NY Times exploits Mozgovoi’s death to promote divisions in Donbass

The following letter was submitted to the New York Times, which declined to publish it.

To the Editor:

The conflicts that have arisen over centralization of militia forces in the independent Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, while important, cannot be reduced to territorial and ethnic divisions between Russian and Cossack leaders, as portrayed by Andrew E. Kramer in the article “Cossacks Face Grim Reprisals From Onetime Allies in Eastern Ukraine” (Aug. 4, 2015).

I was especially surprised to see this spin put on the tragic death of Prizrak (Ghost) militia leader Alexei Mozgovoi. Although of Cossack background, Mozgovoi was a fierce internationalist, who built one of the most effective and diverse forces in the former regions of Eastern Ukraine. Prizrak’s ranks include not only ethnic Russians and Cossacks, but international volunteers from Western and Central Ukraine, other former Soviet Republics, Spain, Italy and Greece. 

Commander Alexei Mozgovoi (center) and Ghost Brigade comrades
on Victory Day in Alchevsk, Lugansk, May 9, 2015.
Photo: Mozgovoy.info
Mozgovoi was well known in Donbass and among international observers of the conflict for his frequent public appeals for a united, anti-fascist struggle by soldiers and civilians in Ukraine and the Donbass against the oligarchs and right-wing, neoliberal regime in Kiev, which continues to be kept afloat with mass infusions of U.S. and European funding.

On May 8, just weeks before Mozgovoi’s assassination, he hosted the Donbass International Forum, a gathering of over 100 anti-fascist and left-wing activists from more than a dozen countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America. And after Mozgovoi and four associates were killed in a roadside bombing on May 23, memorial events were held in dozens of cities worldwide, including New York.

While the Times and other major media did not see fit to report on these events, Mozgovoi’s opponents, not only in the Donbass but in Washington and Kiev, were certainly aware of his stance and growing reputation as an inspiring, Che Guevara-like figure of the Donbass struggle.

The new leadership of the Prizrak Brigade, some of Mozgovoi’s closest associates, has stated unequivocally that there is no conclusive evidence of who carried out the assassination. The investigation by local authorities continues, with close cooperation from Mozgvoi’s militia. There have been many reported incursions by Ukrainian “reconnaissance and sabotage” teams in both republics, however, and it is certain that the authorities in Kiev had the most to gain from Mozgovoi’s departure from the scene.

Given the lack of front-line reporting from the Donbass by the New York Times and its reliance on biased sources (like most Western major media), it is hard to see Kramer’s article as anything but an attempt to sow division and part of a campaign to justify further funding and arming of the brutal Ukrainian offensive against Donbass, which has already cost more than 6,400 lives.

Gregory Butterfield
Coordinator, Solidarity with Ukraine Antifascists Committee
New York, NY

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