Pro-Kiev voices struggle to be heard over separatists in Ukraine’s east
Gabriela Baczynska, Reuters, Apr 23 2014
(Additional reporting by Lina Kushch, writing by Conor Humphries, editing by Peter Graff)
DONETSK – When a group of pro-Kiev activists decided to hold a rally in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk, they found that no shops stocked ribbons in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Instead, they had to use social media to appeal to supporters in other parts of Ukraine to send the ribbons to their improvised headquarters, in a cellar near Donetsk’s Lenin Square. Tetiana Durneva, an activist with the committee, said:
This is all very hard. I speak Russian and grew up in a region that, compared to other parts of Ukraine, may seem less patriotic. But I know that the flag of my country is in yellow and blue and I have no other flags, or nostalgia for other symbols.
Since pro-Russian activists and gunmen in unmarked uniforms took over about a dozen public buildings around Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region this month, they have grabbed international attention and dominated the debate in the east about Ukraine’s future. The separatists have declared an independent “People’s Republic of Donetsk”. The region is now plastered with red, white and blue Russian flags and ribbons in the separatist colors of orange and black. Ukraine’s own colors are far harder to find. But the evidence of opinion polls, sociologists and local people themselves suggests the real picture in the Donbass region, where most people speak Russian as a first language but identify themselves as ethnic Ukrainians, is much more nuanced. Many people actively support the government in Kiev, though quantifying their number is difficult. And an even large number are caught somewhere in the middle: they do not particularly like Kiev, or Moscow, and just want an end to the instability. A poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology on Apr 10-15 said that only 27% of people in the Donetsk region supported joining Russia, echoing other recent polls. But the same poll said 72% of people in Donetsk considered the present government in Kiev to be illegal. Igor Todorov, a professor in the foreign policy department at Donetsk University, said:
All of the surveys show most people are for the status quo, keeping the region as part of Ukraine, even if the people don’t support the government. While there seems to be a tendency towards escalation and radicalization, most of the population seems to be engaged in a kind of passive resistance by just continuing with their normal lives.
Last week, some 2,000 anti-separatist protesters wrapped themselves in Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag and sang the national anthem in the center of Donetsk, a city of 1 million people. Pro-Russian rallies in Donetsk have been about the same size, although more frequent. The backers of the Ukrainian government say their true support is much greater than it appears. Yegor Firsov, an activists with the pro-West UDAR party led by retired boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, said:
The majority of Donetsk residents support a united, independent Ukraine. But, unfortunately, they support it sitting in their kitchens.
The pro-Kiev protesters blame a campaign of intimidation for keeping like-minded people off the streets. They say many of them have received multiple threats on the phone. Activist Aleksandr Klimenko said:
The worst thing is fear. When it trickles into the minds of the people, they are paralyzed.
The body of Ukrainian town councilor Volodymyr Rybak was found on Saturday near Slaviansk. Police said that Rybak and another unidentified man appeared to have been tortured and dumped alive in a river to drown. On Mar 13, an activist with the Ukrainian nationalist Svoboda party was stabbed to death when separatist sympathizers attacked a pro-Ukraine rally in Lenin Square in Donetsk. While pro-Russian separatists at the city administration are armed with Kalashnikovs and wearing balaclavas, pro-Ukrainian activists have remained unarmed and kept their faces uncovered. Sergei Harmash, an activist and journalist, said:
The majority supports Ukraine. But the minority, unfortunately, is very aggressive. And this minority has arms.
The supporters of Kiev have adopted different tactics. One protest took the form of an unannounced “flash mob” in an upscale shopping mall, which the demonstrators calculated was less likely to be targeted by their opponents. Lyudmila Vozmishcheva, a 57-year-old businesswoman who took part in that protest, said:
If you’re feeling suicidal, take a flag and walk down the main street.
She was referring to the Ukrainian flag. But pro-Russian groups say they are also subject to persecution, in their case from the police and army carrying out the orders of the government in Kiev. Apart from the views of ordinary people, the opinions that carry the most clout in this part of Ukraine are those of the oligarchs who control its industrial wealth. One of them, metals baron Sergei Taruta, has thrown his support behind Kiev by taking up the post of governor in Donetsk, although he has not been able to stop heavily armed pro-Moscow activists from barricading themselves in his office. The region’s most powerful man and Ukraine’s richest by far, coal and steel tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, once a supporter of Yanukovich, has been more circumspect. Last week, on the eve of the pro-Kiev protest, he told his 300,000 employees to stay away from rallies of all kinds.
when debka ran this chinese chlorine story 2 days ago i ridiculed it, but here reuters claims there are videos. where?
China says probing reports Chinese chlorine used in Syria attack
Reuters, Apr 23, 2014
BEIJING – China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it was investigating reports that a chlorine canister bearing the name of the country’s biggest arms maker was shown in footage believed to document a gas attack in Syria this month. Attacks this month in several areas in Syria share characteristics that have led analysts to believe that there is a coordinated chlorine bomb campaign, with growing evidence that it is the government side dropping the weapons. In the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita in the central province of Hama, 125 miles north of Damascus, opposition activists uploaded video of people choking and being fed oxygen following what they said were bombs dropped from helicopters on Apr 11-12. Further footage showed a partially exploded canister with the chemical symbol for chlorine along with the name of Chinese arms manufacturer Norinco. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos and Norinco, also known as China North Industries Group Corporation, has not responded to requests from Reuters for comment. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular press briefing:
After seeing this report, we paid great attention and immediately sought to understand from relevant departments. We will clarify this issue in a timely manner. We oppose the production and use of chemical weapons. On this, we are conscientious and responsible. Domestically, we have relevant laws and rules and a supervision system.
In a statement later emailed to Reuters, the ministry said:
China scrupulously abides by its non-proliferation obligations and strictly controls exports of dual-use items, including sensitive chemicals. Chlorine is a raw material that has wide industrial uses, and it is not on any nation’s or organization’s list of controlled items. China hopes that relevant media can objectively and fairly report this, to avoid causing misunderstanding.
Syria has vowed to hand over or destroy its entire chemical weapons arsenal by the end of this week, but still has roughly 14% of the chemicals it declared to the OPCW. In addition, the alleged battlefield use of chlorine gas, never included on the list submitted to the OPCW, has led some countries to consider requesting an investigation, possibly through the UN.
NYT Slammed for Honoring Israeli Govt Gag Orders
Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams, Apr 18 2014
The NYT made a rare admission that it submits to Israeli state gag orders, fueling charges from critics that the globally influential publication plays fast and loose with journalistic ethics to give favorable coverage to Israel. The revelation emerged when the NYT delayed its coverage of the Israeli detention of a Palestinian journalist, due as it turns out to a gag order from an Israeli court. The blackout came to light when journalists who did not heed the gag order exposed the detention and media censorship. The NYT’s
public editor ombudswoman, Margaret Sullivan, then elicited an admission from her own publication that it complies with Israeli media blackouts as a matter of policy. Journalist and activist Majd Kayyal, who is a Plastelinan citizen of Israel, was returning from a conference in Lebanon on Saturday when the Shin Bet secret police detained him for five days, during which he was interrogated and denied access to a lawyer. Richard Silverstein wrote on Saturday Apr 12 about Kayyal’s detention, and later released a copy of the gag order. Ali Abunimah reported the arrest on Sunday Apr 13, and published classified court transcripts that revealed the existence of the gag order on the media regarding the case. Abunimah subsequently wrote several pieces following the story. Thanks to an appeal from legal rights organization Adalah, the gag on Israeli media coverage was lifted on Thursday Apr 17. It was only after the gag order was lifted, five days after the detention and interrogation was exposed by other journalists, that the NYT covered the story of Kayyal, who has since been released from detention. Sullivan revealed on Thursday Apr 18 that NYT’s failure to cover the story earlier was due to its compliance with a media blackout. The chief of the NYT’s Jayloomia bureau, Jodi Rudoren, confirmed compliance with Israel’s gag orders. Sullivan writes,
The NYT is indeed, bound by gag orders, Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that the NYT has been subject to gag orders in the past.
Yet Jim Naureckas of FAIR told Common Dreams:
Such a claim mocks the whole idea of standing up for freedom of information, when you compare a gag order from a secret police organization to a traffic light. It’s striking that the story involves a journalist being arrested.
The newsroom lawyer for the NYT confirmed the compliance. Sullivan writes:
I asked the NYT’s newsroom lawyer, David McCraw, about the situation. He told me that he was consulted by NYT journalists this week as they considered publishing an article about Kayyal’s arrest. Although the situation is somewhat murky, he said, the general understanding among legal counsel in other countries is that local law would apply to foreign media. Similar issues arise when US news media organizations cover the UK courts, he said. But the restriction in Israel has not been tested, he said.
Yet <the NYT's managing editor Dean Baquet, and assistant managing editor Susan Chira, told Sullivan that they were not aware of any instances in which the paper complied with Israeli gag orders. Abunimah writes that these admissions leave many questions. He asks:
Why does Rudoren believe she is bound by gag orders when two senior editors said they were unaware of the newspaper ever agreeing to be bound by such gag orders?
According to Naureckas, the NYT’s Jayloomia bureau is riddled with conflicts of interest that extend beyond compliance with gag orders. As FAIR points out, former bureau chief Ethan Bronner had a son in the Israeli army during his tenure. Furthermore, reporter Isabel Kershner’s spouse has worked for a think tank that promotes favorable coverage of the Israeli government. Sullivan herself has previously criticized the NYT for biased coverage of Israel, challenging the paper’s decision to ignore revelations that the NSA shares unfiltered raw data intelligence files with the Israeli government. Ramah Kudaimi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams that the problem of biased coverage in major media extends far beyond the the NYT and raises the chilling question of what else is being blacked out. He said:
We just commemorated yesterday Plastelinan prisoners day, and here we have a young Plastelinan imprisoned by Israel for no reason and there is a gag order. It is shocking that the NYT would abide by gag orders and not practice real journalism. US funding of Israeli occupation and apartheid creates a mindset that seeps into the way the most US media covers oppression.
The NYT and US media in general covers Israel from the Israeli government’s perspective and treats Plastelinans at best as outsiders and at worst as a demographic threat.
i make no apology for devoting so much attention to media analysis, because this is how we’re brainwashed
In Yemen, Drones Don’t Kill Innocents
Peter Hart, FAIR, Apr 22 2014
When US military strikes kill civilians, it seems there’s always someone ready to claim that US weaponry doesn’t kill anyone who doesn’t deserve it. Over the weekend, there were reports that non-combatants were among the dead after the US carried out drone strikes in Yemen on what were said to be suspected AQ affiliates. And, sure enough, one of the first CNN segments managed to find someone to deny that this could happen. On CNN Newsroom, (4/19/14), host Fredricka Whitfield interviewed Christopher Hill, former US ambassador to Iraq:
Whitfield: So in your view, how significant is this strike, hitting three well-known operatives?
Hill: Well, first of all, I think our services do quite a job tracking these people. And, you know, coming a few days after that brazen effort by the AQ leadership to show that they’re around, I think we demonstrated that we can hunt them down. I have seen a number of these strikes, and it is amazing how accurate and how well-targeted they are. I mean, the idea that innocents are being killed, it’s really not the case.
But even by initial government accounts coming out of Yemen, that first strike did in fact kill three civilians, as CNN (4/19/14) and plenty of other outlets were reporting. But even when that issue of civilian deaths came up, there was a curious spin on the news. Here’s how Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr (4/19/14) explained it:
It looks like three civilians were killed, and that is always a big problem for the US, because the government of Yemen is very sensitive to these drone strikes.
Perhaps one could see the US government killing innocent people as a big problem even if those people’s government was not very sensitive to the issue of a foreign military killing its citizens by remote control? On the other hand, CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen (4/20/14) did point out on the following day that there are reasons to be skeptical of any of the official claims:
You know, one of the themes of the program is if you’re a military-age male in an area where a drone strike is happening, the US will often regard you as a combatant when often that is not the case. Not every military-age male is, in fact, part of AQ in Yemen.
Nonetheless, the reporting on shadowy military strikes that are part of a program that US government does not officially speak about is bound to rely on mostly unnamed government officials, either here in the US or in Yemen. Just look at today’s NYT story (4/22/14, photo above): the paper explains that those targeted were “militants who were planning to attack civilian and military facilities, government officials said in a statement.” The NYT report, entirely reliant on official sources, seemed to acknowledge its own limitations:
Given that the administration would not even confirm that US drones carried out the strikes over the weekend, it was unclear how the people targeted in the strike posed a threat to the US.
While it’s possible that the strikes are indeed targeting and killing terrorists on the verge of launching attacks, history suggests that initial claims can be flat-out wrong. When a US drone struck a wedding convoy in Yemen last December, for example, the NYT offered a sketchy account that backed the official line. The paper explained (12/13/13):
Most of the dead appeared to be people suspected of being militants linked to AQ.
A 2009 US attack that included cluster bombs was initially reported by the NYT as an attack on an AQ. On-the-ground reporting (3/29/12) later disclosed that the attack had killed 41 civilians, including 22 children and five pregnant women.
Lavrov: US running the show in Kiev without any scruples (extracts)
Greg Botelho, CNN, Apr 24 2014
On Wednesday, a company-size contingent of US Army paratroopers arrived in Swidwin, Poland, for training exercises at Warsaw’s request. They’ll be there through at least the end of the year, according to Stephen Mull, the US ambassador to Poland. The contingent is part of “a persistent rotational presence” that Pentagon spokesman Rear-Adm Kirby has said will involve four Italy-based companies of paratroopers that will go to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia over the next few months. Mull said Wednesday, in front of US troops standing in formation next to Polish troops:
Poland has been there for the US. Today, as the trans-Atlantic community confronts Russia’s unacceptable aggression against Poland’s neighbor Ukraine, a sovereign and independent state, we have a solemn obligation in the framework of NATO to reassure Poland of our security guarantee.
Some in the West fear that Russia will try to repeat the Crimea takeover scenario elsewhere in Ukraine, and perhaps in other countries in which ethnic Russians live, or where Russia or the former Soviet Union historically has had significant influence. Those countries include the Baltic states and Poland, which are members of NATO. As a result, the US and its NATO ‘allies’ are publicly stepping up involvement in places like Poland to dissuade Putin from thinking that advancing into these countries is an option, according to Kurt Volker, US ambassador to NATO from 2008 and 2009, who told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:
I think that if we did not take the steps that we are taking now, he would think that maybe it’s an option. If we did not do that, I think he would wonder, what would be the response of NATO if he did have some action there?
The situation in Ukraine has been darkened by the discovery Saturday of two tortured bodies near Slavyansk. One of them was pro-Kiev politician Vladimir Rybak, who Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday died as a result of injuries from torture and drowning. Stanislav Rechinsky, an adviser to the interior minister, blamed pro-Russian militants for having kidnapped and tortured him and others. He said Wednesday:
We have eyewitnesses who testified about hearing the so-called little green men bragging about the murders. We have another eyewitness who saw these men alive in the torture cells and who was able to escape.
Pro-Russian leader in Slavyansk, de facto Mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryo, vehemently denies such allegations, instead blaming the deaths on far-right Ukrainian nationalist extremists.
This one was written on Tuesday. The one in the post below it was written on Wednesday – RB
Prepping for a Ukrainian Massacre
Robert Parry, Consortium News, Apr 22 2014
Between the anti-Russian propaganda pouring forth from the Obama administration and the deeply biased coverage from the US news media, the US people are being prepared to accept and perhaps even cheer a massacre of eastern Ukrainians who have risen up against the coup regime in Kiev. The protesters who have seized government buildings in ten towns in eastern Ukraine are being casually dubbed “terrorists” by both the Kiev regime and some US journalists. Meanwhile, it’s become conventional wisdom in Official Washington to assume that the protesters are led by Russian special forces because of some dubious photographs of armed men, accepted as “proof” with few questions asked by the mainstream US news media. While the US news media is treating these blurry photos as the slam-dunk evidence of direct Russian control of the eastern Ukrainian protests, despite denials by the Russian government and the protesters, the BBC was among the few news agencies that provided a more objective assessment, noting that the photos are open to a variety of interpretations. However, in Official Washington, the stage is now set for what could be a massacre of Ukrainian civilians who have risen up against the putschists i Kiev. The violent putsch was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias, some of which have now been incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard and dispatched to the front lines in eastern Ukraine. If the slaughter of the eastern Ukrainian protesters does come, you can expect Official Washington to be supportive. Whereas the Kiev protesters who seized government buildings in February were deemed “pro-democracy” activists even as they overthrew a democratically elected leader, the eastern Ukrainian protesters, who still consider Yanukovych their legitimate president, are dismissed as “terrorists.” And, we all know what happens to “terrorists.” If you doubt the bias of the US press corps, consider this interview by the WaPo’s Lally Weymouth with Arsen Avakov, the Ukrainian coup regime’s minister of internal affairs. As published in Tuesday’s WaPo, the interview quoted Avakov as saying the protesters “will be punished severely” and included an exchange reflecting how thoroughly US journalists have bought into the coup regime’s narrative:
Weymouth: Do you think the Russians will actually release the buildings, as they said they would in last week’s Geneva meeting?
Avakov: Russia is taking advantage of the depressed condition of the local economy of these regions. But even in spite of that situation, in the city of Kramatorsk they did not have the level of support that they expected. We do not behave radically there for one reason.
Weymouth: When you say ‘radically,’ do you mean you don’t fight the terrorists?
Avakov: We are not acting radically in that region for two reasons. One is we do not want to hurt the peaceful population. And the second reason is we don’t want to turn the population against the central government. But that does not mean it will stay like this forever.
Weymouth: Then what happens?
Avakov: We will act.
Weymouth: What will you do?
Avakov: We will start liberating people from the terrorists. We are going to take full control over the roads, irrespective of the resistance of some groups.
What was journalistically remarkable about this interview was that it was Weymouth who began describing the eastern Ukrainian protesters as “terrorists,” though these people who have seized government buildings have not engaged in what we would traditionally call “terrorism.” Their actions have been no more violent, indeed much less violent,than the “pro-democracy” activists in Kiev. In February, the neo-Nazi militias killed more than a dozen police officers with firebombs and light weapons. And, when the “pro-democracy” protesters seized government buildings in Kiev, including the City Hall, they decked them out in Nazi symbols and a Confederate battle flag as the international expression of white supremacy. But the US news media never described those acts as “terrorism.” For more on the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, watch this report from the BBC:
Indeed, it is now considered unacceptable to mention the key role played by the neo-Nazis in overthrowing Yanukovych, even though the neo-Nazis themselves are quite proud of what they did and got four government ministries as a reward. One of those positions is the chief of national security, Andriy Parubyi, who announced last week that some of those militias had been incorporated into the National Guard and sent to the front lines of eastern Ukraine. For their part, those eastern protesters have said they are resisting the imposition of power from Kiev, which has included the appointment of billionaire “oligarchs” as regional administrators, and are rejecting a harsh austerity plan from the IMF that will make their hard lives even harder. Yet, Official Washington has largely banished those realities to the great memory hole. Many in the US government and the mainstream press corps seem to be licking their lips over the prospect of unleashing hell on the eastern Ukrainians. The preferred US narrative has even edged into the conspiracy theory that Putin somehow engineered the entire Ukraine crisis as part of a Hitler-like plot to reclaim Russian territory lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. This theory ignores the absurdity of Putin somehow arranging the protests and coup against Yanukovych. The reality is that Putin was caught off-guard by the events in Ukraine, in part because he was distracted by the Sochi Olympics and the threat of terrorism against the games. As the Ukraine crisis deepened, Putin supported the Feb 21 agreement, brokered by three European countries, that had Yanukovych agree to limit his powers, move up an election to vote him out of office and, most fatefully, pull back the police. The police withdrawal opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias, well-organized in 100-man brigades and well-armed with weapons looted from government stockpiles, to launch the final Feb 22 assault. Instead of standing behind the Feb 21 agreement, the US and the EU hailed the overthrow of Yanukovych and after recognizing that the neo-Nazis were in effective control of Kiev, supported the quick formation of a new government, headed by US favorite Yatsenyuk. Rather than some mastermind planning everything in advance, Putin reacted to the fast-moving crisis on the fly, adlibbing his response, including responding to the majority will of Crimea to bail out of this failed Ukrainian state and rejoin Russia. He also got approval from the Russian legislature to defend ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine if necessary. Yet rather than assess these events objectively, the US government and the mainstream US news media have slid into a neo-Cold War madness, which may be sated only by the blood of the eastern Ukrainian “terrorists.” That, however, could force Putin’s hand again and take this unnecessary crisis to a whole new level.
at times you have to remember that although robt parry is anti-9/11-truth and so forth, within his limits he does an excellent job
NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop
Robert Parry, Consortium News, Apr 23 2014
Two days after the NYT led its editions with a one-sided article about photos supposedly proving that Russian special forces were behind the popular uprisings in eastern Ukraine, it published what you might call a modified, limited retraction. Buried deep inside the Wednesday editions (p 9 in my paper), the article by Michael Gordon and Andrew Kramer, two of the three authors from the earlier story, has this curious beginning:
A collection of photographs that Ukraine says shows the presence of Russian forces in the eastern part of the country, and which the US cited as evidence of Russian involvement, has come under scrutiny.
In the old days of journalism, we used to apply the scrutiny before we published a story on the front page or on any other page, especially if it had implications toward war or peace, whether people would live or die. However, in this case, fitting with the anti-Russian bias that has pervaded the mainstream US press corps, the scrutiny was set aside long enough for this powerful propaganda theme to be put in play and to sweep across the media landscape. Only now do we belatedly learn what should have been obvious: the blurry photographs provided by the coup regime in Kiev and endorsed by the Obama administration don’t really prove anything. There were obvious alternative explanations to the photos that were ignored by the NYT, such as the possibility that these were military veterans who are no longer associated with the Russian military. Or that some photos are not of the same person. And, one of the photos featured by the NYT in its Monday lead article, purportedly showing some of the armed men in Russia, was actually shot in the Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, according to Maxim Dondyuk, the freelance photographer who took the picture and posted it on his Instagram account. Here is the tortured way the NYT treated that embarrassing lapse in its journalistic standards:
A packet of US briefing materials that was prepared for the Geneva meeting asserts that the photograph was taken in Russia. The same men are also shown in photographs taken in Ukraine. Their appearance in both photographs was presented as evidence of Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine. The packet was later provided by US officials to the NYT, which included that description of the group photograph in an article and caption that was published on Monday. The dispute over the group photograph cast a cloud over one particularly vivid and highly publicized piece of evidence.
Then, after noting Dondyuk’s denial that the photo was snapped in Russia, the NYT quoted State Dept spokeswoman Jen Psaki as acknowledging:
The assertion that the photograph in the US briefing materials had been taken in Russia was incorrect.
She said that the photograph was included in a “draft version” of a briefing packet, and that “the information has since been corrected.” But the misidentification of the photo’s location as Russia, not Ukraine, was not some minor mistake. If the photo was taken in Ukraine, then the whole premise of the claim that these same guys were operating in Russia and have since moved to Ukraine collapses. Note how the NYT framed this point in its Monday article:
Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.
Then, the cutline below the photo read:
Soldiers in a group photo of a reconnaissance unit, which was taken in Russia, were later photographed operating in towns in eastern Ukraine.
There was no attribution. The location is stated as flat fact. Still, the Obama administration is not going to let its sloppy mistake get in the way of a potent propaganda theme. According to the NYT, Psaki insisted that there was plenty of other classified and unclassified evidence proving that the Russians are behind the eastern Ukrainian uprisings, but none of that supposed evidence was included in Wednesday’s story. The problem for the NYT, however, is different. Many of the flaws in the photographic evidence were there to see before Monday’s front-page article, but the newspaper was apparently blinded by its anti-Russian bias. For instance, the article devoted much attention to the Russian skill at “masking” the presence of its troops, but that claim would seem to be contradicted by these allegedly secret warriors posing for public photos. The NYT also ignored the fact that US Special Forces and indeed the special forces of many other nations also seek to blend in with the populations by growing beards and wearing local clothing. This is not some unique tactic employed by the nefarious Russians.