Google Maps on Donbass – Can it be Trusted?

What’s the first thing you do when you look for a place? Of course, Google Maps, the world’s leading most popular online map, not only that, the world’s most popular app, with 54% of smartphones having it installed at least once.

Yesterday I wrote about Denmark, and despite all, the first thing I did was go to Google Maps. The ‘despite all’ part, is the following – that I’ve serious questions about the impartiality of the internet’s most comprehensive web-mapping service. The other week, I went to do a search for a place in Lugansk, this, th centre of the city of Lugansk, Donbass (now, ok, Google Maps are not going to describe it as the Lugansk People’s Republic, that’s not up for discussion now)


Here, a closer look, and we can clearly see a ‘Monument of victims of ‘russian world’ terror’ marked – 

Clearly, Russian written as ‘russian’ as a mark of disrespect. But that’s an incidental, because this monument, and let’s have a look at the satellite imagery here, for which Google Maps is renowned –


And here is the monument itself, in the centre of Lugansk. But it is not a monument to anything connected with ‘Russian terror’ – it’s a monument to victims of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – who fought with the Nazis in WWII. 

There are a few things to take into account here. A feature of Google Maps is indeed the ability to add, or name landmarks there. But is there really no limit? Could you just go to the Statue of Liberty and just name it as, well, take your pick… could you just go to Jerusalem, Palestine, etc….

More, I submitted a correction about this to Google a week ago, and they’ve done nothing about it yet. How long has it even been there? Clearly, providing accurate information here is not a priority for Google Maps – so the question is, in how many other places don’t they care about what’s on their maps? 

This is Google Maps, over 7000 employees, constantly investing millions in adding new features – soon they’ll be able to tell you when to get off the bus. And they are so uninterested in checking their maps not only for accuracy, but for that which is clearly grossly offensive….

As for the sheer, crass cynicism of the ‘pro-Ukrainian’, to call them that, who renamed this to attack Russia, without any thought not only for the victims of the UIA, but more for the hundreds killed in Lugansk itself by Ukrainian shelling of the city, in 2014…. well, from them, that’s probably to be expected.

But from Google Maps, we should either expect more, or be aware that when we look at Google Maps, we may be looking at the work of fine geographers and cartographers. Or it could just be some angry activist running amok….

Why Would Street Reportage from Denmark Get 100,000 Views?

I’ve made thousands of videos of reportage, and yet each time one is released, it can’t quite be predicted how it will fare out in the unforgiving world of YouTube, where cats on skateboards, make-up tutorials and reactions to Lady Gaga videos score millions of hits, but reportage can just disappear into the ether…

As a benchmark for reportage on YouTube, 10,000 views is a decent one. Look at this, a typical BBC propaganda piece from Crimea, 3 years ago, and for a pretty big revelation, 26 thousand views.

This report of mine, from Denmark, June 2016, about what people there think of Brexit, if they wanted a ‘Dexit’, and the Denmark-EU border, is soon to pass 100,000 views: 

What’s the story behind it? I was travelling around Europe doing reportage on a Brexit theme, and had just come from Latvia –

The trip hadn’t exactly gone to plan, with my car smashed into in France, so driving thousands of miles around Europe with a taped over window, not exactly conducive to an unfrayed state of mind, but anyway, the show really did have to go on. Stopping briefly to make the montage, from Latvia it was a 1600km drive, to Denmark, and to the town of Sonderberg, where this was filmed – the first sizeable town near the Danish border, population around 28,000.

What happened next? I made the edit swiftly after filming, and released. And then, nothing much at all. After a few days, it sat at 1000 views, making it hard to think it hadn’t been a lot of effort for nothing much at all. But then, out of nowhere – without it ever featuring in media as far as I know, it began to climb and climb.

Why the popularity? Firstly, the excellent level of English has clearly enthralled many, if you look at comments. Otherwise, the general geniality, openness of the Danish people. There also isn’t that much competition, as in there’s not much reportage from Denmark, which may have implied a lack of audience for it, but here, clearly not the case.

It was also on theme at that time, with everyone wondering what would come next, after Brexit, which has continued to be a talking point. As you can see from this video, while there was some sympathy from the Danish streets, there was no real sign of a movement there mounting for the next Brexit. Although, another point, the presence of a border did catch attention.

As it prepares to pass 100,000, it joins only a few of my reportages to make that milestone. Of course I’m pleased with that achievement, very grateful to all who have viewed, liked, left comments. Of course, when I look at it now, a year and a half on, I think ‘gosh if I did it again, would do this better, that better‘, I’ve got a year-and-a-half more experience of video editing to call on. Or, I may just do it completely unedited, But, generally, I’m fairly pleased with the piece.

I’d imagined it may get around 10,000 views, so to say it’s overperformed is an understatement. YouTube may be random in a lot of ways, but clearly this report has caught the imagination, and made its contribution to delivering information, just as it was, to a wide audience. Due to monetisation, I’ve earned $35.33 from this video, however due to a simple bit of lunch for myself and colleague Michael Spekkers, who helped me film this, coming to around 30 Euros, you could hardly say I’m raking in the financial rewards 🙂 But of course, none of what I do is for that anyway.

It certainly gives some appetite to return to do more in Denmark, perhaps more ambitious reportage even, knowing there’s an audience for it. Although perhaps if you’re reading this the word is already out and other news crews will be headed to Aarhus, Odense, Aalborg and more, for a slice of the hot Danish pie!

I’d like to say thanks to all the kind, friendly people of Denmark who gave interviews for this, and a gentleman called Viktor from Denmark, who for many years has been a supporter of my work from Donbass, and more! 

(18+) Bodies of Ukrainian ‘Cyborgs’ Lie on the Ground as Ukrainian Forces Defeated at Donetsk Airport

I had to delete these videos from YouTube a long time ago. Now, in the light of Ukraine having released a film glorifying the ‘cyborgs’, which is what they called the Ukrainian soldiers who held Donetsk airport between late May of 2014, and mid-January of 2015, I republish them here.

This is the reality, Donetsk airport, January 22nd, 2015. Ukrainian forces crushingly defeated by DPR people’s militia forces led by Givi, and Motorola. Mass destruction, the only Ukrainian soldiers still there, in piles of bodies… it’s all here.


I don’t say these videos are pretty etc, but this is the reality, this is as it really was, not as it is in Ukrainian cinemas…

Video Reportage in English regularly passing 10,000 Views!

With my video reportage in Russian, literally, they sky can be the limit – this from August, Crimea, soon soaring over 700,000. It’s a Russian theme. Of course, getting views in English can be harder – firstly the videos need to be subtitles, and I try to properly subtitle the videos, not just YouTube subtitles.

So, I set a benchmark, in English, of 10,000 views as being a decent benchmark. Why this? Well, this BBC reportage, typical BBC propaganda, about Crimea 3 years ago, for example, just over 30,000.  (Of course, some BBC pieces have more, but others also less, this from a year ago, 24,000)

So, it’s been great to see recently English-language reportage from Crimea consistently reaching, surpassing 10,000 views! Not all, yet, but a lot, have a look:

This, from the Crimea Bridge, almost 17,500 views – 

This, from the new airport in Simferopol, over 12,000 views – 

Here, development in Crimea – roads, bridge and airport, near 13,000 views – 

And this, from Artek, almost 12,000 views – 

And views are rising all the time, from all over the world. Of course, the more views, the more resonance, the more capacity to make a meaningful difference! So it’s a wonderful thing to notice a real upturn in that sphere!

Thanks again for watching, supporting my reportage, lots more to come!

World Cup 2018! It’s On! Information War is On! And my massive World Cup 2018 plan (with your support)

No sooner had the World Cup draw been dusted off yesterday from Moscow, than the British press started laying into the destinations England will play –

Not that they’d waited for that of course, just a few days before, blaring all over western media, here represented by the Guardian: 

Gay fans warned holding hands at Russia World Cup will be dangerous

And of course, the information war against Russia’s World Cup began long before that even, of which I’ve written here. 

So the information war is truly on. My plan – to visit each of the 11 host cities in Russia, and make a film from there, in English, and Russian. Not a promo-film. Real, factual reportage, showing you the reality of each city. As you know, all my work is completely crowdfunded, so if you support it, it’ll happen!

And this, my 3rd World Cup by the way, so there’s something to compare!

Euro 2012, my Life in, and Best Work from Ukraine, Before the War

As the draw for the World Cup 2018 has just finished, throwing up a favourable draw for England, I couldn’t help but reflect on the run-up to Euro 2012 – the main reason I moved to Ukraine in the first place, sensing an exciting time to be in a country in the build-up to a major football tournament, with opportunities in journalism to be found.

In I worked at the magazine What’s On in Kiev, 2011, and 12. Their website was down for ages, but recently came back to life. And with it, not all, but 90 of my articles from that time.

Looking back over them, and not only, I can hold my hands up and say that ‘pre-war’, I perhaps did write a bit too much about the ladies. But, it was a different time, and far from just that, I’m actually proud of a lot of the work I did back then, although in the context of things now, they are rather like ‘notes from a lost country‘…

So here’s a ‘top 10’ of my work from Ukraine, pre-war: 

10. The Pain of Ukraine? 

My first article for What’s On magazine, January 2012, and it was about defending Ukraine from the attacks and prophecies of doom in the western media –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=11540

9. Remembering River Palace

From October 2012, I had a look into the murky history, and mystery, of the former ‘floating brothel’ of Kiev, River Palace, for the Kyiv Post –

https://www.kyivpost.com/article/guide/about-kyiv/remembering-river-palace-314970.html

8. Tracking down Tymoshenko 

February of 2012, and I went looking for Tymoshenko in Kharkov, with some interesting results –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=11662

7. That Said – 

My weekly column from What’s On, in which I tried to cover all aspects of life in Ukraine. From all of them, I pick this one to represent how it was to live in Ukraine, at that time, the spirit –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=12064

6. Ok, it was a bit light-hearted, but you could hardly be in Ukraine pre-war, and not write about the sexual side of things. This piece, a cover-story for What’s On, was about the men who came to Ukraine expressly to pick-up women, and how that was working out for them – I liked how it came out, and felt it made a point –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=12021

5. Odessa – from March of 2012, my first trip to Odessa, for a travel piece for What’s On – it was to be love at first sight, in Odessa, something captured here –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=12310

4. Dnepropetrovsk – Always Parus 

I wrote this for my blog, and it was a labour of love, one of my the themes which most drew me in Ukraine, on which I wrote extensively – abandoned buildings, and the story behind them –

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2015/02/09/abandoned-dnipropetrosk-always-parus/

3. The Russian Heart of Ukraine – in which I wrote of my own experience of visiting Donetsk in summer of 2012, for What’s On magazine, and the Russian heart of that city, and not only –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=12700

2. November 2012, for Pravda and I wrote about the post Euro-2012, post 2012 election malaise which had befallen Ukraine, and the state of the country at that time –

http://www.pravdareport.com/business/finance/26-11-2012/122926-ukraine_euro-0/

1.  In October of 2012, I wrote what I believe to be my most significant pre-war piece from Ukraine, about the case of Oksana Makar, her tragic murder, and the implications for Ukraine (a case I continued investigating, going to her hometown of Nikolaev), here for the New Statesman

https://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2012/10/tragic-case-ukraines-oksana-makar-draws-close

And there we have it, some of my essays from a different time, a different world. 

Euromaidan, and We’ve Known Each Other for 4 Years Now!

This week, it’s nothing to celebrate of course, but some of us have now known each other for 4 years. 4 years ago I was living in Odessa, Euromaidan had kicked off, and I was watching on, in horror not only at what I saw, but that all my former colleagues – I’d worked in Kiev as a journalist for 2 years – were supporting it, all the western media were cheering for me. The reasons I took against Maidan were fairly delineated, and definite. In the time I’d lived in Kiev, I’d followed the rise of neo-Nazi party Svoboda, had been to their congress, marches, had been shocked by what was pure, patent, unconcealed fascism (photo, right, I’ve also written about it here).

And here’s a thing, at the time the western media agreed with me about this, there were articles about Svoboda in this vein. And in my time in Kiev, I’d actually written for leading western publications – the New Statesman, more, had been senior journalist at the city’s What’s On magazine for a year.

When Euromaidan got going, some of the first footage I saw from it featured Svoboda members, Oleg Tyagnibok, and other radicals, not only in the crowd, but up on the hastily-erected stages. It’s not a big stretch to think that ‘if guys from a party based on the original Nazi party are supporting this, then maybe this isn’t the right side.’ Or more aptly, the correct side, because Maidan was the right, the far-right, the misled, the deceived, the chronic Ukrainian dreamers who really did believe that if you force out an elected president and government, by violence, then it’s happily ever after…

I started tweeting the Maidan I saw, in the context I knew, early doors. And I’d add that the context was that I knew Ukraine, having been to every part, including Donbass (here, Donetsk 2012). And with an overt anti-Russian mood to Maidan from early on, it was clear that Donbass, Crimea of course, weren’t going to be a part of it.

The fact that my tweets didn’t take the narrative of the west meant my phone was silent, there was no inbox with offers to report on the ‘glorious uprising‘, ‘peaceful people’s revolution‘ etc, that the west wanted to hear about . They went with journalists who would write that copy for them, and they were many. So they were in, I was out.

I thought ‘f*ck it’, effectively, and just kept on writing articles for my blog,  sometimes several a day (grahamwphillips.com – I took that site down ages ago, it was a personaly blog hardly appropriate for covering war on, you can find it archived). The blog posts started attracting a readership, and one day I got a Facebook message from a producer, Maria, at RT, asking me to go on air for an interview. I’d never in my life have thought of working for Russian media before, nothing against them, but I’d always as a British person generally gravitated to the BBC, et al. But, you know what, if they’ll let you say what you see, what you know to be true, then go for it. So, I went for it, this video from early December 2013.

Which means some of us have known each other for 4 years already.