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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/27/14

NYT's One-Sided Ukraine Narrative

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On Feb. 20, as the violence worsened, mysterious snipers opened fire on both demonstrators and police, killing some 20 people and escalating the confrontation dangerously. Though the Western press jumped to the conclusion that Yanukovych was to blame, he denied ordering the shootings and EU officials later came to suspect that the attacks were done by the opposition as a provocation.

"So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition," Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, as reported by the UK Guardian.

On Feb. 21, Yanukovych sought to tamp down the violence by signing an agreement with representatives of Germany, France and Poland in which he accepted early elections (so he could be voted out of office) and agreed to reduced presidential powers. He also pulled back the police.

However, when the police were withdrawn, the neo-Nazi militias completed their putsch on Feb. 22, seizing control of government buildings and forcing Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives. In effect, the storm troopers controlled the Ukrainian government.

I was told by an international diplomat who was on the ground in Kiev that the Western countries felt there was no choice but to immediately work with the shaken Parliament to put together an interim government, otherwise the "thugs" would remain in charge.

So, Yanukovych was hastily impeached through an illegal process that circumvented the Ukrainian constitution, and the Parliament picked a new government which ceded four ministries, including national security, to the neo-Nazis in recognition of their crucial role in the coup.

To head up this interim government, Yatsenyuk was named prime minister and one of his first orders of business was to enact the IMF austerity plan that Yanukovych had rejected. The intimidated Parliament also approved a ban on Russian as an official language, although that scheme was later dropped.

In other words, the Times misleads its readers when it summarizes the events by simply saying Yanukovych "fled Kiev on Feb. 21 after a failed but bloody attempt to suppress a civic uprising."

The Aftermath

After the coup, ethnic Russians in the east and south were outraged that their elected president had been removed violently and illegally. In the southern peninsula of Crimea, the local parliament voted to arrange a referendum on secession in order to rejoin Russia, which had controlled Crimea dating back to the 1700s.

Russia did not "invade" Crimea since Moscow already had some 16,000 troops stationed in Crimea under an agreement with Ukraine for Russia to retain its historic naval base at Sevastopol. Russian troops did back up the local Crimean authorities as they planned their referendum which showed overwhelming public support for secession.

It became another U.S. conventional wisdom that the referendum was "rigged" because the turnout was high and the vote in favor of secession was 96 percent. But exit polls showed a similarly overwhelming majority of around 93 percent -- and no serious person doubts that most Crimeans favored escaping from the failed Ukrainian state.

Russia then agreed to accept Crimea back into its federation. So, while the Crimean referendum was surely hastily organized, it reflected the popular will and was central to the Russian decision to reclaim the historical peninsula.

Yet, the Times summarized those events as "Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea," creating the image of Russian troops swarming across the border and seizing the territory against the will of the people.

If Herszenhorn's paragraph were the first time that he or the newspaper had offered such a misleading account on Ukraine or other international hotspots, one might excuse it as just a rushed and careless synopsis. But the summary is only the latest example of the Times' deeply biased pattern, marching in lockstep with the State Department's propaganda themes for years.

The Times' failures in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War were infamous, particularly the "aluminum tube" story by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller. The Times showed similar bias on the Syrian conflict, including last year's debunked Times' "vector analysis" tracing a Sarin-laden rocket back to a Syrian military base when the rocket had less than one-third the necessary range.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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