I’ve just had death threats because of what I wrote and where

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Op-Ed comment by Chris Devonshire-Ellis – September 12, 2022

I just got threatened with murder. Not in a joking, rather blogging-vulgar way that looks good and nasty in print but would never be implemented, but real assassination threats. Three of them. my crime? Because I donated to a Ukrainian refugee charity — and then posted on my Linked In account that I did so from Moscow.

I’ve had an account on Linked In for a number of years where I generally post business intelligence style articles, mostly about the Belt and Road Initiative and Russia – and this year mostly about the changing supply chains due to all the sanctions. Occasionally, because I have some dear friends who follow me on Linked In, I post a few tidbits about my personal life. I have around 3,500 followers, and if I’m lucky I generate around 1,000 views of an article and maybe a handful of comments.

The article in question generated over 120,000 views and over 600 comments. Most outrage was that I “supported Putin’s regime” in Russia – with comments about the charitable donation ($1,000), that it was “blood money for all the rapes and murders”, that it was “not enough”, criticism about “paying”. child rape” and absolutely no word of appreciation. (I wasn’t looking for it, but still). Putting aside the lack of gratitude, Flak was even more alarming about visiting a country “ridden with rampant murderers and rapists” and “funding the murder of babies.”

Actually I was in Russia to deal with personal issues (I have property there that needs maintenance as I’ve been away for 3 years due to Covid and after such a long time wanted to see family and friends and help prepare my goddaughter for hers upcoming trip and the expenses of getting to university in France. The usual trifles of life), while my presence in Russia was viewed by many as “a war crime” and “completely morally bankrupt and despicable”.
The outrage was great. Then came the very specific death threats. Am I exaggerating too much here? I’m afraid not.

Here’s the problem: a website linked to the Ukrainian government was accessed Myrotvorets has a running “hit list” of personal data of people considered “enemies of Ukraine” by the organization’s authors. Launched in December 2014 by Ukrainian politician and activist Georgy Tuka, the website remains open despite repeated calls from the UN, G7 ambassadors, the EU and human rights groups to shut it down, and despite having no official status, is acting supplements government databases at checkpoints and sends material to its followers to carry out “liquidations”.

Of the thousands of names entered on the site, 341 are foreign journalists and, shockingly, 327 are minors. scaremongering? Not really. Oles Buzina was a well-known Ukrainian journalist who worked for a number of respected newspapers in Ukraine and called for better relations between Kyiv, Minsk and Moscow. Not for everyone, but he’s allowed to have an opinion, right?
Not correct. He was on the Myrotvorets hit list and was murdered. His photo appears on the site with a red banner above it with the word “Liquidated” embossed in red.

Another was an Italian photojournalist Andrea Rochelleof the independent photographer collective caesuraHe was contracted to be assassinated in Donbass, while Ukrainian authorities were accused by his associates of both the murder and the subsequent cover-up. Again, his personal details, ID and other information appear on the website with the red “Liquidated” banner over his photo. There are many others.

So what happens next? Well, the indignation that I was in Moscow, as I said, drew a lot more looks than normal – that was trolling for an industry degree. Many of the people who left threatening or rude comments had a Ukrainian flag next to their account. Linked In then wrote to me saying my account was suspended and asking me to verify my details by requesting a notarized copy of my passport. As of now, that account is still suspended, and somewhere within the LinkedIn organization, my personal information is in a folder along with details of people who have threatened me with murder. Incidentally, Myrotvorets take their work seriously — people who take notice of them have a file of data extracted from various other social media accounts and elsewhere. Personal information is released, presumably in hopes that someone will “follow and beat” it.

The interesting thing, according to the Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett, is that while this issue is being discussed in Russia, the Western media are silent. Your report on this topic can be read here – but be aware that ironically, the outlet it appears from is blocked across much of the EU and North America, which in itself should be worrying.

Unfortunately there is more. Other report, this time from the University of Adelaide, reveals the “interaction of bots and humans in the discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war” – and the results are stunning. In just one sample, out of 5.2 million tweets on social media, between 60% and 80% were shared by fake accounts, while 90% of those posts were pro-Ukraine. In the words of author Caitlin Johnstone, it is “the most aggressive trolling war ever”.

Intelligent readers can sift through the evidently rampant and obsessive that is a trait of many outraged. But death threats – and carrying them out – are another matter entirely. While I’m sure some of my grumpy competitors will say “good riddance” on my passing, I’d prefer to stick around for a while. I also stand for freedom of expression and the right of people to express their own opinions. Global society has already fought two world wars and many smaller ones to support this concept. However, some of the behaviors unleashed in the wake of the Ukraine conflict are far from fair, far from balanced or objective, and essentially murderous.

People like Myrotvorets are no badge of honor for the civilized society that Ukraine claims to be. Funding for Kyiv should be suspended until it is removed, as this is not part of the “Western values” that Ukraine’s funding is said to be about.

If Kyiv, which has already received billions of dollars in Western funds, ignores calls to shut down, or if the European media continues to ignore this abuse, it means that the EU itself is choosing to ignore people’s right to freedom of expression and condone theirs Assassination.

Putting Ukraine’s rights and wrongs aside for a moment, the underlying question is what is now brewing at the heart of Western society and what is being done about it. One must not accept fascism as an excuse of the times. Hitler took advantage of that. The EU must take a stance on which side it prefers to be on. Decent people (and there are a lot of them in Ukraine) do not deserve to be “liquidated” because of opposing views. It’s time for the Myrotvorets project to shut down – and for Linked In to clean up its act.

Disclaimer

All views or opinions expressed in this blog are personal comments, belong solely to the contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Asia Briefing Limited or Dezan Shira & Associates.

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