Navalny Meeting in Moscow: Crimea, Punishment, and Russian Police in Action

As some of you are aware, on January the 28th I went along to film an – unsanctioned, pro-Navalny meeting, here in Moscow. In the course of a verbal exchange of unpleasantries between myself and Navalny supporters, one of their number, Andrei Okolovitch, attempted to smash both, succeeded in smashing one of my cameras (GoPros are durable hardware).

What came next? Well, I spent Monday trying to fix it, but the Panasonic camcorder, costing about £300, with me since December 2015, was totalled. So, on Tuesday, I went to the police here in Moscow. Next, things moved quickly – Andrei was apprehended, and charges were raised against him. Andrei himself wrote to me at this point, asking that I accept his apology and a ‘name my sum’ of compensation, however, I wasn’t willing to accept an email, and money wasn’t the issue.

An interesting point is that about 100 western journalists were covering a few hundred Navalny supporters at this event. Yet not only was the incident not reported by one of them, on their Twitter accounts they took to bitching about me, and crying about how one of their beloved Navalny supporters could face jail for two years – a possible punishment – because of the awful ‘propagandist Graham Phillips’.

Well, it’s in vain they got so worked up on that score. There was never any question of using it from my end for any political end. No one in the Russian police, who worked effectively, professionally, without fuss, even alluded to politics, in any form.

All the options were explained to me, I met Andrey in person, 3 times, including today. And yesterday is when the matter was closed – Andrey apologised (on camera, which I filmed, below, in Russian, but am sure a kind person will add a description), I accepted his apology.

More, Andrey offered not only the £335 or so of the camera, but £600+. I’d discussed with Andrey that this amount would be donated in full to a humanitarian organisation which supports Donbass, something he fully supported. This was possible due to kind people having in any case, despite my not having appealed, donated me money for a new camera shortly after the incident itself. I transferred the full amount today, to the ‘Dobro Mira’ fund, to whom Andrey has also set up a monthly donation. That money will be absolutely vital to ‘Dobro Mira’, and the amazing work they do!

The matter still goes forward, under Russian law, to a court. However, I’ve officially withdrawn my complaint, so the outcome will be a peaceful resolution.

People have at times called my journalism ‘provocative’, and that’s, at times, as may be, and said worse about me, which is all a matter of opinion. But, people who know me know that I’m not a vindictive person, and am nor not interested in unnecessary fuss or scandal which take time from what I’d like to be doing – making films, reportage.

There is a law in Russia, for all. On the times when I’ve not followed the law in Russia, such as flying my drone at Victory Day in Kerch 2016, I was apprehended by the Russian police, as anyone else, and accepted that.

But, do not believe what you are told, or have seen about how the police, or law, works in Russia – and I refer particularly to Simon Reeve’s ‘Russia’ ‘documentary’. Russian police have always been in my experience fair, professional, friendly even. It’s only with some regret that I can say that our British police could truly take lessons from them.

As for the western journalists there at the demo, encouraging the Navalny supporters into thinking they were ‘heroes’ who could do anything they want, fuelling them on into various acts of hooliganism, vandalism, then reporting their ensuing arrest by the police as if it were egregious ‘repression’, by the Russian ‘regime’ etc, well, shame on them all who go back to their cushy Moscow apartments with their story, leaving in many cases just kids to face the consequences of breaking the law….

For Andrey, it could have been much worse, as he appreciates. However despite whatever differences of political position etc there may be, we found a common language, and were both happy to be able to provide support to Donbass. On this basis, I fully accept his apology, and wish him the best.

This matter has been resolved fairly, quickly, effectively. Myself and Andrey go our separate ways, and we move on, with justice done.

Ukraine’s MFA Representative Mariana Betsa Caught out in Massive Lie

Ukraine’s 40-year-old Kiev native, MFA spokesperson Mariana Betsa is known for doing pretty much what all Ukrainian officials do – come out with a stream of tweets, in English, blaming Russia for everything wrong in Ukraine.

Mariana, who completed part of her studies at Westminster University in the UK, is known for frequently tweeting out stuff like this –

And of course, the eternal Kiev favourite, the ‘plight’ of the Crimean Tatar population – based on testimonies of those few pro-Ukraine Tatar activists in Kiev, rather than the hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars in Crimea…

So far, so standard for a Ukrainian diplomatic, and Betsa is usually a polished operator. However, something clearly happened recently – and it’s hard for me not to think it’s connected with the release of our own film Brit in Crimea.

On February 10th, Mariana tweeted out:

REMINDER to foreigners: all visits to occupied Crimea in violation of international&Ukrainian law -illegal&illegitimate. Entail responsibity

Let’s skip over whatever ‘Entail responsibity’ means, even if it were correctly spelled. Mariana has just made a key part of that up. Visiting Crimea violates no international law at all. Only ‘Ukrainian law’, such as it is.

And more, Mariana claims that ‘all’ visits to Crimea are thus ‘illegal&illegitimate’ – a clearly different line from the official Ukrainian position that visiting Crimea is legal, if you get permission from Kiev.

Mariana’s position would make all those Kiev-sanctioned journalists, who’ve gone to Crimea to film propaganda pieces, such as the BBC ‘illegal&illegitimate’…

Have a look at the tweet thread yourself, and see how many people have let Mariana know her error, errors even.  However, rather than do the normal thing in the circumstances, when one has made such an egregious error, delete the tweet, or write a correction, Marian has actually pinned the tweet.

And such is the upside-down, inside-out world of Ukrainian diplomacy where black can be whiter than white, vice versa, and open errors get pinned not binned….

Brit in Crimea – Over 10,000 Views in Week 1 – and Rising!

Fantastic to release our film Brit in Crimea last Wednesday
, completely independent, crowdfunded, and amazing to see it pass 10,000 views in less than a week, those views coming from over 40 countries around the world, and rising fast. So, here it is, a Brit in Crimea (on his holidays) –

The Navalny Meeting, a Broken Camera, and Justice in Russia

As some of you know, a couple of weeks ago, I went to film at a pro-Navalny meeting here in Moscow. During the course of this, during an exchange of non-flattering verbals, one of the Navalny supporters smashed my camera, all clearly captured by others videoing the event.

I did what one does in such situations, after discovering that the £300 video camera was broken beyond repair, went to the police in Moscow, who did their job swiftly, and effectively, apprehending the person in question.

Que tears from western journalists that one of their beloved Navalny supporters may be jailed for two years (a possible sentence if convicted), and hysterics about the case being ‘politicised’, etc.

Absolutely not the case. It’s been dealt with in an effective, professional, low-key way by the Russian police, with no question of politics or show ever coming into it.

And anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not a vindictive person. But things must be done properly, by the law. Under Russian law, I have the right to accept an apology by this person, and to withdraw my complaint.

I am prepared to do this, if – the apology is sincere, official, and the full amount of the camera is compensated. I will donate this money, in full, to an organisation which does humanitarian work for Donbass, because people have already donated for me to purchase a new camera.

I’d again like to thank the Russian police for their professionalism in this. A case of violation, repentance, restitution, and then we move on.

Givi – One Year On, Remembering a Donbass Legend

One year ago today, February 8th, there was an explosion in the Makeevka (by Donetsk) office of commander of Donetsk People’s Republic Somali battalion, Mikhail Sergeyevich Tolstykh, better known as – Givi.

The details – i.e. who detonated the explosion, and even what kind of explosion are contested to this day. But, the effect was that 36-year-old Givi, a native of Donbass, Ilovaisk, who had served with distinction since the beginning of the Donbass uprising, Slavyansk, noted for his service in the Battle of Ilovaisk, summer of 2014, and the retaking of Donetsk airport, late 2014, early 2015, was killed immediately, on the spot.

One year on from that day, Givi is remembered, and here’s how I remember him: (full English subs)