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Voices of Dissent Reject the US-Friendly Narrative on Ukraine

When the US supports a government's overthrow that's "freedom"—but when it objects, that's "Russian aggression"

Armed pro-Russian activists guard a police station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk. (Photo: Anatoliy Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Amid the fast-moving and often confusing daily developments in Ukraine, it has fallen to relatively few journalists and observers to challenge the dominant western media narrative in order to expose that claims made by top policy officials and lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe should not be swallowed whole by those trying to understand the still volatile and unfolding crisis.

According to critics, the tendency of many news outlets, particularly in the U.S., to consistently blame the crisis on Russian interference ignores key historical and leads to skewed perceptions about the realities taking place on the ground.

Among those critics of the dominant narrative that has been pushed by the U.S. government and given uncritical coverage in many western outlets, Guardian's Seumas Milne pushed back heavily in his column on Thursday. Warning that the "threat of war is growing" in Ukraine, Milne argues that the western hypocrisy concerning events in the country is made plain when the US and its European allies roundly condemn events now happening in the cities of eastern Ukraine that are "the mirror image of what took place in Kiev a couple of months ago"—which they supported and cheered.

Concerning the events leading to the overthrow of Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovich in February, Milne writes:

Then, it was armed protesters in Maidan Square seizing government buildings and demanding a change of government and constitution. US and European leaders championed the "masked militants" and denounced the elected government for its crackdown, just as they now back the unelected government's use of force against rebels occupying police stations and town halls in cities such as Slavyansk and Donetsk.

"America is with you," Senator John McCain told demonstrators then, standing shoulder to shoulder with the leader of the far-right Svoboda party as the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up the new Ukrainian government.


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When the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover, politicians such as William Hague brazenly misled parliament about the legality of what had taken place: the imposition of a pro-western government on Russia's most neuralgic and politically divided neighbour.

Putin bit back, taking a leaf out of the US street-protest playbook – even though, as in Kiev, the protests that spread from Crimea to eastern Ukraine evidently have mass support. But what had been a glorious cry for freedom in Kiev became infiltration and insatiable aggression in Sevastopol and Luhansk.

After Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, the bulk of the western media abandoned any hint of even-handed coverage. So Putin is now routinely compared to Hitler, while the role of the fascistic right on the streets and in the new Ukrainian regime has been airbrushed out of most reporting as Putinist propaganda.

And continuing his hard-hitting analysis of how the U.S. media continues to carry water for the Obama administration's characterization of the Ukraine crisis, independent journalist Robert Parry, who edits the Consortium News website, writes in his latest piece that "as the post-coup regime in Ukraine sends troops and paramilitaries to crack down on ethnic Russian protesters in the east, the U.S. news media continues to feed the American public a steady dose of anti-Russian propaganda, often wrapped in accusations of 'Russian propaganda.'"

As Milne notes, "there may be few global takers for Putin's oligarchic conservatism and nationalism, but Russia's counterweight to US imperial expansion is welcomed, from China to Brazil."

And in the end, he concludes, what's necessary is not the victory over one narrative over the other but the avoidance of "unintended consequences" that could follow from mistakes made on the ground in Ukraine. And what's essential in that regard, according to Milne, are forces pushing for "a negotiated end to the crisis" and not, as happened last week, more talk of a Third World War in which two nuclear powers face off against one another.


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