Ottawa Citizen | 03Oct2014 | Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

Don't believe the Putin lie, Canada

It’s frightening that some Canadians support President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine rather than Canada’s values of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, be it in the media or in public demonstrations like the one planned for Parliament Hill on Saturday. [04Oct2014]

Russia’s war of terror -- Crimea annexation, ethnic cleansing, abduction, torture and murder, downing of the Malaysian plane -- are abominations. The criminal is Putin not the Ukrainian freedom fighters who have a right to defend their country. He needs censuring for violating international law while lying that Russia is not “involved.” His “humanitarian” convoys and phoney referendums in Ukraine are a freak show. His criminality belies Russia’s greatness and throws it back to its nefarious past and into company of despicable despots.

It’s regrettable that Russia’s current direction mimics the barbarism of the Soviet Union. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a fictionalized reality of Ukraine under Communism, is being reenacted but it could be any place where freedom and truth have lapsed.

Putin makes war, yet his propaganda efforts bulldoze truth, whitewashing the perpetrator and blaming the victim: Russia is not involved, Russia’s military is not in Ukraine; Russia wants peace. It would have us believe that the West and Ukraine are the aggressors.

Some Canadians are buying the Big Lie. Why is that?

One of the values Canadians hold dear is the right to free speech. It is fundamental to democracy. However, this precious right carries a heavy responsibility: Citizens must be wary of misinformation and outright fraud. It is easy to be duped when a new crisis, such as the one in Ukraine, unfolds. Easily available propaganda leads opinion. Putin knows this. His state media outlets churn out propaganda parading as truth. Their budgets run in the multi-billions.

George Orwell defined this pathological disregard for truth as “the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.”

The former KGB colonel claims the USSR’s demise is one of the greatest tragedies of the last century and plans to export it worldwide “wherever Russian is spoken.” It doesn’t matter that this is nonsense in international law or that Ukrainians want to be more like Europeans than Russians. He wants Ukraine and doesn’t want criticism from countries like Canada or military assistance from NATO to get in his way.

He’s been thriving on war, subjugation, lies and sleaze -- state corruption, drug, human and gun trafficking, cronyism -- since coming to power. Ukraine’s run-away president paid some 50 per cent of his profits to his Kremlin boss before the Maidan protests ousted him. Small wonder Putin is reported to have personal wealth towering around $40 billion dollars in safe havens around the world.

Such countries prefer business-as-usual with Russia to its sanctions and censure. So do Canadians who support Putin rather than our own values: to stand on the side of right not might. Or, they are taken in by the whitewash covering a brutal reality.

This is wrong. Let’s not allow a little man who rules without the oversight of a political opposition or independent media to fool us. He is a one-man horror show and as far-fetched as it may seem, Canadians beware: there are Russian-speakers in Canada whom Putin may wish to “liberate.” Or, there’s the Canadian Arctic he may wish to annex.

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn is an opinion writer.