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Was bombing of Mariupol theater staged by Ukrainian Azov extremists to trigger NATO intervention?

Testimony by evacuated Mariupol residents and warnings of a false flag attack undermine the Ukrainian government’s claims about a Russian bombing of a local theater sheltering civilians.
by Max Blumenthal 

Part 4 - As Zelensky begs Congress for military intervention, news of a theater attack

Less than 48 hours after the debunked claims of a Russian attack on the mosque in Mariupol were introduced, humanitarian corridors finally opened up around the city. The flight of thousands of civilians toward Russian military positions further weakened the Azov Battalion, which was using Mariupol’s residents as collateral in its bid to compel a no fly zone.

On March 16, with his military collapsing under the Russian onslaught, the Ukrainian president and famed comedian-actor Zelensky appeared by video for a carefully scripted, elaborately produced presentation before an assembly of awestruck US members of Congress.

I have a dream. These words are known to each of you today. I can say I have a need. I need to protect our sky,” Zelensky proclaimed. The Ukrainian president thus invoked the most famous words of America’s most revered antiwar activist, Martin Luther King Jr., to appeal for a no fly zone that would bring the nuclear-armed militaries of the US and Russia into direct confrontation.

Just hours after Zelensky’s address, news arrived directly from the Azov Battalion’s press department that Russia had bombed the theater in Mariupol.

With a monopoly over information from the scene of the supposed attack, with no other news outlets present, Azov’s press department disseminated photos of the destroyed building to media across the world.

The Azov Battalion’s watermark can be seen clearly in the lower right hand corner of the image below. Azov’s photo was republished by international outlets including Sky News, but with the paramilitary’s brand cropped out. When South China Morning Post ran the image, it removed the watermark and credited “Azov Battalion via AP.

Among the first English language media figures to convey the Ukrainian government’s narrative of the incident to a mass audience was Illia Ponomarenko, a Kiev-based, US-trained reporter who has managed to rack up over a million Twitter followers since Russia’s invasion began.

Ponomarenko happened to work for the Kyiv Independent, an outlet that has functioned as one of the most potent US information weapons in Ukraine. The paper had been set up with assistance from the National Endowment for Democracy, a US intelligence cut-out, and an “emergency grant” from its EU-funded cousin, the European Endowment for Democracy.

For his part, Ponomarenko has referred to the Azov Battalion as his “brothers in arms”, and boasted of “chilling out” with its fighters near “enemy lines.”

Seemingly swept up in the emotional maelstrom inspired by the news from Mariupol, President Joseph Biden blasted his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as a “war criminal,” a “murderous dictator,” and a “pure thug.”

Next, Human Rights Watch issued a hastily composed press release headlined, “Mariupol Theater Hit By Russian Attack Sheltered Hundreds.” The billionaire-backed NGO acknowledged it had not interviewed any Mariupol residents after the attack, and provided no evidence to demonstrate Russian responsibility. Indeed, HRW’s lone source fingering Russia as the culprit was the Ukrainian governor of Donetsk.

Was Russia’s military so bloodthirsty – and politically self-destructive – that it had deliberately targeted a building that was known to be filled with children? Or had the Mariupol residents’ prediction of a false flag from four days before come true?


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