(18+) Bodies of Ukrainian ‘Cyborgs’ Lie on the Ground as Ukrainian Forces Defeated at Donetsk Airport

I had to delete these videos from YouTube a long time ago. Now, in the light of Ukraine having released a film glorifying the ‘cyborgs’, which is what they called the Ukrainian soldiers who held Donetsk airport between late May of 2014, and mid-January of 2015, I republish them here.

This is the reality, Donetsk airport, January 22nd, 2015. Ukrainian forces crushingly defeated by DPR people’s militia forces led by Givi, and Motorola. Mass destruction, the only Ukrainian soldiers still there, in piles of bodies… it’s all here.

I don’t say these videos are pretty etc, but this is the reality, this is as it really was, not as it is in Ukrainian cinemas…

The State of the LPR – How Things Really Are – 25 Points

Graham Phillips

All of these statements are based on my extensive time reporting in Donbass, DPR and LPR. All of these statements are substantiated by my extensive video reportage from Donbass, which can be found on my YouTube channel.

    1. During the blockade of 2014, life in Lugansk was just about as bad as it could get – under constant Ukrainian shelling, daily fatalities, casualties, no electricity, water, phone signal, little food. I was there, it was truly grim.
    2. But you may not know how just how bad it was during 2014 – there were no other western journalists during the blockade of summer 2014. One of my activities was just walking round the city, filming the destruction –
      It seemed like the Ukrainians were targeting infrastructure with shelling, across the LPR, water and electricity knocked out around Lugansk, this factory, in Pervomaisk, practically the only building hit in the area, and hit several times –
    3. I was in Lugansk before the war. It’s a beautiful city, and the mood there was, in the immediate aftermath of Maidan, pro-Russian, as it is today –
    4. Lugansk is now back to looking much as it did – the wreckage of 2014 has been much, if true to say not all, restored. From a time of not one shop open in the city, it’s back to now almost every shop, and establishment, working.
    5. Lugansk head Igor Plotnitsky is neither as popular as DPR head Zakarchenko, or as unpopular as you may have been led to believe. In Lugansk, you can equally find those against, who will cite incidents such as the murders of several prominent LPR Commanders, and those for, who will cite the impressive scale of reconstruction in Lugansk – including the city’s beloved circus –
    6. But there’s a lot still to do – School 7, completely gutted by Ukrainian shelling of 2014, with no sign of repair in sight (full English subs on this )-
    7. Other towns and cities of the LPR had it as bad, if not worse during 2014 – the ‘frontier town’ of Pervomaisk, strafed by constant Ukrainian shelling, a death toll there estimated at 1000 from a 40,000 population.
      Here was my return to Pervomaisk, in February 2015 –
      Here, Ukrainian shelling hits a canteen in Pervomaisk, Lugansk region, February 2015
      And the in places almost surreal level of damage to the city –
    8. There’s a lot of painful memories from war in the LPR, here, Lugansk – (Eng subs)
    9. It’s calmer than Donetsk now, in my last visits to Lugansk, I didn’t hear shelling once, whereas in Donetsk, even centre, it’s ever audible.
    10. Did you know, Lugansk was the first Donbass city in which all administrative buildings were taken into the hands of anti-Kiev activists. The mood back then was optimistic, April 28th, 2014 –

      No one expected that just over a month later, Ukraine would be launching lethal air strikes on the city. This, from June 2nd, 2014.
    11. There’s still a fairly strictly enforced curfew in Lugansk, unlike the more flexible one in Donetsk. All establishments close at 10pm, the streets are deserted by night.
    12. The news from Donbass can be a bit Donetsk-centric. I was surprised on going to base myself in Lugansk for a while in December just how much actually goes on there – daily evens, meetings, seminars. It gets less coverage, but Lugansk is abuzz with activity.
      *Key extracts from this December 2015 seminar on reconstruction here –As a result of shelling in Lugansk, 2014, 132 object of socio-cultural facilities were damaged. More than 400 buildings and 2780 private houses sustained damage from shelling. From he beginning of 2015 during the first phase of restoration work restored 83 social facilities, and repaired 27 houses. The state program to restore the “2000” in Lugansk reached 743, including 93 high-rise buildings. 
    13. The Donbass unit of the Night Wolves is based in Lugansk. They run an auto museum from their base…

      And put on the city’s main New Year festivities. All free, a friendly environment –
    14. The cultural scene in Lugansk is pretty active – museums work, there are artists’ studios –
    15. There’s reconstruction taking place all over the city of Lugansk, here, the city’s museum of culture and history being restored, ready for opening on City Day in September – (Eng subs)
    16. Not only Lugansk – a couple of stills from drone footage I took of the once wrecked village of Novosvetlovka, by Lugansk, with reconstruction going on there –Fullscreen capture 18022016 163626.bmp Fullscreen capture 18022016 163152.bmpTrue to say, yet to see any sign of reconstruction in Pervomaisk, this drone footage from there from December of 2015 –
    17. There’s a slightly annoying situation with telecommunication. A dispute with one of the most reliable providers in Donbass, Life, means that provider doesn’t operate in the city of Lugansk itself, but does in the rest of the LPR. There are alternatives available, yet it’s a bit irritating!
    18. Universities are operating, and there are plenty of students. A look at the medical university, from my day there in December – (Eng subs)-

      And a brief look a Master Class I gave there for young journalists in December –
    19. Actually, there are all sorts of active youth organisations in Lugansk – this group, the ‘Young Republic’ recently organised a quite spectacular get-together to mark the anniversary of ‘Minsk-2’ –
    20. The mood amongs people is overall pretty optimistic – English subs on both of these recent videos –
    21. Whatever you’ve heard the UN as saying about LPR, their representative Stephen O’Brien was there in actually there in November of 2015, expressing only positive sentiments –
    22. Electricity is fine throughout, but there are still issues with water. Most of the water supply comes from Ukrainian territory, and there are ‘issues’ there. Where I stayed last time, just out of the centre, there was water in the morning, and evening.
    23. There are many of the same issues as in the DPR – the service industry is functioning at fairly full thrust, but a trade blockade means that the professional jobs which would allow those professionals who have left Lugansk to return, and to the sphere of their employment, with commensurate salaries, are still in short supply. As with the DPR, low salaries and proportionately high prices.
    24. The main Novorossiya merchandising shop is located in Lugansk, there are a couple of branches in the city in fact, with both reporting themselves as doing growing business – English subs on this –
    25. From the outside looking in, it may seem as if the DPR is a stronger ‘brand’ than the LPR, on the inside, and indeed beyond – you’ll find the LPR equally represented on bags, flags, and more – LPR Photo2 LPR Photo1 LPR PhotoLPR Photo12LPR Photo13LPR Photo11LPR Photo10LPR Photo9LPR Photo3LPR Photo8LPR Photo6LPR Photo5LPR Photo4

The State of the DPR – How Things Really Are – 25 Points

Graham Phillips

All of these statements are based on my extensive time reporting in Donbass, DPR and LPR. All of these statements are substantiated by my extensive video reportage from Donbass, which can be found on my YouTube channel.

    1. Life in Donetsk, centre, on the surface, whatever you read or hear, actually looks like life in Donetsk pretty much as it would have been before the war. And I know, because I was in Donetsk before the war, in 2012. Actually life in most all of the towns and cities of the DPR looks much as it would have done. Here’s a look at the town of Enakievo, around 50km from Donetsk –
    2. Of course, over 18 months of war there mean there are some differences – not every shop is working, not everyone has returned home, meaning fewer people, and an understandable lack of tourists, international visitors. And new flags – the Donetsk People’s Republic (have a look at October’s Flag Day below) –
    3. While there’s no shelling – in the centre of Donetsk, at least, there are sometimes events connected to war – the killing of a commander in Donetsk a few weeks ago by sniper, the recent imbroglio involving the Troy battalion. Even when you’re on the scene, it can sometimes hard to ascertain the exact details, in the murk which exists when active war halts, factions jostle for position in a still establishing set-up, and some just find it hard to shake behaviours associated with a war footing or adapted to being demobbed.
    4. With war footing somewhat de-escalated, and freer passage at blockposts, some ‘pro-Ukrainian‘ provocateurs / saboteurs have clearly been able to enter the city, with recent vandalism and attacks on the Lenin statue in the city’s centre.
    5. The mood among people there towards Ukraine, is, with little exception, negative due to the shelling of Donbass by Ukrainian forces. However, it’s also tinged with sadness – many you speak to will express real regret about not being able to visit relatives in parts of Ukraine, having fallen out with relatives in parts of Ukraine due to the war. See these sentiments expressed in this report, from July of 2015 –
    6. Relationships with the DPR are varied. Some wish for the DPR to be part of a Novorossiya, others Russia itself, some a self-standing state. Some lament the fact that bank machines still don’t operate, and passports can’t be issued, that children are born in an, as yet, unrecognised republic, matters such as house sale and purchasing, weddings, are still further grey areas, with certain documentation needing to be routed through Ukraine.
      That said, across the board, after coming up for 2 years, people have got used to the DPR and, with few exceptions, accept it. There is actually a lot of positivity, and patriotism towards the DPR – many people will tell you that they love, are proud of their young republic, there are youth organisations, young people have the DPR flag on phones, backpacks, t-shirts. (see below for photos)

      Have a look at this recent video from a Gorlovka bus stop, and Donetsk centre, to get a sense of the mood.

    7. Most things are working – water, electricity, internet, phone signal, shops, restaurants, municipal services such as libraries, buses, streets are cleaned, bins emptied. Banks don’t work, there are no car dealers operating, McDonalds is of course long shuttered, of course there’s no airport. But in general, most things are working, and working pretty well – the problem of petrol has been solved, you can buy everything you need, people are opening shops, and businesses.
    8. Life is going on – in Gorlvoka, for example, 18 babies were born in the last week!
    9. There’s a working parliament in Donetsk, in operation for 18 months, organised and orderly. Have a look at it yourself –
    10. Festivities are marked – every town in the DPR had a Christmas tree, with a large-scale turn-out for the opening of the 20 metre-plus Donetsk one, with many expressing sentiments it was the ‘best yet’ in the city – a drone look at that here –
      Meanwhile a look at a recent Donetsk food festival here –
    11. It’s not all Donetsk, the DPR’s capital city and undisputed centrifugal force – have a look at this video of a dance class from formerly war-ravaged Ilovaisk, putting on a concert in formerly war-ravaged Debaltsevo
      To go back a bit, this was a folk festival from the town of Torez , some 70km from Donetsk, in summer –
    12. Everything’s on the rouble, by the way, it’s been that way for over 6 months, it’s entirely accepted. Prices of things are generally a bit higher than Russia, for example petrol is 42 roubles per litre in DPR, versus around 34-35 in Russia. But petrol has actually come down, from near 60 roubles at times last year, and prices in shops have generally stabilised, though remain expensive in relation to generally low DPR salaries.
      Gorlovka food
    13. It’s true that certain Ukrainian news sites are blocked, the more extreme ‘pro-Ukraine’ ones, but most actually aren’t.
    14. Novorossiya TVDon’t think that local people are ‘piped’ non-stop Russian media. There are several well-established local channels, mostly fronted by local, young journalists – Novorossiya, Union, 1st Republic, Oplot, there’s more – watched by a lot of people in the area.
    15. DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko enjoys a high level of popularity in the DPR. True that he does tend to walk around with armed guards, but Zakharchenko is actually pretty approachable, and friendly (see video here). As for press conferences – no issues there, pitch up with standard journalistic accreditation (easy to obtain), and you can ask him literally anything, including ‘inconvenient’ questions –
    16. There’s cultural life in DPRcinemas, theatres, the circus, long open for business in Donetsk and across the DPR.
    17. Life in the frontier settlements of the DPR is, as in the case of Spartak here, just about as bad as it gets – people living in ruin, with no water, electricity –
    18. There’s no question that some parts of the DPR still need humanitarian aid. I’d give a special mention to Patrick Lancaster here, for all the work he’s doing on that front –
    19. The situation with work is getting better, but there’s a long way to go. Municipal functions – hospitals, police, schools, the service sector (below a video of Donetsk garages in operation) are working. But the economic blockade of the DPR area means that the firms able to offer the professional employment which would attract back many of those young professionals who left, are yet to materialise –
    20. It’s not exactly war or peace – there was real war by any definition, in 2015, guns blazing, territory changing hands, Donbass under relentless shelling.
      It’s not been like that for a while now, so you can’t exactly describe it as ‘war’….
    21. But try telling those whose homes have been hit by Ukrainian shelling – as still happens with regularity – there’s ‘peace’ –
    22. Russia helps, with humanitarian aid still arriving, and Russian finance funding restoration across the DPR, here the restitution of a Debaltsevo kindergarten below (video to come on that). There’s a lot of gratitude for the help, and goodwill towards Russia, along with a feeling that Russia could do more. A lack of real trade between the DPR and Russia means the DPR having to sell its coal to Ukraine, for example, for a fraction of its worth.Fullscreen capture 07022016 204912.bmp Fullscreen capture 07022016 204942.bmp
    23. The actions of the EU and US in relation to Donbass – their supporting of the Ukrainian military – are deeply unpopular in the DPR. Have a look at this recent video where Donetsk residents respond to my being from the UK –
    24. People in the DPR want peace. I recently filmed a series of interviews asking DPR residents for new year messages, the first response, almost across the board, was peace. Here, Donetsk children release balloons in a New Year event, spelling out ‘Peace’ –
    25. But not peace at any price. To spend time in the DPR is to understand any notion of its returning to Ukraine is absurd. When Ukraine took new territory in Donbass in summer of 2014, the early phase was marked by witch-hunts for ‘separatists’ or ‘separatist supporters’. Across the DPR, people feel comfortable with openly expressing their support for the ‘young republic’ as its known.The DPR – you can dislike it, and in Ukraine indeed they do, or like it, and no question it’s a transitional time there, but it’s here to stay. I asked for a few photos of people showing DPR colours on social media, and in a few minutes, this is just a sampling of the response –

Donetsk Photo4Donetsk Photo7Donetsk Photo10DPR NailsDonetsk Photo2Donetsk Photo9Donetsk Photo1Donetsk Photo8Donetsk Photo11DPR Flags

10 of my Firsts in Photos

By Graham Phillips

The pro-Ukraine side threw any number of insults at me in my time in Donbass (they still do), common being ‘Lord Haw Haw‘, or the standard ‘Kremlin propagandist‘ etc etc.

1first10That’s fine for them to say that, people who have achieved nothing in their lives naturally want to deride those who have. Why those on the ‘other side’ hate me is simple, they wish I were on their side.

How do you define ‘best’, in journalism – getting to the scenes first, the work you do once you’re there. The work, I’ll cover later in a video article to come – and I always reported the facts as they were, the firsts – I was the first western journalist (latterly there with Patrick Lancaster), at every major scene in my time in Donbass. Sometimes even the first journalist, or in the first batch.

Without ever wishing to boast, and just to state things as they are, I was the best western journalist in Donbass. My opponents don’t hate me for creating ‘propaganda’, they hate me for being the most effective in debunking their own propaganda. For being the best at getting the truth out.

There are many, for this article – here’s my Top 10 Firsts in Photos – 

1. Lugansk, mid-August 2014, the Ukrainians almost completely encircling the city, access through their lines a military operation. I was there when was just myself and Alexander Lanskov, his cameraman Roma, of Life News. In the month there, almost no western journalists at all for the first three weeks.





2. I was the first journalist to film, and photograph, Russian humanitarian aid entering Lugansk, on August 22nd.


3. NAF forces take Georgievka – September 3rd, was the first journalist to cross under the collapsed bridge, formerly a Ukrainian stronghold, over to the town of Georgivka, some 18km from Lugansk.







4. Lutugino, taken in the same early September wave which saw other villages, towns and territory around Lugansk taken, a couple of kilometres further down the road from Georgivka, a former major Ukrainian base, and I was the first journalist there, September 3rd.






5. The taking of Lugansk airport. Life News were in there on September 3rd, but I was the first western journalist in on the 4th, with my colleague Sergei Sherov, and first journalist to go underneath the building, to where the Ukrainian base had been (photos of that here).

1Lugansk 1Lugansk2



1first8 1first9




6. Donetsk Airport – Old Terminal. December 19th, along with Patrick, I was the first western journalist in here, with Novorossiya flags flying, and to get right next to the new terminal, as Ukrainian forces hid from view there, with NAF forces already planning their move to take it.


1first6 1first5 1first4

7. Donetsk Airport – New Terminal. January 16th 2015, myself and Patrick the first western journalists in here, in fact the only in, along with Life News, Semen Pegov, and the Rossiya channel, Eugene Poddubny, as we went deep into the devastated new terminal. We returned on January 22nd, to every floor of the new terminal, and all over the territory.

1airport 1airport1 1airport2 1airport3 1airport4 1airport5 1airport6

8. Krasniy Partizan – I was the first western journalist, and in the first batch of journalists, including Life News, and the notable Alexander Kots, and Dmitry Stechin, to get into the village of Krasniy Partizan, of key strategic significance, on January 24th 2015, as NAF forces took control of it and the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers were removed –

1first 1first1 1passport 1first3 1first5

9. Chernukhino, February 19th. Patrick and myself, the first western journalists in, as this village near Debaltsevo is taken by NAF forces, with mass abandonment of Ukrainian positions, and military vehicles. Humanitarian aid was handed out to residents, the NAF were in buoyant mood –

1aid 1apc 1mine 1NAF 1NAF1 1NAF2 1tank

10. Debaltsevo, February 19th. With the first group of journalists into this liberated town of global headlines in recent weeks as its taking become a matter of when rather than if. The photo of myself, hands thrust up (photo with journalist Dmitry Kulko of Russian Channel 5), caused no small amount of controversy in the Ukrainian media – it was a genuine reaction of joy to the happiness of the townspeople, my own being first in.

fust1 fust2


I always was the first western journalist in, did the best work. The pro-Ukraine know it, they hate it.

The Day We Went to the Metro

Along with journalists Patrick Lancaster, Max Clarke (read Max’s article on Vice about the day here), Valentin Trushnin, Pavel, we headed along on January 18th to Donetsk airport territory. A rumour was going around of Ukrainian troops somewhere on the large territory, which also includes megastore Metro, and a large car showroom just several hundred metres from the new terminal itself.

IMG_5800The story of Donetsk airport terminals old and new is one now oft-told, but every building, every part of the territory has its own story. After Ukrainian forces launched an air attack on the DPR controlled Donetsk airport, on May 26th, then stormed the site, DPR forces were pushed back and withdrew.

Скриншот 08.02.2015 181146.bmpThe next few days saw the airport site fall into chaos, as it was unclear where the territorial lines would be drawn. The raiding of Metro and the adjoining upmarket car showroom were something the Ukrainian press revelled in, with numerous articles on ‘DPR’ looters etc. So lawless were things at that time, 5 bodies were reported found in the Metro. Yet the facts are it was inevitable Metro would have been emptied, either by DPR or by Ukrainian forces, who had expanded their reach on the airport territory to include Metro, the car showroom and up to Putilovsky bridge, crossing into the city limits of Donetsk, by early June.

We were the first journalists to go to Metro and the car showroom for months, here’s how they were.

Car Showroom – 



Metro – 








CNN Better Late Than Never…. Kind of

By Patrick Lancaster

CNN, it’s one thing to arrive way late at the scene (I filmed inside Donetsk airport new terminal on January 16th), “CNN goes inside destroyed Ukrainian airport“, but at least get your facts right.

Pro Ukraine forces have lost control of the Donetsk airport. After many months
Скриншот 03.02.2015 212515.bmpof the airport being the center and symbol of the intense war here in Donbass. The facts are that the Donetsk international airport has not been in normal operation and in fact has been a fierce battle field for over eight months since the 26th of May of last year.

In CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh piece it is reported that flights left Donetsk airport six months ago, and that fighting has only been going on there for six months. This is just not true. Maybe to some two months does not sound like a big deal. Well it is. People have died in this time. These facts will be studied in history books for years to come, and should be respected as such. Maybe if CNN would have given
more attention to this war they would have a better idea of the reality of what is going on here instead of just sending some people to do some war tourism for a couple of days.

The people here in Donetsk deserve the truth of what is happening here to get out to the world, not this –


Below you can find many of my reports and videos I have made on Donetsk airport in chronological order.

Follow my Youtube channel and on Twitter for more on Donetsk and how the war affects the people here.

Patrick Lancaster
Twitter @PLnewstoday

Happy Birthday Motorola!


It’s January 16th, 2015, NAF forces are consolidating their hold on the new terminal of Donetsk airport, I’ve filmed in there for half an hour when things get a bit hot, shelling is hitting near, the Ukrainians now near exiled from the once gleaming, 1motor2now post-apocalyptic site, having taken to shelling it. A command is given to get out, quick, it’s hard to do so, there’s just so much to film. The command comes again, stronger, I make a move to the covered parking over from the new terminal. But still don’t want to leave the site, requesting to go back.

Until this point, Arseniy Pavlov, known throughout the world as Motorola (nickname from his billet in signalling during national service), has been his usual charming self, but he draws a line here, shouting at me ‘Graham, get out, you shouldn’t even be here, you were wounded recently, you won’t get wounded again on my watch!‘.

The command was given in such a way as to brook no response other than obediently climb into the waiting APC. And in that, is a lot about Motorola, a man I’ve known for almost a year now, starting in Slavyansk. He loves to joke, in times of semi-ceasefire I’ve filmed several interviews of his doing just that – as here –

But when it comes down to business, the man who pre-war worked in a number of vocations, reportedly from lifeguard, car washer to gravestone etcher, is a formidable commander. More, he’s a personality who has stood the test of time 1Motorola1in a war which has seen many figures hit the scene, make waves, headlines, rack up YouTube hits, before fading from the centre of action – former Slavyansk mayor Ponomarev, Gubarev, Babay to name just a few.

Motorola has stood, endured, risen from a simple soldier in the self-defence forces / people’s militia anti-Kiev forces (‘rebels’ the favoured term of much western press). Having come of his own volition to Slavyansk (early on appearing at demos in Kharkov, motivated by a resistance to the anti-Russian sentiment of Maidan), taken part in numerous battles there before the order to withdraw, Motorola through his renowned bravery in battle 1motor1combined with charisma, rose to the rank of commander, commander of his own battalion, Sparta.

Sparta were the one battalion to remain constantly at Donetsk airport, as the Ukrainian forces were pushed back, ceding territory month-on-month as Motorola masterminded the taking of arguably the most significant symbol of the war. Helped by a close relationship with fellow commander Givi (of Somali battalion), Novorossiya forces surged forward from September, much of the territory in their hands by October, old terminal November, early December, the new terminal mid-January, holding it despite waves of Ukrainian attacks. Even with the highly respected IMG_0252-MOTIONVostok Battalion coming to the airport in December, it was still Motorola’s men holding the key positions there, a spirited bunch of volunteers, mostly local, some Russian (as Motorola himself).

Of course men were lost, I saw Motorola after men were lost, in no mood to talk to journalists at these times, in distemper, angry, hurt. Wounded fighters (Motorola wounded himself in November) quickly evacuated, tended, taken to hospital. Motorola has a reputation for caring for his men, he does that. He has a reputation as a joker, he can be that (upon Ukrainian rumours of his death, he answered me in Ukrainian ‘if you can see me, I’m alive’). But above all, and whatever he was before the war, he’s a warrior. More, he inspires that ultimate belief, both in his men and beyond, that if this guy is on your side, you’re on the winning side.

So, a Very Happy 32nd Birthday Motorola!