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7 Years On, and The BBC Is Still Lying About the Georgian War

BBC tells the reader the timing of the 2008 Russian-Georgian War was "skillfully chosen" - forgets to mention it was Georgians who skillfully timed the war by invading South Ossetia and killing Russian peacekeepers

This article originally appeared at Journalitico


A very quick example of how outright falsehoods continue to weasel their way into the mainstream, despite all factual evidence to the contrary.

This recent piece from the BBC:

Viewpoint: What’s behind Russia’s actions in Georgia?

It may be a ‘viewpoint’ piece, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t entitle the author to present his own set of facts.

Here is the problematic section:

Moscow has been doing this in the internationally recognised Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia since the late days of the Soviet Union. This policy culminated in the 2008 war that saw both territories occupied by Russian troops. Russia subsequently proclaimed them as independent states.

As in 2008, when Moscow began its invasion on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, the timing of the latest provocation was skilfully chosen. Tied down with the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the nuclear talks with Iran and Greece’s financial woes, the West has a lot on its plate.

The timing of Moscow’s “invasion” of Georgia was “skilfully chosen” the author says.

This leaves the distinct impression that the “invasion” was something which happened entirely on Russia’s terms, decided in Moscow and then acted upon with no warning, out of the blue. Nowhere does the piece explain that Moscow’s “skilful timing” was in fact a response, that Russia did not initiate the conflict itself.

And that’s not just Kremlin spin.

An EU report published a year after the five-day war confirmed it. Maybe the BBC should give it a re-read.

The report found that the conflict “started with a massive Georgian artillery attack” and, as reported by The Guardian at the time, “flatly dismissed” then Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili’s version of events.

The report (which you can read here) also said:

“There was no ongoing armed attack by Russia before the start of the Georgian operation — Georgian claims of a large-scale presence of Russian armed forces in South Ossetia prior to the Georgian offensive could not be substantiated … It could also not be verified that Russia was on the verge of such a major attack.

To recap:

  • no armed attack by Russia to provoke the Georgian operation
  • no large-scale presence of Russian troops, despite Georgian claims
  • no evidence any such Russian attack was imminent

So why is the BBC, seven years on, publishing articles that tell an entirely different story?

This kind of omission, which is often unnoticeable to most, is how news organisations perpetuate myths under the guise of noble truth-telling.

A Newsweek article this week criticized Moscow’s “cunningly contrived” propaganda over Ukraine.

Russian propagandists, the author wrote, “offer a selection of facts and put them in a framework that naturally leads the audience to the desired conclusions”.

That sounds awfully familiar to me.

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