03 March 2014
THE PROPAGANDA WAR OVER UKRAINE! by Jeff Franks
“Now we see through a glass, darkly . . .” (1 Cor 13:12)!
The Russian TV and press have been presenting the Ukrainian revolution as a brazen coup
d’etat led by “neo-Nazi nationalist thugs”. Because Ukrainian nationalists were present and
could be more easily seen at the forefront of violent clashes with riot police, certain producers
have ﬁlmed documentaries, complete with interviews, which purport to show the all-
encompassing “true nature” of the anti-Yanukovich protests. “Who do you hate?” asked one
Russian interviewer. “Russians, Jews, and Poles,” answered the activist. Therefore, goes the
line, the Ukrainian revolution was of the exact same spirit as Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. Only
unlike Hitler, these Ukrainian neo-Nazis who gathered “in mass” on Maidan square in Kyiv,
actually forced Victor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s “legitimately elected president”, from power.
How accurate are these Russian media accounts? Whether true or not, they are
overwhelmingly convincing. I have been in several discussions with Russians who can see it
only this way. When ousted President Yanukovich spoke in Rostov-on-Don, he said Euro-
maidan was the work of “right wing thugs”. “We will not let these fascist bullies from Maidan rule
our lives!” cried the fully equipped soldiers in masks and unmarked uniforms who raised the
Russian ﬂag over the government buildings and airports of Crimea. Naturally, their cry ﬁnds
resonance in the majority ethnic Russian population of Crimea, many of whom welcome
Russia’s invasion with open arms.
What is wrong with these so-called “anti-Maidan” presentations? Three things.
First of all, they employ emotional hot-buttons which rouse nationalist hostility and resentment.
“All Ukrainians are so-and-so’s.” Similar arguments were sometimes employed during the
protests to provoke anger against Russians: “We will not be ruled by those Russian so-and-sos
(ﬁll in the blank)!” In order to sound more reasonable, one Russian Christian told me, “You are
like MOST Ukrainians who think such-and-such.” Of course, people who think “such-and-such”
are always wrong-headed, aren’t they?
Secondly, these arguments ignore the factual account of events as they occurred. In November
2013, when President Yanukovich rejected the associational trade agreement with the EU,
“who” ﬁrst came down to Kyiv’s Maidan to protest? Go back and review the videos and news
accounts. You will ﬁnd that they were mostly university-age students. Where were the Nazi
symbols? Where were the nationalist slogans? Why were there so many young faces and so
few middle aged people with families? When the riot police attacked them in the pre-dawn
hours, did they offer resistance? Who then came to Independence Square to protest, almost a
million strong? Were they at all concerned about Europe or were they angered at the violent
attack on young people from their own government? “Euro-Maidan” was a convenient label at
the start, but pro-European or anti-Russian sentiments had already given way to the larger
issues of theft, corruption, and abuse of power in the current administration. These are factual
issues which burst the hot-air balloons of propaganda. Nevertheless, the propaganda continues
on both sides and sadly, it seems to work.
Thirdly, these arguments employ a common device used in media and politics, the “straw man”
fallacy. You take your opponent’s legitimate issues, in this case anger at Yanukovich’s
corruption and abuse of power, and present them as ridiculous, obviously absurd, and evil.
“Look at these neo-Nazis who hate Russians and Jews. Is this the kind of government you want
in Ukraine?” That is a classic “straw man” fallacy. “Regardless of the facts, regardless of the
true nature of things, if you hate Nazi’s then you should hate the new Ukrainian government.”
I do not have to convince people of the “true nature” of things, which are always more complex
than I can fully understand. Lord grant that we remember to love our enemies and pray for
those who abuse and persecute us. May we remember to dress in the “full armor of God”,
putting on the belt of truth. May we never ﬁnd comfort or justiﬁcation in false accounts, because
they never bear the good fruits of love, peace and liberty, but rather provide a covering for
abusive control, corruption, and theft. As you pray for peace in Russia and Ukraine, forgive in
advance any remarks made in anger by those who have bought into the propaganda of one side