Free Ruslan Kotsaba!

The Western media narrative on Ukraine runs as follows: The heroic Ukrainians, in a bid to embrace democracy and "European values," are heroically resisting a Russian "invasion" against overwhelming odds. Meanwhile, the evil Hitlerian Vladimir Putin has sent his agents over the border, and they are wreaking devastation in the Shire.

A neat storyline, even if it is plagiarized from The Lord of the Rings: there are Good Guys and Bad Guys, Hobbits and Orcs, with Petro Poroshenko playing the role of Frodo and Putin cast in the role of Sauron – while the Western powers are, of course, none other than Gandalf, the powerful wizard with the magical tools to set things right.

There’s just one problem with this narrative: it’s a fairy tale, and one that has absolutely nothing to do with what’s actually happening on the ground. What’s more, recent events underscore its utter falsity, starting with the arrest and imprisonment of Ukrainian war correspondent Ruslan Kotsaba.

A well-respected reporter for Ukraine’s Channel 112, Kotsaba made a video denouncing the war as "fratricide" in which he declared ‘Don’t bother sending me a draft notice" and urged Ukrainians to refuse to go. Ultra-nationalists went crazy, and apparently one Taras Demyaniv – who belongs to a "reenactment" group that idolizes the Galician SS, collaborators with the Nazi occupiers of Ukraine during World War II – dropped a dime on Kotsaba, who was promptly brought up on charges of "high treason" and espionage.

If you read the court transcript of Kotsaba’s hearing, the idea that Ukraine is in any way shape or form a liberal democracy soon achieves the status of a sick joke. The whole thing really has to be read to be believed, but here are a few of my favorite passages:

"[T]he investigation has established that on January 17 1015 Mr Kotsaba, with a deliberate aim of interfering with legal activities of Ukraine Armed Forces … posted a video appeal to President Poroshenko at his own website ‘Ruslan Kotsaba’ as well as at the video-hosting site YouTube, titled ‘Internet-action: I REFUSE MOBILIZATION.’"

"In this video he has openly called upon citizens to resist mobilization, defined by him as illegal under existing laws. The video, in which Mr. Kotsaba twists facts while appealing to potential recruits, stressing the illegality of mobilization as well as the unwarranted murder of fellow citizens, which of course is not true, the aforementioned video has received a significant number of views on Internet among the countrymen, which had a tangible negative effect on mobilization efforts, seducing many Ukrainian citizens to attempt to avoid the draft."

In what sort of country is it illegal to post an appeal to one’s own President contesting the legality of this or that legislation? What kind of society makes it against the law to protest a war? This indictment, suffused with the language of totalitarianism, could have been handed down by one of Stalin’s kangaroo courts: Kotsaba is "seducing" his fellows Ukrainians, his video is getting too many views, and he is actually calling the war by its right name – a civil war in which Ukraine’s armed forces are indeed engaged in the unwarranted murder of fellow citizens.

This last is a sore point with the Kiev regime, which insists that what they’re facing isn’t a popular uprising but an outright Russian invasion. Yet this is nonsense: in spite of Poroshenko waving around a few phony-looking Russia passports the other day in Munich, the fact is that the Donetsk and Luhansk "People’s Republics" enjoy majority support in eastern Ukraine for the simple reason that the people voted in massive numbers for Viktor Yanukovych, the former President who was overthrown by force. The rebels wouldn’t have lasted more than a few days without popular support – and the people have held out despite one of the most brutal assaults on a civilian population since World War II. "Which of course is not true" indeed! Poroshenko’s thugs are using cluster bombs against their own people – a fact noted and condemned by human rights groups and even acknowledged by Sen. John McCain (who nonetheless offers excuses).

Kotsaba’s video makes pertinent points: why, he asks, if Ukraine is at war, does Kiev still maintain diplomatic relations with Russia? Why don’t they make an official declaration of war? This last question is particularly sensitive, because it blows apart the myth that this is an invasion rather than an internal conflict. For such a declaration would have to be directed at Luhansk and Donetsk, rather than Russia. Declare war on Putin – while they’re meeting with him in Geneva and Minsk? Not likely.

The transcript goes on to describe a series of media interviews given by Kotsaba:

"After posting the above-mentioned video Mr. Kotsaba gave multiple interviews to Russian media. In particular, he has taken part in propaganda-oriented talk show on Russian Channel One ‘The Time Will Tell’ where he personally commented on aired fragments of his video appeal, yet again repeating his calls to resist the draft, as well as describing the events taking place in East of Ukraine as ‘civil war’ – his actions clearly aimed at undermining legal activities of Armed Forces at this difficult time."

So it is now illegal for Ukrainians to speak to the Russian media? I’m sure the Kiev officials who do so will be surprised to hear that. Or is it legal provided one says the "right" thing? Ah, now we’re getting closer to the truth.

The indictment goes on to list more of Kotsaba’s "crimes," consisting of various acts of speech, and avers:

"It’s worth mentioning that after Mr. Kotsaba posted his video appeal in Internet, [t]here was an active and synchronized campaign by Russian media sources and so-called Information Agency of Novorossiya to highlight his actions in anti-Ukrainian and subversive way."

This is the universal methodology of totalitarians: connect domestic critics with foreign "enemies," and imply a conspiracy. That’s precisely what was done by Stalin’s minions in the bad old days of Soviet Ukraine, when show trials were held to dramatize the alleged foreign connections between anti-Communist dissidents and – depending on the era – either the CIA or else Hitler, "Trotskyite wreckers," and agents of the Mikado. And of course the accusation that Kotsaba’s remarks were "anti-Ukrainian" limns the accusations of "anti-American" hurled by the War Party in this country at anyone who opposes their agenda.

Moving right along, the prosecutor breathlessly reports Kotsaba took part in an "anti-Ukrainian show" aired on the Ukrainian television network NTV, which has about 30 percent of the national market, adding that he was "expecting monetary compensation," albeit not saying whether he actually received any. Here is another classic theme of totalitarian thought control: He sold out his country for thirty pieces of silver! The accusation is repeated throughout the indictment.

What really takes the cake, though, is the prosecutor’s account of Kotsaba’s reportage:

"Furthermore, between 23/01/2015 and 25/01/2015, at the request of NTV channel and expecting monetary compensation, Mr Kotsaba engaged in soliciting and videotaping reports of anti-mobilization protests around Ivano-Frankivsk region, namely in the village of Cheremkhiv. After reaching an agreement with his Russian counterparts on 01/02/2015 Mr Kotsaba took a trip to allegedly ‘problem’ villages of Cheremkhiv and Korshiv in order to attempt to record interviews of provocative nature regarding mobilization with locals, in the presence of a representative of the foreign media source."

Let this be a warning to the Western media: don’t try to report on the anti-draft and antiwar rallies and protests now being held all over Ukraine – because you’re likely to wind up behind bars, alongside the organizers. Note that, aside from the scare quotes around "problem" villages, the prosecutor doesn’t actually deny these protests are taking place – even Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has noted on Facebook how widespread the protests are. But he was wise enough to delete that posting, perhaps for fear of being prosecuted himself!

More "crimes": Kotsaba, being a war correspondent, was actually planning to travel to the war zone. That’s "subversive" in Kiev’s book: after all, a reporter traveling to the scene might actually inform his audience about what’s really going on there rather than what the government wants them to believe.

Kotsaba is being held without bail for 60 days, after which – presumably – there will be a trial. Amnesty International has condemned his arrest and deemed him "a prisoner of conscience." Tetiana Mazur, director of Amnesty International of Ukraine, says:

"You can take different views on Ruslan Kotsaba’s position, but by arresting him for stating a particular viewpoint, the Ukrainian authorities are violating the key human right of freedom of thought, which Ukrainians stood up for on the Maidan."

These somewhat cautious remarks – after all, Ms. Mazur has to be careful – have been reported nowhere in the Western media, except for The Guardian, where reporter Shaun Walker framed the case in a properly propagandistic context. While treating skeptically Ukrainian government officials’ denials that there’s any problem with widespread draft resistance, Walker attributes this not to opposition to the civil war but to … Ukrainaian cowardice:

"A series of gruesome videos, sometimes shown on Russian television, has increased the psychological pressure on Ukrainians. One, released last month, showed a rebel commander waving a sword in the faces of bloodied Ukrainian soldiers, slicing off their insignias and forcing the men to eat them. Another video released on Monday allegedly shows pro-Russia rebels capturing the town of Lohvynove, closing the circle around the key town of Debaltseve, where several thousand Ukrainian troops could now be trapped.

"In the video, the rebels find two Ukrainian soldiers, bleeding and apparently severely wounded. Instead of offering assistance, they rifle through their pockets looking for telephones and valuables before kicking them. At one point, it appears that some of the rebels are about to kill the men but are persuaded not to by others.

"If the videos are meant to intimidate Ukrainians," avers Walker, they are working." Shorter Walker: the Ukrainians are a bunch of sissies who are, in any case, outgunned by the rebels Russians: if only the West would arm them, they’d be eager to fight. Walker also relates a "rumor" about Chechens fighting for the rebels who captured some soldiers and "sliced off all their testicles" (instead of just one!). He quotes an anonymous person who relates this third-hand tale in breathless tones:

"There were about 100 of them, and the Chechens castrated the lot of them. If I get called up, I think I’ll go into hiding. I want a family and kids."

As the Brits say: Bollocks!

This is war propaganda at its crudest, and the piece de resistance is Walker’s headline: "Ukraine: draft dodgers face jail as Kiev struggles to find new fighters."

"Draft-dodgers" indeed!

What tens of thousands of men and women who want nothing to do with killing their own kinsmen are dodging is a horrible massacre that is destroying their country and which never had to erupt in the first place. The people of east Ukraine only wanted some degree of autonomy – what they got in answer to their pleas to be left in peace was an "anti-terrorist" campaign that has deliberately targeted civilians with cluster bombs, missiles, and bands of fanatic neo-Nazi "volunteers" whose battle tactics ape those of the German SS battalions they valorize.

Another point: the media blackout of the arrest and imprisonment of a bona fide journalist by the Ukrainian authorities is a scandal our Fourth Estate will not soon live down.

Meanwhile, the Kiev regime is showing its true colors, baring its teeth at potential domestic opposition while wheedling and whining to the West for more aid – and guns. Our answer to them should be an unequivocal "No!", to which should be added: "Free Ruslan Kotsaba – now!"


You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].