Deutsche Welle is continuing to mislead
the public about Russia’s Crimea land-grab
recognized borders are not re-drawn by armed annexations. This is
certainly understood by Germany’s leaders and it is baffling that the German
public broadcaster Deutsche Welle constantly presents a rather different
picture. Almost literally, as its map of
Ukraine and Russia from
August 19 would seem to suggest. Crimea is, in fact, striped yellow, like
Russia, and orange, like Ukraine, although this requires scrutiny to
notice. It looks yellow.
That broadcast was made
four days after an official
response to outcry
over a trip made by Juri Rescheto, head of DW’s Moscow office, to Crimea, his
controversial pronouncements to the Kremlin-funded Russia Today, as well as
Rescheto’s own tweets with the hashtag #CrimeaisRussia. There is nothing
to suggest that DW has protested against the reports on RT, however DW’s Press
Office, Christoph Jumpelt immediately demanded ‘corrections’ to the article
published here: How can Deutsche Welle take part in a
Russian propaganda trip to Crimea?, That text was amended
only to reflect his statement that DW had paid for the trip, however his letter
was posted below the text. In fact, the assurance that a visit used
openly for propaganda by Russia was funded by Germany’s public broadcaster
should and seemingly did elicit angry questions from German taxpayers.
Neither then, nor in his
subsequent statement did the DW Press Officer address the real concerns.
Rescheto is quoted as asserting that his words had been taken out of context,
that he had always condemned the annexation as illegal and that he had
‘inadvertently’ used the hashtag. The Kremlin-funded media reports which
we cited are still online, and in context or not, they express views which are
disturbingly inappropriate for a person representing Deutsche Welle.
It may be that Mr Jumpelt
explained that the DW team had taken a separate route merely for information.
The fact that they got off near the "Russian-Ukrainian border"
and took a ferry fails to answer the question of why DW had entered Crimea
illegally by not crossing through Ukraine’s border controls.
There was no attempt to
explain why, despite assurances of Rescheto’s reports on human rights
violations, etc., the main DW report that Recheto produced after his visit is
essentially an advertisement for tourism to Crimea. The feature mentions only that Ukrainians stopped
coming after annexation, without explaining that Crimea is under international
sanctions and that the foreign ministries of all democratic countries,
including Germany, advise their nationals against visits in breach of Ukrainian
law. It ignores such inconvenient details as the fact that the largest
Ukrainian hotels in Crimea have simply been appropriated by Russia.
DW’s defence of the chief
of their Moscow office is baffling since Rescheto’s position on Crimea should
surely have aroused concern from the outset. In a video posted on the DW website on 29 March
2014 entitled “How Crimea is becoming Russian”, Rescheto begins with the words:
has decided. The peninsula is now part of Russia”. He has, he says, come to Crimea to see how people’s
lives have been affected by what he calls “the crisis”.
This was broadcast just
two days after the UN General Assembly passed a Resolution calling on all states, international
organizations and specialized agencies to not recognize any alteration to
Crimea’s status and “to refrain from any action or dealing that might be
interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”
Yes, there are details
about people who are unhappy. Most viewers will understand that there are
always those who are disgruntled. They are unlikely to think much more of
it, after all, according to Rescheto, "Crimea has decided".
The same blurring of the
issue is seen in most material, at least that in English, concerning Crimea on
the DW page. In the report accompanying the above-mentioned map,
we learn that “Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Crimea, the
annexed territory that once belonged to Ukraine. His visit comes shortly after
he accused the government in Kyiv of a military incursion into the territory”. There is
nothing else in the report at all to indicate why Putin has no right to accuse
Ukraine of ‘incursions’ into its own territory.
There is sometimes more
detail, as, for example, here:
Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of using "terrorist" tactics to
try to provoke a new conflict over the region, which Moscow annexed from
Ukraine in 2014 after justifying the move with the results of a controversial referendum
among Crimean residents.”
The reports do use the
term ‘annexed’ but talk only of a ‘referendum’, with no mention of the Russian
soldiers who seized control from Feb 27, 2014. This, it should be
noted, has been true from the outset. On 18 March 2014, an article
defiantly moves forward with annexation of Crimea stated that “Russian President Putin
has signed a bill that would annex Crimea, little more than a day after the
region voted to join Russia”. … It later asserts that “Voters in the Black Sea peninsula voted over
the weekend to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The
referendum garnered 96.77 percent approval from voters.”
That result is so Soviet
that alarm bells should have begun ringing. They did not, and do not
appear to be heard to this day.
Deutsche Welle is thus
gravely misleading its audience on events in Crimea. Heavily armed
Russian soldiers seized control on Feb 27, 2014 and installed a ‘government’
loyal to Russia. The so-called ‘referendum’ was a fiction from the outset. It was held within 10 days of
being announced and offered no possibility for choosing the status quo.
The event was ‘observed’ only by politicians from far-right and neo-Stalinist
parties known for their unwavering pro-Kremlin position. Even Putin’s own
Human Rights Council has
acknowledged that the
results were falsified. It estimates a turnout and vote that would
indicate far less than half of the Crimean population. Any such
‘referendum’ was in breach of Ukraine’s Constitution, and could not possibly be
considered fair when people were surrounded by Russian soldiers and armed
paramilitaries with machine guns.
In a report from Aug 10, 2016, DW states that
“Ukraine, along with the United
Nations and many other countries, regards the annexation as a
violation of international law. But since the annexation, Crimea has remained
So that’s alright then?
Some other details that
DW has seen fit not to mention. No, there was no fighting, however the
lack of it does not turn an invasion into something fuzzy and benign.
Ukraine was in no position to defend its territory against a much more powerful
opponent. Any attempt to fight the heavily armed soldiers would have led
to bloodshed, yet changed nothing
There was, however,
peaceful resistance to Russia’s annexation. The Crimean Tatars, the main
indigenous people of Crimea, were virtually all against Russia’s occupation and
their self-governing body – the Crimean Tatar Mejlis – called on people to
boycott the pseudo referendum.
Even before that, Refat Ametov, standing in
silent protest, outside the seized parliamentary building, had been abducted
and tortured to death.
Civic activists disappeared, and were
probably killed. Others fled to mainland Ukraine.
Some of those who
protested peacefully, like renowned filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist
Oleksandr Kolchenko were
arrested, tortured and then sentenced in Russia to huge terms of imprisonment
on grotesque charges.
The Crimean Tatar people
have been especially persecuted, though even Rescheto’s slightly more adequate
report on this is pitifully short on detail. There is a great deal to be
said, with the Mejlis itself having been banned, its leaders
either prohibited from entering their homeland; imprisoned on trumped up charges or prosecuted and subjected to punitive
psychiatry for openly
saying that Russia should be forced to leave Crimea.
DW should seriously
consider whether its map is appropriate. Crimea is not ’disputed
territory’ in any normal sense of that word, but territory which was invaded
and remains under Russian occupation. It would be desirable if Germany’s
public broadcaster also carry out a proper investigation into how its reports
have come to be so full of misinformation and distortion.
22 08 2016