Written by Vanessa Dean, directed by Igor Lopatonok and produced by Oliver Stone, Ukraine on Fire briefly covers the history of Ukrainian nationalism since before WWII up to the Maidan protests from November 2013 to February 2014.
Given the current events and the slanted (if not overtly) anti-Russian narrative of western mainstream media, this 2016 documentary film was not surprisingly subject to censorship in recent days, which is another reason to revisit this work. The production is good and includes interview segments, however brief, with Viktor Yanukovich and Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine on Fire is somewhat refreshing by presenting some simple facts, the evidence for which can be found without too much difficulty, that point out the contribution of Ukrainian nationalists and of the US to the mayhem seen in Ukraine in recent years.
The weakness is that it does not explore Russian influence in Ukraine, legitimate or otherwise. So, although the work provides a point of view generally not seen in the western media, it does not discuss both sides of the story.
Below are a few key points intended as examples and not as a summary.
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) was founded in 1929 with its black and red flag, colors that are still in use today.
Some claim they killed 150,000 to 200,000 Jews in German-occupied Ukraine by 1941. They also killed tens of thousands of Poles.
By 1943 and 1944, Ukrainian forces were fighting Nazi and Soviet forces.
Some of the key Ukrainian nationalist leaders from that period included Stefan Bandera, Dmytro Dontsov, Andriy Melnyk and Roman Shukhevych.
There have been ties between the CIA and Ukrainian nationalists since 1946.
In 1954, USSR transferred Crimea to Ukraine SSR.
Around 1991, as USSR seemingly weakened, Ukrainian nationalism rose. Some of the key figures at the time included Oleh Tyahnybok, Dmitri Yarosh and Andriy Parubiy.
The 2004 Orange Revolution was a series of mostly non-violent protests in response to the presidential election results which saw Viktor Yanukovich defeat Viktor Yushchenko. The former was, simplistically put, more aligned to Russia and the latter more aligned to the West. The votes were generally divided along geographical lines. Yushchenko was mysteriously poisoned and won the new re-election.
In 2010, Yanukovich was elected president.
According to Yanukovich, in November 2013 he rejected an IMF deal which raised the utility rates for the people and so considered Russia’s position. Euromaidan protests started on November 21.
The film then highlights the role of NGOs and their contribution to the politics of Ukraine. For example, they influence businesses, journalism and education of the target country by funding, training and recruiting.
At around that time, new TV stations were launched, Spilno TV (November 21), Hromadske TV (November 22) and Espreso TV (November 24).
Hromadske TV received donations from embassies of US, Netherlands and International Renaissance Fund, a Soros-founded organization.
Yanukovich’s highest contact from the US at the time was VP Joe Biden who “said one thing, but they did different things in Ukraine”.
A leaked phone call between Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt clearly demonstrate their intent about restricting the Ukrainian government.
As for other techniques, the film discusses the glorification of victims, whether real or manufactured, citing several examples with too many mysterious or nonsensical elements in the narrative.
Yanukovich left Ukraine and arrived in Russia in February 2014. The Ukrainian government did not follow impeachment procedures which require a majority of 3/4 or 338/450 votes, merely obtaining 328.
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