Under Ukrainian government pressure, major US media outlet CBS News censored a documentary that it produced that exposed corruption in Ukraine.
The report estimated that, of the tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons that Western governments have sent to help Ukraine wage a proxy war against Russia, just around 30% have actually made it to the frontlines.
People involved in the Ukraine arms ratline told CBS in the documentary that there was significant corruption, due to “powerlords” and “oligarchs,” and that much of the military equipment was being siphoned off or sold on the “black market,” in what was a kind of “black hole.”
CBS News published these revelations on August 4 in a joint article and video titled “Why military aid to Ukraine doesn’t always get to the front lines: ‘Like 30% of it reaches its final destination.’”
The accompanying 23-minute documentary, called “Arming Ukraine,” featured CBS reporter Adam Yamaguchi on the ground in April, embedded with Ukrainian fighters, following weapons shipments in Poland, interviewing foreign mercenaries, and joining NATO exercises in Lithuania.
The video was clearly thoroughly biased against Russia and in favor of Ukraine. It made no effort to portray itself as neutral or balanced.
But even this was not propagandistic enough for Ukraine and its Western backers.
Under intense pressure, CBS News was forced to retract its own documentary on August 7. It then changed the title of the accompanying article to “Why military aid in Ukraine may not always get to the front lines” and added a lengthy editor’s note explaining the changes.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned CBS on Twitter. “Welcome first step, but it is not enough,” he wrote. In a transparent assault on the freedom of the press, the top Ukrainian official called for “an internal investigation into who enabled this and why.”
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
Despite these attacks from Ukraine’s government, CBS News was not the first mainstream US media outlet that acknowledged this problem.
In April, CNN reported that the “US has few ways to track the substantial supply of anti-tank, anti-aircraft and other weaponry it has sent across the border into Ukraine,” calling it “a conscious risk the Biden administration is willing to take.”
But CBS still gave in to the pressure and censored its own report.
Before the video was retracted, it was copied and republished online.
CBS reporter Adam Yamaguchi traveled to Ukraine to film in April, but the documentary was delayed and not published until August.
Yamaguchi, who embedded with Ukrainian and NATO forces, was careful to blame everything on Russia. He made his pro-Ukraine perspective as clear as day, calling Moscow the “aggressor” and referring to Ukraine’s capital as Kyiv, not Kiev (the outcome of a Ukrainian government propaganda campaign).
Noting the war in Ukraine began in 2014, the video conveniently failed to mention the violent US-sponsored coup d’etat that set off that conflict. Instead, CBS blamed Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea. (It also left out the democratic referendum held in which 97% of people in Crimea voted to become part of Russia, with 83% participation.)
The CBS documentary was largely built around Jonas Ohman, a Swedish anti-Russian activist who has lived for years in Lithuania.
Ohman is the founder and CEO of an organization called Blue/Yellow, which has provided tens of millions of dollars worth of Western military assistance to Ukraine.
Although Blue/Yellow claims to be a “non-governmental organization” (NGO), Ohman made it clear in the video that he considers himself part of the Ukrainian fight against Russia, holding a rifle in one scene and declaring in another, “we have to win the war” and “we’ve got to win!”
Ohman admitted to sending Western military equipment into Ukraine “since summer of 2014,” adding that he “lost count” of how many drones he delivered.
He acknowledged that there is rampant corruption in Ukraine, that it is plagued by “powerlords” and “oligarchs” and has a large “black market” for weapons.
For the CBS documentary, Yamaguchi interviewed another US mercenary who is helping oversee arms shipments and training soldiers in Ukraine, named Andy Milburn.
Milburn is a US Marine veteran and founder and CEO of the Mozart Group (a play off of Russia’s Wagner Group).
“I can tell you, unarguably, that, on the front-line units, these things are not getting there,” Milburn complained.
Yamaguchi asked the US mercenary if it’s fair to call Ukraine a “black hole,” and Milburn said “it would appear that it’s a black hole, yeah.”
“My biggest concern right now is that the guys that need to kill Russians with those weapons get those weapons,” he added.
Ohman and Milburn were not the only ones who said Western arms shipments to Ukraine are getting diverted.
CBS also interviewed a senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International, named Donatella Rovera.
When asked where the weapons were going, Rovera answered “we don’t know,” adding that “there is really no information as to where they’re going at all.”
Rovera pointed out that blind Western arms shipments like these have in the past ended up in the hands of extremists, such as genocidal ISIS insurgents who had US weapons in Iraq.
Amnesty International is notorious for its bias in the interests of Western governments and its revolving door with Washington. But on Ukraine it has at least tried to be slightly more balanced.
Amnesty published a report this August revealing that Ukraine’s military has been using civilian areas like schools as hospitals as human shields.
Western governments and mainstream corporate media outlets furiously attacked Amnesty in response to the publication, forcing the leader of its Ukraine arm, Oksana Pokalchuk, to resign.
The CBS News documentary also prominently featured a former US State Department official, Charles Kupchan, who served on the National Security Councils of Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Kupchan, whom CBS identified simply as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, acknowledged that the conflict in Ukraine is a proxy war between NATO and Russia.
“Ukraine is a proxy for the West,” he admitted. He also admitted that Russia is carefully trying not to escalate the war further.