Battle Of The Bugs


Fun piece by Daisy Sindelar on how some pro-Kyiv Ukrainians are nicknaming Russian separatists in the east “koloradi”, or Colorado beetles, for their orange-and-black stripes. The separatists have followed their Crimean counterparts and adopted the orange-and-black St. George ribbon as their symbol.

The ribbon is associated with World War II and worn by veterans on Russian military holidays. And as far as pro-Russians are concerned the wearing of the ribbon now is appropriate – they argue that in east Ukraine they are fighting western Ukrainian fascists and followers of World War II Nazi collaborator Stephen Bandera.

The Colorado beetle is thought to have found its way to central Europe during the 1940s having been brought in accidentally on transport ships – paranoid as ever, the Soviets after the war suggested this had been a dastardly plot by the West to ravage Soviet agriculture.

A Moscow analyst is suggesting that Russian propagandists shouldn’t get worked up about the dubbing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine “koloradi”, suggesting they should use light-touch irony to respond by calling Ukrainian ultranationalists from the Right Sector, who favor red-and-black colors, “klop-soldatki”, or firebugs.

Law Of War, How Pro-Russian Separatists Are Breaching It — So Too The Media


The German government has condemned the displaying before the media yesterday by pro-Russian separatists in the Ukrainian town of Slovanysk of the kidnapped members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE). In a statement the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said: “The public parading of the OSCE observers and Ukrainian security forces as prisoners is revolting and blatantly hurts the dignity of the victims.”

Some Western reporters were discussing the issue of showcasing prisoners yesterday afternoon after the press conference staged by the town’s thuggish separatist leader, the former Soviet soldier-turned soap factory owner Vyacheslav Ponomaryov. I missed the press conference, but asked if any reporters had abided by the old standard and asked if the OSCE team members were participating in the news event voluntarily or were being coerced? Apparently no one had.

And this is worrying. Old-guard journalists, with an eye to the Geneva Conventions, used to be more careful and would ask prisoners if they are willing to talk with the press before interviewing them or taking part in a conference featuring them. Also, there is a judgment call that needs to be made here. Even if a prisoner indicates they are willing, they might fear saying they don’t want to because they fear their captors’ displeasure.

In Syria I have interviewed prisoners when I have been convinced they are truly willing. On two occasions I have declined interviewing captives because I felt even though they agreed the circumstances suggested they were being intimidated into doing so or coerced.

The Geneva Conventions state: “Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. … Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”

In an article in Slate magazine back in 2003, law professor Michael Byers suggested, “journalists aren’t bound by the Geneva Conventions, they can’t be prosecuted for interviewing or taping prisoners.”

But it is a good yardstick for reporters to follow – and at various times they have done.

Even more worryingly, I am told none of the journalists who were invited to videotape three pro-Kyiv Ukrainian intelligence service, SBU, members who were displayed stripped to their underpants, bloodied and blindfolded expressed concerns about what they were participating in.

In fact, what may be happening here is we, the media, are encouraging the abductions, part of an intimidation campaign waged by thugs among the pro-Russian separatists, and colluding in the stage-management of suffering.

And we need to rethink. I am not going to attend any press conferences featuring captives staged by the pro-Russian separatists, unless I am convinced the captives are participating voluntarily.

As a footnote, it is worth pointing out that pro-separatist boss Ponomaryov claims he is holding people – OSCE monitors, pro-Kyiv politicians and activists and journalists who have offended him – under the “laws of war.” Well, the main laws governing the conduct of war are the Geneva Conventions. If the separatists are invoking the conventions, they should understand they are in breach of them by these shows they are putting on of the unfortunates who fall into their hands.

Russian Banks Funding Agitation In Eastern Ukraine


If yesterday’s Geneva deal aimed at “de-escalating” the Ukraine crisis fails, Russia’s top banks might be the target of the next round of Western sanctions.

This from my radio dispatch last night for VOA:

“As Western powers consider introducing further sanctions against Russia, Ukraine’s government says it has evidence that four Russian banks are involved in funding pro-Russian separatist agitation in eastern Ukraine and is urging Western politicians to sanction them.”

You can read the full Web piece here.

Can The Ukrainian Military Hold The Line?


From my Daily Beast dispatch yesterday:

“Kiev officials admit they need to move fast to extinguish the growing pro-Russian insurrection in the country’s east but initial offers of reform, including greater decentralization of powers, are having no effect. The decision to dispatch the army is backfiring badly with soldiers expressing their unhappiness with being deployed against civilians, whether or not they are being egged on by Moscow, and supervised and trained by Russian advisors.”


How Putin Could Grab Ukraine Without Sending Tanks In

From my weekend piece for the Daily Beast: “’Putin’s objective remains to regain control of Ukraine, but I suspect he now thinks he can do this without ordering in the tanks,’ says Andrei Illarionov, a former Putin economic policy advisor and now an unstinting critic of the Russian leader.

Illarionov tells The Daily Beast he expects Putin to maintain an intimidating offensive build-up of Russian forces along the Ukraine border, nonetheless, and that there will be no let-up in the fomenting of separatist agitation in the eastern Ukraine towns of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lugansk and now Sloviansk. The aim is to destabilize Ukrainian politics, weaken Ukrainian state institutions and help Putin’s political allies reassert their power in Kiev.

Read all here.