By Nauman Sadiq for VT Islamabad
In a lucid and eloquent speech to a meeting on socioeconomic support for the constituent entities of the Russian Federation on March 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin succinctly elucidated the salient reasons for pre-emptively mounting a military intervention in Ukraine in order to forestall NATO’s encroachment upon Russia’s security interests and cited the genocide of ethnic Russians by ultra-nationalists as a principal reason for invading Ukraine.
“We are meeting in a complicated period as our Armed Forces are conducting a special military operation in Ukraine and Donbass. I would like to remind you that at the beginning, on the morning of February 24, I publicly announced the reasons for and the main goal of Russia’s actions.
“It is to help our people in Donbass, who have been subjected to real genocide for nearly eight years in the most barbarous ways, that is, through the blockade, large-scale punitive operations, terrorist attacks, and constant artillery raids. Their only guilt was that they demanded basic human rights: to live according to their forefathers’ laws and traditions, to speak their native Russian language, and to bring up their children as they want.
“Kiev was not just preparing for war, for aggression against Russia – it was conducting it … Hostilities in Donbass and the shelling of peaceful residential areas have continued all these years. Almost 14,000 civilians, including children, have been killed over this time … Clearly, Kiev’s Western patrons are just pushing them to continue the bloodshed. They incessantly supply Kiev with weapons and intelligence, as well as other types of assistance, including military advisers and mercenaries.”
In the 2001 census, nearly a third of Ukraine’s over 40 million population registered Russian as their first language. In fact, Russian speakers constitute a majority in urban areas of industrialized eastern Ukraine and socio-culturally identify with Russia. Ukrainian speakers are mainly found in sparsely populated western Ukraine and in rural areas of eastern Ukraine.
Ethnic Russians constituted the social and political elite of Ukraine in the heyday of the Soviet Empire but were reduced to second-class citizens following the break-up of the Soviet Union in the nineties. The state-sponsored persecution of ethnic Russians intensified across Ukraine following the colored revolution in January 2005, dubbed the Orange Revolution, orchestrated by the Western powers and their Ukrainian collaborators, subversively toppling the democratically elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
But the real ethnic cleansing of Russians in Ukraine began after the 2014 Maidan coup, once again ousting pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and NATO powers initiated an eight-year war of attrition against Russia in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region by nurturing Ukraine’s infamous Azov Battalion, officially part of the National Guard of Ukraine, that has been widely acknowledged as a neo-Nazi volunteer paramilitary force connected with foreign white supremacist organizations.
Azov Battalion was initially formed as a volunteer group in May 2014 out of the ultra-nationalist Patriot of Ukraine gang, and the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly (SNA) group. As a battalion, the group fought on the frontlines against pro-Russia separatists in Donbas, the eastern region of Ukraine.
A few months after recapturing the strategic port city of Mariupol from the Russia-backed separatists, the unit was officially integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine on November 12, 2014, and exacted high praise from then-President Petro Poroshenko. “These are our best warriors,” he said at an awards ceremony in 2014. “Our best volunteers.”
The unit was led by Andriy Biletsky, who served as the leader of both the Patriot of Ukraine (founded in 2005) and the SNA (founded in 2008). In 2010, Biletsky said Ukraine’s national purpose was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [inferior races].” Biletsky was elected to parliament in 2014. He left Azov as elected officials cannot be in the military or police force. He remained an MP until 2019.
These forces were privately funded by oligarchs – the most known being Igor Kolomoisky, an energy magnate billionaire and then-governor of the Dnipropetrovska region. In addition to Azov, Kolomoisky funded other volunteer battalions such as the Dnipro 1 and 2, Aidar and Donbas units.
The Mint Press News recently reported: “Zelensky’s presidential bid in 2019, which saw him win 73% of the vote, was successful on the basis that he was running in order to combat corruption and create peace in the country but, as the leaked documents known as the Pandora Papers revealed, he himself was storing funds in offshore bank accounts. Zelenskyy’s campaign was at the time boosted and bankrolled by Israeli-Ukrainian billionaire Igor Kolomoisky – who was himself accused of stealing $5.5 billion from his own bank.
“Muslims seem to be a major issue for the Azov Battalion. The Islamophobia present not only in Azov, but also in the National Guard of Ukraine, came through strongly on social media as the official National Guard site glorified the Azov Battalion as they dipped their bullets in pig fat. The video was directed at Muslim soldiers from Chechnya who are fighting on the side of Russia and were described as orcs by the National Guard on Twitter.”
In June 2015, both Canada and the United States announced they will not support or train the Azov regiment, citing its neo-Nazi connections. The following year, however, the US lifted the ban under pressure from the Pentagon, and the CIA initiated a clandestine program to nurture ultra-nationalist militias in east Ukraine. In October 2019, 40 members of the US Congress signed a letter unsuccessfully calling for the US State Department to designate Azov as a “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO).
In Feb. 2019, the Nation Magazine published a detailed think piece: “Neo-Nazis and the Far Right are on the March in Ukraine” elaborating on Ukraine’s far-right militant groups’ xenophobic and white supremacist political ideology.
“Then-Speaker of Parliament Andriy Parubiy co-founded and led two neo-Nazi organizations: the Social-National Party of Ukraine (later renamed Svoboda), and Patriot of Ukraine, whose members would eventually form the core of Azov.
“Even more disturbing is the far right’s penetration of law enforcement. Shortly after the Maidan coup in 2014, the US equipped and trained the newly founded National Police, in what was intended to be a hallmark program buttressing Ukrainian democracy. The deputy minister of the Interior—which controls the National Police—is Vadim Troyan, a veteran of Azov and Patriot of Ukraine.
“In 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed legislation making two WWII paramilitaries—the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)—heroes of Ukraine and made it a criminal offense to deny their heroism. The OUN had collaborated with the Nazis and participated in the Holocaust, while the UPA slaughtered thousands of Jews and 70,000-100,000 Poles on their own volition.”
Despite all the evidence of genocide and ethnic cleansing of Russians by the neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine to the contrary, the establishment media is abuzz with reports of alleged genocide of Ukrainians by the withdrawing Russian forces in the outskirts of the capital. Hundreds of dead bodies “buried in mass graves” were found in Bucha, a town 37 km (23 miles) northwest of Kyiv, allegedly massacred by the Chechen contingent of the Russian forces occupying the area.
Denying the spurious and unsubstantiated allegations of purported war crimes and genocide by Russian troops, Russia’s chief investigator Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee, ordered a probe be opened on the basis that Ukraine had insidiously spread “deliberately false information” in order to malign Russia’s month-long military campaign in Ukraine.
In addition, Russia has requested a United Nations Security Council meeting on April 4 over purported war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine’s Bucha, Russian First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy said on Sunday.
“In light of the Ukrainian radicals’ provocation in Bucha, Russia has requested a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday, April 4,” he wrote on his Telegram channel. “We will unmask Ukrainian provocateurs and their Western patrons.”
The Russian defense ministry said earlier on Sunday that all Russian troops had left the city of Bucha in the Kyiv region as far back as March 30, while the “evidence of crimes” surfaced four days later, when Ukrainian security forces and allied ultra-nationalist militias arrived in the city.
Baselessly leveling spurious accusations of alleged genocide and ethnic cleansing without a shred of evidence in order to vilify regional and global adversaries has become a preferred tool in the psyops’ arsenal of the corporate media in recent years.
Following the rise of China as a major economic power in the 21st century, the mainstream media was similarly tasked by the security establishments to demonize the global rival by blowing out of proportion the sheer fabrication of the alleged “genocide and ethnic cleansing” of Uyghur Muslim’s in China’s western Xinjiang province in order to drive a wedge between the rising industrial power and the energy-rich Islamic World.
Unlike several hapless Islamic countries in the Middle East, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, that went through US military occupation or interventions through regional proxies and where countless large-scale massacres have taken place creating millions of refugees, no such massacre or forced displacement of ethnic Uyghurs has ever been recorded in China’s Xinjiang, not even by the corporate media, the foremost purveyor of presumed Uyghur persecution in China.
After the deadly Urumqi riots in July 2009 between the Han and Uyghur ethnic groups in Xinjiang’s provincial capital in which scores of rioters on both sides were killed, China went through a series of violent terror attacks that rocked Xinjiang and the rest of China in the following years.
Dozens of civilians were hacked to death at a busy train station in China’s south. A Uyghur drove a car into crowds at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Forty-three died when militants threw bombs from two sports utility vehicles plowing through a busy market street in Urumqi. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Xinjiang in 2014, bombs tore through a Urumqi train station, killing three and injuring 79.
After experiencing the spate of terror attacks, Chinese authorities initiated de-radicalization programs in Xinjiang in which Uyghurs were encouraged to participate, as in the Western countries where Muslim immigrants were kept under surveillance and suspects with a history of violent crimes were asked to attend de-radicalization programs in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack when anti-Muslim paranoia was at the peak.
Most of the aforementioned terror attacks in China were claimed by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a fanatical transnational terrorist organization of Uyghurs that has taken part in jihadist insurgencies as far away as Afghanistan and Syria. The militant group has been declared a proscribed terrorist outfit by China, the United Nations, and many regional countries, though the Trump administration removed its terrorist designation in 2020.
Much like the Uyghur diaspora in the Western countries being patronized by the security agencies and the corporate media to malign a global rival, there is another clandestine organization of Chinese dissidents based in the US that until the November 2020 presidential election enjoyed the protection of the US deep state and was used as a trump card to mount psychological warfare against the Chinese government.
Falun Gong was founded by its leader Li Hongzhi in China in the early 1990s. Today, Falun Gong maintains an informal headquarters, Dragon Springs, a 400-acre compound in upstate New York, located near the current residence of Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong’s performance arts extension, Shen Yun, and two closely connected schools, Fei Tian College and Fei Tian Academy of the Arts, also operate in and around Dragon Springs.
Since 1998, Li Hongzhi has settled as a permanent resident in the United States and maintains high-level contacts not only with the governments of the US and China but also enjoys immense political clout among the Chinese diaspora across the world, thanks to the deep pockets of several billionaire Chinese oligarchs that Falun Gong boasts in its ranks, who generously contribute to financing the clandestine organization’s anti-China propaganda operations.
Forget about criticizing the secretive society, up until the elections it wasn’t even permitted to mention the name of Falun Gong on mainstream news outlets. It was simply described as “a religious and spiritual movement” that teaches “meditation techniques” to its members in all the information available in the public domain about the objectives and activities of the religiopolitical cult.
But in an explosive article for the New York Times in October 2020 to dispel a flurry of reports about the “Chinagate scandal” implicating the Biden campaign in the run-up to the US presidential election, Kevin Roose blew the lid off on the subversive organization and its media outlet, the Epoch Times, widely followed by Trump supporters, and alleged:
“For years, The Epoch Times was a small, low-budget newspaper with an anti-China slant that was handed out free on New York street corners. But in 2016 and 2017, the paper made two changes that transformed it into one of the country’s most powerful digital publishers.
“The changes also paved the way for the publication, which is affiliated with the secretive and relatively obscure Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, to become a leading purveyor of right-wing misinformation.
“First, it embraced President Trump, treating him as an ally in Falun Gong’s scorched-earth fight against China’s ruling Communist Party, which banned the group two decades ago and has persecuted its members ever since. Its relatively staid coverage of U.S. politics became more partisan, with more articles explicitly supporting Mr. Trump and criticizing his opponents.
“As the 2016 election neared, reporters noticed that the paper’s political coverage took on a more partisan tone. ‘They seemed to have this almost messianic way of viewing Trump as the anti-communist leader who would bring about the end of the Chinese Communist Party,’ Steve Klett, who covered the 2016 campaign for the paper, said.
“Where the paper’s money comes from is something of a mystery. Former employees said they had been told that The Epoch Times was financed by a combination of subscriptions, ads and donations from wealthy Falun Gong practitioners.
“Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist of the White House, is among those who have noticed The Epoch Times’s deep pockets. Last year, he produced a documentary about China with NTD. When he talked with the outlet about other projects, he said, money never seemed to be an issue. ‘I’d give them a number,’ Mr. Bannon said. ‘And they’d come back and say, We’re good for that number.’”
About the author: Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based geopolitical and national security analyst focused on geostrategic affairs and hybrid warfare in the Af-Pak and the Middle East regions. His domains of expertise include neocolonialism, the military-industrial complex, and petro-imperialism. He is a regular contributor of diligently researched investigative reports to Veterans Today.