On March 1st, Russia’s “First Channel” aired a news story about the war in Ukraine, which featured interviews with Scott Ritter, the U.N. Weapons Inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998, and American writer Gonzalo Lira, who argue that Russia is not targeting the Ukrainian population, unlike Zelenskyy, who wants to create an artificial humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
Scott Ritter’s interview with Syrian journalist Richard Medhurst, featured in Russian “First Channel” story, was disseminated through the following platforms:
- Russian Facebook pages: АРМИЯ России, Независимое “Совершенно секретно”, NEO-newstv, «Российский союз инженеров», Типичный Латвийский Русский, 18+ Video xxx Vine tube
- Russian Embassies: Russian Embassy in Cyprus, Посольство России в Аргентине
- YouTube Channels: Мирко’, SUCCESS INVEST, НОВОСТИ И ПОЛИТИКА / NEWS & POLITICS,
- Web pages: iravunk.com,
In an extensive interview, Ritter claims that Russian troops had captured Mariupol (a Ukrainian city) in less than an hour, leaving the Ukrainian Army completely incapacitated.
In addition, on March 3rd, the Facebook group – Наш выбор В.В.Путин – published the statements of Gonzalo Lira, which is identical to the comment made in the story of the Russian First Channel. Lira claimed there were no large-scale battles with hundreds or thousands of casualties and the Russian Army was very careful in Ukraine. Identical video and text posted on the Facebook group ЗА ПУТИНА – ЗА РОССИЮ, [For Putin, For Russia] Вооруженные Силы России was also shared by RIA Новости Крым. [RIA News Crimea] Gonzalo Lira also claimed that disconnecting Russia from SWIFT would destroy the dollar.
The aforementioned videos contain three pieces of disinformation: 1. Even a week after the start of hostilities in Ukraine, the city of Mariupol was not captured by Russian troops. 2. Disconnecting Russia from SWIFT has not had any severe impact on the United States, and while the ruble continues to depreciate, the value of the U.S. dollar has been rising. 3. As of March 2nd, Russian hostile actions in Ukraine resulted in more than 2000 civilian casualties.
Mariupol was not captured by the Russians in less than an hour. Even a week after the start of hostilities in Ukraine, the city of Mariupol stands strong and has not been taken by the Russian troops
In an extensive interview with Richard Medhurst on February 25th, Scott Ritter claimed that Russian troops had captured Mariupol (one of Ukraine’s cities) in less than an hour “and that the Ukrainian army was completely incapacitated.” This assertion was also verified by stopfake.org.
In fact, even a week after the start of hostilities in Ukraine, the city of Mariupol is strengthening the battle line, and Russian troops have not taken it over. On March 2nd, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the city had been under attack for several hours while bombings were being carried out on the city’s residential infrastructure. Notably, during the first week of the war, Russian troops were unable to capture any major cities in Ukraine.
The claim about the “incapacitation of the Ukrainian army” represents another message of Russian propaganda. According to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the total combat losses of the Russian Army are quite significant and, as of March 4th, 2022, amount to about 9166 military personnel, 251 tanks, 939 armoured vehicles, 105 artillery systems, about 33 aircraft and 37 helicopters.
American writer Gonzalo Lira disseminates misleading opinions about the war in Ukraine. Disconnecting Russia from SWIFT has not been devastating for the American economy.
Gonzalo Lira’s interview was covered by a number of Russian TV and online media outlets. Lira states Russia is not targeting civilians and, in fact, clashes occur between Ukrainians, all of which are part of the Zelenskyy plan to use the population as a shield. Information about Gonzalo Lira was verified by stopfake.org.
According to Russian sources, Gonzalo Lira arrived in Ukraine a few days before the full-scale invasion of Russia. In early February, he said the United States wanted to “drag Russia into the war” and urged Ukraine to attack Russia.
At first, Lora claimed that Russia was forced to start a war. At the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia, he wrote that “disconnection of Russia from SWIFT will destroy the dollar”, and thus, the West was harming itself.
Lora further claimed that the weapons were given to the local population of Ukraine in order to initiate “chaos and looting” in Kyiv and create a picture of a “bloody war unleashed by Russia.” Lora called the Zelenskyy regime evil and blamed it for the events in Ukraine.
In fact, the disconnection of Russia from SWIFT did not lead to the depreciation of the U.S. dollar. SWIFT represents “the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication” that facilitates fast cross-border payments to ensure a smooth flow of international trade.
The removal of Russian banks from SWIFT restricts Russia’s access to financial markets around the world. Russian companies and individuals will find it difficult to pay for imports and receive cash from exports, borrowing or investing abroad.
According to Reuters, this process will impact other countries, although the U.S. dollar is not mentioned among them. This process will most likely affect the countries with which Russia shares a large share of the import or export market. For example, according to the World Bank, the Netherlands and Germany are its second and third-largest trading partners, although Russia is not in the top ten of any of their export markets.
Notably, the dollar and the euro continue appreciation. The dollar had the largest weekly increase in the last seven months last week.
As of March 2nd, Russian hostile actions in Ukraine resulted in more than 2000 civilian casualties.
As for the statement that Russia does not target civilians, numerous footage of the attacks on peaceful protests in Ukraine were spread in telegram channels and international media. According to the Emergency Situations Service of Ukraine, more than 2,000 civilians were killed during the seven days of the war. The Office of the Human Rights Commissioner says 21 of the dead were children, and 55 were injured in the fighting.
False claims that Russia was not targeting peaceful population was fact-checked by “Myth Detector” in the past as well. See:
- Simonyan’s Claim that the Russian Army does not Pose a Threat to Civilians is Disinformation
Gonzalo Lira has been sharing his claims on Telegram channels, where neither photos nor videos of the footage of the war were available. On February 26th, he also appeared on YouTube. There are seven videos recorded on his YouTube channel. Gonzalo Lira Lopez’s geopolitical accounts on American forums on Reddit and Quora have been criticized and ironically debunked with Russian propaganda and ultra-rightist ideas.
Who is Richard Medhurst?
According to a biography published on his personal website, Richard Medhurst is a journalist who was born in 1992 in Damascus, Syria. His mother is Syrian, and his father is British, both of whom have served in U.N. peacekeeping and observation missions and were among the U.N. peacekeepers awarded the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize.
According to his website, he frequently appears in Russia Today (R.T.), Al Mayadeen, Alikhbaria, Black Agenda Report, The Canary and other international news releases.
The articles and video speeches posted on his page make it clear that Richard Medhurst criticizes the current U.S. government and calls its policies in the Middle East imperialist. He often makes anti-Semitic and pro-Russian statements. In most of his videos about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Midhurst accuses Ukraine of falsifying war images and refers to Ukraine as a victim of the West.
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