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Ukraine: Outrage and Double Standards

Published: August 6, 2014 (Issue # 1823)



  • A makeshift memorial to the victims of the May 2 fire in Odessa, which left more than 40 people dead.
    Photo: Vadim Ghirda / AP

A dangerous polarization of opinion between Russia and the West developed during the early months of the Ukraine crisis, creating a growing gulf between Russians and many parts of the outside world.

This polarization has reached a new level of rhetoric and hysteria with the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Many Russians — regardless of whether they have been supporters or opponents of Vladimir Putin — have come to believe the tragedy, and the bodies of its victims, are being used to whip up a hatred that threatens all of them.

They compare this atmosphere to the deafening silence that greeted Russia’s repeated pleas for an international investigation of the May 2 massacre in Odessa. Dozens of pro-Russian protesters were burned alive when the building in which they had taken refuge from pro-Ukrainian gangs was set on fire. According to a New York Times account confirmed by witnesses from both sides, as the flames engulfed the building “Ukrainian activists sang the Ukrainian national anthem. They also hurled a new taunt: ‘Colorado’ for the Colorado potato beetle, striped red and black like the pro-Russian ribbons. Those outside chanted ‘burn Colorado, burn.’”

Alarmingly, the exact number of casualties still has not been established, and there is no international effort to find the truth.

If Western news organizations declare that it’s their policy to expose the shameful facts of ethnic hatred or the abuse of human rights, they should do so without fear or favor, regardless of the nationalities involved.

It is easy to dismiss calls to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine as Kremlin propaganda. Europe has already paid a high price for its limp response earlier this year to the escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and the pro-Russian rebels. Russia’s complaints about rampant Ukrainian nationalism and violations of the rights of ethnic Russians were at first largely ignored in the West, as if they were a total fabrication.

But from the Ukrainian parliament’s move in February — blocked by the president — to repeal a law giving the Russian language official status in some regions, to Ukrainian nationalists singing anti-Russian chants as pro-Russian activists were being burnt alive in Odessa, clearly the claims were serious.

Several Russian journalists, including reporters from Russia’s Zvezda TV, were captured by Ukrainian forces, and three Russian journalists were killed when covering the conflict in Ukraine. Some Russian sources maintain the Ukrainian army was responsible.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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