Firstly, I want to say a huge thanks to all of you involved in my crowdfunding campaign – you got it over the line, we reached target, and it means I can contine my independent, objective journalism here in Donbass!
What you made possible, along with daily reportage, are projects like this, a film – now with English subtitles, from Krasnodon, as they marked their City Day –
That will be my final crowdfunder for this year, although I’ll be doing one to raise funds for a headstone for the fallen hero of my film of early 2016, Aramis. Look out for that soon.
My attention now turns to rewarding all those of you who’ve helped, been involved in my crowdfunding, and I’ll be fulfilling all of the pledges to you, hopefully even exceeding them!
Of course, so much has happened since the last newsletter. Firstly, DPR commander Motorola was killed in Donetsk, on October 16th, blown up in the lift of the apartment building in which he lived.
I first met Motorola in Slavyansk, spring of 2014, when he was just another ‘opolchenets’, we exchanged a few words. When I saw him again, by this time his having already become a commander, at Donetsk airport in October of 2014, and started filming him, asking questions, he appeared a little piqued ‘don’t you remember me from Slavyansk?’. He was in good spirits at this time, always obliging for an interview, see one of our interviews here, full English subtitles, from October 2014 –
I filmed Motorola a lot in the months leading up to the taking of Donetsk airport by DPR forces, led by commanders Motorola and Givi, both videos, and photos, such as this one here, perhaps the best known –
Being in different places in Donbass, I hadn’t seedn Motorola for over a year, and was in Ekaterinburg, the Urals, when Motorola was killed. Of course, it was a shock. I naturally turned to Facebook to express my views on what had happened, and Motorola, in an even-handed post. However, this being Facebook, this post was removed, and I was hit with a 30-day ban.
That marks the end of myself and Facebook – I subsequently removed my account, and won’t be back there. There’s no point in being on a site on which I can’t say anything I want, or need to say. Facebook clearly isn’t set up for that – as soon as you say something which doesn’t fit their, pretty blatant, narrative – you’re off.
I don’t want the hassle of never knowing if I’ll be blocked or not, sitting out bans, and more, I don’t want to support such an oppressive site of online social repression, rather than networking.
About Motorola, to say succinctly. He was a warrior, at times, in extreme situations, he could be pretty sharp with his choice of words. But, he could surprise you with a caring side, concerned for the safety of journalists on his territory, had a great sense of humour. He truly loved Donbass, his family there. Whatever his background, he was in Donbass of his own volition, and for principles. Not even his enemies, and there were many, could say he wasn’t brave – he was always ready to lead the charge in battle. He shaped the Donetsk People’s Republic which we know now, so much simply would never have been without him.
I knew him as a journalist, am proud to have known him, and very sad about what happened. Thoughts with his family, and respect for the life of a man who always put himself on the frontline.
I was honoured to see my photo used as a mural in Motorola’s honour, in St Petersburg (vandalised, subsequently restored) –
As for the Urals, Ekaterinburg, I’d gone there to continue work on a film I’m making, about the young Lugansk journalist Irina Gurtyak, more of which later, tragically killed in a car crash in January of this year. I filmed Irina’s relatives and friends there –
And I also spent some time, including filming reportage, in the beautiful city of Ekaterinburg, and around.
In this time, I gave a long interview to a journalist, Andrei Guselnikov, I’ve known for a long time. I know that Andrei can always be counted on neither to flatter or flail on me, to be completely objective. I spoke about a lot of things in this interview, Russia, my relationship with Russia (where the truth is that most people actually don’t know me, and I have both supporters and detractors from those who do), Donbass, the declining interest in Donbass and what I’m trying to do about that, and RT.
The subject of the channel RT has long been a thorny one for me. What happened in 2014, after my 2nd deportation – they deceived me to get one final interview, then literally cast me out on the streets of Poland, knowing I’d lost almost everything having worked for them – has, of course stuck in my throat, and I’ve spoken out quite strongly against RT on occasion of not agreeing with them.
But, there’s always a time to put things to rest, and move on. I said my final piece on them to Andrei at URA, and from now, I’ll simply not mention them. I’ve said what I have to say on the matter, feel at ease with it all.
In Russia, there were of course the inevitable comments about my having ‘fled’, ‘not returning to Donbass’ etc. But, I always return to Donbass, and always will.
The past couple of weeks back have been as busy as ever. Here are the updates I’ve written on this site –
Of course, I keep up a stream of news on my Twitter account, recently, a lot about Saakashvili, of course, and there’s be an article on him to come soon, here.I also use my Twitter to give you exclusive, breaking news. The Guardian told you there was ‘mystery’ surrounding the prank call to Ukrainian president Poroshenko. I could tell you exclusively that the call was by Russian pranker Lexus, and had even filmed an exclusive interview with him in Ekaterinburg –
Of course, there’s also my video reportage, which I work to add English subtitles to as much as possible, or, as here, record in English, as Ukrainian shelling targeted a civilian car in the Lugansk area, an update on that here –
Or this video here, with English subtitles, as Lugansk marked the ‘Day of People’s Unity’ –
That’s just a couple of examples, and there’s a lot more English-language reporting coming up soon. Here in Donbass, I film reportage, and also work on longer, documentary film projects. Before next summer, I’m hugely excited about showing you my new Crimea film, where we took a British holidaymaker on holiday to Crimea. It was good to see a write-up of that in The Courier here.
Of course, all of this is only possible because of your support, so a massive thanks again to all of you who took part in my crowdfunder, your continued support, sharing of my work – especially on the Facebook I’m banned from – it means a lot, and it makes a meaningful contribution in getting the truth out!