Asked while providing congressional testimony whether Russia had lied to the public and the United States regarding whether its troops were present in Eastern Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry answered for the first time in the affirmative, implying that he had previously believed Moscow even though journalists provided evidence of Russians on the ground in almost every month of 2014.
“The question asked earlier about … how they present things and the lies about their presence in Ukraine and the training, I mean, you know, it’s stunning but it has an impact in places where it isn’t countered,” he said. “Propaganda works.”
Did the top American diplomat admit that Russian propaganda worked on him? Western publications, including Breitbart News, counter Russian propaganda on a daily basis. For over a year, journalists and citizens in Ukraine documented the presence of Russian soldiers inside East Ukraine. In fact, Alexander Boroday, the first leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, is from Moscow. He remained leader until the breakaway region held its own elections in October and he handed leadership to a Donetsk native.
In March 2014, witnesses reported Russian troops unloaded more tanks in eastern Crimea a week before Moscow annexed the peninsula from Ukraine. Ukraine held a new presidential election in May, but the separatists in the east refused to allow people to participate. Journalists on the scene posted pictures of a Russian battalion entering Donetsk. One of the fighters told a man the battalion arrived from Chechnya.
Courtney Weaver with Financial Times was able to interview a few of the fighters, and they confirmed the group was from Chechnya. The leader of this group, Zelimkhan, said that “Russia can’t openly attack Ukraine” and “[E]verything is underground.”
“Our president [Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov] gave the order. They called us and we came,” said Zelimkhan.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a man Kerry speaks and meets with routinely, admitted Russia helps the separatists in East Ukraine. He claimed it is only humanitarian aid, but refused to elaborate. However, a leader within the Donbas People’s Militia was more than happy to brag about the aid from Russia.
“Humanitarian aid from Russia has finally reached Slovyansk yesterday,” Igor Girkin wrote on social media. “Our special thanks for bulletproof helmets (see photo, green, brand new, gleaming) of a high degree of protection. This is exactly what our guys are missing when they crawl in the trenches under a sniper fire.”
On that same day, Ukrainian troops stopped three Russian tanks in Snizhne, which is near Donetsk. The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers group claimed 7,000 to 8,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine while the head of the organization says her estimates are 10,000 to 15,000. Moscow always claimed no one sent troops into Ukraine, and those captured were there “by accident.” Throughout the year, NATO published satellite pictures of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border. In November, US General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander, admitted the organization witnessed more Russian troops move into Ukraine.
Kerry is not alone, though. The European Union only acknowledged the existence of Russian troops in Ukraine this month.