The Murder of Barry Pring – an Inquest, a Result, and On…

Graham Phillips

I started work on the case of the murder of Barry Pring when I lived in Kiev, back in 2012. I worked on it at the end of 2012, start of 2013, and issued a book at the start of 2013, which culminated in a full investigation into the case of Barry Pring, my having uncovered irrefutable evidence of the guilt of his Ukrainian wife, Anna Ziuzina.

The book was immediately withdrawn from sale after a writ from Anna Ziuzina’s lawyers claiming libel. However, I expanded the  50-page report on Barry Pring’s barrymurder to 58 pages, submitted it to the police, and the coroner’s office in Exeter. This helped push proceedings from a situation where in 2012 an inquest had seemed unlikely due to lack of evidence, to 2017 where, on January 24th, an inquest took place in Exeter, Devon.

That inquest delivered a verdict of unlawful death, and more, the coroner, Dr Elizabeth Earland, stated that Barry had been ‘tricked’ into standing by the side of the road, on which an oncoming car hit him, at high speed, killing him instantly, on February 16th. The only person who could have tricked Barry, was the person who put him there, his wife, Anna Ziuzina. Dr Earland cited my work stripper2in particular in her closing remarks.

The case has now received mass media attention throughout the world. I am continuing work on this, and working to make a documentary about it, and will also be revisiting my book. I’ll be releasing a longer, improved section prior to the investigation into the murder under the title ‘My life in Ukraine, before the war‘, and an updated, improved account of the Barry Pring murder under the title ‘The Murder of Barry Pring‘.

My Next Film: The Story of Irina Gurtyak

Graham Phillips

Irina GurtyakI’ve almost completed work on my next full-length film, which will be released likely in early April, and with English subtitles.

The film is called, as above, The Story of Irina Gurtyak. Irina, Ira, was a young journalist from Lugansk, who I got to know in my time in Lugansk, December of 2015. She made a huge impression on me, a truly remarkable young lady, organising this Master Class in which I took part. Ira was dedicated to being a journalist, to delivering truth to the world about Donbass. She was dynamic, beautiful, incredibly friendly, kind, a wonderful young lady, of immense potential.

I left Donbass in mid-January, for a holiday in Russia. On January 31st, in St Petersburg, I woke to receive devastating news – Ira had been killed in a car crash.  

The news was so shocking as to be hard to process. Lugansk was peaceful at that time, no shelling, yet Ira’s life had been taken in a tragic accident, in which the driver of the car she was in, was at fault.

Irina GurtyakIt was something I thought of a lot in the first part of 2016, it played in the mind – the loss of a life with such potential, the cruel needlessness of it, exactly a week after her 20th birthday. Ira was a person who had shown me a lot of kindness, warmth, but more than that, as I spoke with more people who knew her, I became aware of the fascinating story of her life.

So it was, in mid 2016, with the full cooperation of her family, I decided to make a Irina Gurtyak 2film about her. But not simply a tribute film, for those who knew her. In Ira’s story, I saw, and see, a wide significance, and resonance, for everyone. It’s a story of a journalist, the story of a Luganchan (a native of Lugansk, as she was), the story of war, how war changed lives in Lugansk, the story of why such an intelligent young lady chose the life she did, the story of how Ira survived a war which wrought devastation on her hometown, yet still died due to war, and what goes with it. And more.

As my previous full-length film, Aramis, I’m working on this film with Oleg Somov. I’ve already travelled 8000km for the film, filmed over 50 interviews. There’s one more to film.

This film is absolutely not-for-profit, any costs have been met from my own budget, raised via crowdfunding. 

It’s a film I never wanted to make, or could have imagined making. But, it’s one which had to be made, and made as best possible. It’s the final story of a journalist who should have had a lifetime of stories ahead of her, and it’s one I hope, and believe, you will find meaning in.

MH17 – In Defence of Spekkers, Attention, My Reaction, and on…

Graham Phillips

I was pretty strong in criticism of Dutch journalist Michel Spekkers for taking parts from the MH17 site, despite Spekkers being a colleague, and friend. However, as I go to write this, one Jeroen Akkermans has been tweeting, criticising Russia for their reaction, in support of Spekkers, and his colleague, Beck.

Jeroen AkkermansThe same Akkermans (pictured) who is, in no small part, responsible for the situation we have today, which has unfolded into quite the mess, with Dutch police confiscating not only MH17 items from Spekkers and Beck, but also all their equipment, memory cards, phones the whole kit and caboodle.

When Akkermans waltzed off in November 2014 with parts of what was later claimed, by an unofficial investigation, to be a BUK rocket, he walked back to a hero’s reception in the Netherlands, and western media. Hailed across the world as the ‘man who solved MH17’, no one really stopped to ask some key questions

  • Why hadn’t he notified the investigation of his findings, before taking them?
  • When did it become ok for journalists to take it upon themselves to remove parts from crash sites, and submit them to their own investigations?
  • These ‘magic’ ‘BUK’ parts, that Akkermans ‘chanced up’, unseen by the hundreds of investigators, and journalists (including myself) who’d spent extensive time on the site before that?

    michel-spekkersFast forward to January of 2017, and Dutch freelance journalists Michel Spekkers, and Stefan Beck visit Donbass for a week of reportage, which includes Spekkers visiting the MH17 site. There, he removed parts, including likely human remains, put them in a bag, even did a survey on Twitter about what he should do with them (for which he later apologised), and took them back to the Netherlands.

Here, Spekkers explains his actions, in his own words –

When I arrived in the area I found, to my surprise, recognisable fragments of the MH17 at various places. After a somewhat longer consideration I decided to take a spekkers-mh17selection of pieces with me. The majority of the pieces involved aluminum and plastic parts. I wanted to take these things with the purpose of research, to transfer them to the authorities and to make a strong point that there are still things to be found after 2.5 years.

Among the parts I found fragments that reminded me strongly of bone remains. Earlier there where skeletal remains discovered, some were found not to be human but animal. I’m not a forensic investigator, but did not ruled out the skeletal remains could be human. I decided to take one part of the skeletal remains for further investigation in The Netherlands. The consideration for me: if it are human remains there, they do not belong there but need to get returned to The Netherlands.

Following his tweets, Spekkers states he was contacted by the MH17 investigation team, and agreed with them to hand over what he had collected, on a voluntary basis. Yet when they returned to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on January 7th, Dutch authorities met them and took not only the MH17 items, but, against their will understandably, all their equipment, cameras, memory cards and phones.

screenshot-703A sizeable scandal then erupted in the week, commented on by all from the OSCE, to Russia’s FM spokes, Maria Zakharova.  The Dutch journalist union intervented, to assist Spekkers and Becks, with the fate of their materials then deferred to court hearing which took place yesterday. Here is the statement of Stefan Beck on the result of that –

The Judge (Rechter-Commissaris) has decide that Spekkers en Beck should be present at identifying which parts should be relevant to MH17-investigations but gives no guarantees that other material will not be copied. Also, images that were shot at Amsterdam airport showing Michel Spekkers being held, and that can prove our innocence should be deleted by order of the judge.

The Ordination of the judge contains a lot statements we hold untrue. For example, the judge motivates his decision, amongst others, by claiming the investigation team get the cooperation it has asked for. Claiming that the investigation is being conducted in very difficult circumstances. We would like to stress that the area where the MH17 came down is currently rather safe and that earlier statements made by the (Dutch Public Prosecuting Service) OM concerning the danger in the area are nonsense. Also the judges claims that the sources which Spekkers and Beck try to protect are ‘cap drivers and translators.’

In cooperation with our lawyer we have decided to suggest the following compromise:
1. We do not agree with deleting any images made by either of us.
2. We agree on blurring the identity of investigators of the PRIMO. (Investigation into MH17)
3. We agree on sharing the images of the MH17 on the condition that the veto on what ends up at the investigation lies with Michel Spekkers.

Background: Material was previously confiscated in Amsterdam Airport by authorities. After the intervention of the Dutch Journalist Union (NVJ), the authorities were denied use over the material, until a judge (Rechter-Commissaris) would judge otherwise. With today’s Ordination material will be accessible to authorities.

Spekkers – https://twitter.com/spekkers
Beck – https://twitter.com/MES_Beck

My new MH17 video – 

Dutch Journalist Michel Spekkers, and MH17 Confiscation in Netherlands, my Statement

Graham Phillips

michel-spekkersDutch journalist Michel Spekkers (pictured) has just returned to the Netherlands, after a week of working in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Upon his return into Schiphol airport, after having been contacted initially by, as I understand, the MH17 investigation team, after having tweeted about having removed items from the crash site, he was questioned by Dutch police, and all the MH17 items, plus equipment pertaining to his work – camera equipment, cards, even phone, was seized – against his will, naturally.

Michel has written about this on his Twitter account (in Dutch).

As I would with any journalist wanting to come to report the truth from Donbass, I helped Michel, and colleague, Stefan Beck, with advice on accreditation etc, and when they arrived here, we spent the first few days together – in Donetsk, and Lugansk, even seeing in the new year with Michel.

However, I didn’t go with them to the MH17 site, and I’m, to say the least, surprised, at Michel’s actions. It wasn’t something I was aware of until seeing his subsequent posts on Twitter, and reading the articles about this, it having caused a considerable scandal in the Netherlands. Had I been there, I would have been against this, in the strongest terms. I’ve spent some 75 hours on the MH17 site, and never once removed anything. One part, given to me by a homeowner (it had fallen on his home), I did everything to try to submit to the MH17 investigation, they didn’t want it.

I understand that Michel strongly felt, as many of us who have worked on MH17 do, that it is both inexplicable, and unacceptable, for parts, including personal items, to be on the site 2 1/2 years after the tragedy. I understand he wanted to contact the relatives, return such items as he felt were of value, submit what else could be, to DNA investigation.

However, whatever the intentions, I can’t support Michel’s actions here. I can, however, say that I worked with Michel, all around Europe, on my reportage trip in June of 2016 – he was a reliable colleague, a nice guy, we got through a few tough spots together, and I was happy to see him wish to come to report the truth from Donbass.

I believe Michel’s actions were those of a journalist in Donbass for the first time, at the MH17 site for the first time, overawed, wanting to do it all. And to add, Michel is a Dutchman, and this, the worst aviation catastrophe in his nation’s history.

I would also add that fellow Dutch journalist Jeroen Akkermans took multiple items from the crash site in 2014, and was applauded for doing so in his own country. I have written frequently in opposition to this, and my sentiments are the same in the situation of Michel Spekkers, despite our good working relatonship, friendship.

I can’t comment on the actions of the Dutch police, in terms of confiscating Michel’s items, against his will. However, Michel put himself in a position where he faced the police in a compromised position, due to his actions.

And it puts me in the position of, of course, defending a colleague with whom I’ve been through a fair bit with, had some beers with, done some important work with, but being unable to defend his actions in this instance.

I believe that, with an apology from Michel, and acknowledgement this was an error of judgement, this matter can be resolved without any considerable harm being done. There is no question in any way of his having ‘compromised’ the investigation etc, and I hope this will be a lesson Michel will learn from, and move forward.

Thoughts, as ever, with the victims of MH17, and their families, and loved ones.

War, and Information War

Graham Phillips

I’ve been covering the situation in Donbass for 3 years now, and on December 22nd, returned from covering war in the trenches by Debaltsevo to find that those sitting thousands of kilometres away in cases, from their laptops, had decided to launch the latest fusilade of the information war at me.

It started with Bild journalist Julian Röpcke. a long-time critic of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, quickly coming out with the tweet that I’d ‘exposed positions of the Russian army‘, as he referred to them. I’d add that I found out about this through the back door, as despite limited interaction ever, Julian long ago blocked me from following his tweets, for some reason.

At least Julian, who, reading his tweets, seems to have a pathological hatred for Russia, admitted in a subsequent tweet, the intention behind this – to try to cause problems for me.

screenshot-646

This is a reference to the Russian state-owned tv channel Zvezda having done a story, simply stating facts, that Ropcke had claimed I’d ‘revealed positions’. There’s no indication that this represents any such sentiments, from the ‘Russian military’, however I’d add that the article was also written without any attempt to defend me, and nor do I expect any special treatment from the Russian, or any, media.

Graham4As for Julian, I’m not sure what war he thinks he’s actually reporting on here. He’s certainly not been to Donbass for a long time, and never covered conflict here. But, from a desk at Bild in Berlin, he’s more than happy to, deceitfully, malevolently, attempt to cause problems for myself, a journalist who has, without wishing to big-up oneself, put his life on the line for years, even wounded doing so, to bring the truth out of Donbass, from Donbass.

But, unless he thinks he’s covering World War II, Julian would have known that, in 2016, modern warfare, positions can’t be ‘exposed’. Drones fly over positions all the time, there was a drone flying in this piece even, these positions, by Debaltsevo, have been in much the same place for almost 2 years now. Each side knows to within a few inches the position of the other.

However, having myself filmed on the frontline what must be almost 100 times now (this from May 2014), in Donbass, I still take my responsibilities seriously. I showed the commander in charge of this unit the footage of Ukrainian shelling pounding by Donbass militia positions (which Julian has imaginatively called ‘RU army’, despite all of the men I interviewed there being from Donbass). He gave the green-light to include the shots, from positions, of Ukrainian shelling hitting. And that was that.

But that wasn’t that for those who, from thousands of kilometres away, would love to cause problems for me in Donbass. Just yesterday, Aric Toler, of Bellingcat, began repeating these claims on Twitter.

screenshot-641

Again, I found out about this through the back door, as, once more, despite limited interaction, Toler has blocked me from reading his Tweets.

screenshot-640

This linked to an article on Medium, authored by the ever anti-Russian Atlantic Council’s DFR lab, which fleshed out earlier claims, and added information provided by a tweet from a long-dormant Twitter, never active account that one of the militia members I’d filmed, Rumin, had been ‘wounded‘ that night after a ‘Ukrainian attack‘.

Medium have deliberately chosen to misinterpret my replies to this, completely unsubstantiated tweet, linked to a member of Ukraine’s ‘Tornado’ unit. My replies were –

1. Никакой ‘Румын’ не был на место.

No ‘Rumin’ whatsoever was there. (I used hyphens, to avoid confusion,as his name literally translates as ‘Romanian’ in Russian)

2. Что ополченец ‘Румын’ ‘был ранен там’. Просто бред – такой человек не был вообще.

That militia member ‘Rumin’ ‘was wounded there’. Just nonsnese – this person simply wasn’t (wounded) at all. 

And those replies were exactly what I knew as fact. That ‘Rumin’ was not at the position we’d filmed at – as we were leaving, he was soon to change positions, and return to base, and when I met up with Korshun, who’d taken us to positions, a couple of days later he informed me that everyone we’d filmed was present, and correct.

Even the Medium article had to, reluctantly, conclude that there was no evidence my videos had helped the Ukrainian military, and absolutely no evidence anyone had been wounded because of them.

However, this didn’t stop Eliot Higgins, of Bellingcat, tweeting out ‘did @GrahamWP_UK get a separatist killed?’….

Again, Eliot has blocked me from following him, so while he added my tag, to make it look like he was tweeting at me, I had to go through the back door to find it, and he won’t see my reply unless he does the same.

I’ll add a few words about the Ukrainian reaction. Due to my reporting the war in Donbass from a different side to the almost universally Ukraine-friendly, anti-Russian western media, as in that I’ve been in Donbass, and reported what I’ve seen here, also due to my Graham Donbass workworking methods being, at times, unconventional, Ukrainian media have zoned in on me as a hate figure, and their tactics alternate between creating fictitious claims about me, and some imagined connection to Russia, accusing me of all sorts of things, and, a favourite, attempting to cause problems for me.

Without any evidence whatsoever to back up these claims, Ukrainian media have reported any number of ‘heroic victories’ at this position, with the reported loss of all I filmed etc etc.

What’s the purpose of all of this? It’s one of the oldest tactics of information war – you can’t say you hate your ‘enemy’, as it shows weakness, so say you like him, and more, say he has helped you, to attempt to cause problems for him. What’s the ultimate purpose of it all? To stop his work.

julian-roepckeBack to Ropke (pictured), Toler, and Higgins, and what’s their purpose? Also to stop my work, yet more. In the case of Toler, and Higgins, they are trying to push their brand of ‘open source journalism‘ on the world, meaning they can earn large sums of money sitting at laptops, analysing Google Maps etc, telling the world it’s journalism. I’m here on the scene, telling you that’s not journalism.

No question, that Higgins and myself have also had frequent exchanges, disagreements online. However, I would always draw a line, and would never attempt to put someone’s life in danger. By fabricating the claim that a ‘separatist‘ was ‘killed‘ because of my reportage, Higgins is attempting to do just that. It’s totally untrue, entirely malicious.

In actuality, in the immediate aftermath of that video, fighting calmed down by the Svetlodarsk Bulge, and remains, relatively, calm to this day, again, even Medium had to report this. 

And, in response to requests that I ‘just go back there and film it all again to prove it’s ok‘. There were several fighters on the scene that day, all of them on rotation, changing positions, now on leave for holiday even. Unless I could go back, and film all of them, the one I couldn’t film would be publicly buried all over Ukrainian media, and beyond. And, even if I could, there would be something else: ‘Graham Phillips confirms positions of ‘separatists’ ‘, and it starts over again. I say this, to those making claims: show me some evidence, and I’ll react, but I don’t go chasing around trying to disprove claims without any evidence to back them up.

One side of war, is war, another is information war. However I’d add in the case of Higgins, et al, they’ve decided to make it a particularly dirty information war.

Eliot Higgins BellingcatFor me, it doesn’t affect what I do, other than having to write an article like this to explain the real situation. I believe in real journalism, from the scene, and reporting the truth. Why wasn’t the attention on Ukrainian forces blatantly violating Minsk, by using heavy artillery? Because that’s not convenient for Higgins (pictured), Toler etc – rather they use this as a distraction, with the bonus of their vendetta against myself.

I go forward, focus on work, reporting things as they are, as always, and don’t get embroiled in trying to cause ill for those ‘on the other side’ of this, nor have their attempts succeeded here. However, that’s not for a want of their trying. They are simply immoral men, doing a dirty job.