Simultaneously with the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has also started to wage a more robust information warfare. To justify the invasion, the Kremlin and the Kremlin-linked media seek to promote a number of disinformation narratives which imply that Ukraine is being liberated – “denazified” and “demilitarised” (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4, link 5, link 6 and link 7).
In fact, Russia is not a liberator of Ukraine but an aggressor which occupied the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 as well as parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions whilst on 24 February 2022 launched a full-scale war on the rest of the Ukrainian territory on the ludicrous ground of “denazification” and “demilitarisation.” Irrespective what pretext Putin uses to legitimise his war, it is a fact that Russia invaded the sovereign territory of Ukraine.
Pretexts which Russia Uses to Justify the “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine
On 24 February 2022, Putin stated that the goals of the full-scale war, which he continues to call a “special operation,” is to “protect the population from genocide as well as denazify and demilitarise Ukraine together with the “protection of those people who were abused and subjected to genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years.” Putin made similar statements at the session of the Human Rights Council in December 2021, saying that “what is happening in Donbas now very much reminds us of genocide.”
On 24 February 2022, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in response to a question that “denazification” implies that “ideally, Ukraine should be liberated, should be purged from Nazis, pro-Nazi people and ideology.”
One of the major pillars of the Kremlin’s anti-Ukraine propaganda is to claim that Ukraine is a Nazi, fascist state which discriminates against its citizens on national grounds and forbids them to speak any other language except for Ukrainian.
However, the international community rallies firmly behind a consensus that Ukraine has nothing to do with a “Nazi state,” as claimed by Russian propaganda, and this is attested to by numerous high-ranking European and American politicians.
The French President, Emanuel Macron, said that the Kremlin’s messages that the military operation against Ukraine aimed to fight against Nazism and Fascism were false allegations. The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also expressed his view on Putin’s assessment on alleged genocide in Donbas and at 2022 Munich Security Conference and said that these allegations were simply “ridiculous.”
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, whose father was a Jewish Holocaust-survivor, stated on 17 February 2022 in his speech before the UN that Russia would create a pretext for the invasion of Ukraine: “Russia may describe this event as ethnic cleansing or a genocide, making a mockery of a concept that we in this chamber do not take lightly, nor do I do take lightly based on my family history.”
Despite robust rhetoric about an ostensible genocide in Ukraine, Russia failed to prove its allegations. This is confirmed by the Assembly of All-Russian Officers which said: “The issue of genocide committed by Kyiv in south-east regions was not brought on the agenda either in the UN or in the OSCE.”
There is no evidence that Ukraine systematically exterminated the peaceful population in Donbas. The OSCE mission which has been deployed in Ukraine since 2014 did not find a fact that would prove genocide of the Donbas people.
There is not a single international document or conclusion of any international organisation that would support Moscow’s allegations that Russian-speakers or ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine are being persecuted or suffering a “genocide” committed by the Ukrainian authorities. This is proven by the reports published by the Council of Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OSCE.
Ukraine has brought a case against Russia at The Hague International Court (the UN’s top judiciary organ) to protest Russia’s pretext of the invasion of Ukraine - that Russia is going to end the genocide committed by Ukraine in Donbas.
On 16 March 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) released a preliminary decision over Ukraine’s case against Russia. The case was about Russia’s false claims about genocide and using these claims to justify its aggression against Ukraine. The court declared: “Under these circumstances, the Court considers that Ukraine has a plausible right not to be subjected to military operations by the Russian Federation for the purpose of preventing and punishing an alleged genocide on the territory of Ukraine.” The ICJ also called for the Russian Federation to “immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine” and said “the Russian Federation shall ensure that any military or irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it, as well as any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control or direction, take no steps in furtherance of the military operations.”
Real Reasons and Objectives for Invading Ukraine
There are real reasons behind the pretext which Russia uses to justify the “special military operation” in Ukraine and Russia’s aspirations vis-à-vis Ukraine became apparent as early as in 2014.
Russia’s goal is to bring Ukraine back to its sphere of influence – the so-called “near abroad.” To this end, Russia seeks to prevent Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration as well as its democratic development.
In order to alter Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic choice, Russia aimed to topple legitimate authorities in Kyiv and install a puppet government instead. To this end, Russia sent saboteurs to Kyiv on the very first day of the war on 24 February 2022 and made airborne drops at the Hostomel airport near Kyiv. On 25 February 2022, Putin urged the Ukrainian military to take power into their hands and overthrow the government of “terrorists” and the “drug-addict neo-Nazi gang” which occupied Kyiv and took Ukrainian people hostages. However, events did not unfold as planned and Russia failed to “liberate” Ukraine – the Ukrainians kept Kyiv and other large cities whilst the legitimate government remains in power.
One month after the fighting broke out, it is possible to conclude that Russia’s objectives vis-à-vis Ukraine were “altered.” If Russia’s initial aim was to “liberate” the entire Ukraine from Nazi forces, capture Kyiv and install a puppet government, now it aspires to “fully liberate” the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions. Sergei Rudskoi, Deputy Head of the Russian General Staff, stated: “The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished which makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas.” As claimed by Mr Rudskoi, their forces now control 93% of Ukraine's Luhansk region and 54% of the Donetsk region.
International Community Believes Russia’s Actions in Ukraine are an Illegitimate Invasion and a Military Aggression
The international community agrees that Russia, which invaded the territory of a sovereign nation, is an aggressor in the Russian war against Ukraine. The United Nation’s General Assembly session on 2 March 2022, where a resolution about Russia’s aggression was adopted, is of particular importance. The resolution, entitled Aggression Against Ukraine, demands that “the Russian Federation immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.” The resolution defines aggression as the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state. The resolution condemns Russia’s use of force against Ukraine starting on 24 February 2022 and it is assessed as violation of the aims and the principles of the UN Charter as well as the resolution of 14 December 1974.
This UN resolution was voted in favour by 141 sovereign nations whilst only five voted against (Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea). This is yet another confirmation that only five nations join Russia’s ludicrous claims about Ukraine being governed by a Nazi regime. All of these 141 nations say that Russia, not Ukraine, is the aggressor. Of note is that the aforementioned resolution is the first of its kind adopted by the UN General Assembly in the last four decades. On 24 March 2022, the UN General Assembly also adopted another resolution as a part of its emergency session entitled Humanitarian Consequences of the Aggression against Ukraine. The resolution demands that Russia immediately cease fighting against Ukraine and ensure the protection of civilians as well as medical and humanitarian workers.
The resolution recalls the UN Secretary General’s call for Russia to stop the military attack and return to negotiations.
Russia’s Real Actions in Ukraine
Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of Ukrainian cities, together with a myriad of other facts, also confirms the reality that Russia is attacking Ukraine and not liberating it. According to reports of international organisations and some Western intelligence and security agencies, it is confirmed that Russia is attacking civilian facilities and, therefore, its actions constitute possible war crimes.
On 17 March 2022, US President Joe Biden said Vladimir Putin was a “war criminal” and assessed Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a “war crime.” On 23 March 2022, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, officially stated that the Russian forces are committing war crimes in Ukraine. According to the statement: “The US government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.” Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, also confirmed attacks of Russian forces against civilians: “We assess that it was Russia which bombed the Mariupol theatre and Mariupol Hospital no. 3.”
At the same time, plenty of open sources, including Bellingcat, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch confirm that based on collected photo and video materials as well as witness testimonies, the Russian military is indiscriminately attacking civilian infrastructure and civilians. According to Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General: “The Russian troops should immediately stop carrying out indiscriminate attacks in violation of the laws of war which cause civilian deaths and injuries.”
Therefore, the Kremlin’s claim that Russia is liberating Ukrainian cities is fake. Russia is not a liberator but an aggressor which invaded the territory of a sovereign nation and is committing possible war crimes. There is no evidence that the government of Ukraine persecuted the population of the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions based on language or ethnicity. Russia seeks to justify its military intervention in Ukraine with these groundless allegations.
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