Contradicting the Western narrative - GulfToday

Contradicting the Western narrative

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


The damages from an early morning strike by Russian forces in Kostiantynivka, eastern Ukraine.

Two highly important reports issued last week have countered the Western narrative on the Ukraine war and could contribute to the push-back against NATO’s proxy campaign against Russia. The first is the press release issued by Amnesty International which shows that Ukrainian forces “have put civilians in harms way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in  populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals” to repel the Russian invaders.

Amnesty says, “Such tactics violate international humanitarian law and endanger civilians, as they turn civilian objects into military targets. The ensuing Russian strikes in populated areas have killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure.”

Amnesty has provided proof to substantiate this accusation which goes against the Western governmental and media portrayal of Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia’s invasion. Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard argues, “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”

While Amnesty points out that Ukrainian forces do not operate from civilian areas in all cases, the organisation found that Russian strikes in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions did fit this pattern.  Between April and July, survivors, witnesses, and relatives of victims of attacks said Ukrainian forces not only launched strikes from within populated areas but also based themselves in civilian buildings in 19 towns and villages.

Furthermore, “Most residential areas where soldiers located themselves were kilometres away from front lines. Viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians — such as military bases or densely wooded areas nearby, or other structures further away from residential areas.” To make matters worse, Ukrainian military personnel located in civilian structures did not ask or assist civilians to evacuate these buildings. This amounted to falure to “take all feasible precautions to protect civilians.”

Amnesty cited cases where Russian strikes targeted civilian properties while Ukrainian soldiers were operating at these locations. Amnesty found that Ukrainian troops had also established bases in hospitals and schools.

Amnesty criticised the Russian military for launching indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas as well as strikes with precision guided weaponry.

As could be expected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy furiously condemned the report. He charged the organisation with attempting “to amnesty the terrorist state and shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.” He accused Amnesty of providing a “manipulative” report and said the organisation shared with Russia “responsibility for the death of people.”

The head of Amnesty’s Ukrainian branch, Oksana Pokalchuk, resigned last Friday in protest against the report which was substantiated by Associated Press correspondents operating in Ukrainian battlegrounds.

In response to such criticism, Amnesty expressed regret over “distress and anger” but stood by its findings.

It may be significant that Amnesty’s investigations in Ukraine began in April after the March 28 publication by The Washington Post of an article from Kyiv by Sudarsan Ragavan in which he described a Russian strike on a civilian building in the capital, killing at least four people. A Ukrainian lawmaker, who turned up at the site, accused Russia of terrorism and said there were no military targets or troops in the area. However, Ragavan wrote, “Yet a few minutes later, the whooshing sound of Ukrainian rockets fired from a multiple rocket launcher startled residents staring blankly at their destroyed homes. Then, another outgoing barrage. The weapons seemed to be nearby, perhaps a few streets away, certainly well inside the capital.”

He continued: “Virtually every neighbourhood in most cities has become militarised, some more than others, making them potential targets for Russian forces trying to take out Ukrainian defenses.” This has transformed the battle for Ukraine into “urban war, forged more by aerial weaponry and bombardments than traditional street-by-street fighting in many areas.” As Russian forces strike cities, the Ukrainian military fortifies and takes them over.

He described how fellow Post journalists watched the systematic militarisation of Kyiv neighbourhoods. However, they other journalists did not further report on the militarisation of urban areas and discuss the consequences for Ukrainian civilians of this deeply flawed strategy. To do this would have countered the thrust of the highly successful Western news-cum-propaganda effort which portrays Ukraine as a guiltless hero in this conflict and Russia as a brutal violator of international humanitarian law by deliberately targeting civilians.

Coinciding with President Joe Biden’s latest pledge of another $1 billion in military aid for Ukraine, Adam Yamaguchi and Alex Pena reported on Aug. 4 on CBS News that only 30-40 per cent of it “reaches its final destination,” quoting an April interview with Jonas Ohman, founder and CEO of Blue-Yellow. This is an organisation based in Lithuania which has provided frontline Ukrainian units with military aid since 2014 when Kyiv began fighting Russian-backed separatists in the east.

Blue-Yellow delivers non-lethal night-vision scopes, flak jackets, helmets and surveillance drones to troops engaged in fighting. CBS cited Othman as saying he has to navigate “power lords, oligarchs, and political players” while dealing with Ukraine’s corrupt bureaucracy.

Supervision of US and other Western arms supplies stops at the Polish border. While US troops are not involved in the fighting civilians could be deployed to ensure deliveries are made, former US army colonel Andy Millburn, founder of the Kyiv-based Mozart Group which trains Ukrainian soldiers, told CBS.  

While the US is aware of the potential for the diversion of arms, in July, US Undersecretary for Arms control, Bonnie Denise Jenkins said, “We are confident in the Ukrainian Government’s commitment to appropriately safeguard and account for the US-origin defense equipment.”

Although Ukraine has established a commission to track weapons deliveries, Transparency International, which ranks countries according to levels of corruption, lists Ukraine as the most corrupt in Europe, listing 122nd out of 180 countries. Russia is the most corrupt, ranked at 136. While vice president in the Obama administration, Biden was in charge of investigating corruption in Ukrain and should be aware of the threat posed by the diversion of arms.  

There is a serious danger of weapons dispersal to conflicts in Africa, Asia, and this region, particularly to al-Qaeda affiliates and Daesh offshoots. Risks are compounded if Western powers are defeated as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and left-over arsenals fall into the hands of radical militants and arms dealers.

Photo: TNS

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