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 However, I’ve officially withdrawn my complaint, so the outcome will be a peaceful resolution.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.