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Ukraine: Outrage and Double Standards

Published: August 6, 2014 (Issue # 1823)



  • A makeshift memorial to the victims of the May 2 fire in Odessa, which left more than 40 people dead.
    Photo: Vadim Ghirda / AP

A dangerous polarization of opinion between Russia and the West developed during the early months of the Ukraine crisis, creating a growing gulf between Russians and many parts of the outside world.

This polarization has reached a new level of rhetoric and hysteria with the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Many Russians — regardless of whether they have been supporters or opponents of Vladimir Putin — have come to believe the tragedy, and the bodies of its victims, are being used to whip up a hatred that threatens all of them.

They compare this atmosphere to the deafening silence that greeted Russia’s repeated pleas for an international investigation of the May 2 massacre in Odessa. Dozens of pro-Russian protesters were burned alive when the building in which they had taken refuge from pro-Ukrainian gangs was set on fire. According to a New York Times account confirmed by witnesses from both sides, as the flames engulfed the building “Ukrainian activists sang the Ukrainian national anthem. They also hurled a new taunt: ‘Colorado’ for the Colorado potato beetle, striped red and black like the pro-Russian ribbons. Those outside chanted ‘burn Colorado, burn.’”

Alarmingly, the exact number of casualties still has not been established, and there is no international effort to find the truth.

If Western news organizations declare that it’s their policy to expose the shameful facts of ethnic hatred or the abuse of human rights, they should do so without fear or favor, regardless of the nationalities involved.

It is easy to dismiss calls to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine as Kremlin propaganda. Europe has already paid a high price for its limp response earlier this year to the escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and the pro-Russian rebels. Russia’s complaints about rampant Ukrainian nationalism and violations of the rights of ethnic Russians were at first largely ignored in the West, as if they were a total fabrication.

But from the Ukrainian parliament’s move in February — blocked by the president — to repeal a law giving the Russian language official status in some regions, to Ukrainian nationalists singing anti-Russian chants as pro-Russian activists were being burnt alive in Odessa, clearly the claims were serious.

Several Russian journalists, including reporters from Russia’s Zvezda TV, were captured by Ukrainian forces, and three Russian journalists were killed when covering the conflict in Ukraine. Some Russian sources maintain the Ukrainian army was responsible.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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