The video above provides a useful accompaniment to this article. In it, Scott Ritter discusses the criminal attempts by Ukrainian armed forces to create some kind of incident at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in the hopes of forcing greater international intervention.
Ukraine continues to commit its war crimes with the assistance of arms shipments from imperialist governments. In support, the corporate ‘mainstream’ media obfuscate the truth, giving Ukraine a free hand to commit crimes not only against Russian soldiers, but also against civilians who are seen as ‘disloyal’ to Kiev.
Petal mines showered on Donetsk city
On the night of the 27 July, thousands of PFM-1 antipersonnel mines, also known as petal mines or butterfly mines, were airdropped over the city of Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR).
Each of these plastic antipersonnel mines contain 40g of high explosive, and is designed to maim with enough power to blow off a foot. When released from the air, they glide to the ground without exploding, to be detonated by pressure – either from a single contact such as being trodden on, or from the cumulative effect of being handled. These innocuous-looking plastic ‘petals’ are routinely picked up by civilians – often children – who have no idea what they are.
Social media footage from the city of Donetsk shows civilians in a state of fear and panic attempting to avoid mines they have been warned about as they walk down a footpath, and cars driving down the street with mines exploding underneath tyres.
The sheer volume and location of the mines dropped can only be the result of a determined, deliberate attack on civilians. It has been reported that so far 16 civilians have been injured – many with lifechanging injuries.
Ukraine is thought to possess more than three million of these mines, despite having signed up to the United Nations’ anti-personnel mine disarmament treaty in 1999. The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has accused Ukraine of using airborne missiles to scatter the mines, while Ukraine is insisting that the guilty party is Russia.
Although the Ukrainian fairy tale has been duly trotted out by western stenographers, it is surely one that stretches credulity too far, for not only does it expect its audience to believe that the Russians have suddenly taken it into their heads to mine a city that has been under the control of their Donetsk Republic allies since April 2014, it also requires them to accept that Russia has, for no military or political gain, recklessly and criminally abandoned its established strategy of avoiding civilian casualties wherever possible.
Massacre of POWs at Elenovka
On 29 July, two US-supplied Himars missiles were fired at a prison camp in Elenovka some 30km south of Donetsk city, killing 50 prisoners of war and injuring a further 70. The camp housed fascist fighters of the Azov battalion captured during the liberation of Mariupol city in southern Donetsk.
True to form, Ukraine has accused Russia of covering up murder and torture at the camp, but media teams that have visited the site have seen the remnants of parts belonging to Himars missiles, pointing the finger squarely at a Ukrainian attack.
Once again, the Ukrainian version of events is simply laughable. Why would Russia need to ‘cover up’ any secrets held by the Azov prisoners? Even without the evidence of Himars fragments to prove that the hit was carried out by Ukrainian military, it is perfectly obvious who benefits from wiping out as many captured Azov fighters as possible.
One has only to remember that preparations were already well underway for the west’s favourite ‘freedom fighters’ to stand trial for war crimes. Head of the DPR Denis Pushilin has confirmed that trials will begin by the end of the summer, and they are widely expected to provide a Nuremberg moment – revealing to the world the truth about the barbarity that was unleashed against the people of Donbass after the US-backed fascist coup of 2014.
The west-backed junta in Kiev, on the other hand, has every motivation to kill the captured Azov fighters, who had already begun speaking openly to their captors. On 28 July, the day before the massacre, an interview was published with Azov prisoner Dmytro Kozatsky (call sign Orest), who accused senior Zelensky advisor Oleksiy Arestovich of ordering the torture and execution of Russian prisoners of war for propaganda purposes.
Shock videos of such war crimes were ordered to be released on social media with the aim of deterring Russian soldiers from fighting.
Imperialists and their presstitute media continue to defend the indefensible
Just two of the many headlines on this issue give a flavour of the utter servility of the western media in defence of the imperialist narrative. Politico US ran with ‘American-made rocket launchers not used in Ukraine prison strike, US assesses’, while CNN asserted: ‘Russia claims Ukraine used US arms to kill jailed POWs. Evidence tells a different story’.
In an ill-advised interview with the British Telegraph, Major General Vadim Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, let slip the extent of US involvement in missile strikes.
“Asked how the US-provided Himars multiple-launch rocket systems have so precisely targeted Russian fuel and ammunition depots, as well as battlefield headquarters in eastern Ukraine, Gen Skibitsky said: ‘in this case in particular, we use real-time information’.
“US officials are not providing direct targeting information, which would potentially undermine their case for not being direct participants in the war, Gen Skibitsky said.
“However, he suggested there was a level of consultation between intelligence officials of both countries prior to launching missiles that would allow Washington to stop any potential attacks if they were unhappy with the intended target.” (Britain helps Ukraine hunt for Russian spies eyeing Western military aid by Dominic Nicholls, 1 August 2022)
On the back of this interview, the Russian Ministry of Defence directly accused the USA of orchestrating missile attacks against civilian targets: “Political, criminal and moral responsibility for the Elenovka massacre and other war crimes in Ukraine, along with Zelensky, lies directly with the Biden administration.”
Nuclear blackmail at Zaporozhye
The Zaporozhye nuclear power plant (ZNPP), the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, has been under the protection of the Russian armed forces since early March. The plant is in the Zaporozhye district in the south-east of Ukraine on the Dnieper river, and sits close to the city of Energodar, which was built by the Soviet Union in the 1970s specifically for power plant workers.
Since taking over the plant, Russian national guard and nuclear protection specialists have secured the site while its Ukrainian staff have continued to run it without hindrance.
Since mid-July, however, there have been concerted attacks by Ukrainian armed forces against the plant, with multiple incidents involving artillery projectiles and kamikaze drones striking the surrounding infrastructure as well as the plant itself. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of civilians, damage to the electricity grid resulting in partial shutdowns of the plant, and damage to radioactive waste storage facilities.
While Ukraine’s President Zelensky has once more tried to turn the tables, accusing Russia of “nuclear blackmail” and alleging that the plant has been turned into a military base from which attacks are launched, the Ukrainian PR machine has also tried to claim that Russian troops have been shelling themselves and the plant in a false-flag ploy to discredit Ukraine.
Ukraine expects the world to believe that Russia is attacking a nuclear plant that is being protected by Russian troops, endangering not only the lives of its own soldiers and the integrity of a critical piece of infrastructure, but threatening the whole of Europe with a nuclear disaster of unknown proportions. Given that the population of Zaporozhye is majority Russian, it is hard to understand what possible advantage could accrue to Russia from a public health crisis on such a scale.
Ukraine, on the other hand, is desperate and demonstrably reckless enough to carry out such criminal attacks. On the one hand, bombing the plant may be aimed at pressuring its imperialist backers to further escalate their involvement in the conflict. On the other hand, forcing the wider world into ‘taking action’ to prevent a nuclear accident might bring in UN peacekeepers and deny Russia the ability to operate freely in the Zaporozhye region – a much-needed success for Zelensky and his coterie as they attempt to ward off the inevitable Russian victory.
Zelensky has previously called for the nuclear plant to be demilitarised and returned to Ukrainian control, which would disrupt an upcoming referendum on the region joining the Russian Federation.
Ukraine was also worried at the prospect of the plant being removed from its electricity grid – a fear whose fruition it has only advanced by its reckless behaviour. Before the conflict, the plant at Zaporozhye provided Ukraine with 20 percent of its electricity, and until Ukraine started shelling it, it continued to do so – just as Russian natural gas continued to flow through Ukraine and payment of transit fees for gas delivered to Europe continued to be paid until Zelensky himself decided to close the Soyuz gas pipeline in May.
Meanwhile, material evidence backs up the Russian version of events. Fragments of British Brimstone missiles that have been supplied to Ukraine have been found at the power plant.
Despite the obvious implausibility of Ukraine’s ‘Russian false flag/nuclear blackmail’ fable, major news organisations such as the New York Times and Bloomberg have been quite happy to repeat the claims that Russia is simultaneously shelling the power plant and using it to shield troops and equipment.
This does appear to have been a step too far for the imperialist establishment generally, however, which has refrained from blaming Russia entirely.
Meanwhile, a US defence official had to admit that some Ukrainian strikes had occurred at the plant: “I don’t want to say that the Ukrainians haven’t fired in that vicinity either, because I think there’s probably a likelihood that they have, but in a good — in a number of cases, it’s returning fire of the Russians who are firing from those locations.”
Bonnie Jenkins, the US under-secretary for arms control and international security, said: “I’m not able, at this point, to make any confirmation about the shelling and where it’s coming from. But what I would say is that, once again, the important thing to keep in mind and want to continue to reiterate here with all of you, is the importance of Russia’s withdrawal.
“Because these are all important questions, important issues, but we have to remember that we would not be in this situation if Russia would simply withdraw and give the site back to Ukraine.”
Indeed, many media were left with egg on their faces after a tacit admission from Ukraine of shelling around the nuclear plant: “In the areas of the settlements of Kherson and Energodar, accurate strikes by our troops destroyed three enemy artillery systems, as well as an ammunition depot and up to a company of personnel.”
In response to the ongoing attacks on the plant, the UN sent a team of investigators on a fact-finding mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which arrived on 1 September. The team’s brief was to estimate the material damage to the plant and to evaluate the operational capabilities of the its safety and security systems. Representatives of the IAEA were also tasked with continuing to document the effects of any further attacks.
Escalating their lunacy, and apparently inspired by watching one too many James Bond movies, Ukrainian forces launched a farcical attempt to recapture the nuclear facility on the very day that the team from the IAEA arrived.
“Over 40 motorboats, divided into two groups and carrying more than 250 Ukrainian special operations troops and foreign mercenaries, reportedly tried to land on the coast of the Kakhovka reservoir not far from Energodar, where the nuclear power plant is located.
“The assailants were quickly spotted and targeted by Russia’s Su-30 jets and Ka-52 attack helicopters. Those strikes sank some 20 boats, while the rest turned and retreated. The remaining Ukrainian troops were than targeted by Russian artillery as they tried to come ashore, the defence ministry in Moscow said.
“According to Moscow, the failed attack on the nuclear power plant saw 47 Ukrainian service personnel killed, including ten foreign mercenaries, with at least 20 others wounded.
“Kiev’s special forces attempted to storm the facility despite the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) being there, the defence ministry stressed.” (Moscow reveals details of latest Ukrainian assault near Zaporozhye nuclear plant, RT, 3 September 2022)
In response to a question about the attack, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric responded: “We are glad the Russian Federation did what it needed to do to keep our inspectors safe.”
The IAEA has since published its report on nuclear safeguards in Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, it does not accuse either Ukraine or Russia of shelling the plant. Hiding how the damage to the facility came about seems to have been deemed politically expedient in some quarters.
Readers can perhaps recall how another UN organisation, the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), falsified a report in order to blame the Syrian government for carrying out an alleged chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma. That falsified report was used as vindication for ‘retaliatory’ missile strikes conducted by the USA, Britain and France before any proof of a chemical attack had even been collected.
Lies, lies and more lies
Every attempt at transparency regarding Ukraine’s conduct is met with concerted imperialist push-back. In late July, notorious western ‘NGO’ Amnesty International published a report accusing the Ukrainian forces of committing war crimes by stationing troops and artillery in or near schools, hospitals and residential buildings, thereby using civilians as human shields. This practice was identified in 19 different towns and villages by Amnesty, where return fire from Russian armed forces had led to the death of Ukrainian civilians.
The report, modest as it was, was met with hysterical condemnation in the western media. Oksana Pokalchuk, the head of Amnesty’s team in Ukraine, quit, stating that her team had done “everything they could to prevent this material from being published”.
Despite these protestations, Pokalchuk has found herself on a target list on the notorious fascist-run Myrotvorets website (linked to the Ukrainian government). Myrotvorets publishes a running list, and personal information, of people who are considered by its leadership to be “enemies of Ukraine”.
Daria Dugina, the daughter of Aleksandr Dugin, was also on the Myrotvorets hitlist. After her shocking murder, which was generally presumed to have been the result of a failed hit on her father, her profile on Myrotvorets was updated with the word ‘terminated’ stamped across her photograph.
By the author’s own admission, Amnesty had focused exclusively on Russia’s alleged war crimes up until the publication of its brief report on Ukrainian crimes: “I think the level of self-censorship on this issue has been pretty extraordinary, said Donatella Rovera.
“Amnesty International has produced dozens of reports about Russian war crimes. Rovera said she personally investigated when hundreds of tortured bodies turned up in suburban Kiev after Russia retreated from the area.
“‘To say that issuing a four-page press release compares to hundreds of pages that we’ve published since the beginning of the Russian invasion … it’s just not true,’ said Rovera.” (Amnesty International’s report criticising Ukraine is dividing the rights group by Julian Hayda, NPR, 5 August 2022)
Amnesty has since issued an apology for any “distress” caused by its report.
CBS news also recently censored its own documentary as a result of push-back from western politicians and media. The investigation it carried out in Ukraine found that only 30 percent of the weapons provided by the west were reaching their intended destination, with the rest remaining unaccounted for.
The Amnesty apology and CBS documentary withdrawal show clearly how targeted pressure can force nominally ‘independent’ organisations into self-censorship, and indicate that for now Ukraine will continue to act with impunity. The US and EU imperialists, having spent tens of billions of dollars arming their proxy forces in Ukraine, have every reason to hope that their war crimes can be swept under the carpet.
With imperialists and their media patsies doing all they can to vilify Russia, it falls to the lot of anti-imperialists to counter the west’s propaganda blitz. Various pretexts for the US and EU imperialists to escalate the war into a direct conflict with Russia are already in place. Jingoism is being stoked amongst western workers to prepare them for such a war. A key condition for stopping its outbreak or curtailing its extent is that the working class must be educated as to how and why we have reached the precipice of another world war.
In particular, workers in the west must be brought to understand that the imperialists have been following their longstanding objective of subjugating and breaking up Russia for many decades. The 2014 fascist coup was one act in a long line of aggressive moves to this end.
Nato’s proxy war in Ukraine is aimed at denying self-determination and independence to Russia and at widening the scope of imperialist control and looting. It is part of a desperate drive to stave off the total collapse of the capitalist-imperialist economic system, which is currently threatened by a catastrophic economic crisis of overproduction.
Only by telling workers the truth can we hope to prepare an effective resistance to a wider imperialist war against Russia. The British working class has nothing to gain from war with Russia, only death and misery!