The Kyiv Post has always been pretty nationalistic, and never had too much time for Russia. It has an inconsistent record on the Ukrainian oligarchy, showing occasional flashes of frankness in which it castigates the idle rich, and depressing runs of puff pieces in which it canonizes Petro Poroshenko and gnashes its teeth with righteous anger at his detractors. Several of its regular writers are activists, and their material shows it. Overall, it is the newspaper of record for Kiev’s apologists, and draws a reliable audience of Russophobic Maidanites hoarsely crying “Yurrup!!!”, as if it were some sort of magic answer to all their problems. But if the paper’s material is often delusional, the comments section takes rollie-eyed psychosis to a whole new level. This is where you get to interact with the low-information voter, likely from a Ukrainian diaspora in North America, who buys the western propaganda line wholly and eagerly. Making any remark which appears defensive of Russia is like a red rag to a bull.
Here, every once in awhile, you run across a different kind of commenter – not just the usual “Shut your mouth, you Putin troll asswipe!!” who assumes the right to proselytize his own opinions to his heart’s contentment, but will entertain no notion of a dissenting opinion without shouting that it must have been paid for by Putin and anyone who expresses such opinions is an employee of the FSB. Get it? Everyone who argues for a free and undivided Ukraine delivered whole and breathing to Yurrup and its austerity agenda is a patriot who sounds off because it’s the right thing to do; everyone else is paid to lie. Occasionally, you run across a true apologist; one who is apparently not ignorant, but one who applies his/her intellect to running interference for the Kiev junta and doing battle on its behalf through insults, fabrications and assumption of a certain mantle of authority, while devising excuses for those actions by Kiev that he/she cannot explain away.
I recently did run across just such a person. Attracted to the article “Ukraine Overturns its Non-Bloc Status. What Next With NATO?” by the sheer zaniness of the Ukrainian leadership – which keeps bulling ahead with trying to referendum itself into NATO despite its ongoing border disputes so that it can immediately pull NATO into an Article 5 war with Russia – I read it, and then perused the comments.
I was moved to get involved in the discussion by a comment from Michael Caine – not the British actor, I’m pretty sure; this individual is not particularly literate but compensates with stubbornness – who seemed sincere enough, but is fixated on the idea that Russia (personified, of course, by Putin, as it is whenever it does anything the western world does not like) has broken international law by acceding to Crimea’s request to join the Russian Federation. This process is invariably described in the Anglospheric press as “annexation”, and we can hardly blame Michael, because high-profile chowderheads all the way up to and including President Obama have expressed the same opinion, which is completely unsubstantiated. As we have often discussed, the lifeblood of law is precedent, and a precedent was established on unilateral declarations of independence with the acceptance of that premise for the independence of Kosovo. Poland’s opinion just happened to be the first I came across, written by then-Foreign-Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, and it announced smugly that a unilateral declaration of independence is outside international law and therefore unregulated by that authority. A state-in-being, saith Radek, is a matter of reality rather than law, and if you have a population which is distinct by virtue of its language, customs and cultural attributes, which has its own government, civil institutions and financial institutions, you are – or you can be – a state by way of a unilateral declaration of independence.
The Polish opinion was pivotal to the broad recognition of Kosovo, because Poland was the first East European and the first Slavic nation to recognize it. However – and this is important – not one other world opinion which supported the recognition of Kosovo challenged Poland’s contention that a unilateral declaration of independence is not an instrument regulated by international law. Even The Economist, no friend of Russia and Putin, declared in advance of the vote that if Crimea chose to detach itself from Ukraine’s rule, no court would be likely to challenge it, while RFE/RL – still less a friend of Russia and Putin – opined that the Budapest Memorandum (the document in which all the thunderers that Putin has broken international law vest their hopes) is a diplomatic document rather than a treaty, and while it is international law, is not enforceable. Even, if you can imagine, The Hague weighed in, expressing the legal opinion,
“Therefore, is the Crimean Parliament vote to join the Russian Federation illegal? The answer here is no, albeit with the above clarifications and observations. Can the Crimean population legally exercise its right to external self-determination? The author is of the opinion that − on the basis of existing international case law − this question can neither be answered affirmatively or negatively.”
All this went about four feet above Mr. Caine’s head, because my polite request that he elaborate on specifically which international law Mr. Putin (who apparently managed the “annexation” of Crimea singlehandedly) broke received the response that Putin had violated the law that says Thou Shalt Not Steal, not to mention that other bad one, Thou Shalt Not Kill.
These are…ummm…not international laws. Although they apply to all observers of the Christian faith, these are Commandments, and I have yet to see a lawyer hold forth in an international court on a case in which the Book Of Authorities and Precedents is a stone tablet, although I should not speak too soon. You never know.
At about this point, The Apologist entered the fray. Under the banner of Swift69, and plainly one of the protagonists for The Budapest Memorandum, he announced that there was no unilateral declaration of independence because it was all engineered in Moscow, which allegedly is a fact that everyone admits.
In point of fact, the Crimean Parliament and City Council of Sevastopol did declare Crimea’s independence, in writing (here’s the English translation), and specifically citing the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo as precedent. That was actually in advance of the referendum, which asked respondents if they did or did not favour Crimea applying to join the Russian Federation. So far as I am aware nobody has admitted or otherwise affirmed in any way that Crimea’s declaration of independence originated in Moscow. Russia admitted in April 2014 that it had conducted advance polling in Crimea to determine the level of support for independence, an issue which had been raised on and off since the 90’s. Kind of hard to interpret that as unacceptable interference in a reality that seems to see nothing wrong with political-activist NGO’s operated in Moscow and paid by American think tanks attempting to amass support for overthrowing and replacing the Russian government, what?
Up to this point it was just an amusing academic tussle – Clash Of The References, if you will, although Swift69 actually didn’t supply any. But it turned ugly from there.
I wrote, “Meanwhile Ukraine has no room at all to be preaching about international law, nor do any of its defenders. Indiscriminate attack such as firing short-range ballistic missiles into civilian population centers is a war crime.”
Swift69 replied, “Ballistic Missies”(sic) – the word “ballistic” simply means that it is “on a ballistic trajectory.” Every bullet ever fired and every grad ever launched is a “ballistic missile.” While you’re clearly trying to use the term to elicit sympathy based on people’s association of the word n the phrase “intercontinental ballistic missile” or somesuch, it’s nonsense. Use of ballistic weapons is no more a “war crime” than use of gravity is… “into civilian centers.” what nonsense. “Many of the shocking cases, particularly those published by the Russian media are greatly exaggerated… There’s no convincing evidence of mass killings or graves.” – Amnesty International report.”
Let’s just ponder that for a moment. Swift69 is implying an equivalency between a bullet which might kill two or three people if it ricochets and hits more than its intended target, and a fucking ballistic missile which has a warhead that weighs more than half a ton (1,058 pounds). CNN reported live that U.S. officials had confirmed Ukrainian forces fired “several” Tochka-U (SS-21 Scarab) missiles “into areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists”. The same source reported it could kill “dozens”. The Tochka-U has a Circular Error Probability (CEP) of 160 meters. That means even in the unlikely event that you were aiming it at a cluster of 20 armed combatants – from as much as 70 km away – you could only count on the weapon landing somewhere within 160 meters of them. The Ukrainians fired them into cities in Donbass. And this shitbag is saying I merely tacked on the word “ballistic” to make it sound scary, and to win sympathy for those it was fired at which they did not really deserve. Take a look at the crater – that look like a bullet hole to you?
So, let’s review. In fact, Indiscriminate Attack is a war crime, in accordance with Customary International Humanitarian Law, Rule 12. Indiscriminate Attack is defined as attack which is (a) not directed at a specific military objective, (b) employs a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective, or (c) employs a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.
Explain to me, if you can, how you can fire a ballistic missile with a circular error probability of 160 meters (524 feet) into a city which contains both civilians and paramilitaries, and be reasonably confident you will not kill or injure any civilians, or even that you know from as far away as 70 km from the city that is your target, what you are shooting at? How are you going to limit the effects of your attack with a 1000 lb+ warhead so that it only kills military combatants?
Even the bullet Captain Sarcastic implied was also a “ballistic missile” could get you in front of a war crimes tribunal, if you just loosed off some of them into a crowd which was a composite of civilians and combatants without attempting to differentiate between the two. The weapon is not the concern – aimed shots in a scenario in which you are attempting to confine your fire to military targets is. Love of God, how hard is that to grasp?
Swift69 goes on to accuse me of sensationalizing further with the implication that the Ukrainian army is firing into civilian population centers, and proceeds to conflate that with an Amnesty International report which accused Russia of propagandizing mass graves, saying there was no credible evidence of that. The two issues have nothing to do with one another. I said the Ukrainian army is firing heavy weapons into Donbass cities at a range beyond which it can discriminate between civilian and military targets, and that considerable loss of life and tremendous damage has resulted. That is absolutely an accurate portrayal of the state of affairs.
For a grand finale, Swift69 proceeds to attack the source of an article which reports that Ukrainian forces or agents of the Ukrainian government have cut off the civilian populations of cities in eastern Ukraine from water and food and medicines in an attempt to force their surrender, and that this is also a war crime. That’s a good tactic, and I use it sometimes myself – if you’re not comfortable that you can refute what was said, imply the person who reported it is a lunatic. In this instance, I think there is plenty of corroborating evidence that forces acting on Kiev’s direction did just what I accuse them of doing.
Kiev is committing war crimes against Ukrainian citizens with the vociferous approval of the Kyiv Post, the tacit approval of the leadership of NATO countries and the slobbering whitewash of Kiev’s loony-fringe supporters. Shamelessly, right under your nose, and in the clear presence of condemnatory evidence that should have the lot of them swinging from the gibbet.