Web Letters | The Nation

Cohen is on the wrong side

To Professor Stephen F. Cohen: Upon reading your articles on events in Ukraine I wished only one thing. That is, to have seen you in Maidan Square on October 30, 2013, in Kyiv, when around 1 million Kyivan families rushed to protest Yanukovych regime’s declining EU integration. If that is compared to the Orange Revolution in 2004, one can be astonished by the difference in size and unanimity. Nothing of your sentiments about “eastern and western Ukrainians”—that was the revolution of humanity and dignity. The first victims of the regime that winter were from the east of Ukraine, Armenian by origin, and Belarus. We had plenty from Crimea, Donbas, Luhansk.

Putin was quoted as saying in February, “We shall see them shooting their wives and kids that we put in front of our troops.” That is exactly what he did in March through July—he made women and kids shields to protect his merceneries and gangsters; he sent his troops and hard weaponry, which finally downed the Boeing 777. I wonder how such an attitude can be held by a professor teaching the young generation in the US. Writing narratives for the world media? Mr. Freeland answered all your allegations in the CNN interview, but you didn’t wish to listen to it. It’s a pity, mostly for America.

Borys Sobolev


Jul 21 2014 - 1:48pm

A breath of fresh air

Thank you, Mr. Cohen! It’s very nice to read an article based on facts and not unsubstantiated statements.


Moscow, RUSSIA

Jul 18 2014 - 4:51pm

The bottom line

This article has created some controversy. But the bottom line is that neo-Nazi militias overthrew a democratically elected government in Kiev.

Francis Kornblum


Jul 11 2014 - 2:28pm


The pitiful piece of writing is missing just too many facts if the author tended to “find nuances.” Almost every paragraph is written in the famous style of Russian propaganda—omitting this, misinterpreting that and easily hooking too-simple clichés. The author does not bother about his reputation. What could be the reason?



Jul 10 2014 - 5:40am

Mr. Cohen, thank you very much!

I am very glad to read (at last!) a very true article about events in Ukraine! People should know the truth, but usually they believe what they are told to and don’t try to find out the real facts. I am very grateful to Mr. Cohen that he has made so much effort to find the real facts and to analyze them in an unbiased way. I am from Russia, I have friends in Сrimea and I have had communications with refugees (there are too many of them, and they move to Russia, not to Kiev—why do you think?), and I understand how much that is deceptive about the situation is reported by American and European media. They publish what they are told to—it is very convenient—and don’t even try to send the reporters to Donbass to listen to the opposition and to watch how the Ukraine army kills “terrorists”: Russian-speaking children and women.


Jul 8 2014 - 7:16am

Objective and truthful

Thank you, Steven! It would be nice if this article was read all over the world!

I find it funny to read comments about the custom-made nature of this article. In Ukraine, there is a civil war, killing civilians. Children! A huge number of refugees. Killing journalists. Kiev shifts the responsibility onto militias and Moscow, with the bombing and shelling of residential neighborhoods. And this for its citizens!

A representative of the United States allows himself completely unacceptable remarks about my country and my president. Psaki amuses me. She pours so much dirt on us, but her allegations are unsubstantiated, not supported by the facts. Funny. Is Russia your enemy? Why so much anger?


St. Petersburg, RUSSIA

Jul 4 2014 - 2:09pm

Sensationalistic distortion

Stephen S. Cohen’s lurid title would make one think that Ukraine’s central government has countenanced the targeting of civilians in its war with separatists and Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine. Yet perusal of the websites of the credible human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International shows no evidence that would support Cohen’s sensationalist claim. A detailed report of the human rights situation in Ukraine by the UN’s High Commission on Human Rights (dated June 15), although critical of Ukraine’s central authorities on some points, including its investigation of the May 2 deaths of pro-Russian activists in Odessa, also does not support Dr. Cohen’s conclusions. Most reports on human rights violations in eastern Ukraine do, however, link these to actions by separatists and allied Russian fighters, who have crossed into Ukraine to support the secessionists. Dr. Cohen, instead of offering hard evidence to support his accusation that Ukraine’s central authorities have committed atrocities, makes a vague reference to some videos. As a scholar, he should know better.

Bohdan Klid


Jul 3 2014 - 6:00pm


Having an immediate family in Ukraine, I was shocked by how untruthful this article is about the situation in Ukraine. This is the most untruthful article I have read in the Western media. My family is from the Russian-speaking south (city of Mykolaiv and Odessa), and we interpret your article as lying Russian propaganda. Yanukovich ran Ukraine as a Mafia-style enterprise. During this revolution, he hired gangs to beat his opponents on streets to death, confiscated people’s businesses for his oligarch son during his last four years, created a business monopoly for his own family and much, much more. Every person in Ukraine I know participated in this revolution because the ousted president was a criminal, with a criminal record!

Russia is another story, and they are Nazis in this case. Please explain what is Nazi-like swastika symbols used by Ukrainians? What a fake lie! You see more swastikas in Moscow. The swastika was only used by Ukrainians to accuse Russia of Nazi-like behavior when they annexed Crimea.

The author has no clue what is going on in Ukraine, or has received a good bonus from the Russian government. Shame on you for putting out this lie! Our friend’s son was kidnaped by twelve Russian fighters in Kramatorsk and executed because he mentioned to his neighbors that he does not support this war. His mother, who was present when they broke into the house, said they were Chechens from Russia. So why not mention Russia’s sending terrorists to Ukraine who execute people and blow up bridges and trains? I am shocked by the amount of lies in your article. Wow.

Anatoliy Khlevnoy

Bonney Lake, WA

Jul 3 2014 - 3:51pm

Great article that should be read by all, especially Americans

Just finished your article. Really gives an accurate account of the Ukraine situation from start to finish without leaving out any details! I have been following the situation in Eastern UKR and am heartbroken to see the death and destruction that's being meted out to the people there by the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev. As an American (living abroad), I must admit that I am ashamed to be an American! This article needs to be read by everyone in the US who are ignorant of the facts. I recently stopped reading The Nation, Common Dreams, Alternet, TruthDig etc. simply because there is nothing on Ukraine and what's happening in the East. So to see this piece I was elated (great article too!) As a matter of fact I caught this article from the the article by Ray McGovern on Common Dreams! So maybe people/progressive news sites are waking up! I hope so, the people in southeast Ukraine need it.

John McDonald


Jul 3 2014 - 3:49am

Inaccurate, overblown and misguided

Never, in my fourteen-year history of reading The Nation (since I moved to this country from Canada), have I felt the magazine has so misrepresented an issue as it has in its recent coverage of events in Ukraine.

Stephen Cohen’s articles, which have dominated that coverage, have been utterly, and astonishingly, biased in favor of Russian government depictions of events. Cohen’s selective accounts reveal not only an ignorance of Ukraine, matched by a deep fondness for Russia—which is fine in itself, but shouldn’t be the core of the magazine’s coverage of another country. They show a willingness to distort the picture—and to believe conspiracy theories disseminated, and often manufactured, by Russian state media—in a way that smacks of axe-grinding against all those who find his views inaccurate, overblown and misguided.

Examples of Cohen’s egregious misrepresentations are plentiful. Most obvious is the liberal use of hot-button words like “massacres” and “atrocities” to describe events that are left recounted. The only event that receives any description is what Cohen calls the “Odessa massacre,” a tragedy by all accounts, which he blames, in line with Russian propaganda, squarely on Kiev authorities. Cohen claims that “eyewitnesses, television footage and social media videos told the true story” about the events, as if the “true story” is known (it’s still contested) and straightforward (it isn’t). His claims about “subsequent atrocities” rely entirely on accounts produced by Russian state media, which practically all objective observers have concluded are grossly propagandistic. Operations intended to take back buildings from pro-Russian militias are routinely described by Russian media as “massacres,” just as the coalition government in Kiev, consisting of a parliamentary majority, has been called “neo-Nazi” based on the existence of a handful of extreme nationalists in its ranks.

More subtle forms of misrepresentation make up nearly every sentence in the article. For instance, calling President Petro Poroshenko’s ending of the ten-day cease-fire “unilateral” suggests he has pulled out of a bilateral deal of some kind. In fact, the cease-fire was Poroshenko’s unilateral initiative, which the pro-Russian separatist fighters never followed, as army casualties continued to mount throughout the ten days.

Like other Ukraine scholars, I completely agree that there are far-right nationalists who ought to be monitored and kept in check (as there are in almost all Western countries). Cohen, however, seriously misrepresents and misunderstands the Maidan movement and, in the process, makes it more difficult for the Western left to find allies among the Ukrainian leftists and pro-democracy activists who were well represented in that movement. The result is a gift to the right, both in Ukraine and in Russia. The Nation’s continually resorting to Cohen as its “expert” on Ukraine is disappointing, frustrating and ultimately discrediting.

Adrian Ivakhiv

Professor of Environment, Society & Public Affairs, University of Vermont; Editor, “UKR-TAZ: A Ukrainian Temporary Autonomous Zone”

Jul 2 2014 - 8:51am

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