One of the lies that Putin has used to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been to accuse this country of committing genocide in Donbas.
An accusation that Russia began launching against Ukraine as early as 2014
The Putin regime has been launching this accusation against the Ukrainian government since 2014. Specifically, on August 1, 2014, the official Russian agency Ria Novosti released the accusation of "genocide" against Ukraine launched by the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Yuri Chaika, in relation to the Donbas. Since then, Russia has continued to launch this accusation without presenting a single piece of evidence of this alleged "genocide". In addition, the Russian version has been changing over the years. For example, on December 10, 2021, Putin denounced a "first step towards genocide" in eastern Ukraine: "I have to talk about Russophobia as the first step towards genocide. This is what is happening right now in Donbás, we see it, we know it".
Putin changed his version after signing the order for the invasion
Thus, just three months ago, Putin was not sure whether there was a genocide in the Donbass or not, and that is why he spoke only of a "first step". However, on February 15 he pretended to be clear: "What is happening today in Donbas is genocide", he stated, again without presenting a single piece of evidence in this regard. Today we know that the orders for the invasion were already signed on January 18, while the Kremlin continued to deny that the attack was going to take place ( the Kremlin continued to deny it until February 17).
In the very long speech (see original document) that he delivered on February 21, 2022, the day he announced his attack on Ukraine, which began three days later, Putin spoke again of a "genocide" to which "nearly 4 million people", referring to the Donbas. On February 24, after starting the invasion of Ukraine, the Putin regime re-launched this accusation, which it has continued to repeat afterwards and which has been repeated by the Kremlin's propaganda media and by Putin's supporters on social media over and over again.
Putin used the same accusation to justify the invasion of Georgia in 2008
It must be said that this false accusation by Russia, to justify an aggression against a neighboring country, is not something new. In 2008 Putin also falsely accused Georgia of “genocide” to justify his aggression against that country. As it also did later against Ukraine, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office seconded Putin's accusation. Despite his attempts, so far the International Criminal Court has not handed down any convictions against either Georgia or Ukraine for crimes of genocide.
Russia and its curious concept of genocide: from the Srebrenica massacre to the crimes of communism
On the contrary, the International Criminal Court did sentence the Srebrenica massacre as a crime of genocide, in which Bosnian Serb soldiers shot dead more than 8,000 Muslim men, women and children. However, in July 2015 Russia, an ally of Serbia, vetoed a text at the UN that described this massacre as genocide. A few months later, in January 2016 and during a vote in the Council of Europe, Putin's party, United Russia, opposed a condemnation of the crimes of communism, a totalitarian system that has killed many millions of people in different parts of the world. Likewise, when the European Parliament condemned the crimes of nazism and communism in September 2019, Putin criticized that resolution, saying it was "the height of cynicism." As we can see, the Putin regime has a very sectarian concept of what a genocide is: it refuses to consider it as such when it is committed by his allies or close associates, and falsely accuses its enemies of it.
The civilian casualty figures published by the UN on the Donbas War
As for the accusations launched by Russia against Ukraine, to contrast them, it is enough to review the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Ukraine of January 27, 2022 (see PDF). On page 2 of that report we can see this table indicating the civilian casualties (both dead and wounded) in that Ukrainian region from July 27, 2019 to December 31, 2021:
As we can see, before the ceasefire on July 27, 2020, there were 9 deaths and 84 injuries. After that date there were 6 dead and 11 wounded. Every death of a human being is a tragedy. The question is: are we facing something similar to a genocide? According to the World Population Review, Donetsk, the most populous city on the Donbas, has more than a million inhabitants. According to Deutsche Welle, between 6 and 7 million people live in the region.
In 2020 and 2021 there were 15 deaths from hostile activities: is that what Putin calls 'genocide'?
In the aforementioned UN report, before the graph that we have just seen, this table appears with the causes of civilian casualties in the Donbas war in 2020 and 2021:
As we can see, in 2020 there were 8 deaths due to hostile activities and 7 in 2021. Mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) caused most of the deaths in those two years: 17 in 2020 and 12 in 2021. Let us remember that Putin stated very recently that "genocide" was being committed in eastern Ukraine. Are these figures something typical of a genocide? Obviously not.
Civilian casualties from that war since 2014
Now let's look at this graph of civilian deaths from the start of that war in 2014 to 2021:
As we can see, in 2014 there was a significant number of deaths: 2,084, which fell to less than half in 2015: 955. In the following years, civilian deaths from this war have decreased considerably. Did those deaths in 2014 and 2015 have anything to do with genocide? In the following graph we can see the deaths caused by mines and ERW, which as we can see have claimed most of the victims in recent years, but which were not the main cause of deaths recorded in 2014 and 2015:
The origin of the Donbas War: a separatist armed coup
It should be noted that in June 2014, a Malaysia Airlines commercial flight was shot down by a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to Donbas separatists. All 298 occupants of the plane died, adding to the figure of 2,084 dead that year. We must remember, in case anyone does not know, that the Donbass war broke out in 2014 when armed separatists occupied official buildings in various areas of Ukraine. Russia supported that armed rebellion. Two years later, in May 2016, a Russian media, Gazeta.ru, confirmed that this separatist armed coup was organized by the Communist Party of Ukraine, and the separatist process was directed from Moscow.
The majority of casualties in that war are Ukrainian and separatist fighters.
Thus, we are not facing a hateful attack against peaceful separatists, much less before a process of extermination. The Ukrainian government had to face an armed uprising instigated by Russia, from where paramilitaries with communist and neo-nazi ideology arrived to join the coup. In the end, the separatists only managed to maintain control of the eastern part of the Donbas, with the support of Moscow. A situation that has been maintained since 2014. The UN report details the distribution of casualties:
"OHCHR estimates the total number of conflict-related casualties in Ukraine from 14 April 2014 to 31 December 2021 to be 51,000–54,000: 14,200-14,400 killed (at least 3,404 civilians, estimated 4,400 Ukrainian forces, and estimated 6,500 members of armed groups), and 37-39,000 injured (7,000–9,000 civilians, 13,800–14,200 Ukrainian forces11 and 15,800-16,200 members of armed groups)."
Thus, we are facing casualties typical of a civil war, with deaths on both sides (and to a lesser extent, among the civilian population), which is what has been happening in eastern Ukraine due to this armed uprising instigated and supported by Russia, and not before figures typical of a genocide. Incidentally, the current Russian invasion has already caused more than 800 deaths and 6.5 million displaced people in just three weeks, according to the UN. These are, in proportion, figures much worse than those recorded in the Dombas War.
A false accusation created to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine
In conclusion, what is really obscene is that the same Russia that instigated and supported an armed uprising in Ukraine, with the aim of bringing its allies within that country to power by force, and that is as guilty as the separatists that this war has lasted for 8 years, even above it has the cynicism of accusing the Ukrainian government of "genocide", which has had to face the actions of some armed gangs that well deserve to be classified as terrorists. That accusation is not only false, but is being used to justify a criminal invasion in which Russia is showing utter disregard for the civilian population. We are facing a new example of how the Putin regime is dedicated to projecting its own defects, vices and crimes on its enemies, in an attempt to disguise its violations against human rights and international law.
Photo: The Moscow Times. Pro-Russian separatists with assault rifles in front of the statue of Lenin in Donetsk, on the Donbas, during the 2014 Russian-backed armed uprising.
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