On the Bucha 'Massacre' and What's Really Happening in Ukraine
If there’s one thing we know about the Russians it’s that they are brilliant at disinformation. We’re many of us familiar with Yuri Bezemov and his revelations about Russia’s long-running plan to subvert the West; with the concept of maskirovka; with the devious workings of the FSB (formerly the KGB), where Putin cut his teeth. So yes, obviously, when it comes to what is happening in the Ukraine right now, we have to take all propaganda emanating from the Kremlin with a huge pinch of salt.
What puzzles me greatly, though, is why so many of us appear to be having such trouble applying the same necessary scepticism to the Western narrative. The West, after all, has intelligence services - the CIA, MI6, etc - which are just as tricksy and slippery as the Russians’. We know, per Winston Churchill, that ‘in wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.’ And we know from our experiences of the last two years that the bought-and-paid for MSM has been lying to us routinely and relentlessly about issues greatly injurious to our health, safety and wellbeing. So why should we trust what any of these institutions are telling us now about the Ukraine?
Most people, unfortunately, don’t want to ask this question. But they should. Sure, if Putin is as big a menace to global security as our media and political class are claiming he is, then it may well be in our interests to oppose him and his Ukraine adventure, even at great cost and at the risk of military confrontation. But what if our MSM and politicians are exaggerating the threat? What if they are flat out lying to us, for ulterior motives, in much the same way they lied to us about vaccine safety and infection rates and the efficacy of masks and lockdowns? What if, slowly but surely, we are being dragged into an entirely avoidable and unnecessary war which will bring us little but misery, poverty and death just to prop up a regime at least as corrupt and malign as Vladimir Putin’s?
The Western narrative on Ukraine goes something like this: Putin is a deranged dictator hell bent on invading his neighbours. If we let him take Ukraine who knows where he’ll head next: the Baltic States? Poland? And look at the damage he’s doing, the atrocities his troops are committing against the peaceful, sovereign state of Ukraine with its democratically elected president and its proud, plucky people who are fighting back heroically against the evil Russian hordes…
I wish I were exaggerating but if I am it’s not by much. Across the West people who not so long ago were cowering at home behind their masks have now been whipped by relentless pro-Ukraine propaganda into war frenzy and apparently consider no sacrifice too great in order to combat the dread Putin menace.
Anyone who dares question this narrative can expect short shrift from the social media lynch mobs which stalk the internet ready to harass and punish non-believers. Their latest victim was footballer Matt LeTissier, bullied into giving up his position as an ambassador for Southampton FC (even though he is the best and most famous footballer ever to have played for them), just because he posted (and then deleted) his support for the following tweet.
The media lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction
The media lied about Covid
The media lied about the Hunter Biden laptop
But honestly they are telling the truth about Bucha!
‘Bucha’ refers, of course, to the now-infamous ‘massacre’ of ‘410’ innocent civilians, supposedly raped and murdered by retreating Russian troops. That, at any rate, is the version of events being presented in the Western MSM, and being seized upon by Western politicians as proof that Putin is a war criminal who must be deposed and face trial in The Hague. (Some are going even further, with many social media armchair warriors - one of them a Tory in the House of Lords - heavy hinting that the only solution is for Putin to be assassinated).
If Russian troops have indeed tortured and executed hundreds of Ukrainian civilians in cold blood it would be a terrible crime, deserving of punishment. But the evidence that Russia is the guilty party is far from clear. Yes, the Ukrainian authorities have supplied Western media with disturbing images of dead bodies lying in the streets. Yes, there has been satellite imagery which, it is claimed, corroborate the ‘it was the Russians’ narrative. And, most recently, the German intelligence services have leaked to Spiegel wireless intercepts allegedly recording Russian soldiers boasting at having killed the civilians. How, though, given the biased sources of this information can we be sure that it is genuine? How can we know it wasn’t a false flag atrocity designed to discredit Putin but actually committed by the Ukrainian military against civilians, perhaps as punishment for those deemed to be Russian collaborators?
The short answer is: we can’t. This is why I raised those questions at the beginning about the reliability of information from opposing sides - both of which have good reason to embellish, deceive, exaggerate and flat out lie in order to win the battle for the global public’s hearts and minds.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t make an intelligent guess by sifting the contradictory evidence and working out on the balance of probability - aka Occam’s Razor - which is the more plausible likelihood.
This article by Jacques Baud provides some useful counterbalance to the Western narrative.
Jacques Baud is a former colonel of the General Staff, ex-member of the Swiss strategic intelligence, specialist on Eastern countries. He was trained in the American and British intelligence services. He has served as Policy Chief for United Nations Peace Operations. As a UN expert on rule of law and security institutions, he designed and led the first multidimensional UN intelligence unit in the Sudan. He has worked for the African Union and was for 5 years responsible for the fight, at NATO, against the proliferation of small arms. He was involved in discussions with the highest Russian military and intelligence officials just after the fall of the USSR. Within NATO, he followed the 2014 Ukrainian crisis and later participated in programs to assist the Ukraine. He is the author of several books on intelligence, war and terrorism, in particular Le Détournement published by SIGEST, Gouverner par les fake news, L’affaire Navalny. His latest book is Poutine, maître du jeu? published by Max Milo.
By his account, far from being an aggressive and impetuous belligerent, Putin in fact showed great restraint up until February 2020, despite almost intolerable provocation culminating in the heavy shelling (in violation of the Minsk agreements) of Russian speaking civilians in the Donbass by the Ukrainian military.
Though represented in the Western media as an ‘invasion’, the Russian action is more correctly an ‘incursion.’ Putin has declared no intention of occupying Ukraine, only of ‘demilitarising’ it and ‘deNazifying’ it. His goal is to stop the Ukraine from being used as a weapon against him by the West and to protect the Russian-speaking elements of its population who have been cruelly persecuted since 2014 when the democratically-elected President Yanukovych was deposed in a CIA-backed coup and replaced by a ‘pro-Western’ regime.
In 2014, this regime banned Russian from being an official language in the Ukraine, provoking a civil war in the Russian-speaking eastern region known as the Donbass. Few ordinary Ukrainians wished to participate in this ugly, brutal and pointless conflict in which thousands of war crimes (rape, torture, murder) were carried out against civilians. So high is the desertion rate that the brunt of the fighting is carried out by paramilitary units, which comprise about 40 percent of the Ukrainian armed forces. These are made up of foreign mercenaries and by the far-right fanatics of units like the notoriously ruthless Azov regiment, which models itself on the SS ‘Das Reich’ panzer division and (like ‘Das Reich’) is infamous for its atrocities against civilians and prisoners of war.
All this could have been resolved had the Ukrainian regime honoured the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 Agreements, which concede a degree of autonomy (though not independence) to the Russian-speaking regions, and which (a sticking point for Putin) guarantee Ukraine’s neutrality by preventing it from joining NATO. This would have been a good outcome for the people of Ukraine too. But there are forces - probably not unconnected with the US Deep State - which do not wish this to happen, their preference being for a long war of attrition which depletes Russian strength and perhaps results in the overthrow of Putin.
In the Ukraine, with the blessing of the Western countries, those who are in favor of a negotiation have been eliminated. This is the case of Denis Kireyev, one of the Ukrainian negotiators, assassinated on March 5 by the Ukrainian secret service (SBU) because he was too favorable to Russia and was considered a traitor. The same fate befell Dmitry Demyanenko, former deputy head of the SBU’s main directorate for Kiev and its region, who was assassinated on March 10 because he was too favorable to an agreement with Russia—he was shot by the Mirotvorets (“Peacemaker”) militia.
Little of this has been reported in the Western media. Nor has the fact that Russia’s military performance so far has been remarkably successful.
From an operational point of view, the Russian offensive was an example of its kind: in six days, the Russians seized a territory as large as the United Kingdom, with a speed of advance greater than what the Wehrmacht had achieved in 1940.
The bulk of the Ukrainian army was deployed in the south of the country in preparation for a major operation against the Donbass. This is why Russian forces were able to encircle it from the beginning of March in the “cauldron” between Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, with a thrust from the East through Kharkov and another from the South from Crimea. Troops from the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) Republics are complementing the Russian forces with a push from the East.
At this stage, Russian forces are slowly tightening the noose, but are no longer under time pressure. Their demilitarization goal is all but achieved and the remaining Ukrainian forces no longer have an operational and strategic command structure.
The “slowdown” that our “experts” attribute to poor logistics is only the consequence of having achieved their objectives. Russia does not seem to want to engage in an occupation of the entire Ukrainian territory. In fact, it seems that Russia is trying to limit its advance to the linguistic border of the country.
Our media speak of indiscriminate bombardments against the civilian population, especially in Kharkov, and Dantean images are broadcast in a loop. However, Gonzalo Lira, a Latin American who lives there, presents us with a calm city on March 10 and March 11. It is true that it is a large city and we do not see everything—but this seems to indicate that we are not in the total war that we are served continuously on our screens.
The idea that Putin is fighting a limited war, designed to avoid killing civilians, preserve non-military infrastructure and avoid disrupting Ukraine’s harvests, will of course be dismissed as ‘Kremlin propaganda’. But it makes intuitive sense. First, it accords with his stated objectives. Second, Putin has nothing to gain by making his international reputation any worse than it is. On the contrary, a win for Putin in the propaganda war would be if the facts showed him to be the ‘good guy’ he claims to be rather than the monster the West insists he is. If he can achieve this, it would seriously undermine the West’s claims to moral superiority.
This might explain why the UK has rejected the Kremlin’s request for a United Nations investigation into the Bucha ‘massacre’. The official excuse is that it’s just the Russians playing tricks and of course everyone knows they’re guilty as sin so why waste time indulging them? But surely if proving Russian guilt were such an open and shut case then it would be the work of moments to present the overwhelming evidence in an international court. As well as demonstrating beyond all doubt Putin’s monstrous evil, it would provide the massive bonus of silencing those contrary voices who are sceptical of the Western narrative.
But if there ever were such a tribunal, I think it might find one or two serious inconsistencies in the ‘Russians dunit’ case. These are summed up in a superb piece of investigative journalism by Christelle Néant at Donbass Insider.
There is lots of circumstantial evidence to suggest that the killers responsible for the Bucha ‘massacre’ were Ukrainians rather than Russians. Many of the victims wore white arm bands - a signifier for pro-Russian civilians: the other side wear blue arms bands - which, in some cases, were used to bind them before they were shot. The corpses were often found next to Russian MRE (meals ready to eat) rations: you don’t normally feed people you are about to murder. But the real giveaway, Néant demonstrates, is the timeline.
– On 30 March 2022 the Russian army withdrew its last soldiers from Bucha. But the Ukrainian army did not immediately realize this and continued to fire on the town for several days, including on Yablonskaya Street where there was a building occupied by Russian troops.
– On 31 March 2022 the mayor of Bucha made a video to celebrate the liberation of the city, and made no mention of civilians being massacred by Russian troops or bodies being seen in the streets.
– On 1 April 2022, the bodies on Yablonskaya Street are filmed from a car and the video is published late at night on Twitter. This means that these people certainly died on 31 March (after the time of the mayor’s video) or on 1 April (before the time of the video showing the bodies).
– On 2 April 2022, the Ukrainian police filmed the streets of Bucha and only one body obviously killed by a bombardment appears at the beginning of the video. There is no mention of a massacre, or even of the deaths on Yablonskaya Street. Yet the information is known since a video has been circulating since the day before. My hypothesis is that the Ukrainian police did not want to show the bodies because these civilians were killed by Ukrainian army bombing and not by Russian troops. The police would therefore have tried to avoid highlighting this crime of the Ukrainian army against its own population. It seems that the Ukrainian police did not have the idea of exploiting these deaths to blame Russia. This has earned them a reprimand.
– Also on 2 April 2022, Botsman’s team of Ukrainian fighters arrived in Bucha with the Ukrainian police to flush out possible saboteurs or accomplices of the Russian troops. Botsman’s troops were given permission to shoot at men not wearing a blue armband. The Ukrainian troops then reportedly captured, tortured and killed several civilians whom they considered to have collaborated with the Russians. It was at this point that photos appeared of civilians being tortured and killed with their hands tied behind their backs, whose deaths were attributed to the Russians. The same goes for the civilians who were buried in the mass grave near the church in mid-March, even though they died during the bombing and were not executed by Russian soldiers at all.
If we add up the 67 civilians buried in the mass grave, the 20 bodies in Yablonskaya Street, and the nine near and in the building where the Russian soldiers were stationed, we are a long way from the 410 bodies announced by the Ukrainian authorities. Civilians have died in Bucha, but most of them died during the shelling of the city, including shelling by the Ukrainian army, and nine were clearly tortured and murdered by Ukrainian troops for collaborating with Russian troops.
Néant has a similarly fascinating story to tell about the missile that struck Kramatorsk Railway Station, killing more than 30 civilians. This too was blamed in the Western media on the Russians. But the fragments of the missile recovered show it to be a Tochka U, such as only the Ukrainian armed forces possess. Furthermore, ballistics analysis has demonstrated that the rocket was fired from Ukrainian-held territory.
I’ve been careful, I hope, to treat the claims of both sides with a proper degree of caution. Actually I believe the case against the Ukrainian regime is even stronger than I’ve mentioned here - this engaging podcast from Gonzalo Lira, a Chilean war correspondent currently holed out in Kharkov has more details - but I don’t want to frighten the horses: quite a few of those who were on my sceptical side during the Covid ‘pandemic’ aren’t quite so eager to share my views on Ukraine. I don’t want to frighten them off by appearing too dogmatic, still less too gung-ho for Putin.
But as Gonzalo Lira says, this isn’t about being pro-Putin. It’s about being pro-truth. If, like me, you believe that truth is not a malleable or subjective concept but a verifiable absolute then it surely matters that we get to the bottom of what’s really happening in the Ukraine, and why it’s happening. We cannot allow ourselves to be brainwashed by the propaganda narratives of people who do not share our best interests. If we do, we deserve every bit of misery that they send our way for it makes us willing participants in their deception.