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)

(18+) 3 Years on from Horrific Ukrainian Shelling Attack on Donetsk (Graphic Videos)

3 years ago, I was covering events in Donbass, as a freelance journalist. January 2015 was a month from hell, Ukrainian shelling hitting Donetsk every day, dead bodies every day.

But, in January 2015, Ukrainian forces saved perhaps the worst until last. In mid-afternoon, a completely unexpected, unprovoked fusillade of shelling rained down by the ‘Hotel Europe’ in the Kubishevsky district of Donetsk. I was there on the scene to cover the horrific aftermath, and these videos, I publish for the first time in a long time, having had to remove them because of YouTube policies.

Strictly 18+

18+ Ukraine Military Shelling of Donetsk, January 30th, 2015 (Photos)

3 years ago, January 30th, 2015, I covered events in Donetsk, as, in mid-afternoon, Ukrainian shelling hit the Kubishevsky region, killing people waiting there for humanitarian aid.

Tomorrow, the 30th, I’ll be publishing exclusive video from that day, which I long since had to remove from YouTube. For today, my photos from the day, and thoughts with the victims.

My 3 Years of Being a Fully Crowdfunded Journalist!! How’s that Possible? How’s it Been? What Next?

In 2014 while covering Donbass, for the first part I worked with the channel RT – submitting my video material to them. In this time, I had full freedom to film, and upload whatever I saw, to you YouTube channel, which I did, and even in 2014, my priority was to develop this, my own portal. In the later months of 2014, and start of 2015, I did some work for the Russian channel Zvezda, but ended this associated at the start of 2015. And since then? Well, since February 2015, I’ve been a completely crowdfunded correspondent. 

In 2015, I decided to give crowdfunding – still a relatively new concept then – a go while considering all options (earlier, crowdfunding just hadn’t seemed viable). So it was, I worked on in 2015 using a combination of my savings, and some crowdfunding. And I made a few realisations. That crowdfunding is not that easy – everyone has bills to pay, etc, and it’s hard to get people to make their own financial commitment to journalism, when journalism is everywhere, and free. Yet I also realised – it’s do-able. If I live modestly, keep costs down, it’s do-able.

And more, having worked for channels before, and the inevitable constraints that brings, then experiencing the freedom of being completely independent which crowdfunding brings, it became not ‘a’ way to continue my work, but the only way. No one tells you what to do, say, or where to go, all the decisions are your own. Complete freedom, independence. So it was, at the start of 2016, I released this video declaring my future as a fully crowdfunded correspondent – 

Now of course, with this freedom, and possibility, come responsibilities, and challenges. Anyone who makes a donation to my work expects me to fulfil my side of the commitment – to make interesting, original, unique reportage which reach a wide audience, make a difference, make their contribution count. So, I have to always think about how to do this, where to go, and what to film for challenging reportage which couldn’t, or wouldn’t be done by anyone else.

That means monitoring comments, viewing figures on my YouTube channel, and more. Making sure there is always fresh content, from at times unexpected places, but always actual, relevant. I don’t always get it right, at times in these three years I’ve missed the mark. But, I’ve learned from these times, and when it’s hit home, it’s hit home – my reportage from Crimea, in English, undisputed number 1 on YouTube in 2017, for example.

3 years on, almost 3000 videos on my YouTube channel, over 60 million views, references in media all over the world. Reportage on everything from Brexit to immigration in Germany (that, over 1 million hits). the jungle in Calais, places as diverse as Daugavpils in LatviaBelval in Luxembourg. Of course, Donbass, Crimea, and mainland Russia. And more – recently, South Ossetia – 

Special reportage, films, more, for 3 years, all completely independent. Not supported by any company, organisation, or corporation. Supported by people like you, reading this, who want to keep independent journalism alive. From my side? Well, crowdfunding does not bring riches, have a look for yourself, and that’s the point, it’s not about money at all. It’s about truthful journalism, reportage of things as they are, showing things as they are, exposing propaganda for what it is.

And it’s not about being on the mainstream channels either – they’d never have it. It’s about putting truthful reports out there in the public domain easily findable, so anyone who wants to find them, can!

And thanks to you, in the 3 years, I’ve raised enough to finance my work.  The 3 years have brought success, world-watched, world changing reportage. But the best is still to come – better reportage, better films, bigger projects. And all thanks to those people who want to make their own contribution, of whatever size, to helping truth win, in the world of information war we live in.

To support my work, simply click here. 

A Return to Lutugino Children’s Home, LPR, Donbass: Humanitarian Help at Christmas Time

It was fantastic yesterday to return, the orthodox celebration of St Nicholas’ Day, to a place I’ve been many times, Lutugino Children’s Home, in Donbass, LPR. And thanks to donations collected from many parts of Russia – however must also give a special shout-out to Sean Taylor here – really fantastic to be able to take so much stuff for the kids there –

Here, we can see the over 200 children of the children’s home, many coming from difficult backgrounds, including children who’ve lost parents in war in Donbass:

However, yesterday it was wonderful to be a part of bringing some happiness to these children!

Sad to say that this visit came at the time when Ukrainian forces had just unleashed their heaviest shelling in a long time on the LPR, with both Pervomaisk and Stakhanov coming under shelling the night before, with mass damage, at least one fatality, and injuries to civilians.

There are children in Lutugino, there are children in Pervomaisk and Stakhanov – let’s hope in 2018 they can live free of the fear of Ukrainian aggression, and Ukrainian shelling.

Google Maps on Donbass – Can it be Trusted?

What’s the first thing you do when you look for a place? Of course, Google Maps, the world’s leading most popular online map, not only that, the world’s most popular app, with 54% of smartphones having it installed at least once.

Yesterday I wrote about Denmark, and despite all, the first thing I did was go to Google Maps. The ‘despite all’ part, is the following – that I’ve serious questions about the impartiality of the internet’s most comprehensive web-mapping service. The other week, I went to do a search for a place in Lugansk, this, th centre of the city of Lugansk, Donbass (now, ok, Google Maps are not going to describe it as the Lugansk People’s Republic, that’s not up for discussion now)

Here, a closer look, and we can clearly see a ‘Monument of victims of ‘russian world’ terror’ marked – 

Clearly, Russian written as ‘russian’ as a mark of disrespect. But that’s an incidental, because this monument, and let’s have a look at the satellite imagery here, for which Google Maps is renowned –

And here is the monument itself, in the centre of Lugansk. But it is not a monument to anything connected with ‘Russian terror’ – it’s a monument to victims of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – who fought with the Nazis in WWII. 

There are a few things to take into account here. A feature of Google Maps is indeed the ability to add, or name landmarks there. But is there really no limit? Could you just go to the Statue of Liberty and just name it as, well, take your pick… could you just go to Jerusalem, Palestine, etc….

More, I submitted a correction about this to Google a week ago, and they’ve done nothing about it yet. How long has it even been there? Clearly, providing accurate information here is not a priority for Google Maps – so the question is, in how many other places don’t they care about what’s on their maps? 

This is Google Maps, over 7000 employees, constantly investing millions in adding new features – soon they’ll be able to tell you when to get off the bus. And they are so uninterested in checking their maps not only for accuracy, but for that which is clearly grossly offensive….

As for the sheer, crass cynicism of the ‘pro-Ukrainian’, to call them that, who renamed this to attack Russia, without any thought not only for the victims of the UIA, but more for the hundreds killed in Lugansk itself by Ukrainian shelling of the city, in 2014…. well, from them, that’s probably to be expected.

But from Google Maps, we should either expect more, or be aware that when we look at Google Maps, we may be looking at the work of fine geographers and cartographers. Or it could just be some angry activist running amok….