By Cobblestone Prude and DK Dharmaraj
Practically every week since the Russo-Ukrainian war broke out in February 2022, there has been a new story of alleged Russian atrocities. This atrocity propaganda is typically poorly- or anonymously-sourced, unverified or unverifiable, and never followed up on in any serious way. For example, in the first week of May 2022, it was reported that up to 60 people had been killed in village school bombing:
“Luhansk region Governor Serhiy Gaidai said the school in Bilohorivka, where about 90 people were sheltering, was hit on Saturday by a Russian bomb, setting it ablaze.”
As is common with such reports, the source for this claim is a Ukrainian government official, who has every incentive in the world to lie about both the number of people affected as well as about Russia’s culpability in the matter. Notably, unlike previous propaganda stories about Snake Island and the “Ghost of Kiev,” which proved a major embarrassment for American media when the Ukrainian claims they mindlessly repeated were exposed as shameless lies, to their credit Reuters admitted in the report that they had no ability to corroborate Gaidai’s story in any way:
“Reuters could not immediately verify his account. There was no response from Moscow to the report. Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of targeting civilians in the war, something that Moscow denies.”
And yet the Anglophone “news” agencies repeat this Ukrainian official’s statement as though it were objective “news.” What were the names of the victims? Why would Russia bomb a school that was sheltering civilians? What purpose would such an attack serve? These are the questions that a responsible journalist would ask, but there is not even a hint of curiosity on these matters from the stenographers at Reuters.
The pattern is this: actual events (which may be Russian mistakes, staged false flags, war crimes committed by a military unit on either side, or mere fictitious rumor) are interpreted in the most hysterically anti-Russian way possible during the initial reporting of the event. Then, if more information comes to light, it is ignored (if beneficial to Russia’s version of events), or else only incorporated into mainstream reporting in service of more hysteria, with the ultimate aim of dragging the United States into the war. A wide range of plausible stories are eclipsed by the least plausible theory of all: that Russian and separatists forces are targeting Ukrainian civilians because they have a policy of genocide.
This theory is the basis for the public position of the US government on the conflict. The US Ambassador to the United Nations made a statement in early March:
“We’re not going to let Russia get away with lying to the world or staining the integrity of the Security Council by using this forum as a venue for legitimizing Putin’s violence. Russia has attacked homes, schools, orphanages, and hospitals.”
The narrative of malicious targeting of civilians is deliberately evocative of the cultural view of Nazis. Another statement by the Ambassador to the United Nations in late April explicitly made a connection to the Nazis:
“This is the ugly reality of Putin’s war. Some of the world’s last living Holocaust survivors are being terrorized by Russian invaders. Like Vanda – who died earlier this month after seeking refuge in a basement in Mariupol, just as she had to do during Nazi Germany’s invasion.”
Along these lines, the Western press frequently makes a direct connection between Putin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, in terms of alleged war crimes and horrific atrocities. But just how believable are these claims? And what might we learn about the atrocity propaganda manufacturing process more generally? We will look more closely into three incidents: the bombings at the Mariupol maternity hospital and theater, the deaths in Bucha, and the bombing of the Kramatorsk train station.
In early March it was reported that a Russian air strike had destroyed a maternity hospital in Mariupol, with at least one pregnant woman among the fatalities. This was fairly early in the conflict, around the time that the US Government first started putting it into people’s heads that Putin is a genocidal monster who is trying to kill as many innocent people as humanly possible. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki specifically accused Russia of targeting civilians in the strike.
Later details cast doubt on the Ukrainian narrative.
“The witness account indicates the hospital had been turned into a base of operations by Ukrainian military forces and was not targeted in an airstrike, as Western media claimed.”
The video shows a female eyewitness to the hospital incident. She describes how the hospital had been cleared of civilians and then commandeered by the Ukrainian armed forces, who were using this formerly civilian hospital as a base for their military operations. She notes that there were no indications of an air (as opposed to land-based artillery) strike—testimony corroborated by other eyewitnesses around her at the time.
The possibility that the hospital had been taken over by the Ukrainian military wasn’t included in any of the condemnation statements by Western governments or the Vatican, even though this was, from the very beginning, a far more plausible explanation for what happened than the idea that Putin was deliberately targeting pregnant mothers for merciless execution. Nor did Jen Psaki “circle back” and add this clarification.
And that famous photograph of the pregnant woman being taken out of the Mariupol hospital on a stretcher? It was a staged photo-op:
“[Her] husband later told her the man [who had been taking pictures of her] wasn’t a soldier, but an Associated Press correspondent, one of many on the scene at the time. She believes these journalists had been there ‘from the beginning,’ as they were ready and waiting outside to snap the woman being led away on a stretcher, the first to emerge from the building in the wake of the shell attack, ‘as soon as she came out.’”
That woman’s name is Mariana Vishegirskaya, and she is an Instagram personality who is alive and well. Obviously, none of the news agencies that had breathlessly reported her death ever bothered to “circle back” to this inconvenient detail.
A few weeks later it was reported that around 300 people were killed in the bombing of a theater, also in Mariupol.
“Local officials, citing witness accounts, said on Friday they estimate that 300 people were killed in the bombing of a theatre in the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 16.”
Note the above image and its credit.
“The presence of an AP photographer at the hospital gave it a front row seat for Azov Battalion’s occupation of the facility and its transformation of the site into a base of operations. But the agency avoided any mention of this critical piece of context, showing Western audiences what Azov Battalion wants them to see – and what its overtly pro-Kiev staff deem fit for public consumption.”
Once again we see a formerly civilian structure, commandeered by the Ukrainian armed forces, turned into a military base of operations, thus becoming a valid military target. To be clear, it is true that the building which used to house the Mariupol theater was destroyed. But was it serving as a theater at the time it was destroyed? No: it was serving as a base of operations for the Ukrainian military, and the Associated Press (AP) knew it. But the AP refused to include this fact in their so-called “reporting” on the alleged massacre of civilians (again: what were the victims’ names?).
Furthermore, the death toll from this incident is uncertain:
“The Ukrainian government has previously said it was impossible to tell how many were killed because Mariupol is in chaos and under almost constant bombardment from Russian forces. The authorities had used data on the average number of people who sheltered in the theatre each day, how many of those had left to be evacuated and how many had moved to the theatre from other shelters.”
The Grayzone article also explores the odd fact that some of the allegedly civilian casualties from the hospital strike were also alleged to be victims of the theater strike as well. If you are familiar with mid-twentieth century atrocity propaganda, this pattern should be familiar: the Yad Vashem database of Holocaust victims is notorious for double-, triple-, or even quadruple-counting alleged victims, many of whom did not in fact perish at all, but only changed their names after emigrating to Israel or the United States.
Naturally, despite all of these inconvenient facts and narrative inconsistencies, the mainstream American media version of the story remains that Russia conducted both of these attacks in Mariupol specifically in order to kill civilians (rather than strike legitimate military targets). Any details providing ambiguity about the events or showing the facilities to have been plausibly legitimate military targets at the time aren’t well-publicized, or aren’t even mentioned at all. To even raise any of these questions is to push “Russian disinformation.”
Our second case is the aftermath of the Russian occupation of Bucha, a northwesterly suburb of Kiev. Immediately subsequent to the Russian withdrawal from Bucha, the mayor made a statement celebrating the city’s liberation from “Russian orcs,” not mentioning any massacre. A few days later, Ukraine provided images of bodies in the streets of the city. The Guardian reported that there had been a massacre committed by the Russian occupying forces:
“Ukrainian forces liberating the town near Kyiv find streets littered with corpses of civilians and burned-out Russian tanks.”
The story cited the mayor again, who now claimed that the dead civilians “littering” the streets had all been shot by Russians. The Washington Post claimed that the evidence pointed to mass campaign of torture that took place under the Russian occupation.
“As investigators collect bodies and document what happened in the 27 days Russian forces controlled this town, a damning portrait has emerged. Stalled in their offensive toward Kyiv, some 15 miles southeast, Russian soldiers dug in at Bucha and began a campaign of torture and killings of civilians that have been described as war crimes by U.S. and European officials. The evidence shows that they beheaded, burned, sexually abused and capriciously fired upon civilians from the earliest days of their occupation. According to those interviewed, Russian soldiers went house to house confiscating cellphones to keep residents from sharing troop locations, or taking photos or videos of their excesses. But many people managed to keep devices hidden and do just that.”
Despite the latter claim, none of the articles in mainstream Anglophone media provide any photos or videos of alleged war crimes that can be clearly and unambiguously linked to Russia. In fact, the supposed evidence provided in support of the claim that these massacres were conducted by Russia instead of by Ukraine is useless:
“Residents from the area mostly spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fears that Russian forces would return.”
In other words, this “evidence” consists of anonymous rumors from an active warzone.
Russia of course denies this story, a denial which from a neutral perspective is at least as credible as the Ukrainian accusation:
“Speaking at a televised news conference after talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, Putin compared Ukrainian allegations that Russian servicemen executed civilians in Bucha to what he said was the staging by the West of a chemical weapons attack in Syria aimed at incriminating Bashar al-Assad… Russian authorities have accused Ukraine of staging the harrowing scene to derail peace talks and prompt the West to impose more sanctions against Moscow.”
Completely ignoring the fact that Russia has a plausible case—and its attempts to make that case at the UN has been blocked by the United Kingdom —Western powers immediately made hysterical comments in response, without addressing any of the substance of the issue.
“The United States and European countries pledged on Monday to punish Moscow over civilian killings in northern Ukraine, where a mass grave and tied bodies of people shot at close range were found in a town seized back from Russian forces.”
After some time had passed, however, an interesting detail emerged. It was reported that many civilians had been killed by a special type of artillery round containing “flechettes,” which are basically small metal arrows. However, the initial US Government line was that those civilians were shot. So: were they shot, or were they shelled? Of course, our media never bothers to ask these questions, or even to acknowledge any possible contradiction or complication of the initial story:
“Dozens of civilians who died during the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian city of Bucha were killed by tiny metal arrows from shells of a type fired by Russian artillery, forensic doctors have said.”
The Guardian claims without evidence that it was Russian artillery which fired these rounds. But the rounds were fired into Bucha, while Russia still occupied Bucha, a few days before Russia withdrew from Bucha. Neither the article nor Western statements on the matter bothered to wonder if anyone other than Russian forces might have shelled an area occupied by Russian military forces.
Furthermore, the podcast Russians with Attitude claims that Ukraine has been using flechettes in Donbass throughout the past eight years of the conflict. Again, actually adjudicating claims of this kind are outside of this article’s scope, but they are details that would be included in thorough and fair reporting on Bucha, as well as in any objective history of the Russo-Ukrainian war.
Our final case is the Kramatorsk railway station missile attack. From the BBC:
“Scores of people, including children, have been killed when rockets hit a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. Ukrainian officials say thousands of people were waiting for evacuation trains on Friday morning, desperate to flee heavy Russian shelling across the wider Donetsk region.”
The attack was conducted with a notoriously inaccurate weapon, but this didn’t dampen the American narrative that Russia was intentionally and precisely targeting civilians who were just trying to leave the area.
“Just minutes after the attack, Mr Kyrylenko accused Russia of using its Iskander short-range ballistic missile with a cluster munitions warhead. But he later corrected himself, saying that Tochka-U rockets had been used. Russia’s defence ministry also said that Tochka-U rockets were used in the Kramatorsk strike, blaming Ukraine’s armed forces for the attack. Tochka-U rockets are extremely inaccurate, regularly missing their targets by half a kilometre or more, according to Amnesty International weapons experts.”
Nevertheless, despite the possibility that even if the missile had been fired by Russian-aligned forces, perhaps it had a different intended target, Western media tossed this story around as yet another example of Russian intentionally massacring civilians.
For its part, Russia insists that it did not fire this particular misile, citing the fact that it has phased out use of Tochka-U missiles—and that, furthermore, the serial number on the missile that fell in Kramatorsk nearly matched serial numbers from other missiles known to have been fired by Ukraine. Bellingcat (an outfit with ties to the US and UK intelligence communities that operates under the pretense of public “open source intelligence” or OSINT) is on the case, claiming that it is impossible to prove anything from the serial numbers because Russia also used some Tochka-U missiles with similar serial numbers in 2014 in Syria—five years before Russia phased out the use of Tochka-U missiles.
Bellingcat was also able to find an “expert” willing to tell them that Russia could have still made the strike because they “didn’t exactly throw [their Tochka-U stockpile] in a river”:
“Scott LaFoy, Director of Nuclear and Technology Security Programs at Exiger Government Solutions, who has spent his career as an open source analyst focusing on ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons systems, told Bellingcat that Russia ‘didn’t exactly throw them all in a river’ when describing what it may have done with the leftover Tochka series.”
The key problem with the Bellingcat/IC version of events, however, is their epistemologically nihilistic claim that nothing can be determined from the dispersal pattern of the rocket debris. That is to say, even though the dispersal pattern of the cluster bombs clearly followed a southwest-to-northeast trajectory—a path, as they themselves acknowledge, “pointing…back into [Ukrainian] government-held territory” to the southwest of Kramatorsk—for reasons known only to their so-called “expert,” “the orientation of the booster on the ground will have basically no indication of the trajectory. So if it is laying north-south, east, west, backwards, doesn’t really matter.”
According to Bellingcat, in other words, the orientation of the rocket booster engine and the dispersal pattern of the submunitions—both of which unambiguously point to the rocket having been fired from Ukrainian-held territory—cannot serve as reliable evidence that establishes the direction of the rocket’s origin. But Bellingcat also rules out the possibility that the serial number could establish the rocket’s ownership. So we are left utterly unable to establish anything at all. Someone who actually believed the Bellingcat/IC analysis of this incident would necessarily think that it is impossible to establish anything at all about the rocket’s origin, because the physics of the dispersal pattern and the serial number on the rocket have both been ruled out as valid evidence. So why should anyone believe their claim to the effect that Russia fired the rocket? What evidence would they be able to rely on in order to prove their case, if not the serial number and the debris dispersal pattern? In fact, Bellingcat does not offer any contrary evidence at all.
The reality is that this kind of epistemological nihilism is purely cynical and not intended to provide a serious or coherent argument. The point is for the media to give people the impression that Russia killed civilians at a train station, period. And of course this is all taking place in the context of a long conflict, in which plenty of violence has taken place in eastern Ukraine without much interest from American media. Credible claims that Ukraine used cluster bombs on civilian centers never really trended. Meanwhile, hysterical stories stories about supposed Russian atrocities continue to circulate for a media cycle or two before promptly disappearing into the collective unconscious of a White population that has been psychologically manipulated and conditioned by years of Holocaust propaganda to accept these kinds of facially absurd claims at face value. Just like some of the more ludicrous stories from the Holocaust, in other words, the point isn’t for any of these individual stories to “stick.” The point is to paint a picture in people’s minds, in order to manipulate them into accepting a narrative.
In conclusion, breaking through the psychological conditioning that has been inflicted upon the White population by American intelligence and media services is notoriously difficult. Recently, however, dissidents have been given a gift to this end, in the ongoing manufacture of Holocaust-esque atrocity propaganda by the mainstream Jewish media about the ongoing war in the Ukraine. American media and intelligence services routinely collude to push a narrative based on claims that are often unverifiable, demonstrably false, or facially absurd. Hence, asking questions about alleged Russian atrocities flexes the same critical-analytic mental skills that are necessary for asking questions about alleged German atrocities. Some of the locations are even the same: Baba Yar, a place near Kiev that is the site of an alleged massacre, has a Holocaust memorial that was alleged to have been targeted by a Russian missile strike. That story turned out to be a lie. So too are the baseless allegations of German atrocities at Baba Yar.
If you are familiar with Holocaust revisionism, you are probably familiar with the phenomenon of newcomers to dissident politics, first encountering the subject, reacting with incredulity. How could the entire Holocaust narrative be essentially fictitious? What about all the “evidence”? As is well known in our circles, none of the so-called “evidence” proves what it is supposed to prove. Most particularly, and something to remember at all times: photographs of unknown or uncertain provenance (including the vast majority of the so-called “evidence” for the Holocaust) have no epistemic value whatsoever. The case is the same with the war propaganda regarding Ukraine. Western press agencies have started taking note that they “could not independently verify” Ukrainian claims about Russian atrocities. That should serve as the epitaph on the tombstone of the Holocaust narrative, and all similar atrocity propaganda offered in service a Jewish agenda: “could not be independently verified.”
Interesting article on the absurdities of the Babi Yar claims.
As you have pointed out there is a sizeable amount of fake atrocity propaganda in the current conflict as well. The trouble is Putin is one of the most rabid promoters of the holocaust propaganda as it fits in with the official Russian propaganda surrounding the “Great Patriotic War”.
Your comment about bucha is dismissive to say the least. What about the satellite photos showing that bodies were there when the russians were firmly in control? What about the drone video showing civilian getting killed by a tank?