Amidst growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the escalation of the conflict in Donbass since the beginning of spring, Russian state-controlled media continue to promote a number of fake narratives about the “coup” of 2014 in Ukraine, the independence of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, the civil war and Kiev’s belligerent actions towards the Russian-speaking population.
NEWS: “The European Union should exert more influence over Kiev authorities to determine the Ukrainian side to implement its commitments as part of the Minsk ceasefire agreements.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said at the end of his meeting with his Portuguese counterpart, Augusto Santos Silva, that Russia has urged the EU to exert more influence over Kiev authorities with regard to fulfilling the latter’s obligations as part of the Minsk agreements. Moscow hopes its plea will be heard.
At present, Portugal holds the rotating presidency of the European Council.
“We tackled the developments in Eastern Ukraine and I urged our European colleagues to influence Kiev more actively in order to secure a full implementation of the Minsk agreements. I hope this signal will get across and we will see some results in the near future”, Lavrov told the ensuing press conference held jointly with his Portuguese counterpart.
In April, 2014, Ukrainian authorities launched a military operation against the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR and LNR), which proclaimed their independence after the coup in Kiev of February, 2014. According to the latest UN figures, the conflict resulted in over 13,000 casualties. The issue of settling the conflict in Donbass was high on the agenda of talks during the meetings of the Contact Group, which in September, 2014, adopted three documents regulating the actions that need to be undertaken in order to settle the conflict. Still, even after the parties involved in the conflict reached a ceasefire agreement, armed clashes continue”.
NARRATIVES: 1. Ukraine does not observe the Minsk ceasefire agreements regulating the situation in Donbass. 2. A coup took place in Ukraine in 2014. 3. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine is not an operation aimed at liberating the territory from the occupation of Russian-backed mercenaries, but a unilateral military action against the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have become independent.
BACKGROUND: The conflict in Eastern Ukraine started in 2014. Moscow is funding and backing mercenaries and separatist forces that emerged in the two self-proclaimed republics, DNR and LNR, which make up a small part of Ukraine’s regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine, Western countries and NATO have repeatedly accused Russia of providing military equipment (including heavy weaponry) and troops to separatist militias. This spring, Russia began to build up its forces outside Ukraine’s southern, eastern and northern borders, which attracted criticism from Ukraine and Western countries. At the same time, Moscow launched various information campaigns against Ukraine and the West. Russian state media and officials claim Moscow is looking for a long-lasting peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine, without admitting it is directly funding and supporting mercenaries in Donbass.
PURPOSE: The purpose of these narratives is to persuade public opinion that Russia is a political actor seeking peace and diplomatic resolutions, whereas Ukraine is unwilling to observe the ceasefire agreement. At the same time, they promote the idea that Ukraine has been increasingly controlled by the EU and the West (in addition to the narrative about Ukraine being a colony of the West). Therefore, the narratives also seek to shift the blame for the conflict in Eastern Ukraine from Russia to the EU.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: In fact, there was never a coup in 2014: after president Yanukovych stepped down in the wake of massive street protests, presidential and parliamentary elections were held, recognized by the entire international community. In Donbass, the conflict is fought mainly by the Ukrainian army against Russia-funded mercenaries (even though separatist forces have been recruiting locally). The Ukrainian authorities withdrew on a number of occasions from talks with the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics regarding the situation in Eastern Ukraine, arguing a dialogue would legitimize the Russian aggression. Kiev believes Russia is the country that triggered the conflict in Donbass in order to block Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration efforts. The spokesperson of the Ukrainian army is submitting daily reports to the OSCE regarding violations of the Donbass ceasefire agreement by Russian-backed mercenaries. Therefore, this is not an issue about the need for the EU to intervene in Ukraine. Kiev has pointed out that, had Russia not supported the separatist movements in Donbass, there wouldn’t have been a war to begin with, and the territory would have been liberated in 2014.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Ukraine doesn’t want to enact a provision in the ceasefire agreement regarding the organization of a local election in Donbass, claiming the election cannot be held freely with the Russian or mercenary armies patrolling the streets. Kiev has specified that, unless all troops withdraw from its territory, it will not hold any election in the area. The Kremlin has presented Ukraine’s decision as a refusal to observe the ceasefire agreement.