What the U.S. Media Isn't Telling You About the Crisis in Ukraine

If you believe what much of the U.S. media tells you, Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Eastern Ukraine.

Take a look at this dramatic video montage from CNN, for example. Swelling music in the background provides what plays like a movie score over a blatant politicization of an international tragedy. The video overwhelmingly quotes Western and Ukrainian politicians, and the one quote from Putin frames him as the hypocritical ogre.


Fox News also weighed in with its own blame game as soon as the day of the MH17 tragedy. "I believe Vladimir Putin has the blood of these airline passengers on his hands," Geraldo Rivera said.

Hillary Clinton also told CNN Friday that she believes Putin "bears responsibility" in the disaster. She went into detail about the negative aspects of his personality. "He's very tough. He's a very arrogant person to deal with," she said.

Here's what we know: U.S. officials say their evidence from satellites and social media overwhelmingly points to the rebels’ complicity in the downing of MH17. 

The United States also says that Putin is responsible for giving the rebels weapons and then losing control of them when they blundered.

Both of these things seem to be true so far.

However, what the U.S. media neglects to tell you is that eastern Ukraine is a war zone, and that in war, both sides commit atrocities. The Ukrainian military is also killing innocent civilians in its escalating offensives. Eastern Ukraine has been a point of armed conflict since March, when pro-Russian separatists overtook the Donetsk government and eventually seized multiple towns in Eastern Ukraine.


Image Credit: BBC.

It's convenient for the U.S. media to leave out the fact that the Ukrainian military is also committing heinous crimes. Human Rights Watch released a document on Thursday accusing the Ukrainian government forces and pro-government militias of killing 16 civilians and wounding more with unguided Grad rockets between July 12 and 21.

Grad rockets are highly inhumane because they cannot differentiate between military and civilians. Using them around civilians could amount to a war crime, according to the document. Both sides in the war have used Grads, but Ukrainian forces denied using them.


Image Credit: Getty Images. Ukrainian servicemen in Verhnyokamyanske, eastern Ukraine.

The crimes of the Ukrainian military, however, are inconvenient to the U.S. narrative, particularly when the United States has good ties with Ukraine's new, Western-aligned government.

Pinning the blame on Putin entirely is a useful way of distracting from the fact that U.S. officials have been unable to solve the crisis in Ukraine. While the United States blames the rebels entirely for downing MH17, it's not such a straight forward narrative. That applies to the entire situation in Eastern Ukraine.

Putin blames Ukraine for the context of the fighting during the downing of the plane, and he's not entirely wrong. In reality, Ukraine’s new President, Petro Poroshenko, halted a partial cease-fire in late June and launched a brutal offensive against the cities overtaken by rebels in Eastern Ukraine. That was the immediate cause of the fighting going on when the MH17 disaster happened.

That doesn't absolve Russia or Putin — after all on Monday, U.S. intelligence released images showing the Russian military firing into Ukraine. Putin, like many other actors in this geopolitical mess, does have questions to answer. But it's important to tell the entire story, and not just the part that is politically convenient for the United States.

The bottom line is that this is a war, and both sides are committing atrocities — not just Putin or the pro-Russian rebels. It's imperative to complete the war's narrative by informing the public on the Ukrainian military's violence and aggression as well as that of the separatists. Otherwise, the civilians tragically killed by Grads from either side are used as political pawns in this ongoing war of misinformation. 

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Sarah Kaufman

Sarah is a freelance journalist and William Safire wannabe. Her weak spots are for Kendrick Lamar and weird Twitter. She has her master's in journalism from Medill and specializes in Russian language.

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