Structure of the narrative and the fakes it is made of.
- Ukraine is escalating Donbas conflict
- Ukraine is conducting or preparing provocation in Donbas
- Ukraine aims to solve the conflict in Donbas with military forces
- Ukraine reinforces its military presence in Donbas
- Ukrainian armed forces violate the cease-fire regime and open fire on civilians
- Ukraine prohibits OSCE monitors to track violations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
- Ukraine denounced the Minsk agreements
- Kyiv ignore the execution of the Minsk agreements
1. Ukraine is escalating Donbas conflict
Ukraine is acting as an aggressor and conducts provocations from time to time, amplifying shellings of pseudo republics (RT.DE, Uncutnews, SNA.DE). Official Kyiv is concentrating machinery and heavy armaments to the borders with “pseudo republics” placing it among neighbourhoods thus puting civilians life at risk (Newsfront). And the western countries send weapons and militants disguised as instructors to Ukraine to add fuel to the escalation. (SNA.DE)
What is the truth?
Most of the messages claiming ostensible Ukrainian escalation appeared on propaganda resources when Russia was concentrating its troops on the shared Ukrainian border, namely twice in April and October 2021. No escalation from Ukrainian side took place beforehand
It was not a secret that Russia mobilized its army units along the north, east and south borders with Ukraine already in March 2021. Back then in Bryansk, Voronez, Rostov oblast and on the territory of occupied Crimea RF located its 28 battalion tactical groups put on wartime alert. The troops were relocating under the coverage of military exercises. According to the Ukraine’s government estimations till May Russia had concentrated up to 100 soldiers along the Ukrainian borders and in occupied Crimea
Moskow, meanwhile, claimed that it was a response to the Kyiv’s provocations aimed to escalate the conflict in Donbas. The OSCE monitors stated that no provocations were taking place, though.
Moreover, before mobilizing its troops at the borders with Ukraine in spring 2021 it was Russia whose militants reinforced shalling and multiplied its heavy weapon.
Thus the number of cases of violation of the cease-fire regime grew at the beginning of 2021. However, the majority of them were made by Russian militants and NOT Ukrainian troops. The OSCE observations in Ukraine dated January – March 2021 stated 98% of all the cases of cease-fire violations were recorded on the territories beyond Ukrainian government control. It recorded more than 500 weapon units whose location violated agreed withdrawal lines. Approximatelly 95 % of them were in uncontrolled territories.
Russia mobilized its troops again in October, 2021, according to different evaluations, one of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE there were 100 thousands of the at the borders already on January, 30 , 2021 and 169-190 thousand on February, 18, 2022
The OSCE SMM tendencies in Ukraine for July-September 2021 (the last available quarterly report covering the period before the withdrawal of Russian troops in October) state: 87% of ceasefire violations were recorded in areas not under Ukraine’s control. 77% of equipment violating the diversion lines were also placed on the aforementioned areas.
The Russian Federation allegedly used Ukrainian’ side escalation to justify a full-scale attack on Ukraine in February 2022. However, from 2016 to 2019 (prior to the ceasefire agreement), the OSCE SMM in Ukraine yearly recorded many more fire violations than in 2020 and 2021 (with no data on which party committed the violation – Ukraine or militants). For example, in 2017 more than 400 thousand violations were recorded in a year, and in 2021 – almost 94 thousand.
So, first, in 2021 the escalation in Donbas was no greater than in previous years. Second, this escalation was staged by Russian-controlled militants, not Ukraine. For example, a few days before the Russian attack on February 18, Russian occupation forces fired Ukrainian positions 66 times, 52 of them with weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements.
2. Ukraine is conducting or preparing provocation in Donbas
Ukrainian military commit terrorist attacks and sabotage in the Donbas (RT.DE). These provocations are being overseen by the United States, the State Department, the Pentagon, or the CIA, in order to drag Russia into the “Ukrainian conflict.” and to deploy more NATO troops along the Russian border (Controinformazione, Antispiegel, Uncutnews, Come Don Chisciotte).
Shortly before the Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022, propaganda resources more eagerly spread the information that official Kyiv and the United States were preparing a full-scale war or chemical attacks. For example, the Seversky Donets River, which supplies water to most DPR cities (Uncutnews), could be poisoned.
What is the truth?
First, there is no need to involve Russia in the so-called “Ukrainian conflict” because Russia is its aggressor. This was recognized by 47 UN countries. There is a lot of evidence of the Russian troops’ presence in Donbas, as well as the direct governance of Moscow in “LPR” and “DPR”. Their overview in the following article.
Second, there is no evidence from independent observers (including the OSCE SMM, which worked directly in the region) that Kyiv has resorted to terrorist attacks or sabotage in the Donbas. As well as the fact that other countries, including the United States, may have been involved.
With “chemical attacks” Russia has intimidated the population of Donbas for years, at least since 2018. In 2021, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was the first to report on “chemical weapons in the Donbas.” Later, the leader of the so-called “DPR” Denis Pushylin picked up this information flow. The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine called it disinformation, and the US State Department also denied it.
They also recalled that in recent years, the Russian government has used chemical weapons twice to attack as well as attempt to kill its opponents, particularly on foreign territory.
There is no reason to claim that Ukraine was preparing to attack Donbas
Since 2014 the representatives of the Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly stressed that they are not considering a forceful scenario to return the occupied Donbas. The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny, the Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that Ukraine did not plan any offensive operations in Donbas. Whereas the only acceptable means to do so would be political and diplomatic.
The detailed report on the reasons why Russia arranged the escalation in Donbas before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine can be found here.
3. Ukraine aims to solve the conflict in Donbas with military forces
Kyiv has begun preparations for a full-scale invasion in Donbas in the spring of 2021. Moscow was vainly accused of concentrating its troops on the border with Ukraine (Newsfront, huffingtonpost.it). The so-called “DNR” and “LNR” had warned that Kyiv could resolve the conflict by using force (SNA.IT). President Volodymyr Zelensky even ordered to invade Donbas (Report24).
Moscow has repeatedly stressed that Kyiv is not implementing the Minsk agreements and is delaying negotiations on resolving the conflict, instead shifting half of Ukraine’s armed forces to the confrontation line with pseudo-republics (SNA.IT).
What is the truth?
In March, 2021, Russia began to reinforce its military presence along the Ukrainian border in the north, east and south. Then in the Bryansk, Voronezh, Rostov regions and on the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea, the Russian Federation deployed 28 battalion tactical groups put on wartime alert. Troops were recruited under the disguise of military exercises. By May, the Ukrainian government had estimated that Russia had concentrated up to 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders and in the occupied Crimea.
Moscow, meanwhile, claimed it was responding to Kyiv’s provocations aimed at escalating the Donbas conflict. According to observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), there were no provocations.
Moreover, before Russia’s moving of troops to Ukraine’s borders in the spring of 2021, it were Russian-controlled militants, who had increased the number of shellings and heavy weapons which they, on the contrary, were to withdraw.
Thus, the number of ceasefire violations in early 2021 increased. But the vast majority of these violations were committed by militants, not Ukrainian troops. The observations of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine for January-March 2021 state: 98% of the total number of ceasefire violations were recorded in areas not controlled by the Ukrainian government. The mission recorded more than 500 weapons deployed in violation of agreed withdrawal lines. About 95% of them are in territories not under Ukraine’s control.
Representatives of the Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly stressed since 2014 that they are not considering a forceful scenario for the return of the occupied Donbas. The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny, the Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that Ukraine did not plan any offensive operations in Donbas. The only possible means declared were political and diplomatic.
Shortly before Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine, propaganda media reported that Volodymyr Zelensky had ordered to invade Donbas. In fact, Zelensky has never made such statements. Such a decree did not appear neither on the website of the President of Ukraine nor in official publications, in which, according to Ukrainian law, this act had to be published.
The US State Department stressed that Russian military and intelligence agencies are misinforming the world about the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ attack on Donbas in order to portray Ukraine and Ukrainian officials as aggressors. In the same mold, Russia occupied part of Georgia in 2008 and did not withdraw its troops and ammunition from Moldova, where they still remain without government consent.
Data on the number of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are regularly published on the website of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. In December 2021, there were more than 201,000 servicemen in the Armed Forces. Slightly more than 40,000 of them took part in the Joint Forces (JFO) operation in Donbas. So, clearly, not half of the army of Ukraine.
As for the Minsk agreements, it is Russia which has not yet ensured the implementation of security points. Nor has it implemented the measures to strengthen the ceasefire since July 2020. More about the Minsk agreements in this article.
4. Ukraine reinforces its military presence in Donbas
For years, Kyiv has been increasing its military presence in Donbas near the territory of the so-called “LPR” and “DPR” (RT.DE). In 2021, preparing for the attack on Donbas, the Ukrainian government moved half the army and heavy artillery (RT.DE, SNA.DE) to the line of demarcation.
Kyiv was preparing for the offensive. The Ukrainian army regularly fired on pseudo-republics, including with banned weapons, such as the Turkish Bayraktar drone (SNA.DE).
What is the truth?
Russia was the first to mobilize its troops to Ukraine’s borders – without any threat from Ukraine
In December 2021, Russian politicians, including President Putin and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, claimed that Ukraine had moved half of its army (or 120,000 to 125,000 troops) to the war zone. They did not release any confirmation of the mentioned data.
Data on the number of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are regularly published on the website of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. The information is also available in the passports of budget programs exposed for public access. In December 2021, there were more than 201,000 servicemen in the Armed Forces. Just over 40,000 of them took part in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO). That is three times less than what was said in Russia. For comparison, in February 2021, just over 40,000 servicemen took part in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO). Almost a year before, in May 2020 there had been the same number – 40 thousand.
The number of Ukrainian servicemen in Donbas did not increase. Instead, in October-November 2021, Russia, according to various estimates, drew about 100,000 troops to Ukraine’s borders.
There is no evidence, in particular from independent observers, that Kyiv was going to attack Donbas
In the autumn of 2021, Russia once again declared that Ukraine was preparing for the “offensive in Donbas.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation announced offensive actions of the Armed Forces in the area of Granitny and Staromaryivka (Donetsk region), referring to the reports of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
This is not true: the Mission’s daily reports did not mention this. Instead, OSCE SMM reports during this period revealed the systemic restrictions on freedom of movement in the temporarily occupied territories (for example, here), blocking of communications and surveillance (here), threats to the personal security of international observers by Russian armed forces (here).
The Armed Forces of Ukraine do not open fire first and do not shell civilians and infrastructure in Donbas
The Ukrainian Armed Forces first used the Turkish Bayraktar drone in October 2021. The parties have banned the use of UAVs in the context of a truce signed in July 2020 within the Tripartite Contact Group. The first paragraph states a “ban on the use of any type of aircraft.” But there is also a ban on any “use of fire, including sniper fire” – and this point is constantly being neglected by the Russian occupation forces.
Bayraktar was used as a last resort. The militants fired from 122-mm howitzers prohibited by the Minsk agreements on civilian targets and positions of the Armed Forces near Granitny in the Donetsk region for several days. In addition, Russian mercenaries dropped explosive devices with the help of an unmanned aerial vehicle.
The militants did not stop the shelling even after the Ukrainian side used a standard response mechanism: the OSCE SMM called for a ceasefire. And under the terms of the July 2020 truce, retaliatory fire is allowed in the event of a failed response.
Ukraine did not violate the Minsk agreements: Bayraktar did not cross the contact line, the howitzer was destroyed by a guided missile.
In addition, the first drones in Donbas were, in fact, used by militants: Russian UAVs “Orlan-10” have long been recorded in Donbas.
The West did not “pump Ukraine with weapons”, but provided weapons to repel a possible Russian attack
The bulk of the weapons received by Ukraine are anti-tank systems (NLAW, Javelin), which make little sense in the event of the attack of the Armed Forces on uncontrolled territories, but are necessary in the event of an attack by armored vehicles from the Russian Federation.
Russia has been supporting separatists in Donbas since 2014, supplying them with modern weapons, heavy weapons, troops and training. This has been repeatedly confirmed by NATO, Ukrainian and American intelligence
5. Ukrainian armed forces violate the cease-fire regime and open fire on civilians
The Armed Forces of Ukraine are shelling the civilian population and infrastructure on the territories of the so-called “LPR” and “DPR”, violating the ceasefire (Controinformazione, Newsfront). Even children are killed by Ukrainian drones (Uncutnews, Linkezeitung.de). The Armed Forces of Ukraine open fire on settlements, due to the numerous bombing residents of Donbas even had to be evacuated (SNA.IT).
What is the truth?
Reports of shelling in the Donbas by the Armed Forces refer to the so-called “People’s Militia of the DPR” and the “People’s Militia of the LPR” which are illegal formations of pseudo-republics. These entities do not provide any evidence of their claims. They are also not confirmed by the data of international observers, namely the OSCE Specialized Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
Or they distort the data in the OSCE SMM reports. For example, in April 2021, propagandists reported that a child had died in the Donbas as a result of the Ukrainian drone attack. The mission confirmed the child’s death “as a result of an explosive injury and multiple shrapnel wounds.” There is no information that the child died as a result of a drone strike. And the village of Oleksandrivske, where the incident took place, is in the deep rear of the militants – a drone of the Armed Forces of Ukraine simply could not reach it.
In other cases, the militants referred to the JCCC – Joint Center for Control and Coordination on ceasefire and stabilization of the demarcation line. It was organized in 2014 with the participation of the Ukrainian and Russian military.
But at the end of 2017, Russia withdrew from the JCCC due to new entry rules for Russian officers. Their places in the territories not controlled by Ukraine were taken by militants of the so-called “LDPR”, so their messages cannot be called impartial. Ukraine does not recognize the representatives of the self-proclaimed “republics” as part of the Joint Center, and the EU has called on Russia to return its officers to the JCCC.
In most cases, the ceasefire is violated by Russian occupation forces
On July 27, 2020, the agreement on the establishment of a full and comprehensive ceasefire in Donbas went into effect. Russia claims that Ukraine, ostensibly, does not abide by the terms of the ceasefire. This is not true: the OSCE SMM data proves the opposite. For example, reports for 2021:
- in January-March, 98% of ceasefire cases were recorded in territories not under Ukraine’s control;
- in April-June, 93% of ceasefire cases were recorded in territories not under Ukraine’s control;
- in July-September, 87% of ceasefire cases were recorded in territories not under Ukraine’s control.
The forced evacuation of civilians, which the militants announced in the territories of the so-called “LPR” and “DPR” on February 18, 2021, was a pre-planned operation. According to metadata, a video with “LPR leader” Leonid Pasichnyk about the evacuation was recorded at least two days before its publication on February 16. The video of DNR leader Denis Pushylin with a similar appeal was also recorded on February 16. That is, even before “Ukraine launched an attack” according to Russia.
All this indicates that the reasons for the “evacuation” of the population were invented in advance. Meanwhile, the militants rejected the offer of the Ukrainian side to hold an extraordinary meeting of the Tripartite Contact Group – a group of representatives from Ukraine, the OSCE and Russia, formed for a diplomatic solution to the war in Donbas.
6. Ukraine prohibits OSCE monitors to track violations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
The Ukrainian military does not allow observers from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to record violations committed by its Armed Forces. To do this, they block the drones’ work (Newsfront). In addition, the Armed Forces are setting up mine danger signs to hamper patrols of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission observing the location of its military equipment in Donbas (Newsfront).
What is the truth?
Representatives of the pseudo-republics, the so-called “LPR” and “DPR”, claim that the Armed Forces create obstacles for OSCE SMM observers. The OSCE SMM itself does not confirm these cases.
Instead, the Mission has repeatedly reported that LDPR militants are obstructing their work. For example, on October 17, 2021, they blocked SMM observers in hotels in occupied Donetsk and Horlivka. After that, the Mission even announced the suspension of work in eastern Ukraine.
The Mission’s reports also show that the militants have repeatedly restricted the freedom of movement of SMM members. Only in July-September 2021, the observers were not allowed to enter certain areas more than 250 times. 90% of the recorded cases occurred in territories not under Ukraine’s control.
In 2022, the occupiers also threatened to “arrest and imprison Mission observers if they did not leave the area.”
The SMM has repeatedly reported that the drones were jammed by militants. For example, according to this Mission report, in just one day, the occupiers suppressed OSCE drones during 16 flights. There were cases when militants simply shot down drones over pseudo-republics.
The Ukrainian side of the Joint Control and Coordination Center (JCCC) stated that the occupiers obstructed the work of the OSCE Mission UAV not only in the occupied but also in the territory controlled by Ukraine by means of electronic warfare.
Realizing that the OSCE Mission was in fact recording Russian crimes against Ukraine, Russia tried to get rid of it, so in September 2021 it simply did not extend the OSCE’s mandate after September 30 at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints on the border with Ukraine. These are the key checkpoints through which the militants connect with Russia by rail – and, accordingly, the transfer of weapons and mercenaries from Russia to the occupied territories.
7. Ukraine denounced the Minsk agreements
The Ukrainian government and parliament have declared the Minsk agreements invalid and have repeatedly stated that they “do not feel bound by the Minsk agreements” (Uncutnews). And President Zelensky allegedly declared his readiness to withdraw from the agreements (Controinformazione).
The propagandists also called the Ukrainian law on reintegration of the occupied Donbas 2018 (RT.DE) a “refusal to comply with Minsk.”
Shortly before the full-scale Russian invasion into Ukraine in September 2021, propaganda media began to write that Ukraine had announced its withdrawal from the Minsk agreements and called the decision “revolutionary” (Sicurezza Internazionale).
What is the truth?
Neither the Ukrainian government nor the parliament has ever announced its withdrawal from the Minsk agreements
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has consistently emphasized that Ukraine is not renouncing the Minsk agreements. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has never said that the Minsk agreements are invalid. Moreover, in December 2021, he announced that Ukraine had developed a 10-step plan for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements and passed it on to the United States, Germany, France and Russia.
The Ukrainian law on the reintegration of Donbas, adopted in 2018, does not mention the Minsk agreements at all, especially the refusal to comply with them.
It (the Law “On the peculiarities of state policy to ensure the state sovereignty of Ukraine in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions”) states that Ukraine was attacked by Russia, which is the aggressor and occupier, and the part of the Donbas is occupied by it. And the illegal armed groups “LPR” and “DPR”, which actually control the occupied territories, are “representatives of the occupation administrations of Russia.” The law does not contradict the provisions of the Minsk agreements. But, of course, Russia cannot like it, hiding its participation in the war in Donbas.
Ukraine did not report withdrawing from the Minsk agreements shortly before Russia’s full-scale attack
Propaganda resources misrepresented the content of the quote from Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the head of the President’s Office. After the meeting of Volodymyr Zelensky and Joe Biden in September 2021, Arestovych told one of the Ukrainian TV channels that the parties had agreed on the possibility of modernizing the Minsk agreements. And he addressed the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov with the words: “Mr. Lavrov, my best regards to you: we are off the hook of the Minsk agreements.” Shortly before that, Lavrov said that “Russia will not allow Zelensky and Ukraine to” get off the hook of the Minsk agreements. “
Later, Oleksiy Arestovych said that “the Minsk agreements haven’t vanished”, the parties did not announce their withdrawal. He spoke only about the interpretation of the agreements required by Russia: “Well, the news for Lavrov is that the hook of the Minsk agreements no longer exists. Nor the Minsk agreements, namely the hook of the Minsk agreements, that is, the Russian version of their interpretation, which they tried to impose on us and the world community. “
In fact it is Russia, which does not fulfill most of the statements of the Minsk agreements
This was the reason for the EU extending sanctions against Russia in January 2022.
Russia blocks OSCE observers from accessing certain areas and does not provide humanitarian aid through international mechanisms. Russia does not comply with the security provisions of the Minsk agreements: a ceasefire, complete withdrawal of pro-Russian militants and Russian weapons from Ukraine.
At the same time, Russia claims that it is not a party in the Minsk agreements and is not mentioned in the text. But these documents were signed by Russia’s representative Mikhail Zubarov.
Russia is trying to force Ukraine to implement “Minsk” on its own terms. First, Ukraine must adopt a special status for Donbas, which will give the region significant privileges and put the rest of Ukraine’s regions in an unequal position. Second, Ukraine must agree to regain control of the occupied territories only after local elections are held there. But these elections must be held in compliance with Ukrainian law, which is impossible under the conditions of the actual occupation of these territories. In addition, in recent years, more than 600,000 Ukrainians in the occupied territories have received Russian passports. At the same time, the number of temporarily displaced people, mostly from ORDLO, is 1.4 million, and most of them will not be able to take part in the elections.
8. Kyiv ignore the execution of the Minsk agreements
The Ukrainian side is not fulfilling its obligations under the Minsk agreements – it does not give Donbas broad autonomy and does not hold elections in the occupied territories (RT.DE Moreover, the Armed Forces violate the security part of the agreement and fire on uncontrolled territories (SNA.IT, SNA.DE,. Controinformazione) Kyiv does not want a peaceful solution to the conflict in Donbas, so it is blocking the implementation of Minsk (SNA.DE).
What is the truth?
The Minsk agreements were concluded as a result of the Ukrainian army defeats in 2014-2015, so they cannot be considered beneficial for Ukraine. Conditionally, the Minsk provisions can be divided into security and political parts.
Security includes a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, exchange of prisoners, access to humanitarian aid.
Russia has not yet ensured its implementation. Nor has it set into action the measures to strengthen the ceasefire since July 2020.
The US Mission to the OSCE emphasizes that Russia has not fulfilled any of its responsibilities: it has not stopped firing, has not withdrawn its heavy weapons from restricted areas, and has not provided unimpeded access for OSCE SMM observers. In addition, according to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Russia has not implemented an all-for-all exchange, has not provided humanitarian aid through international mechanisms, has not allowed socio-economic ties to be restored and has not fulfilled a bunch of other points.
First, the agreements themselves do not clearly specify the procedure for implementing the provisions. Therefore, Russia cannot claim that Ukraine must first fulfill the political part – to adopt a special status for Donbas and hold local elections.
Secondly, Russia claims that Ukraine should give Donbas autonomy. Whereas in Minsk it is only a matter of “special status” – not autonomy.
The special status for Donbas will give the region significant privileges and make the rest of the regions be in an unequal position. Ukraine must also agree to regain control of the occupied territories only after local elections. These elections must be held under Ukrainian law, which is impossible due to the actual occupation of these territories. In addition, in recent years, Russia has issued its passports to more than 600,000 Ukrainians in the occupied territories. At the same time, the number of temporarily displaced people, most of whom left ORDLO, is 1.4 million. And most of them will not be able to vote in the election. As a result, Russia has significantly changed the situation in the ORDLO and stepped up its intervention.
The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations