As in all wars, truth has been the first casualty in Ukraine, as Alan Austin reports.
RUSSIAN SOLDIERS are fleeing from the battlefield in despair and disarray, flinging away their weapons as they run home to their mothers. No, wait... the Russians have strategically withdrawn a short distance and are regrouping for their next crushing offensive, which will be at a time of their choosing.
So which is it? Both scenarios were confidently reported last week by observers who claim to be describing events accurately.
Scores of news outlets, government agencies, private security analysts and bedroom bloggers have established strong and dedicated audiences with their daily - and in some cases hourly - updates of the war in Ukraine.
They use coloured maps, screenshots of official documents and quotes from global authorities, all exuding confidence that their analysis is right. But as the following reports on Ukraine's recent Kharkiv offensive illustrate, their observations are vastly divergent.
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The Ukraine Media Centre quoted Natalia Humeniuk, a senior Ukrainian defence official:
Russia's Ministry of Defence, in contrast, reported last week:
The pro-American Institute for the Study of War offers useful time-lapse maps showing territory gained, lost and regained.
It claimed last week:
In his daily Update from Ukraine, pro-Ukrainian YouTube analyst Denys Davydov highlights major events and shows territory won or lost.
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Last Thursday he reported:
Last week, global news agency Reuters reported:
Markos Moulitsas blogs at Daily Kos, with a large following of passionate anti-Russian zealots.
He wrote last Thursday:
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BBC News is rabidly anti-Russian, focusing predominantly on Russian atrocities:
Other staunchly pro-Ukrainian outlets include TLDR News EU, The Guardian, Australia's Nine Entertainment newspapers, The Insider and most News Corp outlets.
Brian Berletic, at the Youtube channel The New Atlas, presents regular updates, largely debunking what he sees as false pro-Ukrainian propaganda:
Scott Ritter came to prominence as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq in the 1990s and later as a critic of U.S. foreign policy.
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He said last week:
Other pro-Russian commentators are Gonzalo Lira, former journalist for Russian television Semyon Pegov and many others in the Russian language.
The neutral observers
These are relatively few.
Alexander Mercouris of The Duran community and YouTube presence seems to have contacts in both the Russian and Ukrainian administrations:
Professor Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University is President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
He said recently:
So we have a smorgasbord of analysts from which to choose. Clearly, the more we access the better will be our understanding. The old adage "question everything, believe nothing" seems apt.
Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.
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The war between Russia and Ukraine began long before 24 February 2022, the date provided for the beginning of the Russian invasion.