Russia's Propaganda and Censorship War in Crimea and at Home

Radio Free Europe screencapRadio Free Europe screencapWhile the Russian military violates the sovereignty of Ukraine and threatens war by sending in soldiers, occupying the neighboring nation's airspace, and surrounding the Crimean peninsula with warships, the government has been conducting a parallel propaganda war.

The Daily Beast highlights a few of the false claims by state-run news outlets: video presented as “'skirmishes' on the streets of Crimea” turned out to be footage of government snipers slaughtering opposition protesters the week before; pictures purportedly of Ukrainians defecting en masse to Russia were actually from the Polish-Ukrainian border (and live feeds of the Russian-Ukrainian border seem to confirm this); another video said to be right-wing militants from western Ukraine was completely staged.

It's not just internal propaganda. The government-funded RT produced a cartoonish video pushing Kremlin rhetoric that the hundreds of thousands of diverse, multi-partisan Ukrainian opposition–which protested nonviolently for months until their authoritarian leader approved the use of live ammunition against civilians–are overwhelmingly fascists. “Fascist” is a go-to accusation Russian politicians and media use when silencing both foreigners and but domestic, pro-democracy critics.

The government has also censored pro-Ukrainian social media in Russia, while the military makes conspicuous calls for veterans to band together as “tourist units” and vacation in Crimea.

All of this works, except when it doesn't.

Many Russian citizens and ethnic Russian in Crimea are adamant about developing closer ties between the two and blame the west for destabilizing Ukraine, but according to Radio Free Europe, “independent opinions polls conducted before the crisis show that an overwhelming majority of Russians opposed Russian meddling in Ukrainian politics as well as a possible military intervention in the country.”

Some have become vocal and active opponents of the invasion, since Ukraine has not provoked violence. The independent Moscow Times critiques that Russia was hoping to provoke a “'Georgian scenario' in Crimea. In that conflict, Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 because that country's troops attacked Russian servicemen, providing the perfect casus belli.  But no such attacks took place in Crimea.”

Yesterday, nonviolent anti-war protests took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Around 350 people were arrested in Moscow, according to The New Republic. Another Ukrainian-sympathetic rally with as many as 1,500 participants similarly shut down last week. Meanwhile, a larger pro-war demonstration went undisturbed.

Even the Consul General of Russia in the Crimea admitted that claims that Russian citizens were killed by Ukrainians–one of the pretexts for the invasion–was unfounded. 

Radio Free Europe points out that the “a number of Russian luminaries, including rock musician Yury Shevchuk, have also delivered unusually harsh criticism of the Kremlin," and suggests that " rift in public opinion between educated, city-dwelling Russians and those living in small towns with only limited access online news sites."

Read more Reason coverage of Ukraine here

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  • William of Purple||

    a link so nice it posted twice.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I just saw something on CNN about the markets crashing because of the troubles over there. Yeah, that 1% drop is like the '29 crash all over again.

  • Paul.||

    1%? Hardly. My ticker shows the DOW is down .97%!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Look, it's improving as we speak!

  • Almanian!||

    -0.97%??!!!!!

    *jumps out 14th-story window*

  • entropy||

    -0.97%??!!!!!

    *jumps out 14th-story window**hurls himself off the street curb*

    Gots to keep the High Burlesque theme.

  • ||

    It's RUSSIAN markets that are crashing.
    http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/0.....ets-ruble/

  • Paul.||

    Graph from .0305 to .0275.

  • Brett L||

    So 10%?

  • BakedPenguin||

    In under 2 months.

  • ||

    Russia's main stock market index fell nearly 13% as the country's G8 partners condemned its military buildup in Crimea, demanding that it withdraw.

  • Sevo||

    Buy now!

  • Almanian!||

    *throws out parachute @ 7th floor*

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't think that was what they were handwringing about, because they had a giant counter on screen showing the Dow. Which, incidentally, is a poor proxy for the U.S. stock market.

  • Tim||

    His friends would say stop whining, they've had enough of that.
    His friends would say stop pining, there's other places to look at.
    They've tried to set him up with Moldava and Uzbekistan, But there's something about Ukraine that they don't know.
    Ukraine, there's just something about Ukraine.

  • sarcasmic||

  • Almanian!||

    Many Russian citizens and ethnic Russian in Crimea...blame the west for destabilizing Ukraine,

    How do you say, "I blame Bush" in Russian?

  • Sevo||

    "How do you say, "I blame Bush" in Russian?"

    "Second front!"?

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    Nyet davarhee Shrieky.

  • Almanian!||

    +1 Rollo

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    Why was I suddenly tempted to create a host of sock puppets to come and heap fulsome praise upon myself?

  • tarran||

    Because it's how most guys make O-5?

  • Rasilio||

    Can I roll it to my pal?

  • waffles||

    War is the Health of the State.

  • Number 2||

    Radio Free Europe still exists? Why? In case the Warsaw Pact returns?

    And IMHO, I would hesitate to accuse someone of engaging in propaganda while citing RFE as my source. Kinda like the pot calling the kettle black.

  • sarcasmic||

    Radio Free Europe still exists? Why?

    Nothing left to cut from the budget. Nothing at all.

  • Number 2||

    Jeez, Sarc, look at this, found at http://www.rferl.org/info/about/176.html:

    "RFE/RL: Free Media In Unfree Societies

    Our Mission: RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate (mission statement).

    21 Countries, 28 Languages: We broadcast to 21 countries in 28 languages, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia. With over 400 full-time journalists, 750 freelancers, and 19 local bureaus, RFE/RL is one of the most comprehensive news operations in the world (see map).

    On The Front Lines: Our journalists are on the front lines in the fight for media freedom in their countries and often put themselves at great risk to do their jobs (click here for more).

    Regional Expertise: RFE/RL journalists and experts are a unique source of information about many of the world's political hotspots. We also host briefings and special events in Washington, D.C. and Prague (browse RFE/RL's experts).

    More questions? Click here."

    The Prime Directive of any government agency is to perpetuate its own existence.

    Next we'll find that the Freedman's Bureau is still in business and handing out mules.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    The government-funded RT produced a cartoonish video pushing Kremlin rhetoric that the hundreds of thousands of diverse, multi-partisan Ukrainian opposition–which protested nonviolently for months until their authoritarian leader approved the use of live ammunition against civilians–are overwhelmingly fascists.

    Careful Zenon, you might get some Reasoners dis-invited from Russia Today

  • Ted S.||

    Dammit, I was going to crack a joke about the cosmotarians going on RT!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    which protested nonviolently for months until their authoritarian leader approved the use of live ammunition against civilians–are overwhelmingly fascists.

    Just a thought, but I think the "fascist" label less do to with the employment of violence and more with them dressing up in SS uniforms and their leaders using rhetoric like "the Moscow-Jewish mafia" or " the "Moskali, Germans, Kikes and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state".

    Jus' sayin'

  • Cytotoxic||

    It is still bullshit every bit as much as when Maduro calls his opponents fascists.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Hand-waving it away isn't going to do you any good, Cyto. Unless you can link to the press release where the other leaders of Euromaidan movement publicly disavows Tyahnybok's and his party's rhetoric. Cuz, as you can see, Klitschko and Yatsenyuk are willing to share a stage with him.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    The ex-Israeli soldier who led a Kiev fighting unit:

    Fellow Jews have criticized him for working with Svoboda. “Some asked me if instead of ‘Shalom’ they should now greet me with a ‘Sieg heil.’ I simply find it laughable,” he said. But he does have frustrations related to being an outsider. “Sometimes I tell myself, ‘What are you doing? This is not your army. This isn’t even your country.’”
  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The paragraph right before the one you cite is also interesting.

    Still, Delta’s reasons for not revealing his name betray his sense of feeling like an outsider. “If I were Ukrainian, I would have been a hero. But for me it’s better to not reveal my name if I want to keep living here in peace and quiet,” he said.
  • Cytotoxic||

    Gosh HM it's like they're uniting against a far more pressing threat or something. I was hoping for something better than guilt by association and Godwin from you.

    The stupid change to the language law was vetoed anyway. There has been absolutely no threat to Russian speakers in Ukraine, not that that justifies Russian intervention anyway.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    than guilt by association and Godwin

    It seems you don't understand either concept if you earnestly believe that I'm guilty of either in my arguments.

    The stupid change to the language law was vetoed anyway.

    No, you are mistaken. The law that was "vetoed", (abolished, really) was the law that granted counties with linguistic minorities the right to conduct government business in their native languages.

    Sorry, Cyto, you're one of the good one, but the fact that you believed the exact opposite doesn't reflect well on the rest of your analysis of the situation.

  • GILMORE||

    Since when is this guy you keep referring to anything more than one of a half dozen political figures involved in the opposition?

    Yes, there are rabid anti semites in the Ukraine. You didn't know? It doesn't exactly make a widespread national popular revolt into a NeoNazi movement via 'guilt by association'.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It doesn't exactly make a widespread national popular revolt into a NeoNazi movement via 'guilt by association'.

    You're right, it doesn't. And a national popular revolt isn't automatically the new "Sons of Liberty" just because they don't like Putin. Still, you are judged by the company you keep and the new Ukrainian government would be wise to remember that.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    Insh'allah they will shake off the neo-Nazis the way the Israelis got the Irgun to go away after independence?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    That's exactly the point. Which I kind of mentioned in another thread. Tyahnybok isn't going away, and his group will want their piece of the pie.

  • Cytotoxic||

    So what?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Still time to offer Ukraine statehood instead of some weak association with the EU. West Dakota is available.

  • GILMORE||

    "You're right, it doesn't. And a national popular revolt isn't automatically the new "Sons of Liberty" just because they don't like Putin. "

    ... so = you overblow the role of these Nazi wannabes, over and over again? I point this out - and then the retort is "I must be making these guys out to be as clean and classy as the Rebel Alliance" somehow, despite absolutely no comment in that direction whatsoever.

    Whatever dude.

    as an aside, I don't see how its anyones business how the 'new Ukrainian governmet' should be 'wise' to be fucking anything, given the prevailing view here that any exertion of influence on the affairs of foreign powers is like totally unlibertoid. I keep noticing this weird vacillation between principled non-interventionism *for its own sake*...and yet a constant desperation to continue to need to find *reasons* why this determined-unconcern is the best policy in the current situation, which I would think would be completely unnecessary, given the whole 'principle' thing and all.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    and then the retort is "I must be making these guys out to be as clean and classy as the Rebel Alliance" somehow, despite absolutely no comment in that direction whatsoever.

    No. I was just making an observation, not a "retort" to anything specific you had to say.

    I don't see how its anyones business how the 'new Ukrainian governmet' should be 'wise' to be fucking anything

    As we're not Welch's momma, it's not our business to tell him how to dress, but that doesn't prevent us from expressing our opinion anyway!

  • GILMORE||

    well, Touche.

    We will ignore for the moment the fact that fashion & foreign affairs are maybe less than ideal comparisons...

    ... Saying "Matt's ties suck" is *totally* just like having opinions on the composition of the transition government of a nation in the midst of political crisis. AFTER having specifically mocked the US Ambassador for expressing precisely the same views prior to the collapse of the existing regime. No, you *got me*

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Considering that Yakunovich's supporters have also been recorded making anti-Semitic statements (his government has hardly been good for Jews or Israel), this seems thin gruel on which to side with Russia and a deposed quasi-dictator.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Kerry's an idiot, but he was right about one thing: Russia is paying. Ruble and stock markets are getting hammered.

    BTC went up 100 USD overnight. During a general flight to safety. Interesting.

  • waffles||

    I think that had more to do with the UK tax news than anything else.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    What if Russia stops buying US treasurys...

  • Rasilio||

    I think they already did a couple of years ago.

  • GILMORE||

    "the government has been conducting a parallel propaganda war."

    I've been checking CNN every now and then, and there is a clearly identifiable cadre of people droning on about how everything in the Ukraine was stage-managed by the CIA, and how the Russians are responding to the needs of the citizens who fear the ultra-right-wing 'fascists' who are just tools of the capitalist oligarchy....

    ...and those are just the American liberals! THEN the Russian trolls come in and pile on. There is some confusion when the Russians also start blaming 'fascists' AND 'jews'. It seems the biggest problem with Russian propaganda efforts in U.S. media is that they are completely tone-deaf to our kulturwar issues. Although one thing that never ceases to amaze me is when American liberals discover that Racists are not limited to 'right wing American rednecks', but are actually quite common all over the world, of every political stripe. It confuses the shit out of them.

  • ||

    Racism here in the US is pretty tame compared to the rest of the world.

  • GILMORE||

    You don't say? My point was exactly how funny it is when some Vassar/Bard/Antioch graduate discovers this and then tries to make it fit within the context of their hair-trigger sensitivity to *racist microaggression* and whatnot... resulting in a kind of "Does Not Compute" kind of mental shutdown.

    I saw this happen once when a Dominican girl decided to go off on a rampage about the cultural and genetic inferiority of Haitians and Puerto Ricans, while in the presence of a couple of lesbian new-school graduates from Minnesota.

    you could see a decade of middle-class white-girl liberal cultural indoctrination completely melting in the face of seething racist urban latina rage. You could see them wanting to say something about cultural relativism or historical colonial injustice but were just way too *scared* of this fire-breathing Dominican woman.

    It was priceless.

  • ||

    I enjoy your posts. I got a good laugh earlier today when you described how the American liberals were embarassingly allied with racist Russian trolls on the CNN comments.

  • Almanian!||

    In Russia, propoganda censors YOU!

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    threatens war by sending in soldiers, occupying the neighboring nation's airspace, and surrounding the Crimean peninsula with warships

    That is a mite beyond "threatening".

  • Sevo||

    True enough, and the French ought to get off their asses and do something abut it!
    We'll be right behind them. By about 5,000 miles.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    Can we scrounge up some Turkish irregular cavalry to assist?

  • Tim||

    "You know what the Ukraine is? It's a sitting duck. A road apple, Newman. The Ukraine is weak. It's feeble. I think it's time to put the hurt on the Ukraine."

  • Sevo||

    Tim|3.3.14 @ 3:30PM|#
    "You know what the Ukraine is? It's a sitting duck. A road apple, Newman. The Ukraine is weak. It's feeble. I think it's time to put the hurt on the Ukraine."

    Ukraine is Poland-South. It's been trampled, starved and beaten by every damn tin-pot dictator within a thousand klicks, and I feel bad for them. I think.
    But not bad enough to involve the US and I'm still not sure for whom (specifically) I should feel bad.
    Please find me the good-guy here.

  • Tim||

    Yeah. I wish them well but I ain't signing up.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Please find me the good-guy here.

    Sometimes, it's just two sons-of-bitches going at it. The best thing to do is leave the bar before a stray bottle hits you in the head.

  • ||

    Good one.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    The ordinary Ukrainian that doesn't want to have some corrupt foreign puppet lording it over them, or some mafia oligarchy looting them?

  • Sevo||

    "The ordinary Ukrainian that doesn't want to have some corrupt foreign puppet lording it over them, or some mafia oligarchy looting them?"

    Yep, and I'll bet we'd be pissed if Putin sent in troops to protect you , Suthenboy and me.

  • Pro Libertate||

    For the record, Ukraine is on the Risk map. Poland is not.

  • Rasilio||

    "Please find me the good-guy here."

    Groovus?

    We must invade Ukraine to get our Groovus back

  • db||

    Can you imagine a libertarian rescue squad?

  • Sudden||

    Yes. Heavily armed.

  • GILMORE||

    SEND IN STELLA

  • mr simple||

    "I don't know what kind of soldier I'm gonna make, but I want you guys to know that if we ever get into really heavy combat, I'll be right behind you guys. Every step of the way."

  • db||

    Dude, in today's world of.not-war, that is.just a step closer to "kinetic action."

    I guess technically if.the.government.of.a.sovereign nation.invites your troops.9nto.its.soil, it isn't war. There are a whole.fucking lot of questions here like:

    Who is the actual sovereign government of Ukraine?

    Who, if anyone, invited the troops there?

    Did Russia have some sort of treaty with Ukraine to protect them from revolution?

    In my mind, Russia's presence.in Crimea is illegal if it is not there at the invitation of the Ukrainian government. How.is.governmental legitimacy determined? There are some who say any two bit dictator.is.legit.as.long as 50%+1 voted for.him and Jimmy Carter blessed the election.

    It is hard to say, from the persepctive.of Ukrainians, who the.legit.government.is. I'm sure.there are.tons who.think eqch way.

    This.is.absolutely not a.simple question because of all the tricky implications of what.constitutes a.legitimate.government.l, if there can.even be such a thing.

  • GILMORE||

    If we go back to when Yanukovych first skipped town (feb 22), my comment at that moment was that the EU and US and others need to IMMEDIATELY 'recognize' some interim power (and if necessary, help organize that interim power).... that any time allowed to elapse in a vacuum was basically asking the Russians to roll in hot.

    The EU didn't 'recognize' shit until after the Russians had already occupied Crimea.

    I suspect the whole thing was a gimme to try and keep them out of kiev.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Russia's stock market and ruble are cratering. If shots are fired, they'll implode. The government of Ukraine should seriously consider 'pulling the pin' right now. They don't have to do it themselves-Right Sector militants can be secretly 'influenced' to attack Russian positions.

  • Sevo||

    I don't think a Marco Polo Bridge Incident is going to work in the age of cell-phone cameras.

  • ||

    Right, cause Putin gives a shit about the stock market.

    Putin would kill for an excuse to take the entire Ukraine.

  • Calidissident||

    I can't believe he seriously proposed that.

  • ||

    I wonder what would happen if we had a very tense situation with Mexico involving disputed territory wherein many people of both nationalities lived and Putin started mouthing off about how we had better conduct ourselves?

    I think we about to see Putin punk obama epically, again, but this time it may not be as amusing as the Syria debacle.

  • Rasilio||

    Is there any disputed territory between the US and Mexico? I mean outside of some elements of La Raza who try to claim that pretty much everthing from California to Texas is actually part of Mexico that is.

  • KDN||

    There's not really a way to have an analogous situation with how history actually panned out. It's akin to what would happen if we annexed all of Mexico in 1848, they achieved their independence sometime later with prewar borders, and the US sought to repossess the lands we (in real life) annexed in Guadalupe-Hidalgo in order to protect English-speaking Mexicans.

  • JWW||

    Is Reason boycotting sending people to speak on RT?

  • Dave C||

    I haven't seen Reason people on RT for quite a while.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    In Russia, RT boycott you!

  • ||

    An interesting article on Ukraine in Taki's mag.

    Because Ukraine (a word that may mean “borderlands,” although like everything else about the place, the etymology remains in dispute) lacks both natural defenses and an agreed-upon national identity, this wide expanse of Slavic-language-speaking territory has long attracted the attention of the most audacious geopolitical philosophers. They have seen it as the crucial blank slate upon which to inscribe their designs for world domination. In turn, Ukraine’s fundamental vulnerability motivates locals toward extremes of nationalism (although not always in agreement with their neighbors).

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Ukraine was a major component of both the USSR and Nazi Germany's designs both before and during WWII -- for its agriculture ('granary of Europe' and all that), and for its strategic location. Before that, it fit uncomfortably in Russian, Austrian, and Polish imperial designs. It is unlikely that the region will ever be at peace, unless one of its stronger neighbors becomes a protector/benefactor.

  • Malkavian||

    Fascist” is a go-to accusation Russian politicians and media use when silencing both foreigners and but domestic, pro-democracy critics.

    So... That Ukrainian Defense Minister is a member of Svoboda, aka Social-National Party of Ukraine.. Is it not true?

    I was under impression that calling them National Socialists was not Godwinning for once.

  • REMant||

    Almost as clumsy as US-UN propaganda about Ukraine.

  • crazydaisy||

    Great article! cabin rental in utah

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