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When Is a Putsch a Putsch?

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Source: Consortium News

The mainstream U.S. news media, which hailed the Feb. 22 neo-Nazi-spearheaded coup overthrowing the democratically elected president of Ukraine as an expression of "democracy," is now decrying public uprisings in eastern Ukraine as a Russian-instigated "putsch."

It apparently has reached the point where the MSM is so tangled up in its propagandistic narrative that it can't give American readers anything close to an objective reading of what is actually going on in Ukraine or many other places, for that matter.

The way the MSM now summarizes the Feb. 22 coup is simply to say that President Viktor Yanukovych fled after weeks of protests by Ukrainians who favored "good government" and opposed "corruption," as the Washington Post wrote on Tuesday.

Airbrushed out of the picture is the fact that the uprising had financial support and political encouragement from U.S. officials, including neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and the neocon-controlled, U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy. [See's "What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis."]

Also, disappearing from the frame was the inconvenient truth that neo-Nazi militants organized themselves from the start as paramilitary units with the intent of staging a violent putsch against Yanukovych's elected government.

The MSM's simplistic narrative turned this complex Ukrainian reality into a morality play of good guys vs. bad guys, the noble protesters against the nasty Yanukovych backed by the even nastier Russian President Vladimir Putin.

For instance, the New York Times on Sunday published a long and flattering profile of a Ukrainian man named Yuri Marchuk who was wounded in clashes around Kiev's Maidan square in February. In the first half of the story, written by Alison Smale, we read about Marchuk's courage in standing and fighting with his brave comrades.

The Neo-Nazi Connection

Only in the latter half of the article do we get a hint of a darker side to the tale. We're told that Marchuk is "carefully skirting questions about the arrival of guns stolen from a government depot in the western Ukraine city of Lviv," which was sending hundreds of new militants daily to bolster the sagging protests.

But what we're not told by the Times is that Lviv is a neo-Nazi stronghold where 15,000 members of the far-right Svoboda party held a torchlight parade in honor of World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera and where Svoboda has been mounting a campaign to have the local airport named in honor of Bandera, whose fascist paramilitary force took part in the exterminations of Jews and Poles.

However, since it's been the consistent MSM practice to white-out the role of the neo-Nazi brown shirts -- all the better to protect the pleasant narrative of a Kiev Spring -- the Times ignores the Bandera angle and the significance of the Lviv reference.

Instead, we're simply told: "organizers in Lviv said they alone were sending 600 people a day to Kiev. That enabled exhausted defenders [of the Maidan protests] to eat and sleep while new arrivals built barricades and then, early on Feb. 20, thrust toward the Berkut [police] positions."

It was during that clash when Marchuk, a leader of a "sotin" or paramilitary force of 100 fighters, was shot in the right leg and suffered other wounds. After getting a splint on his leg, Marchuk said he returned to City Hall "checking on the fate of the 35 members of his hundred who had volunteered for that Thursday. Two were killed, 12 wounded, the rest all right, he found," the Times reported.

We have to read down even further, to the fourth paragraph from the end, to learn that Marchuk is "close to Oleg Tyagnibok, leader of the nationalist Svoboda party," though again the significance of that fact is not explained. The article continues in heroic terms:

"In these revolutionary times, he [Marchuk] suggested, it is not enough simply to be a patriot. You have to defend what you treasure. 'To sit in the kitchen and simply cry about how much we love Ukraine, that is a crime,' he said."

But what is left out of this story is far more important than what is put in. The reporter should have pressed Marchuk about exactly what he thinks Ukrainians should "treasure," whether he admires Nazi collaborator Bandera and what he would like to do with the ethnic Russians living in east and south Ukraine, Yanukovych's "base" in the 2010 election.

Wouldn't the story have been more interesting to Times' readers if Smale had blended the grays of Marchuk's far-right politics into this two-dimensional tale of the "white hat" Marchuk fighting bravely against the "black hat" Yanukovych.

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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 It's also available at

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