Pro-Russian Thugs Beat Ukrainian Unity Demonstrators – Except on Russian TV

Russian media give own spin to latest disturbances.

Pro-Russian Thugs Beat Ukrainian Unity Demonstrators – Except on Russian TV

Russian media give own spin to latest disturbances.

Ukrainian and western media sources are unanimous in reporting that pro-Russian separatists attacked a rally in support of Ukrainian unity” in Donetsk on Monday [April 28] and seriously injured a number of the rally participants. The pro-Kremlin channel Life News presents an entirely different story. It claims that «a peaceful rally in support of federalisation turned into riots in Donetsk.” It then asserts that “according to witnesses the assailants chanted nationalist slogans. They were in sports gear and hid their faces behind black masks. It was reported also that Maidan supporters threw grenades at self-defence activists.”

Other strictly pro-Kremlin channels have also reported “clashes” and people injured, while deftly avoiding any mention of head-banging activities by those pro-Russian militants they call the «homeguard”. This means also omitting the fact that up to seven of the pro-unity demonstrators have been taken hostage. NTV’s Anastasiya Litvinova reports, for example, a mass brawl “in which local home guard activists and unidentified masked individuals took part”. These individuals armed with iron shields and bats are supposed to have appeared when “the crowd (of demonstrators for Ukrainian unity”) suddenly moved in the direction of the administration which is presently controlled by supporters of federalisation”. There is a suggestion at the end, citing locals, that the trouble was provoked by nationalist-leaning football fans. The footage on Life News, Rossiya 24 and NTV should possibly be checked against that shown during a rally in Kharkiv which did involve nationalist-leaning “ultras” football fans.

The following description of the events on Monday is provided, together with videos, on the Donetsk-based website Ostrov. “Men in camouflauge gear blocked the peaceful procession for a united Ukraine. Sounds like gunshots were heard and some explosions. The people with Ukrainian symbols dispersed. A fight began, people ran away into courtyards. They caught up with them and beat them up. “Russia, Russia”, the assailants with shields chanted.".

Video footage of these same young men with sticks chanting “Russia!” heading for the attack can be found here.

InfoResist reports that as of late Monday evening 25 people are known to have been injured, and seven been taken hostage by the pro-Russian militants. (On Tuesday morning, former interior minister and presidential aide Yury Lutsenko informed journalists that five hostages had been released. He did not mention any still remaining captive).

Reuters news agency, The GuardianGazeta Wyborcza and numerous other non-Russian sources saw and reported much the same version of reality. One that the viewers of Russian television channels will simply not see. Over the last two days the main television station and TV tower have been seized by pro-Russian militants. They just happened to have a specialist with them and the equipment to swich from Ukrainian to Russian channels. This was exactly the pattern in the Crimea two months ago. There too, though on a lesser scale, journalists, civic activists and any supporters of Ukrainian unity came under attack. Those who still dare to come out onto the streets in cities like Slovyansk are beaten, terrorised, abducted and in at least three cases – one as yet unidentified – murdered.

EU countries are continuing to link a third tier of sanctions to open invasion by Russian troops. This is despite the clear link between the rhetoric, spy mania and aggression from the militants and the tone and content of Kremlin-controlled news reporting. Everybody knows that a quiet directive from the Kremlin would change Russian television coverage overnight.

At present there are only directives – first in the Crimea, now in Donbas – for ensuring that a much wider audience is fed a diet of overt lies and distortions aimed at convincing citizens of those regions that the authorities in Kiev are the oppressor, EuroMaidan supporters are “fascists”, and that “protection” is to be found elsewhere. No prizes for guessing where.

Halya Coynash is a journalist and a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. This story was originally published on the group's website.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of IWPR.

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