My Next Film: The Story of Irina Gurtyak

Graham Phillips

Irina GurtyakI’ve almost completed work on my next full-length film, which will be released likely in early April, and with English subtitles.

The film is called, as above, The Story of Irina Gurtyak. Irina, Ira, was a young journalist from Lugansk, who I got to know in my time in Lugansk, December of 2015. She made a huge impression on me, a truly remarkable young lady, organising this Master Class in which I took part. Ira was dedicated to being a journalist, to delivering truth to the world about Donbass. She was dynamic, beautiful, incredibly friendly, kind, a wonderful young lady, of immense potential.

I left Donbass in mid-January, for a holiday in Russia. On January 31st, in St Petersburg, I woke to receive devastating news – Ira had been killed in a car crash.  

The news was so shocking as to be hard to process. Lugansk was peaceful at that time, no shelling, yet Ira’s life had been taken in a tragic accident, in which the driver of the car she was in, was at fault.

Irina GurtyakIt was something I thought of a lot in the first part of 2016, it played in the mind – the loss of a life with such potential, the cruel needlessness of it, exactly a week after her 20th birthday. Ira was a person who had shown me a lot of kindness, warmth, but more than that, as I spoke with more people who knew her, I became aware of the fascinating story of her life.

So it was, in mid 2016, with the full cooperation of her family, I decided to make a Irina Gurtyak 2film about her. But not simply a tribute film, for those who knew her. In Ira’s story, I saw, and see, a wide significance, and resonance, for everyone. It’s a story of a journalist, the story of a Luganchan (a native of Lugansk, as she was), the story of war, how war changed lives in Lugansk, the story of why such an intelligent young lady chose the life she did, the story of how Ira survived a war which wrought devastation on her hometown, yet still died due to war, and what goes with it. And more.

As my previous full-length film, Aramis, I’m working on this film with Oleg Somov. I’ve already travelled 8000km for the film, filmed over 50 interviews. There’s one more to film.

This film is absolutely not-for-profit, any costs have been met from my own budget, raised via crowdfunding. 

It’s a film I never wanted to make, or could have imagined making. But, it’s one which had to be made, and made as best possible. It’s the final story of a journalist who should have had a lifetime of stories ahead of her, and it’s one I hope, and believe, you will find meaning in.

A Graham Newsletter (#16) 360 Degrees, an Aramis SOS, and more

Graham Phillips

It’s been a little while since the last newsletter, and this will be the last one before the final of 2016. To kick things off with an SOS, there’s only 2 days to go for the appeal to raise funds for a headstone fit for the hero of my Donbass film of early 2016, Aramis – if you can be involved in this, it would make a huge difference –

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-grave-fit-for-a-hero/x/12236308#/

The last period has seen me reporting everything from Donbass – shelling, events, on the street reportage – and also a quick break to Russia to purchase a new camera, a 360-degree camera, allowing you to control the video yourself (panel in the top left, make sure it’s on high resolution setting, and on a computer rather than phone) – here’s the first result of my 360 degree camera, from Pervomaisk –

I’m very excited about this format, as it allows me to bring you reportage from Donbass in a new, visceral way, and am looking forward to bringing you more 360 going forward!

All this is, of course, thanks to those who support my work – my 3 month crowdfunding campaign for independent journalism from Donbass, here. I’m currently working through the pledges I made to all of those of you who supported me, to honour my commitment to you.

For those of you who wish to make ongoing pledge to my work, I’ve now set up a link for that, here – https://www.paypal.me/grahamwphillips

I’m also, of course, hugely grateful to my volunteer subtitle-makers, Sergey Yermolayev, and Anastasic Urtica. Their amazing work means I can show you, in English, all sides of the situation in Donbass. From student talent shows –

To frontline interviews – 

Special reportage – 

Coverage of press conferences – 

Exclusive interviews – 

And doing what the western media refuse to do here, simply speaking to people in Donbass –

There is also, of course, photo reportage, updates, and much more which I bring you via my Twitter account, here. And I’d like to add that you can find all of my English-language reportage in the Facebook group ‘Truth in Journalism‘ – and big up to Daniel Franz, who’s doing great work as the admin of this group!

There’s also this site, of course, the Truth Speaker, where I bring you exclusive content such as this article about the OSCE –

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2016/11/28/the-osce-in-donetsk-what-are-they-there-for/

This debunking of more western lies about Donbass

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2016/12/04/updates-from-the-dlpr-9-reconstruction-versus-hearsay-in-the-dpr/

And publishing this open letter to Donald Trump, by more than 20 industry experts –

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2016/12/03/an-open-letter-to-donald-trump-on-mh17/

As we now move into the festive season, I’ll be looking forward to bringing you as much reportage as possible, across formats and mediums, and as always hoping for positive, rather than negative.

Before wrapping things up for this one, a mention for Patrick Lancaster, and the great work he’s doing here, both in journalism, and the humanitarian sphere, details of his humantarian work here –

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2016/12/11/help-for-donbass-an-urgent-appeal-from-patrick-lancaster/

Thanks so much for being with me, my very best wishes with you, as ever! Will be in touch with you all before the new year. Graham

New English Reportage from Donbass (#2) 360 Pervomaisk, Lugansk School, Alexander Hug

The latest in the series looking at my recent, English-language  video reportage from Donbass. Graham Phillips

A 360 degree look at a wrecked apartment building in the town of Pervomaisk (you can spin the camera yourself) –

In conversation with pupils at a Lugansk school –

An interview with Alexander Hug, of the OSCE –

Updates from the DLPR (#8) Leaving and Returning to the LPR, and the difference…

I left the Lugansk People’s Republic a couple of weeks ago, to go to report from the DPR for a period. The LPR I left was at that time, almost entirely quiet, in terms of war. Events were of a more positive nature, this flashmob in Pervomaisk –

And here, Lugansk schoolchildren sing ‘Imagine’ to me!

Returning to Lugansk – with an evacuation taking place from a frontline village, and the reason clear in this video report, huge thanks to Sergey Yermolayev for English subtitles here –

Back in Lugansk, it was immediately thrust into reporting of a different kind, as Ukrainian forces had fired 7 times into villages by the perimeter. I go there to report on it, and ask why the OSCE are there, but don’t seem to be doing anything –

Here’s a look at the frontline, and the distance between sides –

And here, with full English subs, again thanks to Sergey Yermolayev, an exclusive English-language interview from the LPR frontlines –

We go on here, in the LPR for now, with more reportage to come, but let’s hope for a return to the positive, rather than the latest.

Updates from the DLPR (#4) Shelling in the DPR and LPR

Reports from the DPR about ceasefire violations have been in the thousands, by the week, in October. However, numbers are numbers, and it’s sadly the case that it takes victims for shelling to really make news, get attention. You will doubtless be aware that on October 27th, the city of Makeevka (by Donetsk) was hit by Ukrainian shelling, with two killed as a result, some photos of that here –

Edward Basurin, the DPR Defence spokesman, named Thursday 27th as ‘Black Thursday’, with a total of three killed, across the DPR, and 10 wounded. 

Patrick Lancaster, in Donetsk, reports heavy shelling audible this night. Let’s wait until morning, and hope for no more victims.

There is a conception that over in the LPR, things are calm and peaceful. That’s a misconception, as I filmed from the scene where it seems Ukrainian forces had intentionally hit a civilian car with an anti-tank device, with the 60-year-old male driver now in a critical condition, after having undergone an amputation –

You can take your pick of reasons for the escalation, from time of year – this time last year, and of course 2014, also saw an escalation of shelling – to the upcoming US presidential election. But, there’s no question, Ukrainian shelling is intensifying in both the DPR, and LPR, and there are victims.

Updates from DLPR(#2) Primaries, and Prison ‘slave labour camps’

Second in the series of updates from the DLPR about how things really are here – all my work is totally independent, funded by crowdfunding – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/3-months-independent-objective-donbass-journalism#/https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/3-months-independent-objective-donbass-journalism#/

The Lugansk, LPR, primaries were held on Sunday, October 2nd. 80 polling stations in Lugansk were open, from 08.00 to 20.00. Voting was in Lugansk, and the adjacent villages of Jubilee and Aleksandrovsk. Some photos here – by Polish photographer David Hudziec –

The preceeding week saw around 30 international observers in the city, given daily excursions around museums, and sights of the Lugansk People’s Republic. These individuals were not from an organisation, and in fact the OSCE upon being asked at a press conference last week why they would not be observing the primaries, replied that the OSCE did not do that.

So it was, volunteers from across the world – France, Italy, Finland, Palestine, Israel, USA, Poland, and India, were put up by the Lugansk People’s Republic, but received no financial recompense, for taking part in an active programme, culminating in observing the primaries. Here are some of my interviews with them (all English) –

Sana, the translator – 

Inna, from Israel, here – 

Observers from Finland and Georgia here – 

Poland here – 

And, on the day itself? The total turnout was reported as 61,323 – high, given that only 34,450 were on the preliminary list to vote. Requirement to vote was a passport, local address, and those not on the list this time, were added to the database. Incidentally, Lugansk pre-war had a population of over 400,000, what it is now is open to estimate. LPR sources will claim it’s near back to pre-war levels, a more realistic assessment could be closer to 300,000.

I filmed unedited footage of the 4 polling stations I visited, the first of which I put up in English, from early in the morning –

I filmed several more polling station videos, in Russian, if there’s a strong desire, I can add English subtitles, but I do only currently have a team of 2 volunteer subtitlers, so have to select what can be done. If you’d like to join my team, please email me at – gwplondon@gmail.com

Otherwise, what to say, the polling stations were as polling stations should be, everything was in order, ordered, people who voted knew who and what they were voting for. The main vote, for the mayor of Lugansk, was comfortably won by incumbent Manolis Pilavov, with 86%, which matched what people were saying at the polls. As for Pilavov (pictured), he’s a likeable, moderate, popular city head, widely perceived to have done a good job in his 2 years at the helm, tipped to play a big part in the LPR going forward.

pilavov

Back to the primaries, the count, again, organised, ordered, everything you would expect of an election count done to standard –


On from the primaries, and it was a calm week in Lugansk. The ‘main news’, as it were, actually came a long way from Lugansk, from a journalist who’s never even been here, Patrick Evans – actually a former colleague of mine from Kiev. Patrick, dutifully rewriting a patently pro-Kiev ‘humanitarian group’ ‘s report, passed on that the prisons in the LPR (and DPR) are like ‘slave labour camps‘.

That’s something that, being here myself, I’ll be looking into soon. For now, that’s all for this latest update, thanks for being with me!

 

Updates from DLPR (#1) ‘Upheaval’ in the LPR

I’m here in Donbass, and this is the first of these updates, to keep you up to date with what’s really happening here! All my work is completely independent, made possible by crowdfunding, you can support mere here – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/3-months-independent-objective-donbass-journalism#/  – Graham Phillips

Those of you looking on at events in the Lugansk People’s Republic over this last week must be doing with a sense of both disbelief and ‘what comes next’…

lprJust o week ago, September 20th, leader of the LPR, Igor Plotnitsky (pictured), reported both his parents as having died in the preceeding days. The reason given was that they’d eaten poisened mushrooms, which only added to rampant speculation on the theme.

This was only added to by the following revelation, that there had been an attempted coup in the LPR. Details of that were provided via press conference, and statements, with video of the actual coup itself, as reported, yet to emerge, if they exist.

There were 3 men accused of the reported coup – Alexey Karyakin, a former senior figure in the LPR hierarchy, involved right from the start of proceedings in 2014 (here’s my video of him from that time). After being earlier cited as planning something against Plotnitsky, Karyakin was put on a ‘wanted list’ in the LPR, and headed to Russia, in April 2016. The next was Gennady Tsipkalov (pictured), another who had been involved in the 2014 anti-Maidan uprisings, which led to the formation of the Lugansk People’s Republic. Tsipkalov had gennadiy-lprbeen arrested by Plotnitsky’s announcement of the 20th. On the 24th, it was announced he had died in his cell, reported by the LPR as having hanged himself.

This announcement, perhaps unsurprisingly, sent speculation into overdrive. This was followed by similar frenzy the next day, when Ukrainian media started announcing that Vitaliy Kiselov, known by his call-sign of ‘Communist’, another activist from the early days, turned commander, then deputy minister of defence in the LPR, had been ‘killed in an LPR cell after arrest‘. The ‘death’ of Kiselov was reported across Ukrainian media as fact.

communistKiselov (pictured) was indeed in LPR captivity, detained, and accused of being complicit in the reported coup. But, on September 26th, the LPR displayed him alive, unmarked.

All of these events have led to some hysteria, about, and even in the LPR. Lies and half-truths have spread across the Ukrainian, and western, media, either slow to be corrected when the truth has emerged, or not at all. I interviewed Manolis Pilavov, Lugansk city head, on the 27th in Lugansk. He spoke about the situation, stating there had been an attempted coup, but that things had subsequently stabilised, and ‘these problems were to be expected in a new republic, as Lugansk, in the circumstances in which Lugansk is in.‘ He added that there were currently ‘many problems‘ in the LPR, but the authorities were dealing with them, and there was ‘no crisis’.

I’m now in Lugansk, and  the city is functioning absolutely normally, with no hysteria on the streets etc. Actually, there are around 30 international observers here for the upcoming primary elections, of which I’ll write more in the next update. I’m also looking forward to soon bringing you more English-language reportage from here!