US Senator used old photos of Russian troops to push Ukraine war propaganda
In the never ending quest for war, the old tricks of propaganda inevitably conflict with the raw power of the internet.
Friday, Washington Free Beacon reported that the office of US Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) provided what were supposed to be exclusive photos of new evidence showing that Russia has troops, tanks and armored vehicles in eastern Ukraine, in efforts to strengthen the case in Washington to provide lethal military aid to Kiev-loyal Ukrainian military forces. Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma has been a leader of the charge to pass new legislation allowing the United States to openly influence the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine.
Here is the February 11 video of Inhofe presenting the photos on the Senate floor.
Senator Inhofe’s staff told the Free Beacon that the photos were about 6 months old.
The pictures were taken between Aug. 24 and Sept. 5 in the midst of a Russian-backed incursion into Eastern Ukraine. The fighting has only grown more bloody in the ensuing months, as hundreds more Russians enter the country, according to congressional sources briefed on the conflict.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee first viewed the graphic pictures in December. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) then obtained the photos and worked to independently verify and confirm the authenticity of the photos, before providing them exclusively to the Free Beacon.
The internet quickly rejected the photos.
“Apparently, neither Inhofe’s staff nor the Beacon bothered with a Google reverse image search” as Gawker noted.
If reverse image searches on Google found the old photos, exactly what was done to verify the photos by the people that are supposed to provide critical insight on where US military resources are used?
Even the New York Times piled on, despite being part of the propaganda problems in the Ukraine discussion.
As Gawker reported, just hours after they were posted online by the Beacon, a group effort to vet the photographs had revealed that one of the images, taken in October, actually showed separatists in Ukraine, while the other two did show Russian troops, but driving near Russia’s border with Georgia more than six years ago during the brief conflict in South Ossetia.
What a f'ing joke. WFB runs photos from Inhofe as proof Russia arming Ukraine. At least 1 from Russo-Georgian War: http://t.co/mOFetIOs7z
— Dan Trombly (@stcolumbia) February 12, 2015
Anyone following Ukraine understands it is confusing and impossible to have full knowledge of what is happening on the ground. One concrete rule is that while there are Russian military assets in Ukraine, they don’t ride around with the Russian flag proudly waving as that would be drawing attention to an open a violation of international law. There are common sightings of tanks with Russian flags however they generally have another flag with it, like the Donetsk militia flag seen below.
Also common among separatists are variations of the Novorossiya flag.
Friday afternoon, the Free Beacon updated the story in response to internet comments that the photos were from the 2008 conflict.
UPDATE 3:11 P.M.: Following publication of this story, serious questions have been raised about the authenticity of some of the photographs provided by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.). Several images of the Russian convoys appear to have been taken in 2008, during Russia’s conflict with Georgia. Given the similarities between the earlier images and those provided by the senator’s office, the Washington Free Beacon is investigating further and will update as necessary.
When asked about the discrepancies, Donelle Harder, Inhofe’s communications director, said that the office is checking back with its sources.
“These were presented to the Armed Services Committee from a delegation from Ukraine in December,” Harder said. “In December, we talked to them about publishing the photos and giving them the credit, and they were fine with that. We thoroughly checked our sources again prior to releasing the photos, and felt confident proceeding because the photos also match reporting. We are currently making calls to our sources.”
Later in the evening, Senator Inhofe responded that the pro-Kiev group had misrepresnted the photos to him, as updated by the Free Beacon.
UPDATE 7:10 P.M.: Sen. Inhofe said in a statement: “The Ukrainian parliament members who gave us these photos in print form as if it came directly from a camera really did themselves a disservice. We felt confident to release these photos because the images match the reporting of what is going on in the region. I was furious to learn one of the photos provided now appears to be falsified from an AP photo taken in 2008. This doesn’t change the fact that there is plenty of evidence Russia has made advances into the country with T-72 tanks and that pro-Russian separatists have been killing Ukrainians in cold blood.”
Rosie Gray of Buzzfeed has the list of members of the Ukrainian delegation that duped Senator Inhofe here. “None of the Ukrainians on the list are particularly well known to Westerners and the list does not include high-level government officials,” Gray reports. The Washington Free Beacon regrets the error.
The bill for sending weapons to Ukraine is endorsed by 16 other Republicans including Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who’s state has significant military-industrial complex business.
Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), Rob Portman (R- Ohio), John Thune (R-SD), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Boozman (R-AR), David Vitter (R-LA), Marco Rubio (R- FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Mike Rounds (R-SD).
If Senator Inhofe saw the nazis who might receive anti-tank weapons, maybe he would reconsider his recommendations.
The irony is that the same lack of research that led Senator Inhofe to be fooled by old pictures is also what seems to keep major media from discussing any evidence showing the true character of Ukrainian forces who would receive the military aid. There are countless photos and videos showing the neo-nazi tendencies of pro-Kiev troops and militia thugs who have helped turn the conflict into an ethnic cleansing, particularly well covered by Eric Zuesse. (More here, here, here and here)
This is not unknown to the media or Washington, or it shouldn’t be, if they would do their job properly.
In late January, videos of English speaking soldiers in eastern Ukraine during intense battles raised many questions about exactly who is on the ground in the country. One mercenary was positively identified as British, who was seen looking at fresh damage after heavy shelling. As we reported, clear American English is heard off camera during the same point in the video.
So what is he doing with a patch from the Azov battalion in Ukraine, an openly neo-nazi unit that is often involved in heavy fighting.
Even the UK’s Telegraph reported on how they basically authenticate what so-called conspiracy theorists might say is evidence of America supporting extremist groups.
Such characters under Kiev’s control play straight into the hands of Russian and separatist propaganda that portrays Ukraine’s government as a “fascist junta” manipulated by the West.
“These battalions are made up of mercenaries, not volunteers,” said Sergei Kavtaradze, a representative of the rebel authorities in Donetsk. “They are real fascists who kill and rape civilians.” Mr Kavtaradze could not cite evidence of his claim and the battalion says it has not harmed a single civilian.
Ukraine’s government is unrepentant about using the neo-Nazis. “The most important thing is their spirit and their desire to make Ukraine free and independent,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Arsen Avakov, the interior minister. “A person who takes a weapon in his hands and goes to defend his motherland is a hero. And his political views are his own affair.”
Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian and Ukrainian security affairs at New York University, fears battalions like Azov are becoming “magnets to attract violent fringe elements from across Ukraine and beyond”. “The danger is that this is part of the building up of a toxic legacy for when the war ends,” he said.
Extremist paramilitary groups who have built up “their own little Freikorps” and who are fundamentally opposed to finding consensus may demand a part in public life as victors in the conflict, Mr Galeotti added. “And what do you do when the war is over and you get veterans from Azov swaggering down your high street, and in your own lives?”
The Azov battalion uses the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on its banner.
BBC NEWSNIGHT reported on the obvious links to neo-nazis one year ago at the height of Maidan protests.
Senator John McCain, notorious warmonger, can point Senator Inhofe in the direction of the real neo-nazis in charge.
McCain is BFF’s with Ukraine’s US-puppet Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Svoboda party’s Oleh Tyahnybok.
The Right Sector is the most radical wing of Ukraine’s Maidan protest movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February.
Originally set up as an alliance of ultra-nationalist groups in November 2013, the Right Sector is now a party and its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, is running for president in the 25 May election – although his poll rating is negligible.
Critics at home say the party’s inflammatory rhetoric and violence is helping Russian media to depict Ukraine as overrun with “neo-Nazis” who threaten the Russian-speaking population.
The Right Sector is trying to portray itself as a responsible party, but enough doubts remain about its attitude and intentions to cause unease in both pro-Kiev and pro-Moscow camps.
Activists claiming to be Right Sector members were involved in Kiev’s Maidan protests from late November, but the group did not attract much attention until violent clashes with police in central Kiev on 19 January, in which it played a leading role.
By early February Mr Yarosh was saying the Right Sector had 500 fighters on Independence Square and could mobilise up to 5,000 nationwide, although close observers of the protests doubt this.
The StormCloudsGathering video on Ukraine notes that Svoboda and Tyanyhbok are openly extremist, this is common knowledge and easily confirmed.
The most prominent among these groups is an organization called Svoboda. The Svoboda party which traces its roots to the Ukrainian partisan army of World War II, was loosely allied with Nazi Germany. Until 2004, Svoboda had been called the Social-Nationalist Party, a deliberate reference to the National Socialism of the Nazis.
We’re not throwing the term Neo-Nazi around as an empty slur here. The leader of Svoboda, Oleh Tyahnybok, has openly targeted Jews and ethnic Russians in Ukraine for many years. In 2004 he was kicked out of Viktor Yushenko’s government for a speech calling for Ukrainians to fight against a “Muscovite-Jewish mafia”, and in 2005 he signed his name to an open letter to the leadership of Ukraine entitled “Stop the Criminal Activities of Organised Jewry”.
And none of this was a secret. The BBC was already reporting on the danger that Svoboda’s rise posed back in 2012, and the EU passed a resolution that same year condemning Svoboda, as “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic”. Yet somehow the U.S. government thought it was appropriate to back these extremists.
Why would the U.S. government work with Neo-Nazis?
Because they thought they could control the situation. They thought they could install their puppets behind the scenes and manipulate the situation in their favor. This isn’t a theory. That same Victoria Nuland who met with Svoboda in February was caught in another leaked phone call discussing who would they would put in power.
The mainstream media tried to draw your attention away from the important part of this conversation by focusing on the fact that she used a cuss word when referring to the E.U.
The U.S. government thought they could control this beast. But they were wrong. Svoboda and the Right Sektor are not toys to be played with. These groups are armed, they’re forceful, and they view this crisis as an opportunity to reshape Ukraine in their own image.
Apparently the U.S. government has been a little slow to catch on to the fact that their hand has been exposed. In March a senior U.S. official told Reuters that “Since entering the Ukrainian Parliament in October 2012, the Svoboda leadership has been working to take their party in a more moderate direction and to become a modern, European mainstream political party, The leadership has been much more vigilant about expelling or otherwise punishing individual members who engage in xenophobic behavior or rhetoric.”
So it’s ok to use known Neo-Nazi groups to topple a government as long as their leaders keep their people from saying anything stupid in front of cameras for a few months? The reality of the matter is that as ridiculous as this assertion makes Washington look, they are trapped. They can’t deny that Svoboda and the Right Sektor are running the coalition government when Svoboda holds five senior posts including the deputy prime minister position and the Right Sektor’s Dmytro Yarosh is now the country’s Deputy Secretary of National Security.