The widely used Ukrainian neo-Nazi flag. Such iconography must make things a little awkward even for Comrade Jacinda and the Hard Leftists in her paid MSM, let alone Biden and NATO.

Ukrainian troops from the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion guard men detained at a site of battle with pro-Russian fighters in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine on June 13, 2014. Ukrainian troops attacked pro-Russia separatists that day, driving them out of buildings they had occupied in the city. About 100 soldiers emerged triumphant from the previously rebel-occupied buildings, shouting the name of their battalion, Azov, and singing the Ukrainian national anthem. The war in Ukraine did not start with the Russian invasion; it’s been going for years. | Osman Karimov / AP

by Vijay Prashad

The war between Russia and Ukraine began long before February 24, 2022—the date provided by the Ukrainian government, NATO, and the United States for the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to Dmitry Kovalevich, a journalist and a member of a now-banned communist organization in Ukraine, the war actually started in the spring of 2014 and has never stopped since.

He writes to me from the south of Kyiv/Kiev, Ukraine, and recounts an anecdote: “What’s there at the front line?” asks one person. “Our troops are winning, as usual!” comes the response. “Who are our troops?” the first person inquires and is told, “We’ll soon see…” In a war, everything is in dispute, even the name of Ukraine’s capital (Kyiv in Ukrainian, and Kiev in Russian, at least according to the debate online).

Wars are among the most difficult of reporting assignments for a journalist. These days, especially, with the torrent of social media and the belligerence of network news television channels, matters on the ground are hard to sort out. Just establishing what the basic facts about the events taking place during a war are is hard enough, let alone ensuring the correct interpretation of these facts.

Videos of apparent war atrocities that can be found on social media platforms like YouTube are impossible to verify. Often, it becomes clear that much of the content relating to war that can be found on these platforms has either been misidentified or is from other conflicts. Even the BBC, which has taken a very strong pro-Ukrainian and NATO position on this conflict, had to run a story about how so many of the viral claims about Russian atrocities are false.

Among these false claims, which have garnered widespread circulation, is a video circulating on TikTok that wrongly alleges to be that of a “Ukrainian girl confronting a Russian soldier,” but is instead a video of the then-11-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi confronting an Israeli soldier in 2012; the video continues to circulate on TikTok with the caption, “Little [girls] stand up to Russian soldiers.”

Meanwhile, disputing the date for the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war as February 24, Kovalevich tells me, “The war in Ukraine didn’t start in February 2022. It began in the spring of 2014 in the Donbass and has not stopped for these eight years.”

Kovalevich is a member of Borotba (Struggle), a communist organization in Ukraine. Borotba, like other communist and Marxist organizations, was banned by the previous U.S.-backed Ukrainian government of Petro Poroshenko in 2015 (as part of this ongoing crackdown, two communist youth leaders—Aleksandr Kononovich and Mikhail Kononovich—were arrested by Ukrainian security services on March 6).

“Most of our comrades had to migrate to Donetsk and Lugansk,” Kovalevich tells me. These are the two eastern provinces of mainly Russian speakers that broke away from “Ukrainian government control in 2014” and had been under the control of Russian-backed groups.

In February, however, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized these “two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent,” making this contentious move the stepping stone for the final military invasion by Russia.

Now, Kovalevich says, his comrades “expect to come back from exile and work legally.” This expectation is based on the assumption that the Ukrainian government will be forced to get rid of the existing system, which includes Western-trained-and-funded anti-Russian right-wing vigilante and paramilitary agents in the country, and will have to reverse many of the Poroshenko-era illiberal and anti-minority (including anti-Russian) laws.

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