Russian Nationalists Riot, Maim and Kill Pro-Ukrainian Demonstrators in Donetsk

After the Maidan uprising finally succeeded on February 22, the propaganda only intensified, with an added focus on stirring separatist sentiments and paranoia in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, with the apparent goal of breaking the country apart in order to destabilize, demoralize, and subdue the new Ukrainian government - or, better yet, to absorb the breakaway regions into Russia.

The same propaganda, in a more subtle and less anti-Semitic form, has found its way to the West -- first through the usual hard-left and "anti-war" channels, as well as a hired army of trolls posting anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian comments on the Internet and social media; then through more established news media and talk radio.

An important part in this has always been played by RT, or Russia Today -- the second most-watched foreign news channel in the U.S. after BBC World News and the number one foreign station in five major U.S. urban areas, boasting on its Wikipedia page about being "very popular among younger American people, U.S. college students, and in U.S. inner city neighborhoods."

Reporting on today's violence in Donetsk, for example, RT predictably blamed the violence on the pro-Ukrainian side, who allegedly provoked the Russian nationalists "by shouting far-right slogans 'Glory to Ukraine' and 'Glory to heroes,' loudly demanding the respect of Ukrainian territorial sovereignty." In that statement alone, preemptively disseminating the "correct" narrative, the RT editors revealed the unmasked voice of pervasive Russian chauvinism: how dare Ukrainians be patriotic and stand up for Ukraine while in their own country?

The important part of the story is that both the attackers and the attacked spoke Russian, which is the native tongue for the majority of people in eastern parts of Ukraine. Similarly, many speakers in Kiev's Maidan and a large number of anti-government protesters also spoke Russian and carried Russian-language signs. Admittedly, the majority of Russian speakers in Ukraine think of themselves as Ukrainians, and favor independence from Russia and the territorial integrity of their country.

Why would one group of Ukrainians attack another group of Ukrainians for espousing allegiance to their common country?

To be sure, this isn't a conflict between Ukrainians and Russians, or between the Ukrainian-speaking and the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, no matter how much the Kremlin desires to turn it into one. It is a conflict of two mindsets, two ideologies, and two allegiances. One side is nostalgic for the old Soviet era with its imperial, autocratic , and collectivist mode of existence. The other side desires freedom, individual rights, and the dignity of living outside of Russia's shadow.

In addition, according to local sources in Donetsk, there was evidence that at least some of the attackers, who shouted at the local Ukrainians to "go home," themselves had been intruders from the neighboring Russia. It is hardly a coincidence that during pro-Russian actions in Donetsk all local hotels were occupied by young visitors from Russia, while the separatists posing as Ukrainian citizens weren't familiar with the name of the local governor, Andrei Shishatsky.

This wasn't their first riot, either. On March 1, a 7,000-strong pro-Russian separatist rally in the same Lenin Square in Donetsk marched on the office of the regional government, took down the Ukrainian flag on its spire and raised the flag of Russia instead.

Earlier they demanded that the Donetsk region split from Ukraine and join Russia, declared the new Ukrainian government illegitimate, refused to obey the newly appointed local governor, and elected a local populist leader, Pavel Gubarev, as "the people's governor."

Gubarev then declared that the local law enforcement and military units must obey his orders and compared himself to the Venezuelan Marxist dictator Hugo Chavez, as well as such autocratic leaders as Belarus president Lukashenko, Russian president Putin, and Kazakhstan president Nazarbayev, adding that the future belongs to the Eurasian Union, which is based on the authoritarian model of government.

A speaker at a Maidan rally in Kiev later described these events, suggesting that the only way for the Ukrainian patriots to stop such Russian intruders from going to Ukrainian cities, inciting separatism, and tearing down Ukrainian flags with impunity was to start shooting them so they begin to respect another country's sovereignty.

A video of that speech soon went viral in Russia. Taken without context, a claim that Ukrainian protesters now want to start shooting Russians stirred a wave of indignation among Russian nationalists. It is easy to imagine that part of this indignation translated in today's beatings of local pro-Ukrainian demonstrators in Donetsk, whom the pro-Russian attackers imagined to be "murderous intruders" in the service of "Western imperialism."