5

The following answer to this question was deleted by moderators as "pro-Russian propaganda". Following the SE guidelines, I post it here for discussion, before appealing the moderators' decision:


In Ukraine, one claim used by Russia to justify its invasion is that the current government is a "puppet regime", that is, the elections by which it was chosen were not valid and do not represent the will of the people.

As @o.m. state in their answer to the question cited in the OP, there are international bodies, whose opinion is usually relied upon, when considering whether elections are valid or not. The problem with Ukraine is somewhat different and I hope that the timeline below elucidates it:

  • The last disputed elections in Ukraine were held in 2004, where Russian-supported Viktor Yanukovych was declared the winner over Viktor Yushchenko. The results of the election were not recognized internationally and there were massive demonstrations in Ukraine, which led to Yushchenko being declared the winner and thus becoming president. This is what is referred to as the Orange revolution. (Which is one of the events in the trend referred to as Colour revolution.)
  • The Ukrainian presidential election of 2010 was mainly fought between the same two candidates and this time won by Viktor Yanukovych. The election was widely recognized as valid.
  • Thus, the Euromaidan revolution of 2014 overturned the legitimately elected president (I stress legitimately elected - whether he was still legitimate at the moment of revolution is a matter of dispute between Russia and the West.) This revolution was followed by Russian takeover of Crimea and the rebellion in the Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk.
  • Petro Poroshenko won the post-revolution snap election in 2014. The election was recognized internationally, but the voters in Crimea and the self-proclaimed republics obviously could not participate.
  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy beat Poroshenko in 2019 presidential election, also recognized internationally, although the areas not under control of the Ukrainian government could not participate.

Thus, the potential issues here are with

  • removing from power the legitimatly elected president in 2014 (which potentially invalidates all subsequent political process)
  • holding the subsequent elections in the conditions where ethnic Russian Ukrainians were underrepresented

Remark on fact-checking: The points above contain links to Wikipedia (in English). All the information, however, can be found in the mainstream Western media - I used Wikipedia mainly to check the dates. It has not been my intention in this post to support or disprove any point of view - merely to bring to attention the main facts.

Update
To address the remarks. From the Wikipedia article on 2014 elections:

The elections were not held throughout Ukraine. During the 2014 Crimean crisis, Ukraine lost control over Crimea, which was unilaterally annexed by Russia in March 2014.[11][12][nb 1] As a result, elections were not held in Crimea.5 In the Donbas region of Ukraine, only 20% of the ballot stations were open due to threats and violence by pro-Russia separatists.[14] Of the 2,430 planned ballot stations (in Donbas), only 426 remained open for polling.[14] The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, controlling large parts of Donbas, had vowed to do everything possible to disrupt the elections on their territory.

From the WIkipedia article on 2019 elections:

The 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and the occupation of parts of Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk Oblast prevented around 12% of eligible voters from participating in the election.


Remarks
The answer was not intended as propaganda, and I deliberately limited it to verifiable facts and uncommitted statements, so as to keep it unbiased. Thus, tehre are actually two questions here:

  • Why is it judged to be "propaganda"?
  • Why is this "propaganda" charged to be "pro-Russian"? (It could be as well pro-Ukrainian, since the post raises awareness of the Ukrainian decade long struggle against Russian interference with their political process.)

My own interpretation is:

  • The answer is written in impartial "scientific" style. For those not used to academic discourse it may appear as biased: indeed, modern political discourse and the media usually contain a great deal of positive bias, e.g., intended to support Ukraine and rally the public. The mere lack of this positive bias may be perceived as "propaganda" for the other side.
  • Many political and historical events, when looked upon closer, are too complex to fit simple black&white worldview. Thus, one usually feels uneasy when confronted with new facts that seem to contradict the simple picture that the one used to have. One needs to do some thinking and further learning to reconcile one's worldview with this complexity, and to affirm one's understanding of right and wrong. Dismissing any uncomfortable facts as "propaganda" is an easy way out.

Update
In this respect it is interesting to note what is not considered as pro-Russian propaganda. For example, question Is there any evidence of the US interfering in the 2014 Ukranian coup? (as of this writing) has been out there for a few hours, accumulated only 3 closure votes (mine among them), and no moderators rush to close it. The question reads:

In 2014, the then Ukrainian president Yanukovitch was ousted by a coup. A leaked phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, was released on YouTube which seemed to suggest that the US was interfering in the Ukranian coup. Is there any other uncovered evidence or reports which point to the Ukranian Euromaidan 2014 coup to be US backed?

I think the comparison with the impartial langauge used in my post is stunning.

1

3 Answers 3

15

The explanation is found in the comments below the answer.

This just makes it look like Russian propaganda used to justify the invasion of Ukraine. Making claims of invalid elections after interfering with those elections looks like they are just making reasons to do whatever they want. – Joe W

The answer parrots talking-points made by the Russian propaganda to justify the invasion of the Ukraine while ignoring facts to the contrary.

The answer summarizes its talking points as follows:

  • removing from power the legitimatly[sic] elected president in 2014 (which potentially invalidates all subsequent political process)
  • holding the subsequent elections in the conditions where ethnic Russian Ukrainians were underrepresented

The first point is a non-sequitur. It would imply that a country which has a non-democratic revolution would never again be able to have a regular election. So it is free to invade for everyone?

The second point would be irrelevant even if it were true. When you look at the results of the results of the 2019 Ukrainian parliamentary election and presidential election one can see that the current Ukrainian government won with a huge landslide which would not have been affected even if every single person in the occupied region had voted against them.

These discrepancies were pointed out in the comments. Nevertheless the author refused to correct the answer to provide a more balanced view and instead claimed:

"One cannot include all the possible information to satisfy everyone. I provided links, so that anyone could learn more about the subject, and form their own opinion - cherry-picking works only on the intellectually lazy."

The author basically admitted here that they cherry-picked facts to trick "intellectually lazy" people into believing the Russian narrative. Which is pretty much the definition of propaganda.

Therefore, I had to delete the answer.

12
  • 5
    This is still incoherent. Just explaining Russian claims does not make it a propaganda. It would imply that a country which has a non-democratic revolution would never again be able to have a regular election. Revolution is by definition a change of government by force - it is always illegitimate from the point of veiw of the government it removes and its supporters. Mar 10 at 9:28
  • 1
    @Philipp Isn't this a general problem with all questions of type "Why does Russia ....". We basically invite people to spam us with all available Russian propaganda. Or is a critical analysis of the Russian POV then inherently required for every answer to such a question. Like assuming the question asked "Why does Russia ... and is that justified?"
    – Trilarion
    Mar 10 at 10:18
  • 5
    @Trilarion I think that when we mention questionable claims (no matter from which source) then it is our duty to our readers to point out that they are questionable and why.
    – Philipp Mod
    Mar 10 at 10:35
  • Okay in this case we would say it was too superficial presentation of questionable claims of one side without consideration of their justification. But formally the question did not ask for this. So an "discuss questionable claims" is always implied?
    – Trilarion
    Mar 10 at 11:12
  • 6
    @Trilarion Yes, it should be. We don't want to reiterate propaganda unreflected. Especially now in times of war where all belligerents try to sway the narrative in their favor (The Russians are not the only one doing that, by the way. There are also some very questionable claims from the Ukrainian side which should not be reiterated without putting them into context).
    – Philipp Mod
    Mar 10 at 11:32
  • 2
    @Trilarion questionable claim might have no basis whatsoever - in which case it invites spam. If it is however a claim base on certain premises and logical reasoning, it needs to be considered, in order to understand its merits and flaws. This is how things are done in the court of law, and this is how an intelligent person reasons. Dismissing/prohibiting any claims contrary to one's own point of view is propaganda. Anyhow, as I pointed above, deleting this answer actually serves those in Moscow who are interested in westerners remaining ignorant about Ukraine. Mar 10 at 12:32
  • 1
    Use of the term "talking points" doesn't sound neutral, and your reading of the cherry-picking quote is clearly incorrect. You do raise valid points in that more effort should be put into skeptically examining claims that Euromaidan skewed the election, and whether the Euromaidan government can reasonably be blamed for failing to accept votes from conquered territory. Mar 10 at 12:45
  • 1
    @MikeSerfas: In the context of the original answer omitting very important information to give a slanted view of the subject, I do not think that Philipp's reading of the cherry-picking quote is "clearly" incorrect at all. I think it is a reasonable interpretation based on the totality of the circumstances. It may be debatable, but it is not obviously wrong.
    – Kevin
    Mar 10 at 18:14
  • 2
    @Kevin - I'm genuinely interested in what "very important information" you believe needed to be included. The only omitted fact I see identified above is that Zelenskyy won the second round by 73.22% rather than, say, 51%. That's important, but is it important enough to delete an answer and call it "propaganda"? I recognize that the "non sequitur" and another issue I mention below argue against the Russian position, but if you ask people to include all the relevant logic you decide is needed, the moderator is pretty much ghostwriting the site. Which, yes, is Internet in the 2020s. Mar 10 at 22:04
  • 4
    @MikeSerfas: Yes, it is, because it completely undermines the entire claim. If you are going to include a claim which can be completely undermined by a single fact, you should include that fact as well.
    – Kevin
    Mar 10 at 22:05
  • Honestly, I have no idea if that figure is even relevant - Poroshenko isn't pro-Russian AFAIK. But I want people to add context and information instead of deleting things, until we can understand fairly the context of the 2019 election and what it means for the government's legitimacy. Mar 10 at 22:14
  • 2
    @MikeSerfas: Roger Vadim refused to add context and information when asked, hence the answer was deleted for failing to comply with the rules. It's not complicated.
    – Kevin
    Mar 11 at 7:03
3

Thing is, Yanukovich was the elected president. He was overthrown in a people power revolution, after his goons killed a bunch of protesters. No sympathy for him on my end, but those are the facts.

It should be possible to answer this about 2014, which this answer substantially does, without even mentioning the 2019 election. The fact that Crimeans could not vote, apparently also claimed in a previous version, can also be cited as a part of the Russian narrative, and noted. While equally noting that those same excluded people were in an area that had seceded so could hardly be expected to vote normally.

I.e. it should be possible to clean up Roger's answer and not rate it as propaganda. Which it doesn't seem to be. It took hours for us to getting around to deleting another answer that started out by claiming that Ukraine had no historical basis in fact. This answer does not strike me as of that type.

I would add that a question asking "what's Trump's claim to the stolen election?" would necessarily list the claims. And, from past cases here, I doubt all answers would spend extra time assiduously debunking those claims. That's what comments and downvotes can help with, if the answer seems overly pro-grievances. And, well, a delete too, as a last resort, preferably done by voting.

8
  • 1
    Not sure what versions you are referring to. My answer mentions both that Yanukovych lost his legitimacy (in the view of the supporters of the revolution), and the 2019 election. Also, using charged terms like goon is plain propaganda. But I appreciate your integrity, when you come in my favor. Mar 10 at 17:05
  • Killing unarmed protesters seems goonish. Is this really a term you feel you need to protest about, on an answer that is supportive of your answer's non-deletion? Anyways, it's your answer you decide, but defending criticism of Yanukovich as propaganda is neither necessary for a factual answer, nor all that good at making your views seem impartial. Mar 10 at 17:11
  • 2
    The point is in defining what truth and propaganda mean for this community. One may call me idealistic, but for me this is more important than my answer or reputation score. Words like goon or hero are intended to appeal to emotions, not to logic. Killing 100 protestors is a simple statement of the fact, from which any sane person can draw conclusions. But I admit that emotional intelligence is not my domain Mar 10 at 17:39
  • 4
    Yanukovich was not overthrown. He fled, presumably to escape responsibility for ordering the killings. But he was not arrested. He was not put on trial. Neither his residency nor his office was breached. He chose to flee.
    – wrod
    Mar 10 at 21:29
  • 1
    well one thing that would make this deleted answer a lot less open to accusations of bias is mentioning the circumstances of his exit/overthrow, specifically the protesters killed by the not-goons and why. Mar 10 at 22:01
  • "...from past cases here, I doubt all answers would spend extra time assiduously debunking those claims...." Of course answers doing that would be much more valuable than answers not doing it. The problem I think here is rather that many questions kind of seem to be content to just get a list of claims and not so much interested in any commentary on them. Maybe we would need a meta discussion about the value of such questions.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 11 at 8:06
  • @Trilarion there is a difference between giving context/debunking and then losing all objectivity and doing propaganda. Suppose someone posted a question like "Why is the West upset about the special military operation?". Fair enough. Then an answer comes in that lists all the points of concern to the West and Ukraine AND debunks them exhaustively. i.e. the West has no reason to be upset. Did we really gain anything? So maybe rather than debunking, list the objections the other side has to each claim. Mar 11 at 18:52
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Should we then maybe always asks for all sides of a story instead of only one? That way we can keep all the pro and con arguments in one place
    – Trilarion
    Mar 12 at 11:13
-2

Addressing the moderator - Your main issue seems to be with the question itself:

"What is the basis for Russia's claim that the Ukrainian government is illegitimate and that the presidential elections were supposedly invalid/stolen?"

If a naive person answers this as asked, you will inevitably say they are writing a one-sided answer favoring Russia.

How would a moderator edit this question in order that a straight answer satisfies your conditions of neutrality?

Also, what text could you add to the answer that would make it acceptable?


I should say that despite many comments below and at another answer, I don't really see much progress on these points. The only specific data mentioned is that Zelensky won by 73% in the second round. Note, however, that Zelensky won by that margin over the post-2014 incumbent. It may be that the original poster misleads a bit in suggesting that a few percent of the electorate being excluded by virtue of occupation were enough to matter; but at least I can find a contemporary news item to back him up. Moreover, most people would I think tend to excuse a government for not polling in occupied territory.

By contrast, the deletion of the original answer, amid demands that the "landslide" be mentioned, actually tended to make us think (or at least made me struggle to recall) whether nearly 30% of the Ukrainian population had backed a pro-Russian candidate. In which case, well, you might tend to think it could have been a voting miscount, gerrymandering, stuffing boxes etc. Yes, what I'm saying is that deleting the original answer provided a far more effective propaganda boost for Russia than anything the original poster actually said. Nobody is ever going to discredit or dispute Putin by introducing their own crackdown on fake war news.

16
  • you will inevitably say they are writing a one-sided answer favoring Russia. I don't think so - Russia makes a claim and it should be regarded as such. It is not about this claim is true or not. It is like asking Why do some people claim that the earth is flat?? What is the basis for the Catholic church opposing abortion?. One can list their arguments or discuss their reasoning, without agreeing with them. Mar 10 at 12:28
  • Sorry, I was addressing the moderator in that, as his opinion is the one that matters. It is pretty clear that he wanted the answer to address multiple points of view and not just Russia's. Since his comments are part of a deleted post I don't know exactly what that entails. Mar 10 at 12:36
  • 2
    The question is rather specific. Adding some material explaining why Russia is wrong woudl actually consider positive propaganda, as I mention in the OP. I believe most people are capable of doing their own thinking, as long as they have reliable information. Another point - it is not about what modertaor wanted - their job is to enforce the community rules, not to censor content or edit answers. Mar 10 at 12:42
  • "How would a moderate edit this question..." I'm quite moderate so I can answer that. :) A much better question would have been "What did Russia publicly claim about that the Ukrainian government might be illegitimate and how justified are these claims?". That would be a very interesting question clearly presenting propaganda as such and a discussion of it. As Philipp says above, we do not want to show propaganda only without any comment on it. But that's what Roger did. A critical analysis is always needed everywhere.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 10 at 12:49
  • @Trilarion - Sorry, that was a typo during a hasty edit to clarify "you" as "the moderator". I get in more trouble with pronoun antecedents than anything, but then I added to it. Even so, your edit is definitely a reasonable answer. There still is a question of "how justified to who", of course. Mar 10 at 13:04
  • 1
    "how justified to who" Justify to whatever objective truth is out there. Basically include a bit of fact checking skills. For example "Russia states Ukrainian government are drug addicts but did not bring forward any evidence except for some personal testimony of ..." We don't want to just present propaganda as is. Where is the value in that? If you want to learn something add some value by trying to uncover propaganda wherever possible.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 10 at 13:11
  • 1
    @Trilarion another important point is not identifying Russian point of view with Russian propaganda. If anything that might vindicate a Russian viewpoint or a claim or an action is automaticlaly considered propaganda, then we are deep in the Orwellian world: "We have always been at war with Eastasia..." Mar 10 at 13:28
  • 1
    @RogerVadim Sure not problem. If your double checking the Russian claims actually validates them then I really want to read that. The problem here is rather that they shouldn't simply only be copied as is.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 10 at 13:51
  • 1
    @Trilarion Again, if you did read the deleted answer, there are no any copied Russian claims there - it is mainly history of Ukrainian elections. I am amazed how something that a person said can be discredited by the use of word propaganda!!! Yet another point - without critical analysis of the facts, how do we know which claims are true and which are not? How do we know, who spreads lies and who doesn't? Mar 10 at 13:53
  • @RogerVadim You mean nobody can really say if propaganda is propaganda until somebody actually checks it? I fully agree. We want to build something useful here. So we will have to do the checking all the time in principle. How much? I don't know. I guess the position is that your deleted answer didn't do enough there. I can't really answer here for your specific answer though, only in general. I don't have enough time to check if you checked enough the Russian statements. Somebody else will have to do it.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 10 at 14:01
  • @Trilarion you seem to be trying to justify the moderator position - not that I am trying to swing yout o my side, but the logic should be to choose whom you support on the basis of logical reasoning, rather than trying to reason to justify your existing idea of who you want to support. Here is a good one that I run into recently. Mar 10 at 14:08
  • 2
    @RogerVadim Don't just simply copy propaganda. Always check comment on it. I've read a lot of official Russian stuff in the last days and it made me sick, so crazy it is. The value of simply reproducing propaganda here is negative. Only with an appropriate comment it becomes positive. If you don't want to do that and your contributions get deleted.. I'm fine with it. Of course that applies to every topic and doesn't mean we cannot disagree. If you do checks and comment on claims and conclude they are justified while I disagree, I would merely vote on it. But show us what you think and why.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 11 at 6:09
  • @Trilarion I have no idea what you are talking about, seriously. Did you even read my post and followed the links? Mar 11 at 7:55
  • 1
    @RogerVadim Yes, I did. Maybe instead of commenting extensively, I should write my own answer. Then at least you can vote on it. :)
    – Trilarion
    Mar 11 at 8:03
  • 1
    @Trilarion yet, now you are accusing me not only of propaganda, but also of plagiarizing somebody else's thoughts. Mar 11 at 8:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .