In the coming days, we will recall the horrific Chornobyl disaster, pointing to the lessons we should have learned while drawing direct comparisons between the Kremlin’s role then and its role in today’s war on independent Ukrainian soil. We will review the stock and trade Kremlin behavior deceits, cover-ups and disinformation as well as the valiant efforts of the heroes of their day and the responses of the West. Finally, we will come to recognize that from the ashes of Chornobyl grew the seeds of Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity and the foundation for today’s strong civil society.
Then: Chornobyl Disaster, April 1986. The First Days: “The Blast, the Silence, the Lies.”
On April 26, 1986, the nuclear power plant at Chornobyl exploded with a blast the equivalent of 20 kilotons of TNT. As Chornobyl’s core melted and a cloud of radiation began to spread over the earth, the Kremlin culture of denial, disinformation and disregard for the people of Ukraine dominated. The Kremlin was silent. The West and the people of Ukraine were completely in the dark about the dangers threatening them. Yet, later investigations made clear that Moscow knew everything from day one but chose silence, later denials and disinformation. April 27, 1986, the Kremlin remains silent.
Now: The Kremlin Invasion of Ukraine Begins. February 2014
In February 2014, the Kremlin’s invasion of Crimea began. While the West believed post-Soviet Russia had changed, the Kremlin’s culture of denial, disinformation and disregard for the sovereignty of the people of Ukraine was alive and well. The Kremlin ordered all insignia and identifiers removed from the tanks and troops as they rolled into Crimea and the disinformation campaign was in full force.
On March 4, 2014, President Putin emphatically refutes Russian military involvement, insisting instead that rather, these are local self-defense forces. He further insists that any Russians who may be involved are there as part of humanitarian aid.