The Times has annoyed Kiev after describing the prolonged conflict in Ukraine as a “civil war.” Ukraine’s embassy in the UK rushed to slam the paper and remind the world that Kiev supposedly fights “Russian aggression.”
“Correct article immediately!” the embassy demanded in a scathing tweet, accusing one of the leading British newspapers of inexcusable political amnesia. “It is unfortunate we have to remind The Times… that there is no civil war in Ukraine but a direct Russian aggression,” the tweet said.
The Ukrainian diplomats did not just stop there and also claimed that courageous Ukrainian soldiers, who have been allegedly repelling nothing less than an outright invasion by the big scary Russians, are now still fighting a staggering 40,000 members of the Russian army. They never bothered to provide proof to substantiate their claims, though.
Ukrainian officials have long displayed some numeracy problems in counting supposed invaders – and the Ukrainian diplomats in the UK have been even relatively modest in their estimates. In 2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed there were whopping 200,000 Russian troops in Ukraine. That was over 20 times higher than he claimed less than a month before.
Kiev, which has stubbornly refused to admit it had been fighting its own countrymen in Eastern Ukraine, has never presented any substantial proof for its claims about alleged Russian aggression. The OSCE observers stationed in the area have not detected any Russian troops there either.
The piece, which provoked such an angry reaction from the Ukrainian officials, has in fact little to do with the Ukrainian conflict itself and is dedicated to a seemingly much more pressing problem provoking concerns across Europe – the outbreak of measles. Still, the author initially said that the issue was exacerbated by the “civil war” in Ukraine, where “most cases were seen.”
This fact prompted the Ukrainian diplomats to question “the logic that moved the author of the article to link the Russian aggression against Ukraine to the outbreak of measles” while one of the facts related to the core issue of the piece – i.e. a significant number of the measles cases in Ukraine – was completely left out in their comments.
The author in fact noted that the “civil war” caused “disruption” that apparently affected the Ukrainian health system. However, just one small line in a piece dedicated to a different subject was enough for the Ukrainian ambassador to formally request the article to be changed in a letter sent to the editor of the Times. The envoy Natalia Galibarenko also decided to support her request with some more awkward statements. She said that the UN itself “recognized” the “fact” of Russian aggression against Ukraine, even though it did not.
The UN General Assembly indeed adopted a non-binding resolution in 2014, in which it reaffirmed its commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine and called Russia’s re-unification with Crimea “invalid.” However, it never mentioned anything even close to “Russia’s aggression.”
The adoption of the document was far from unanimous, while 100 members states endorsed it, 58 abstained, 11 opposed it and further 24 were absent during the vote.
In the face of a wave of criticism from the embassy, the Times quickly bowed to the demands of Ukraine, if only partially. The paper changed “civil war” to a more neutral “conflict” but did not mention “Russia’s aggression” in its text.
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