Myth #1: Russia started it.
The European Union, led by Germany, tried to pressure Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich to sign an Association agreement. Upon review of how the agreement would actually affect his country economically – already the poorest in Europe – including austerity measures, renunciation of their significant trade with Russia and the supplanting of Ukraine’s native oligarchs, Yanukovich balked and opted to go with a Russian deal comprised of a $15 billion loan and reduced gas rates. As it turns out, the West was not in fact offering Ukraine free trade or even visa-free travel but a self-serving deal that had little to no benefit to Ukraine. Most people in Yanukovich’s place would have done the same.
Throughout the period of negotiating this association agreement, Russia requested three way talks to avert problems. Of course, Russia wanted to protect its own economic and trade interests, but it also had an interest in preventing friction or instability on its border. They were basically told by the West to drop dead.
Myth #2: Yanukovich fled Ukraine due to a massive peaceful protest representing the majority sentiment in the country.
According to an independent investigation by Germany’s ARD TV into the events surrounding the ouster of the democratically elected president, specifically the violence on the Maidan, found that sniper shots, starting on February 20th, which resulted in almost 100 deaths came primarily from buildings controlled by the Maidan protesters. A more in-depth forensic investigation was conducted by Ukrainian-Canadian academic Ivan Katchanovski, PhD. His conclusions supported the ARD report. This is all consistent with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet’s account to then European High Commissioner Catherine Ashton in an intercepted phone call posted on February 26, 2014, wherein he stated that his sources, including Dr. Olga Bolgomets – who was an ardent supporter of the original Maidan protests – reported evidence that the snipers were Maidan protesters. Paet also reported that members of the Ukrainian parliament had been beaten and threatened during the period in question.
Prior to the sniper violence and the ouster of Yanukovich, State Department official Victoria Nuland and US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt were caught with their pants down in an intercepted phone call posted on February 6th wherein they are discussing how to “glue this thing” and who will be the best person to lead a post-Yanukovich Ukraine, declaring “Yats is the guy.” She also famously disparaged the EU’s less aggressive approach to engineering a zero-sum position for Ukraine with respect to its relations with the West and Russia.
Thus, there is overwhelming evidence, typically ignored by the western mainstream media, that Yanukovich’s ousting was actually the result of a violent and planned coup.
Myth #3: The Donbas rebellion is a Russian contrivance with no indigenous support and no legitimate grievances.
American Russia scholar Nicolai Petro, who spent a year in Ukraine and was in country when the upheaval occurred, has cited sociological surveys of Donbas residents from March, April and May of 2014 in which the results show that majorities considered the Right Sector to be dangerous and influential and the Maidan protests to be illegal and representing “an armed overthrow of the government, organized by the opposition, with the assistance of the West.”
Independent video journalist Patrick Lancaster, who has been reporting from the Donbas since spring of 2014, stated that most of the fighters he has encountered on both sides are Ukrainian.
British Russia scholar Paul Robinson has estimated that 90% of the fighters in the Donbas are Ukrainian. Furthermore, he states that the original rebellion constituted regular citizens who took control of local government buildings in response to the startling events coming out of post-coup Kiev where laws were introduced seeking to delegitimize the Russian language, neo-Nazis were given posts in the Interior and Education departments and many acts of violence were committed against members of the Communist Party and the Party of Regions.
When Robinson asked a Maidan protester why this political protest had led to a more violent and divisive result than the Orange Revolution in 2004, the protester admitted that this time they didn’t care what the Crimeans or the residents of the Donbas wanted. So the divisiveness was not initiated by Russia or the ethnic Russian population of Ukraine, but by a portion of the Maidan protesters who basically believed a whole segment of their country should – to put it delicately – kiss off.
Although Russia has provided some arms and allowed Russian volunteers to cross the border freely, Robinson points out that Moscow has actually had a moderating influence on the rebels by facilitating the replacement of the original military leaders (Igor Strelkov and Alexander Borodai) that supported a quixotic quest for independence. An independent Donbas that would be economically unviable and would provide no counterweight to a hostile and extremist government in Kiev is not in Moscow’s interests.