…and when it mentions the war it does so to justify Russia
By Alejandro Saavedra
HAVANA TIMES – Although it is estimated that the Russian invasion of Ukraine totals more than 1,150 civilian deaths and close to 3.9 million people have had to flee the country since the outbreak of the conflict, the Cuban government and its media systematically avoid referring to the humanitarian impact of the war.
In official communications there are practically no refugees or civilian victims, while justifications for the actions of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his army abound.
A clear example of this omission is the official Twitter profile of President Miguel Diaz Canel. After more than a month of conflict, he still does not publish a single tweet that mentions the humanitarian problems that the Ukrainian population is experiencing. However, he does accumulate several publications in which he defends and justifies the Russian incursion. For example, on March 7 he wrote:
“The conflict could have been avoided if Russia’s security guarantee claims had been seriously and respectfully addressed. To think that it would remain defenseless in the face of NATO’s offensive military siege is, to say the least, irresponsible. They have taken that country (Russia) to a limit situation.”
A similar reality is presented by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. He only mentioned the humanitarian crisis in a series of tweets published on February 26. He wrote that day that he “deeply regretted the loss of innocent civilian lives in Ukraine,” but immediately after he added that “it was a mistake to ignore well-founded claims for security guarantees by Russia and to assume that country would remain defenseless in the face of a direct threat to its National Security. Russia has the right to defend itself.”
This discourse is also repeated in Cuba’s participation in international forums, such as the United Nations.
On March 4, the Cuban ambassador to the UN in Geneva (Switzerland), Juan Antonio Quintanilla, said that Cuba “deeply regretted the loss of innocent lives,” but immediately afterwards justified the Russian action and abstained in the vote to create an independent commission to investigate what is happening in the conflict.
In Donetsk and Lugansk there is a crisis
In the case of the official media, mentions of the humanitarian crisis unleashed in Ukraine are also minimal. However, there are several articles that address damage to civilians in Donetsk and Lugansk, the two Ukrainian regions for which Russia is demanding independence.
For example, on March 27th Granma reported that 19,694 civilians were evacuated from Donetsk and Lugansk to Russian territory. The source of the information was a Russian colonel. A day earlier, the same Communist Party outlet reported that one civilian was killed and 54 were injured in Donetsk. The source was again Russian military.
Something similar happens with the coverage of the war in Cubadebate. In a review of the information published on Ukraine since February 24, the day the conflict broke out, only one note was detected in which an issue related to the humanitarian crisis was addressed.
In the article, dated March 11, the number of refugees reported by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was reported, which at that time was around 3.1 million people. However, the publication once again justifies Russia by stating that the invasion, which it called a special military operation, is not directed at civilians and even places Russia as a bastion for receiving displaced persons.