I got a call from RT mid-afternoon last July 17th, as I was at my great aunt’s home in Birmingham, UK. A Boeing 777 had just come down in Donbass, RT asked that I go to Donbass to start work on that.
I left some 30 minutes later, drove for 2 days almost without stopping and arrive in Donetsk on the 19th. My intention is to get out to the site immediately, but RT already have a correspondent there by this time, other things are kicking off in Donetsk. I work Monday, and Tuesday, July 21st, 22nd, covering ongoing shelling in Donetsk. The night of the 22nd, I go to Donetsk airport to cover battle there, against the wishes of RT.
I get seized, deported, banned – the works. Having thus to return to work in Donbass via Russia, I first go to Lugansk, spend a month there, Stakhanov, and make it back to Donetsk early October. My first time on the MH17 site is October 16th.
It’s worth noting that despite having worked in Donbass for RT, then for Zvezda, both Russian channels, I’ve never once worked for a tv channel on the MH17 site. I’ve driven out there on my own petrol, filmed pieces for my YouTube channel, the one piece taken by agency Ruptly probably covered costs for the first couple of trips. But this has never been about money, never been about filming for a channel. I’ve been driven by the manifest, blatant bias of the western press in relation to this.
I remember driving from London to Donetsk and listening to 2 days of World Service already having arrived at an MH17 verdict. Before any investigation – how can this be? And even more disconcertingly, any subsequent investigation has seemingly only sought to match the hastily jumped at conclusion, one which gave the EU and US the opportunity further ramp up the sanctions on Russia and promulgate a position through the media which seems to reconcile more closely with business and geo-political interests than any relation to what happened in a windswept field in an unassuming part of the Donbass region.
I’ve now been on that site 5 times, spent some 30 hours here. I’ve not earned anything here, i’ve actually given my own money, and time to be there. This is nothing at all to do with finances, it’s about justice. I’ve been driven by a knowledge of he western press perpetrating a manifest wrong, and a wish for justice in the names of those killed.
People who fell in fields, through houses. Who fell into body parts. Whose body parts remained on site for months. To see them used as political pawns at the expense of justice in their name – verdicts arrived at by an agency like Bellingcat, never once on site, couldn’t even be bothered to come to the one-year anniversary today…
I understand there are some allegations of my holding some sort of bias. I’ll be quite open about the fact that i acknowledge, and in doing so support the existence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. I do so because I remember the mass will of the people here for that, the mass queues to vote in the May 11th referendum – which I witnessed for myself in Mariupol.
However, this doesn’t compromise my objectivity on MH17. Even if I believed the DPR forces had downed MH17, I’d still believe in the will of the people for autonomous republics. However, I don’t believe that – evidence doesn’t show that. My special reportage, released in a few minutes, doesn’t defer to any side – it’s the facts just as they are, from the site as it was, and is.