The Russo-Ukraine War through the lens of the media. Myths and truth. Part I.

In gratitude to the Ukrainians who saved my family during the Civil War of 1919 and the multinational Red Army in which my uncles and aunts fought to rescue my people from Nazi Germany and its European allies. In memory of my great-grandfathers who were brutally murdered by Ukrainian bandits in 1919 and by Ukrainian collaborators in 1941.


“In a civil war there are no right and wrong, no angels and no demons, just as there are no winners. It has only the vanquished – all of us, all the people, all of Russia, by Boris Vasiliev, 2005.

Proxy wars are longstanding tools of great-power rivalry because they allow one side to bleed the other without a direct clash of arms.

May 10, 2022, Hal Brands (the Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins University), Bloomberg:  “The war in Ukraine isn’t just a conflict between Moscow and Kyiv, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently declared. It is a “proxy war” in which the world’s most powerful military alliance, the NATO, is using Ukraine as a battering ram against the Russian state. Lavrov is one of the most reliable mouthpieces for President Vladimir Putin’s baseless propaganda, but in this case he’s not wrong. Russia is the target of one of the most ruthlessly effectively proxy wars in modern history.”

May 7, 2022, William Scott Ritter (ex-chief weapons inspector for UNSCOM and U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer): “…I think the Russians are failing in one aspect, and that is in the plane of propaganda.. What they are opposing is not only propaganda from the Ukrainian government. It should be taken into account that the CIA closely cooperates with the Ukrainian Ministry of Information. And the CIA is responsible for what is called “information operation”. This is an undercover operation, a political action carried out with the permission of the President of the United States. And the reason they have to get presidential approval is because the CIA usually doesn’t have the right to manipulate information that would have an impact on the American public. They can lie and do it quite successfully. But they are forbidden to lie if it affects the Americans’ point of view. And that’s exactly what they’re doing now. They are spreading disinformation…

In February 2014, the Chief of the General Staff of the RFAF, General Valery Gerasimov, was the first to describe a framework for the new operational concept based on the lessons of the military conflicts of the XXI century.

The Role of Non-Military Methods in the Resolution of Interstate Conflicts, 27 February 2014. Source: General Valery Gerasimov, “The value of science in anticipation”.

Contrary to various NATO interpretations as well as by some of Israel’s current leading experts on Russian affairs, Prof. Dmitry Adamsky and Lt. Col. (res.) Daniel Rakov, who reviewed this Gerasimov’s scholarly study aimed at preventing NATO expansion and protecting Russia’s interests, original says the following: “The expansion of the range of tasks to be solved by the General Staff is due primarily to the ongoing changes in the nature of the armed struggle.

Modern military conflicts are fleeting in nature, accompanied by the active use of military and non-military means. The composition of the multidepartment forces involved in defense is expanding, as well as the range of issues of interaction between them and state structures.

Political, diplomatic, economic and other measures, including those of a covert nature, such as the use of non-governmental international organizations and private military companies, are gaining more and more weight in achieving military-political goals. An example of this is the events in Syria, Ukraine, Greenpeace’s activities in the Arctic.

 The response time to the transition from political and diplomatic measures to the use of military force has been reduced to the maximum. Decisions on the creation, use and support of groupings of troops (forces) are made in real time.

 Military operations are shifting to the information and outer space.

 The completion of the creation of the US global missile defense system, the implementation by foreign states of the concepts of geocentric theater of operations, global strike, network-centric space, the presence of combat-ready groups of leading countries on a permanent basis in key areas of the world will provide them with the ability to strike in the shortest possible time anywhere in the world.

 All these changes predetermined the need to improve the defense of the Russian Federation, clarify the role of state institutions in its organization, the role and place of the General Staff, which was developed in the federal law “On Defense” (i.e. so called “Gerasimov’s Doctrine”) and the new Regulations on the General Staff.”

However, Euro-Maidan protests began on November 21, 2013, with large protests in Kyiv when Ukraine’s parliament had overwhelmingly approved of finalizing the Agreement with the EU and culminated in Euro-Maidan Revolution as well as the ousting of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in February 2014.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (C) and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt walk in the opposition camp at Independence Square in Kiev in this December 10, 2013, (Source:. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)

A conversation between a State Department official and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine that was posted on YouTube revealed an embarrassing exchange on U.S. strategy for a political transition in that country, including a crude American swipe at the European Union.

The leaked conversation appeared certain to embarrass the U.S. and seemed designed to bolster charges – from Russia, among others – that the Ukrainian opposition was being manipulated by Washington, which President Barack Obama’s administration strenuously disputes.

It was the first stage of a collective deception of the citizens of Ukraine, who massively lost hope in their country riddled with corruption that destroyed the economy. The desperate population expected to become EU citizens and, like the post-Soviet Baltics, emigrate to any EU country in the hope of a better future.

June 7, 2022, Angela Merkel defended her decision not to grant Ukraine the so-called NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the alliance’s Bucharest summit in 2008, citing two reasons: First, she said Ukraine “was not a democratically consolidated country” then, still strongly influenced by oligarchs and plagued by corruption. Second, Merkel said she was convinced taking such a step would have certainly led to war.

As the result of the Euro-Maidan coup, the legally elected President Viktor Yanukovych was replaced by the Ukrainian oligarch Petro Poroshenko elected president on May 25 ,2014, receiving 54.7% of the votes cast in the first round. Poroshenko’s domestic policy promoted the Ukrainian language, nationalism, inclusive capitalism, de-communization, and administrative decentralization. In 2018, Poroshenko helped create the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, separating Ukrainian churches from the Moscow Patriarchate.  The Russian speaking majority of the South-East Ukraine (historical Novorossiya) wasn’t ready to live under the Ukrainian nationalism and they performed Referendum on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, parts of Ukraine that together make up the Donbas region, took place on May 11, 2014. As the result, self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics were established on  April 7th. The Crimean status referendum of 2014 was a disputed referendum concerning the status of Crimea, held on March 16, 2014, in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the local government of Sevastopol (both subdivisions of Ukraine).

Poroshenko led the country through the first phase of the War in Donbas DPR/LPR militias fought against the Armed Forces of Ukraine, reinforced by the Ukrainian far-right neo-Nazi battalions, originally created by Ukrainian oligarchs as their private regional armies for criminal wars, where ordinary fighters recruited from football fans and criminals were paid $1,000 a month, which was 5 times the national average and more than double the income of an army officer.

Neo-Nazi Azov battalion storms the Russian-speaking city of Mariupol voted 89% to be the Donetsk People’s Republics,  May 9, 2014.

In 2015, the UK military operation Orbital was launched in cooperation with other NATO members to train and support the Armed Forces of Ukraine managed by the UK ex-Commander Land Forces General Sir Nicholas Ralph Parker, the Secretary of State for Defence’s representative on the Defense Reform and Advisory Board to the MoD Ukraine along with the retired US CENTCOM four-star General John Abizaid from 2016 to 2019.

On March 17, 2022, the Russian pranks held a video conference with British Defense Minister Ben Wallace on behalf of Prime Minister of Ukraine Denis Shmyhal. The full version of the Confidential First Person Details of Operation Orbital is availiable there:

In April 2019, political novice Volodymyr Zelensky starring in a satirical television series Servant of the People, in which his character accidentally becomes Ukrainian president, defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine’s presidential election in historic fashion. Zelensky’s success then extended to the July 2019 parliamentary elections, where his Servant of the People party won a majority of seats in the Ukrainian Parlament (Verkhovna Rada).

It was the second stage of a collective deception of the citizens of Ukraine, who massively lost hope in their country riddled with corruption that destroyed the economy combined with the endless Civilian War in Donbas, ceased to distinguish the harsh Ukrainian reality from the fictional plots sponsored by the Ukrainian–Israeli–Cypriot oligarch Igor Kolomoysky.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with tycoon Igor Kolomoisky (R) in Kiev on 10 September 2019.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with tycoon Igor Kolomoisky (R) in Kiev on 10 September 2019. © Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters

Many foreign journalists tried to cover events from the Donbas, but their efforts were blocked by their news agencies, and some were fired but remained to cover events for independent news agencies.

The French journalist Anne-Laure Bonnel, complains about censorship and criticism by French media of her films. No channel in the French media wanted to show her documentary, because it was not considered ‘relevant’.

On 24 February, 2022, Russia invaded the South-East Ukraine in a major escalation of this 8-year Civilian War in Donbas.

It was the third stage of a collective deception of the citizens of Ukraine, when the Ukrainian Armed Forces, encouraged by their NATO mentors, decided that they were prepared enough to ignore the Minsk agreements and solve the Donbas and Crimea problem militarily. But NATO didn’t even have a plan to fight Russia directly, sacrificing Ukraine to its longstanding economical and geo-political interests.

The moment of the truth: Michael McFaul, the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014 and adviser to Russia affairs for Presidents Obama and Biden, admits that the United States deceived Ukraine by promising membership in NATO. May 22, 2022.

Unfortunately, and according to the author’s experience, most of the Israeli military analysts, either being repatriated at a green age or born in Israel, do not understand all the subtleties of the Post-Soviet realities as well as regional languages and dialects of the post-Soviet countries, including even Russian.

However, and in contrast to the author’s advance analysis of the unambiguity of both the provoked Russian intervention and the scenario for the further development of the conflict between NATO and Russia through a civil war on the territory of Ukraine, shared with the relevant communities, the Israeli intelligence community has failed in the accuracy of such an analysis:

February 2, 2022,  INSS 15th Annual Conference | Interview – The Tension between Russia and Ukraine, Brig. Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel and Ambassador Lt. Col.(ret.) Zvi Magen: “I don’t believe that Putin or Russia are bprepared to fight in full force”.

February 14, 2022, Col. (res.) Shavit, Amb. Stein: “The possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and a subsequent descent into war is now the focus of the international agenda. It is not clear if Russia intends to launch a military move or if it seeks to leverage its buildup of troops to force the West to accept its demands.”

February 17, 2022, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin: Despite all this, it is too early to declare an end to the conflict, and it is possible that President Putin will not deescalate the tensions in the coming months in an attempt to garner further political gains.”

March 23, 2022, Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin: “We have to hope that [Vladimir] Putin is a rational actor. If the Russian military fails in its missions, Putin could drop a nuclear bomb in a forest in Ukraine or elsewhere.”

As the author mentioned in his previous publication, the mass media and social networks are only components of the (Dis)information Warfare platform as part of the modern Proxy Wars. It seems that since the Last of the Mohicans left the Israeli media, the current generation of Israeli military analysts and war reporters, unable to understand the reality of what they saw and heard, and republishing unverified rumors, themselves become victims of disinformation being disable to access the original and trusted foreign sources.

Most of the Israeli journalists, whose reports are analyzed in a Part II herein, prior being sent to report about this Russo-Ukrainian war were experts in everything including Netanyahu’s cigars and COVID-19, but excluding military and geo-political affairs, having little idea where Ukraine is located on the map and you are surprised that Russian and Ukrainian are two different languages. And they both, journalists as well as military experts, with rare exceptions, do not have a deep knowledge of the modern and medieval regional histories, national mentality, religious characteristics, state and shadow economy, and sometimes even elementary human psychology and profiling. 

As one of these Last of the Mohicans, whom the author had the honor of advising on post-Soviet military and geopolitical affairs for years, having returned from Ukraine in late March, admitted that this was the first war in his life, about which it was almost impossible for him to report objectively due to that both sides are liars.

As a result, fueled by fakes, some of today’s irresponsible Israeli officials and poorly educated political leaders are competing in the race for microphones during the latest weeks, creating diplomatic conflicts and preconditions for regional military clashes that have so far been barely prevented by the efforts of professionals.

Some of these journalists and politicians appear to have chosen a favorite side and are acting to shape Israeli public opinion in favor of pro-Ukrainian interests regarding military and economic support for Ukraine and, in opposition to expert advice to remain neutral in the conflict, maintaining 30 years of relations with Russia, as insisted by Maj. Gen.(ret.) Giora Eiland and Meir Ben-Shabbat, former heads of the Israeli National Security Council confirming previous recommendations given by the trio of the INSS experts: February 23, 2022, Brig. Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel, Col. (res.) Shavit and Dr. Anat Kurz:Israel should maintain channels of dialogue with Moscow to the extent possible – including due to the essential need to avoid military friction in the northern arena. ….Israel should at present refrain from selling weapons to Ukraine and to countries bordering Russia, especially anti-tank weapons, as well as continue to prevent the supply of Iron Dome batteries from the US military to Ukraine.”

However, there seems to be some opposing opinion on these recommendations: On June 11, 2022, the Russian state-controlled TV Channel One Russia released evidences that the British ship Seffa transported ATGM Spike-ER’s from (Haifa) Israel to the Romanian port of Constanta on April 6, 2022.

The war in Ukraine demonstrates that contemporary warfare has a completely different character than previous European conflicts. The European community recognizes a number of new non-military and military threats that it has to face.

While Israel is unfortunately very familiar with the strategic challenges that Israel faces as a result of what Prof. Yoram Peri calls the “mediatization” of war zones, described in his book Mediatizations of War: Power, Paradox and Strategic Israel’s dilemma” awarded by the Israel Communications Association in 2017, the Israeli community and decision makers must understand better the change in international public opinion that Russia’s war in Ukraine is causing.

June 23, 2022, Lt. Col. (res.) Sarit Zehavi:During the war in Ukraine, televisions around the world were filled with images of destroyed urban landscapes and obliterated civilian infrastructure. When the fighting began, Ukrainian victims were cynically used, comparing their plight to scenes from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Israeli military’s operations in Gaza. ..Although these narratives seem to have faded with the continuance of the fighting in Ukraine, they should not be taken lightly…The international community, which could hardly bear the civilian casualties that already occurred in previous Israeli struggles with neighboring terrorist organizations – Hamas in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon – will be even more critical in the next conflict, as a result of the war in Ukraine”. 

Don’t ever let your ears witness what your eyes didn’t see. You should not rely at first sight and draw a conclusion from what you hear or see. We can’t know 100% what’s behind it.

Part II demonstrates how different what is seen and heard by representatives of the media from reality when the Russo-Ukrainian war is under consideration.



About the Author
Alexander Portnoy holds an MSc EE degree being an internationally experienced (40+) expert in Military and Mission Critical sectors as well as currently is an OSINT Analyst in Geopolitical and Military affairs focusing on Russia and China including their participation in the Great Power Competition in the Middle East as well as advising the Israeli Intelligence Community, Knesset Lawmakers and War Reporters.
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