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Zelensky oversees campaign of assassination, kidnapping and torture of political opposition

“One less traitor”: Zelensky oversees campaign of assassination, kidnapping and torture of political opposition

No, Russia may not be guiltless, but carefully consider if you would support Ukrainian government, military, etc. mrossol

The Grayzone, by Max Blumenthal and Esha Krishnaswamy, April 17, 2022

While claiming to defend democracy, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky has outlawed his opposition, ordered his rivals’ arrest, and presided over the disappearance and assassination of dissidents across the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has framed his country’s war against Russia as a battle for democracy itself. In a carefully choreographed address to US Congress on March 16, Zelensky stated, “Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy.”

US corporate media has responded by showering Zelensky with fawning press, driving a campaign for his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and inspiring a flamboyant musical tribute to himself and the Ukrainian military during the 2022 Grammy awards ceremony on April 3.

Western media has looked the other way, however, as Zelensky and top officials in his administration have sanctioned a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination of local Ukrainian lawmakers accused of collaborating with Russia. Several mayors and other Ukrainian officials have been killed since the outbreak of war, many reportedly by Ukrainian state agents after engaging in de-escalation talks with Russia.

“There is one less traitor in Ukraine,” Internal Affairs Ministry advisor Anton Geraschenko stated in endorsement of the murder of a Ukrainian mayor accused of collaborating with Russia.

Zelensky has further exploited the atmosphere of war to outlaw an array of opposition parties and order the arrest of his leading rivals. His authoritarian decrees have triggered the disappearance, torture and even murder of an array of human rights activists, communist and leftist organizers, journalists and government officials accused of “pro-Russian” sympathies.

The Ukrainian SBU security services has served as the enforcement arm of the officially authorized campaign of repression. With training from the CIA and close coordination with Ukraine’s state-backed neo-Nazi paramilitaries, the SBU has spent the past weeks filling its vast archipelago of torture dungeons with political dissidents.

On the battlefield, meanwhile, the Ukrainian military has engaged in a series of atrocities against captured Russian troops and proudly exhibited its sadistic acts on social media. Here too, the perpetrators of human rights abuses appear to have received approval from the upper echelons of Ukrainian leadership.

While Zelensky spouts bromides about the defense of democracy before worshipful Western audiences, he is using the war as a theater for enacting a blood-drenched purge of political rivals, dissidents and critics.

“The war is being used to kidnap, imprison and even kill opposition members who express themselves critical of the government,” a left-wing activist beaten and persecuted by Ukraine’s security services commented this April. “We must all fear for our freedom and our lives.”

Torture and enforced disappearances “common practices” of Ukraine’s SBU

When a US-backed government seized power in Kiev following the Euromaidan regime change operation of 2013-14, Ukraine’s government embarked on a nationwide purge of political elements deemed pro-Russian or insufficiently nationalistic. The passage of “decommunization” laws by the Ukrainian parliament further eased the persecution of leftist elements and the prosecution of activists for political speech.

The post-Maidan regime has focused its wrath on Ukrainians who have advocated a peace settlement with pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east, those who have documented human rights abuses by the Ukrainian military, and members of communist organizations. Dissident elements have faced the constant threat of ultra-nationalist violence, imprisonment, and even murder.

The Ukrainian security service known as the SBU has served as the main enforcer of the post-Maidan government’s campaign of domestic political repression. Pro-Western monitors including the United Nations Office of the High Commission (UN OHCR) and Human Rights Watch have accused the SBU of systematically torturing political opponents and Ukrainian dissidents with near-total impunity.

The UN OHCR found in 2016 that “arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment of such conflict-related detainees were common practice of SBU… A former Kharkiv SBU officer explained, ‘For the SBU, the law virtually does not exist as everything that is illegal can be either classified or explained by referring to state necessity.”

Yevhen Karas, the founder of the infamous neo-Nazi C14 unit, has detailed the close relationship his gang and other extreme right factions have enjoyed with the SBU. The SBU “informs not only us, but also Azov, the Right Sector, and so on,” Karas boasted in a 2017 interview.

Kiev officially endorses assassinating Ukrainian mayors for negotiating with Russia

Since Russia launched its military operation inside Ukraine, the SBU has hunted down local officials that decided to accept humanitarian supplies from Russia or negotiated with Russian forces to arrange corridors for civilian evacuations.

On March 1, for example, Volodymyr Strok, the mayor of the eastern city of Kreminna in the Ukrainian-controlled side of Lugansk, was kidnapped by men in military uniform, according to his wife, and shot in the heart.

On March 3, pictures of Strok’s visibly tortured body appeared. A day before his murder, Struk had reportedly urged his Ukrainian colleagues to negotiate with pro-Russian officials.

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, celebrated the mayor’s murder, declaring on his Telegram page (see below): “There is one less traitor in Ukraine. The mayor of Kreminna in Luhansk region, former deputy of Luhansk parliament was found killed.” 

According to Geraschenko, Strok had been judged by the “court of the people’s tribunal.”

Telegram post by Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, celebrating the assassination of “traitor” and Kreminna Mayor Volodymyr Struk

The Ukrainian official therefore delivered a chilling message to anyone choosing to seek cooperation with Russia: do so and lose your life.  

On March 7, the mayor of Gostomel, Yuri Prylipko, was found murdered. Prylipko had reportedly entered into negotiations with the Russian military to organize a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of his city’s residents – a red line for Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who had long been in conflict with the mayor’s office.

Next, on March 24, Gennady Matsegora, the mayor of Kupyansk in northeastern Ukraine, released a video (below) appealing to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration for the release of his daughter, who had been held hostage by agents of the Ukrainian SBU intelligence agency.   https://videopress.com/embed/JjOO47L8?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&muted=0&controls=1&playsinline=0

Then there was the murder of Denis Kireev, a top member of the Ukrainian negotiating team, who was killed in broad daylight in Kiev after the first round of talks with Russia. Kireev was subsequently accused in local Ukrainian media of “treason.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s statement that “there would be consequences for collaborators” indicates that these atrocities have been sanctioned by the highest levels of government. https://videopress.com/embed/vXMNwPxf?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&muted=0&controls=1&playsinline=0

As of today, eleven mayors from various towns in Ukraine are missing. Western media outlets have been following the Kiev line without exception, claiming that all mayors been arrested by the Russian military. The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied the charge, however, and little evidence exists to corroborate Kiev’s line about the missing mayors.  

Zelensky outlaws political opposition, authorizes arrest of rivals and war propaganda blitz

When war erupted with Russia this February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a series of decrees formalizing Kiev’s campaign against political opposition and dissident speech.

In a March 19 executive order, Zelensky invoked martial law to ban 11 opposition parties. The outlawed parties consisted of the entire left-wing, socialist or anti-NATO spectrum in Ukraine. They included the For Life Party, the Left Opposition, the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Socialist Party of Ukraine, Union of Left Forces, Socialists, the Party of Shariy, Ours, State, Opposition Bloc and the Volodymyr Saldo Bloc.

Openly fascist and pro-Nazi parties like the Azov National Corps were left untouched by the presidential decree, however.

“The activities of those politicians aimed at division or collusion will not succeed, but will receive a harsh response,” President Zelensky stated.

As he wiped out his opposition, Zelensky ordered an unprecedented domestic propaganda initiative to nationalize all television news broadcasting and combine all channels into a single 24 hour channel called “United News” to “tell the truth about war.”

Next, on April 12, Zelensky announced the arrest of his principal political rival, Viktor Medvedchuk, by Ukraine’s SBU security services. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1513975057739042819&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

The founder of the second largest party in Ukraine, the now-illegal Patriots for Life, Medvedchuk is the de facto representative of the country’s ethnic Russian population. Though Patriots for Life is regarded as “pro-Russia,” in part because of his close relations with Vladimir Putin, the new chairman of the party has condemned Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine.

Members of the state-sponsored neo-Nazi Azov Battalion’s National Corps attacked Medvedchuk’s home in March 2019, accusing him of treason and demanding his arrest.

In August 2020, Azov’s National Corps opened fire on a bus carrying representatives of Medvedchuk’s party, wounding several with rubber-coated steel bullets.

Zelensky’s administration escalated the assault on his top opponent in February 2021 when he shuttered several media outlets controlled by Medvedchuk. The US State Department openly endorsed the president’s move, declaring that the United States “supports Ukrainian efforts to counter Russia’s malign influence…”

Three months later, Kiev jailed Medvedchuk and charged him with treason. Zelensky justified locking away his leading rival on the grounds that he needed to “fight against the danger of Russian aggression in the information arena.”

Medvedchuk escaped house arrest at the onset of the war between Russia and Ukraine, but is a captive once again, and may be used as collateral for a post-war prisoner swap with Russia.

Under Zelensky’s watch, “the war is being used to kidnap, imprison and even kill opposition members”

Since Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24, Ukraine’s SBU security service had been on a rampage against any and all iterations of internal political opposition. Leftist Ukrainian activists have faced particularly harsh treatment, including kidnapping and torture.

This March 3 in the city of Dnipro, SBU officers accompanied by Azov ultra-nationalists raided the home of activists with the Livizja (Left) organization, which has organized against social spending cuts and right-wing media propaganda. While one activist said the Azov member “cut my hair off with a knife,” the state security agents proceeded to torture her husband, Alexander Matjuschenko, pressing a gun barrel to his head and forcing him to repeatedly belt out the nationalist salute, “Slava Ukraini!”

“Then they put bags over our heads, tied our hands with tape and took us to the SBU building in a car. There they continued to interrogate us and threatened to cut off our ears,” Matjuschenko’s wife told the leftist German publication Junge Welt.

The Azov members and SBU agents recorded the torture session and published images of Matjuschenko’s bloodied face online.

The torture of left-wing activist Alexander Matjuschenko on March 3 in Dnipro, recorded by Azov members and posted on Telegram by the city of Dnipro

Matjuschenko was jailed on the grounds that he was “conducting an aggressive war or military operation,” and now faces 10 to 15 years in prison. Despite enduring several broken ribs from the beating by state-backed ultra-nationalists, he has been denied bail. Meanwhile, dozens of other leftists have been jailed on similar charges in Dnipro. Among those targeted by the SBU were Mikhail and Aleksander Kononovich, members of the outlawed Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine. Both were arrested and jailed on March 6 and accused of “spreading pro-Russian and pro-Belarusian views.” In the following days, the SBU arrested broadcast journalist Yan Taksyur and charged him with treason; human rights activist Elena Berezhnaya; Elena Viacheslavova, a human rights advocate whose father, Mikhail, was burned to death during the May 2, 2014 ultra-nationalist mob attack on anti-Maidan protesters outside the Odessa House of Trade Unions; independent journalist Yuri Tkachev, who was charged with treason, and an untold number of others; disabled rights activist Oleg Novikov, who was jailed for three years this April on the grounds that he supported “separatism.” The list of those imprisoned by Ukraine’s security services since the outbreak of war grows by the day, and is too extensive to reproduce here. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1512783497605361665&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

Perhaps the most ghastly incident of repression took place when neo-Nazis backed by the Ukrainian government kidnapped Maxim Ryndovskiy, a professional MMA fighter, and brutally tortured him for the crime of training with Russian fighters at a gym in Chechnya. Ryndovskiy also happened to be Jewish, with a Star of David tattooed on his leg, and had spoken out on social media against the war in eastern Ukraine. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-2&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1500195518697328646&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

Ukraine’s SBU has even hunted opposition figures outside the country’s borders. As journalist Dan Cohen reported, Anatoly Shariy of the recently banned Party of Shariy said he was the target of a recent SBU assassination attempt. Shariy has been an outspoken opponent of the US-backed Maidan regime, and has been forced to flee into exile after enduring years of harassment from nationalists.

This March, the libertarian politician and online pundit received an email from a friend, “Igor,” seeking to arrange a meeting. He subsequently learned that Igor was held by the SBU at the time and being used to bait Shariy into disclosing his location.

For his part, Shariy has been placed on the notorious Myrotvorets public blacklist of “enemies of the state” founded by Anton Geraschenko – the Ministry of Internal Affairs advisor who endorsed the assassination of Ukrainian lawmakers accused of Russian sympathies. Several journalists and Ukrainian dissidents, including the prominent columnist Oles Buzina, were murdered by state-backed death squads after their names appeared on the list.

Common Ukrainian citizens have also been subjected to torture since the start of the war this February. Seemingly countless videos have appeared on social media showing civilians tied to lamp posts, often with their genitals exposed or their faces painted green. Carried out by Territorial Defense volunteers tasked with enforcing law and order during wartime, these acts of humiliation and torture have targeted everyone from accused Russian sympathizers to Roma people to alleged thieves. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-3&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1506003332015398918&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

This is the human rights that Zelensky brought to Ukrainian civilians#Mariupol #StandWithUkraine #RussiaUkraineWar pic.twitter.com/EWFC048M2q

— UN voice of Justice (@TheUN_voice) April 3, 2022

Ukraine’s SBU studies torture and assassination from the CIA

Vassily Prozorov, a former SBU officer who defected to Russia following the Euromaidan coup, detailed the post-Maidan security services’ systemic reliance on torture to crush political opposition and intimidate citizens accused of Russian sympathies. 

According to Prozorov, the ex-SBU officer, the Ukrainian security services have been directly advised by the CIA since 2014. “CIA employees have been present in Kiev since 2014. They are residing in clandestine apartments and suburban houses,” he said. “However, they frequently come to the SBU’s central office for holding, for example, specific meetings or plotting secret operations.”

Below, Russia’s RIA Novosti profiled Prozorov and covered his disclosures in a 2019 special. https://videopress.com/embed/XHPlaSCf?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&muted=0&controls=1&playsinline=0

Journalist Dan Cohen interviewed a Ukrainian businessman named Igor who was arrested by the SBU for his financial ties with Russian companies and detained this March in the security service’s notorious headquarters in downtown Kiev. Igor said he overheard Russian POWs being beaten with pipes by Territorial Defense volunteers being coached by SBU officers. Pummeled to the sound of the Ukrainian national anthem, the Russian prisoners were brutalized until they confessed their hatred for Putin.

Then came Igor’s turn. “They used a lighter to heat up a needle, then put it under my fingernails,” he told Cohen. “The worst was when they put a plastic bag over my head and suffocated me and when they held the muzzle of a Kalashnikov rifle to my head and forced me to answer their questions.”

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the first head of the SBU after the Euromaidan regime change operation of 2013-14, nurtured close ties to Washington when he served as general consul to the Ukrainian embassy to the US during the George W. Bush administration. During that time, Nalyvaichenko was recruited by the CIA, according to his predecessor at the SBU, Alexander Yakimenko, who served under the Russian-oriented government of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.

In 2021, Zelensky appointed one of Ukraine’s most notorious intelligence figures, Oleksander Poklad, to lead SBU’s counterintelligence division. Poklad is nicknamed “The Strangler,” a reference to his reputation for using torture and assorted dirty tricks to set-up his bosses’ political rivals on treason charges.

This April, a vivid illustration of the SBU’s brutality emerged in the form of video (below) showing its agents pummeling a group of men accused of Russian sympathies in the city of Dnipro. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-5&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1511301270820343809&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

“We will never take Russian soldiers prisoner”: Ukraine’s military flaunts its war crimes

While the Western media has focused squarely on alleged Russian human rights abuses since the outbreak of war, Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Ukrainian social media accounts have proudly exhibited sadistic war crimes, from field executions to the torture of captive soldiers.

This March, a pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel called White Lives Matter released a video of a Ukrainian soldier calling the fiancee of a Russian prisoner of war, seen below, and taunting her with promises to castrate the captive. https://videopress.com/embed/wnzk7oQc?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&muted=0&controls=1&playsinline=0

Ukrainian soldiers’ use of the cellphones of dead Russian soldiers to mock and hector their relatives appears to be a common practice. In fact, the Ukrainian government has begun using notoriously invasive facial recognition technology from Clearview AI, a US tech company, to identify Russian casualties and taunt their relatives on social media. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-6&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1508046216420020225&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

This April, a pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel called fckrussia2022 posted a video depicting a Russian soldier with one of his eyes bandaged, suggesting it had been gouged during torture, and mocked him as a “one-eyed” pig. 

Perhaps the most gruesome image to have appeared on social media in recent weeks is the photo of a tortured Russian soldier who had one of his eyes gouged before he was killed. The accompanying post was captioned, “looking for Nazis.”

Photos distributed by pro-Ukraine Telegram channels showing captured, tortured and executed Russian soldiers

Video has also emerged this April showing Ukrainian soldiers shooting defenseless Russian POWs in the legs outside the city of Kharkov. A separate video published by Ukrainian and US-backed Georgian Legion soldiers showed the fighters carrying out field executions of wounded Russian captives near a village outside Kiev.

Ukrainian and Georgian Legion fighters celebrate after executing captive Russian soldiers on video

It is likely that these soldiers had been emboldened by their superiors’ blessings. Mamula Mamulashvili, the commander of the Georgian Legion, which participated in the field executions of wounded Russian POW’s, boasted this April that his unit freely engages in war crimes: “Yes, we tie their hands and feet sometimes. I speak for the Georgian Legion, we will never take Russian soldiers prisoner. Not a single one of them will be taken prisoner.” 

Similarly, Gennadiy Druzenko, the head of the Ukrainian military medical service, stated in an interview with Ukraine 24 that he “issued an order to castrate all Russian men because they were subhuman and worse than cockroaches.” 

Ukrainian officials present woman tortured and killed by Azov as victim of Russia

While Western media homes in on Russian human rights violations at home and inside Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has authorized a propaganda campaign known as “Total War” that includes the planting of bogus images and false stories to further implicate Russia.

In one especially cynical example of the strategy, Ukraine 24 –  a TV channel where guests have called for the genocidal extermination of Russian children – published a photo this April depicting a female corpse branded with a bloody swastika on her stomach. Ukraine 24 claimed that it found this woman in Gostumel, one of the regions in the Kiev Oblast that the Russians vacated on March 29.  

Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament, and Oleksiy Arestovych, the top advisor to President Zelensky, published the photo of the defiled female corpse on social media. While Vasylenko left the photo online, Arestovych deleted it eight hours after posting when confronted with the fact that he had published a fake.

In fact, the image was pulled from footage originally recorded by Patrick Lancaster, a Donetsk-based US journalist who had filmed the corpse of a woman tortured and murdered by members of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion in a Mariupol school basement they had converted into a base. 

At 2:31 in Lancaster’s video, the woman’s corpse can be seen clearly. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-7&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1511053915088990215&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

As weapons pour into Ukraine from NATO states and the war intensifies, the atrocities are almost certain to pile up – and with the blessing of leadership in Kiev. As Zelensky proclaimed during a visit to the city of Bucha this April, “if we do not find a civilized way out, you know our people – they will find an uncivilized way out.”

Azov BattalionC14CIANazisneo-NazisRussiaSBUtortureUkraineUkrainian neo-NazisUkrainian SBUVolodymyr Zelensky

Max Blumenthal Editor-in-Chief

The editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican GomorrahGoliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.

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Western Dissent from US/NATO Policy on Ukraine is Small, Yet the Censorship Campaign is Extreme

Preventing populations from asking who benefits from a protracted proxy war, and who pays the price, is paramount. A closed propaganda system achieves that.

By Glen Greenwald, 4/13/2022

The Google logo seen on a cellphone with a background saying ‘censored’. (Photo by Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

If one wishes to be exposed to news, information or perspective that contravenes the prevailing US/NATO view on the war in Ukraine, a rigorous search is required. And there is no guarantee that search will succeed. That is because the state/corporate censorship regime that has been imposed in the West with regard to this war is stunningly aggressive, rapid and comprehensive.

On a virtually daily basis, any off-key news agency, independent platform or individual citizen is liable to be banished from the internet. In early March, barely a week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the twenty-seven nation European Union — citing “disinformation” and “public order and security” — officially banned the Russian state-news outlets RT and Sputnik from being heard anywhere in Europe. In what Reuters called “an unprecedented move,” all television and online platforms were barred by force of law from airing content from those two outlets. Even prior to that censorship order from the state, Facebook and Google were already banning those outlets, and Twitter immediately announced they would as well, in compliance with the new EU law.

But what was “unprecedented” just six weeks ago has now become commonplace, even normalized. Any platform devoted to offering inconvenient-to-NATO news or alternative perspectives is guaranteed a very short lifespan. Less than two weeks after the EU’s decree, Google announced that it was voluntarily banning all Russian-affiliated media worldwide, meaning Americans and all other non-Europeans were now blocked from viewing those channels on YouTube if they wished to. As so often happens with Big Tech censorship, much of the pressure on Google to more aggressively censor content about the war in Ukraine came from its own workforce: “Workers across Google had been urging YouTube to take additional punitive measures against Russian channels.”

So prolific and fast-moving is this censorship regime that it is virtually impossible to count how many platforms, agencies and individuals have been banished for the crime of expressing views deemed “pro-Russian.” On Tuesday, Twitter, with no explanation as usual, suddenly banned one of the most informative, reliable and careful dissident accounts, named “Russians With Attitude.” Created in late 2020 by two English-speaking Russians, the account exploded in popularity since the start of the war, from roughly 20,000 followers before the invasion to more than 125,000 followers at the time Twitter banned it. An accompanying podcast with the same name also exploded in popularity and, at least as of now, can still be heard on Patreon.

What makes this outburst of Western censorship so notable — and what is at least partially driving it — is that there is a clear, demonstrable hunger in the West for news and information that is banished by Western news sources, ones which loyally and unquestioningly mimic claims from the U.S. government, NATO, and Ukrainian officials. As The Washington Post acknowledged when reporting Big Tech’s “unprecedented” banning of RT, Sputnik and other Russian sources of news: “In the first four days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, viewership of more than a dozen Russian state-backed propaganda channels on YouTube spiked to unusually high levels.”

Note that this censorship regime is completely one-sided and, as usual, entirely aligned with U.S. foreign policy. Western news outlets and social media platforms have been flooded with pro-Ukrainian propaganda and outright lies from the start of the war. A New York Times article from early March put it very delicately in its headline: “Fact and Mythmaking Blend in Ukraine’s Information War.” Axios was similarly understated in recognizing this fact: “Ukraine misinformation is spreading — and not just from Russia.” Members of the U.S. Congress have gleefully spread fabrications that went viral to millions of people, with no action from censorship-happy Silicon Valley corporations. That is not a surprise: all participants in war use disinformation and propaganda to manipulate public opinion in their favor, and that certainly includes all direct and proxy-war belligerents in the war in Ukraine.

Yet there is little to no censorship — either by Western states or by Silicon Valley monopolies — of pro-Ukrainian disinformation, propaganda and lies. The censorship goes only in one direction: to silence any voices deemed “pro-Russian,” regardless of whether they spread disinformation. The “Russians With Attitude” Twitter account became popular in part because they sometimes criticized Russia, in part because they were more careful with facts and viral claims that most U.S. corporate media outlets, and in part because there is such a paucity of outlets that are willing to offer any information that undercuts what the U.S. Government and NATO want you to believe about the war.

Their crime, like the crime of so many other banished accounts, was not disinformation but skepticism about the US/NATO propaganda campaign. Put another way, it is not “disinformation” but rather viewpoint-error that is targeted for silencing. One can spread as many lies and as much disinformation as one wants provided that it is designed to advance the NATO agenda in Ukraine (just as one is free to spread disinformation provided that its purpose is to strengthen the Democratic Party, which wields its majoritarian power in Washington to demand greater censorship and commands the support of most of Silicon Valley). But what one cannot do is question the NATO/Ukrainian propaganda framework without running a very substantial risk of banishment.

It is unsurprising that Silicon Valley monopolies exercise their censorship power in full alignment with the foreign policy interests of the U.S. Government. Many of the key tech monopolies — such as Google and Amazon — routinely seek and obtain highly lucrative contracts with the U.S. security state, including both the CIA and NSA. Their top executives enjoy very close relationships with top Democratic Party officials. And Congressional Democrats have repeatedly hauled tech executives before their various Committees to explicitly threaten them with legal and regulatory reprisals if they do not censor more in accordance with the policy goals and political interests of that party.

But one question lingers: why is there so much urgency about silencing the small pockets of dissenting voices about the war in Ukraine? This war has united the establishment wings of both parties and virtually the entire corporate media with a lockstep consensus not seen since the days and weeks after the 9/11 attack. One can count on both hands the number of prominent political and media figures who have been willing to dissent even minimally from that bipartisan Washington consensus — dissent that instantly provokes vilification in the form of attacks on one’s patriotism and loyalties. Why is there such fear of allowing these isolated and demonized voices to be heard at all?

The answer seems clear. The benefits from this war for multiple key Washington power centers cannot be overstated. The billions of dollars in aid and weapons being sent by the U.S. to Ukraine are flying so fast and with such seeming randomness that it is difficult to track. “Biden approves $350 million in military aid for Ukraine,” Reuters said on February 26; “Biden announces $800 million in military aid for Ukraine,” announced The New York Times on March 16; on March 30, NBC’s headline read: “Ukraine to receive additional $500 million in aid from U.S., Biden announces”; on Tuesday, Reuters announced: “U.S. to announce $750 million more in weapons for Ukraine, officials say.” By design, these gigantic numbers have long ago lost any meaning and provoke barely a peep of questioning let alone objection.

It is not a mystery who is benefiting from this orgy of military spending. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that “the Pentagon will host leaders from the top eight U.S. weapons manufacturers on Wednesday to discuss the industry’s capacity to meet Ukraine’s weapons needs if the war with Russia lasts years.” Among those participating in this meeting about the need to increase weapons manufacturing to feed the proxy war in Ukraine is Raytheon, which is fortunate to have retired General Lloyd Austin as Defense Secretary, a position to which he ascended from the Raytheon Board of Directors. It is virtually impossible to imagine an event more favorable to the weapons manufacturer industry than this war in Ukraine:

Demand for weapons has shot up after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 spurred U.S. and allied weapons transfers to Ukraine. Resupplying as well as planning for a longer war is expected to be discussed at the meeting, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity. . .

Resupplying as well as planning for a longer war is expected to be discussed at the meeting. . . . The White House said last week that it has provided more than $1.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion, including over 5,000 Javelins and more than 1,400 Stingers.

This permanent power faction is far from the only one to be reaping benefits from the war in Ukraine and to have its fortunes depend upon prolonging the war as long as possible. The union of the U.S. security state, Democratic Party neocons, and their media allies has not been riding this high since the glory days of 2002. One of MSNBC’s most vocal DNC boosters, Chris Hayes, gushed that the war in Ukraine has revitalized faith and trust in the CIA and intelligence community more than any event in recent memory — deservedly so, he said: “The last few weeks have been like the Iraq War in reverse for US intelligence.” One can barely read a mainstream newspaper or watch a corporate news outlet without seeing the nation’s most bloodthirsty warmongering band of neocons — David Frum, Bill Kristol, Liz Cheney, Wesley Clark, Anne Applebaum, Adam Kinzinger — being celebrated as wise experts and heroic warriors for freedom.

This war has been very good indeed for the permanent Washington political and media class. And although it was taboo for weeks to say so, it is now beyond clear that the only goal that the U.S. and its allies have when it comes to the war in Ukraine is to keep it dragging on for as long as possible. Not only are there no serious American diplomatic efforts to end the war, but the goal is to ensure that does not happen. They are now saying that explicitly, and it is not hard to understand why.

The benefits from endless quagmire in Ukraine are as immense as they are obvious. The military budget skyrockets. Punishment is imposed on the arch-nemesis of the Democratic Party — Russia and Putin — while they are bogged down in a war from which Ukrainians suffer most. The citizenry unites behind their leaders and is distracted

https://greenwald.substack.com/p/western-dissent-from-usnato-policy?s=r

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US Officials Admit They’re Literally Just Lying To The Public About Russia

By Caitlin Johnstone, 4/9/2022

NBC News has a new report out citing multiple anonymous US officials, humorously titled “In a break with the past, U.S. is using intel to fight an info war with Russia, even when the intel isn’t rock solid“.

The officials say the Biden administration has been rapidly pushing out “intelligence” about Russia’s plans in Ukraine that is “low-confidence” or “based more on analysis than hard evidence”, or even just plain false, in order to fight an information war against Putin.

The report says that toward this end the US government has deliberately circulated false or poorly evidenced claims about impending chemical weapons attacks, about Russian plans to orchestrate a false flag attack in the Donbass to justify an invasion, about Putin’s advisors misinforming him, and about Russia seeking arms supplies from China.

Excerpt, emphasis mine:

It was an attention-grabbing assertion that made headlines around the world: U.S. officials said they had indications suggesting Russia might be preparing to use chemical agents in Ukraine.

President Joe Biden later said it publicly. But three U.S. officials told NBC News this week there is no evidence Russia has brought any chemical weapons near Ukraine. They said the U.S. released the information to deter Russia from using the banned munitions.

It’s one of a string of examples of the Biden administration’s breaking with recent precedent by deploying declassified intelligence as part of an information war against Russia. The administration has done so even when the intelligence wasn’t rock solid, officials said, to keep Russian President Vladimir Putin off balance.

So they lied. They may hold that they lied for a noble reason, but they lied. They knowingly circulated information they had no reason to believe was true, and that lie was amplified by all the most influential media outlets in the western world.

Another example of the Biden administration releasing a false narrative as part of its “information war”:

Likewise, a charge that Russia had turned to China for potential military help lacked hard evidence, a European official and two U.S. officials said.

The U.S. officials said there are no indications China is considering providing weapons to Russia. The Biden administration put that out as a warning to China not to do so, they said.

On the empire’s claim last week that Putin is being misled by his advisors because they are afraid of telling him the truth, NBC reports that this assessment “wasn’t conclusive — based more on analysis than hard evidence.”

I’d actually made fun of this ridiculous CIA press release when it was uncritically published disguised as a breaking news report by The New York Times:

Twitter avatar for @caitozCaitlin Johnstone ⏳ @caitoz

Breaking News: The most influential newspaper in the English-speaking world routinely passes off CIA press releases as “Breaking News”.

The New York Times @nytimes

Breaking News: President Vladimir Putin’s advisers misinformed him about the Russian military’s struggles in Ukraine, according to U.S. intelligence. https://t.co/P0CO1ykPJC

We’d also had fun with State Department Spokesman Ned Price’s bizarre February impersonation of Alex Jones, where he wrongly claimed that Russia was about to release a “false flag” video using crisis actors to justify its invasion:

Other US government lies discussed in the NBC report were less cute:

In another disclosure, U.S. officials said one reason not to provide Ukraine with MiG fighter jets is that intelligence showed Russia would view the move as escalatory.

That was true, but it was also true of Stinger missiles, which the Biden administration did provide, two U.S. officials said, adding that the administration declassified the MiG information to bolster the argument not to provide them to Ukraine.

So the Biden administration knew it was sending weapons to Ukraine that would be perceived by a nuclear superpower as a provocative escalation, sent them anyway, and then lied about it. Cool, cool, cool.

This NBC report confirms rumors we’ve been hearing for months. Professional war slut Max Boot said via The Council on Foreign Relations think tank in February that the Biden administration had ushered in “a new era of info ops” with intelligence releases designed not to tell the truth but to influence Putin’s decisions. Former MI6 chief John Sawers told The Atlantic Council think tank in February that the Biden administration’s “intelligence” releases were based more on a general vibe than actual intelligence, and were designed to manipulate rather than to inform.

And in case you were wondering, no, NBC did not just publish a major leak by whistleblowers within the US government who are bravely exposing the lies of the powerful with the help of the free press. One of the article’s authors is Ken Dilanian, who in 2014 was revealed to have worked as a literal CIA asset while writing for The LA Times. If you see Dilanian’s name in a byline, you may be certain that you are reading exactly what the managers of the US empire want you to read.

So why are they telling us all this now? Is the US government not worried that it will lose the trust of the public by admitting that it is continuously lying about its most high-profile international conflict? And if this is an “information war” designed to “get inside Putin’s head” as NBC’s sources claim, wouldn’t openly reporting it through the mainstream press completely defeat the purpose?

Well, the answer to those questions is where it gets really creepy. I welcome everyone’s feedback and theories on the matter, but as near as I can figure the only reason the US government would release this story to the public is because they want the general public to know about it. And the only plausible reason I can think of that they would want the public to know about it is that they are confident the public will consent to being lied to.

To get a better sense of what I’m getting at, it helps to watch the televised version of this report in which Dilanian and NBC anchor Alison Morris enthuse about how brilliant and wonderful it is that the Biden administration is employing these psychological warfare tactics to mess with Putin’s mind:

The message an indoctrinated NBC viewer will get when watching this segment is, “Isn’t this awesome? Our president is pulling off all these cool 3D chess moves to beat Putin, and we’re kind of a part of it!”

It’s been obvious for a long time that the US empire has been working to shore up narrative control to strengthen its hegemonic domination of the planet via internet censorship, propaganda, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, and the normalization of the persecution of journalists. We may now simply be at the stage of imperial narrative control where they can begin openly manufacturing the consent of the public to be lied to for their own good.

Just as the smear campaign against Julian Assange trained mainstream liberals to defend the right of their government to keep dark secrets from them, we may now be looking at the stage of narrative control advancement where mainstream liberals are trained to defend the right of their government to lie to them.

The US is ramping up cold war aggressions against Russia and China in a desperate attempt to secure unipolar hegemony, and psychological warfare traditionally plays a major role in cold war maneuverings due to the inability to aggress in more overt ways against nuclear-armed foes. So now would definitely be the time to get the “thinkers” of America’s two mainstream political factions fanatically cheerleading their government’s psywar manipulations.

A casual glance around the internet at what mainstream liberals are saying about this NBC report shows that this is indeed what is happening. In liberal circles there does appear to be widespread acceptance of the world’s most powerful government using the world’s most powerful media institutions to lie to the public for strategic gains. If this continues to be accepted, it will make things a whole lot easier for the empire managers going forward.

______________________________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here

https://caitlinjohnstone.substack.com/p/us-officials-admit-theyre-literally?s=w

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Biden’s Folly in Ukraine

Biden’s Folly in Ukraine

April 5, 2022| By Douglas Macgregor

Americans find it difficult to determine whether the Biden administration’s policy decisions regarding Ukraine are the product of a deliberate strategy, extraordinary incompetence, or some combination of both. Threatening Russia, a nuclear armed power, with regime change and then annunciating a nuclear weapons policy that allows for the United States’ first-strike use of nuclear weapons under “extreme circumstances”—responding to an invasion by conventional forces, or chemical or biological attacks—suggests President Biden and his administration really are out of touch with reality.

American voters instinctively grasp the truth that Americans have nothing to gain from a war with Russia, declared or undeclared. A short trip to almost any supermarket or gas station in America explains why. Last week, inflation hit its highest point in nearly 40 years and gas prices have skyrocketed since the conflict in Ukraine began.https://760ea848867bbd6b479f554a70f0b89f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Thanks to the Western media’s non-stop dissemination of unfavorable images of Russia’s leaders and its military, it would appear that President Biden is able to espouse any narrative that suits his purpose. Obscuring the true origins of this tragic conflict, however—NATO’s eastward expansion to include Ukraine—cannot alter strategic reality. Moscow can no more lose the war with Ukraine than Washington could lose a war with Mexico.

Ukraine’s proximity to Russia gives Moscow unconstrained and immediate access to Russia’s reserves of military manpower, equipment, and firepower. Notwithstanding Moscow’s determination to avoid unnecessary collateral damage to Ukraine’s population and infrastructure, Russian Air and Ground Forces are at liberty to methodically destroy Ukrainian resistance in detail.

Russia’s commodity-based economy, with its abundance of food, energy, minerals, and other resources, creates enormous strategic depth for Moscow on the Eurasian landmass. These resources make Moscow Beijing’s natural strategic partner, thus securing Moscow’s Asian border. Moscow’s role in stabilizing Central Asia also makes Russian strength indispensable for the success of China’s Belt and Road Initiative rooted as it is in the historical Silk Road, linking the economies of East Asia to Europe, Africa, and the Near East.

At the same time, Washington’s frequent use of financial sanctions have severely weakened, if not wrecked trust in the U.S. led global financial system. It is far more likely that countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa will either bypass sanctions to buy discounted Russian and Belorussian commodities or simply refuse to enforce them.

To minimize the impact of financial sanctions imposed by Washington and the European Union, Russia began “de-dollarizing” its economy years ago. Unburdened by the kind of odious sovereign debt that plagues Washington, Moscow has been able to stabilize the ruble with interest rate increases, and links to gold reserves. Now, de-dollarization is spreading. China, India, and Saudi Arabia are introducing de-dollarization policies as an anti-sanction measure. Saudi Arabia’s offer to sell oil in Chinese yuan raises real questions about the future of the petrodollar.

Despite Japan’s public display of solidarity with Washington, Tokyo really made its bed with Eurasia when Tokyo signed on to membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Program (RCEP), the world’s largest trade bloc. Predictably, Tokyo already declared it will not ban Russian oil and natural gas imports and Japan will continue to work with Russia on important joint economic projects.

Europeans breathed a huge sigh of relief on April 1, when the Russian Government announced that Moscow will not cut off sales to European buyers of Russian natural gas, as long as buyers set up accounts with Gazprombank, where payments in foreign currency will be converted to rubles. Still, Europeans will soon have to decide whether to reject trade and cooperation with governments in Eurasia that resist Western liberalism, with its universalist pretensions, or confront the specter of civil unrest at home.

Russia’s enormous share of energy and food in European and global markets always meant war between Russia and Ukraine would be a nightmare scenario. It was no surprise when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned on April 2 of the serious worldwide consequences of the Russian war in Ukraine, saying, “We must ensure that this war comes to an end quickly.”

Scholz is right. Price surges in energy and food will now lead to expanded drilling for oil and gas around the world, as well as increased farming for wheat, barley, and corn outside of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. But these actions will not compensate for the looming structural commodity deficits or supply chain problems affecting fertilizer and metals.

Washington’s ruling class has a long record of misjudging strategic reality. Seeking to advance NATO through Ukraine to Russia’s western border may well be the worst blunder in American foreign policy since the end of World War II, but Washington learns nothing and remembers nothing. After the defeat of Anglo-French military power in June 1940, the combined power of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Imperial Japan was unassailable. Had the three remained in alliance, neither Washington, nor any combination of powers, could have challenged them for decades.

President Biden and Washington’s uniparty are fostering the domination of the Eurasian landmass by a collective arrangement of the world’s leading economic powers including Russia, China, India, Japan, Central and Southeast Asia, thereby restoring the strategic condition Washington feared in 1940. American voters would prefer that Washington focus on shoring up American economic prosperitycontrolling inflation and restoring the rule of law, not war with Russia.

President Biden would be wise to follow Scholz’s example and work to end the dangerous conflict in Ukraine. Even so, for the indefinite future the use of U.S. military power in the Eastern Hemisphere will now involve the potential for war with more than one first-class power in more than one region of the world at a time. Well done, Mr. President.

Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.) is a senior fellow with The American Conservative, the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, a decorated combat veteran, and the author of five books.

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