Example of Ukrainian SBU Propaganda: “Rebels Looking to Surrender”


May 3rd, 2015

By: Joaquin Flores

On April 30th, the pro-Junta news-site, InformNapalm delivered to readers an article containing a number of very interesting claims.  The nature of these claims – if it’s possible to separate them from the horrors of war and the gravity of the situation – can even be described as comical.  This story is of particular interest, not only because of its questionable claims, but in the manner by which a number of memes are layered on top of each other.

Each meme (or ‘memetic unit’), which we will single out below, has its origin in Ukrainian propaganda.  By themselves, they are either stereotypes or inventions, but as they are weaved into numerous stories, they take on dimensions of truthfulness through repetition and cross-reference.

The article was titled: “State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU): Militants Are Looking for the Ways to Quit”

The article starts: “Many terrorists in illegal armed groups are ready to lay down their weapons and move to the territory controlled by Ukraine. They are now looking for the ways to do this according to the State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), quoting two terrorists who were captured recently. These ‘defectors’ escaped from their dons and were looking for protection. They surrendered to Ukrainian servicemen on a block-post in Luhansk oblast.”

This part begins with the obvious reminder that the DPR military are ‘illegal’ and ‘terrorists’ – even though the framework of the Minsk II Agreement specifically rules out this possibility if they are recognized units of the DPR or LPR militia.  This has to do also with the distinction between legal combatants – belligerents –  as insurgents within a civil war in international law precedents and the Geneva conventions, as opposed to ‘terrorists’ within internal or domestic laws, actions against which are of a police or law enforcement nature.  

The ‘terrorists’ from ‘illegal armed groups’ surrendered to ‘servicemen’. The linguistic counter-position here requires no further exposition.

It is also strange that the militia would be ‘ready’ to lay down their weapons, we assume ‘en masse’, after the preceding series of numerous gains culminating in Minsk II, and the increased morale from support and supplies.  It is probably true that the DPR military have utilized the mutually agreed to ‘lull in fighting’ – often erroneously refereed to as a ‘ceasefire’ – to reposition, re-organize, and strengthen their lines, in anticipation of a Kiev initiated push in the coming week(s).  On the one hand, this is not in line with the meaning of a ceasefire, but in practical terms this would corroborate improved morale and determination.

The piece goes on;

“While doing a background check SBU investigators have found criminal history of both escapees, a situation which is quite usual for the militants of the so-called ‘Army of South-East’. 26 y.o. resident of the town of Bryanka was sentenced for theft twice. 46 y.o. resident of Sverdlovsk, Luhansk oblast, served 11 years in jail for a willful murder.”

What is important here is reinforcing the belief that the DPR is composed mostly of thieves and murderers, and that the SBU is a competent organization that represents a functioning state, and one that still maintains legal and moral authority in the Novorossiya Federation.

“The older militant confirmed being taught by Russian instructors in Yeysk, Krasnodar Krai, Russian Federation. Regular officers of the Russian army trained him to use complex military equipment. In ten days he obtained the qualification of the operating commander of Strela-10M ground-to-air anti-aircraft missile system. Such GTAMs were supplied to the terrorists by the Russian government.”


If the story itself is true, there is reason to believe that this part of the story is generally true, indeed even our own sources indicate that DPR militia have received training in Russia.  But if these were ‘regular officers’ is highly questionable, because if one balances the risks (high) vs. the requirements (not necessary), it does not seem like a probable policy on the part of the Russian state, whose tactical options are numerous and would tend to perform questionable tasks with considerable room for plausible deniability.

There are many retired officers, both from Novorossiya (in their capacity as part of the pre-coup Ukrainian army as well as Soviet army) and also Russia, trained in Russian systems, as well as a network of Russian officers ‘away on leave’.  This is a decentralized model, which dissembles ‘official’ Russian involvement.  But the significance of this part of the story – which all together has the hallmarks of fictitious elements, given its piled up conveniences in the context of the history of Ukrainian story telling – is to reinforce the narrative that the DPR militias are fully supported by the regular Russian Army.  In legal terms, and given the context of recent practices emerging from the US and NATO (which may be termed ’emerging precedents’), the argument from Russia, of course, is that they are not. Of particular interest is that European officials are backing up the Russian position on this point.

“Detainees also told about the humiliation and beatings by the leaders of the illegal armed groups. To punish one of the former militants for any fault, the ‘drunk soldiers and commanders’ beat him for a day and a half and then made him spent a night in a metal cage.”

If the original story is based in elements of truth, the nature of the ‘defections’ starts to become clearer.  Naturally in war we know that semi-criminal, outlaw, subcultural, and socially marginalized and ostracized elements can find room to operate, pursue their preferred rackets, or even find redemption.  But that the DPR would punish those elements, for failing to adhere to discipline in one way or another, having engaged in looting or criminality in general, means something else.  This would seem to work against the intended narrative of the piece, here, that the DPR is primarily composed of or condones that element.

If the story was based in some truth, it is likely that those from in the ranks of the DPR being punished were themselves drunk (this is prohibited), rather than those giving the discipline being drunk according to the story.  Naturally the intention of the story here is to paint the terrorist, illegal gangs as being composed of violently abusive thieves and murderers.    

“SBU reminds those hesitating to leave the criminal gangs of ‘Novorossiya’, that according to Article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine: a person who willingly informed authorities of the terrorist activities it was participating in and facilitated termination of these crimes, is exempt from criminal liability if it was not involved in other crimes.”

We wonder what the SBU’s opinion is of those articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine which refer to the prohibition of supporting a foreign sponsored coup against a constitutional government.  Any guess?

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