How Russian lies become news: ICRC representative death in Donetsk case study



Article by: Alya Shandra

On October 3, Laurent Etienne, representative of the The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) working in Donetsk, was killed while the city was shelled. Both the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministries have condemned the incident, and have blamed the incident on the other side: Ukraine – on the Russian-backed terrorists, Russia – on the Ukrainian government. Yuriy Serhiev, the permanent representative of Ukraine to the UN, has said that Ukraine was prepared to assist international representatives with the investigation of the incident, adding that “we have serious proof that the shell came in from the separatists’ side.”

However, international media already displays pro-Russian sentiments. A google search for “Donetsk ICRC responsible” already has a acute pro-Russian tint, with either the headlines being “Moscow blames Kiev for killing the ICRC staff” or, as BBC, quoting the statement of the Russian MFA which accuses the Ukrainian government of “rushing to deny all responsibility” for the ICRC worker’s death. It’s a rule of journalism to show both sides of the story. Thus, when the “rebels and the Ukrainian government blames each other for the shelling,” that’s what needs to be written for the sake of impartiality and balance.

However, it remains unclear how well this universal journalistic principle works when one side deliberately lies, using a network of political connections to fabricate facts. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has published a video in which the “Premier Minister” of the DNR Vladimir Zakharchenko discusses a plan to frame the Ukrainian forces for the death of the ICRC representative with a special correspondent of the Russian  TV channel RTR Rossiya 1 Eugene Pibbubnyi. The plan is simple: to show ICRC representatives shrapnel of a phosphorous bomb that allegedly killed their colleague, and to organize an expert assessment that will prove that the shelling came from the Ukrainian-controlled Avdiivka. Zakharchenko says that an expert will be found.


It seems that wide coverage of this intercepted call has deterred Piddubyi’s media plans – there were no reports of “phosphorous bombs” this time, unlike previous reports of “phosphorous bombings” of Donetsk by Ukrainian  forces in early September that were debunked by stopfake. However, it is interesting to note that the Russian foreign ministry was the first to state that Ukrainian forces as responsible for the shelling, with leaders of the  “DNR” self-proclaimed republic and and Russian journalist discussing plans on how to make that statement a media reality.

Just imagine that every time you hear the phrase “the rebels and Ukrainian government have both blamed each other for shelling city A,” behind it is a network of pro-Putin medias working together with Russia-supported terrorists that work to promulgate the statements coming out of the Russian MFA and fabricate facts that will prove them. International media reports will cover “both sides of the story.” But should we consider such impartial coverage beneficial to the truth?

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  1. Avatar Michel Cloarec says:

    Disgusting methods of a totalitarian state, (with control of press) Per principle whatever is coming in , in form of informations from Russia is the opposite of the truth.
    “”Russia does not have soldiers in Ukrainia”” is typical !

  2. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

    Based off of the historical military ineptitude of the muscovites along with MH17, it’s pretty obvious who is at fault once again.

  3. Avatar Paul P. Valtos says:

    The ruling Russian oligarchy, Mafiosi will still manufacture the same lies that were part and parcel of the Soviet Union’s way of discounting the West’s way of life versus that of the Communists. Its the old story that if you repeat the lie frequently enough people will tend to believe it. ITs like the stories you see in the tabloids at the supermarket that so and so was Hitler’s daughter or Hitler still lives in Argentina or Stalin was actually cloned (God forbid) and lives in his Georgia or the King of Doom (Putin) is in league with the devil.(Kind of believe that)

  4. Avatar Frank says:

    Even IF this shell came from the Ukrainian side, as long as Ukraine is defending its territory, and I am sure they try to avoid civilian or other collateral damage as much as possible, mishaps are bound to happen. This is WAR. Even though our Western media denies it.

  5. Avatar MrTheatrix . says:

    It is universally understood that the Russian propaganda machine is well funded and has the upper hand with its resources and reach. It is however, frustrating to see and hear an almost defeatist attitude from the pro-Ukrainian media. These things should be anticipated by now. Where is Ukraine’s’ preemptive analysis and response?

    1. Avatar Mat Babiak says:

      What kind of preemptive analysis and response do you see as needed?

    2. Oleksandra Shandra Oleksandra Shandra says:

      What preemptive analysis and response do you have in mind exactly?