Face to Face

I love conversion stories. Perhaps that’s because I’ve had so many myself. I consider it ridiculous that we live in a society that condemns people who change their minds as they learn more, while people who double down on their ignorant beliefs in spite of concrete evidence to the contrary attract throngs of followers. This is why I loved this story from Cracked about a chap who was a professional 9/11 truther who had a change of heart. In it, you can watch a documentary featuring the subject, which helps explain why he changed his mind. In short, it wasn’t just meeting experts on architecture and controlled demolition; I felt they left out a lot of arguments that eviscerate the 9/11 conspiracy theory. But one thing that did apparently have an effect on the subject of the article was meeting the families of 9/11 victims face to face.

I found that to be rather interesting because there have been many times when I’ve encountered pro-Kremlin Westerners attacking journalists and experts whose work contradicts the fantasies they have about Putin’s regime. The case of MH17 is a perfect example. These people are so happy to dismiss as propaganda the work of professional journalists from different countries, working for different publications, who actually went to the very sites in Ukraine that are associated with the downing of that civilian airliner. I got to wondering whether these people would be so bold as to call such individuals “presstitutes” to their faces. I’ve met some of these reporters and I’d really like to see how these idiots would talk if they were lobbing their accusations directly at their target, in person, instead of over the internet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those journalists would physically destroy such detractors, only that it’s a little harder to accuse someone of lying for simply doing their job when you actually have to talk to them face to face instead of nitpicking something they wrote. What can you possibly say back to such detractors? “I’m really sorry the Russia I live in every day doesn’t conform to the fantasy version of Russia you’ve created in your head for some unknown reason, but I’m not going to go to my editor, my employer, and hand in a story that has no evidence for it and shit tons of evidence against it. I’m really, really sorry.”

Now as some readers might know, Oliver Stone is supposedly going to release what could be called the Loose Change of Maidan. The trailer already exists, but I’m not going to post it here and give the dickhead views. So far the title is Ukraine on Fire, which makes me wonder if it was named thus truly because Stone wanted to accuse the US of burning down Ukraine, or because he was secretly hoping that people searching for Winter on Fire would find his film by accident. Whatever the case, neither film will really help outsiders understand Ukraine or Maidan, but Stone’s conspiracy film is no doubt going to be based largely around his interview with ex-president Yanukovych, a totally unbiased source on Maidan. The narrative will no doubt be that the US government decided to overthrow the government of Ukraine because a president who had never been particularly hostile to the US decided to suspend the signing of an EU trade agreement he had personally arranged. It’s practically Chile all over again!

It makes me wonder though, if it would help Stone to actually speak to Ukrainians, and not just those involved in Maidan. Maybe he could speak to people who suffered from Yanukovych’s corruption, people whose healthcare system collapsed while the money it  depended on was siphoned off and deposited in Western banks. Maybe he could talk to the many women and young girls who ended up in prostitution out of sheer desperation or in some cases human trafficking, a problem that didn’t start with Yanukovych, but one which he certainly did nothing to solve. Maybe he could talk to some of the victims of the beating on the original Euromaidan. He can ask them why they decided to take US State Department money to…uh…pressure the government into signing the deal they had arranged.

I must admit that when Maidan first happened, I had a lot of negative thoughts towards it in spite of my opposition to Kremlin propaganda. My background and disconnection from Ukraine led me to focus on those things which I found most threatening, like the far right, instead of looking at the bigger picture, that what far right involvement existed had a lot to do with the fact that Yanukovych and his clique’s brazen corruption had essentially united a vast swath of Ukrainian society against him. In this way it was like the Moscow protests I’d witnessed in 2011, which also had a far-right component which was not representative nor anywhere close to a majority of the protesters.

During my three trips to Ukraine in 2015, the first such trips in five years at that point, I met both organizers and participants in Maidan. While I never bought into the bullshit story of the State Department paying people to protest, talking to these people face to face only made the idea seem even more absurd, as absurd as someone suggesting that I protested the invasion of Iraq because I’d received money from the Hussein regime. I was particularly floored when I learned that some Ukrainians had apparently been told that the red and black OUN flag was in fact a historical Ukrainian cossack flag (it’s not) and not a proprietary symbol of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Suddenly I thought of all those crowd shots with all those red and black flags and I wondered how many people waving those flags actually knew what they stood for? Could they really be blamed? How many Americans still defend the Confederate flag, ignorantly insisting that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery? Americans should know better, whereas most Ukrainians, due to the nature of the Soviet education system and the rather poor alternative that took its place, have a defense.

It’s not that Stone wouldn’t be able to find people involved with Maidan with horrible views. I’m sure he could and he probably should, for the sake of balance. But the fact is that this man wants to tell us the “truth” about what happened in Ukraine and I seriously doubt that he’s ever really spent significant time talking to ordinary Ukrainians. People like Stone need to keep a certain distance from their subjects, so as to protect their oversimplified worldview. Ukrainians aren’t people like him, people angry with their government who might want to do something about it. They’re just pawns and dupes who will sell their country to the American New World Order for twenty bucks, even if it means being beaten, gassed, and even shot until they overthrow their government. Sure, he could meet with an organizer or two and then rationalize dismissing them by labeling them as agents of the State Department. But what’s the probability you’re going to run into such an agent if you go into a random restaurant in Kyiv and start talking to young people there?

By meeting people who suffered from 9/11, that truther from the documentary learned that his conspiracy theories weren’t a victimless crime. He was spitting on the graves of people’s relatives, people he’d never met and never known, and yet he basically thought they were hapless dupes fooled by the state into thinking they’d been killed by terrorists instead of some government plot. Stone and those who think like him are doing the same thing to the people of Ukraine. The US-backed coup narrative is not just another conspiracy theory. It has led to some of the worst bloodshed in Europe since the Yugoslav Wars of Secession in the 1990’s.

Sadly I doubt he’ll actually go and speak to the sort of Ukrainians I mentioned just as he won’t be talking to any ordinary Venezuelans about the achievements of “Bolivarian socialism” or Russian opposition supporters about Putin’s great alternative to Western hegemony. Humanizing these people in his own mind would then require him to draw conclusions. He might have to actually envision a world where having a beef with the US government doesn’t necessarily make a leader a hero of the people. He might realize that many of these leaders don’t actually provide a viable alternative to the American or Western system, that in fact their proposed  “alternatives” tend to be worse, and that his primitive “enemy of my enemy is my friend” worldview is laughably unrealistic. Worst of all, having realized all this Stone might be forced to form a coherent, consistent political worldview and engage in real activism toward changing the American system rather than professional conspiracy mongering.





43 thoughts on “Face to Face

  1. Mr. Hack

    If you haven’t already, I’d urge you to view another documentary that most likely presents a differing view of the events surrounding the Maidan, including a lot of footage of ‘ordinary Ukrainians’ caught up in that violent drama: “Freedom or Death’ by Damina Kolodiy.

    ‘”They’re not fighting for any particular politician. They’re fighting for the future of their country; for what they believe is freedom”, he explains. As the violence unfolds just before the lens, Kolody’s camera focuses right in on the heart of the insurrection, and with exhaustive detail his captivating film picks apart every facet of the uprising.’ https://www.journeyman.tv/film/6584/freedom-or-death

  2. Mr. Hack

    If you haven’t already, I’d urge you to view another documentary that most likely presents a differing view of the events surrounding the Maidan, including a lot of footage of ‘ordinary Ukrainians’ caught up in that violent drama: “Freedom or Death’ by Damian Kolodiy.

    ‘”They’re not fighting for any particular politician. They’re fighting for the future of their country; for what they believe is freedom”, he explains. As the violence unfolds just before the lens, Kolody’s camera focuses right in on the heart of the insurrection, and with exhaustive detail his captivating film picks apart every facet of the uprising.’ https://www.journeyman.tv/film/6584/freedom-or-death

  3. AndyT

    The Internet has given us more freedom… it can be used in very different ways, though.

    Behind a screen, people can get away with almost everything – and dehumanizing one’s opponents has become a common practice.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Indeed. Most people have no idea how news media works. When you don’t know anyone who has worked in it, it’s easy to imagine some journalist telling his editor- “I didn’t really find any evidence that Russia had something to do with MH17, but I’ll just say that I did, making up fake witnesses and such.”

      1. Asehpe

        A situation made worse by the fact that a lot of the present-day Russian media does exactly that, and I surmise conversations not so terribly different from the one you describe may take place within their confines… Which makes it easier to believe the same about more reputable Western sources. If we do it, why wouldn’t they?…

      2. AndyT

        Also, I find many people are getting – and spreading increasingly confused messages.

        Today, a guy has begun following me on Twitter; I checked his profile, and I’ve found:

        1) Nostalgic remarks about Benito Mussolini AND Enraged posts against police brutality;
        2) Lenghty rants against Italy finally introducing domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples AND enthusiastic remarks about Elton John;
        3) Heartfelt appeals against the EU and the Bilderberg Club killing democracy AND a lot of supporting tweets for Italian neo-fascists groups.

        Really… WTF?

  4. Gabriel Gerard

    I was wondering when you’d write an article on Oliver Stone and his pro-Kremlin, anti-Euromaiden worldview.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      There is that link in this article to the piece in 2014 where I named him Useful Idiot of the year. This was right after the story about him interviewing Yanukovych.

      Stone lost the plot a long time ago. He was a product of a generation betrayed by its government, but then he took things too far and decided that anything his government ever says or does must be wrong and any alleged opponent of that government must be virtuous.

      1. Gabriel Gerard

        I must’ve forgotten about your previous piece on Stone. Oh well: serves me right for posting a comment at five in the morning, I suppose. Nevertheless, I’m glad you decided to revisit Stone and his particular brand of pro-Putin/Yanukovych propaganda. Fortunately for those of us who live in the real world, Stone has alienated most “mainstream” audiences. The only people who are going to see this movie are people who already agree with Stone’s agenda and believe events like Euromaiden and the Arab Spring were CIA plots.

        Speaking of CIA plots: do you plan on doing a piece about the rise and fall of Kirchener, Rouseff and Maduro anytime soon?

  5. Mr. Hack

    Seeing how Stone tries to sugarcoat the malfeasance of Yanukovych, who at the time of the filming of this documentary was listed on Interpol’s most waned list, would be interesting in itself. I’ll probably wait till one can view it for free on the internet though (which shouldn’t take too long), not wanting to put one single penney in Stone’s checkbook.

    1. Shalcker

      Well, one of the problems with “Interpol” argument is that Ukraine failed to pin anything real on him or his supporters so far, and they are slowly going off that list… and Ukraine had more then two years at this point to do it.

      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Sorry but Yanukovych’s massive corruption isn’t up for debate. Perhaps there’d be something more concrete were he to stand trial. That was the purpose of the Interpol thing.

      2. Mr. Hack

        Since Yanukovych is stil enjoying the benefits that his Russian protector is providing him, and he still is ‘exiled’ in Russia, we may never know the full extent of perfidity. I’m not sure if other countries have him listed as persona non grata, even after his extrication from the Interpol list?

      3. Shalcker

        What, did you expect Yanukovich to testify against himself if he would not enjoy Russian protection?

        Certainly he was corrupt; but he’ll get off Interpol list (if he isn’t already) because him appearing there has all signs of being politically motivated due to lack of proof. If crimes were done on Ukrainian soil there should be enough documents and witnesses to prove what happened without him. But nope…

      4. Jim Kovpak Post author

        He need not testify against himself. If there is a trial process there will be witnesses, documents, etc. But apparently Ukraine does not want to try him in absentia.

      5. Mr. Hack

        I’m sure that the current prosecutors in Ukraine have already amassed an impressive case against Yanukovych and his most loyal co-conspirators. That’s why we wont be seeing any of them in Ukraine, for some time to come. Freezing their assets in the West will help flush this vermin out, as their sagging resources dry up.

      6. Shalcker

        >I’m sure that the current prosecutors in Ukraine have already amassed an impressive case against Yanukovych and his most loyal co-conspirators.

        I don’t see where this conviction comes from. If they are then they are not sharing it with anyone, even if alternative is releasing frozen assets (some of which were frozen even before revolution as West was putting pressure on Yanukovich and his entourage)… Are they bought by those co-conspirators? Playing some political games? Or actually so incompetent they couldn’t make a case in two years? It’s hard to tell in Ukraine.

        >Freezing their assets in the West will help flush this vermin out, as their sagging resources dry up.
        Time is running out as they successfully sue to get those assets unfrozen now.

      7. ramendik

        Yanukovich was corrupt. He also abolished conscription. Yeltsin was also corrupt and promised to abolish conscription, but he lied, while Yanukovich actually did it. The revolutionaries promptly reinstated it and doubled down.

        I was a Yeltsin supporter in the 90s and I can’t help noticing the similarity and key difference.

        As for standing trial, remember how Milosevic stood trial, and how they did a Magnitsky on him when his defence was found to be able enough?

      8. Jim Kovpak Post author

        “The revolutionaries promptly reinstated it and doubled down.”

        Oh gee…Why did they do that? Hmmm….

        And as for your conspiracy theory about Milosevic, feel free to present some evidence for that.

      9. ramendik

        Milosevic has asked for medical help. He has not received it. He died. Which of these three are even questionable? I see no difference from the Magnitsky story.

        After that, and also after the same ICTY decided to acquit Ante Gotovina (whose operation was clear ethnic cleansing), I can only describe the ICTY as a kangaroo court. And certainly Yanukovich would not want to face something like that, or even worse. See the Kolchak trial in Irkutsk for the way revolutionaries usually “do” trials against leaders of the other side.

        Mass enslavement of Ukrainian citizens in the “mohilizatsiya” is just that – and note what they did to Ruslan Kotsaba, as far from a vatnik as one could imagine, for pointing that out. (Note: I did attend more than one protest against conscription in Russia back in the 90s. I happen to hold the same principles whatever the jurisdiction).

      10. Jim Kovpak Post author

        If you see no difference from the Magnitsky story, I’m afraid you’re simply not familiar enough with the case. Also Magnitsky had signs of beating and mistreatment, whereas in Milosevic’s case an investigation found no signs of foul play. Also when it comes to medical aid, Milosevic specifically requested surgery in Moscow, which is highly suspicious given the fact that other countries have much better medical care than Russia even today, and the Russian elite typically go to Europe for such care.

        I wouldn’t exclude some culpability of the authorities but the idea that they “killed” him because he was beating their charges simply doesn’t hold up, and the comparison with Magnitsky is ridiculous. He raised the issue of people defrauding the government out of something like $230 million dollars. Rather than investigate that, they chose to jail him on spurious charges and then convict him posthumously. Isn’t it odd they have no concern over their own government losing $230 million? That’s for schools, for maternity capital, pensions, etc. But who cares? True Russian patriots need their Mercedes and European summer homes!

      1. Shalcker

        He agreed to it then bailed out at last moment under Russian pressure (and promises of monetary and industrial support beyond EU offers – which were true).

        Then one incompetent and corrupt government was replaced with another incompetent and corrupt government and destroyed their own negotiating position.

  6. ramendik

    Well, this can be turned right back.

    How many people from the Donbass have YOU talked to? I have some friends there and their experience totally contradicts the “invaders/terrorists” narrative pushed by Kiev and Western mainstream media. In fact, I caught “MIrotvorets” at presenting a provable Donetsk native, who fought for the DPR and was killed in combat, as a “Russian mercenary”.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      You realize that Strelkov himself has admitted to starting the war, right? Apart from that, look at all the key figures that started the whole referendum business. Strelkov, Borodai, and others- Russian citizens. Within a few months they suddenly have an “insurgency” that fights with almost entirely conventional tactics. They’ve been carrying this on with little respite since summer of 2014. Do you have any idea how expensive it is to wage war with modern weapons (as they curiously use)? The costs in food, fuel, medical supplies, water, ammunition of all kinds, etc.?

      1. ramendik

        I’m not denying that Russia is financing the separatist war effort. But you studied Russian modern history, right? There was the Russian Civil War. And there was Kolchak, the leader of the White Army, his HQ in Omsk. And there was that famous song with “uniform from England, shoulder strap from France, tobacco from Japan, ruler from Omsk”. And it had a good factual basis, too. Yet nobody denies Russia did have a civil war.

        My question here was specifically about your note that Oliver Stone’s position is weakened by him not spending enough time face to face with people who were actually affected. I say that your position about the Donbass has exactly the same problem. Which is a very different statement from “Russia is not there at all at all”.

        (You also did some name picking there. Yes, Strelkov and Borodai, from Russia. But also: Zakharchenko, Purgin, Mozgovoy, many more – local. Also Bezler from Crimea, which was a part of Ukraine and you hold still is).

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        “I say that your position about the Donbass has exactly the same problem.”

        Except I have talked to people from cities like Donetsk and Luhansk. In fact, most of my contacts in Ukraine are from there. I’ve talked to eyewitnesses to the early anti-Maidan protests.

        Those other folks might be local, but the key men at the key time- Russian citizens.

        Now if you’re trying to tell me that there are people in the Donbas who willingly went with the rebel side- there’s no question. But there’s never been any evidence to show a majority of people there wanted to break off from Ukraine.

      3. ramendik

        Well yes, there is no separatist majority. In fact all my contacts there except one don’t seem genuinely enthusiastic about seceding. They would slip into describing “the country” as in Ukraine. The grievances they had, however, were against Kiev encroachment on their rights, which was well known from the time before Yanukovych and started to arise very quickly after the revolution. One lady, for example, described how her Ukraininan language professors tried to force her onto the pro-Ukraine protests, so naturally she went to support the other side.

      4. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Where was this widespread concern about Kyiv encroaching on their rights until March 2014? Donbas, outside of key major cities, has huge problems, but they can thank Yanukovych for that.

      5. ramendik

        Where was the major concern? In protests, of course. There were demands for Russian-language education and the like all through the 2000s in the Donbass and in Kharkiv too, with a significant number of protesters turning out. It’s just that they were not armed so it did not make front pages outside of the regions (and especially outside Ukraine), one has to look for the news.

        The Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law largely settled the issues, as they were more about language than anything else. After the law the protests turn small, like that 2013 protest against the visit of the US ambassador by Purgin’s organization.

        The revolutionaries announced they would rescind the law, and that, of course, galvanized resistance. You don’t have to bus people in from Russia when you have locals at the end of their school years, in March, worried they will not be getting into the universities without learning another language.

        As for Kharkiv, one particular flag may have been installed by a Russian, but the main crowd was all local – many of them still in prison, despite not doing anything the Maidan activists did not do.

        (I certainly can agree that the Ukrainian grassroots did a much better job demanding Savchenko’s release than the Russians demanding the release of the numerous pro-Russian political prisoners. I would very much support an all-for-all exchange of political prisoners).

        This insurgency also built up, starting with city protests in early to mid March, then the well-known “old ladies against tanks” scenes. It was going on for more than a month before Strelkov arrived.

      6. Jim Kovpak Post author

        More errors here. First of all, those protests you admitted were not violent and didn’t seek separatism or armed conflict.

        Next, “the revolutionaries” did not announce the rescinding of the law. Some populist jackasses took advantage of the chaos to repeal the law. Ukraine’s not particularly known for effecting legislation very quickly even when they do pass something, so the idea that this was all about the language is ridiculous, especially when that new law was itself quickly repealed. If that was the cause, those people should have celebrated and be done with it.

        Also, nobody would have to “learn a second language.” People in the Donbas tend to speak a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian and they generally have a working knowledge of Ukrainian if they’re not fluent.

        The fact that people were bused into these rallies is well established- this is why many of them suddenly disappeared when the Ukrainians started tightening controls on the border.

        You say that people were arrested for doing the same thing that some Maidan protesters did. Well some Maidan protesters who were doing nothing illegal were severely beaten or shot. I’m sure they’d prefer jail and a trial with due process.

        On that note about Savchenko, you can blame the lack of Russian concern for their own on the Putin regime’s destruction of civil society and promoting of a highly atomized, fuck-everybody-but-me atmosphere. There may be plenty of rats in Ukraine too, but there are far more people who understand that community and national issues are important.

        As for those early protests- note how there was no actual war until Strelkov showed up. And keep in mind that in April, when they had seized weapons and buildings, Turchinov again offered the rebels amnesty if they’d just leave the buildings and the weapons. This was before the ATO even started.

      7. ramendik

        It’s one thing to have a working knowledge enough to deal with a trader at a bazaar. It’s quite another to be able to pass formal tests in the language. And they were facing that in three short months if the jackasses (your term) had their way. Then once the genie was out of the bottle, a mere rescission would not fix this, and Kiev was at the time dead set against decentralizing.

        (Which served it badly with Crimea, too. Here’s something not really flouted by either side: even with the “green men” in, at first. on March 3, the parliament of Crimea voted for a referendum on restoring the 1992 Constitution. That Constitution defined Crimea as a federal part of Ukraine. Then on March 5 Kiev announced prosecution of the deputies – yes. the deputies, not the “green men” – for treason! And only after that, on March 6, an independence – really “join Russia” – referendum was voted upon.)

        I’m not sure how much “due process” the people arrested in Kharkiv and Odessa actually got, but I think you are right that the weakening of civil society did a great disservice to the “Russian world” here. Not half of what really had to be done was done. I tried to run a database of political prisoners in Ukraine, actually, but it was too much for one person and I failed to find other volunteers so it’s frozen in a sometime-in-2015 state. Perhaps I should give another shot to finding them.

      8. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I’m sorry but this is simply too riddled with errors. I suggest you read Brothers Armed, one of the most accurate works on the takeover, which actually comes from a Moscow-based think tank.

        Your speculation as to the language thing doesn’t hold water. For one thing, as I said before that law was pushed through by opportunists and quickly repealed. The idea that people in a Russian-speaking city (Kyiv) would actually ban the Russian language is laughable.

        And ironically, now many diplomas from universities in occupied territory are useless thanks to the “rescuers” of Russian-speakers.

      9. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Also, since Brothers Armed is extremely expensive:

        “On 27 February, Russian special forces [101] seized the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea and the building of the Council of Ministers in Simferopol.[102][103] Russian flags were raised over these buildings,[104] and barricades were erected outside them.[105] Whilst the “little green men” were occupying the Crimean parliament building, the parliament held an emergency session.[106][107] It voted to terminate the Crimean government, and replace Prime Minister Anatolii Mohyliov with Sergey Aksyonov.[108] Aksyonov belonged to the Russian Unity party, which received 4% of the vote in the last election.[107] According to the Constitution of Ukraine, the Prime Minister of Crimea is appointed by the Supreme Council of Crimea in consultation with the President of Ukraine.[109][110] Both Aksyonov and speaker Vladimir Konstantinov stated that they viewed Viktor Yanukovych as the de jure president of Ukraine, through whom they were able to ask Russia for assistance.[111]”

      10. ramendik

        Thanks for the quote! I’m really not able to pay that sort of money for the research book, sorry.

        As for Crimea, my only reference was to the timeline when the prosecution for treason came before the decision for secession. Which is possibly not what the “little green men” wanted, but I guess one would have to interview the deputies to know more.

      11. Jim Kovpak Post author

        The problem is that the armed men seized the parliament before such a vote took place. What happened before was just rumor.

      12. ramendik

        But there was the official vote result and there was the Kiev government instigating prosecution for treason. If the Kiev government believed the armed men took the deputies hostage, then it prosecuted the hostages!

      13. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I should also point out that during my second trip to Donetsk oblast I met three people who were clearly pro-Russian and repeating the same Russian TV talking points in spite of living on the Ukrainian side. So I’m familiar with their perspective. All my time there was spent in formerly DNR territory.

      14. ramendik

        Also your definiton of “key men at the key time” seems very restrictive. The mass protests that started in early March were led by locals. And most militia was led by locals, too. Why would you call Strelkov and Borodai the only key persons, when it were people like Purgin (a federalization campaigner since 2005) who started the fuss and people like Mozgovoy and Bezler who did most of the early fighting?

      15. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Not really. First of all many of the people in the protests were Russian citizens bused in from across the border. That one guy who famously put a Russian flag on Kharkiv’s admin building for example was a Russian citizen (this was discovered after the fact).

        Russia has funded what were for a long time obscure, small organizations that promoted anti-Ukrainian sentiments for a long time, long before Maidan (which kind of negates justifications that this was all about Maidan or nationalism).

        Also you’ll note that some original leaders were arrested and disarmed by Borodai and Strelkov. They never would have been able to start a serious war without Russian help.

        Real insurgencies take time to build up and usually begin with small hit and run tactics.

      16. ramendik

        Aha – sorry, I was not aware you did speak to pro-Russian people in the Donbass. However, you dismiss their claims as “TV talking points”. I suspect that if Stone were to have a chat with Maidan supporters he would also dismiss their claims as campaign talking points, whether TV or Twitter.

        The fun usually starts when you get behind the “TV talking points” to the real grievances, and you need some time for that. I had that experience in 2006 in Belarus when I went to a Linux outing outside Minsk, to try and find out why the “national operating system” project was not getting off the ground. I got the talking points first, about Belarusian language and what not, which sounded somewhat shallow. Eventually the real reason came out: Lukashenko did not understand small business as a vehicle for innovation and in particular wrestled some companies (notably a pioneering cell phone company) into state control, thus alienating the professional community.

        Then to top it all I bought Sovetskaya Belorussuya which basically confirmed everything form the other side, with Lukashenko describing the big plants like MAZ as vehicles of innovation, and another article describing small business favourable – in “little shop” terms.

        I failed to publish the findings at the time because, to have a complete picture, I’d need to visit the big plants where Lukashenko expected innovation and see how it was getting on, and I never got to that.

      17. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I’m not dismissing them by calling them “talking points.” It just means they say the things that you tend to hear from the Russian side. There are plenty of “pro-Ukraine” talking points as well, and some of them are flat out false. The most insulting one I hear, always from these Western well-wishers, is “Ukrainians were dying to get into Europe.”

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