The war with Ukraine did not go according to plan, and now Russian propaganda literally has to come up with explanations for why it was necessary to get involved in a military adventure, which has already led to unprecedented pressure from sanctions and de facto isolation from the West, and threatens a severe socio-economic crisis in the near future. Since no preparatory work has been done on public opinion, it is necessary to come up with sufficiently convincing excuses to justify the invasion of a neighboring country by the Russian armed forces with heavy losses in manpower and equipment and indiscriminate bombing of homes, schools and hospitals. The Insider disproves five of the most popular official arguments in favor of attacking Ukraine at all costs.
Protecting the people of Donbass
Vladimir Putin called protecting the residents of Donbass from genocide the main reason for starting a war or, in militaristic parlance, a «special military operation»:
«I have decided to conduct a special military operation. Its purpose is to protect people who have been subjected to abuse, genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years.»
This is what the president repeated and creatively elaborated on after what was supposed to be a swift special operation to change power in Kiev failed and the prospect of a protracted war loomed ahead:
«People in Donbass are not stray dogs. Between 13,000 and 14,000 people were killed over the years, more than 500 children were killed or maimed. But what is particularly intolerable is that this so-called civilized West preferred not to notice it all these years. Look, eight years!»
Refuting this statement is not that difficult.
First, genocide has a pretty clear definition (Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide) and the actions of the Ukrainian authorities during the internal civil conflict do not really fit in with it.
On the third day after the invasion, Ukraine filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accusing Russia of distorting the concept of genocide in order to find a pretext for military aggression. The Russian side responded with its written position.
The document says that the UN Genocide Convention does not govern the use of force and therefore cannot serve as a justification for it, and President Putin used the term «genocide» in his speech not within the meaning of the Convention but based on international custom or national legislation (although in all the listed sources of law the term «genocide» has the same definition, see details in the review written by Kirill Koroteyev, head of Agora's International Practice).
In other words, the argument about the genocide of the residents of Donbass as a reason for the military operation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Ukraine has been refuted in a legally impeccable manner, by Russia itself.
Second, the UN does consider 14,200 to 14,400 people victims of the fighting in Donbass from April 14, 2014 to December 31, 2021, but on both sides!
Of that number, there are only 3,404 civilians (including 298 passengers and crew members of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing shot down over Donbass; the international investigation believes that the missile was fired from the Buk SAM system of the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade of the RF Armed Forces), with another 4,400 killed belonging to the Ukrainian military and 6,500 to separatist armed groups.
An important point: civilians were killed not only in the DNR and LNR, but also in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are under Kiev's control.
Source Vladimir Putin should ask himself the question «where were you 8 years ago?», because 90% of the civilians in Donbass were killed 7 or 8 years ago, in 2014-2015, when Russia supported the bloodshed in every way possible by supplying arms and sending «volunteers» and military advisers to the self-proclaimed separatist states.
The number of civilians killed in the conflict zone was steadily declining over the past few years and only when it dropped to an all-time low the Russian leader became so alarmed he had to send airborne troops to Kiev.
Finally, even if one agrees with Putin's understanding of the casualty statistics, it remains unclear what responsibility for the supposed genocide in Donbass lies with the ordinary and, importantly, Russian-speaking people of Mariupol and Kharkov? Why are missiles and shells being dropped on them?
Nearly 636 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the attack by Russian forces, according to the UN, including 122 in Kiev-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and 26 in the DNR and LNR. At least 90 children have been killed and more than 100 wounded. The number of refugees and internally displaced persons is approaching 5 million.
Is this what the fight against genocide looks like?
It was necessary to attack Ukraine so that Ukraine would not attack first. Among high-ranking officials, Vyacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma, expressed this point of view most lucidly:
If we hadn't begun the operation, then, literally, the next day the operation would have been started by NATO, using the Banderites, the neo-Nazis of Ukraine. We made time, which means we saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
The head of the so-called DNR, Denis Pushilin, later presented what he considered to be ironclad evidence of the Ukrainian armed forces' offensive plans - a laptop with NATO markings and a map of Crimea:
According to our intelligence and the testimony of Ukrainian prisoners, the offensive operation was to begin on March 8 of the current year. The facts suggest that a simultaneous invasion of both the territory of the Donbass republics and the Russian Federation's Crimea was planned.
According to Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, the Ukrainians were simultaneously planning to unleash aggression against his country as well:
Had not been for the preventive strike on the positions, the four positions, let me show you the map, they would have attacked our troops, Belarussian and Russian troops, which were on exercises, within six hours.
If you sum up all these statements, you will realize that the Ukrainian army intended to attack Crimea, Donbass, and Belarus at once at the exact moment the huge formation of 200,000 Russian troops was deployed on their borders. Frankly, it is impossible to imagine a more suicidal and ridiculous concept of military invasion.
If you sum up all the statements, you will realize that Kiev intended to attack Crimea, Donbass and Belarus at once just as 200,000 troops were being moved there
Therefore, statements to the effect that «the goal of the military operation in Ukraine is to prevent war,» made in particular by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, are rightly perceived by the world as an outright mockery of common sense.
FM #Lavrov: The goal of Russia’s special military operation is to stop any war that could take place on Ukrainian territory or that could start from there. pic.twitter.com/tLf7798DIh— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) March 7, 2022
On the eve of the war, the Kremlin suddenly became concerned about Ukraine's potential acquisition of nuclear weapons:
There have already been statements that Ukraine is going to build its own nuclear weapons, and this is not empty bravado. Ukraine does have Soviet nuclear technology and means of delivery of such weapons.
This was prompted by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky's speech at the Munich Security Conference, where he hinted at withdrawal from the Budapest Memorandum.
The memorandum, concluded in 1994, guaranteed the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state in exchange for Kiev's transfer of its Soviet nuclear arsenal to Russia, but lost its meaning after the seizure of Crimea by one of the guarantors, Russia.
To be fair, Zelensky did not say a word about his desire to acquire nuclear weapons. Moreover, there is no sign he has ever taken any practical steps in this direction. Neither Russia nor any other country has ever raised these concerns or brought them to the attention of the authorized agencies, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the United Nations.
All the more surprising is that Russia's state news agencies, in the midst of hostilities, disseminated information about Ukraine's clandestine nuclear program, allegedly just months away from success.
Citing an unnamed representative of «a competent agency,» TASS and RIA Novosti reported that the Ukrainian authorities had been conducting R&D on nuclear weapons since 1994 with U.S. assistance.
Such serious accusations look highly questionable. Ukraine undoubtedly has a developed civilian nuclear industry infrastructure. It also has preserved since Soviet times a production base for the manufacture of launch rockets. But, according to expert estimates, Kiev was simply unable to obtain a sufficient amount of weapon-grade fissile materials.
It is also unlikely that anyone in the West would have welcomed, much less promoted, efforts to violate the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Especially since the U.S. did everything in its power to deny Ukraine nuclear status in the early 1990s. The Americans then intervened in the stalled bilateral Russian-Ukrainian negotiations and actually paid for the denuclearization of Ukraine in Moscow's interests.
The Russian Defense Ministry has taken on the difficult burden of exposing yet another weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program in Ukraine - this time, biological (and again with US involvement).
The agency has published documents obtained from Ukrainian bio-laboratories, and reports on the development of DNA weapons that kill only Slavs have appeared in the pro-government media.
Igor Kirillov, head of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces of the Russian Armed Forces, shared at a briefing sensational information on combat agents capable of targeting certain ethnic groups:
Available documents confirm numerous cases of transferring biological samples of Ukrainian citizens abroad <...> With a high degree of probability we can say that one of the tasks of the United States and its allies is to create bioagents capable of selectively targeting various ethnic groups of the population.
Such a brazen lie could not have been ignored by the scientific community.
Graduates of biological faculties of Russian universities wrote an open letter in which they pointed out the absence of not only any military-biological studies in the documentation submitted by the Ministry, but also any studies of particularly dangerous pathogens.
A group of scientists from Belarus, France, Russia, and Sweden left no stone unturned in refuting the Ministry of Defense accusations (click here for full discussion), describing them as «unfounded, anti-science bullshit».
Protection from Gay Pride Parades
The most original, but somewhat confusing justification for the need to attack Ukraine came from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia:
For eight years there have been attempts to destroy what exists in the Donbass. And in Donbass there is a rejection, a principled rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power. Today there is a test for loyalty to this power, some kind of a pass to that happy world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of purported freedom. Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrible. It's the gay pride parade!
It's hard to see exactly how cruise missiles fired at Ukrainian cities will help the people of Donbass defend themselves against gay pride parades?
To what extent is war in general consistent with the Christian faith? And what did the women and children killed by shelling in Mariupol, Kyiv and Kharkiv have to do with the values of excessive consumption and purported freedom?
It is unlikely we will hear answers to these questions from the patriarch himself. It seems that in today's Russia even the biblical commandment «Thou shalt not kill» has been equated with dangerous sedition and extremism.
The bottom line
Kremlin propaganda is trying to convince us that Ukraine was engaged in genocide for eight years, nurturing plans to attack Donbass, Russia and Belarus all at once, developing nuclear and biological weapons, and all this for the sake of gay parades in Donetsk and Luhansk.
It is difficult to say what audiences all these stories are intended for.
But why did Vladimir Putin start this war? No one will explain it better than he himself:
Under conditions of hostilities ... it is always easier for the oligarchic power to continue the policy aimed at robbing its own people and its own state. It's a case that both in this country and in Ukraine is described by the same few words: one man's war is another man's riches. It is always easier to cover up economic and social policy flops with war.