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DISINFORMATION: NATO has a military base in Odessa, on Russia’s historical territory

Disinformation

Odessa, a port-city in southern Ukraine, has been turned into a NATO military base, according to a new narrative published by the Russian media, which also condemns NATO military exercises in the Black Sea and labels Odessa and southern Ukraine Russian territories under foreign occupation.

NEWS: “NATO battleships continue to dock in Odessa, which is turning into a genuine military base for the North Atlantic Alliance, at informal level for the time being, on the territory of Novorossiya. In 2021 alone, the battleships of NATO and their allies entered the port of Odessa at least 10 times […] Two NATO ships were on the brink of triggering a large-scale armed conflict in the Black Sea, in Russia’s territorial waters near Crimea.

[…] On December 24, 2021, another NATO warship entered Odessa, this time a state-of-the-art flagship of the French navy, the “Auvergne”. The warship reached the Black Sea as part of the periodic rotation of NATO forces in the region, and it’s no accident it was headed to Odessa, which already serves as a base of American naval forces, NATO forces and its satellites in the region.

[…] We should recall that, before the coup in Ukraine, NATO was actively preparing to set up its own naval military bases on Crimean territory. Crimea was defended in time, and was reintegrated in its natural area. Still, the refusal to return Odessa and the entire historical region of Novorossiya, including continental Taurida, triggered not just an exacerbation of the peninsula’s vulnerabilities, but also the emergence of a dangerous military outpost of NATO in southwestern Russian territory. And this poses a threat to the national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country, which we cannot ignore.”

Reality

NARRATIVES: 1. Odessa is a home to a NATO military base, threatening Russia’s national security. 2. Odessa is part of Russia’s historical territories and is currently under foreign occupation.

BACKGROUND: In 2014, after the Euromaidan street protests that swept the entire country, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia, conceding power to a new political class that promised closer relations with the EU and NATO. In response, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and provided support to separatist movements in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that escalated and resulted in bloodshed, so far killing over thirteen thousand people. Despite the countless protests of the international community and the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West, Moscow not only never stopped funding the mercenary groups in eastern Ukraine, but also started to gradually integrate the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR and LNR) into the Russian Federation.  

In historical terms, Novorossiya was a part of present-day Ukraine, an integral part of the Russian Empire. Russian president Vladimir Putin referred to Novorossiya after the annexation of Crimea, and an actual movement bearing this name emerged in Russia under the leadership of the famous Igor Strelkov (Igor Girkin), a former FSB officer who, among other things, coordinated separatist forces during the early stages of the conflict.

PURPOSE: The purpose of these narratives is to sow fear among Russian-speaking readers towards NATO countries, which allegedly want to attack Russia. At the same time, the narratives legitimize Russia’s right to act with confidence in the extended Black Sea area.

WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: In fact, there are no NATO military bases on Ukraine’s territory. Military bases can be set up in Ukraine only after this country’s formal NATO accession, in line with national legislation and Constitutional Court rulings, more specifically Article 17 in the Constitution of Ukraine. Moreover, all NATO military bases and training centers are visible on the Alliance’s interactive map.

Throughout 2021, there have been several military exercises that involved the participation of Ukraine and NATO member states, including Romania. According to international law, Odessa is an integral part of sovereign Ukraine, which means any type of military and non-military exercises can be carried out in its vicinity. The “armed challenges” organized by NATO forces in the territorial waters of Russia were simply foreign battleships transiting an area close to Crimea, a Ukrainian territory under international regulations, which however Russia considered a historical peninsula and “reintegrated” back in 2014. In other words, Russia considers Ukraine’s territorial waters to be Russian, despite the fact that the international community condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

On the other hand, the article reiterates a number of older narratives, about the 2014 coup in Ukraine, but also about Novorossiya – a geopolitical and military project aimed at taking over and “liberating” southern Ukraine, which the article labels “a territory under foreign occupation”.

On a separate note, if the rotation of NATO battleships in the Black Sea region is described as an informal military base, then the Russian media makes no mention about the illegal presence of Russian warships, troops, munitions and offensive equipment on the territory of independent states such as Ukraine (Donbas and Crimea), Georgia or the Republic of Moldova. The illegal presence of Russian military in these states, contrary to their will and condemned by the international community, is not mentioned by the Russian media. Nor is the fact that Russian military bases or Russian-backed mercenaries in Donbas have killed thousands of people in Ukraine.

The narratives in question are used by Russian media to amplify a metanarrative launched in December, 2021 and debunked by Veridica, according to which Russia is forced to consolidate its troops on the Ukrainian border in order to defend itself against a possible US and NATO aggression in Donbas. Unlike the disinformation messages published last year, the same concept is now used to expand the narrative to southern Ukraine as well. In fact, these press articles are strikingly similar to the propaganda of the USSR, whose press “reported” for decades on American aggression and NATO’s dream to destroy the Soviet people. Several generations have been held hostage to these Soviet-era narratives, which are increasingly revitalized by the Russian state media.

  • Publication / Media:
    NEWS FRONT
  • Date of publication:
    28/12/2021
  • Target audience:
    The Russian-speaking population in Russia, Ukraine and ex-Soviet republics
  • Amplification:
    Social media, regional news outlets
  • Political affiliation:
    the Kremlin
  • Key narrative:
    Odessa is home to a NATO military base that threatens Russia’s national security.
Marin Gherman

04 Jan 2022
Marin Gherman

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12 minutes read
  • Odessa, a port-city in southern Ukraine, has been turned into a NATO military base, according to a new narrative published by the Russian media, which also condemns NATO military exercises in the Black Sea and labels Odessa and southern Ukraine Russian territories under foreign occupation.
  • NARRATIVES: 1. Odessa is a home to a NATO military base, threatening Russia’s national security. 2. Odessa is part of Russia’s historical territories and is currently under foreign occupation.
  • PURPOSE: The purpose of these narratives is to sow fear among Russian-speaking readers towards NATO countries, which allegedly want to attack Russia. At the same time, the narratives legitimize Russia’s right to act with confidence in the extended Black Sea area.
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