CBS caves into Ukrainian pressure on weapons revelations
CBS News has pulled a documentary and amended a story featuring claims that 70% of foreign weapons never make it to the front lines in Ukraine. The changes were made amid an outcry from the Ukrainian government and its supporters.
The documentary originally featured an interview with Jonas Ohman, the founder of a Lithuania-based organization supplying the Ukrainian military. Ohman told CBS that getting foreign weapons to Ukrainian troops involves navigating a network of “power lords, oligarchs [and] political players,” and that of all the aid arriving at the border in Poland, “kind of like 30% of it reaches its final destination.”
Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera also appeared in the film, saying that “there is really no information as to where [the weapons are] going at all.”
The documentary was released online on Thursday, and was set to air on CBS on Sunday evening.
Pro-Ukrainian social media accounts hounded CBS over the weekend, accusing the American network of spreading “Russian propaganda.” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podoliak waded in, saying there is “no proof” that weapons entering his country are unaccounted for, despite similar warnings from the Russian government, Europol, Canada, the CIA and a number of US Republicans.
The documentary was pulled from CBS’ website on Sunday night, and Ohman’s quote removed from a text version of the story. Atop this story, CBS placed a note saying that arms deliveries have “significantly improved” since its filming in April, and that the US sent a senior military official to Kiev in recent days “for arms control and monitoring.”
Ohman’s organization issued a statement saying that the documentary took his words “out of context,” but did not deny that 70% of incoming military aid was going missing in April. Weapons were not being “stolen” or “sold on the black market,” the organization explained, but ending up in the hands of “different power players” attempting to “solidify their positions.” Who these players were was left unexplained.
CBS said that it is “updating” its documentary and will air the edited version at a later date.
Rovera, already slated by the Ukrainian government and its supporters over a recent Amnesty report accusing Kiev of placing weapons in civilian areas in violation of humanitarian law, also attempted to backpedal. In a Twitter post on Sunday, she claimed that the responsibility for tracking arms shipments lies with the states providing the weapons, not with Ukraine.
We removed a tweet promoting our recent doc, "Arming Ukraine," which quoted the founder of the nonprofit Blue-Yellow, Jonas Ohman's assessment in late April that only around 30% of aid was reaching the front lines in Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/EgA96BrD9O— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 8, 2022
The Ukrainian government welcomed the CBS retraction. Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba nevertheless declared that the US network had “misled a huge audience by sharing unsubstantiated claims and damaging trust in supplies of vital military aid to a nation resisting aggression and genocide.”
“There should be an internal investigation into who enabled this and why,” he concluded.
Welcome first step, but it is not enough. You have misled a huge audience by sharing unsubstantiated claims and damaging trust in supplies of vital military aid to a nation resisting aggression and genocide. There should be an internal investigation into who enabled this and why. https://t.co/kkA0boaLXX— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) August 8, 2022
Others criticized the changes, which journalist Max Blumenthal said were made following “a coordinated freakout by the Ukraine lobby.”
“Amazing how the national security state can make a news agency delete accurate information,” conservative podcaster Scott Greer tweeted. “The only counter argument was that the situation was improving, according to the Pentagon lol.”
Ukraine has repeatedly argued that an uninterrupted flow of Western weapons are key to its survival on the battlefield. Since February, the US has approved more than $54 billion of economic and military aid to Ukraine, while the UK has committed nearly $3 billion in military aid alone, and the EU has spent another $2.5 billion on arms for Kiev.
Despite the influx of weapons, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky remarked last week that his military remains outnumbered and outgunned by Russia’s. Describing the fighting in Donbass as “hell,” Zelensky appealed to the US and its allies for even more arms and equipment, particularly HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems.