Several web portals from the region have shared unfounded claims about the alleged construction of a NATO base in Ukraine.
On June 19, 2022, the web portal Sputnik published an article entitled:
Former Ukrainian official: Kyiv started building the NATO base in Severodonetsk last year
The article states:
According to some information, Kyiv has already started building a NATO base at the airport in Severodonetsk in 2021, Vladimir Kononov, the former deputy head of the Starobel District Prosecutor’s Office of the Luhansk Region, who switched to the LNR side, told Sputnik.
“There is information that NATO bases are planned to be built on the territory of the airport in the immediate vicinity of Severodonetsk. The road to the airport was completely closed, all approaches to the airport were closed. There were members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who did not let anyone pass. No one saw what was happening there or what they were doing there. But according to information, the NATO base was being built”, said Kononov.
Former Defense Minister of Ukraine Andrey Zagorodniuk said in 2020 that Ukraine plans to build two NATO-standard bases in Severodonetsk and Mariupol.
A few days later, on June 27, 2022, in a live article following current war events in Ukraine, Sputnik once again announced that a NATO base was being built in Severodonetsk, this time referring to the statement of Chechen military leader Apti Aladuinov:
Evidence was found that the Severodonetsk airport was being prepared to become a serious NATO base near the borders with Russia, Apti Alaudinov, assistant to the Chechen army leader, told Sputnik.
“There is evidence that the airport in the city of Severodonetsk was, in fact, being prepared for a NATO base, it was supposed to be the main airport in the territory bordering the Russian Federation, along our borders, and serious camps were supposed to be erected (of NATO) – with planes, weapons and equipment. Probably, to prepare an attack on the Russian Federation”, explained Alaudinov.
The industrial zone and the Severodonetsk airport were completely liberated earlier.
The claims published in Sputnik’s articles were reported by several other web portals, including the tabloids Srbija Danas, Happy and Informer, as well as Fakti magazine and Sott web portal.
In some articles, such as the one published by Intermagazin, it is stated that Ukraine was building a base “for NATO”.
Were NATO bases being built in Ukraine?
Sputnik, making claims about the alleged construction of NATO bases in Ukraine, refers in the first case to the statement of Vladimir Kononov. They say that he was the deputy head of the Starobel District Prosecutor’s Office of Luhansk until he “switched” to the side of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic. With a Google search, we found two people with that name. The first is the former Minister of Defense of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, who took up that position in August 2014, and the second is a Russian politician and member of the State Duma. Their biographies do not state that they were previously Ukrainian officials. In another case, Sputnik refers to Chechen military leader Apti Aladuinov.
Neither of the two articles published by Sputnik on this topic provides any evidence to support the claims made in them.
As stated in the article of the Ukrainian fact-checking web portal Stop Fake from June 23, 2022, the incorrect claim about the construction of the NATO base in Severodonetsk has existed since 2020.
Namely, that year, Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk announced that two military bases would be built near Mariupol and Severodonetsk, according to NATO standards, which was stated, without context, in an article by the web portal Sputnik.
Stop Fake explained why planning the construction of a military base according to NATO standards is not the same as building a NATO base:
It is worth emphasizing that there were no plans for the “construction of a NATO military base” in Severodonetsk in the plans of Ukraine or the member states of the Alliance. This fake news was created back in 2020, when Andriy Zagorodnyuk, then Minister of Defense of Ukraine (2019-2020), announced the country’s plans to build two new military bases: in Mariupol and Severodonetsk. Zahorodnjuk said that for the development of military infrastructure in these two cities, they plan to build two bases that will meet NATO standards. There was no talk of building a “NATO base” in Severodonetsk: the facility had nothing to do with NATO and was not intended for the deployment of foreign troops.
What are NATO standards?
As explained in the Stop Fake article, NATO standards are a series of documents that regulate the compatibility of the armed forces of the participating countries and describe the general rules for them. They can be divided into administrative, operational and logistical. As Stop Fake explains, Ukraine, within the framework of cooperation with NATO, carried out a reform in the sphere of defense and started to standardize the Alliance. Among the key areas of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO were: creation of comfortable conditions for service (creation of bases according to NATO standards), advanced training of the Ukrainian army, exchange of information, protection of tactical communications, cyber defense, handling of explosive objects, as well as medical issues and rehabilitation army, retraining of veterans for civilian specialties and defense background.
So, the planned military bases in Mariupol and Severodonetsk were not any “NATO bases” or bases that the Ukrainian army built “for NATO”, but the infrastructure of the Ukrainian armed forces, built according to NATO standards.
Ukraine is not a member of the NATO alliance and there is no evidence that NATO has its bases on the territory of that country.
As stated in the article of the Stop Fake web portal, the claim that NATO is building bases in Ukraine is part of the Russian propaganda narrative that seeks to justify the invasion of this country with the help of allegations of defense against “NATO aggression”.
Given all the facts, we assess the claim that Ukraine started building a NATO base in Severodonetsk last year, originally published on the web portal Sputnik in an article from June 19, 2022, as fake news. We evaluate all transmissions of this claim as distribution of fake news.
We also evaluate the claim that “evidence was found that the Severodonetsk airport was being prepared to become a serious NATO base”, published on Sputnikl in an article from June 27, as fake news.
We evaluate all transmissions of this claim as distribution of fake news.
(Author: Nerma Šehović, Raskrinkavanje.ba)