Mainstream media outlets are declaring with disappointment that Russia has continued the fighting in Ukraine despite a “peace promise” made at negotiations in Istanbul. The problem with this is that Russia never offered anything that remotely resembled a general ceasefire or a promise of peace. Moscow never had any intention of ending hostilities after the talks in Istanbul, but headlines from much of the media are pushing real misinformation in response.
Media realizes that Russia is not stopping the invasion
Headlines from the BBC to the New York Post declared on March 30 that Russia was continuing attacks in spite of promises made at the peace talks.
The announcement made at the talks was that Russia would be extensively scaling back attacks around Kiev and Chernihiv as a show of good will.
There was no reason to believe that this meant a larger halt in hostilities even if the Russian claim was taken at face value and fully trusted.
Speculation that the announcement translated to Russia admitting defeat or preparing to agree to a peace deal was entirely misplaced and it is difficult to see why the mainstream media was so prepared to accept these narratives.
Russia has continued to conduct attacks on every front, including in the north near Kiev and Chernihiv; the negotiators in Istanbul never claimed that shelling and airstrikes would cease completely in these areas.
US and Ukrainian officials immediately pointed out that the most likely explanation was that Russia planned to use the talks as an excuse to redeploy stalled troops from around Kiev to the more fluid southern front.
Keeping narratives alive
Fake news is everywhere regarding the war in Ukraine, and some journalists might be starting to believe their own fictitious narratives and reacting accordingly.
Most of the mainstream media assumed that Ukrainian resistance would collapse within a few days if Russia launched its invasion. When that didn’t happen they settled on the opposite extreme and suggested that Russia’s collapse is imminent.
If journalists are really surprised by the fact that Russian attacks have continued it is because they’ve carried this idea into the assumption that Moscow must be trying to secure an urgent peace deal.
Moscow has no need to offer any temporary or general ceasefires because it isn’t losing the war. Negotiators did not announce a shift away from Kiev out of the kindness of their hearts or because Russia cannot physically sustain its operations there.
Observers and analysts were setting themselves up for disappointment if they believed that the move was anything other than strategic redeployment of forces from the north to assist in Russia’s attacks in the south.
Setting up a narrative in advance only to see it toppled by reality on the ground is not typically productive, but don’t expect the mainstream media to adjust its practices any time soon.