YouTube Blocks Ukraine Videos As U.S. Warns Russia Creating Fake Clips To Spark War

YouTube has blocked information channels in the Moscow-backed breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, Russian media have reported.

It comes amid a U.S. warning of a Russian-led plan to fabricate a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine using a faked video campaign.

Russian media said the video sharing giant had blocked the accounts of groups in the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics (LPR and DPR) in the Donbass region, the scene of fighting since 2014.

Lugansk Information Center editor Sergey Meshkovoy, told RIA Novosti on Friday that his channel was deleted "without any notifications or warnings," saying "it was not clear why."

Journalists from LPR's State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company (GTRK) said in a statement that its account, as well as those of the People's Militia of the LPR, the People's Militia of the DPR, and the DPR's Ministry of Information, had been blocked "without warning."

"The official reason is 'violation of the community rules,' but this is not the case," the statement said.

"First, it is not specified which rules have been violated," it said, accusing "Kyiv and Western intelligence services" of being behind a "cynical provocation against the media in Donbass."

The statement went on to accuse "Ukrainian, British and American intelligence services" of trying "to silence the voice of Donbass."

This was because the GTRK believed that an attack was planned by "armed brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard and foreign mercenaries armed by Western governments and trained by Western instructors."

In a statement to Newsweek, a YouTube spokesperson said that the platform "complies with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws, including with respect to content created and uploaded by restricted entities. If we find that an account violates our Terms of Service or Community Guidelines, we disable it."

Amid fears of an invasion by Russian troops by the border with Ukraine, Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine make frequent claims that Kyiv is the aggressor in the Donbass, which has led to calls for Moscow to intervene.

The DPR's main leader Denis Pushilin told Russian state TV in January Kyiv had deployed "all of the Ukrainian army's strike forces" to the region ahead of an attack. Donetsk separatist, Eduard Basurin, alleged Kyiv was preparing to target civilian infrastructure.

With tensions on a knife edge, the U.S. and its allies have warned of how Moscow-aligned propaganda could lead to war.

The New York Times reported that Russia had planned to make a fake video with corpses, footage of blown-up buildings, fake Ukrainian military hardware, as a pretext for a Moscow-led invasion.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said plans for the "very graphic" video had the backing of the Kremlin.

The alleged video was "one of a number of options" that Russia was developing to "potentially justify military aggression against Ukraine," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the U.S. allegations as "nonsense," while Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: "I'd recommend not to take anyone's word for it, especially the State Department, when it comes to these issues."

The U.S. and its allies have long warned that Moscow was looking for a casus belli in Ukraine, accusing it of plotting "false flag" attacks to spark an incursion. Russia denies that it has any plans of invading.

Ukrainian soldier
A Ukrainian soldier on the frontline with the Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region on February 1, 2022. Moscow-backed separatists in Donbass have complained their YouTube accounts have been blocked. ANATOLII STEPANOV/Getty