Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 12.02.2021
The Russian Federation tries out its hybrid warfare against Ukraine before deploying it against the United States. Disinformation attacks are honed against Ukrainians first because they’re a tougher target, inured to centuries of Russian imperialist aggression. Americans are a secondary target, more vulnerable because they have less experience of the depravity of Chekist violence.
This is the way it was with the Russian response to two great democratic events in the life of Ukraine and the USA: the EuroMaidan revolution and the 2020 Presidential election. Kremlin information warfare mounted a massive disinformation campaign against these seminal moments. In Ukraine, Putin at war said that “Maidan was a coup!” In the USA, the campaign was “Stop the steal!”
Disinformation lies at the heart of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity and on America’s 2020 election.
The Revolution of Dignity of 2013-14 was a genuine expression of the will of the Ukrainian people. But Russian information warfare outlets falsely called Maidan (as it was also know) a “coup.” Putin launched a massive disinformation campaign using the slogan “Maidan was a coup!” to justify his invasion of Ukraine. The early months of the invasion by the Muscovites were characterized by organized mobs seizing Ukrainian public buildings. The false front for these mobs were that they were made up of “anti-Maidan” protesters.
The 2020 Presidential election was a genuine expression of the will of the American people. Calling the 2020 U.S. election “stolen” is false. But “Stop the steal!” became a Russian-backed disinformation effort to instigate the 6 January 2021 insurrection in Washington, D.C.. The false front placed on the mob organized to attack the Capitol was that it was a defence of the “real winner” of the election, Trump.
“Maidan was a coup!” and “Stop the steal!” are not only Big Lies but stupid ones. They make no sense and are unsupported by facts, evidence or argument. Even though they were built on the weakest of foundations these active measures of Russian disinformation sustained the appalling violence against Ukrainian and American democracy that followed. The falsehood of Maidan as a “coup” diverted attention from the fact that the 20 February 2014 invasion of Ukraine was planned for a long time by the Russian Federation. The falsehood that the U.S. election as “stolen” was a pretext for the 6 January 2021 insurrection that was planned if Trump lost.
Extraordinary participation characterized EuroMaidan. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians lived in a city-within-a-city in the centre of Kyiv for three cold months from November 2013 to February 2014. Over several weekends they were joined by over a million people for protest rallies. Every city of Ukraine saw protests against the Yanukovych kleptocracy, including cities in Crimea and Donbas. The Revolution of Dignity was a genuine, spontaneous and massive expression of the will of the Ukrainian people. In no respect was it a coup.
Yanukovych chose to withdraw from the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. He chose to attack peaceful protesters. Yanukovych got his Party of Regions to pass illegal “dictatorship laws.” He ordered snipers to kill Ukrainians and then he fled Kyiv. Yanukovych abandoned his post as President by his own actions. There was no coup.
The initial phase of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine included busloads of Russians brought across the border to Ukrainian cities. Simferopol, Donetsk, Luhansk, Odesa, Kharkiv, Dnipro and other cities were hit. Organized, violent mobs attacked public buildings, directed by Russian security service agents and special forces soldiers. Russian information warfare blasted the message that these people were “anti-Maidan” demonstrators.
The turn out in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election was greater than any before. Joe Biden won the popular vote and the Electoral College overwhelmingly. There were no voting irregularities that would have altered the result in any way. Election officials, experts, observers, the courts and journalists who aren’t compromised all assessed the election to be free and fair. Joe Biden won and Trump lost, fair and square.
Trump was asked if he would guarantee a peaceful transfer of power in the United States. He refused to do so. At no point did he concede the election to Joe Biden or acknowledge that the election was free and fair. He told officials in the state of Georgia to find votes for him. He told the insurrectionists that the rules don’t apply to them and they should fight. It was Trump and his Russian handlers who tried to steal the election but they failed.
The January 6th insurrection included busloads of Americans brought in to attack the Capitol. Organized online, the mobs were directed by agents provocateurs and fascist paramilitaries like the Proud Boys. They were helped from the inside, including the political leadership of the Pentagon and the FBI. Disinformation outlets like Fox News and lesser-known Internet portals presented the insurrectionists as “Stop the Steal!” demonstrators and they suppressed the truth of events.
Putin doesn’t understand democracy. He is little more than a sabotage and disruption agent from the KGB. Putin doesn’t believe people as a whole have real power. He cannot conceive that human beings can genuinely aspire to a better life and of their own free will act collectively to achieve it. Putin believes that power lies only in domination and submission. Because he fears and hates democracy, Putin does everything he can to delegitimize it.
Unfortunately, the big and stupid lie works. Appeasers of aggressor Russia latch onto the “Maidan was a coup!” lie and talk about Russian soldiers invading Ukraine as if they were “pro-Russian separatists.” Anti-democracy forces in the United States stand behind the “Stop the steal!” lie to justify their insurrection.
A lie is not just another point of view to the truth. It is a fundamental attack on the notion of truth altogether. We cannot give oxygen to the Big Lie in the name of balance. To win the war the Russian Federation started we must destroy their most potent weapon: disinformation.
The Revolution of Dignity of the Ukrainian people was not a coup. The U.S. election was not stolen. They were genuine, legitimate and thoroughly humane expressions of democracy.
Photo: Dr. Michael MacKay observing the 2014 presidential election in Ukraine
Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 20.01.2021
The political career of Trump was crafted as an act of war by the Russian Federation against the United States, from beginning to end.
The Russians modelled this active measure on the one they first used with Yanukovych in Ukraine. Everything the Russians do through their agent Trump in the U.S. they tried first using their agent Yanukovych in Ukraine. Understanding what the Russians do in their war against the Ukrainian people gives insight into what they’ll do in their war against Americans.
In the end, Yanukovych escaped justice. He has never been punished for the crimes and treason he committed against the Ukrainian people. If Americans are unwise they’ll let Trump go unpunished for the terrible things he’s done to them and to their democracy. They will then have a similar fate to the one Ukrainians have endured.
Trump and Yanukovych are both past their peak of usefulness to the Russians. But useful they were, for the treachery of these two men helped expand the war the Russian Federation is fighting against Ukraine into a global war.
The crimes and treason of Yanukovych stretch over a long period. 2014 was their peak.
The greatest crimes of Yanukovych were ordering the Maidan Massacre and stealing billions of dollars from the Ukrainian state. The greatest treason was appealing to Putin to invade Ukraine and being the figurehead for Moscow’s war.
In January 2014, Yanukovych rammed the “dictatorship laws” through the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. He sent the Berkut riot police, Internal Ministry troops, and organized gangs of thugs known as “titushki” to attack Ukrainians protesting in the centre of Kyiv. They were protesting for a better life, free of corruption, and for Ukraine to reach its rightful place in Europe and the West.
In February 2014, Yanukovych ordered snipers (including Russian Federation agents) to shoot the protesters. The worst of the Maidan Massacre was on 20 February 2014. Over 100 people, known as the “Heaven’s Hundred,” were killed by the reign of terror that Yanukovych authorized. On the night of 21 February 2014, Yanukovych fled Kyiv. He abandoned his post as President to escape the consequences of the terrible crimes he had committed.
Putin launched his long-planned invasion of Ukraine, starting in Crimea and moving on to Donbas. With Russian help, Yanukovych tried to mount an insurrection against the new Ukrainian government that had been formed after he fled. He failed. On 1 March 2014, Yanukovych issued a statement in which he appealed to Putin to invade Ukraine. This was cover for the invasion that had already started. Yanukovych had been exfiltrated by Russian agents and taken to the Russian Federation. He remains there to this day.
The reasons Yanukovych escaped justice were that the Ukrainian government was newly-formed, the Russian Federation had started its invasion of Ukraine, and Yanukovych came under Putin’s protection. If Trump escapes justice the reasons will be different. But that won’t matter if the dispassionate application of the law to every citizen, including Trump, isn’t respected. It will be every bit as disastrous as it was in Ukraine.
In the first year of invasion, Putin used Yanukovych as a figurehead for his “Novorossiya” active measure. This was a fabrication of Russian Federation security and intelligence services to present what is an international war as if it was a civil war. The Russians brought out Yanukovych occasionally for press conferences, presenting him as the “legitimate” President of Ukraine. They did this to undermine the administration of President Poroshenko and to weaken Ukraine’s defence from armed aggression by the Russian Federation in Crimea and Donbas.
At a press conference in Rostov-on-Don on 28 February 2014, Yanukovych became so enraged while making a statement that he snapped a pen in two. The image of him doing that became iconic. Putin was in charge of the war in Ukraine and over Yanukovych.
Yanukovych was convicted by a Ukrainian court, in absentia, for treason. But there’s no prospect Yanukovych will face justice until Ukraine wins the war started by the Muscovites in 2014.
With no allies fighting alongside it, Ukrainians defend Europe from the Russian invasion alone. Support is lacking from the West, aggression is coming from the East. The unpunished crimes and treason of Putin puppet Yanukovych remain a dolorous wound from which Ukraine will not be healed until Western democracies realize the existential threat and come up with a plan for victory over the Russian Federation.
The Maidan killers have not been punished. The money Yanukovych stole has not been recovered. Crimea and and parts of Donbas have not been liberated from the Russian invaders. This is most of all the fault of the aggressor state, the Russian Federation. The enemy shelters former members of the Berkut and other Maidan killers, some of whom are now aiding the violent repressions of Belarusians by Lukashenka. While sheltering Yanukovych, Putin has integrated the Yanukovych Clan crime syndicate into his own vast criminal enterprise. The Russian Federation maintains an army of occupation in southern and eastern Ukraine, waging a war in Europe that has lasted longer than the First World War or the Second World War.
Yanukovych wasn’t punished for his crimes and treason. This has helped Putin. The consequences for the U.S. if Trump gets away with all that he’s done will be a disaster and will follow the same pattern of instability, violence, lawlessness and chaos. We can predict this because Yanukovych-for-President was the Russian active measure that preceded the Trump-for-President active measure. From the time Yanukovych abandoned his post and fled justice, Ukraine has endured almost seven years of Russian invasion and partial occupation. Yanukovych has been a figurehead for Russian information warfare throughout the war but especially in its first year.
Putin would like Trump to endure as a goad for the Russian active measure of organized, violent opposition to American democracy.
The Russian Federation repeats the “hybrid war” campaigns it wages against Ukraine against the United States. The 6 January 2021 insurrection at the Capitol was an organized mob of MAGAts that was seeded with right-wing militia, got help from the inside, and was incited by Trump and information warfare on the Internet. These were Chekist active measures, modelled on the attacks the Muscovites made on Ukrainian cities in March-April 2014. These attacks were led by organized mobs of vatniks that were seeded with titushki, got help from the inside, and were incited by Yanukovych and information warfare on the Internet.
Putin uses Yanukovych’s escape from justice to his advantage in the war he’s waging against the Ukrainian people. Putin will exploit Trump in his war against the American people for as long as his puppet’s crimes and treason remain unpunished.
The Russians have a lot to work with. Over 74 million Americans voted for Trump, even after experiencing the effects this horrible human being had on them for four years. In a poll taken after January 9th, one-third of Americans still support Trump. That means they approve of the insurrection against American democracy. Mainstream TV and Internet from which most Americans get the news is either compromised or defenceless in the face of Russian information warfare. The Russian Federation’s unprovoked war against Ukraine is ignored.
Putin will present Trump as the “legitimate” President, as he did with Yanukovych throughout 2014 and into 2015. Russian information warfare will stay fully behind the falsehood that the 3 November 2020 in the U.S. was “stolen.” The Russians will do so as they have falsely claimed that the Revolution of Dignity of the Ukrainian people was a “NATO-backed coup.”
The U.S. largely abandoned constitutional government and the rule of law when Russian-backed Republicans in the Senate excused Trump’s crimes and treason at the first impeachment trial. If the second impeachment trial or other mechanisms of American justice fail again, the U.S. is in deep, deep trouble.
Putin treats Trump as another Yanukovych. The Russian Federation wages war against the U.S. as an extension of its war against Ukraine. Putin got Russian agents into the highest executive office in Ukraine and the U.S.. These efforts started the same, with the Putin regime decisively influencing elections. They proceeded the same with endless crimes and treason. They ended the same with organized political violence. Don’t let the denouement be the same. Learn from Ukraine’s experience. Don’t let the crimes and treason of Trump go unpunished.
Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 12.01.2021
The story unfolding in the United States with the insurrection at the Capitol is one that’s been told before. The Russian Federation is at war with Ukraine, and its invasion began in 2014 with organized mobs seizing public buildings in Ukrainian cities. Whether they know it or not, Americans have become players in a familiar play.
Here’s the script of Putin at war. The time is the early months of 2014. The place is Ukraine. The conclusion, which is not yet written, will happen in 2021 in the United States.
The cast of characters:
VATNIKS: A vatnik is person completely indoctrinated by Russian disinformation. A vatnik is a zombie, believing the oligarchs who steal are benefactors and the foreign invaders who take the land are liberators. Vatniks make up the greatest number of people in the Russian Federation’s provocations against Ukraine but they are the least important. They’re there to make active measures seem to be something other than what they are. The equivalent of a vatnik in the United States is a “deplorable” or a MAGAt.
TITUSHKI: Titushki are violent, organized mobs, directed to break up any form of public expression the pro-Russian oligarchy doesn’t like. They’re usually under the protection of the police. Titushki were used extensively by the Yanukovych Clan to break up the Revolution of Dignity. They were unsuccessful in Kyiv but in Donetsk they overwhelmed the pro-Ukraine majority. The closest equivalent in the United States are the Proud Boys and other fascist paramilitary organizations friendly to the Trump regime.
AGENTS PROVOCATEURS: These are direct Russian agents, seeded in the mob, covered by the noise of the vatniks, directing the violence of the titushki. They are the fewest in number and the most dangerous. They were in the United States at the Capitol insurrection, shouting «Смелее! Смелее!» – “Be bold! Go for it!”
SPETSNAZ: Special operations troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation were used prominently when Putin invaded Ukraine. They removed their insignia and were known as “little green men.” The equivalent in the United States are the unidentified federal officers who violently confronted American citizens in Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Setting the stage:
The Revolution of Dignity of the Ukrainian people started on 21 November 2013 to protest Yanukovych’s withdrawal from the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. It grew into a mass movement of millions of people striving for a better life, for an end to corruption, for democracy, and for Ukraine to pursue a path to Euro-Atlantic integration.
Yanukovych sent the Berkut riot police, Internal Ministry troops, and titushki to beat and kill Ukrainians. He ordered snipers to carry out the Maidan Massacre – over 100 people were killed, becoming known as the “Heaven’s Hundred.” On the night of 21 February 2014, Yanukovych fled his palace at Mezhyhirya north of Kyiv and flew in a helicopter to Kharkiv.
At Kharkiv, Yanukovych tried to set up a provisional government, conspiring with the traitors Hennadiy Kernes and Mykhailo Dobkin. Kernes later became infamous as part of the mafia circle that included Pavlo Fuchs and Rudy Giuliani. Yanokovych’s attempt to lead a counter-revolution failed and the Russians exfiltrated him from Crimea, taking him in a boat to Rostov. Although convicted in absentia in Ukraine for treason, Yanukovych remains in the Russian Federation under the protection of the dictator Putin.
Giving up on Yanukovych, Putin activated his plan to invade Ukraine. At all costs, he felt he had to stop the Revolution of Dignity. Russian propaganda had always presented Ukrainians as “brother Slavs.” But if Russians were to see that Ukrainians were living freely and independently in a democratic society then they might get the idea that they also could live that way. Putin couldn’t have that.
The Russian Federation invaded Ukraine using maskirovka, which is masked warfare. Organized mobs made up of the cast of characters outlined above were sent to attack public buildings throughout the south and east of Ukraine. Simferopol, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipro, Zaporizhia and other cities were hit. Kyiv was untouched because the Maidan encampment remained in place, protecting the Revolution of Dignity in the capital.
By starting off using organized mobs, the Russian Federation succeeded in capturing Simferopol, Donetsk and Luhansk but was defeated everywhere else. And in those three cities it took direct military intervention – invasion – for the Russian Federation to end up occupying Crimea and (some of) Donbas.
At Simferopol, the mob the Russians sent was overwhelmed by pro-Ukraine demonstrators who were mostly Crimean Tatars. After this failure, Putin sent in the Spetsnaz to seize the regional parliament building and the airport in Simferopol. He was forced to send troops openly across the Kerch Strait to invade Ukraine which meant the whole world could see what he was doing. The Putin regime has taken out its revenge on the Crimean Tatars in the almost seven years since, and the brutal persecution they’ve suffered has been as horrendous as it was under the Stalin regime. Ukraine failed to liberate Simferopol and the rest of Crimea from the foreign invaders because Russian forces blockaded Ukrainian forces, the new government in Kyiv was only days old, and the peninsula was saturated with armed men terrorizing the local population.
At Donetsk the Russians sent a mob to seize the oblast (region) administration building and at Luhansk they sent one to seize the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) building. These hybrid warfare attacks were successful. Local security officials were bribed to look away or were part of the attack. The pro-Ukraine majority of citizens in these cities were intimidated with violence – over one and a half million of them were forced to flee as refugees (“internally displaced persons”) by the Russian Federation attacks. But here as well Putin was forced to send in the military, because his so-called “Novorossiya” project had no support. Fierce battles were fought: the Battle of Luhansk Airport, the Battle of Ilovaisk, the Battle of Donetsk Airport, the Battle of Debaltseve. By 2015 the war in Europe had become trench warfare not unlike the First World War.
In all the other cities of Ukraine, the Russian invasion tactic of using organized mobs failed. The biggest factor in defeating the pro-Russian mobs of vatniks, titushki and agents provocateurs was countering them with huge numbers of non-violent, pro-Ukrainian, active citizens. At Zaporizhia, hundreds of Russian Federation-directed goons were “kettled” by thousands of loyal Ukrainians. No one was hurt, and after hours of negotiations (if I recall correctly by priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) everyone went home. The important result was that the administrative buildings of Zaporizhia were not taken over and that city remains to this day within free Ukraine, outside the Russian Federation-occupied zone.
The after scene:
Under the Trump regime, Americans have now seen all aspects of maskirovka the Russian Federation uses in its war against Ukraine. At the attack on the state building in Lansing, Michigan, titushki were deployed disguised as pro-Trump militia members. The insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol were mostly vatniks disguised as pro-Trump “patriots” but amongst them were malign agents provocateurs.
The attack on the Capitol succeeded because security had been weakened, in some cases deliberately. Just as in the attack on the Donetsk administration building in 2014, in Washington in 2021 some police just let the mob in. The insurrectionists were driven out because they were not reinforced by more pro-Trump allies, and further pro-USA forces arrived to save the day. This is what happened at Kharkiv in 2014, when Putin and his quisling Ukrainian allies weren’t able to reinforce the occupiers of the administration building but pro-Ukraine forces arrived from Kyiv to rescue the city.
The Russian Federation invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. The war is ongoing. The Russian Federation occupies the south part of Ukraine, which is Crimea, and the east part of Ukraine, which is some territory in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. A key tactic of the early stages of Putin’s war was to use organized mobs to seize public buildings. Americans are confronted now with the same tactic of masked warfare. They saw it at Lansing last year, they saw it in Washington, D.C. last week, and they’ll see it in many more cities in the days ahead. How Ukrainians succeeded and how they failed to stop organized mobs in 2014 should be the topic of conversation if democracy is to be saved.