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The Olympics as a Tool of the New Cold War

The allegations of systematic state organised doping by the Russian authorities are founded on the evidence of three compromised individuals and have been presented in a way that denies Russian athletes their fundamental rights.

Andrey Fomin

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This article first appeared and was submitted by Oriental Review with the agreement of the author.

The 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism (non-discrimination of any kind, including nationality and political opinion) seems to be forgotten long ago.  In ancient Greece the competition of best athletes was able to halt a war and serve as a bridge of understanding between two recent foes.  But in the twentieth century the Olympics have become a political weapon.  Back in 1980 the US and its allies boycotted the games in Moscow as a protest against the Soviet troops that entered Afghanistan at the request of that country’s legitimate government (in contrast, the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany were held as usual, to the applause of the “civilised” world).

On May 8, 2016 the CBS program 60 Minutes aired a broadcast about doping in Russia.  The interviews featured recorded conversations between a former staffer with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), Vitaly Stepanov, and the ex-director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Grigory Rodchenkov.  That program was just the fourth instalment in a lengthy series about the alleged existence of a system to support doping in Russian sports.

A few days later the New York Times published an interview with Rodchenkov.  There that former official claims that a state-supported doping program was active at the Sochi Olympics, and that the orders for that program had come almost directly from the Russian president.

One important fact that escaped most international observers was that a media campaign, which had begun shortly after the 2014 deep freeze in Russian-Western relations, was constructed around the “testimonies” of three Russian citizens who were all interconnected and complicit in a string of doping scandals, and who later left Russia and are trying to make new lives in the West.

Yulia Stepanova née Rusanova

A 29-year-old middle-distance runner, Yulia Stepanova, can be seen as the instigator of this scandal. This young athlete’s personal best in global competition was a bronze medal at the European Athletics Indoor Championship in 2011.  At the World Championships that same year she placed eighth. 

Stepanova’s career went off the rails in 2013, when the Russian Athletic Federation’s Anti-Doping Commission disqualified her for two years based on “blood fluctuations in her Athlete Biological Passport.” Such fluctuations are considered evidence of doping.  All of Stepanova’s results since 2011 have been invalidated.  In addition, she had to return the prize money she had won running in professional races in 2011-2012. 

Stepanova, who had been suspended for doping, acted as the primary informant for ARD journalist Hajo Seppelt, who had begun filming a documentary about misconduct in Russian sports.  After the release of ARD’s first documentary in December 2014, Stepanova left Russia along with her husband and son.  In 2015 she requested political asylum in Canada.  Even after her suspension ended in 2015, Stepanova told the WADA Commission (p.142 of the November 2015 WADA Report) that she had tested positive for doping during the Russian Track and Field Championships in Saransk in July 2010 and paid 30,000 rubles (approximately $1,000 USD at that time) to the director of the Russian anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Gregory Rodchenkov, in exchange for concealing those test results.

Vitaly Stepanov

Yulia Stepanova’s husband is Vitaly Stepanov, a former staffer at RUSADA.  He had lived and studied in the US since he was 15, but later decided to return to Russia.  In 2008, Vitaly Stepanov began working for RUSADA as a doping-control officer.  Vitaly met Yulia Rusanova in 2009 at the Russian national championships in Cheboksary. 

Stepanov now claims that he sent a letter to WADA detailing his revelations back in 2010, but never received an answer.  In 2011 Stepanov left RUSADA. One fact that deserves attention is that Vitaly has confessed that he was fully aware that his wife was taking banned substances, both while he worked for RUSADA as well as after he left that organisation. Take note that Stepanova’s blood tests went positive starting in 2011 – i.e., from the time that her husband, an anti-doping officer, left RUSADA.

With a clear conscience, the Stepanovs, now married, accepted prize money from professional races until Yulia was disqualified.  Then they no longer had a source of income and the prize money suddenly had to be returned, at which point Vitaly Stepanov sought recourse in foreign journalists, offering to tell them the “truth about Russian sports.”  In early June he admitted that WADA had not only helped his family move to America, but had also provided them with $30,000 in financial assistance.

Gregory Rodchenkov

And finally, the third figure in the campaign to expose doping in Russian sports – the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Gregory Rodchenkov. 

According to Vitaly Stepanov, he was the man who sold performance-enhancing drugs while helping to hide their traces, and had also come up with the idea of “doped Chivas mouth swishing” (page 50), a technique that transforms men into Olympic champions.

This 57-year-old native of Moscow is acknowledged to be the best at what he does.  He graduated from Moscow State University with a Ph.D. in chemistry and began working at the Moscow anti-doping lab as early as 1985.  He later worked in Canada and for Russian petrochemical companies, and in 2005 he became the director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory in Moscow. 

In 2013 Marina Rodchenkova – Gregory Rodchenkov’s sister – was found guilty and received a sentence for selling anabolic steroids to athletes.  Her brother was also the subject of a criminal investigation into charges that he supplied banned drugs.  Threatened with prosecution, Gregory Rodchenkov began to behave oddly and was repeatedly hospitalized and “subjected to a forensic psychiatric examination.”  A finding was later submitted to the court, claiming that Rodchenkov suffered from “schizotypal personality disorder,” exacerbated by stress.  As a result, all the charges against Rodchenkov were dropped. 

But the most surprising thing was that someone with a “schizotypal personality disorder” and a sister convicted of trafficking in performance-enhancing drugs continued as the director of Russia’s only WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory.  In fact, he held this job during the 2014 Olympics.  Rodchenkov was not dismissed until the fall of 2015, after the eruption of the scandal that had been instigated by the broadcaster ARD and the Stepanovs. 

In September 2015 the WADA Commission accused Rodchenkov of intentionally destroying over a thousand samples in order to conceal doping by Russian athletes.  He personally denied all the charges, but then resigned and left for the US where he was warmly embraced by filmmaker Bryan Fogel, who was shooting yet another made-to-order documentary about doping in Russia.

Professor Richard H. McLaren

As this article is being written, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is studying a report  from an “independent Person,” the Canadian professor Richard H. McLaren, who has accused the entire Russian Federation, not just individual athletes, of complicity in the use of performance-enhancing drugs. 

McLaren was quickly summoned to speak with WADA shortly after the NYT published interview with Rodchenkov.  The goal was clear: to concoct a “scientific report” by mid-July that would provide the IOC with grounds to ban the Russian team from the Rio Olympics. 

At a press conference on July 18 McLaren himself acknowledged that with a timeline of only 57 days he was unable “to identify any athlete that might have benefited from such manipulation to conceal positive doping tests.” 

WADA’s logic here is clear – they need to avoid any accusations of bias, unprofessionalism, embellishment of facts, or political partisanship.  No matter what duplicity and lies are found in the report – it was drafted by an “independent person,” period. 

However, McLaren does not try to hide the fact that the entire report is based on the testimony of a single person – Rodchenkov himself, who is repeatedly presented as a “credible and truthful” source.  Of course that man is accused by WADA itself of destroying 1,417 doping tests and faces deportation to Russia for doping-linked crimes, but he saw an opportunity to become a “valuable witness” and “prisoner of conscience” who is being persecuted by the “totalitarian regime” in Russia.

The advantage enjoyed by this “independent commission” – on the basis of whose report the IOC is deciding the fate of Russia’s Olympic hopefuls – is that its accusations will not be examined in court, nor can the body of evidence be challenged by the lawyers for the accused.  Nor is the customary legal presumption of innocence anywhere in evidence.

It appears from Professor McLaren’s statement that no charges will be brought against any specific Russian athletes.  Moreover, they can all compete if they refuse to represent Russia at the Olympics. 

There are obvious reasons for this selectivity.  A law professor and longstanding member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Professor McClaren knows very well that any charges against specific individuals that are made publicly and result in “legally significant acts” (such as a ban on Olympic participation) can and will be challenged in court, in accordance with international law and on the basis of the presumption of innocence.  All the evidence to be used by the prosecution is subject to challenge, and if some fact included in those charges can be interpreted to the defendant’s advantage, then the court is obliged to exclude that fact from the materials at the disposal of the prosecution.

As a lawyer, McLaren understands all this very well.  Hundreds of lawsuits filed by Russian athletes resulting in an unambiguous outcome would not only destroy his reputation and ruin him professionally – they could form the basis of a criminal investigation with obvious grounds for accusing him of intentionally distorting a few facts, which in his eyes can be summarised as follows:

During the Sochi Olympics, an FSB officer named Evgeny Blokhin switched the doping tests taken from Russian athletes, exchanging them for “clean” urine samples.  This agent is said to have possessed a plumbing contractor’s security clearance, allowing him to enter the laboratory.  In addition, there are reports that Evgeny Kurdyatsev, – the head of the Registration and Biological Sample Accounting Department – switched the doping tests at night, through a “mouse hole” in the wall (!).  Awaiting them in the adjacent building was the man who is now providing  “credible evidence” – Gregory Rodchenkov – and some other unnamed individuals, who passed Blokhin the athletes’ clean doping tests to be used to replace the original samples.  If the specific gravity of the clean urine did not match the original profile, it was “adapted” using table salt or distilled water. 

But of course the DNA was incompatible!  And all of this was going on in the only official, WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory in Russia!

How would something like that sound in any court?  We have witnesses, but the defence team cannot subject them to cross-examination.  We cannot prove that Blokhin is an FSB agent, but we believe it.  We do not possess any of the original documents – not a single photograph or affidavit from the official examination – but we have sufficient evidence from a single criminal who has already confessed to his crime.  We did not submit the emails provided by Rodchenkov to any experts to be examined, but we assert that the emails are genuine, that all the facts they contain are accurate, and that the names of the senders are correct.  We cannot accuse the athletes, so we will accuse and punish the state!

To be honest, we still do not believe that the Olympic movement has sunk so low as to deprive billions of people of the pleasure of watching the competitions, forgetting about politics and politicians.  That would mean waving goodbye to the reputations of the WADA and the IOC and to the global system of sports as a whole. 

Perhaps a solution to the colossal problem of doping is long overdue, but is that answer to be found within the boundaries of only one country, even a great country like Russia?  Should we take a moment here and now to dwell upon the multi-volume history of doping scandals in every single country in the world?  And in view of these facts that have come to light, is not WADA itself the cornerstone of the existing and far-reaching system to support and cover up athletic doping all over the world?

In conclusion, we cite below the complete translation of the Russian Olympic Committee’s statement in response to the WADA report:

“The accusations against Russian sports found in the report by Richard McLaren are so serious that a full investigation is needed, with input from all parties.  The Russian Olympic Committee has a policy of zero tolerance and supports the fight against doping.  It is ready to provide its full assistance and work together, as needed, with any international organisation.

We wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. McLaren’s view that the possible banning of hundreds of clean Russian athletes from competition in the Olympic Games is an acceptable ‘unpleasant consequence’ of the charges contained in his report.

The charges being made are primarily based on statements by Grigory Rodchenkov.  This is solely based on testimony from someone who is at the epi-centre of this criminal scheme, which is a blow not only to the careers and fates of a great many clean athletes, but also to the integrity of the entire international Olympic movement.

Russia has fought against doping and will continue to fight at the state level, steadily stiffening the penalties for any illegal activity of this type and enforcing a precept of inevitable punishment.

The Russian Olympic Committee fully supports the harshest possible penalties against anyone who either uses banned drugs or encourages their use.

At the same time, the ROC – acting in full compliance with the Olympic Charter – will always protect the rights of clean athletes.  Those who throughout their careers – thanks to relentless training, talent, and willpower – strive to realise their Olympic dreams should not have their futures determined by the unfounded, unsubstantiated accusations and criminal acts of certain individuals.  For us this is a matter of principle.”

 

The author is the Editor of Oriental Review.

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Ukraine Wants Nuclear Weapons: Will the West Bow to the Regime in Kiev?

Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are one of the few issues on which the great powers agree, intending to continue to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent new entrants into the exclusive nuclear club.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Major General Petro Garashchuk, recently stated in an interview with Obozrevatel TV:

“I’ll say it once more. We have the ability to develop and produce our own nuclear weapons, currently available in the world, such as the one that was built in the former USSR and which is now in independent Ukraine, located in the city of Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) that can produce these kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China have produced a missile named Satan … At the same time, Ukraine does not have to worry about international sanctions when creating these nuclear weapons.”

The issue of nuclear weapons has always united the great powers, especially following the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons towards the end of the Cold War went hand in hand with the need to prevent the spread of such weapons of mass destruction to other countries in the best interests of humanity. During the final stages of the Cold War, the scientific community expended great effort on impressing upon the American and Soviet leadership how a limited nuclear exchange would wipe out humanity. Moscow and Washington thus began START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations to reduce the risk of a nuclear winter. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances persuaded Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT in exchange for security assurances from its signatories.

Ukraine has in recent years begun entertaining the possibility of returning to the nuclear fold, especially in light of North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un’s lesson seems to be that a nuclear deterrent remains the only way of guaranteeing complete protection against a regional hegemon. The situation in Ukraine, however, differs from that of North Korea, including in terms of alliances and power relations. Kiev’s government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat carried out by extremist nationalist elements who seek their inspiration from Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The long arm of NATO has always been deeply involved in the dark machinations that led to Poroshenko’s ascendency to the Ukrainian presidency. From a geopolitical point of view, NATO’s operation in Ukraine (instigating a civil war in the wake of a coup) follows in the footsteps of what happened in Georgia. NATO tends to organize countries with existing anti-Russia sentiments to channel their Russophobia into concrete actions that aim to undermine Moscow. The war in the Donbass is a prime example.

However, Ukraine has been unable to subdue the rebels in the Donbass region, the conflict freezing into a stalemate and the popularity of the Kiev government falling as the population’s quality of life experiences a precipitous decline. The United States and the European Union have not kept their promises, leaving Poroshenko desperate and tempted to resort to provocations like the recent Kerch strait incident or such as those that are apparently already in the works, as recently reported by the DPR authorities.

The idea of Ukraine resuming its production of nuclear weapons is currently being floated by minor figures, but it could take hold in the coming months, especially if the conflict continues in its frozen state and Kiev becomes frustrated and desperate. The neoconservative wing of the American ruling elite, absolutely committed to the destruction of the Russian Federation, could encourage Kiev along this path, in spite of the incalculable risks involved. The EU, on the other hand, would likely be terrified at the prospect, which would also place it between a rock and a hard place. Kiev, on one side, would be able to extract from the EU much needed economic assistance in exchange for not going nuclear, while on the other side the neocons would be irresponsibly egging the Ukrainians on.

Moscow, if faced with such a possibility, would not just stand there. In spite of Russia having good relations with North Korea, it did not seem too excited at the prospect of having a nuclear-armed neighbor. With Ukraine, the response would be much more severe. A nuclear-armed Ukraine would be a red line for Moscow, just as Crimea and Sevastopol were. It is worth remembering the Russian president’s words when referring to the possibility of a NATO invasion of Crimea during the 2014 coup:

“We were ready to do it [putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert]. Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. It was not us who committed to coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs. I do not think this is actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a global conflict.”

As Kiev stands on the precipice, it will be good for the neocons, the neoliberals and their European lackeys to consider the consequences of advising Kiev to jump or not. Giving the nuclear go-ahead to a Ukrainian leadership so unstable and detached from reality may just be the spark that sets off Armageddon.

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Mike Pompeo lays out his vision for American exceptionalism (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 158.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda take a look at Mike Pompeo’s shocking Brussels speech, where the U.S. Secretary of State took aim at the European Union and United Nations, citing such institutions as outdated and poorly managed, in need of a new dogma that places America at its epicenter.

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Speaking in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unwittingly underscored why nobody takes the United States seriously on the international stage. Via The Council on Foreign Relations


In a disingenuous speech at the German Marshall Fund, Pompeo depicted the transactional and hypernationalist Trump administration as “rallying the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order.” He did so while launching gratuitous attacks on the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—pillars of the existing postwar order the United States did so much to create. He remained silent, naturally, on the body blows that the current administration has delivered to its erstwhile allies and partners, and to the institutions that once upon a time permitted the United States to legitimate rather than squander its international leadership.

In Pompeo’s telling, Donald J. Trump is simply seeking a return to the world that former Secretary of State George Marshall helped to create. In the decades after 1945, the United States “underwrote new institutions” and “entered into treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.” So doing, the United States “won the Cold War” and—thanks to the late President George H. W. Bush, “we won the peace” that followed. “This is the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting.”

That leadership is needed because the United States “allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode” once the bipolar conflict ended. “Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” Pompeo explained. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” What is needed is a multilateralism that once again places the nation-state front and center.

Leave aside for the moment that nobody actually believes what Pompeo alleges: that multilateralism should be an end in itself; that paper commitments are credible absent implementation, verification, and enforcement; or that the yardstick of success is how many bureaucrats get hired. What sensible people do believe is that multilateral cooperation is often (though not always) the best way for nations to advance their interests in an interconnected world of complicated problems. Working with others is typically superior to unilateralism, since going it alone leaves the United States with the choice of trying to do everything itself (with uncertain results) or doing nothing. Multilateralism also provides far more bang for the buck than President Trump’s favored approach to diplomacy, bilateralism.

Much of Pompeo’s address was a selective and tendentious critique of international institutions that depicts them as invariably antithetical to national sovereignty. Sure, he conceded, the European Union has “delivered a great deal of prosperity to the continent.” But it has since gone badly off track, as the “political wake-up call” of Brexit showed. All this raised a question in his mind: “Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels?”

The answer, as one listener shouted out, is “Yes!” The secretary, like many U.S. conservative critics of European integration, is unaware that EU member states continue to hold the lion’s share of power in the bloc, which remains more intergovernmental than supranational. Pompeo seems equally unaware of how disastrously Brexit is playing out. With each passing day, the costs of this catastrophic, self-inflicted wound are clearer. In its quest for complete policy autonomy—on ostensible “sovereignty” grounds—the United Kingdom will likely have to accept, as the price for EU market access, an entire body of law and regulations that it will have no say in shaping. So much for advancing British sovereignty.

Pompeo similarly mischaracterizes the World Bank and IMF as having gone badly off track. “Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.” This is an odd, hybrid critique. It combines a shopworn, leftist criticism from the 1990s—that the international financial institutions (IFIs) punish poor countries with structural adjustment programs—with the conservative accusation that the IFIs are socialist, big-government behemoths. Both are ridiculous caricatures. They ignore how much soul-searching the IFIs have done since the 1990s, as well as how focused they are on nurturing an enabling institutional environment for the private sector in partner countries.

Pompeo also aims his blunderbuss at the United Nations. He complains that the United Nations’ “peacekeeping missions drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities, as well as a recent Government Accountability Office report documenting how cost-effective such operations are compared to U.S. troops. Similarly, Pompeo claims, “The UN’s climate-related treaties are viewed by some nations simply as a vehicle to redistribute wealth”—an accusation that is both unsubstantiated and ignores the urgent need to mobilize global climate financing to save the planet.

Bizarrely, Pompeo also turns his sights on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU), for alleged shortcomings. Has the OAS, he asks, done enough “to promote its four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and economic development?” Um, no. Could that have something to do with the lack of U.S. leadership in the Americas on democracy and human rights? Yes. Might it have helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15 of this year? Probably.

Equally puzzling is Pompeo’s single line riff on the AU. “In Africa, does the African Union advance the mutual interest of its nation-state members?” Presumably the answer is yes, or its members would be headed for the door. The AU continues to struggle in financing its budget, but it has made great strides since its founding in 2002 to better advance security, stability, and good governance on the continent.

“International bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated,” Pompeo declared. Sounds reasonable. But where is this “free world” of which the secretary speaks, and what standing does the United States today have to defend, much less reform it? In the two years since he took office, Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in defending the international order, much less “returning [the United States] to its traditional, central leadership role in the world,” as Pompeo claims. Indeed, the phrase “U.S. leadership” has rarely escaped Trump’s lips, and he has gone out of his way to alienate longstanding Western allies and partners in venues from NATO to the G7.

When he looks at the world, the president cares only about what’s in it for the United States (and, naturally, for him). That cynicism explains the president’s deafening silence on human rights violations and indeed his readiness to cozy up to strongmen and killers from Vladimir Putin to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed bin Salman to too many more to list. Given Trump’s authoritarian sympathies and instincts, Pompeo’s warnings about “Orwellian human rights violations” in China and “suppressed opposition voices” in Russia ring hollow.

“The central question that we face,” Pompeo asked in Brussels, “is the question of whether the system as currently configured, as it exists today—does it work? Does it work for all the people of the world?” The answer, of course, is not as well as it should, and not for nearly enough of them. But if the secretary is seeking to identify impediments to a better functioning multilateral system, he can look to his left in his next Cabinet meeting.

“Principled realism” is the label Pompeo has given Trump’s foreign policy. Alas, it betrays few principles and its connection to reality is tenuous. The president has abandoned any pursuit of universal values, and his single-minded obsession to “reassert our sovereignty” (as Pompeo characterizes it) is actually depriving the United States of joining with others to build the prosperous, secure, and sustainable world that Americans want.

“Bad actors have exploited our lack of leadership for their own gain,” the secretary of state declared in Belgium. “This is the poisoned fruit of American retreat.” How true. Pompeo’s next sentence—“President Trump is determined to reverse that”—was less persuasive.

 

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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