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United States | 05Mar2014 | to Vladimir Putin
President Putin's Fiction: 10 False Claims About Ukraine
Office of the Spokesperson
March 5, 2014
As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in
Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since
Dostoyevsky wrote, “The formula ‘two times two equals five’ is not
without its attractions.”
Below are 10 of President Vladimir Putin’s recent claims justifying
Russian aggression in the Ukraine, followed by the facts that his
assertions ignore or distort.
Putin says: Russian
forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets. It
is “citizens’ defense groups,” not Russian forces, who have seized
infrastructure and military facilities in Crimea.
Facts: Strong evidence suggests that members of
Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized
anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea. While these units wear uniforms without
insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and
freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the
international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these
individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians.
Putin says: Russia’s
actions fall within the scope of the 1997 Friendship Treaty between
Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
Facts: The 1997 agreement requires Russia to
respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia’s military actions in
Ukraine, which have given them operational control of Crimea, are in
clear violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Putin says: The
opposition failed to implement the February 21  agreement with
former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Facts: The February 21  agreement laid out a plan
in which the Rada, or Parliament, would pass a bill to return Ukraine
to its 2004 Constitution, thus returning the country to a
constitutional system centered around its parliament. Under the terms
of the agreement, Yanukovych was to sign the enacting legislation
within 24 hours and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion.
Yanukovych refused to keep his end of the bargain. Instead, he packed
up his home and fled, leaving behind evidence of wide-scale corruption.
Putin says: Ukraine’s
government is illegitimate. Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader
Facts: On March 4,  President Putin
himself acknowledged the reality that Yanukovych “has no political
future.” After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, even his own Party of Regions
turned against him, voting to confirm his withdrawal from office and to
support the new government. Ukraine’s new government was approved by
the democratically elected Ukrainian Parliament, with 371 votes -- more
than an 82% majority. The interim government of Ukraine is a government
of the people, which will shepherd the country toward democratic
elections on May 25th -- elections that will allow all Ukrainians to
have a voice in the future of their country.
Putin says: There
is a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands are fleeing Ukraine
to Russia and seeking asylum.
Facts: To date, there is absolutely no evidence
of a humanitarian crisis. Nor is there evidence of a flood of
asylum-seekers fleeing Ukraine for Russia. International organizations
on the ground have investigated by talking with Ukrainian border
guards, who also refuted these claims. Independent journalists
observing the border have also reported no such flood of refugees.
Putin says: Ethnic
Russians are under threat.
Facts: Outside of Russian press and Russian
state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians
being under threat. The new Ukrainian government placed a priority on
peace and reconciliation from the outset. President Oleksandr Turchynov
refused to sign legislation limiting the use of the Russian language at
regional level. Ethnic Russians and Russian speakers have filed
petitions attesting that their communities have not experienced
threats. Furthermore, since the new government was established, calm
has returned to Kyiv. There has been no surge in crime, no looting, and
no retribution against political opponents.
Putin says: Russian
bases are under threat.
Facts: Russian military facilities were and
remain secure, and the new Ukrainian government has pledged to abide by
all existing international agreements, including those covering Russian
bases. It is Ukrainian bases in Crimea that are under threat from
Russian military action.
Putin says: There
have been mass attacks on churches and synagogues in southern and
Facts: Religious leaders in the country and
international religious freedom advocates active in Ukraine have said
there have been no incidents of attacks on churches. All of Ukraine’s
church leaders, including representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox
Church-Moscow Patriarchate, have expressed support for the new
political leadership, calling for national unity and a period of
healing. Jewish groups in southern and eastern Ukraine report that they
have not seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
Putin says: Kyiv
is trying to destabilize Crimea.
Facts: Ukraine’s interim government has acted
with restraint and sought dialogue. Russian troops, on the other hand,
have moved beyond their bases to seize political objectives and
infrastructure in Crimea. The government in Kyiv immediately sent the
former Chief of Defense to defuse the situation. Petro Poroshenko, the
latest government emissary to pursue dialogue in Crimea, was prevented
from entering the Crimean Rada.
Putin says: The
Rada is under the influence of extremists or terrorists.
Facts: The Rada is the most representative
institution in Ukraine. Recent legislation has passed with large
majorities, including from representatives of eastern Ukraine.
Far-right wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in
open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan
protests, are not represented in the Rada. There is no
indication that the Ukrainian government would pursue discriminatory
policies; on the contrary, they have publicly stated exactly the