate description. After all; they are clearly promoted by the West, out of proportion to their domestic popularity, in order to discredit the elected government of Russia. So “fifth-column” perhaps contains a valid political point. But AFP cites this as evidence of Putin’s tyranny. He can’t win. Whatever he does or doesn’t do will be used as evidence against him. That’s because AFP is engaged in and party to a project to get regime change in Russia and steal all that lovely oil and gas for Western interests. While “freeing” the Russian people from tyranny of course.

It is true that all the main TV stations in Russia are owned by the state. However, this is not the case for the print media. [21] And, anyway; as this article and this one conclusively demonstrate the so-called “free press” in the West is really just a big propaganda machine. Owned in the main by Western finance capital the “free media” in the West is actively part of the project of Western finance capital to expand all over the world. AFP is something of an exception in not being owned by finance capital. It is owned by the French government. Should one call it “NATO controlled mass media”?

This article also seeks to link Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea to the murder of Boris Nemtsov which, even if Putin didn’t order he is still responsible for we are told. This article then is part of the hysterical whipping up of anti-Russian sentiment which characterised earlier reporting on Crimea. Are they getting ready for war? This irrational demonising of the “enemy” is usually part of the warm-up phase when the West wants to condition its own populations for the next imperialist war.

The author of this article appears also to be mixing up President Putin with Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic.

This article too manages to give the impression that it is “balanced”. For example it quotes a statement from the investigators into what lines of enquiry they are following. But the key points are in the biting anti-Putin rhetoric. No serious critical voices against Western propaganda are or can be included in the piece.

The Western press does not just mis-report the facts and mislead their viewers. The Western press is part of the regime change operation. Goebbels would have been proud.


In short. The situation has changed somewhat from February 2014. More attempt is being made to present what looks like balanced reports. Articles sometimes, as is normal in journalism, include some mention of statements made by Russian ministries. However; the West is still presented as whiter than white. And there is no attempt to present the Russian point of view in any depth. Language which pre-determines the political interpretation, such as “annexation” of Crimea, is still rife. Outright lying continues. The narrative of the political forces in the West is amplified not criticized. Whereas Russian positions, if they are mentioned at all tend to be described in ways that portray the Russian leadership as lying, aggressive and tyrannical towards its own people. One could say that the propaganda has become a bit more sophisticated. But the press is still completely on-message.

10/3/2015 – update

This is a piece from the editor of RT describing how she was stitched up in a Time magazine interview.

The telling piece of what appears to be sheer manipulation is how her comment that the Russian world-view (her words) is:

defined by certain principles expressed by the state: by representatives of the Russian state, if you talk to people on the street, if you look at different polls with Russian people as a whole – you will see that one of the important things that we do not like in the existing world order is the desire of Western countries to make unilateral judgements about what is good, what is bad in the countries far removed from them, about which they know very little, and take military actions based on those unilateral judgements


defined by certain principles expressed by the state, by representatives of the Russian state

This is consistent with the narrative line of the Western political class/press. Putin is a tyrant. Who governs using a state controlled media. They are trying to paint Russia as being like North Korea. It isn’t true. But that doesn’t matter.

19/3/2015 – update

This is the Daily Mail creating fiction for its readers in a piece about “Shameless Putin”:

Putin claims he was forced to take over Crimea – home to Russia’s key Black Sea Fleet – to protect ethnic Russians in the wake of the ouster of Ukraine’s Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Thus the disposal by a violent mob of an elected President is re-written as an “ouster” (whatever that means) of a Kremlin stooge. The piece does (as it has to be said is characteristic of Daily Mail journalism) give more details about the background to this than is usual in the Western press. They even mention that Crimea was given to Ukraine at a time when no one thought the Soviet Union would fall. But the re-union of Crimea with Russia is described in terms of a Russian “payback” carried out “under the eyes of elite soldiers”. Their own narrative about “Russian aggression” is contradicted by the very facts in their story but it doesn’t stop them. Who is shameless? (And in terms of details the narrative is selective. The fact that the EU and US were supporting the mob who “ousted” the elected President is not to be found).


















17. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter revealed the existence of an M16 program which took low-grade intelligence from UNSCOM and planted it in the press in non-aligned countries in an attempt to manipulate how the governments of those countries voted at the UN. War on Iraq. Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt. Profile Books. 2002





The free press in the West

Who owns the “free-press”?

SkyNews is owned by BSkyB. BSkyB is a multi-billion dollar corporation traded on the London stock exchange.

Reuters is owned by Thomson Corporation. Thomson Corporation is a multi-billion dollar company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

AP is a US company owned by US media organisations who contribute material to it. Obviously some, all or most of these will be either private businesses or publicly traded businesses.

AFP is based in France. It is subsidised by the French government who subscribes to many of its services. It is an independent commercial organisation which was historically owned by the French state. Currently the French government is trying to open it up to private investment. In 2006 it sold a business it had a joint interest in to Thomson Financial, a division of Thomson Corporation, which owns Reuters.

The Economist is part owned by a publicly traded multinational company Pearson Plc and part by wealthy private individuals.

The answer then in the main is finance capital.

The Daily Telegraph is owned by the Barclay brothers who are believed to be billionaires. (Nothing wrong with that but we would hardly expect then the newspaper to take a line other than one promoting private wealth).

As rioters attempt a coup against the elected government of Ukraine the Western Press continues to print phantasies. Here is Sky News, for example;

Thousands of riot police used water cannon and stun grenades against protesters. Demonstrators responded to the security forces’ assault by hurling petrol bombs, fireworks and stones.

This continues the general narrative being offered by Western politicians and the corporate press. Violent Soviet era policemen are attacking “peaceful protesters”. The government is refusing dialogue, and so on.

Of course demonstrators didn’t “respond” to an “attack” by the police. Firstly it is evident that the rioters are initiating many actions. They are taking over government buildings all over the country for example. Even leaving that aside the police are doing what the police in the UK or any other European country would do in similar circumstances. They are clearing the protesters from a public square. (This is exactly what happens whenever there is a big demonstration in Whitehall for instance).

The ploy by the US and the EU is clear. Completely failing to condemn the rioters.Yet warning the legitimate and elected President of the country not to use force. It seems the plan is to put the government of Ukraine into an impossible position. The aim is to force a situation where the elected President of the country has no choice but to “negotiate” with rioters into agreeing a technocratic government and early elections on their terms. It is already clear the opposition is not going to negotiate its demands. It may even have got out of hand. Many of these rioters, judging by the levels of violence used, will not be interested in an electoral process at all. It is in effect a coup.

Here is the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, on Ukraine:

President Yanukovych should be under no doubt that the world is watching his actions and that those responsible for violence will be held accountable

His confederate William Hague appears to have become completely detached from reality. He has “tweeted” his version of the party line:

Violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable and the Ukrainian gov should be held accountable

The US has publicly told President Yanukovych not to use the army. Despite the fact that the police are taking live rounds.

All this is propaganda designed to put pressure on the (elected) government of Ukraine to prevent them using any degree of force to quell the unrest. And thus they will have to concede to the demands of the rioters. Whose petrol bombs, paving stones and fire-arms appear to be invisible to Mr Hague and Mr Cameron.

The corporate press sings the accompanying chorus line about peaceful protesters being attacked by police. This is par for the course. Western public was prepared for interventions in Syria and Libya by similarly over-simplistic portrayals of (fragmented) opposition movements as “democracy protesters”. When it comes to regime change the  role of the press  in the West is to manage public opinion, prepare the conditions for any military intervention, and put pressure on the government in the target country. Truth doesn’t come into it.

When challenged about their “human rights” record or when criticisms are made of them in general Western politicians will often cite the “free press” in the West. As if to say “we cannot be doing anything seriously wrong; remember, we are accountable to a free press”. Clearly the press in the West may be “free”. But it offers fake narratives as news, serving the interests of power, at least as much as any state controlled press anywhere in the world.

These fake stories in the press, these disavowals that they are attempting to manipulate the outcome, when they transparently are, all have a kind of cartoon-like quality to them. Who believes any of this? Are they telling lies simply to appease their own consciences while the populations of the West, to a man (or woman), know that they are lying?

Update 22/2/14

The imprisoned Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko has been freed. Sky News headlines the story:

Tymoshenko Freed As Ukraine ‘Dictatorship Ends’

While they manage to put “Dictatorship Ends” in single quote marks it is clear that this is the message of the news article. The facts though support the alternative interpretation. We have seen an armed coup led by violent rioters who have not at any stage demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with the elected government of Ukraine. At every stage they have taken the concessions offered and then broken their part of the bargain. Most recently they have broken the deal brokered by Poland, Germany, France and Russia which would have seen a managed transition and new Presidential elections. They have not handed in weapons and have attempted to impeach the President. Apparently armed rioters are now in control of Kiev.

The corporate press has been almost entirely silent on the violence of the protesters. It is this silence which enables fake claims by Western politicians about “courageous protesters” whose “voice has finally been heard”. The corporate press and Western politicians advance hand in hand.  So much for a “free press”.

 Update 23/2/2014

AFP is reporting as a matter of fact that Yanukovych tried to flee the country. AFP’s source for this story is Serhiy Astahov, a spokesmen for the border control agency. It at least sounds like classic misinformation to discredit Yanukovych. At any rate it does not appear to be a story which has been substantiated according to the standards of professional journalism. At this time of turmoil with power changing hands any story of this nature, which so obviously serves propaganda purposes, needs to be confirmed by several sources and independent witnesses. At the very least then the fact that the story has a single source and the nature of the source should be indicated. Yet AFP is simply reporting this as fact.

Again; the corporate press is shown to be better at producing propaganda than at doing journalism.

Update 24/2/2014

 This is how Reuters is telling the story:

Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovich is on the run after being toppled by bloody street protests in which police snipers killed opposition demonstrators.

It isn’t ‘not true’. But there is no mention in the article about the Molotov cocktails, the beaten policemen, the looted arsenals, the injured (and according to RT multiple dead) policemen. These were not “demonstrators”. They were well-armed rioters who in a sustained and planned way, and rejecting all negotiations, over-turned the constitutional democracy of Ukraine. There are any number of videos available which show time and time again these “demonstrators” trying to kill policemen with petrol bombs, launching ferocious attacks on captured and defenceless policemen and so on. There are numerous still images available on-line showing armed “demonstrators”. Thus without strictly speaking lying Reuters nonetheless manages to put out a nasty and dishonest piece of propaganda.

There are certain rules of reporting and good journalism. You can go to college and learn them if you want. It is truly a dispiriting spectacle to see all the main news organisations throwing them out of the window in their eagerness to assist NATO and Western capitalism take over Ukraine.

Update 26/2/2014

And so it goes on. Here is Sky News today:

“Lavrov called on the OSCE to decisively condemn the rise of nationalist and neo-fascist sentiment in the west of the country, (to condemn) calls to ban the Russian language, to turn the Russian-speaking population into ‘non-citizens’ and to restrict freedom of expression,” his ministry said in a statement.

References to fascism are evocative of the Cold War period, when authorities in the East routinely described the West as fascist.

Mr Lavrov’s words are measured and in accordance with the facts. It is clear that neo-Nazi extremist groups have played a part in the violence in Ukraine in recent days. The new ‘parliament’ has indeed over-turned legislation which allowed Russian to be used as a language of official business. One member of the opposition has indeed made the call which Sergey Lavrov refers to about removing citizenship from Russian-speaking members of the population. But Sky offers them as evidence of a “cold-war mentality” and implicitly suggests that they are idealogical rather than fact-based.

The Western corporate media, not known for its critical stance towards Western capitalism has outdone itself on Ukraine. At times it has resembled the nasty kind of propaganda sheets produced by Goebbels for the Nazis. (For example a mocking characterisation of the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as “fuming”). All the main outlets, Reuters, AFP, Sky News, have printed a narrative on the events in Ukraine which was written in some corporate office somewhere to support the political aims of NATO and the EU. They haven’t even bothered to hide it especially.

From the same article quoted immediately above we also have this:

Ukraine’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovych – who has been put on the international wanted list – remains in the country, according to the deputy general prosecutor.

What “international wanted list”? Seriously. The new ‘parliament’ in Ukraine has applied to the ICC to prosecute Yanukovych. The ICC has said they will look into it. But what “international wanted list”? (According to other reports it is not even clear if the new powers in Ukraine have even approached Interpol yet. Let alone obtained a warrant).

Update 27/2/2014

This is AFP today:

Lawmakers in Crimea’s regional parliament, which is currently being controlled by pro-Russian gunmen, voted Thursday to hold a referendum on May 25 on the region’s status in Ukraine, the parliament’s press service said

The clear suggestion is that the vote was subject to pressure by armed gunmen and we can therefore discount it. AFP does not mention in this piece that the local Tartar population in Crimea which, apparently, is favourable to the Ukrainian centre and to the idea of remaining in Ukraine was attempting to block the Crimea regional parliament from meeting because they knew that the parliament would propose a referendum. This was the stated aim of the  Tartar protesters. In Kiev armed protesters over-throw an elected government. AFP, along with other corporate press outlets, presents this as a blow for democracy. In the Crimea armed men secure the sitting of the current (regional) government. AFP reports this with a suggestion that this casts doubt on its democratic legitimacy.

All of the major press outlets have presented a narrative on Ukraine which is tangibly driven by a specific political agenda. They have all been entirely consistent. There has been no deviation from the key theme. (Noble and peaceful protesters for democracy and prosperity who represent the Ukrainian people have over-turned the [some silence on this point] elected government of Ukraine, moving quickly on, which was run by the wanted war criminal Yanukovych who stole millions of dollars from the Ukrainian people to feed his ostriches and fled after shooting dozens of unarmed peaceful civilians. The new parliament in Ukraine is obviously the legitimate representative of the Ukrainian people). The consistency of the narrative across all the major outlets is striking.

Update 28/2/2014

And so it carries on. A report by Sky, provocatively headlined “Russia in ‘armed invasion’ claims” described President Yanukovych as the “disgraced President” who “proclaimed himself as the nation’s legitimate President”, the latter articulated in a tone of surprise. The ‘government’ in Ukraine is, of course, described without any qualification at all as the legitimate authority in Ukraine. That it is the result of the violent over-throw of the elected government of Ukraine is airbrushed out of the narrative. As is the fact that it is in violation of the agreement brokered by Poland, France and Germany which would have seen a managed and peaceful resolution to Ukraine’s constitutional crisis.

The report focuses the camera repeatedly on soldiers in green camouflage uniforms. The reporter more or less suggests that they are Russian soldiers. He doesn’t present any evidence for that – apart from a challenge to one of the soldiers, in beginner’s Russian, which was ignored. He just appears to take it for granted. (Perhaps taking his cue from the ‘authorities’ in Kiev). The reporter says that “Russia has denied it is violating Ukraine’s sovereignty”. That is a misleading representation of the facts. The fact is that there has been an exchange of diplomatic notes between the new powers active in Kiev and Moscow. Moscow has asserted that it is moving military assets around in line with existing agreements with Ukraine and in response to the security situation in the Crimea. That is as non-proactive response as you could get. Russia hasn’t “denied that it is violating Ukraine’s sovereignty”. This whole report is itself a wildly irresponsible provocation. Very short on facts. It gives tacit support to a violent and undemocratic seizure of an elected government and the subsequent violation of internationally mediated agreements. It talks up the possibility of Russian military actions but presents no evidence.

All of the Western corporate reporting on the events in Ukraine has been from the point of view of NATO and the Western powers. It is like reporting during a war, when you expect the media outlets to report in line with the political and military story of the government. Â One possible explanation for the striking consistency of the faked narrative being told on Ukraine, which I commented on in the last update above (on 27/2/14), is perhaps just this. In these peoples’ minds we are at war with Russia. Â What we are seeing is war propaganda.

Update 28/2/2014 (2)

This is an example from AFP:

“Thirteen Russian aircraft landed at the airport of Gvardeyskoye (near Simferopol) with 150 people in each one,” Sergiy Kunitsyn, the Ukrainian president’s special representive in Crimea, told the local ATR television channel, adding the air space had been closed. It was not immediately clear if Russia had the right to use the base or send additional troops there under its agreements with Ukraine.

The corporate press has been repeating every word the opposition has said since seizing power (and breaking all previous agreements) as if it were unquestionably true. So eager are they to print the propaganda of the new ‘government’ in Ukraine that they couldn’t even wait to check the facts in this case before printing the story. The Russian government has stated in a diplomatic note to Kiev that it is moving military assets around in line with existing agreements it has with Ukraine. Why not print that as unquestionable truth? Does an intention to join the EU and possibly NATO effect your reliability? Yes, according to AFP.

This is an example from AP:

In a hastily arranged statement delivered from the White House, Obama called on Russia to respect the independence and territory of Ukraine and not try to take advantage of its neighbor, which is undergoing political upheaval.

It would add to the credibility of AP if they at least offered some consideration of how it has come about that Ukraine is undergoing political upheaval. Could it have something to do, for example, with a stream of senior Western officials who paraded with the demonstrators in Kiev? Could it be that the total failure of Western politicians to condemn the violence of the rioters led them to believe that they were being sanctioned by the West? Could it have something to do with the shrug with which they let the constitutional solution mediated by Poland, France and Germany slip away? Could it be to do with the way that the EU and the US were manipulating for regime change all along?

The US postures for its domestic audience that it “respects the independence and territory of Ukraine”. But senior officials from the US were handing out cakes to demonstrators on the main square in Kiev. There’s no secret about what the US wants. The Secretary General of NATO is already publicly salivating at the prospect. It isn’t anything to do with the “independence” of Ukraine. We have come to expect the expansion of the Western empire to be accompanied by a PR campaign about “democracy”. But that the press is in on the act is alarming.

Update 1 March

This particular invention is from Reuters:

MOSCOW/KIEV – Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded and won his parliament’s approval on Saturday to invade Ukraine, where the new government warned of war, put its troops on high alert and appealed to NATO for help

No. Mr Putin has not won his parliament’s approval to “invade” Ukraine. He has won their approval to deploy forces to the Ukraine to ensure stability and security. The report is factually wrong. It is yet another example of the extraordinary series of provocative claims made by Western media. It as if they are reporting on an upcoming boxing match and they want to stoke as much tension as possible in advance.

It is dishonest. Nothing to do with journalism. And tragically irresponsible.

The background to this decision by the Russian parliament is the actions by what Reuters calls the “new government” in Kiev. Already they have passed legislation to stop Russian being used as a language of official business in all Ukraine. Members of the opposition (“new government”) have made threats against the Crimea. There have already been confrontations in the Crimea between pro-Kiev sections of the population and those who are more pro-Russia. It is rational of the Russians to want to protect their interests there and in other parts of Eastern Ukraine.

In the same article Reuters says:

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, leading a government that took power after Moscow’s ally Viktor Yanukovich fled a week ago

This is sheer mischief and propaganda. “A government that took power” is one way of describing a mob take-over. They didn’t “take power” after Viktor Yanukovich fled. They broke their agreement with him and various European powers. They took power. By his account he was then threatened and then fled. Either way they chased him out. They didn’t politely wait for him to leave and then responsibly “take power” to fill the vacuum.

It goes on:

Troops with no insignia on their uniforms but clearly Russian – some in vehicles with Russian number plates – have already seized Crimea

Troops (Russian or otherwise – more careful media outlets are acknowledging that it isn’t proved that they are Russian soldiers) haven’t “seized” Crimea. Very small numbers of troops are placed at strategic locations.

The next bit is so delusional I worry for the mental health of whoever wrote it:

The Russian forces solidified their control of Crimea and unrest spread to other parts of Ukraine on Saturday

The truth is exactly the opposite. Unrest in West and central Ukraine has been spreading East. Hence the Russian actions. The attempt appears to be to sow the fabrication that the unrest in the Centre of Ukraine is the result of Russian (?) actions in the Crimea.

This Reuters piece is a good example of “reverse truth journalism”.

Update 2/3/14

This one is Sky News:

In Moscow, the state propaganda machine is already in overdrive, dismissing Oleksandr Turchynov as the “self-imposed president” and dismissing the mass protest movement as extremists and armed gangs.

For weeks now all the main media outlets in the West, along with the politicians, have been studiously ignoring the violence of the protesters. Yet it is absolutely clear that the intention was to seize the government, the elected government, of Ukraine by force. Members of this ‘mass protest movement’ were taking over police stations, looting weapons, arming themselves, throwing thousands of petrol bombs at police. Beating police with staves. Killing people. Threatening administrative officials with fire-arms. They broke every agreement they made even one mediated by France, Germany and Poland. These are the absolute facts most of which which can be probably be seen somewhere in reporting in the corporate press. It was not a ‘mass protest movement’. It was successful in toppling the elected government because of a willingness to use violence. Maybe only up to 50,000 people in a country with a population of 45 million took part in this violence. Manifestly this ‘mass protest movement’ does not represent the interests of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the Crimea and the East of the country. Indeed it is hostile to them. For example another Sky News story covers how armed extremists from Kiev are trying to smuggle weapons into the Crimea. (This piece of reporting, in contrast to the reporting on Russia’s actions, is characterised by careful journalistic caution).

The head-line for this piece refers to “Russia’s gamble”. A typical characterisation of Russia as reckless and dangerous. The real gamble here though has been the gamble of the US and EU openly siding with the protesters trying to bring down the elected government of Ukraine. In fact Presidential elections in Ukraine were scheduled for early 2015 anyway. The question of whether Ukraine joins the EU or not could have been settled through the existing constitutional and democratic means.

The propaganda here has been that provided by the Western media. As the examples on this page amply illustrate.

Here is another piece of propaganda masquerading as reporting, from AFP:

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Saturday that “for the moment, this decision (to invade) has not been taken”.

In fact the spokesman didn’t say anything of the sort. AFP is putting words into his mouth. It would be amusing if lots of peoples’ lives were not at stake. “Invade” is the Western invention for a limited operation to protect their citizens and bases. That is the operation which has been authorised by the Russian parliament.

AFP reports that Mr Putin is claiming that Russia has the right to intervene in Ukraine without a UN mandate because the purpose is to protect “their own citizens”. Abandoning any semblance of neutral, objective, reporting AFP argues that this is in contrast to what “Putin had demanded for any Western action in Syria”. Firstly it isn’t accurate that “Putin had demanded” a UN mandate for action against Syria. That flatly isn’t true. A schoolboy level of understanding. It is the case in general that under international law – the UN charter – it is illegal for any country to invade another. Self-defence or a resolution of the Security Council provides the exception. Russia indicated that it would veto any such mandate on Syria. So, that comment is already fiction. As to the legality of this reported (if true) claim by Russia that a Russian intervention in Ukraine would be legal because it is aimed at protecting their own citizens on the territory of another country I don’t know. But I can see the US, say, acting in a similar fashion and on the same grounds if US citizens at one of their bases were under threat somewhere. (Let’s say there was a coup in Saudi Arabia and the US bases there were threatened by the new regime. Of course the US would get involved). Once again then this is just another example of puerile “Big Bad Russia” propaganda posing as news reporting.

Update 5/3/14

This is a nice example of how the corporate press tells lies:

Some 16,000 Russian troops are on the ground in the region – a move the US said was a clear violation of international law.

Arguably, strictly speaking, this is not a lie. There are indeed 16,000 (or thereabouts) Russian troops based in Crimea. The report says that the US says that this is a violation of international law. It doesn’t report that as a fact. But really it presents a wholly misleading impression. Readers who are not well-informed, who have not researched this (e.g. through Wikipedia articles on Russian bases in Ukraine) will be given the impression that 16,000 Russian troops just “moved” into Ukraine. That is a total lie. The troops referred to are based in Russia’s naval bases. They have been there for years under a treaty agreement with Ukraine. The author of this piece of propaganda is quite clearly trying to create the impression of an invasion.

Update 5/3/2104

This is a piece by Channel 4 educating its readers about Russian propaganda and propaganda from (The news organisation funded by the Russian tax-payer).

I haven’t got time to go through it line by line but one aspect gives the flavour. Notice the two photographs printed side by side with the caption “(Above: local defence groups at Belbek airbase, and local defence groups as seen on RT)”. The idea is to paint a picture of RT as a silly propaganda organisation. What they’ve done of course is find an aggressive shot of an armed man (Russian soldier, whoever), from their own Western media sources, and contrast this with one they say (presumably correctly) they found on of men in civilian dress relaxing in a tent over a cup of tea which captioned as self-defence forces. If that was all that RT had done perhaps this would be valid. But if you look at (both its videos and its images) the fact is they have printed a wide range of images of the armed men in Crimea. Don’t just take my word for it. (And certainly don’t take Channel 4’s). Just go to Google images and enter: ‘ crimea self-defence forces’. It is true that RT is sometimes calls them self-defence forces. But they show plenty of images of well equipped, armed and trained looking men in masks. If you want to believe that some or all of these armed men are Russian soldiers there is plenty to go on on Channel 4’s story is no more than crude propaganda. A schoolboy joke.

Furthermore; even if there are Russian soldiers on the streets in Crimea there are also likely to be genuine local self-defence forces. (In this part of the world there is a tradition of this sort of thing). If RT have picked an image at one point to tell a narrative about homely self-defence forces it is no more than Western media do with their endless looping of a single cellphone clip of Russian helicopters flying (quite possibly completely legally from one base to another) to tell their story of a “Russia invasion”.

Update 6 March (1)

Here is Sky’s Alex Rossi with another report from Crimea.

There is what looks like cellphone footage of a woman being arrested after demonstrating in front of the regional parliament in Simferopol. We are told that it was “very hostile”. Mr Rossi “thinks” she was sprayed in the face with pepper-spray. There is also a section of the clip with a policeman holding the woman’s hair. Together with the write-up given to it (perhaps by a sub-editor in London) the whole tone of the report is hysterical. It is offered as an example of the “aggression” that Russia is waging in Crimea.

Here is some news for Mr Rossi. People can and often do get arrested in the UK for making one-person demonstrations at local council offices. The police in the UK frequently use pepper-spray to make an arrest. They spray it in peoples’ faces. That is how it works. Nasty and hostile indeed. The police in the UK are trained to use head-control when making an arrest and detaining someone. (In fact if you hold someone’s hair in a large handful and close to the scalp it only causes a minimal amount of pain).

(Quite possibly the local police were arresting the woman to protect her from the crowd).

This is a good example of purely hysterical reporting.

It is almost too obvious to point out the farce of how Sky News makes so much out of this one incident while, along with the rest of the Western media, they have almost totally ignored the violence of the Maidan protesters which went on for weeks and continues.

Update: In fact 2 days later armed men from Kiev ‘arrested’ a local pro-Russian leader in Eastern Ukraine. Now; I would fear for his safety.

Update 6 March (2)

Sky TV News tonight reported on the vote by the regional parliament in Crimea to secede from Ukraine and cleave to Russia. The caption on the screen read “The Pro-Russian parliament of Crimea decides to join Russia”. (I can’t remember the exact phrase used for ‘join Russia’). By putting in “Pro-Russian” they manage to devalue it. The institution is “pro-Russia”. Therefore we can discount it. Objective reporting would have been to say “The regional parliament in Crimea votes to….”. This is a good example of how careful use of words in headlines can be used to help fabricate the narrative.

Update 7/3/2014

In this piece Sky News mentions the US warship sailing into the Black Sea. The caption to the video is: “The navy has sent a guided-missile destroyer war ship to the Black Sea as part of a training exercise scheduled before the crisis in Ukraine unfolded”. Then, a couple of paragraphs into the article we have this:

The USS Truxtun passed the Dardanelles strait on its way to the Black Sea, amid reports that Russia has now 30,000 troops in Crimea .

Notice the contrast. The US’s military escalation is described as a scheduled training exercise. Not in the text of the article but loudly broadcast in the caption to the video. Then “reports” about Russia’s 30,000 troops in the Crimea. Somewhat amusingly, we can discover from another Sky News report that the source of what are here described as “reports” is in fact the Kiev-affiliated Border Guards. It is true that Russia has several thousand personnel in its bases in Crimea. They are there legitimately as part of an agreement with Ukraine. The “new government” in Ukraine is clearly trying to present this as some sort of “invasion”. It is indicative of the absurd levels of media collusion with the “new government” in Kiev and the West’s project for Ukraine that the media simply regurgitates this propaganda. Even if your editorial line is critical of Russia they should report the facts. Russia is permitted to have troops in Crimea. Maybe there is evidence of Russian forces acting beyond their remit. Maybe the numbers exceed the permitted levels. These are valid questions. But what we see here is not critical reporting but crude and misleading propaganda.

And that US destroyer. It is quite possible that it is on a scheduled training exercise. As it is quite possible that recent Russian military exercises were part of a planned exercise, and nothing to do with Ukraine. Then again, all big military powers make this claim as they position their assets. There is just something so credulously slavish about announcing the US government press release about this ship as if it were absolutely, unquestionably, true. But then this is what happens when corporate school-boys pose as journalists.

Update 10 March

This one is from AFP. It is pure, shameless, propaganda. This is a taste:

US President Barack Obama and his European allies are urging Russia to call its Crimean troops back to their barracks and launch immediate negotiations with a Ukrainian leadership that Putin claims rose to power thanks to an “unconstitutional coup”.

“Putin claims”. “Unconstitutional coup”. How does AFP think the “new government” in Kiev came to power? By an election? What does AFP call the kind of violence we saw in Kiev as the “protesters” toppled the elected government? All these claims about “democratic leaders”, “new government”, “new interim government” or even the “new interim team” etc. are designed to whitewash from our minds the facts on the ground that happened only two weeks ago. It is worthy of any of the most biting portrayals of “communist brain-washing” during the cold war. It really is truly astonishing.

Or this:

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine after last month’s ouster of a pro-Kremlin regime by pro-EU leaders has set off the most explosive crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War.

No. The Russian parliament has authorised the use of force in the East of Ukraine and Crimea to protect ethnic Russians and their bases. There is no question of “invading” Ukraine. Did Britain “invade” Sierre Leone when it sent an intervention force there in 2000? There was no “threat to invade Ukraine”. Does AFP think it is in Russia’s interest to fight a war in Ukraine and risk a fight with NATO? Apart from anything else it would be the destruction of 10 years of careful hard-work on the diplomatic front. The assumption running through the corporate press is that Russia is “aggressive”, “threatening”, getting ready to “invade”. This is just a sort of fiction that takes the place of any attempt to analyse the situation or understand the Russian point of view. Perhaps it is naive but the expectation of this editor was that the journalistic objectivity might extend beyond blind patriotism. In fact it isn’t really patriotism so much as a blind acceptance that every word issued by corporate politicians is true and absolutely and finally true. Evidentially these people aren’t journalists. They are writing corporate newsletters. Interestingly if the user comments on Yahoo are anything to go by very few people are buying this propaganda.

It isn’t just the corporate news agencies. This is from the New York Times:

But while the West recognizes the new interim government in Kiev, with presidential elections scheduled for May, Russia wants to return to a late February deal that former President Viktor F. Yanukovych signed, agreeing to a new unity government and new presidential elections in December.

This isn’t “not true”. President Yanukovych did sign. But the fact that several leading opposition figures, together with Poland, France and Germany also signed has been conveniently dropped. Because, obviously, that being the case it is a legitimate question to ask why this agreement isn’t being maintained. Indeed we can ask why isn’t the Western press asking just that question of Western politicians?

And this is from the something called EuroActiv Network (a news web site covering EU affairs):

Russia often speaks of extremists, nationalists and even fascists, when it refers to EuroMaidan protestors.

I.e. they are trying to tell their readers, this is not true. But the fact is that there are now members of the Svoboda party in power in the “new government” in Ukraine. Including, for example the Deputy Prime Minister. The Wikipedia article on Svoboda cites multiple scholarly references which describe them as “fascist” and “far-right”. Channel 4 somewhat redeems themselves for their silly propaganda stunt (see 5th March above) by this interesting study of how involved far-right parties are in the “interim team” in Kiev. It looks like Russia is telling the truth and the amazing thing is the silence of the Western “democracies” and the Western media about this aspect of the Ukrainian revolution. A small clue into one of the drivers for this wave of propaganda may be found in the information on the EuroActiv site about their sponsors. They include US corporations such as Dow Chemicals, Boeing and  Microsoft. Perhaps these sponsors would re-consider their sponsorship if EuroActiv told the truth?

Update 13/3/2014

This one from Reuters, is a work of pure fiction. It is just shameless lying.

Pro-Moscow separatist politicians, who took power in Crimea after armed men seized its parliament on February 27, are planning to hold a referendum on union with Russia on Sunday. Western countries say the vote is illegal.

Well. Let’s be clear. The armed men allowed the parliament to meet after Tatars opposed to a union with Russia tried to prevent it from meeting. The regional parliament reflects the opinion of the majority of people in Crimea. The politicians who voted for a referendum did not “take power” after armed men “seized” anything. They were already in place and elected. No one “seized power” in Crimea. The decision of the regional parliament was made by a legitimate and elected body without a shot being fired. This contrasts with the situation in Kiev where an extremely violent coup took place. And where people really did “seize power”.  Where, according to an EU ally, MPs are physically threatened. This is how Reuters reported those events:

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, leading a government that took power after Moscow’s ally Viktor Yanukovich fled a week ago (see above 1 March)

A violent coup where people by any stretch of the imagination really did “seize power” is presented as a peaceful and responsible slide into power. A peaceful and democratic referendum organised by an elected regional government as “separatist politicians” and “armed men seized”. Reuters is just publishing lies.

This is another quote from the same article:

The crisis over Crimea began after pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich fled Kiev and pro-European politicians took charge, following three months of demonstrations.

This line about the “new government” having stepped into power after President Yanukovich fled (from threats to his life according to him) is precisely the one that Western leaders like Mr William Hague found (after fishing around for a justification for a while) to justify the “new interim government” in Kiev. The politicians and the media editors spin exactly the same stories. The Ukraine crisis has shown, apart, from anything else, what a fiction the idea of a “free press” is in the West.

Update 14/3/2014

This is from AFP.

The United States and Russia failed Friday to resolve a Cold-War-style standoff sparked by Moscow’s military intervention in Crimea, as the clock ticks down to the region’s vote on splitting from Ukraine.

Members of the “interim team” which seized power in a violent coup are linked to a party which has been condemned by the European parliament for being anti-semitic. The new Deputy Prime Minister is a member of this party. One of the first acts of the “new government” was to overturn a law allowing Russian to be used as a language of official business. Naturally ethnic Russians in Crimea are concerned. The Western media, as the Western political establishment, is simply air-brushing all that out of the picture. Though they know it full well. Having air-brushed the history of the last few weeks totally out of the picture they proceed to paint a picture of Russia as the aggressor. These lies mask their own aggression.

This single quote contains another piece of theatre. All the Western press is now talking about “Moscow’s military intervention in Crimea”. Even though it hasn’t happened. Yet.

Update 16/3/2014

This is from AFP. Who are some of the many foreign media organisations able to freely observe the referendum in Crimea.

Anyone can vote: those whose name is not on the large voter registration lists can just ask the electoral commission secretary who then checks their Ukrainian passport and writes down their names and addresses in purple ink on a loose sheet of paper.

It is poetry. The names are not on the “large” registration lists. (The implication being that they are large so it is suspicious that names are not on them). “Purple ink”. Obviously something wrong there. On a “loose sheet of paper”. More evidence of how “loose” this process is. (Poetry aside loose sheets of paper with purple ink can of course be put in folders). I would have thought checking of passports was a good way of checking voter authenticity. Anyway the farce is that AFP is now sounding all sceptical about a democratic referendum while they’ve studiously avoided reporting on the violence that brought the “interim team” to power in Kiev.

Update 20/3/2014

Here is another piece of imaginative writing from AFP:

The march by Moscow’s troops and pro-Kremlin militias across the mostly Russian-speaking region roughly the size of Belgium has been unhalting since the day Putin won parliamentary approval to use force against his ex-Soviet neighbour following the February 22 fall of Yanukovych.

There hasn’t been anything resembling a ‘march’. If AFP was asked to document that statement they would not be able to. It isn’t reporting. It’s lying. A ‘march’ is consistent with the ‘invasion’ story which the Western press has been fabricating. In fact a number of armed men (possibly some of them Russian soldiers) have provided security at key sites in Crimea. “Moscow’s troops” have not marched anywhere. The numbers present in Crimea are, according to Russia, within the limit set by their treaty agreement with Ukraine. No Western journalist has presented evidence to the contrary. They’ve simply trumpeted claims from the “new interim government” in Kiev to the effect that Russia has been “invading” Crimea. Nor is it true that “Putin won parliamentary approval to use force against his ex-Soviet neighbour”. He won parliamentary approval for a limited and temporary action in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to protect against the “threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation and the personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory”. While you could say perhaps that President Yanukovych “fell” the use of the passive voice means they can avoid talking about the violent over-throw of the elected government which constituted that “fall”. You can say he “fell” but in fact he was “pushed”. But it is this push or putsch which is being brushed under the carpet by everyone in Western political and media circles. The whole tilt of this sentence is to create a fictitious narrative about an aggressive Russia “marching” on a defenceless neighbour. The press, as the examples, on this page show have set out to ignore the facts on the ground – the ones they should be reporting on – and simply spin a narrative which is exactly the same one as the one spun the politicians.

Also today Reuters sees fit to refer to the “Putin regime” in a piece on sanctions.  Russia is a democracy. They have a parliament to which members are elected at regular intervals. They have a President who is elected. They have political parties. It is a presidential democracy, like America. Apart from being wildly inaccurate then we see here the very nasty demonising of the leader of the “enemy” which the Western press is so good at. And the portrayal of entire countries as being defined as an evil “regime”. All this is usually a prelude to a regime-change project.

Update 28/3/2014

This, from AFP, is offered really as a case-study in propaganda.

NATO’s build-up of forces in the region described thus:

Obama’s blunt message added further urgency to a standoff that has forced NATO to reinforce positions along Russia’s frontier in a bid to calm anxious ex-Soviet satellite nations about the Kremlin’s new expansionist mood.

The West is “forced” to deploy troops. While Russia is depicted as having “seized” Crimea in an “expansionist mood”. Claims by the “interim leaders” in Kiev (usual glossing of the violent coup) about Moscow massing troops are reported as true without question. AFP refers to the last government as the “Moscow-backed regime”. AFP does not tell its readers that the “Moscow backed regime” was democratically elected – in stark contrast to how the “interim leaders” came to power. The piece has an absurd kind of unreal phantasy feel to it. Even if you believed 90% of the narratives produced by the West it would be intrinsically implausible that they were 100% “in the right”. (At any rate complex historical-political-social situations cannot be reduced to this absurd narrative of “right” and “wrong”). In this presentation which is so close to the official political narratives we see the total collusion of the “press” with the project of the Western governments, and whoever they represent.

AFP is subsidised by the French government.

Update 26/4/2014

This is the UK’s Daily Telegraph doing its best to add to the lies and stoke tensions for war.

The story is headlined ‘pro-Russian separatists’. That is a fiction for a start. While there are demands for secession to Russia the majority of the resistance in Eastern Ukraine is simply calling for federalisation and language rights. (There is a somewhat more honest and much more detailed article in the Guardian based on an eye-witness report. This shows that there are various demands from the resisters in the East and outright secession to Russia is by no means at the forefront). By using the phrase ‘pro-Russian separatists’ though the newspaper can malign Russia. It helps build the narrative that big bad Russia is behind it all. Politics aside this is simply bad journalism because it is factually wrong. How does the ‘journalist’ who penned that heading live with herself?

The article continues with the absurd narratives from the G7. It is reported that the G7 have issued a statement praising the ‘restraint’ of the junta in Kiev in not using more force while saying:

In contrast, Russia has taken no concrete actions in support of the Geneva accord. It has not publicly supported the accord, nor condemned the acts of pro-separatists seeking to destabilise Ukraine, nor called on armed militants to leave peacefully the government buildings they’ve occupied and put down their arms.

This is consistent with the intrinsically implausible line the West has been issuing for some time. They are 110% right. Russia is 100% responsible for everything that is going wrong. This is just intrinsically implausible. It is just unlikely that complex geo-political situations can be accurately analysed through such absurdly simple, almost cartoon-like narratives. Turning to the detail. It is part of the pattern of treating international agreements in an entirely one-sided way. The terms of the agreement always apply to the other. Never to us. (We are above the law. The law is a tool to protect our interests. This is always the attitude of the powerful to the law). In fact it is hardly praise-worthy that Kiev while flooding the area with armour and fighter jets has yet to kill dozens of people. They have not withdrawn. They have not disarmed the radicals. On the contrary the evidence is that Right Sector radicals are involved in the crack-down in an organised way. A Right Sector leader has claimed as much. A Right Sector leader holds an official position in the Defence Ministry in Kiev. Kiev has not removed the radicals from occupying buildings in Kiev. All the points made here have been coherently addressed by the Russian foreign minister in public. In fact it is simply a matter of demonstrable fact that Russia has publicly supported the accord. Sergey Lavrov does so in this interview. The statement from the G7 can easily be shown to be a lie.

Well. Perhaps we expect lying and absurdities from the political class in the West. But we might hope for more from journalists. But there is nothing in this Daily Telegraph article which questions, doubts, or criticises the line taken by the Western political leadership. It is just reported without a line of questioning or doubt. But all the material to do so is in the public domain. It isn’t even hard to come by. The Western press freely acts as the stooges of power. Newspapers are no more than corporate newsletters echoing the statements of the political class. (Even the liberal press while being slightly more open to facts falls over itself at every turn to distance itself from any real radical criticism of Western power. The Channel 4 piece we have referenced several times in the above and the Guardian piece mentioned here do just this. The Channel 4 piece for example while acknowledging the influence of nationalists and extremists in the new regime in Kiev manages to quote a Swedish academic saying that even so Russia is still exaggerating this problem. The Guardian piece describes the formation of local defence forces and resistance in Donetsk but has to emphasise that an agreement was reached by ‘a quick show of hands’. How do they expect agreements to be reached in revolutionary situations under fire? By postal vote?).

There is something horrible and primitive about this lust for war and this displacement of rationality with pure tribalism the moment things get a bit sticky.

Update 4 May

The corporate press has covered the fire in Odessa in which 38 pro-autonomy demonstrators died. Visual evidence from the scene and numerous eye-witness accounts describe a scenario where pro-autonomy protesters came under attack from a pro-Kiev force. (This link includes a Reuters photograph of someone throwing a petrol bomb into the building – since the victims were pro-autonomy demonstrators this would appear to be quite compelling evidence for the account that the fire was started by the opposing group).  This account is consistent with the general picture of what is currently happening in Eastern Ukraine.

The corporate press though suddenly discover their sceptical side. RT has published an analysis of these diffident and sceptical reports. “We don’t really know” is the line. That would be believable if these same outlets were not repeatedly publishing the most flimsy stories about Russian “aggression”, “invasions” and so on and echoing the press releases of the Kiev junta without even mentioning the source when it fits the narrative they want to tell. (See for example 20/3/2014 and 28/3/2014 above). By exercising scepticism only when the facts go against the telling of a certain political narrative the Western media disclose that they are political tools not journalistic outlets.

Read Part II


While Channel 4 do to their credit print this research which is largely absent from the main news agency reports they can’t help themselves quoting a Swedish academic that “Russia is using this to legitimise their unjustified aggression”. However in the article they quote one new member of the “interim team” (see above, in the section for 10th March) in Kiev who openly threatens armed conflict against Russia.