I’ve been voluntarily fighting Russian disinformation since my family took to the streets in Kyiv in 2013. From November to February of the following year, urban and rural Ukrainians (between 400,000 and 800,000 people) united in protest against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s sudden decision not to sign the European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement, in favor of closer ties to Russia. With public support, Ukraine’s parliament overwhelmingly approved this step on the path to formally repair Ukraine’s historical connection to Europe, long severed by Russian colonialism. As I monitored the live cams and news feeds of the protests, and Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, my heart responded to the dignity, determination, and love expressed in their resolve and their commitment to self-determination. I was activated.
As of January 2022, I find myself in the same space, motivated once again to protect my family and cultural heritage as best I can from such a long distance, as I am based in the United States. I share Ukrainian-sourced information, amplify Ukrainian voices, and call out misinformation and propaganda wherever I find it. It’s become a job and it’s tiring AF.
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I was deeply disappointed by Cammie Tipton-Amini’s opinion piece ‘”When Ukraine Was Newly Independent and Everything Was Possible,” which makes a number of assertions and statements that echo Russian propaganda.
It begins with an insulting title that implies that Ukraine has lost its potential, continues with statements that attempt to absolve Russia of blame, then speaks on the part of a nation to which she has indicated no personal connection.
Tipton-Amini employs simplistic whataboutism and parrots Putin’s own talking point citing NATO expansion as the reason for Russia’s ongoing murder and torture of Ukrainian civilians, the destruction of its civilian infrastructure and settlements, and the looming threat to worldwide food security. She writes: “In much the same manner as America reacted with Cold War pandemonium upon discovering the placement of Soviet weaponry in Cuba in 1962, Russia today is responding with a NIMBY war at the possibility of NATO at its backdoor.”
The writer denies the independent volition and voices of 42 million people and deflects blame from the aggressor, again when she states:
“… a scant four years after Ukraine gained independence and just as it was stumbling into nationhood — it was not their own historical Cossack heritage its people embraced, nor was it traditional Tatar culture of the Crimean people. Rather, Ukrainians grasped at Western, namely American, culture and Parr’s photographs display that encroachment that has led to where we are today.”
It’s been widely covered that Russian disinformation campaigns are persistent, pervasive, and very creative. Just because Ukraine gained independence doesn’t mean it abandoned its heritage. These kinds of blanket statements are false and facile.
If you support Ukrainian people in the fight for their lives, their ancestors, and their culture, and against authoritarianism, please read and share Ukrainian news sources like Euromaidan Press or the Kyiv Independent. You can also follow and retweet Ukrainian journalists on Twitter, and follow trusted sources they use. And finally, don’t write about Ukrainians, write with them.