My New Film: The Final Story of a Young Journalist – Presentation in Lugansk

My new film, with Oleg Somov, as my first feature film, Aramis, is now ready, and the presentation will take place this Saturday, in Lugansk.

It’s a difficult film, and a personal one. But also a challenge, to make something personal into something which has resonance to a wide audience. It’s the story of a young journalist I knew in Lugansk, Irina Gurtyak, who was tragically killed  in a car crash in January of 2016. 

Ira wanted to be a journalist more than anything. To have her young life so full of potential, of dedication to her profession, taken away so cruelly was something I struggled to accept for some time. And then, the decision to make a film about her, and the challenge to make what she wanted come true – that her work would be noticed, that her voice would be heard, that her story would make a difference.

I’ve been hugely grateful for the support of Ira’s family in making this film. And not only, over 10,000 km travelled to make it, over 50 interviews filmed, 8 months of work, it’s been a huge project.

Now, the presentation of the film will take place in Lugansk, this Saturday at 15:00, at the Rus cinema. Entrance is free, all are welcome. 

There will only be one presentation, this is a film about a young lady who I’d only just met, but who gave me a huge amount of inspiration, and her life, her hometown, Lugansk, war in Lugansk, and tragedy. It’s a hard film, but one I put my heart, and soul into, to make Ira’s final story the one she deserved, one to be true to her, to make a difference to the world.

The film will then be released on my YouTube channel, and I’ll be adding English subtitles.

Trailer here –

More Western Fake Tank News

The phrase ‘fake news’ is one, but so much in the genre has been done on tanks in Donbass, it really deserves its own category, as per the above – and here below –

So it was, the other day I went to the frontier village of Kominternovo, the edge of DPR territory, near Ukrainian forces. And there, I filmed a lot of reportage, including Ukrainian forces shelling a civilian area. Yet, all this western journalist could focus on was the tank I’d been photographed by, and how that ‘unwittingly documented a DPR Minsk violation’. 

The fact is that this is, or was, a Ukrainain tank destroyed in fighting in 2015. Something MacDonald, editor of the Kyiv Post no less, could have easily ascertained by writing to me. I’d even written about that myself in a subsequent post. 

But, he didn’t do that, went ahead, and published fake news. Why he did that, why anyone does that, I can’t exactly fathom. In being a journalist, surely you should want people to know more about the world, not less. In any case, I replied by sending these photos, clearly showing the tank in question.

This is far from the first time Euan has faked news, even tank news. But, this truly was a fake too far, and even he backed down –

Tanks a lot, indeed…

10 Key Pieces of Reportage Since my Return to Donbass

I’ve been back in Donbass for near 3 weeks now, here’s a look at 10 key pieces of reportage in that time.

1. A look at the difference in treatment of 2 British men who served for different sides in Donbass – 

2. A trip to the LPR frontlines to see what Victory Day means for the fighters there – full English

3. Full filming of Victory Day in Lugansk, here, the start of that event!

Here – a look at the ‘Immortal Regiment’ in Lugansk on Victory Day!

4. Republic Day in the Donetsk People’s Republic, which saw a turnout of some 60,000, but again, wasn’t covered by any western media! Here, a look at how it was –

5. Here on the Truth Speaker, I tackled the claims of Alexander Khodokovsky, a constant source of misinformation from Donbass.

6. And here, a debunking of more lies about Donbass from the Ukraine side – 

7. Here, covering the conflict, as civilians again came under fire from Ukrainian forces, with a woman wounded, here in Kominternovo – 

8. Here, a look at Lugansk, School 60, as the final bell of school sounded for sixth formers there – 

9. And, it was a return to Kominternovo, to spend a day there in that DPR frontier town, to see how exactly it is. See here, for full video reportage –

10. And here, a revealing interview about the OSCE, with a Kominternovo woman –

All of this, and much much more, and it’s all been possible thanks to your support! To be involved in my new crowdfunding campaign, click here –

To make an ongoing donation to my work, click here –

Video Reportage from DPR Frontier Village of Kominternovo

Over the weekend, I went to the village of Kominternovo, on the frontier of the Donetsk People’s Republic territory, with Ukrainian forces at the nearby Mariupol, and around –

This, leaving Donetsk to go there – 

The journey there – 

This, an evening in Kominternovo – 

The start of the night there – 

Night, and the village comes under Ukrainian shelling – 

Night, and morning in Kominternovo – 

This, a night in Kominternovo – 

An interview with a local man, in the morning, who describes what happened – 

And, I describe the situation as it is – 

And there will be more reportage to come, from the DPR frontier village. 

The Eventful History of the DPR Village of Kominternovo

The village of Kominternovo, where I went over the weekend, frontier of Donetsk People’s Republic, by Mariupol, has quite a history.
Until August 2014 – Ukraine held
August 2014 – February 2015 – DPR
February 2015 – Ukraine
March 2015 – December 2015 – Neutral zone
December 2015 – now – DPR
These, Ukrainian tanks still there. I’m there with colleagues, young journalists from Lugansk area, Anastasia Valdamirova, and Nikita Vozmitel. 

And this, my heading there, from Donetsk, a journey of over 100km.

Full reportage to come!

10 Pieces of Real Travel Advice for Visiting Crimea

Ok, I’ve spent months in Crimea since it became Russia again, in 2014, and filmed hundreds of videos of reportage. Based on the fact that it reflected the will of the vast majority of Crimeans, after the fall-out from Euromaidan in Ukraine, I recognised, and Graham Phillips Crimeasupport Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

However, this it not a political piece. There’s a mass of information online about Crimea, and much of it is clear false information, warnings about the ‘dangers’ of visiting Crimea ‘annexation’, ‘occupation’, and so on.

Crimea is one of the world’s most beautiful places to visit, and I know given the amount of people contacting me, more people are indeed looking to visit it. However, it’s in quite a unique position, and there are a few considerations, so, here we go, with 10 things you’ll need to know (written presuming you’re a western person.

1. There are no cash machines which take western cards. So you’ll need to take all the money for your trip with you. The last cash machine is at Krasnoarmeiski, before you get the ferry, but, you’d be best off stocking up on wedge before that.

2. Due to sanctions, some things don’t work in Crimea. If you have a UK, EU number you may well find it cannot connect to a roaming service, so you’ll need to purchase a number in Crimea. Crimea has its own phone network, separate from mainland Russia, Crimeastreet2so, you’ll need to purchase a local MTS card. There’s 3G, even some 4G. All internet sites work as normal, and you can even use main booking sites to book apartments, hotels in Crimea. All the apps you have should work, but there may be an issue downloading new ones, you can use your credit card to book things online there – all good.

3. Don’t even think of going to Crimea via Ukraine, as is the official advise. It’s a nonsense. Kiev have to ‘give you permission’, but you still need a Russian visa, and more, have to pass through the Ukrainian ‘blockpost border’, adding hassle, stress, and perhaps other. Get a single-entry Russian visa, and you can book a flight to Simferopol airport!

4. It’s better to put what you’ve read in the western press, by western governments out of your mind before you enter Crimea. You can find people there who will freely tell you that they are ‘pro-Ukrainian’, and want to be with Ukraine again. But, they’re a small minority. You can find a lot of people who generally would like Crimea to be as prosperous as it previously was, but speak to people there and you’ll see for yourself that the vast majority of Crimeans supported, and support reunification with Russia.

There’s no sign of tension, or repression of Crimean Tatars. You will come across many in your travels in Crimea. Crimean Tatars are, in my experience, a warm, friendly people. A lot of restaurants are Crimean Tatar, they run many businesses. Speak to them, ask them yourselves how life is for them. You will hear different opinions, some for Russia, some for Ukraine (though again, a minority), many non-political and simply for whatever will give them the best quality of life.

5. You will find people in Crimea who speak excellent English, and many have some level of English. However, it’s by no means universal, and at this moment in time you could even say that Crimea is not especially orientated towards English-speaking visitors. Not every restaurant will have an English-language menu, and while your waiter may well speak English, it’s not a guarantee. Speaking some Russian, or having a Russian-speaking friend with you, would definitely help.

6. Despite the political tensions between the west, and Crimea, I’ve never encountered, or heard of any problems encountered by western visitors because of where they come from. On the contrary, Crimeans are more than likely to roll out the red carpet for a western visitor. Most tourists there are from Russia, and actually many have come to Crimea for the first time. In my experience, you’ll also find them of a friendly disposure towards you!

7. Despite what governments etc try to insinuate, you are not breaking any laws by visiting Crimea, with the exception of Ukrainian law. So if you go to Crimea, and post selfies from there etc, then you may have some issues if you try to visit Ukraine, but, that’s all. You’ll have no stamp in your passport other than a Russian one. You’ve broken no laws, apart from ‘Ukrainian laws’, whatever they are these days.

Graham Crimea reportage8. Prices in Crimea are pretty much what they are on mainland Russia. For a UK visitor, you’ll get around 70-75 roubles to the pound now, down from a year ago, but it still makes Crimea a comparatively inexpensive tourist destination. A beer by the beach for £1.50, sit-down lunch in a seaview restaurant for less than £5 all do-able, even in Yalta at peak season. There are pricier ‘tourist traps’, and that goes back to the above, that it’s better to know some Russian!

9. If you’re driving, you’ll see a massive ‘road rehabilitation’ project going on (and there’s actually infrastructure being upgraded everywhere), but it’s not reached everywhere yet, so on some roads, get ready for a bumpy ride. If you drive there in summer, you could be in line for a few hours wait for the 25-minute ferry crossing. And in Crimea itself, particularly Yalta, traffic can be heavy at peak times.

Crimea in general, some of it is ‘Russian standard’ – ie what you’d find in Russia, infrastructure etc to a high level. Quite a lot is still ‘Ukrainian standard’, no offence, but you get the idea. This ferry video, btw, in Russian, but again, sure you’ll get the idea –

10. There really is an incredible amount of things to do in Crimea. You can have a beach holiday in Yalta, Koktobel or if you want a sandy beach, Evpatoria. There are vineyards, safari parks, palaces, mountains, festivals, epic open-air museums, bike shows, concerts, there’s the black sea fleet of Sevastopol, always something happening by the waterfront or in the square there, Yalta is absolutely buzzing, Balaklava is mind-blowingly beautiful, Taigan is the best safari park you could ever visit… where to base Graham Crimeayourself will be your decision. Simferopol itself is an appealing city, and although it’s not by the sea itself, or especially tourist-orientated, it’s a mid-point between a lot of places which are.

The most popular places to stay are Sevastopol, and Yalta, but if you want to stay in a number of places, you can find hotels, or apartments anywhere in Crimea – Alustha, Feodosiya, Kerch, Sudak, Koktobel, and more, and you’ll find something to do everywhere in Crimea. So, if you were thinking of going for a week, I’d recommend two, and even then you are just getting started. Not to sound like the Holiday show, but that’s exactly as it is.

And why should you believe me? Because I’ve got no angle here other than to tell you the truth of how things are. And I’ve spent a lot of time there. As for the rest, be sure that most all of what you read about Crimea in the west is by those who haven’t even been there – and certainly do have an angle –

But, if they want to visit, let them follow this advice, and I wish you all a great time! Graham

Shelling, and Battle, Escalate in the DPR

I arrived back in Donbass before Victory Day, and for a few days things were relatively quiet. However, there’s been an escalation in recent days. The day before yesterday, I was near Ukraine-held Mariupol, the DPR village of Kominternovo, and here was the scene –

As you can hear, active shelling, and battle going on – 

Shelling had hit, and destroyed a home, and a 26-year-old woman had sustained this injury – 

Meanwhile, perhaps the most active zone of conflict has become around the industrial area, (known as Promzone, from the Russian), just a few kilometres to the north of Donetsk, near Yasinovate, held by DPR, and Avdeevka, held by Ukraine.

Here’s a new video of ongoing battle there, spoken in Russian, but shelling is in universal language –

And that is the current situation in Donbass, as is.