Cross-posted from Consortium News
The New York Times reported almost in passing on Sunday that the Ukrainian government's offensive against ethnic Russian rebels in the east has unleashed far-right paramilitary militias that have even raised a neo-Nazi banner over the conquered town of Marinka, just west of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
That might seem like a big story -- a U.S.-backed military operation, which has inflicted thousands of mostly civilian casualties, is being spearheaded by neo-Nazis. But the consistent pattern of the mainstream U.S. news media has been -- since the start of the Ukraine crisis -- to white-out the role of Ukraine's brown-shirts.
Only occasionally is the word "neo-Nazi" mentioned and usually in the context of dismissing this inconvenient truth as "Russian propaganda." Yet the reality has been that neo-Nazis played a key role in the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February as well as in the subsequent coup regime holding power in Kiev and now in the eastern offensive.
On Sunday, a Times article by Andrew E. Kramer mentioned the emerging neo-Nazi paramilitary role in the final three paragraphs:
"The fighting for Donetsk has taken on a lethal pattern: The regular army bombards separatist positions from afar, followed by chaotic, violent assaults by some of the half-dozen or so paramilitary groups surrounding Donetsk who are willing to plunge into urban combat.
"Officials in Kiev say the militias and the army coordinate their actions, but the militias, which count about 7,000 fighters, are angry and, at times, uncontrollable. One known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.
"In pressing their advance, the fighters took their orders from a local army commander, rather than from Kiev. In the video of the attack, no restraint was evident. Gesturing toward a suspected pro-Russian position, one soldier screamed, 'The bastards are right there!' Then he opened fire."
In other words, the neo-Nazi militias that surged to the front of anti-Yanukovych protests last February have now been organized as shock troops dispatched to kill ethnic Russians in the east -- and they are operating so openly that they hoist a Swastika-like neo-Nazi flag over one conquered village with a population of about 10,000.
Burying this information at the end of a long article is also typical of how the Times and other U.S. mainstream news outlets have dealt with the neo-Nazi problem in the past. When the reality gets mentioned, it usually requires a reader knowing much about Ukraine's history and reading between the lines of a U.S. news account.
For instance, last April 6, the New York Times published a human-interest profile of a Ukrainian nationalist named Yuri Marchuk who was wounded in the uprising against Yanukovych in February. If you read deep into the story, you learn that Marchuk was a leader of the right-wing Svoboda from Lviv, which -- if you did your own research -- you would discover is a neo-Nazi stronghold where Ukrainian nationalists hold torch-light parades in honor of World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.
Without providing that context, the Times does mention that Lviv militants plundered a government arsenal and dispatched 600 militants a day to Kiev's Maidan square to do battle with the police. Marchuk also described how these well-organized militants, consisting of paramilitary brigades of 100 fighters each, launched the fateful attack against the police on Feb. 20, the battle where Marchuk was wounded and where the death toll suddenly spiked into scores of protesters and about a dozen police.
Marchuk later said he visited his comrades at the occupied City Hall. What the Times doesn't mention is that City Hall was festooned with Nazi banners and even a Confederate battle flag as a tribute to white supremacy.
The Times touched on the inconvenient neo-Nazi truth again on April 12 in an article about the mysterious death of neo-Nazi leader Oleksandr Muzychko, who was killed during a shootout with police on March 24. The article quoted a local Right Sektor leader, Roman Koval, explaining the crucial role of his organization in carrying out the anti-Yanukovych coup.
"Ukraine's February revolution, said Mr. Koval, would never have happened without Right Sector and other militant groups," the Times wrote.
The brutality of these neo-Nazis surfaced again on May 2 when right-wing toughs in Odessa attacked an encampment of ethnic Russian protesters driving them into a trade union building which was then set on fire with Molotov cocktails. As the building was engulfed in flames, some people who tried to flee were chased and beaten, while those trapped inside heard the Ukrainian nationalists liken them to black-and-red-striped potato beetles called Colorados, because those colors are used in pro-Russian ribbons.