In the modern world, where almost everything is image and appearance, it happens as in birthday presents. It is not so much the content that matters as the container. The gift may be bad, but the wrapping cannot fail. In this society as important as the reality itself is what is said and written about it. Most people do not form their opinion on the facts but on the news, whether it is true or false.
A few weeks ago the media filled their front pages with accusations of rape of men, women and children by Russian soldiers. A leading newspaper such as The Times headlined: “Ukrainian women raped by Russian troops refuse to keep quiet” (1). The same was said by others: CNN, El País, RTVE, Tele 5… There were no exceptions.
The Ukrainian Ombudsman, Lyudmyla Denisova, shown in the cover photo, declared that 25 teenage girls were locked in a cellar in Bucha and gang raped: “Nine of them are now pregnant. The old women told the cameras that they had been raped by Russian soldiers. The bodies of the children were found naked, with their hands tied behind their backs and their genitals mutilated. These victims were both girls and boys, and Ukrainian men and boys were sexually assaulted in other incidents. A group of Ukrainian female prisoners of war had their heads shaved in captivity in Russia, where they were also stripped naked and forced to squat,” the news item said.
Social networks began to reproduce the information, which was already used in Libya and Syria. After a while its falsity is discovered (2), but second-hand denials are of no interest to anyone.
The same has happened in Ukraine, where the Parliament itself had to dismiss Denisova, the human rights defender, because her public denunciation of the violations “could not be confirmed with evidence […] It has only harmed Ukraine and distracted the world media from the real needs of Ukraine”.
238 deputies voted against. Other complaints against Denisova included failure to organize humanitarian corridors and prisoner-of-war exchanges, and that she had fled to “warm Western Europe” during the war, rather than remaining at her post “where her status and powers could help prisoners” (3). But this war is characterized precisely by that: its theater of operations is not in Mariupol but in the television studios of Los Angeles, London or Paris.
Denisova made numerous accusations of sexual violence against Russian soldiers. She spoke of 400 cases of sexual assaults in two weeks and pointed the finger directly at Putin: the Russian soldiers were young men between 20 and 25 years old, so they had grown up “under Putin’s government, under his propaganda”.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba repeated the accusations in London. The “experts” began to say that NGO budgets needed to be increased so that they could care for the victims. Some of them traveled to Ukraine, but found no evidence that any rape had taken place (4). It was a huge disappointment because this kind of set-up sells more than anything else.
The fake rapes grabbed the front pages, but no one has published a line about the Ukrainian denial and no one has rectified it.
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