Deny, deny, deny

One thing which struck me during the ‘tele-bridge’ which I described in my last post was the refusal of all concerned to take responsibility for their own actions – everything which went wrong was always the fault of the other party. Another example of this attitude appeared in Monday’s Kyiv Post – an article blaming separatist forces for the shelling of downtown Donetsk on 18 July. According to the Kyiv Post:

At a briefing on July 19, Major General Andriy Taran, the head of the Ukrainian side of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC), said separatist forces had driven out of the city to fire upon the center of it before returning and firing on Ukrainian positions as if in retaliation. The shelling was done specifically to be able to accuse Ukrainian forces of breaking the ceasefire and firing on civilians, Taran said.

Similar claims have been made many times before. For instance, Colonel Andrei Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, has declared that, ‘We have a strict order, the president’s demand [not to fire on residential areas]. The Ukrainian military has repeatedly stated that the militants fire into residential areas in cities near where the government forces are located in order to discredit us.’

This is, of course, nonsense. Ukrainian artillery has hit residential areas of Donetsk, Lugansk, and other towns time and time again. Large numbers of people have died as a result. The Ukrainian government’s refusal to accept responsibility for this is a serious moral failing on its part.

Rebel forces have had less need to engage in such denial, because for most of the war they have had less artillery at their disposal and have been defending urban areas rather than attacking them. Firing out of a city tends to be less damaging than firing into it. But when they have killed civilians, the rebels have been equally unwilling to admit it. An example was the shelling of a bus in Volnovakha on 13 January 2015, which resulted in the deaths of 12 people. Given that the bus was well behind Ukrainian lines, rebel artillery was almost certainly responsible, but rebel leaders have never admitted this. Nor has anybody ever confessed to the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 in July 2014.

The inclination to avoid responsibility is widespread and understandable. What is perhaps surprising is the willingness of outsiders to let people get away with it. Neither Russia nor the West have shown any notable inclination to force their proxies to be more honest. Rather they seem to encourage the tendency to claim that others are at fault. It seems that the desire to maintain an ally’s image outweighs the desire for the truth.


10 thoughts on “Deny, deny, deny”

  1. Your points are correct; I agree on Volnovakha, but think it is too early to really put the verdict down on MH17. Initially, the social media comments of the rebels pointed to possible responsibility, but factual circumstantial evidence since has pointed the other way. Overall of course, the denials are normal within a war situation, although they are quite a bit more outrageous on the Kiev regime side. You’re trying hard to sail a middle ground, and in this case the blame is quite a bit more on the Kiev side.


    1. You are right that the Kiev side to date is responsible for a lot more damage than the rebel side, and its denials are thus all the more outrageous. Were the rebels to take the offensive again, though, and especially if they were to try to retake Mariupol, we might well find that the roles were reversed somewhat.


  2. Isn’t truth the first casualty of war? It is unclear what the Ukrainians and LDPR, or Russia and the West would gain from admissions of guilt, and they have much to lose. Whoever goes first, the chances that the other will do the noble thing and follow suit are pretty slim. Instead they will seize upon it and crucify the opponent. In particular, confessing to shooting down MH-17 would require a near suicidal mindset on the part of those responsible. Especially considering that if either side had any concrete proof against the other, it would have probably come to light by now. Unless there is a behind-the-scenes deal, that is, but that excludes a confession by definition.


    1. Thus my final paragraph – of course those fighting a war will lie, given a chance .But those not involved shouldn’t give them that chance, and should demand truthfulness. Unfortunately, too often we don’t.


  3. Nice post, Paul. What really bothers me is why are you the only one making the case for truth?
    I fear that sociopathic tendencies are becoming normal. That may explain alot.
    Exploitativeness, lack of empathy and entitlement are three traits shared by both abusers and narcissists, according to the DSM – the psychiatric manual by which mental health professionals make psychiatric diagnoses. All may be fair in love and war, but real people are dying while others exploit this situation for money and power.


  4. The MH17 incident is interesting, in this context.

    June 29, 2014:
    DNR forces capture two military bases, with BUK systems on their territory.

    July 15, 2014:
    “SNIZHNE, Ukraine — An airstrike in eastern Ukraine sent an apartment building crumpling to the ground Tuesday, killing at least 11 people and adding to the steadily mounting civilian death toll from the fighting between government forces and pro-Russian insurgents.”

    Jul 17, 2014: the downing of MH17

    I think it’s pretty likely that DNR forces shot it down, by mistake. And I think the July 15 incident is a very good excuse for trying – desperately trying, trying real hard – to protect their skies.

    I think (if indeed that’s what happened) under normal circumstances they could admit it. It was an accident, and their attempt to use a BUK system is perfectly justified. Under the circumstances. The circumstances created by Kiev.

    But add the western russophobe hysteria into the equation – and suddenly the denial makes perfect sense. Oh well, you reap what you sow.


  5. There is pretty convincing evidence, including eyewitness testimony, that the people in Volnovaha died due to one of the passengers running into a Ukrainian landmine, and not due to the shelling.

    As to the social media posts claiming responsibility for MH17, the man who allegedly made that post has denied having any connection to that, both before and after MH17.


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