The Russian news website Pravda reported Thursday that pro-Russian forces killed three current or former members of the U.S. National Guard from Tennessee during a battle in eastern Ukraine — a charge U.S. officials strongly deny.
Russian forces allegedly killed three U.S. “mercenaries” sent to train Ukrainian soldiers during the “liberation” of Marinka, in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. The news service says the servicemen’s slayers found their personal identification among their remains.
“In a backpack near the remains of one of the militants, a Tennessee flag of the United States was found, as well as other items that made it possible to identify the deceased as Captain Michael Hawker, Lieutenant Logan Shrum and Lieutenant Cruz Toblin,” a militia commander told Pravda.
The National Guard rushed out a statement Thursday evening saying that all three men are alive and well — and calling Pravda’s article “patently false.”
“The three soldiers identified in the article are either current or former members of the Tennessee National Guard,” said the Office of the Tennessee Adjutant General. “They are accounted for, safe and not, as the article headline erroneously states, US mercenaries killed in Donetsk People’s Republic.”
Officials believe the the names of Hawker, Shrum, and Toblin were chosen based on articles on the Pentagon’s website about a previous mission in Ukraine in 2018.
This afternoon the Russian media outlet “Pravda” falsely reported that three members of the Tennessee National Guard, which it labeled as “mercenaries” were killed while fighting in Ukraine. The reporting by “Pravda” is patently false. Statement: https://t.co/8aX1hVYZuI pic.twitter.com/b80lHu04AI
— NGB-PA Press Desk (@NGBPA1636) March 17, 2022
At that time, members of the Tennessee National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment was serving as military instructors in the Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. The Defense Department says all the soldiers returned to the United States in 2019.
More than 200 U.S. soldiers took part in the mission, as The Army Times reports:
All members of the Tennessee National Guard returned home safely in 2019, though other Guard units have since rotated through,”.
The 160 soldiers of the Florida National Guard deployed to Ukraine since November were ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to leave the country amid increasing concern of a Russian attack in mid-February.
The possibility of U.S. casualties so concerned the Pentagon that it swiftly rebutted the charge. “The National Guard raced out a statement so quickly that there were even typos in the statement,” said NewsNation host Dan Abrams on Thursday night. “It shows you how seriously they took this.”
“This is meant for internal, Russian consumption. It’s not meant for people here in the states,” said Newsweek editor Naveed Jamali. He said misinformation is “becoming a specter of the war in Ukraine, this controlling of information” to shape public perception.
“This further perpetuates Vladimir Putin’s narrative that he is at war with the West, and the United States is trying to help the Ukrainians, and he is there to liberate them,” said NewsNation host Leland Vittert, who was a guest on “Dan Abrams Live.”
Pravda served as the official organ of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1918 until the Evil Empire’s dissolution in 1991. During that time, “pravda” became synonymous with “propaganda” in the United States.
“Pravda’s are expected to be as accurate as possible,” the website’s Ethics Policy states. “Getting facts from verifiable sources is the cardinal principle of journalism.”
“The irony is pravda in Russian translates to ‘truth,’” said Vittert.
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