Just as the Soviet government sought to evade its responsibility for the murder of Polish officers during World War II by blaming the Germans, so too the Russian government of Vladimir Putin is seeking to evade responsibility for its killings in Ukraine by blaming Ukrainian forces for them, according to Vitaly Portnikov.
The Ukrainian commentator notes that in January 1944, Stalin formed a commission whose very title showed that he wasn’t interested in establishing the truth about the murders in Katyn but rather in winning support for his version of reality that the Germans and not the Soviets had committed them.
Now, 70 years later, Portnikov says, “Russian propaganda has received an analogous assignment – to tell the subjects of Vladimir Putin and the world about ‘the terrible crimes of [Ukrainian forces]’ on the territory of the Donbas,” including “certain ‘mass burials of peaceful residents’” by the National Guard and Ukrainian military.
Just how fraudulent the current Russian effort is and just how much it resembles what Stalin did with amazing success at the end of World War II is shown by references in Moscow’s call for such investigations to institutions like “the Investigative Committee of the Donetsk Peoples Republic” which have never existed.
Of course, Portnikov notes, in Russia itself, such institutions do exist and are “one of the important instruments of authoritarianism.” Thus is it entirely possible that they are being set up in Russian-occupied Donetsk and “possible include Russian investigators” who in their own country “have the reputation of falsifiers.”
Other Russians involved in this revival of a Stalinist tactic include representatives from the Putin Presidential Council on Human Rights, the Putin Social Chamber, and others who can be counted on to report what the Kremlin wants reported and nothing else, Portnikov says. But the most cynical appointment to this group is that of the Council’s head Mikhail Fedotov.
He has gained notoriety among other things for his calls to “investigate Ukrainian human rights activists,” clearly so that their reputations can be blacked in the media and their findings of Russian complicity in crimes on Ukrainian territory can thus be downplayed or rejected out of hand.
But the most serious consequence of what the Kremlin is doing in this regard is not even the new wave of lies it will spread about, the Ukrainian commentator says. Instead, it is this: Russia cannot free the [Ukrainian] territories it has seized … because those occupied districts are the site of major crimes and the celebration of criminality.”
To withdraw would open the way for a real investigation, and the lies of the Putin regime would thus stand revealed to the world just as those of the Stalin regime about the murder of Polish officers in Katyn were. But the Kremlin clearly calculates that it can muddy the waters on this long enough just as Stalin and his successors did to conceal its crimes and keep its conquest.