‘Injuries Incompatible with Life’
On Thursday, while Ukrainian government troops began an attempt to disarm, arrest and if it came to it kill the heavily armed pro-Russian fighters who have taken over government buildings in the Ukrainian town of Slavyansk, Russian government troops carried out an almost identical operation in the Russian town of Khasavyurt, in the Caucasus. Ukrainian troops killed between one and five anti-government fighters in the course of their operation. Russian troops killed four anti-government fighters during theirs.
I say 'almost identical', but in fact, while Ukrainian special forces were trying to clear anti-Ukrainian rebels from government buildings they had illegally taken over, Russian special forces killed four anti-Russian rebels in a private house. If they were rebels. In the version given by the Russian information outlet Vesti, a woman, described as an 'accomplice', was the first to open fire on the heavily armed Russian soldiers. They fired back, killing two men and two women; or rather, in the douce euphemism of the report, 'they received injuries incompatible with life'.
Another difference was in the way the events were reported. Vesti described the Ukrainian mission as a 'punitive operation' and the victims as 'local inhabitants'. It described the Russian mission as 'a special operation' and the victims as 'four fighters'. The headline adds cheerfully: 'Children saved!' The report is a little unclear, but it appears that the dead men and women were the children's parents.
It would have been interesting to compare reporting of the two events by the Kremlin's English language news channel, too, but although they have devoted a great deal of coverage to what has been happening in Ukraine, Russia Today seems to have missed the Khasavyurt story. Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, described Ukraine's efforts to establish order within its own borders as 'a bloody crime', but of Russia's own efforts in that regard, he said nothing. Amid all the talk of double standards from Moscow, here, at least, is one point of clarity: Russia has no problem with the repression of Russian-speakers, bloody if necessary, as long as it is Russians who are doing the repression.