Russia shocked the world when it hurriedly annexed Crimea in 2014 as part of the Russian Federation. As if that wasn’t a monumental error in international laws, Russia, based on available evidence, has been secretly waging war against Ukraine by sending its troops to disguise as Ukrainian rebels and engage the Government army in a fierce battle.
The world leaders are not fooled to believe Kremlin’s denials that it doesn’t have a hand in Ukraine uprisings. But what is surprising enough about this issue is that the Russian people have been deceived to believe everything coming out of the Kremlin. The Russian propaganda is so strong that in a recent poll conducted to investigate Russian people’s awareness of the true events going on in Ukraine revealed the rampant ignorance among Russian populace. Fifty-three percent of respondents didn’t buy the idea that Russia was behind the atrocities occurring in East Ukraine, compared to just 25 percent who believed Russia should be blamed for the breakdown of laws and orders in Ukraine. As a matter of fact, 45 percent of Russians confess that they would perceive Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine as a positive humanitarian response to the crisis there, while 35 percent believed Russia has no business in Ukraine at all. And about 60 percent of Russians did not believe a war will erupt between Ukraine and Russia in the near future.
Russia’s propaganda working perfectly
All these alarming numbers point to the fact that Kremlin’s propaganda is working perfectly, and some experts have compared the approach to the one employed by former Soviet Union leader, Josef Stalin. Stalin used the tricks of denial and deception known in Russian language as “maskirovka” to confuse people in his days. They were powerful tools, and in those days it practically took years before people in the Soviet Union could know exactly what had happened. Fast forward to today, Putin is the Stalin of our time, and he is constantly misleading the Russian populace on the issue of Ukraine’s unrest.
Of course, Putin knows that his tricks aren’t working on the Western world and that is why his country has been bombarded with avalanche of economic, military and political sanctions. Despite pushing his country’s economy into a free-fall because of his unscrupulous actions, it is almost impossible for Vladimir Putin or any of his cronies to publicly apologize for their mistakes in Ukraine. Russia has cut its interest rates many times since the West’s sanctions against Russia began, and Russian currency, Ruble has lost its past glory and has been dangerously undervalued.
In spite of the pain and poverty Putin’s involvement in Ukraine internal problems have brought to the Russian People, many of them, due largely to the effectiveness of Kremlin’s propaganda machine, still throw their massive support behind their president. Many have even compared this standoff to the Cold War when the world, as Russians are made to believe then, wanted to undermine Russian development during the Soviet Union era. But how long would average Russians pretend nothing serious is happening in Ukraine and that their leaders are not to be blamed for everything?
Not everyone is accepting the Russian Government official deception though, a few Russians have rallied around Ukraine and urged the Kremlin to stop committing diplomatic crimes in the region. One of them who paid a huge price for speaking up against Russian aggression was Boris Nemtsov—Russian opposition leader who lost his life through assassination recently.
The Ukraine Government has always come up with their own convincing string of evidences that Russia is culpable for all the evil things going on in their homeland. Anatoly Matios, Ukraine’s outspoken top military prosecutor has publicly blamed chief of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov for hatching and executing the plan to destabilize Ukraine. In his own words, he said “the ideologist behind the war of aggression and the military conflict in the eastern Ukraine is…based on all collected evidence, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Gerasimov.”
Russia secret involvement in Ukraine
Russia may have been playing a child’s play denying its active involvement in Ukraine’s war, but how about some of its servicemen that had been caught by the Ukrainian soldiers? From their jail in Kyiv, Ukraine, two Russian soldiers identified themselves as GRU military intelligence officers sent to undertake some assignments in Ukraine. But the Russian state media was quick to describe the two men as mere “Russian citizens”, possibly denying their military link. One of these two men named Captain Yevgeny Yerofeyev had complained that many Russian servicemen have been left to their fate in some Ukrainian jails. He told Russian Newspaper Novaya Gazeta that “it’s just that they are only talking and writing about us. But in reality there are many.” In its second rebuttal, Russian Government labelled the two GRU officers as civilians, having resigned from the military before they arrived in Ukraine.
Russia’s propaganda machine has got a lot of jobs on their hands to do: they would have to disprove the claim by another captured Russian Army major, Starkov, who was reportedly caught in Donetsk Oblast when he was on an official duty to the Ukrainian separatists as a military adviser sent by the Russian Government. Or what will the Russian apologists have to say about the Malaysian Airline’s MH 17 that was reportedly downed by Russian anti-aircraft missile provided to the separatists?
There is truly no end in sight for Russian propaganda war: the United Nations’ Security Council recently made an attempt to set up a Tribunal that would investigate what actually led to the Malaysian Airline’s MH17 being shot down, but Russia opposed the move and threatened to veto it if the UN Security vote is called for it. Why is Putin nervous about this? If he hasn’t got his hands dirty by involving himself in Ukraine’s crisis, will he be afraid that his secrets may soon be unraveled?
So far, Russia’s war propaganda has been successful to keep Russian people in the dark about the atrocities their leaders are committing in Ukraine. Quoting analyst Vitaly Bala of Situations Modeling Agency, a think tank, “the main goal for Russia now is legitimize the separatist republics so that they can continue to use them as proxies, while at the same time pretending (Moscow is) in no way involved. They describe Russian mercenaries as “separatists” or “Russian-backed” instead of calling them what they are: Russian mercenaries,” he said.
As long as Moscow continues to play hide-and-seek in the Ukraine conflict, it will be difficult to find a lasting solution to the war. What does Russia want? Ukraine president has asked this rhetorical question several times. But how does anyone expect Russia to voice out its desire when its war propaganda machine is working hard 24/7 to tell everyone that Russia is innocent of all evil claims levied against it since the Ukraine upheaval started.
The world is waiting to see how the United Nations will force Russia to hand off from hindering the justice for MH 17 victims. That is another international uproar Russian propagandists should be ready for. Because it would need plenty of talking to convince the world that Russia is indeed innocent of the processes that led to the MH 17 shot-down.