Professor Richard Sakwa believes that NATO is conducting pure propaganda in a new documentary about the fire in Odessa two years ago, which took 42 lives.


The Gulf War did not take place, wrote French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in a series of provocative essays in 1991. His point was not that the war was not real, but that the dissemination of the events was subject to manipulation.

Today's Ukraine is a manifestation of Baudrillard's thinking. In the absence of certain facts, speculation grows.

What role do journalists play in such contexts? Do we help to clear up the facts, or do we use the interpretation room for political purposes?

The NATO Review online magazine recently threw itself into the war with a documentary film about the fire in Odessa on May 2, 2014.

The events of that day were briefly summarized as follows: A soccer match between a local club and a team from the western city of Kharkiv attracts hooligans. Two quantities of vomit together. One supports the new government in Kiev that came to power at the coup two months earlier; the other is Russian-turned activists and significantly fewer in number. Firearms and firearms are used by both sides. Six people die (two pro-Ukrainian, four pro-Russian). Then the pro-Ukrainian crowd moves to a place where there is a protest camp for pro-Russian. The pro-Russian are seeking refuge in the so-called union building. All entrances are blocked. Molotov cocktails are thrown from both sides and the building catches fire. 42 people die, eight of them due to falls from high altitude.

"I'm totally overwhelmed by how primitive the movie was."

"Fight back." While the EU, the UN and a group of experts on behalf of the Council of Europe have warned that the lack of proper investigation into the causes of the tragedy threatens the cohesion of the ethnically composed Ukrainian society, NATO's info letter goes on to refer to the Day of the Dead as "the day when Odessa struck back the attacks by the pro-Russian population. "

The documentary Odessa: Ukraine's secret weapon? was launched in mid-January under the heading "Odessa shows how to fight back", accompanied by a picture of the pro-Russian activists in the windowsills of the burning union house.

Screen Shot at 2016 05-11-13.16.29"Hybrid attacks on Ukraine have been almost constant in recent years – but one region seems to have found a new way to deal with them. NATO Review looks more closely at how the Odessa region has turned the attacks from something negative into something potentially positive, ”wrote the NATO Review. The film shows how the port city of the Black Sea has tried to create development and counter Russian influence, including by banning Russian TV channels.

NATO's websites were later changed and the film received a milder presentation. NATO Review editor Paul King was repeatedly asked to comment on the way the film was presented, with its combination of burning houses and desperate people in the windowsill, and the text of "fighting back". He was also asked why this first angle was later changed, but no attempt to get comment was put forward.

Shouting in the trenches. Russian professor at the University of Kent Richard Sakwa says he is shocked after watching the 15-minute film.

"I'm absolutely overwhelmed at how primitive it was and how simplified propaganda was. I was in Odessa shortly after the fire at the union headquarters, and I talked to many of those who were there when it happened. The film is shocking primarily because it is an almost obvious lie. For example, there was an anti-Maidan tent camp outside the union building for several weeks, and this is not mentioned. ”

Although the clashes in Odessa two years ago have never been thoroughly investigated, much has been documented. The UN was soon out with a report from its own observers. A local group of journalists has also collected material. A group of experts on behalf of the Council of Europe last November presented a review of what has been done by what bodies – the conclusion is that the level of action is hopelessly inadequate, but what is available from information is clearly listed.

Sakwa responds that NATO's film fails to mention important information, such as that pro-Russian activists entered the building because they sought refuge from the much larger number of pro-Ukrainian activists. He also criticizes that the NATO movie shows maidanists who helped people out of the burning house, but does not mention that some of the maidanists attacked the burn victims as they came out of the burning house.

"It was a very distorted representation of what actually happened. We have films of some of the people who escaped from the building and who are killed by the Maidanists. They jump out of the building and lie on the ground, where they are attacked and beaten. ” A further distortion Sakwa points out is that the chronology is shaken, so that the viewer gets the impression that the fire occurred on May 2, 2014 by a series of terrorist bombs that took place in 2015 and in response to these. In sum, it is "an incredibly distorted and dishonest movie," Sakwa believes.

Much of the media coverage of Ukraine is politically angled. Why is it like that?

“One set of distortions spurs another set of distortions. They nurture each other. We have come into a situation I call axiological, which means that dialogue has come to an end – you just shout to each other. It also shows that the West has supported the undemocratic government of Ukraine. "

"The pigs deserved to die." Two weeks after NATO launched the film online, another documentary on the same theme, created by French journalist Paul Moreira, appeared on Canal +. Moreira's movie is called Ukraine: Revolution masks, and builds on sources visible in the videos of the fatal day – people who were demonstrably present. One of the central figures in the film is Mark Gordienko, leader of one of the nationalist groups that led the crowd of pro-Kiev activists.

The words of NATO Review to "strike back" have a different and frightening meaning through Gordienko's words, which reads as follows:

"The swine were trying to impose their Russianness on us. They deserved to die. I don't feel sorry for them, not for a second. Unfortunately, the biggest pigs escaped. They did not burn inside the union house. But these victims are a warning: Do not stay with Odessa or other cities. If someone goes against us, we will react so violently that everything ends up in blood. The dice is thrown. That's the positive side of that day. "

Filmmaker Moreira – who was met by a storm of criticism for the angle, but has not been mistaken – wrote in a comment that what spurred him to make the film was that so many people could die in gruesome circumstances, at the same time as the causes then was swept under the blanket. The main point, according to him, was to show that the nationalist groups in Ukraine are a threat to the country itself – a monster that grows larger the longer the problem is neglected.

Resolution. While the far-right militias and the pro-Russian ones are grappling with symbols and rhetoric from Nazism and the Soviet Union, respectively, there is little indication that tensions in Odessa will ease in the future. Recently, the militia forced a local prosecutor to resign by blocking the entrance to the building where he worked. The police forces proved not to be strong enough to keep track of the nationalists, who did not like the prosecuting attorney giving police protection to pro-Russian protesters during an annual wreath-laying ceremony at a naval defense monument.

In a video talk online, the governor, former Georgian president and Maidan activist Mikheil Saakashvili, said that Ukraine is about to disintegrate as a state.

Watch the movie here: Film Odessa: Ukraine's secret weapon? 

Subscription NOK 195 quarter