Cross-posted from Consortium News
The New York Times, which has asserted for weeks that the Russian government is behind the unrest in Ukraine's east, finally sent some reporters to the region to dig up the proof, but all they found were eastern Ukrainians upset by the coup regime in Kiev that replaced President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Times, which has been an unapologetic promoter of the "pro-democracy" uprising that ousted the democratically elected president through violent extra-constitutional means, has recently been promoting the "theme" that Ukrainians would be happy with their new unelected government if only the Russians weren't "destabilizing eastern Ukraine."
However, only two days later, the scoop unraveled when it turned out that a key photo -- supposedly showing a group of soldiers in Russia who later appeared in eastern Ukraine -- was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the entire story.
So, the Times belatedly dispatched reporters C.J. Chivers and Noah Sneider to Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine to talk with the militants who are opposing the coup regime in Kiev. To their credit, the two reporters actually seem to have recounted what they found, albeit with some of the anti-Russian bias that is now deeply embedded in the Western media narrative.
Noting that Moscow says the Ukrainian militants are not part of the Russian armed forces while "Western officials and the Ukrainian government insist that Russians have led, organized and equipped the fighters," the reporters write:
"A deeper look at the 12th Company [of the People's Militia] -- during more than a week of visiting its checkpoints, interviewing its fighters and observing them in action against a Ukrainian military advance here on Friday -- shows that in its case neither portrayal captures the full story.
"The rebels of the 12th Company appear to be Ukrainians but, like many in the region, have deep ties to and affinity for Russia. They are veterans of the Soviet, Ukrainian or Russian Armies, and some have families on the other side of the border. Theirs is a tangled mix of identities and loyalties.
"Further complicating the picture, while the fighters share a passionate distrust of Ukraine's government and the Western powers that support it, they disagree among themselves about their ultimate goals. They argue about whether Ukraine should redistribute power via greater federalization or whether the region should be annexed by Russia, and they harbor different views about which side might claim Kiev, the capital, and even about where the border of a divided Ukraine might lie."
Chuckling at Kiev
The Times reporters cited one unit leader named Yuri as chuckling...
"...at the claims by officials in Kiev and the West that his operations had been guided by Russian military intelligence officers. There is no Russian master, he said. 'We have no Muscovites here,' he said. 'I have experience enough.' That experience, he and his fighters say, includes four years as a Soviet small-unit commander in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the 1980s.
"The 119 fighters he said he leads, who appear to range in age from their 20s to their 50s, all speak of prior service in Soviet or Ukrainian infantry, airborne, special forces or air-defense units."
The reporters also discovered mostly well-worn and dated weaponry, not the newer and more sophisticated equipment that is available to Russian forces.
"During the fighting on Friday, two of the fighters carried hunting shotguns, and the heaviest visible weapon was a sole rocket-propelled grenade," Chivers and Sneider wrote...
"Much of their stock was identical to the weapons seen in the hands of Ukrainian soldiers and Interior Ministry special forces troops at government positions outside the city. These included 9-millimeter Makarov pistols, Kalashnikov assault rifles and a few Dragunov sniper rifles, RPK light machine guns and portable antitank rockets, including some with production stamps from the 1980s and early 1990s."
Other Western journalists, who have bothered to report from eastern Ukraine rather than just accept handouts from the U.S. Embassy in Kiev or the State Department in Washington, discovered a similar reality.
For instance, on April 17, Washington Post correspondent Anthony Faiola reported from Donetsk that many of the eastern Ukrainians whom he interviewed said the unrest in their region was driven by fear over "economic hardship" and the IMF austerity plan that will make their lives even harder.
"At a most dangerous and delicate time, just as it battles Moscow for hearts and minds across the east, the pro-Western government is set to initiate a shock therapy of economic measures to meet the demands of an emergency bailout from the International Monetary Fund," Faiola reported.
But this on-the-ground reality of legitimate and understandable concerns among the eastern Ukrainians has been missing from the U.S. propaganda barrage, which has overwhelmed the mainstream press as thoroughly as a similar P.R. campaign did during the run-up to the Iraq War, if not more so. Official Washington's "group think" now is all about blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Ukraine crisis.