Today in Donetsk, about 1-2,000 anti-federalists held a rally with the slogan “Donetsk is Ukraine. March for Unity“. Along the route toward Donetsk center, the protesters were met by a group of hundreds of pro-federalist activists, and a violent confrontation erupted.
Western media, almost uniformly, placed the entire blame for the confrontation on the pro-federalists, or buried the contributions of the anti-federalists deep in the story:
- Reuters reported “Pro-Russian separatists armed with baseball bats attacked a rally in support of Ukrainian unity in the separatist-held city of Donetsk on Monday”.
- The Guardian reported (links in original report) that “a peaceful pro-unity rally, watched over by normal police and riot police, was broken up by a pro-Russian crowd armed with truncheons and blunt objects“.
- MSN reported that “pro-Russian masked men wielding bats and guns broke up the rally”.
- NBC News reported that “Pro-Russia militants wielding baseball bats, iron bars and knives attacked a rally for Ukrainian national unity in Donetsk on Monday”.
- France24 reported that a dozen anti-federalists “were brutally attacked by masked pro-Russia militants wielding baseball bats and hurling rocks and stun grenades.” This article is the most biased in some respects, but does concede that many of the “brutal” pro-federalists were also injured by the “peaceful” and “shocked” victims.
These descriptions leave the impression that pro-Ukrainians were marching peacefully on a normal day and were brutally attacked and victimized for no reason. But is that so?
Although the majority of protesters on the march were peaceful, according to RT – which the “Western” elite disparage as a “propaganda bullhorn” – representatives of the Donetsk Republic (which Western media would never consider contacting) claimed that a group of about 1,000 “neo-Nazi thugs” came to Donetsk from Dnepropetrovsk on Monday to cause provocations. That number, judging by videos of the march, is a clear exaggeration, but videos (except for TSN, ITV and CNN, which edited them out) show at least 100 “ultras” were leading the procession.
According to the RT story, the anti-federalists were marching toward city center, which has been the epicenter of anti-Kiev protests over the last weeks. According to a press spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic, rather than wait for the march, led by ultras, to arrive in center and disrupt the pro-federalist camps (in the past, a number of pro-federalist camps have been dismantled by ultranationalist / Right Sector activists), about 200 pro-federalists marched to meet them. The pro-federalist group gained size as locals joined along their route.
The spokesman claims the anti-federalist radicals initiated the violence by throwing smoke grenades at the pro-federalists. This is difficult to confirm or dispute given the fact that none of the numerous video I have reviewed shows the very start of the conflagration.
The best video of the 15 I have seen was recorded by Graham W. Phillips, a stringer for RT who has been on the ground in Ukraine for several weeks. Graham was marching with the anti-federalists and captured the moments when the two opposing groups met. The video shows (times are time points in the video):
- 0:00 – 0:25: The front of the anti-federalist marchers, showing the “ultra” component.
- 0:25 – 0:42: Out of view, the confrontation between the two groups erupts, with the sound of explosions (flash grenades?).
- 0:43 – end: A hooded man from the pro-federalist group, wearing dark slacks and a purple top, fires numerous rounds from a firecracker gun across the street. He is also carrying a (metal) rod. Anti-federalists toss some objects at him.
- 0:45: A stun grenade is tossed by an anti-federalist across the police line toward the pro-federalist marchers.
- 0:49 and 0:51: Two objects can be seen being hurled toward the pro-federalists from the far left of the screen.
The next video is also recorded by Graham, a little later:
- 0:00 – 0:12: Graham passes the police line toward the pro-federalist side.
- 0:12 – 0:20: The peaceful protesters continue along the sidewalk, on the far side of the street, past the police, who are being held up by a few pro-federalists blocking the street.
- 1:12 – 1:15 : Pro-federalists and anti-federalists attack each other from opposite sides of the street, punctuated by a flash bang grenade.
- 1:26 – 1:34: Pro-federalists cross the street toward the front of the anti-federalist group (with the “ultras”).
- 1:37 – 1:50: Contrary to claims from some Western media that police did not intervene, the police run to place themselves between the two battling groups.
The longest video comes from capture of a uStream channel from Hromadske TV Donbass:
- 0:00 – 13:00: The anti-federalists hold their pre-march rally, where the pictures in Western media showing them to be “peaceful” were taken.
- 13:00 – 15:00: The march column forms, with the masked “ultras” taking the front positions.
- 15:52 – 26:45: The march starts and the anti-federalists chant slogans as they march toward center.
- 26:50: The confrontation starts, corresponding to approximately 0:25 in the first video.
- 27:26 – 27:48: The same hooded man who appeared in the first video crosses the street and sprays pepper spray at some anti-federalists, and is then beaten. Him crossing the street is where the first video above ends.
- 27:50 – 27:57: One of the anti-federalists who had attacked the pepper sprayer is taken to the ground and beaten (this scene from another angle was one of the topical shots of the day).
Clearly, the pro-federalists are confronting the anti-federalists, but was it as simple as a peaceful anti-federalist march being attacked? Clearly not; the anti-federalist march never halted and marched past the police into the area of the pro-federalists. Both sides fought and injuries occurred on both sides.
While true that the pro-federalists met the anti-federalists along their march route, the groups would have met eventually anyway, as the anti-federalists were marching toward the pro-federalist camp.
The “Western” and Ukrainian media focus on the rally, which the “ultras” did not attend, and the back of the anti-federalist procession. They deliberately ignore the hooded “ultras”. Moreover, they frequently comment about “women and children” being in the march. But they have no evidence that any woman or child was attacked or harmed – all the injured protesters I saw were men.
Now consider this: what would happen if pro-Russians carried Russian and Donetsk Republic flags and staged a march in L’viv or Ivano-Frankivsk? And what if their goal was to bind the locals to their self-proclaimed government that wants to ban the Ukrainian language from official use, Ukrainian TV channels, and Ukrainian Orthodox religion? And what if 15,000 Russian troops, 160 tanks and 230 APCs were massed around L’viv, threatening to attack the city? And what if pro-Russians had already conducted numerous raids against a neighboring city, killing and capturing patriotic Ukrainians?
How would the Western media cover that?