My Reportage from Donetsk – 12th March, 2014

Exactly 3 years ago, I was in Donetsk, albeit not for the first time:

Yet this time, 3 years ago, of course, things were a bit different. It was March 2014, (former) president Yanukovych had recently been ousted, Euromaidan had declared victory and installed an unelected, far-right government in power.

In Donbass, a region which had notabily either not supported Maidan, or been in direct opposition to it, no one quite knew what to expect next.

At the time, I was living in Odessa, and, feeling a time of history, and a moment to be seized, I wrapped up things there (I had a teaching business, to supplement my journalism) and in my car, headed east, simply for myself, to see for myself what was happening.

So, this is my reportage from Donetsk, 3 years ago today. At the time, I was trying to do every piece in English, so (in almost all) where someone speaks Russian, I then translate, or attempt to, my Russian of the time was not the best!

These videos are all unedited, the mood from the streets, and more, things just how they were at that moment in time, which turned out to be a moment in history as less than a month later, I was back in Donetsk, and conflict had already begun.

So, without further ado:

Lenin Square –

By the statue of Lenin itself:

And, finally, by the city’s administrative building –

And that’s that!

Boris Johnson and Ukraine Bingo: The Hit New Game

Graham Phillips

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson is in Ukraine just now. And now you can join in too, with this fun new game, all ages, for when Boris is either in Ukraine, or doing something connected with Ukraine!

First up!
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1. Shake foreign minister Pavel Klimko’s hand and throw out a meaningful slogan!

screenshot-1196screenshot-1199 screenshot-1203 2. Pavlo not around? Find another prominent Ukrainian for a photo and strong statement (it doesn’t even matter if they are barely literate!)

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3. Pavlo around but can’t get a handshake one? Stand somewhere official-looking with him, aforementioned slogan.

screenshot-12094. Mention ‘sovereignty’ or ‘territorial integrity’ (ideally done with the above!)
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5. Do not mention anything about Ukrainian forces shelling civilian areas of Donbass.

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6. Go to a shrine marking some terrorists who were killed (by their own people) overthrowing an elected government. Say they are ‘heroes’ who ‘died for freedom’ etc.

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7. Only goes to Kiev. Why would you need to go anywhere else? Everything you need to know about Ukraine can be ascertained through diplomatic meetings in a few hours in Kiev, right Boris!

8. Blame Russia, Boris! Without providing any supporting evidence for your statements, or signs that you know anything about what you are speaking about. Just – Blame Russian, Boris!
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9. Random photo opportunity.
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That is Boris and Ukraine Bingo!!!

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10. Want a bonus? Boris says something about Crimea, when he’s neither been, nor demonstrates knowing anything about it….

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A Graham Newsletter (#18) A UK Return, 5 Key Donbass Moments, a new campaign!


I’m Graham Phillips, completely crowdfunded UK journalist. To make a contribution to my work, click here! 

I’m now back in the UK. This latest period of work in Donbass has been almost exactly 4 months, starting as it did back in mid-September of 2016, and entirely crowdfunded as per here –

There have been over 200 videos in this time, over 6 million views – on my channel alone, mass exposure in media across the world.

That’s all because of your support! This was 100% objective, independent journalism – funded by you the people, this campaign here on indiegogo, plus other contributions, as per here, covered costs.

I’m now working through the pledges to honour those I made to you, and even exceed them, so those involved, look out for that! For now, here were 5 key moments from a hugely productive time –

  1. Showing Ukrainian forces violating Minsk by use of heavy artillery, by Debalstevo, December 2016 –
  2. Exposing the fake news story of the BBC and ‘gulags’ in the LPR –
  3. Showing how the OSCE really ‘work’ in Donbass-

  4. Exclusive 360 degree reportage (the first of its kind from Donbass), one here from Pervomaisk –
  5. Special reportage about weapons made in the LPR, tested there

    Of course, it’s an information war, as well as war – and I’ve written about that here!

    What comes next? Here you can read about my next full-length film, The Story of Irina Gurtyak.  To speak of films, after that, I’ll complete the edit for film ‘A Brit in Crimea (on his holidays), as well as shooting new material for that.

    And then there’s my upcoming film about the late, amazing Doctor Liza, which will have full English subs. There’s also going to be a lot on MH17, on which I’ve been writing and publishing news videos on, of late! 

    There’s also lots of exciting reportage planned, look out for an announcement on that soon, with a new crowdfunding campaign to come!

    As ever, huge thanks for your support! Graham

War, and Information War

Graham Phillips

I’ve been covering the situation in Donbass for 3 years now, and on December 22nd, returned from covering war in the trenches by Debaltsevo to find that those sitting thousands of kilometres away in cases, from their laptops, had decided to launch the latest fusilade of the information war at me.

It started with Bild journalist Julian Röpcke. a long-time critic of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, quickly coming out with the tweet that I’d ‘exposed positions of the Russian army‘, as he referred to them. I’d add that I found out about this through the back door, as despite limited interaction ever, Julian long ago blocked me from following his tweets, for some reason.

At least Julian, who, reading his tweets, seems to have a pathological hatred for Russia, admitted in a subsequent tweet, the intention behind this – to try to cause problems for me.

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This is a reference to the Russian state-owned tv channel Zvezda having done a story, simply stating facts, that Ropcke had claimed I’d ‘revealed positions’. There’s no indication that this represents any such sentiments, from the ‘Russian military’, however I’d add that the article was also written without any attempt to defend me, and nor do I expect any special treatment from the Russian, or any, media.

Graham4As for Julian, I’m not sure what war he thinks he’s actually reporting on here. He’s certainly not been to Donbass for a long time, and never covered conflict here. But, from a desk at Bild in Berlin, he’s more than happy to, deceitfully, malevolently, attempt to cause problems for myself, a journalist who has, without wishing to big-up oneself, put his life on the line for years, even wounded doing so, to bring the truth out of Donbass, from Donbass.

But, unless he thinks he’s covering World War II, Julian would have known that, in 2016, modern warfare, positions can’t be ‘exposed’. Drones fly over positions all the time, there was a drone flying in this piece even, these positions, by Debaltsevo, have been in much the same place for almost 2 years now. Each side knows to within a few inches the position of the other.

However, having myself filmed on the frontline what must be almost 100 times now (this from May 2014), in Donbass, I still take my responsibilities seriously. I showed the commander in charge of this unit the footage of Ukrainian shelling pounding by Donbass militia positions (which Julian has imaginatively called ‘RU army’, despite all of the men I interviewed there being from Donbass). He gave the green-light to include the shots, from positions, of Ukrainian shelling hitting. And that was that.

But that wasn’t that for those who, from thousands of kilometres away, would love to cause problems for me in Donbass. Just yesterday, Aric Toler, of Bellingcat, began repeating these claims on Twitter.

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Again, I found out about this through the back door, as, once more, despite limited interaction, Toler has blocked me from reading his Tweets.

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This linked to an article on Medium, authored by the ever anti-Russian Atlantic Council’s DFR lab, which fleshed out earlier claims, and added information provided by a tweet from a long-dormant Twitter, never active account that one of the militia members I’d filmed, Rumin, had been ‘wounded‘ that night after a ‘Ukrainian attack‘.

Medium have deliberately chosen to misinterpret my replies to this, completely unsubstantiated tweet, linked to a member of Ukraine’s ‘Tornado’ unit. My replies were –

1. Никакой ‘Румын’ не был на место.

No ‘Rumin’ whatsoever was there. (I used hyphens, to avoid confusion,as his name literally translates as ‘Romanian’ in Russian)

2. Что ополченец ‘Румын’ ‘был ранен там’. Просто бред – такой человек не был вообще.

That militia member ‘Rumin’ ‘was wounded there’. Just nonsnese – this person simply wasn’t (wounded) at all. 

And those replies were exactly what I knew as fact. That ‘Rumin’ was not at the position we’d filmed at – as we were leaving, he was soon to change positions, and return to base, and when I met up with Korshun, who’d taken us to positions, a couple of days later he informed me that everyone we’d filmed was present, and correct.

Even the Medium article had to, reluctantly, conclude that there was no evidence my videos had helped the Ukrainian military, and absolutely no evidence anyone had been wounded because of them.

However, this didn’t stop Eliot Higgins, of Bellingcat, tweeting out ‘did @GrahamWP_UK get a separatist killed?’….

Again, Eliot has blocked me from following him, so while he added my tag, to make it look like he was tweeting at me, I had to go through the back door to find it, and he won’t see my reply unless he does the same.

I’ll add a few words about the Ukrainian reaction. Due to my reporting the war in Donbass from a different side to the almost universally Ukraine-friendly, anti-Russian western media, as in that I’ve been in Donbass, and reported what I’ve seen here, also due to my Graham Donbass workworking methods being, at times, unconventional, Ukrainian media have zoned in on me as a hate figure, and their tactics alternate between creating fictitious claims about me, and some imagined connection to Russia, accusing me of all sorts of things, and, a favourite, attempting to cause problems for me.

Without any evidence whatsoever to back up these claims, Ukrainian media have reported any number of ‘heroic victories’ at this position, with the reported loss of all I filmed etc etc.

What’s the purpose of all of this? It’s one of the oldest tactics of information war – you can’t say you hate your ‘enemy’, as it shows weakness, so say you like him, and more, say he has helped you, to attempt to cause problems for him. What’s the ultimate purpose of it all? To stop his work.

julian-roepckeBack to Ropke (pictured), Toler, and Higgins, and what’s their purpose? Also to stop my work, yet more. In the case of Toler, and Higgins, they are trying to push their brand of ‘open source journalism‘ on the world, meaning they can earn large sums of money sitting at laptops, analysing Google Maps etc, telling the world it’s journalism. I’m here on the scene, telling you that’s not journalism.

No question, that Higgins and myself have also had frequent exchanges, disagreements online. However, I would always draw a line, and would never attempt to put someone’s life in danger. By fabricating the claim that a ‘separatist‘ was ‘killed‘ because of my reportage, Higgins is attempting to do just that. It’s totally untrue, entirely malicious.

In actuality, in the immediate aftermath of that video, fighting calmed down by the Svetlodarsk Bulge, and remains, relatively, calm to this day, again, even Medium had to report this. 

And, in response to requests that I ‘just go back there and film it all again to prove it’s ok‘. There were several fighters on the scene that day, all of them on rotation, changing positions, now on leave for holiday even. Unless I could go back, and film all of them, the one I couldn’t film would be publicly buried all over Ukrainian media, and beyond. And, even if I could, there would be something else: ‘Graham Phillips confirms positions of ‘separatists’ ‘, and it starts over again. I say this, to those making claims: show me some evidence, and I’ll react, but I don’t go chasing around trying to disprove claims without any evidence to back them up.

One side of war, is war, another is information war. However I’d add in the case of Higgins, et al, they’ve decided to make it a particularly dirty information war.

Eliot Higgins BellingcatFor me, it doesn’t affect what I do, other than having to write an article like this to explain the real situation. I believe in real journalism, from the scene, and reporting the truth. Why wasn’t the attention on Ukrainian forces blatantly violating Minsk, by using heavy artillery? Because that’s not convenient for Higgins (pictured), Toler etc – rather they use this as a distraction, with the bonus of their vendetta against myself.

I go forward, focus on work, reporting things as they are, as always, and don’t get embroiled in trying to cause ill for those ‘on the other side’ of this, nor have their attempts succeeded here. However, that’s not for a want of their trying. They are simply immoral men, doing a dirty job.

A Graham Newsletter (#17) Dr Liza and Tragedy on Christmas, news from Donbass

I had wanted to write this wishing you a Happy Christmas, but the tragic crash of flight Tu-154 meant there was nothing happy about the day. While mourning for drliz4all the 92 victims on board, I was devastated to learn that in their number was Doctor Liza, an incredible lady who had visited Donbass 16 times during war, taking hundreds of, often severely, wounded children to Russia and the medical treatment which, in many cases, saved their lives.

We’d been in touch since early 2015, and in 2016 of this year, I’d had the pleasure of meeting her, spending a day together, the result of which was an interview, an extract of which, I’ll show you below, the text here: There was a girl, who was given a terrible outlook, and Vika (kindly shortening of Victoria), she became well, and was coming up to the guard and would dance – a little swan or some other part, she was making such a show – a child that could not even SIT before, she lay on the arms. So, you see… Everything is possible, Grisha

I’d agreed with Doctor Liza a few days ago to make a documentary film about her in Moscow, in January, was really looking forward to seeing her. It was, and is, shattering news, and hard to think how to go forward without her. A huge loss, one felt particularly acutely in Donbass, where she did so much, helped so many, was a symbol of hope for all.

Thoughts with all those, families, relatives of victims of flight Tu-154, Doctor Liza I knew, and adored, it’s a very tough loss.

***

Just over a week ago, I visited Pervomaisk, to give you a unique 360-degree tour of an apartment building wrecked by Ukrainian shellling –

My assistant for this reportage, Vera, with English subtitltes –

And here’s how we made that video –

The last week saw me go to the frontlines, with Patrick Lancaster, to bring you some unique reportage. With the eyes of the world elsewhere, here’s how Ukrainian forces were shelling, by Debalstevo –

Here was an interview with a Donbass militia on the frontlines, before battle kicked off –

Here was battle waging on the frontlines –

And here’s modern warfare, a Ukrainian drone flying overhead, as shelling goes on –

The town of Debalstevo itself then came under shelling –

The last few days have seen an attempted ceasefire over the festive period fail to hold, however also a de-escalation from the days before Christmas.

I now leave to Russia for a few days, to film about Doctor Liza, and will return to Donbass in the new year. Here was the recent opening of the Christmas Tree, in Donetsk –

And in 360 degrees –

It’s been devastating news, about flight Tu-154. I wish you all the best for the season, to stay safe, there’ll be another newsletter before the new year.

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 –