Brit in Crimea: Crowdfunders, Time to Thank you!

I’m currently compiling a list of people who helped, via crowdfunding, to make our film, Brit in Crimea, now over 20,000 views in its first 3 weeks –

Here’s the list so far, a work in progress, of those who made significant contributions to make our film happen! Let me know if you’re not on it, should be. Are on it, don’t want to be. I’ll be making a video to thank all of you here soon!

Adam Garrie

Alex Korablev


Daniel Franz

John Bonar

Maria Engstrom

Mike Barson

Per Moen

Peter Rickett

Sean Tayor


Tatiana Antonuk

Tiago de Carvalho

Victoria Popsueva


Crimea – 4 Years On, Usual Nonsense, and some Laughs….

There it was, trundling into view like the latest Police Academy instalment. The west’s response to Crimea’s reunification with Russia 4 years ago. Good ole Britain’s own Boris got the ball rolling last week even, jumping the gun on all the #CrimeaisUkraine antics, with his usual hadn’t-read-the-memo bluster, containing so many omissions and errors that the Russian Embassy in the UK just sat back and picked them off one by one. 

Back to the #CrimeaisUkraine and there was the to-be-expected offerings from Ukrainian embassies around the world –

Here actually not a bad reflection of some of the work done by Russian in stopping ‘pro-Ukrainian’ acts of terrorism on the peninsula.

The rest just blah-blah propaganda, as per….

Ukraine’s international friends, or really those who want to have a go at Russia by showing support for Ukraine, joined on the act – Canada as usual – first up – 

Here, Ukrainian’s foreign minister Klimkin thanking Boris for his above support, followed by Lithuania –

Latvia, even more, clearly keen to show the USA that all the money they’ve spent promoting western propaganda in Latvia, is reaping the results – 

Back to the UK, with UK ambassador to Ukraine, Judith Gough tweeting this out, with the presumably unintentional side-effect of making it look like there was no one either on the stage, or in the audience, for Chubarov’s offering.

The UK to the OSCE meanwhile, took the most risible part of Boris’ Crimea-flail and served it up as a self-standing tweet –
Noble words indeed, which would have far more credibility if the UK hadn’t been one of the foremost proponents of bombing Serbia in 1999 to create the US, NATO enclave of Kosovo.

And to Kiev, where the rally held there to show ‘solidarity’ for Crimea came out something like this –

A few dozen protesters grimly clutching propaganda placards written in English, for the benefit of western media. Such a forced, limp show of ‘solidarity’, it seems cruel to even point out the difference between that, and the ‘victory parade in Ukrainian Sevastopol’ promised to Ukrainians back in 2014….

So, another year, another anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, sees the west in the stable with Ukraine, trying to rather pathetically piss on all the straw, with the horse having long bolted, never to return.

Russia: Navalny and his Supporters – Western Press Versus Reality

If you follow the western press on Russia, which if you’re reading this you likely do, you’ll be aware of a figure called Alexey Navalny. You will have read about him in glowing terms. a charismatic anti-corruption campaigner, activist against corruption and for the rule of law etc, are oft-used terms, but western media can often hardly restrain themselves at that, so you will find him described as handsome (NY Times even), handsome , brave and handsome (New Yorker),  handsome, blue-eyed, even (Mashable), handsome man with bright blue eyes and an angular face (Spiegel).

The photos chosen by the western media echo the words, with Navalny always portrayed in handsome, striding, heroic form….

Der Spiegel gush on… ‘He is also a gifted politician, something even his opponents acknowledge, and, as journalists joke among themselves, the best journalist in the country.’ There’s not even the slightest attempt to inject the least objectivity into the piece, as it goes on ‘Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, a man with all the charisma of a file-folder’. …

Meanwhile, when it comes to writing about Navalny, for the western media there’s seemingly no need to support any statements about Navalny – again Der Spiegel –  (but you can find similar across the spectrum of western media,

In 2013, the Kremlin allowed him to run for Moscow mayor, hoping he would embarrass himself… 

Where’s any evidence that was the Kremlin’s intention? In any case, Navalny did run for mayor of Moscow in 2013, and actually did pretty well – coming second, with 28% of the vote. But, despite what the western media may lead you to believe, it’s all been downhill since then.

Not that Navalny’s plunging popularity as a politician at the polls has any bearing on the west’s coverage of him, with Politico blaring in August of 2017 that he was the ‘man who could beat Vladimir Putin at the polls‘. Actually, this is the favourite theme of the west’s, that somehow in a ‘fair election’, Navalny would win, no matter what the actual polls from Russia, and Russians, say.

Actually, independent polls show that Navalny’s rating is just 1% these days. A succession of corruption scandals have taken their toll on the 41-year-old law graduate, in politics since 2000. Indeed there’s a lengthy list of embezzlement charges against Navalny, most notably stealing timber, defrauding Yves Rocher, even.

All of these, along with Navalny becoming more noted for theatrical police detainments, and making a feature of having his face green-dyed (with that, the inevitable Shrek comparisons), than his actual politics, have eroded Navalny’s support base in Russia. Yet, his popularity with the western press is enshrined – we can never read about any charges against Navalny from the west, with the prefix, or suffix, of ‘politically-charged‘, and so on. For them, Navalny is so firmly can ‘do-no-wrong’ that anything against him can only be ‘politically motivated‘. Never mind that Navalny has actually agreed to pay compensation in the Rocher case, and his brother is currently serving a jail term for his involvement.

There are two more key points to bear in mind. Navalny has indeed organised mass rallies in Russia, his biggest one being the anti-Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister, on March 26th, 2017. That rally was positioned as an ‘anti-corruption’ action, aimed at Medvedev, with allegations of his having accrued mass wealth. Tens of thousands did turn out for this, across Russia. Medvedev’s popularity is far lower than that of Putin, and the theme of anti-corruption proved a rallying call. (Pictured, St Petersburg)

Yet, in western media, we were told of these protests as ‘anti-Kremlin’, even ‘anti-Putin’, as here, the New York Times – biggest demonstration in five years against President Vladimir V. Putin. The Washington Post took a similar themeThis simply wasn’t the case, Putin wasn’t on the ticket here.

Navalny did recently hold actual anti-Putin demonstrations in Russia. The result? A smattering of protests across the country, and a planned provocation in Moscow. Navalny had asked, and been denied, permission to hold his demonstration in the city’s central Pushkin square, then march along Tverskaya Street (which leads directly to Red Square, Tverskaya pictured).

The refusal to hold the meeting there was entirely unsurprising, given that this is the centre of the city, and any mass meeting, down main city thoroughfares, would either shut off an entire central section of the city, cause mass chaos, or both. Previously, as in 2015, Navalny had held a, sanctioned, meeting in the less central, but far more appropriate area of Marino, in the south of Moscow. 

This time, he rejected all three alternatives offered by the city to him, (alternatives to Pushkin square, and Tverskaya Street), and pushed ahead with holding the demo there, knowing that while police may let it happen, he would surely be detained on arrival, as he was. Much to the delight of the western press, ever ready to conflate ‘detained’ with ‘arrested’ in his case –

Navalny tweeted his way through it as usual, and was soon released. Btw, what tweets Navalny sends too, here – “I have been detained. This means nothing. You are not rallying for me, but for yourselves and your future.” Oh, the martyrdom….

Of course, for the western media, Navalny’s meetings always attract thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands, and we are always told that his supporters are the cream of Russian society, the new intelligent generation of Russians, and so on. Photo here, typical of photos presented as Navalny supporters.

A new generation in Russia is suddenly waking up and taking to the streets to protest corruption in the country. (Spiegel again)

ABCStep aside, Vladimir Putin — a new generation is rising

Well, firstly, let’s have a look at a photo of how the recent, January 28th, meeting was portrayed in the western media, here, CNN

However, a drone view is less flattering, with around a thousand there, and in their number, simply masses of western journalists, who it seems all many of them do is emerge from their Moscow apartment to cover anything they can describe as ‘anti-Putin’, and portray it, as above, as a mass movement –

I was there, filmed the demo, and spoke to the pro-Navalny protesters. It certainly wasn’t my impression that this was the ‘cream of the new generation of Russians‘, and so on. But, you can judge for yourselves, all here, unedited –

I recorded more interviews, in Russian, which make the bold claims we read about Navalny supporters and their proposed boycott of Russia’s upcoming presidential election seem slightly academic, taking into account how many of them were 14 or 15 years old… Russian coverage of Navalny has highlighted his strategy of targeting children to attend his demos, often just along for the want of something, preferably ‘anti-establishment’ to do, to boost the numbers. It’s a theme the western press have yet to pay any particular note to…

And I won’t even go into the incident where a Navalny supporter smashed my camera, something the Russian police dealt with professionally, and effectively. Not that you’d ever read about that in our media of course. A rule of western media is, of course, that anything the Russian police do has to be ‘police brutality’ (all part of the ‘repressive regime of Putin’ etc), including detaining Navalny supporters generally acting like hooligans, in often difficult circumstances. Not to mention that, knowing the cameras are on them, some of them really camp it up… 

But then, when it comes to Navalny and the western press, facts and their own pre-set version only come together in the most abstract of ways. Because, you see, there’s no question that in one sphere, the popularity of Navalny is indeed rising. As a video blogger. Navalny’s video blogs, professionally-produced, on a range of themes relevant to Russians, do attract millions of views.

But, views on YouTube do not equate to political popularity, and many watch Navalny’s videos to argue, disagree, or just to see what he’s saying (and there’s no question he does, at times, call out corruption, and hit on issues which resonate with Russians).

Navalny himself seems increasingly at home in his role as provocateur, and YouTuber, and increasingly distant from any real political involvement, from which his convictions currently preclude him – again, the fact that a convicted criminal can’t stand for election as the president of Russia has caused no end of (the by now predictable) agitation and dramatic declarations of injustice, etc, from the western end.

Be it tarnished reputation, or ineligibility, Navalny seems increasingly distant from any meaningful involvement in Russian politics, as a politician. Which made last week’s urging by the British media, that western governments simply must support Navalny, all the more peculiar.

Support him in what? YouTubing? Organising unsanctioned demos which attract increasingly meagre numbers of supporters? Getting detained, again, briefly, only for the western media to shout about how he was ‘arrested (!!!)’, as he manages to tweet from wherever he is detained (police van, wherever)

Or, the most obvious, being an aesthetically appealing opponent of Putin, always ready with a vitriolic criticism of Putin to hand, who can be positioned by the west as somehow Putin’s ‘successor-in-waiting’, etc. Rather than the reality of Navalny, which is a still-young, 41, but already damaged goods, spent, political yesterday’s man, turned to YouTubing.

An indeed useful, ‘handsome’ etc, of course, tool, for the west to use in their attempts to stoke problems in Russia…

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….

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.