Kiev's demand on BBC not to mention 'civil war' a sign of 'ideological complex'

© Neil Hall
The people in power in Kiev have become the prisoners of their own fantasies and see the world in terms that are not fact-based, says Kees Van Der Pijl, International relations expert, University of Sussex.

Britain's national broadcaster, the BBC, has rebuffed a request from Ukraine to refer to the conflict in the east of the country as due solely to "Russian aggression." Ukrainian MPs accused the broadcaster of biased coverage and demanded that it changed the wording in its reports.

The BBC responded by saying that it did not take sides and used a variety of terms to describe the conflict.

It's not the first time Ukraine's voiced discontent over foreign channels' coverage of events in the country. Earlier this year, Kiev asked a French channel to axe a documentary about the role of far-right groups and external forces in the Ukrainian revolution.

RT: How reasonable was the Ukrainian request to the BBC?

Kees Van Der Pijl: Very unreasonable, I would say, because it is an obvious civil war. Ukraine has always been a country composed of at least two large components in its population. And the suspension of the rights of the Russian-speaking and the Russia-oriented part in February 2014 triggered what can only be called a civil war, although, of course, not all the people on the other side eventually took up arms.  So, the demand to call it anything else is an unreasonable demand. It is also very unusual to demand a foreign broadcaster to change the language in which they choose to report something. 

RT: Ukraine also tried to get a French documentary axed. Why is it actively policing foreign media?

KVDP: Basically, that’s the result of an ideological complex. Once you start seeing the world in terms that are not fact-based, but are largely a product of your own imagination, then the world seems at odds with what you think is reality. And I think the people who are in power in Kiev now have become the prisoners of their own fantasies to some extent which are tragic enough if you think of all the victims that have been caused by the fighting and by the violent turn of the original popular movement. It ends in a complete discord between how you think the world is going and what is going on in reality.   

RT: The BBC's use of the term 'civil war' seems to be what has upset Ukrainian MPs this time. Why?

KVDP: Well, in Maidan you had a popular movement against the oligarchs in Ukraine that was seized upon by armed groups, which in dialogue with the American ambassador notably and assistant secretary Victoria Nuland, engineered a coup. The idea behind that was that a Ukraine without people who are oriented to Russia, Russian-speaking, etc. would be considered more European and would actually be able to become part of the European sphere of influence, the European economy, etc. That was never going to happen because there are simply too many people, even those who fled, are not enough to reduce the people that are living there to zero. There are millions of people who are oriented to Russia and who you can’t get rid of from the perspective of Kiev. So, what they want is to present an authentic internal conflict which is based on very real causes as external aggression from Russia. Although, I guess there must be many ways in which you can criticize Russian policy as well. Basically, it is an internally generated conflict and it has to be recognized as a civil war. Because if you don’t recognize a conflict for what it is, you cannot solve it either.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.