Counterspin: Lavrov With Another Spin Justifies Russian Аggression Аgainst Ukraine
In an interview with four Serbian media outlets, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov used the well-known disinformation narrative about the military intervention in Ukraine, using the well-known phrase “special military operation” aimed at freeing the oppressed Russian population in Donbas and Luhansk. Lavrov reiterated that the entry of the Russian army into Ukraine should bring “demilitarization and denationalization of the Ukrainian armed forces and the whole society, which lives with a Nazi ideology”. He called the Serbian people “brotherly”, with whom the Russians have a common history and enemies, and said that Montenegro and North Macedonia were “drawn into sanctions” in exchange for promises of rapid rapprochement with the EU
Author: Vesna Kolovska
In his speech in front of several Serbian media, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed several spins:
Spin 1: The EU has dragged Balkan governments into the war with sanctions, such as Montenegro and North Macedonia. They were lured by promises of rapid rapprochement with the EU. That did not happen and they were drawn into NATO in anti-Russian activities and anti-Russian campaigns. Then they tapped them on the shoulder and said, “Well done guys, keep up the good work.”
[Source: Sputnik Serbia (minute 4); date: 30 March 2022]
Counterspin: Lavrov’s claim that North Macedonia is “attracted by the promise of rapid rapprochement with the EU” is not true. Our country submitted its application for EU membership in 2005, which means that it has been a candidate country for membership for 17 years. During his visit to Skopje on March 14, 2022, EU Vice President Josep Borrell reiterated the Union’s position that the accession process could not begin without resolving the outstanding issues with Bulgaria. This means that joining the sanctions does not mean a “reward” i.e. quick entry into the EU.
In fact, the day after the Russian aggression on Ukraine, the Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs assessed that Russia violates international law, and North Macedonia makes decisions in accordance with the Euro-Atlantic commitment of the country, in accordance with its strategic and state interests.
Unprovoked and unwarranted military action grossly violates international law, the UN Charter and the principles and commitments of the OSCE, thereby undermining Europe’s security architecture as well as global stability, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued on February 24, 2022.
Following the Russian annexation of Crimea (located on Ukrainian territory) in 2014, the European Union has been pursuing a policy of sanctions against Russia. North Macedonia, which is an aspirant country for EU membership, has not joined the sanctions imposed by all member states. However, our country has accepted all statements, declarations, measures and sanctions adopted by the EU. This also applies to joining the measures against Russian citizens and legal entities.
The European Council announced on July 27, 2021, that the sanctions, which were extended until the summer of 2022, were supported by Montenegro and Albania, along with Georgia and Norway.
Writing on this topic in February this year, the Meta.mk News Agency recalled the statement of then Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on December 30, 2020, in which he said that North Macedonia did not join the EU sanctions against Russia, because it has a serious interest in economic cooperation with Russia:
We are a candidate country for EU membership, but we are not a member. It is in the interest of the citizens and the state, if we do not have to do something, not to do it. And despite all that I have said, we have not joined the economic sanctions towards Russia, because we have a serious interest in economic cooperation with Russia. We are a NATO member and for us there is no alternative to the EU, but our country has an interest in being friends with the rest of the world.
Until February 24 this year, when after the entry of the Russian army into Ukraine, the Macedonian government decided to impose sanctions on Russia. North Macedonia, which is a candidate country for EU membership, has no obligation to fully implement European regulations before becoming an official member of the Union. However, with the fact that it is a candidate country, it is expected to harmonize its policy with the EU, but above all, the introduction of sanctions is a sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
Spin 2: North Macedonia drawn into NATO
Counterspin: Lavrov’s claim that North Macedonia is “drawn into NATO” is incorrect. Contrary to this claim, a huge percentage of citizens believe that membership in the Atlantic Council remains a state priority. Civic support has not changed for years, it has even increased after the entry on March 27, 2020. The latest IRI poll from March 7 this year showed that 80 percent of Macedonian citizens support NATO membership, which is 9 percent higher than the March 2021 poll.
In Lavrov’s interview with Serbian media, parts of which were also republished by the Embassy of the Russian Federation in North Macedonia, the well-known Russian theses about the Russian invasion of Ukraine were presented. Lavrov reiterated that this was a “special military operation” in response to the years-long genocide of the Russian population in Donbas by Ukraine, which is expected to denationalize the military and society.
Spin 3: We expect the negotiations (with Ukraine) to achieve the desired goal for Russia – an end to the 8-year-old killing of civilians in Donbas. Everyone was watching the bombing of civilian infrastructure in Donbas: hospitals, kindergartens, polyclinics and apartment buildings. Thousands of civilians were killed. The Bright West was silent (minute 25).
Counterspin: There is no evidence that ethnic Russians have faced persecution by the Ukrainian authorities, much less the threat of annihilation of an entire ethnic group on the basis of nationality, ethnicity or cultural affiliation. This is confirmed by reports published by the Council of Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OSCE.
The Russian disinformation narrative used by Lavrov in this interview portrays Ukraine as a Nazi-ruled country. This narrative served as one of the excuses for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Another excuse for the so-called operation is the “demilitarization and denationalization” of Ukraine.
The myth of Nazi-ruled Ukraine is a clear propaganda narrative that has become a cornerstone of Kremlin-based disinformation. But the fact is that President Volodymyr Zelensky is a Ukrainian Jew.
Another fact that goes against the disinformation narrative from Moscow is that in 2015 Ukraine issued a ban on Nazi and communist ideologies. In addition, far-right groups had a limited presence during the Euromaidan protests and suffered defeats in all national elections thereafter, with the United Front of all radical right-wing parties winning only 2.15% of the vote in the 2019 parliamentary elections, which is very less than the 5% minimum guaranteed to enter Parliament.
Spin 4: Ukrainian soldiers in Nazi battalions even have symbolism and tattoos such as the swastika and emblems of Nazi battalions. (minute 40)
Counterspin: Since the beginning of the military intervention in Ukraine, the cross – an emblem of the Ukrainian army – has often been (mis) used in texts spinning about the armed forces’ connection to Nazi ideology.
This was the purpose of fact-checkers from the AFP, which quoted Dmitry Deineko, a specialist in consular and administrative affairs at the Ukrainian Embassy in Thailand.
The symbol is a dark red cross with a trident in the middle. I confirm that this has nothing to do with the symbol of Germany during World War II.
The Iron Cross (Nazi) was a Prussian military decoration used from 1813 and revived by Hitler in 1939.
The full-colour emblem of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was adopted by decree of the President of Ukraine on September 3, 2009. In the center of the cross is the Ukrainian coat of arms, trident or “trizub”, also called the “Princely State Symbol of Vladimir the Great“.
An article on symbolsage.com describes the history of the pattée cross which has arms that narrow toward the center. It has a history dating back to the Crusades and is still used in religious, national, military and heraldic symbolism.
Given all of the above, the appearance of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is another attempt to present Russia through disinformation narratives as a country that set out to liberate its people in Ukraine, while presenting countries like North Macedonia as a tool in the hands of the West that is waging a real war in Ukraine.