Igor Aizenberg, Facebook, 23.12.2017, English version by Oliya Melnichuk
Four days ago, I wrote about a "strange" sudden appearance, in multiple Western media outlets, of articles with the same theme of "Total corruption of Ukraine", dated between December 5th and 12th, pushing forward the notion that Poroshenko administration's orders are going after those who have to fight corruption, also expressing sympathy towards "Robin Hood" and sending him condolences due to his detainment for this very reason. This left me with the impression of a carefully mastered campaign. Moreover, mastered on the highest possible level with the skillful use and manipulation of the Western free press.
So, who are the authors behind these articles (that is the main question), and what is written there?
On December 5th, Bloomberg published a column by their established writer Leonid Bershidsky, "The West backed the wrong man in Ukraine." Bershidsky, a citizen of the Russian Federation, managed to land a position as a chief editor of the Ukrainian Forbes for Kurchenko. He currently resides in Berlin and writes for many Western publications. His usual writing style is as follows: Moscow is more clever than the West, Putin is an authoritarian, but can trick the West into anything, and of course when writing about Ukraine, everything in Ukraine is terrible, lack of reforms, corruption and so on and so forth...
The article is devoted to incompetency of Poroshenko, his fight against NABU, which have to fight corruption, urging Ukrainians to "do the same thing with him that was done with Yanukovich" or to "eliminate him in the 2019 elections", otherwise "Western politicians and analysts will end up being shocked by how quickly another representative of the old elite suddenly resembles Yanukovich."
On December 7th, The Washington Post published an article titled "It's time for the West to get tough on Ukraine," written by a "Ukrainian journalist" Maxim Eristavi (real name Kryvoruchko), co-founder of the "Hromadske Public Television" in Kyiv right before the Maidan events and a research fellow at the Atlantic Council (working remotely, as a non-resident employee). The content of this article I will explain in more detail using translations of characterized citations: "The moment of truth has come. The main internal issue of our country is corruption. However, when the anti-corruption forces began to tackle the problem, Poroshenko is trying to undermine their work."
"His supporter in the Ukrainian parliament dismissed the head of a critically important anti-corruption committee and are preparing to neutralize NABU, National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine. The Security Service of Ukraine and the General Prosecutor's Office, which consist of 45,000 employees, organized a crusade against an anti-corruption agency with 700 employees. Imagine the CIA, or the Attorney General, plotting to attack the FBI anti-corruption department. Western governments have invested millions of their taxpayers' money in support of Ukrainian anti-corruption reforms. It is time to protect these investments."
"The United States and the EU must let Poroshenko know that keeping a tough lid on corruption is necessary. Such a message to Poroshenko becomes more trivial due to the fact that it is clear that Poroshenko is planning to consolidate his power during next year's elections. (I literally cited "next", although the elections aren't taking place until 2019 - I.A.). The president and his supporters are putting pressure on the media. Poroshenko believes that those who support him in Washington and Brussels, will continue to have his back during the war supported by the Russian forces and the Eastern Ukraine. In his recent speech to the UN, Poroshenko mentioned Russia 12 times, corruption - only once. A recent attempt to arrest a former Odessa governor Saakashvili by authorities, is the latest example of how far Poroshenko will go to silence his opponents."
On December 11th, in the same Washington Post newspaper, two more articles appeared written by a journalist Juras Karmanau, originally written for the Associated Press. Karmanau is a Belorussian journalist, who frequently writes for the Associated Press and other Western and Middle Eastern media outlets. He writes a lot about Ukraine. His stance on Ukraine can be clearly visible especially by reading his pieces for the Western outlets in 2015, during the fierce battle with the Russian invaders. "The conflict between insurgents supported by Russia and the government troops," "rebel-controlled areas," "pro-Russian prefer independent state over autonomy" - are all taken out of his 2015 articles published in the Lebanese-English newspaper, the Daily Star. In this same style ("rebels," "government forces," "rebel-controlled regions") he would write in 2015 for the British newspaper - The Independent, which since 2010 has been owned by a former Soviet spy in the UK, and the owner of the "Russian Reserve Bank" - Lebedev. I believe these examples are sufficient to establish the political position of this journalist in relation to Ukraine, as well as the motives behind his work.
In 2017, Juras Karmanau writes in The Washington Post the following: "NABU, which is supposed to be the main force behind the fight against corruption, is under attack by the allies of Petro Poroshenko, who are trying to undermine its operations and authority. The Prosecutor's Office and the Security Service of Ukraine unmasked NABU agents who were involved in an immigration service operation to catch a dirty co-worker involved in taking bribes in return for issuing passports and residence permits."
Following is a conversation with the head of NABU, Artem Sytnik, who is complaining that he has been targeted from all corners, along with NABU - responsible for indicting the son of Minister Avakov for corruption. Following is a quote by Christine Lagarde, demanding the independence of NABU. Then, allegations against the current government by Ukrainian MP, Yegor Sobolev (real name Zimin), follow. Right after that, a mention of "thousands of protestors in Kyiv, headed by Saakashvili," with a quote from Sobolev, "This only shows how far Poroshenko is willing to go to stop his opponents and those fighting corruption." And finally, a statement by the head of Anti-Corrupt Action Center, Vitaliy Shabunin: "Poroshenko continues down the path of the worst traditions of the old nomenclature. The same old elites, the same people who now proclaim different political slogans, but their way of thinking and their goals remain the same."
Another article by Juras Karmanau in The Washington Post, written together with a Moscow author for Associated Press, Vladimir Isachenkov (most likely a Russian citizen, although I cannot verify), is devoted mostly to Saakashvili. In it, a detailed description of Saakashvili court case and the prosecutor's decision to deny house arrest, mentioning that "a leader of the opposition party", Yulia Tymoshenko supports Saakashvili. "I am a prisoner of war of Ukrainian Oligarchs", Karmanau cites Saakashvili, saying that "he will continue a peaceful movement for the change of government." And concluding once again with the same mention of "thousands of supporters of Saakashvili, who came out on Sunday to march in Kyiv."
On December 7th, now in a British magazine, The Economist, an unsigned article was published (although not indicating that the article reflects the point of view of the editorial board), almost identical to the first article written by Karmanau.
On December 12th, another article appeared in Reuters, written by Josh Cohen, a former USAID project officer "involved in managing economic reform projects in the former Soviet Union", and a frequent contributor to Reuters. The same tone and the same content as the articles mentioned above. And that isn't surprising. It is easy to understand where he stands on these issues, if one simply reads some of his work. In September, he wrote an article, in which he expressed his disapproval of supplying Ukraine with American weapons (which would instigate Russia). In August, he wrote an article in response to sanctions against Russia, siding with the Trump Administration that sanctions will make cooperation with Russia much more difficult, but that Trump is willing to cooperate nevertheless.
This is sufficient to understand this author's views on Russia and Ukraine. No further comments are necessary. In his article on December 12th, Cohen defends NABU, "the iniquity of Poroshenko and the government which he is a head of", "his war on NABU is the last of the corrupt old guard in the fight against anti-corruption reforms." Cohen quotes a statement from Shabunin's AntAC, finally urging the U.S. to "impose sanctions on Ukrainian senior officials and their friends" in accordance with the Magnitsky Act.
And so on and so forth... Such articles with almost identical content, containing very small differences were published extensively from December 5th to December 12th by different Western media outlets. Of course, it is very hard to prove (in a legal sense), that this is a coordinated campaign. But this is the clear trend...
And here are two my own remarks. From my own point of view, countries without any form of corruption simply do not exist. The corruption can be minimal, small, large, very large, but it is present everywhere. Whenever a resolution of issues lies in the hands of someone, or whenever the financial channels of a country are being controlled by the government, both bribery and attempts to move the money from the budget to private pockets do exist. A rhetorical question remains. Why is it that between December 5th and December 12th, so many Western media outlets found such an interest in the issue of corruption in Ukraine? And why was it done in such a specific way? At the same time, none article provided any evidence of such corruption. That part was never mentioned. Not a word.
And the second remark. Unfortunately, Ukraine is permanently losing all battlefields of the info wars... Why is it that the Western press has no true Ukrainian journalists reporting on the situation in Ukraine? In general or in relation to the fight against corruption? Why is it that whenever the Western press correspondents do make it to Kyiv, their colleagues almost always turn out to be Serhii Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem - those two former journalists and now strange Ukrainian MPs, who always vote against Poroshenko while being members of his faction in the Parliament.
Well, alright, maybe Western journalists are under the impression that only these two guys can speak English. But that simply isn't true! In fact, it isn't true at all! Public opinion in the West must be fought for. It is necessary for Western media outlets to publish articles by Ukrainian authors, politicians and journalists, who would cover what is really happening in Ukraine. Otherwise, there will be only the articles strongly biased towards one view, such as the ones I mentioned here.
True Western journalists must go to Kyiv and write about Ukraine — neither the former or present citizens of Russia or Belarus, nor the Western columnists who, to put it lightly, view the world through a Russian prism. Otherwise, the permanent Kremlin lie and propaganda will totally destroy the Western world.