John Helmer: German Parliament Office Reports No Russian Invasion of Donbass, Rejects Media and Government Propaganda

Yves here. If you read Helmer’s write-up carefully, you will notice that the German Bundestag has disputed the strong-form claims made about the level and nature of Russian support for the “rebels” in the Donbass. The press has repeatedly gone over its skis in asserting that the Russian military had acted in a formal manner.

Mind you, the German report does not say that it has proof that the Russian military didn’t intervene. After all, it is hard to prove a negative. But it does say the evidence that has been offered doesn’t substantiate the claims, which is still plenty damning given the noise made about the supposed incursion.

As US meddling around the world has shown, there are all sorts of ways to help interests you’d like to promote that fall well short of sending in troop carriers. We’ve repeatedly noted the dubious/lack of sourcing of claims of Russian invasion.

However, eastern Ukraine is full of people with relatives in Russia. There is evidence that Russia was providing materiel to the “rebels” but taking care to provide only very old equipment so as to provide a veneer of deniability. Similarly, it’s not hard to image military officials telling soldiers they could go to Ukraine and they wouldn’t be declared AWOL….and no one would mind if they took lots of ammo and grenades with them too. It also seems likely the Russians provided advisers, which again would fall below the intervention threshold set in the Bundestag report.

Remember the big reason Russian would not want to take on this tar baby: unlike Crimea, no way, no how does Russia want to integrate the eastern part of Ukraine. It’s an economic basket case. Russia would prefer it to be a not-hostile zone. Given the large proportion of ethnic Russians in the population, under normal circumstances, that would not be hard to achieve.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

A report by a research unit of the German Bundestag, just released in Berlin, has defied the narrative of the European Union, NATO and the US, with the conclusion that since the Ukraine civil war began in early 2014, there has been no reliable evidence of Russian troop invasion or intervention by regular Russian military forces in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

After a review of the press, official public releases and reports, as well as European court rulings, the Bundestag’s experts have described the outcome with the German phrase, ohne belastbares Faktenmaterial – “without reliable fact material.”

The Bundestag report, which runs to 17 pages and was completed on December 9, has been noted in the German-language media. To date, however, it has been ignored by the Anglo-American press, including the alt-media.

The new German report is entitled “Intervention in civil war zones: The role of Russia during the east Ukraine conflict”. It was prepared by the foreign, international law and defence department (WD-2) of the Scientific Services Bureau of the Bundestag.

In a preface to the report, the authors say they “support the members of the German Bundestag with mandate-related activity. Their works do not express the view of the German Bundestag, its individual organs, or the management of the Bundestag.” Responsibility for the research reporting is “the technical responsibility of the authors…as well as the department management.” No authors have been identified by name.

The full German report can be read at the official website link.    No official English translation is available.

Source: https://www.bundestag.de/

“For five years Ukrainian armed forces and pro-Russian separatists have been fighting against each other in the Donbass/Donets Basin,” the report says. “The territorial conflict shows classical identifiers of a non-international (internal) armed conflict. About the extent, quality and magnitude of the military involvement of Russia during the Ukraine conflict,  there are few reliable facts and analyses aside from the  numerous speculations, part-contradictory reports and press announcements, and denials from different sources. Altogether, however, the picture of the situation is not unequivocal.”

“Also, the Federal [German] Government holds no reliable knowledge, according to its own information apparently, on how much influence today Russia actually exercises on the separatists in the East Ukraine that can be described as credible.”

The report summarizes western media reports, social media posts, as well as NATO press releases in order to cast doubt on their veracity. “Reliable information about the parts of the region of the Ukrainian-Russian border not controlled by Kiev is rare.” The German researchers are also sceptical of claims published by the monitoring mission of the area from the Organization for Security and Economic Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which “has, in spite of its comprehensive mandate, only limited access to this area.”

For background details of the anti-Russian leadership of the OSCE’s special monitoring mission (SMM) in Ukraine, read this.

“The question of whether pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass region are currently under control and directed from Moscow, or whether regular Russian troops still remain on Ukrainian territory cannot be answered without reliable factual material, in particular without the appropriate and reliable secret service intelligence.”

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27 comments

  1. fdr-fan

    Well, I wouldn’t be surprised either way. The important fact is that we STARTED the whole thing with our coup. Before our coup Ukraine and Russia were getting along normally, and there was no reason for any intervention. Russia didn’t START the fight.

    Reply
    1. anon in so cal

      In any of the Democratic debates so far, has anyone asked Biden about his role in the Obama Biden Nuland 2014 putsch in Ukraine?

      Reply
  2. xkeyscored

    More cracks in the Holy Western Alliance. A major European state is basically saying the US-led narrative is BS.

    Reply
    1. divadab

      When is it not BS? This is the most offensive thing to me – senior leaders of our government, who we should be able to respect, tell the grossest lies habitually. I see Pompeus Maximus stand up and spout a load of total BS and it makes me sick. These people are scum. Unworthy of respect and certainly of any type of leadership position. Lying for the secret government. To them we are a herd of simpletons to be told fairy stories while they kill and rob and cheat and lie like psychopathic monsters.

      Reply
      1. John Wright

        The vaunted independent, skeptical free press of the USA should keep the leaders in line.

        But instead, the MSM, preserving access to sources (and maybe Washington D.C cocktail parties), pushes the official narrative (Russia-gate, Ukraine-gate, Venezuela-gate).

        Later the media (for example, the New York Times after the Iraq War) may have a retrospective about what they got wrong and then assert NOW they are serving up the truth.

        But then the Times went full in on Russia-gate (which somehow disappeared from the Articles of Impeachment).

        One can easily believe that if alternative media (like NC) got widely known and influential access to it would be controlled by the government.

        To paraphrase Emma Goldman, “If alt-media (“voting” in the original) changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

        Reply
        1. Procopius

          The vaunted independent, skeptical free press of the USA should keep the leaders in line.

          I don’t know why this myth still has believers. In my freshman English class at Michigan State University I was tasked to write a paper on Bleeding Kansas. In the course of writing the brief paper, I read some contemporary newspaper accounts. We all remember the story about William Randolph Hearst, “You give me the stories, I’ll give you the war.” It’s always been like that. We nearly went to war with Canada over the border of Oregon — “54 40 or fight!” The War of 1812. There used to be more diversity among the papers. Horace Greeley contended with Hearst. Nowadays are only remarkable because 5 corporations own almost all the media, so they all sound alike, but they’ve always been full of lies. When I was a kid (75 years ago) I was told, “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.”

          Reply
          1. Seamus Padraig

            As Mark Twain once put it: “Those who do not read the newspapers are uninformed. Those who do read them are misinformed.”

            Reply
      2. RBHoughton

        Pompeus Maximus reading the Acta Diurna to the plebs who stand in awe before him open-mouthed. Its so easy being a politician, no wonder there are so many of them.

        Reply
  3. generic

    Well, in all fairness the Forschungsdienst just read public available information and concluded that it is not conclusive. I don’t see why the English press would pick it up, even if they were neutral on this topic.

    Reply
  4. David

    “After a review of the press, official public releases and reports, as well as European court rulings ….” the Forschungsdienst decided that there was nothing in open published sources to support claims of large-scale Russian intervention. One’s tempted to say, there wouldn’t be, would there, assuming the Russians are doing a competent job? The only way you would find out would be through the use of covert assets, especially technical ones, and that kind of information is by definition not going to be publicly available.
    In other words, they, like the rest of us, have no real idea. For what it’s worth, my assumption has always been that the Russians are involved a bit, but not, paradoxically, because they want to take that part of the Ukraine over: as Yves says, you’d have to be nuts to want that. Rather, I suspect they want to control and guide the separatists to keep the conflict going and making trouble for Ukraine, whilst stopping it getting out of control. But you don’t need large numbers of people for that: technical advisers, money, weapons and spares are quite enough.

    Reply
    1. Hu Bris

      the Forschungsdienst decided that there was nothing in open published sources to support claims of large-scale Russian intervention. One’s tempted to say, there wouldn’t be, would there, assuming the Russians are doing a competent job? The only way you would find out would be through the use of covert assets, especially technical ones, and that kind of information is by definition not going to be publicly available.

      Actually the report states additional information which for some reason you have chosen to ignore completely.

      It states quite clearly that

      Also, the Federal [German] Government holds no reliable knowledge, according to its own information apparently, on how much influence today Russia actually exercises on the separatists in the East Ukraine that can be described as credible.”

      So, since it checked with the Bundesregierung, clearly the Forshungsdeinst did not confine its research merely to open-source information. The Bundesrepublik operates agenies whose task it is to gather covert information.

      The report clearly states that the Bundesregierung was asked for any information they had which would support the claims made regarding Russian involvement in South Eastern Ukraine and the researchers clearly stated in their report that no information was forthcoming from the Bundesregierung to support those claims.

      They were quite open about that, so its a bit of a mystery why you chose to ognore it

      Reply
      1. David

        The government has said that it doesn’t have information on exactly how much influence the Russians have over the separatists. I suspect nobody has that. It would be a matter of opinion anyway. The authors of the report didn’t have access to sensitive material, they just asked those who did. The kind of reply they received needs to be understood in the context of the way governments reply to Parliaments. The key word is « reliable. » I interpret that as meaning it has some information on this question but doesn’t want to share it because it might undermine the established narrative. This is a way of not answering the question. In the end this report doesn’t – and cannot – add to what is already known.

        Reply
    2. xkeyscored

      You neglected to mention “The report summarizes western media reports, social media posts, as well as NATO press releases…” If NATO has been lying, or, to be generous, omitting information, is that really proof the omnipotent Russians are doing a competent job of censoring their rivals?

      Reply
      1. David

        No. The authors of the report are not trying to evaluate, confirm or falsify the accepted narrative. They can’t because they have no access to the information they would need to do so« Defying the narrative » is just Helmer’s interpretation. All that happened is that the researchers were asked what they could find out about alleged Russian involvement. They came back and said that from publicly available information it was all very unclear what was going on. They also said they had asked the government and the government had nothing reliable. Publicly available information (including NATO press releases) could thus not clarify the situation. The most you could fairly say as a result is that information in the public record doesn’t support the more extreme statements that some governments have made. That’s a fair point but not what is being suggested here. And by the way it’s not an « official » report as the word is normally understood.

        Reply
  5. John A

    Anyone who does not support the western narrative, however ludicrous, is slaughtered in the media.
    Even now, with Corbyn rapidly receeding in the rear view mirror, the cutouts scrambling to replace him continue to attack Corbyn for ‘siding with Putin’, in initially asking for evidence of Russian involvement in the Skripal case. (He did get whipped into line soon after.) All the while, the MSM sagely nod, every vigilant against any potential candidate that muddies those crystal clear waters of Kremlin infamy.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      If you look closer at what you call “Western narrative” it may result something much narrower. I don’t think, for instance, that France is buying it in an unconditional way (or any way). This is pretty much a thing of the US-UK stablishment complex delivering services to themselves.

      Reply
  6. Tobin Paz

    The propaganda construct around Ukraine is morbidly fascinating. Israel was arming neo-Nazis…

    Rights Groups Demand Israel Stop Arming neo-Nazis in Ukraine

    Human rights activists petition the court to cease Israeli arms exports to Ukraine since some of these weapons reach neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine’s security forces

    … and when Israel criticised Ukraine for honoring nazi collaborators they were told to shove it:

    Ukraine tells Israel not to criticize veneration for Nazi collaborators

    Diplomat says Israeli protests about events honoring Stepan Bandera and others are ‘counterproductive,’ after ambassador condemned Kiev in open letter

    When is the last time you heard about neo-Nazis in Ukraine?

    Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      When is the last time you heard about neo-Nazis in Ukraine?
      I hear about them quite regularly, but not usually from what we’d call the mainstream media. That said, the BBC occasionally mentions them.

      Reply
  7. urblintz

    From Robert Borasage at The Nation: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Representative Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA and Pentagon analyst, to lead the debate on a war powers resolution that would require Congress to be consulted before further war with Iran. Significantly, Pelosi chose Slotkin over Representative Barbara Lee…”

    https://www.thenation.com/article/iran-deescalation-war-powers/

    and here’s a picture of Slotkin, as Obama’s assistant secretary of defense for intl. security, at a ceremony in Ukraine (2015) honoring a fascist battallion: https://www.defense.gov/observe/photo-gallery/igphoto/2001586613/mediaid/1338890/

    *hat tip to Nation commenter Clark Shanahan

    Reply
  8. mauisurfer

    Good to see Helmer back in this blog.
    His article today is about the coroner’s actions in the Skripal case.
    I find Helmer to be the most reliable and careful analyst of Russia
    and other questions as well.
    He has lived in Moscow for over 30 years and comprehends in far
    greater depth than other reporters.

    Reply
  9. rosemerry

    With the avoidance of real issues, the peccadilloes of Trump about Ukraine, an alleged ally of the USA, and a known criminal former Democratic VP, are taking over the news and letting us forget about any human rights, environmental protection, international law, possible thoughts of peace(!) and any issue not related to Trump’s takeover of all media outlets.

    It is great to read something like Helmer’s article for a different take on the “news”.

    Reply
  10. Misty Flip

    The Bundestag scientific services is not the parliamentary library in the vein of the UK-Japanese model; this author-less “paper” is not intended for publication; it only raises more legal questions. It suggests that the border conflict is between Ukraine and Russia, but Russia refuses to recognize there is even a conflict. No reconciliation is possible without both belligerents admitting belligerency. Through various mechanisms, including mass naturalization of Ukrainian citizens, claiming Russian speakers have “ties” [as if all English speakers have ties to England], Russia denies taking any military action at all. [Absurd. The dead aren’t driving themselves home and throwing themselves military funerals in Russia.]

    Which is why Ukraine is petitioning the ICC to designate Donetsk and Luhansk rebels as terrorists, because, well, 13,000 people are dead, if there is no military conflict, the dead are civilians, a humanitarian disaster, and the targeting of civilians by civilians is de facto terrorism. But terrorism legitimizes, nay requires, international intervention. Does anyone need US soldiers deployed on a NATO mission? No. Europe lost its warfare privileges last century. Sorry. Russia needs cop to it, sort itself out, and get an agreement done. [Side note: when the Ukrainians first started taking Russian paratroopers prisoner, the Russians didn’t even know they went across the border. They thought they were taking part in a training exercise on the border, not over it. SNAFU, indeed. First to go, last to know.]

    Reply
    1. Keith McClary

      “get an agreement done”
      There was the Minsk agreement, Ukraine agreed to pass legislation on autonomy for the East.

      Reply
    2. John A

      “Which is why Ukraine is petitioning the ICC to designate Donetsk and Luhansk rebels as terrorists, because, well, 13,000 people are dead, if there is no military conflict, the dead are civilians, a humanitarian disaster, and the targeting of civilians by civilians is de facto terrorism.”

      Are you claiming that the 13,000 victims were all Ukrainian and killed by the Separatists and that the Ukrainian side is non-aggressive?
      It’s very disambiguous to equate Russian speakers with English speakers. English language countries are spread all round the world, Russian speakers are pretty much confined to Russia and the erstwhile Soviet states. Imagine the USA suddenly collapsed and all the states become separate countries. Loads of people in the erstwhile US states would have ties with people in other states and far closer ties than they may have with people in Britain, Australia etc.
      Considering the Ukraine side is trying to ban the speaking of Russian, it is no wonder Russian speakers are little inclined to be part of that circus.

      Reply
    3. David

      What’s going on in Ukraine is by any standard an armed conflict. The type of conflict, or its absence,makes no difference to whether « civilians » are involved or not. Civilians can take part in armed conflicts and often do.

      Reply
  11. VietnamVet

    The meme “Russian Invasion” or “Russian Aggression” is inserted into almost every corporate media report about Ukraine. Neither is true but repetition makes it groupthink. Russian troops were already in Crimea. They’ve been there since 1783. Russian volunteers and military equipment yes. Artillery support likely. But no Russian Federation military units entered Donbass. Unlike the USA which inserted my old Airborne Brigade from Vietnam into Western Ukraine. But since their orders come from their donors, American politician don’t say that actually it is NATO which aggressively expanded to Russia’s borders or that Joe Biden spearheaded the restart of the Cold War with Russia.

    Reply

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