NEW - Ukrainian separatists or Russian invaders?

  • 2014-07-21
  • By Askold S. Lozynskyj

In the course of most recent reporting regarding the shoot down of Malaysian Airline Flight 17, Western media reports and many even in government continue to use the inaccurate term “Ukrainian separatists” to describe the so-called “rebels” in the Donetsk region. While media and government spokespersons are prone to hasty semantic deficiencies, this ill-chosen characterization strikes at the heart of accuracy in media and paints an entirely erroneous picture of the situation.


“Ukrainian separatists” implies that there is a substantial number of Ukrainians ethnically or as Ukrainian citizens who are participating in a revolution to separate their region from Ukraine. Nothing could be further from the truth. Revolutionaries often carry a positive connotation. Invaders and hired guns do not.


Another term erroneously used in Western circles is “civil war,” which is even more inappropriate. Ukrainian citizens are not fighting or killing other Ukrainian citizens. Russian invaders are killing Ukrainian and other ethnic residents of two southeast regions in Ukraine. The term Ukrainian can be applied only to forces sent into the two regions by the Ukrainian government in Kiev to overcome the invaders, protect the local population and take back territory which the invaders have occupied.


Consider the composition of the pseudo government of the Donetsk Peoples' Republic:


The quasi parliament composed exclusively of “separatists” chose Denis Pushilin, a citizen of Ukraine, chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the DPR. Pushilin had been unemployed. He did run for a seat in Ukraine's parliament on Dec. 15, 2013 but garnered less than 1 percent of the vote.


The appointed prime minister is Alexander Borodai, a Moscow-based, ultra-nationalist former newspaper editor and political consultant. His defense minister is Igor Girkin, a longtime Russian army and intelligence colonel. Last week Russia sent in a deputy prime minister for State Security a Russian Lieutenant General Vladimir Antyufeyev, a longtime Russian police and special operations commander who had been a leader of Moscow campaigns in Latvia, Moldova and Georgia. Borodai, Girkin and Antyufeyev have absolutely no nexus to Donetsk except for their current location. Pushilin resigned on July 18, 2014. 


In the other region, Luhansk, the president of that pseudo republic is Russian-born Valeriy Bolotov, who has resided in the Luhansk region for many years. Bolotov appointed Marat Bashirov, a Russian as acting prime minister. Bashirov was born in Izhevsk, Russia, is a Russian lobbyist and former assistant to the chairman of the Russia's Federation Council's Committee on Foreign Affairs.


The composition of militants is even starker. Very few locals are involved in the military operations. Not surprisingly since the “separatist” cause is supported by only a very small portion of the population. After all, Pushilin in Donetsk, who was chosen to lead the separatist republic, was endorsed in December's election by less than 1 percent of an electoral district he himself chose.


And then there is the weaponry and skill necessary to use it, all of which comes from Russia. The “Buk” surface-to-air missile is the most recent example. The missile is Russian-made and quite sophisticated as it was used to bring down a plane cruising at over 32,000 feet. Previously, Ukrainian government planes, both cargo and jets, had been brought down by somewhat less sophisticated missiles.


Russian forces at Ukraine's border with Russia number anywhere from 40-60,000. They are positioned to intimidate, but more importantly to enable passage of Russian militants and arms.


At a recent session of the UN Security Council on the subject of the Malaysian airline, Ukraine's permanent representative made his case for Russian complicity, foreboding what the future was like:


“Recruiting efforts for illegal armed group fighters are expanding inside Russia and they are looking for volunteers with experience operating heavy weapons such as tanks and air defenses.

Russia has allowed establishing a recruiting office in Moscow and Rostov, which are openly operating on recruiting and sending Russian nationals to eastern regions of Ukraine.”


The lesson of the Malaysian Airline tragedy is tragic yet simple. If we in the West continue to refer to the crisis in Ukraine as a “civil conflict” and call the Russian invaders in southeastern Ukraine “Ukrainian separatists,” we will be sending a message to Russia and Vladimir Putin that we are reluctant to accept the consequences of reality.


Russia has invaded a democratic and freedom-loving part of the world and intends to impose its will on the entire world. Russia will continue to lie and deny for as long as we listen or pretend to do so. Our equivocating response that our position is still under consideration while the investigation is on-going, will only embolden the enemy. Let's be clear, Russia is the enemy for the freedom-loving and law respecting international community.


July 20, 2014