Jamie Dettmer writes: Talking with pro-Russian separatist gunmen is like living a Ukrainian version of the Western movie Appaloosa, where the judge sits listening to the testimony of hired hands providing alibis for the ranch owner who’s murdered the sheriff. The testimonies here are word for word the same, providing an alibi, it would seem, for Russian President Vladimir Putin: “I am not a separatist,” say the hired hands. “I want a federation; the ouster of [Russian-friendly] President Viktor Yanukovych was a crime; I am here to protect ethnic Russians from fascists and to protect our language.” If they varied their lines, they would be more believable.
But then what is happening in eastern Ukraine is more about theater, albeit with deadly consequences, than anything else. And the audience — the international media — sits watching the play and filming and tweeting the performance. And whoever is behind this understands the appetite.
That became clear at the weekend when the media meekly colluded in the play trotted out for their consumption that day: the parade by pro-Russian separatists in Slovyansk of the kidnapped members of a military mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE). In a statement today Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that displaying the captives was an affront that is “revolting and blatantly hurts the dignity of the victims.”
Worryingly, no Western reporter covering the press conference sought to discover before the event whether the OSCE team members were participating voluntarily or were being coerced, which is standard media practice before interviewing captives or prisoners of war. [Continue reading…]