WASHINGTON — The US State Department sought the propaganda edge Wednesday evoking writer Dostoyevsky to denounce what it called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “fiction: 10 false claims about Ukraine.”
In a mounting war of words between the former Cold War foes, US and Russian officials have in recent days put out starkly different versions surrounding the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
Putin’s insistence that he had not sent troops into Ukraine drew incredulity from US Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference Tuesday after his brief visit to Kiev to show support for the new interim government.
But the Russian leader’s assertions that the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev was “an armed seizure of power” prompted the State Department Wednesday to publish what it called a “Fact Sheet” accusing Putin of ignoring or distorting reality.
“The world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, ‘The formula ‘two plus two equals five’ is not without its attractions,’” the State Department said, referring to Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky and a quote from his 1864 novella “Notes from the Underground.”
The State Department then set out 10 numbered claims identified as “Mr Putin says,” followed by “The Facts” in which it put forward the US counter-assertion.
To the Russian leader’s top claim that groups of highly trained armed men seen in the Crimea were merely “self-defense units,” the State Department hit back that “strong evidence suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea.”
“They drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military,” the statement said.
Washington also dismissed Russian allegations of a humanitarian crisis and that there was a flood of hundreds of thousands of people leaving Ukraine for asylum in Russia; it refuted any notion that ethnic Russians or Russian bases in Ukraine were under threat and denied there had been attacks on churches and synagogues.
The “fact sheet” also took issue with Putin’s comments that the Ukrainian parliament was “under the influence of extremists or terrorists.”
The parliament, or Rada, was “the most representative institution in Ukraine,” it insisted, saying the far-right groups which took part in clashes during the pro-democracy protests “are not represented” in the parliament.