Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!

Foreign Policy Magazine Would Rather Believe Alternative Media Funded by Kremlin than Face Ukraine Facts

In today’s world, if you publish articles that criticize Western policies and contradict the one-sided Western media narrative, you are either a “conspiracy website” or a shadow propaganda outlet of the Kremlin or whoever is the enemy du jour

This article originally appeared at Global Research

Foreign Policy Magazine recently had a column called Cranks, Trolls, and Useful Idiots, in which the author, Dalibor Rohac, hunts down “Russia’s information warriors” who, he claims, have infested the web with their lies and propaganda on websites potentially paid for by the Russian government.

Rohac writes:

“Throughout the conflict in eastern Ukraine, these sites have systematically regurgitated Russian propaganda, spreading lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories, often directly translated from Russian sources…

The Czech weekly Respekt published a feature article about the mysterious “news” site Aeronet (also known as AENews). Started in 2001 by aviation fans, the domain has changed ownership several times.  Since the summer of 2014 it has regularly published articles accusing the new Ukrainian government of fascism and claiming that American and British mercenaries were fighting in eastern Ukraine.  (Dalibor Rohac, Cranks, Trolls, and Useful Idiots, Foreign Policy, March 12, 2015)

First let’s look at the weakness of the claims in the article.

The author accuses news outlets of doing exactly what he himself and the U.S. mainstream media in general does when reporting about foreign policy issues such as Ukraine: they “systematically [regurgitate U.S. propaganda, spread] lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories.” The advantage they have is that they don’t need to translate anything. Apparently for Rohac an article written in Russian has to be Russian propaganda. It’s that simple: Russians are just not producing any honest journalistic content. This argument about texts being “directly translated from Russian sources” is not only weak, it is xenophobic.

In addition the author’s examples to prove his points are unsound. Aeronet is not the only website to have not only accused but also proven the fascistic nature of the Ukrainian government. Numerous independent media outlets have published countless articles to that effect, demonstrating that several key figures within the unelected government were neo-Nazis and that the Azov Battalion was filled with members linked to neo-Nazi groups:

The Cabinet is not only integrated by the Svoboda and Right Sector (not to mention former members of defunct fascist UNA-UNSO), the two main Neo-Nazi entities have been entrusted with key positions which grant them de facto control over the Armed Forces, Police, Justice and National Security.

While Yatsenuyk’s Fatherland Party controls the majority of portfolios and Svoboda Neo-Nazi leader Oleh Tyahnybok was not granted a major cabinet post (apparently at the request of assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland), members of Svoboda and the Right Sector occupy key positions in the areas of Defense, Law Enforcement, Education and Economic Affairs. (Michel Chossudovsky, The U.S. has Installed a Neo-Nazi Government in Ukraine, Global Resarch, March 2014)

Even mainstream media like The Guardian and the BBC admitted that “many members [of the Azov Battalion] have links with neo-Nazi groups”, although they downplay their own claims saying that it’s “overblown”:

“I have nothing against Russian nationalists, or a great Russia,” said Dmitry, [a member of the Azov battalion,]… “But Putin’s not even a Russian. Putin’s a Jew.”

The battalion’s symbol is reminiscent of the Nazi Wolfsangel, though the battalion claims it is in fact meant to be the letters N and I crossed over each other, standing for “national idea”. Many of its members have links with neo-Nazi groups, and even those who laughed off the idea that they are neo-Nazis did not give the most convincing denials. (Shaun WalkerAzov fighters are Ukraine’s greatest weapon and may be itsgreatest threat, The Guardian, September 10, 2014)

Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine…. As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi…

Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. His next project is to go fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he believes Mr Assad is standing up to “international Zionism”. (Dina Newman , Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden, BBC News, July 16 2014)

As for Rohac’s second argument regarding Western mercenaries fighting in Urkaine, in May last year several media reported that mercenaries from the private military company Blackwater, now called Academi, were operating in Ukraine. The information came not from the Kremlin but rather from a German news source and was published by the German mainstream newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

About 400 elite mercenaries from the notorious US private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater) are taking part in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protesters in southeastern regions of the country, German media reports.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper, citing a source in intelligence circles, wrote Sunday that Academi employees are involved in the Kiev military crackdown on pro-autonomy activists in near the town of Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region. (400 US mercenaries ‘deployed on ground’ in Ukraine military op,, May 11, 2014)

A few days after the German revelations, the mainstream French Magazine Paris Match published an article including witnesses saying they saw foreign mercenaries on the ground in Ukraine:

Christopher Garrett aka Leon Swampy

Several witness (sic) also said they heard some of the gunmen speaking with strong western Ukraine accents. They also noticed that some of the gunmen appeared to come from the Caucasus area, possibly mercenaries from Chechnya. Other gunmen never spoke a word and seemed foreign to the region. French war photographer Jerome Sessini spent about an hour face to face with the gunmen before they opened fire. “ I found that their general attitude and their very precise techniques gave off the impression that they were American mercenaries, or people trained by American mercenaries,” said Sessini.

“I can’t guarantee this for sure, but I’d give it a 95 per cent, ” added the photographer, who frequently interacted with various U.S. security contractors during his years covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Krasnoarmeysk, several of the gunmen were masked or wearing keffieh-style cloaks, which made it difficult to pinpoint whom among them had fired the lethal shots. Alfred De Montesquiou, Revelations on the Krasnoarmeysk Killing, Paris Match, May 15 2014)

In late January this year, an armed man in uniform clearly speaking with an English accent has also been caught on camera by a Ukrainian local news channel. He was later identified as Christopher Garrett aka Leon Swampy. According to RT, he was not the only one:

“Armed people in uniform speaking fluent English with no accent have been spotted in Mariupol in the aftermath of the rocket hit, fuelling allegations that foreign private military contractors are serving among Ukrainian troops. (RT, Ukraine: Military-Clad English-speakers Caught on Camera in Mariupol Shelling Aftermath. Who Are They?, January 26, 2015)

It is also well-documented that  the French have been recruiting fighters for Ukraine. Former member of the French Foreign Legion Gaston Besson was a recruiter for the Azov Battalion. More on NATO legions here.

So, as we can see, what the Foreign Policy writer calls “accusations” and “claims” are actually verified and easily verifiable facts for anyone who knows how to use a computer.

He admits “there is no direct evidence linking the Aeronet site to Russia”, while suggesting that “it is run by an individual or organization whose motives are closely aligned with those of the Kremlin”.

The reasons he invokes to justify the possible link are flimsy at best: “the politics of the site’s content, the secrecy surrounding it, and its relatively professional appearance”. In addition, Rohac stresses, the Aeronet editor says “he sometimes travels to Moscow for business, adding that he has ‘friends in Russia.’” That does not prove anything and would not hold in front of a judge.

The Areonet website is clearly critical of the U.S. and of the anti-Russian propaganda, but that doesn’t systematically imply Russian funding. There are numerous Western independent news outlets, including this one, which express a similar view and have no links to the Russian government.

This Foreign Policy piece is typical of the post-9/11 Western mainstream media witch hunt. In today’s world, if you publish articles that criticize Western policies and contradict the one-sided Western media narratice, you are either a “conspiracy website” or a shadow propaganda outlet of the Kremlin or whoever is the enemy du jour. What has become obvious to many Western citizens, is that those who are making accusations are committing the misdemeanor. The Western mainstream media has been engaged in war propaganda for Washington for a very long time and has spread numerous conspiracy theories (Iraq’s WMDs, the Syrian government using chemical weapons on civilians, Gaddafi forces raping Libyan women on Viagra, among many others).

Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!

Our commenting rules: You can say pretty much anything except the F word. If you are abusive, obscene, or a paid troll, we will ban you. Full statement from the Editor, Charles Bausman.

Add new comment