by Richie Merino, published on Workers World, April 15, 2022
April 10 – Last weekend, Ukraine’s President Vlodymyr Zelensky accused Russian troops of committing war crimes in the city of Bucha, near Kiev. Moscow immediately denied the allegations, calling them “baseless” and implying that Ukrainian right-wing nationalists, with support from the Kiev regime, staged the event, placing deceased bodies in the streets of Bucha in order to derail peace talks and distract the media from covering mounting evidence of war crimes committed by Ukraine’s own military.
It’s important to understand the timeline of events leading up to the media campaign to see it as a blatant provocation and false flag operation committed by the Kiev regime with support from Western corporate media and government officials:
Feb. 25 – During the first stage of the Russian military operation, which Moscow said aimed to eliminate Ukraine’s military capacity, Russian and Ukrainian troops engaged in combat on the outskirts of Bucha. The confrontation continued into March and resulted in Russian troops taking control of the city.
March 27 – Video footage depicting Ukrainian soldiers torturing Russian POWs by shooting them in the legs was posted on social media. The video sparked widespread coverage from Western news outlets including, on April 6, the New York Times.
March 29 – Russia’s foreign intelligence service warned that Kiev was working to downplay the video footage depicting war crimes by Ukrainian forces. The Russian military claimed the Ukrainian government ordered its ultra-nationalist forces to produce staged videos purportedly showing evidence of crimes committed by Russian troops against civilians. Per General Mikhail Mizintsev, the footage was supposed to incriminate Russian soldiers in “mass killings, robbery, damage to social infrastructure.”
March 30 – Russian troops withdrew from Bucha and the entire Kiev region. Troops were to be redeployed for confrontation with ultranationalist militias in Donbas.
March 31 – Bucha’s Mayor Anatoli Fedoruk declares the city “liberated from Russian orcs,” calling it a major victory for Ukrainian defenders, with no Russian troops left in Bucha. Fedoruk’s commentary, disseminated by the Ukrainian press, made no reference to murdered civilians in the locality. For the following three days, Fedoruk spoke on television, saying that the city was returning to normal. Additionally, posts from a Telegram channel dedicated to life in Bucha show photos from March 31 where there are no bodies in the streets and no mention of them either. (t.me/buchadetka/873)
April 1 – Ukrainian forces enter Bucha. In a Fox News interview, Bret Baier asked Zelensky about the Azov Battalion’s neo-Nazi affiliations and allegations of war crimes mounting against them. Zelensky defends the Azov Battalion, stating, “They are what they are.”
April 2 – In a video published (and later deleted) by Ukrainian military commander Sergey Korotkih, Ukrainian troops in Bucha discuss engagement rules. One of the fighters can be heard asking if it was okay to shoot at “guys not wearing blue armbands” identifying Ukrainian soldiers. The response was an affirmative “you bet.” Some of the civilians killed in Bucha were wearing white armbands, which Russian troops had asked all civilians to wear in order to identify themselves as non-combatants.
April 2 – The Ukrainian national police reported that it had deployed its “Safari” commando regiment to Bucha to “clear the territory of saboteurs and Russian troop collaborators,” as well as to “inspect the sites of war crimes committed by Russia.” That same day, photos of alleged Russian atrocities in Bucha began to pour out. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba claims Russian troops shot and killed civilians prior to their March 30 withdrawal. Within minutes of the “breaking news,” leaders of Western imperialist countries, including heads of state, foreign ministers and former office holders, released statements condemning Russian “war crimes” without any evidence and before any forensic work or investigation was done.
April 3 – Russia’s defense ministry vehemently denied Ukrainian allegations, citing the three days’ delay between the troops’ withdrawal and the emergence of the photos as a suspicious sign. Moscow said the accusations were “a provocation” and possibly evidence of crimes committed by Ukrainian troops after they entered the city.
April 3 – Russia immediately calls an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss Bucha and what it claims to be a false-flag operation by Kiev to blame Russia. Britain, which currently holds the presidency of the U.N. Security Council, blocks the request.
Why would the withdrawing Russians, who were not being forced out in battle, leave corpses in the street as incriminating evidence? Why would they leave corpses in the street for weeks as an April 4 New York Times story suggests? If the Russians had committed such a crime, why would they make no effort to cover it up? Why were there no indications of such a crime on social media in the days prior to the Russian withdrawal? Why would Bucha’s mayor first act as though all is normal and wonderful in the aftermath of the Russian withdrawal?
The Russian Ministry of Defense continues to maintain that what occurred in Bucha ought to be fully investigated by independent parties. Russia also declared that Western leaders and corporate media had become co-participants when they immediately disseminated the disturbing footage without investigation of the veracity of the claim that Russian soldiers were responsible.
Although the New York Times, Reuters and the Pentagon all admitted they could not “independently verify the assertions by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and other officials,” claims of Russian war crimes in Bucha made headlines for days. (Reuters, April 4)
Alternate explanation likely
In the photos shared by Reuters of the Bucha massacre, most of the deceased bodies are wearing white armbands. Civilians used these to signal that they were not hostile to Russia. The corpses were lying next to bags of humanitarian aid provided by Russian forces.
Another reasonable explanation of the events, then, is that the massacre of civilians in Bucha was committed by Ukrainian armed forces and targeted towards those perceived to be sympathetic to Russia.
Additionally, according to reports from inside Ukraine, the clothing on the bodies in the photographs is suspiciously clean and tidy which raises questions about whether the bodies were truly left on the street for weeks and exposed to the elements before being found by Ukrainian forces. The physical bodies themselves also did not show typical signs of decomposition.
Last, the April 4 New York Times article claiming to show “evidence” that bodies laid on the streets of Bucha “for weeks” relies on satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies. Maxar works directly for the U.S. Department of Defense, Army and Space Force and is owned by Wall Street private equity firms including BlackRock, so should not be considered an objective source.
Russia investigates Kramatorsk attack
Adding fuel to the fire, a missile in use by Ukrainian forces hit a train station in the city of Kramatorsk while civilian populations were evacuating. It was reported that 50 people died and another 100 were wounded. Kiev immediately blamed the attack on Russia, but pictures of the missiles quickly made their way onto social media and were identified as Tochka-U missiles, which are currently only used by Ukrainian forces, according to Russian statements.
Ukrainian forces launched a Tochka-U missile at a civilian neighborhood in Donetsk on March 14, killing at least 17 people, according to Russia Today. Immediately following the attack in Kramatorsk, the Investigative Committee of Russia announced they would open a criminal case to investigate the premeditated dissemination of false news about the Russian Armed Forces at the site.
Ukraine’s propaganda war
The Russian Ministry of Defense has been clear that the military operations in Ukraine are targeting fuel and ammunition depots and claims success in that mission, saying that Russian forces have essentially destroyed Ukraine’s navy, air force and defense industry.
In the propaganda war, on the other hand, Ukraine has executed multiple false flag operations with civilian victims and placed the blame on Russia. The advantage of Ukraine in this misinformation war is the backing of the U.S./NATO imperialist propaganda machine. This machine aims to manufacture popular consent for sending more Western weapons and military aid to Ukraine, which will prolong a proxy war against Russia.
Following the attack on Kramatorsk station, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new $130 million military aid package to Ukraine in addition to $500 million in World Bank loans.
Combating the Big Lie
A logical examination of the events in Bucha as presented in the timeline above lead us to conclude that the massacre was far more likely a Ukrainian false-flag operation intended to frame the Russian military and derail diplomatic peace talks. It’s no coincidence that the operation in Bucha made headlines right after Ukrainian militias got caught on video committing war crimes against Russian prisoners of war.
This also happened just after ceasefire negotiations took a massive leap forward when Ukraine delivered a proposal for accepting a neutral and nonnuclear status, including a plan to host no foreign military bases. (NPR, March 29) The facts and contextual circumstances challenge all the falsehoods and expose the loopholes in the imperialist propaganda offensive.
These arguments show that the allegations of war crimes against Russia were manufactured and manipulated to gain support for anti-Russia actions at the U.N. They were used to demand heavier sanctions by the European Union and Western countries and to increase weapons deliveries to the Kiev regime, weapons that extend the hot war and exhaust diplomatic negotiations.
Yet, despite the facts, the imperialist propaganda machine dominates public opinion. This is the result of imperialists collaborating with the most reactionary and fascist forces in Ukraine, while also collaborating with corporate media, Hollywood, academic institutions and Big Tech to legitimize ruling-class violence as the only way to resolve the crisis of capitalism-in-decline.
Only a resolute resistance by all anti-war and anti-imperialist forces can prevent the Big Lie from succeeding in confusing the masses. We must demand a full, fair and independent investigation of any such charge to fend off U.S./NATO/Kiev attempts to weaponize propaganda.
As we do this, we must continue to demand:
No war with Russia! End all sanctions on the working class!
End all financial, political and military support for the Kiev regime!
Dismantle and abolish NATO!
*Featured Image: Anti-NATO protest, Bratislava, Slovakia, Feb. 2.