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.

Crimea! Simferopol Airport! Exclusive Video Reportage!

I’ve recently been delighted to bring you exclusive reportage from Simferopol’s mega-scale new airport terminal, actually really a new airport, being built in Crimea in a timeframe around half of what it would usually take for such a project.

And I say exclusive in the true sense – this is the only English-language video reportage from what is no question the coolest airport being built in the world just now. Quite something really, that the western press are so determined not to tell you anything good about Crimea they would miss out on the opportunity to film something so spectacular. But, their loss. Here we go!

Crimea: Simferopol Airport, Mega-Terminal! Interviews! Exclusive Footage!

Crimea: Simferopol Airport’s Mega New Terminal! Exclusive Report

Simferopol Airport! Crimea!! New Mega Terminal – Visualisation, Exclusive Footage!

 More coming from Crimea soon! 

‘Friends of Crimea’ – International Forum, Conference in Crimea – a few words

It’s not often that I go to forums, conferences, etc, however I made an exception for the recent ‘Friends of Crimea’ forum in Yalta, about Crimea in the international context, held on 6th and 7th November here.

I went simply as an invited guest, taking a few photos along the way (here), listening all day to the speeches, discussions, plenaries, and more. I can only impart positive take-aways from the event, which attracted 90 guests, from 30 countries.

Albeit there were no official, as in government-sent delegations, there were plenty of politicians, political figures, journalists, businessmen and in general, interesting people. Looking through the sheaf of business cards I collected at the event, there are those from Serbia, Sweden, India, and more. Actually there were two other guests from the UK too.

The day itself, actually there were two days – the first official reception, conferences, plenaries, the second excursions around Crimea, which for all the will in the world, I was unable to make due to having video edits to work on – the results of which you’ll be seeing very soon. Anyway, without wishing to brown-nose anyone in any way, the event was excellent. Really of the highest order, great hotel, atmosphere, proper top brass reception, with the Prime Minister and most all high-ranking Crimean politicians present, giving speeches, at the legendary Livadia Palace, home to the original Yalta Conference, no less.

What was achieved? Well the event gained extensive coverage in Russian media, but it must be said was not hugely covered by western. However, a group called ‘Friends of Crimea’ has now been founded, with plans to develop the forum, and hold it on yearly basis, along with other events to bring the reality of Crimea to a wider western audience, from those who’ve actually come to see it for themselves, rather than through the prism of all the propaganda surrounding Crimea.

Actually, speaking to guests there, with the atmosphere friendly, and open, for many of them it was indeed their first time on the peninsula. Impressions were across the board positive, despite this being an autumn in which there’s even snow on the mountains around Yalta, rather than the sun-drenched beaches one would more commonly associate with Crimea, with guests particularly citing the warm welcome extended to them by Crimeans.

On a personal note, I was happy to see some colleagues I’d not seen for quite some time, covering the event, and meet some interesting new people, who had some interesting proposals for areas of reportage. The day was extremely productive, engaging, and positive.

Of course, however, you can’t quite let it pass by without the irony that all the people who should have been there, who would have been more than warmly received, sat it out and would rather watch on from a distance passing off distance disinformation and propaganda.

Of course Ukraine did what they could to try to wreck the event, putting political pressure on those attending, but it didn’t have any discernible effect on the day.

But, that’s the world we live in. However, there is something to be said for those being there being those who actually wanted to come, rather than were sent, and, as I say, 90 guests from 30 countries and the biggest international event held in Crimea since reunification with Russia, are reasons to be cheerful!

My Recent Return to Donetsk, How is it There, Really?

I recently returned to Donetsk, Donbass, after spending an intense 2-month period working in Crimea.  I was primarliy in the DPR to do a distribution of humanitarian aid to children’s homes, which was done, to huge success.

I’ll soon be returning to Crimea for another period of reportage, but it was a real pleasure to spend some time in Donetsk, walk around the city I’ve spent so much time in, covered so many events from.
What to say about life in Donetsk, honestly? Well, there can’t be any fairytales about a ‘booming’ DPR, apart from that shelling still goes on on the perimeters, with almost daily damage, regular casualties, and sometimes fatalities. However, the city lives, most shops are now open, people are on the streets. There’s no real confusing it with normal life, there’s a certain tension, which could hardly be any other given an ongoing war situation. But, as I say, life goes on – 

Despite the circumstances, the people of Donetsk are as friendly as ever. I ran into these bright young things on the city’s main Artema St, with them just back from the World Festival of Youth and Students, in Sochi. 

And the city itself is not without brighter things in life, when I was there, a show ‘Fashion without Borders’, showcasing the work of local designers –

So, as I say, you couldn’t really say that it was ‘business as usual’, but in a lot of ways, Donetsk looks like any other – people are in cafes, cars are on the roads, people on the  streets, and so on. However, true to say, a fair amount of shops still shuttered, no working banks, apart from local, and curfew. But, there’s no real military presence, the days I was there, no audible shelling from the centre, and in general, people just trying to get on with their lives, hoping for something to resolve this already protracted, egregious, unnecessary situation…