Ukraine Live Day 418: Soviet-era Statues Toppled in Kharkiv

April 11, 2015
Residents toppled Soviet-era statues in Kharkov on April 11, 2014. Photo by AFP.

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Russian Jet Nearly Crashes With American Military Airplane, And RT Debunks Kremlin Narrative

A Russian fighter jet nearly collided with a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltics earlier this week. Free Beacon reports:

The Su-27 conducted the close-in intercept of an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, said officials. The incident prompted a diplomatic protest.

“On the morning of April 7th, a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez.

“The United States is raising this incident with Russia in the appropriate diplomatic and official channels,” she said in a statement.

A defense official said the Russian fighter jet flew within 20 feet of the unarmed reconnaissance jet in what the official called a “reckless” encounter that endangered the lives of the RC-135 crew.

No details were available regarding the mission of the RC-135, which was in a position to monitor Russian military activities in western Russia and Kaliningrad.

The Russian military has confirmed the incident, but has thrown out their own counter-narrative: that the Russian fighter “intercepted” the American aircraft which had its transponder turned off. The Kremlin-operated propaganda outlet RT leads with this headline: “US recon aircraft intercepted by Russian fighter jet over Baltic – Pentagon.”

[Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez] said that a Russian Su-27 (NATO designation – Flanker) passed within a half-dozen meters of the unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, whereas the Sukhoi’s wingspan is 14.7 meters. The Pentagon spokeswoman dubbed the behavior of Russian pilot “reckless” and endangering the safety of the RC-135 crew.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that the interception was launched after “Russian air defense radars spotted an unidentified air target over the Baltic Sea making steady progress toward the national border.” The aircraft had its transponder turned off, Konashenkov said.

But this is where the story gets even more interesting — in RT’s next paragraph, they debunk the Russian Defense Ministry’s claim:

However, Flightradar24 website says the transponder was on. 

It appears as though the RT story may have been updated upon receiving the tweet from Flightradar24, but either way it is curious that the Russian propaganda outlet — infamous for, among other things, being extremely slow to correct errors in their reporting — would appear to be so quick to counter the narrative of the Russian government.

James Miller

Soviet-Era Statues Toppled in Kharkiv in Wake of Parliamentary Laws Banning Soviet and Nazi Propaganda

Masked men smashed communist-era monuments in Kharkiv last night in the wake of three bills passed by parliament to condemn the Soviet past, AFP reported.

Kharkiv, where three Soviet-era statues were toppled in the dead of
night, an anti-Russian group called “We’ve Had Enough” posted a video
showing the monuments glorifying Bolshevik heroes come smashing to the

On April 9, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada or parliament  voted to ban  “propaganda of the totalitarian Communist and Nazi regimes,” which has sparked an angry backlash from the Russian government which claims Ukraine is denigrating the memory of “the Great Patriotic War” as it is known in Russia — which Ukraine will now call “World War II” along with the West.

While Estonia’s removal of a Soviet war memorial in 2007 got a lot of attention and continues to be rebuked by the Kremlin, non-Russian former Soviet republics like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have also been quietly removing Soviet-era war monuments and names for years, as they are perceived as an instrument of Kremlin domination and Russification.

Now Ukraine is formally banning the monuments — hundreds of which have been removed in popular protest in the last year.

Yesterday, a Lenin statue was toppled in Dnepropetrovsk.

Ukrainian lawmakers also passed a second law that opens the access to the secret police archives of 1917-1991 during the communist regime.

The laws removing the signs of the hated Soviet past have opened up a new opportunity for Moscow to claim the Kiev government is “fascist” – and for Kiev to point out the similarities between Nazi Germany and today’s Russia. AFP reports:

As Kiev and Moscow traded angry barbs in an escalating war of words over their shared history, President Petro Poroshenko likened Russia’s support of separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine to Nazi Germany’s actions in Europe in the 1930s.

“What is the difference between the Anschluss of Austria or the occupation of Sudentenland, and the annexation of Crimea or the attempts to tear away Donbass in 2014?” said Poroshenko.

He referred to a swathe of eastern Ukraine captured by separatist rebels operating with Russia’s support, according to the West. Moscow denies the allegations of involvement in the insurgency against Kiev.

In changing the term to “World War II,” the Ukrainian parliament also said that World War II began “as a result of the agreement of the national-socialist (Nazi) regime of Germany and the communist totalitarian regime of the USSR” and “became a great tragedy for humankind in the 20th century.”

This is a reference to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, during a period when the Soviet and Nazi regimes collaborated, which enabled the Nazis to invade Poland on September 1, 1939 and the Soviet Union to invade Poland on September 17, 1939.

Western historians also date the war to 1939 as can be seen in the English-language Wikipedia entry

But Soviet and later Russian historians preferred not to scrutinize the collaborationist part of their history and say that World War II started on June 22, 1941 when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, as can be seen in the Russian-language Wikipedia entry for the Great Patriotic War.

The most controversial of the laws addressing the Soviet past is the third one which grants recognition to anti-Soviet partisans such as Stepan Bandera, International Business Times reported.

Soviet propaganda has always characterized the Ukrainian partisans who fought both the Soviet Red Army and the Nazis as “fascists” to discredit them, but in some cases, they or their groups were indeed responsible for atrocities such as killing Jews, Poles and others in Ukraine during the war. By sanctioning such groups in order to give their veterans social benefits, the Ukrainian government exposes itself to further Kremlin claims that the Poroshenko government is “fascist.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick