(18+) Catalonia Referendum, and the Donbass Referendum Double-Standard

Catalonia has declared a ‘yes’ vote for independence, with just over 90% of the total of 2,262,424 votes in favour of seceding from Spain. 

With Catalonia now close to declaring independence, we now wait to see if the world will accept. However, this isn’t the only referendum on self-determination in recent times to gain over a 90% vote in favour. On May 11th, 2014, a referendum was held across Donbass, to break away from a Ukraine which had in February 2014, installed an unelected, far-right government, and in April 2014, sent in military force to Donbass to crush those who protested. 

Actually, this, just one video from Mariupol, May 9th 2014, when Ukrainian forces went into Mariupol, and opened fire on those celebrating Victory Day.

More about that later, for now, a look at the referendum itself, in which tens of thousands of people queued for hours to cast their vote, voting 90%, as in Catalonia, to be part of the Donetsk People’s Republic. I’ve had to blur the videos, because no one listened to these people, and Ukrainian forces captured the city soon after.

This voter tells me: ‘We want to live apart from Ukraine’

This man tells me ‘People want freedom, it’s a cry of the soul’

These people declare ‘We are against the Kiev government!’

This man tells me he ‘hates the Ukrainian flag’ – 

What happened after? The west simply dismissed the referendum. Ukrainian forces seized Mariupol, and other towns and cities in Donbass. And those they didn’t seize, they’ve been shelling for over 3 years, with mass loss of life. Here, Lugansk, August 2014, after Ukrainian shelling:

Here, Donetsk, January 2015 after Ukrainian shelling:

Sadly, there are many, many of these videos. Thousands killed in Donbass, and it goes on to this day. Meanwhile, Europe hasn’t just stayed quiet on this, but actively supported it. 

Here’s wishing Catalonia all the very best with their independence result. We all know, that whatever happens, what happened in Donbass will never happen there. So why did it happen in Donbass?

A Graham Newsletter (#31) Russophobes at Cambridge – Fake Research, Buzzfeed – Fake News – Mariupol Adventures, and More!

Ever wonder why the mood, on an official level, from the UK is so entrenched, endemic anti-Russian? Could it be that public figures in the UK are being conditioned, from a young age? Have a look at my new video!

And here on the Truth Speaker – 

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/07/03/cambridge-university-fake-research-rory-finnin-anti-russia-propaganda/

But it’s not all bad news from the UK, British photographer Dean O-Brien recently visited the city of Mariupol, and did a good job of work there – read more about that here –

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/07/07/the-adventures-of-a-british-freelance-photographer-in-mariupol/

Mariupol still shows signs of anti pro-Ukrainian feelings amongst the population

A post shared by Dean O'Brien (@deanobeano1) on

Speaking of visits, a French delegation recently visited Donetsk, I covered that, here – 

And here – 

With more, plus encore, to come, on that!

I was pleased to present my new film from Donbass, with full English subtitles!

And having earlier had a look at fake research, from Cambridge, here a look at fake news, from Buzzfeed –

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/07/04/mariupol-myself-and-buzzfeed-fake-news/

To real news, I brought you breaking updates from Donbass, with video – 

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/07/07/terrorist-attacks-strike-lugansk-today-full-details/

And special reportage from the war-torn village of Nikishino – 

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/07/03/nikishino-special-reportage-from-a-donbass-forgotten-village/

And more real news, debunking of fake news, coming up soon! Thanks for being with me, Graham

Mariupol, Myself and Buzzfeed Fake News

In May of 2014, Buzzfeed wrote an article about me – https://www.buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/how-a-british-blogger-became-an-unlikely-star-of-the-ukraine?utm_term=.fcpgVZ7AD#.myRGd7Yyk – I wrote about my reaction to it here, in early 2015 – because basically, I’d been done over.

However, there were a few factors to take into account at the time – I was extremely busy working, on the scene, in Donbass, and the article was just ‘one of these things’, one of a number of articles written to try to take me down.

Also, a strong reaction from my side would have simply seen Buzzfeed go for me more, and I actually felt that the long phone calls I’d had with Max Seddon has somewhat taken the edge off what Buzzfeed really wanted to do – a full takedown. (Photo from article, here)

However, it’s an article people, who want to have a go at me, bring up even now as a first offering to ‘slap me down’. It shows up high in the google rankings. So, here, in a few points, I’ll go through what was clear fake news by Buzzfeed, before people even really used that term.

Mariupol, May 2014 (after shooting on May 9th)

Buzzfeed fake: But how many people were killed? Local news reported two deaths. Ukraine’s interior minister said 21 people died in the fighting. Human Rights Watch could only confirm seven deaths after visiting all four hospitals where the wounded were taken.

None of that seemed right to Graham Phillips, a roving Ukraine-based British blogger who films guerrilla field reports from the conflict’s hot spots for his own YouTube channel and has become a growing star on Kremlin-owned media. So he set out to investigate in the way that has made him a cult micro-celebrity in east Ukraine’s crisis: by interviewing angry people on the street for 90 seconds at a time.

Some people told him that more than 100 people had died in the fighting.

Reality: Actually, I was committed to finding out how many people had really been killed on May 9th. Indeed, I interviewed some locals who told me that the figure was 100 – and I put those interviews up unedited, as with all my interviews –

And what issue do Buzzfeed have with putting up unedited interviews with locals, from the scene? In any case, this was just a part of my Mariupol reportage, I wanted to cover every side, even interviewing Ukrainian soldiers about what happened –

I explored all over the police station, at the centre of events on May 9th, just 2 of those videos here –

I interviewed people on the scene there – 

More, from a local I obtained real, first-hand events on May 9th – just some of those videos here – 

More, I visited city morgues, several times, to confirm the number – 

I questioned those who had told me the figure of ‘100’ – 

So, to another, Buzzfeed fake:  In Phillips’ version of events, Ukraine’s army was eager to cover up the massacre and so it bypassed morgues and hospitals and hid the bodies in the woods. Relatives of the dead were too terrified of reprisals to claim them missing, he said. Phillips’ interlocutors, whom he described as “well-informed local sources,” provided no evidence for these claims. He has yet to corroborate them. Nonetheless, Phillips soon appeared on Russian television promoting the unverified figure of 100 dead.

Reality: This was never my ‘version of events’. I simply uploaded videos of what people on the scene had said. And as for my ‘going on Russian television to promote the unverified figure‘, that’s just an outright lie. Here you can see me on RT at the time – 

From 1:27, I say ‘The official figure killed is 9, the Ukrainian figure is 21, some say much more.’

What happened next? I continued going to Mariupol to confirm figures – here, just one morgue confirmed 11 dead –

I carried on investigating in Mariupol until Ukrainian forces seized me, and deported me from there, on May 20th, 2014 –

And that’s reality for you, versus Buzzfeed fake news. 

Slavyansk – Donbass – 2 Years after Ukrainian Forces Took It Back

Graham Phillips

Ukraine’s president Poroshenko is in Donbass just now, 2 years after Ukrainian forces recaptured Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, and further territory in the area. It’s, thus far, business as usual for the man now more than 2 years Ukraine’s president despite approval ratings actually lower than his predecessor at the time of the Euromaidan overthrow – around 17%.

So, we have Poroshenko decked out in camouflage, making a series of
Poroshenko SlavyanskStrangelove-esque statements, giving out medals, posing for flinty photos in forementioned fatigues, making an announcement on changing the insignia on Ukrainian military uniforms to honour Ukraine’s Insurgent Army, who fought with the Nazis in WWII.

Business as usual then, the standard greetings, congratulations on ‘liberation’, further plaudits to Ukrainians for standing up in ‘defence of freedom, democracy and territorial integrity’. Here it gets a bit tendentious, because what actually kicked off the situation in Slavyansk was Euromaidan in Kiev – a mob taking to the streets, backed on by a baying crowd pumped up by partisan media coverage, a western blind eye to any acts of violence perpetrated, and generous foreign funding. 

LuganskApril2014On April 12th, as had happened in Kiev – but the western media approved of it thereanti-Kiev activists took over administrative buildings in the city. At that time I was in Lugansk (pictured), having accepted a week’s work for RT (Russia Today). Why RT? My position in not supporting Euromaidan meant Russian media was the only door open to me, which allowed me to report things as I saw them. Now, having not worked with RT for almost 2 years, can say I neither watch nor even like the channel, but back then, they gave me the opportunity in Donbass.

So, I was there with them in Lugansk, when things started going off in Slavyansk, and I demanded to go there. Initially, to be honest, the producer at RT that day hadn’t even heard of Slavyansk, so was against it. But, I persisted, went, stayed there reporting for the next month-and-a-half until my capture on May 20th by Ukrainian forces at Mariupol, and deportation – although in the first instance, it must be said, Kiev made me deport myself telling me to ‘get on a plane tomorrow if you ever want to come back to Ukraine‘.

In my time in Slavyansk, I recall the vast majority of the population supporting the DPR, many local men joining the ‘people’s militia’ – it’s actually more natural to call them ‘opolchenie‘, the Russian word, as there’s no direct translation which captures that word. I’d love to show you videos of this, however due to the hunt for ‘separatists’ which took place after Ukraine retook the city, I had to remove most of my (hundreds of) videos. You can see one here, in which I’ve blurred the faces, a crowd of locals chanting for ‘referendum’ in the city centre, mid-April.

However, there’s no question that things got a bit messy, and there were a few who exploited the opportunity, in the chaos, to do as they will. The fallout between the ‘people’s mayor’ Vyacheslav Ponomarev and military commander, Igor Strelkov turned very ugly, and as the weeks passed it became clear to residents there would be no repeat of what had happened in Crimea a couple of months before (referendum, Russia immediately taking over).

Screenshot (46)The referendum held in Slavyansk, on May 11th 2014, saw western media sneering at a ‘farce’, focusing on a ridiculous, clearly Kiev-planted story of 100,000 pre-marked ballot papers ‘intercepted’, rather than paying attention to the mass turnout of people from the city, with queues of hundreds of metres, plenty of normal ballot papers to see.

And Ukrainian military actions had in any case begun in April, I saw the first body there on May 3rd, a man shot by Ukrainian soldiers after a dispute, was present at many locationshospitals, to confirm figures, and funerals. By the time I was deported, in later May, already up to 30 civilians had been killed as a result of Ukrainian military action. How many were killed overall, before Ukrainian forces took the city of some 115,000 back, in early July 2014? At least another 30, by any estimation – sources here, here, here, here – other than the forgiving official version, which puts the total figure killed at below 20. 

So when Poroshenko writes today, of Ukrainian forces taking the city with ‘minimal human losses‘ and ‘saving the lives of people‘, that’s clearly untrue. By the time the Ukrainians retook the city, their military campaign, against a vastly outnumbered opolchenie, had seen a place which once attracted tourists to its beaches, reduced to destitution, subsisting most of the time without water, power, extensively damaged by Ukrainian shelling.

Here’, a children’s hospital shelled – 30th May 2014 –

Orphanage – 1st June 2014 –

Smoke rising from city – 6th June 2014 –

Queue for water – 8th June –

Building goes up in flames after shelling hit – 8th June –

Wrecked apartment block – 12th June –

Many inbetween, but here 30th June, as in the days before they retook the city, Ukraine’s shelling campaign intensified –

Of course, Poroshenko today wrote about it, again, as a victory ‘against Russia’. Nonsense. There were volunteer fighters from Russia, it’s entirely possible there was some hardware which had come over the border, but most of the fighters were local men who had dug up weapons from Soviet times, hunting rifles. True opolchenie, most of the military vehicles captured Ukrainian army AFV’s and on. You can see some of both here, in this video of Victory Day, 2014 –

So, when the opolchenie retreated, and Ukrainian forces swept in in a carefully co-ordinated campaign on July 6th, which involved much filmed handing out of bread and vegetables, there was indeed a beleaguered turnout of townsfolk to meet them, some there for the handout, others genuinely happy that Ukraine had taken back control.

But did it reflect the will of most in Slavyansk? From my time there, I’d say that Strelkov Slavyanskcertainly wasn’t the case. In the beginning, a clear majority of people in the city supported the would-be breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, of which Slavyansk was a part, perhaps 80-90%. As time went on, this went down, due to the conduct of Ponomarev, and Strelkov – the latter (pictured), having decided it was a war situation, meaning war regime, meaning shooting people for looting and other such acts. But, still, support for the DPR remained high, perhaps 60-70% when Ukraine took over.

Actually, this man here I interviewed in a surreal Slavyansk in later July 2014, with Ukraine’s takeover having quickly morphed into organised hunts for ‘separatists’, seeing disappearances, said that while he’d not supported the DPR – in fact everyone suddenly ‘hadn’t supported the DPR, had been out of town’ – around 70% had.

This woman I interviewed at the same time, mid-July 2014, was, pretty radically, pro-Ukrainian, and there always were some like her. However, it was a minority.

So, what’s Slavyansk like now? Well, a city divided, united by something – no one’s happy. Few jobs, little money, a city entirely re-branded to enforce Ukrainianism on everyone – Ukrainian flags and banners everywhere, organised pro-Ukrainian meetings, parades, pressure to speak the Ukrainian language (in a city which spoke almost entirely Russian before). I have friends there who keep me abreast, and more, even filmed a report from there recently –

How much DPR support is there now? Well, it’s hard to be sure exactly. Round-ups and repression have had an impact. Many had to leave town, others disappeared. Others, pro-Ukrainians, have been settled there from other areas of Ukraine. Yet many remain, pro-DPR, of course unable to express this (for the above video, many pro-DPR simply refused to speak). Relentless Ukrainian On 27 April 2016, (right) UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom visits with pupils of School #13 in Slovyansk, as part of a visit to conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. He was in the country to raise awareness of the global education crisis facing children in emergencies. UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom visits School #13 in Slovyansk as part of a visit to conflict-hit eastern Ukraine to raise awareness of the global education crisis facing children in emergencies. School #13 was one of the first hit by shelling in the conflict that broke out more than 2 years ago. It is one of the 57 schools that UNICEF has helped to repair and refurbish in the region. UNICEF provided new school furniture, lego for classrooms, games and trained the school psychologist to help children cope with their experiences. Across the conflict area, approximately 580,000 children are in urgent need of aid and more than 230,000 children have been forced from their homes. Around one in five schools and kindergartens in the region have been damaged or destroyed and around 300,000 children are in immediate need of assistance to continue their education. The trip came as new findings show that nearly a quarter of the world's school-aged children - 462 million - now live in countries affected by crisis. The Education Cannot Wait Proposal, written by the Overseas Development Institute and commissioned by a range of partners including UNICEF, reveals that nearly than one in six – or 75 million – children from pre-primary to upper-secondary age (3-18) living in nations affected by crises is classed as being in desperate need of educational support. However, on average, only two per cent of global humanitarian appeals is dedicated to education. At the very first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in less than three weeks’ time, a groundbreaking new fund - Education Cannot Wait - will be launched to give access to learning to every child in need in emergencies. It aims to raispropaganda – and the Ukrainian media is so propagandistic a journalist called Anatoliy Shariy has made a career catching them out – has had its effect. Some changed sides, turned on neighbours, informed on neighbours.

There’s been limited repairing of damage caused by shelling. Occasional stage-managed operations such as the visit of Orlando Bloom (pictured above) barely paper over the cracks.

There’s an uncertainty about what comes next. When Poroshenko and the PR bandwagon rolled out today, they left a scarred city behind them, the pain of war still deeply rended in buildings and populace. The overwhelming appetite is, understandably, for there to be no war, and many who support the DPR are even willing to tolerate Ukrainian occupancy if it means no war. But, beyond the demagogic, tubthumping tweets of Poroshenko, 2 years on from the Ukrainian takeover, lies a city in a bleak state with few reasons to be cheerful.

The Five Spot (#4) – Plotnitsky and Zakharchenko Press Conference, Basurin Briefing

4th in the series looking at the 5 key points from a non English-language article / event

1press11. This was the 2nd Donetsk presser between the respective heads of the DPR and LPR, the first being back in early February. A gap of a few months, lots of event inbetween and inevitable questions arise as to relations between DPR and LPR, and their leaders, with a public, and perception gulf between the two of them –  Zakharchenko an ever assured, popular figure, Plotnitsky ever mired in controversy after high-profile deaths of several popular figures in the LPR.

2. The official reason for the press conference was to ask the UN to conduct a tribunal to investigate the war crimes of Ukrainian soldiers in Donbass, as announced 1press2by Igor Plotnitsky.

3. Multiple figures pertaining to war crimes had been compiled – Zakharchenko gave this information, that 3,684 citizens had been killed in Donbass in time of war, of them 523 women, 65 children, 1212 killed in 2015.

4. Relations between Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky seem reasonable. There is neither obvious warmth or enmity between the pair. This press conference was short, 13 minutes, and to the point, with no forum for questions after.  Whereas the previous presser had some levity, this was more factual, albeit covering similar ground – 1press3with Plotnitsky reiterating his earlier points that those in the USA, UK, and more, who created countries were called ‘founders’, while those in Donbass were called separatists.

5. This press conference was followed up by one today, by DPR Defence Spokesman Edward Basurin, which contained a detailed, and chronological list of those killed in conflict, and further re-iterated the request for a tribunal. With hostilities here still waging, but the situation much calmer than it was a month ago, attention for now has clearly turned to analysis, and compiling figures pertaining to losses sustained in war.

The Five Spot (#3) – One DPR Unit Could Take Control of Mariupol

3rd in the series looking at the 5 key points from a non English-language article

Head of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, and of the Social Nationalist movement in Ukraine, Andrey Biletskiy, has said only one DPR battalion could take control of the city of Mariupol, the coastal city of near half a million in south Donbass.

1. It’s unclear how honest Biletskiy is being here. Mariupol has been fortified as a major Ukrainian stronghold for some time, with many of the 230 humvees sent from the US, battle-equipped in Ukraine, and other military equipment sent as part of the $75 million US deal, based in Mariupol.

Fullscreen capture 17052015 232558.bmp2. Biletskiy’s remarks come amid an escalating situation in and around Mariupol with fighting between sides intensifying there.

3. The Azov Battalion have recently been on the end of further bad publicity, with two of their members filmed laughing, joking as they fire on an apartment building in Mariupol. Yet it must be said most western media have ignored this, in favour of relentless stories about ‘Russian-backed separatists’, and their supposed plans to capture Mariupol.

4. There was a referendum in Mariupol just over a year ago with the city turning out, voting by a huge majority to secede from Ukraine. And growing reports from inside the city of building discontent with Ukrainian forces there. Biletskiy’s remarks may be designed as a ‘provocation’ to incite a local reaction, and clamp down on that.

5. One thing Biletskiy clearly wants is funds to build the ‘zone of fortifications’ he references, giving an idea that while his statement in itself may be disingenuous, it may also be allied to real fears of the DPR’s ability to take Mariupol.

 

18+ Mariupol May 9th – What Really Happened (Part 2 – HRW Cover-Up)

Graham W Phillips – photos from here

The second part, looking at what really happened in Mariupol on May 9th 2014. There have been certain key dates in the ‘Ukraine crisis’. May 2nd, of the Odessa Massacre, the Semenovka Shooting of May 5th, yet where the crisis in Donbass really tipped over into Mariupol May 9 2014civil war, was Mariupol, May 9th, when Ukrainian military entered the city on Victory Day celebrations, and opened fire.

International NGO Human Rights Watch arrived in Mariupol late on May 9th, and that evening, myself also in Mariupol, I got into a Twitter argument with Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch about how many had been killed. I had earlier been to a hospital where a doctor had told me, off the record, the figure could be in excess of 100, something I tweeted on as exactly that, exactly as I always do. Anna was determined the figure was 7, and she came down in the end, perhaps inevitable, by insulting RT, with whom I was working.

Now I never said the figure of 100 was my own, and before an investigation never would. But it was a figure which came back several times in interaction with locals in Mariupol – one which deserved further examination rather than the immediate dismissal of HRW –

MariupolAnna said the figure was 7, in our Twitter exchange, rebuking any information to the contrary, when her figure was always manifestly inaccurate. The next day, Anna published a report which seemed to be aimed directly at myself, with the title Dispatches: Truth a Casualty in Ukraine Conflict. And she’d started to do a couple of things, revise her figures and bring unknown people into the dialogue. On May 9th, Anna had been determined the figure was 7, now on May the 10th it was “at least seven killed”.

And then this statement of Anna’s – “Today, a reliable source with no affiliation to either side but too frightened to be named informed me that “no more than 10 bodies” were brought to the city morgue. Did other people die whose bodies were not brought to the morgue? Did other people die whose bodies were not brought to the morgue? I have seen no proof of this.”

Now, in fairness to Anna – and I won’t accuse her of dishonesty in this, although that would certainly be an explanation, and HRW has not infrequently been accused of promoting a political position at the expense of truth – the morgue was quite often closed (I went 3 times) –

But, when it was open, speaking to people there was not a problem at all – no one was frightened to be named. I showed no credentials to get in, nor was asked for any. The senior mortician told me clearly there, that 11 bodies were brought to him at that morgue, on May 9th, as a result of Ukrainian military actions, however he was more than open to the possibility that bodies had been sent to other morgues, some even not sent to morgues.

Now that interview was secretly filmed, but I feel he had some idea of it, and no problem taking a photo of exactly who that mortician was either – Vladimir Sosnitski –

Lugansk Morgue

So, the figure Human Rights Watch reported of 7, then ‘at least 7′ is entirely incorrect. As for the ‘reliable source with no affiliation to either side but too frightened to be named informed me that “no more than 10 bodies” were brought to the city morgue.’ I will try to believe that person exists, if I were being uncharitable I’d say Anna Neistat just invented that person. As for this – ‘Did other people die whose bodies were not brought to the morgue? Did other people die whose bodies were not brought to the morgue? I have seen no proof of this.‘ – Anna gives no indication at all of what steps she took looking for proof.

Arriving, and sticking at ‘at least 7′ (Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov cited 21, but with his reputation for speaking nonsense, the HRW figure was given precedence in Mariupol massacremedia) was very dangerous. 7 (or ‘at least 7′, using covering journalistic terminology) was the figure cited in many news reports (with Human Rights Watch prominently referenced) – such as here, here, here. It’s a low number and that effectively ensured that there never would be a proper investigation carried out into what happened in Mariupol.

Indeed, there never was, and at the start of 2015, with the incident having hugely escalated the situation in Donbass, but never really having gone up in the international consciousness, due to the supposed low numbers, the Bellingcat agency, with a track record of white-washing actions of the Kiev government, were able to issue a report exonerating Ukrainian forces of any wrongdoing. 

Coming in the next instalment, events of that day, May 9th, in Mariupol.