⚡ Exclusive Interview with Mike Barson from Madness! Russia, Skripal, Putin, Donbass, More!

Those who know me, or knew me growing up would tell you one thing – I was Madness‘ number 1 fan, going to every concert I could, buying every Madness record I could – even if the cost of one, if a rarity, could be most of what I earned in a month on my paper round.

(Myself in a Madness t-shirt, right, 1994)

In 2014, while working in Donbass, I began receiving messages, on Twitter from a ‘Mike Barson’, saying how much he supported my work, and on (read all the messages here). 2014, 2015 was an extremely busy, intense, stressful time – I remember just running the whole time trying to either film something in Donbass, usually the scene of shelling, or the frontlines, or the MH17 site, and more.

(Mike Barson, in an early incarnation of Madness, the Invaders).

I remember briefly having a look at his Twitter page, but did I believe that one of my childhood heroes was really writing to me, supporting my work? Not for a moment, I thought someone who knew what a Madness fan I was, was having some fun at my expense. I wasn’t biting, hardly replied to his messages.

In 2016, I had a bit more time, and decided to look into it. And, well, it turned out really to be Mike Barson. And this here really is his Twitter account. Mike graciously agreed to forgive my reticence of 2014, and give me an interview. Here it is.

GP: I have to ask on a personal level, when you first started supporting my work, and even wrote to me, you are aware that I couldn’t believe it was the real Mike Barson. Does this happen to you a lot, and how do you respond to that?

MB: With great patience 🙂

GP: On Twitter, you have your own account, and seem to chat with all your fans. In the 90s, I recall sending off quite a few letters to fan club addresses, perhaps you never got them. How do you feel about this new accessibility?

MB: Yeah we got a lot more ways to keep in touch these days! I try to answer a few things when I have time tho it’s not always possible.

GP: When fans and so find you on Twitter, they may be surprised that your views are not what we may expect of a celebrity, I say this in my own sphere of Donbass, and Russia. How would you define your views, broadly if so, and how do fans, and others respond to them?

MB: Well I’m not a fan of injustice and hypocrisy and not sure if I’m a celebrity (whatever that is?) but whatever one is in this day and age I feel its one’s duty to speak out as Einstein apparently said…

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”

It seems now more than ever this is a pertinent statement.

What happened in Ukraine was anything but democratic – a violent coup (my picture from Maidan, left) such as took place in Kiev would never in a month of Sundays have been allowed in a European or American city and yet it was cheered on by the so called ‘international community’ and in particular by many American government officials. It lead to a dangerous schism throughout the country.

This illegal undertaking has been the cause of much suffering for the people of Ukraine and many many innocent people being killed (many of which you yourself have documented) the tragic shooting down of a civilian aircraft above Donbass (why was air traffic not stopped above a war zone??? – obviously because it was a war they were pretending wasn’t happening) and then finally having voted Crimea was returned to the Russian federation.

(My photos from MH17, above, and Crimea in March 2014, below)

It’s difficult to argue that this was not other than Russia’s responsibility-duty to protect the historic Russian people of Crimea and the naval base from the danger arising in the aftermath of the coup which was made vividly apparent by the military attacking their own people – a scandal of grotesque proportions that was hardly reported in western mainstream news. One cannot but notice how the coup in particular is very rarely mentioned which skews the whole question of the situation there.

So seeing this injustice, seeing the results the shelling/killing of –
old ladies in their apartments/houses, going about their ordinary business, shopping etc, and young kids playing football etc and seeing it all ignored in the west is shocking and makes one wonder.

When looking into these affairs also those such as the ghastly Odessa Massacre (picture, right) it’s apparent how these ‘far off places’ are treated very differently in the western press. I could only conclude a kind of racism was taking place against the people in Donbass.

They didn’t matter and yet we destroyed Libya because Gaddafi we were told ‘threatened’ his own people – in Donbass we didn’t seem to have the slightest interest they were being killed by their own army.

So my views are that these events expose an enormous hypocrisy in the western press that is very concerning leaving aside the fact it is totally lacking in any kind of morality. When people are dying as a result of this hypocrisy I feel it is ones duty to call it out if one has the opportunity.

To say nothing of the fact there seems to be a program of demonisation against Russia (Newsweek cover, December 2017) in play that has been repeated many times in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya & Syria even leaving aside the ugly immorality of such subversive propaganda exercises the danger that the world is being pushed into and for the benefit of whom should be of great concern to all rational people.

Do we need WW3? For whose benefit? I’ll be happy when Tony Blair, Bush (pictured) and Cheney are in the dock for previous war crimes committed and country’s work together for their own people and abide by international law.

I don’t know what people expect of a ‘celebrity’ but concerning people who ‘look the other way’ and neither say anything nor engage their brains I guess Mr Einstein spoke on that subject already.

GP: Do you chat about political matters with the band members? If so, how do they respond to this.

(recent promo photo of Madness)

MB: Yeah sometimes, but when the press is giving blanket wall to wall coverage that Putin & Russia is to blame for everything its difficult for people not to be effected as Goebbels said “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”.

GP: Madness are a British institution now, but early on in your career, you got a rough ride from the press. There’s even a scathing Madness song about journalists ‘Don’t Quote Me on That’, which slams into the lies, and lack of ethics of the trade.

Has journalism changed much in the almost 40 years since this song was written? And what made you start following, supporting my work?

MB: Yeah that was an example of where the press used to have a very unfair advantage, they can say what they like and you have no means to respond, these days it seems one has the possibility to respond within social media which is possibly why the mainstream press is going thru hard times?

These days newspapers seem to be rather removed from ordinary people and their concerns though its encouraging that people are reporting independently I guess like yourself.

(Madness in the early days)

Well that’s quite a point actually what I think has changed is that in that time if someone wrote something that wasn’t true in a newspaper…. (the infamous ‘fake news’) you had very little means to respond, its like someone slapping you in the face and you can’t do anything back.

But now with social media people are able to respond to things that are said that are not true and there is suddenly an accountability for journalists and some of them don’t seem to come out in such a great light.

(recent photo of Mike Barson)

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out a while back, in the political world many of them are simply stenographers repeating what they’ve been told – not really journalism. Also it seems that the variety of news stories and opinions have been very diminished where they now act like one big echo chamber.

For example when MH17 was tragically shot down (I used to live in Amsterdam) it was astonishing how all the western press blamed Putin almost before the aeroplane hit the ground – and they blamed him personally.

(The Week, UK magazine, right)

To me this was not logical or rational – (unless you suffer from a deep bias) – Most people were not following the news from East Ukraine so didn’t know there was a war going on and that many military planes were shot down in the preceding weeks. It was clearly not safe.

The worst case rational scenario is that MH17 was mistaken for a military aircraft ie they were defending themselves in a war and mistakenly shot down the jet? There is no sensible rational reason to blame Putin yet that’s exactly what all the press did. Again avoiding the bigger picture of who was actually attacking who.

(Infamous Sun headline, pictured)

All these newspapers were all carrying the exact same illogical argument which makes you question how, why? Either they are full of bias.. or else there is a less savoury reason there was an intention to blame it on Russia for other reasons.

I became interested and started following your work after the overthrow of the government in Kiev. When the troops and tanks started heading east how western governments backed it all when it was so obviously wrong.

(One of my early videos, Slavyansk, April 2014, a local militia blockpost attacked by Ukrainian forces)

I was pretty shocked to see how the EU who were supposed to be guarantors of the agreement between Yanukovych (pictured) and the opposition simply ignored the agreement signed… European values? That incident really put me off the EU. They actually supported a coup – just look how they treat Catalonia now for a taste of hypocrisy.

You were one of the few people reporting on the situation so I started watching your videos. When the Crimea stuff started happening and everyone started talking about the infamous little green men “were they or were they not Russian soldiers” thing was it didn’t really have any relevance to what was happening, a coup had taken place in Kiev! Why was that ok?

(My video from Kiev, January 19th, 2014)

The lack of any greater unbiased perspective in the news (BBC speciality?) shows the narrowness of the debates in MSM these days.

Slowly it became apparent that the US was involved in the overthrow with things like the release of the Pyatt/Nuland tape (below) in which American diplomats were heard discussing who would be allowed in the new Ukrainian government! These facts was totally excluded from the western press not even recognised let alone discussed.

This injustice was racism, not for black people but for poor East Ukrainians. Such a bias in the press and with such disastrous results. Women going shopping killed in their own flats, kids playing football hit my mortar shells, dropping bombs on town halls blowing up innocent women and all these people were simply dropped by western press like Untermenschen. It was reprehensible and no one seemed to care.

So you were one of the few who was recording these events, I consider you did some kind of service to those poor people who died so unjustly in registering what happened to them. One had to cry seeing some of that shit.

(My video, Donetsk, January 2015)

GP: Your music has been an ever-present in my life for about 30 years. During some of the tougher times in Donbass, I remember listening to the song ‘I’ll Compete’.

It’s maybe one of Madness’ lesser-known numbers. Do you have any personal favourites among the perhaps not so well-known Madness canon? And, btw, Michael Caine, the subject of a classic Madness song is also noted for views differing from his contemporaries, do you ever chat with him?

MB: No I never heard Mr Caine was not following the status quo! Unfortunately never got to meet him. We recorded him at an airport for the track Michael Caine – “I think we got it there don’t you” and that was that!

Strange you were playing ‘I’ll Compete’ in that difficult time!

Personal favourites… not so well known songs… “Never Ask Twice” I guess which we played recently at our House of Fun weekender in Butlins in Minehead, and also I like “Around and Around” which is a number that kept its head down thru the years, a sardonic look at ’success’ which I wrote with Mr Lee J Thompson lyricist supreme, that was a b-side from ‘Lovestruck’. There was an old track called ‘Crying Shame’ I have fond memories of –

I remember playing it in Belfast back the 80’s when life was still… full of promise! 🙂

Also Mr Speaker was not bad.

GP: Many have written to me from Russia saying what massive Madness fans they are. Can you tell the story behind your Red Square gig in 1992.

Last year, notably, Robbie Williams pulled all his Russia gigs – would Madness gig there? How do you feel about your Russian fans?

MB: That’s nice to hear we have some fans out there! Red Square 1992, we did a gig that was to be streamed live to Top of the Pops. We stayed in the Rossiya Hotel, biggest hotel in Russia so they said where we stayed had seen its best days.

We had a stage set up right in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral that was pretty cool. Unfortunately there was no audience and it was bloody cold! We did a radio show or two as well while we were there, It was just after the disintegration of the Soviet Union a very historic period but when Yeltsin was implementing western economic shock therapy they were difficult times.

We also played at the Kubana Festival in 2014 a stones throw from Crimea which I invited you too but unfortunately you gave me a blank at the time (as explained above, and again, sorry – Graham). We flew along the border close to East Ukraine over the clouds on the way back which was very close to where MH17 was shot down and only a month later which was weird and very sad.

GP: I think it was Suggs who said that he couldn’t imagine doing it all when you’re 30. Now, you’re almost 60 yourself Mike (actually, Mike is 60 today, April 21st!), and on a creative high – Can’t Touch Us Now is an incredible piece of work. When some bands come and go in a year, how have Madness stayed going for 40 years? What’s next?

MB: Yeah indeed who would guess all that time ago. I remember seeing a teacher at school who was 40 years old back in the 70’s, i was about 11 thinking what an old git! verging on the end of the road! who could have guessed life begins at… 59! 🙂

I suppose we lasted as we were mates before we formed a band and always got on – even to this day it remains a congenial bunch! ha ha.

(Single from ‘Can’t Touch us Now’, Mr Apples)

We don’t work as full on as we did in the early days (which drives you round the bend). We just finished a tour of Scandinavia and had a most enjoyable time.

Thanks for the kind words regarding the latest album, I think as long as one doesn’t lose touch with ones inspiration and love of music then all those years only improve ones talent like a good wine 🙂 !

We gained a lot of experience over the years so I think were in a good place at the moment.

GP: Apologies if this is indulgent, but I attach a photo of my collection of Madness singles. How would you rate it? (We can do albums another time 🙂


MB:
10 out of 10 for the single collection!

GP: I’m sure people will read this, and come away with things they didn’t know about Mike Barson. They may not also know that you can tell jokes in Dutch.

Is there anything else to know? 🙂

MB: Without a doubt.

As a post-note, I asked Mike his opinion about the Skripal situation: 

I think its horrible what happened to the Skripals, especially his daughter and I hope they will both fully recover.

Regarding the government handling of what happened I find it painful to see British MP’s failing so completely to apply the basics of law in this country – That one is Innocent until proven guilty. Its ugly seeing people baying for revenge without any proof – and then attacking Jeremy Corbyn for posing a rational civilised question simply asking for proof first. Are MP’s barbarians these days? – rather more like clowns!

In a fast-moving situation, Mike has been vocal with his opinion on the Skirpals, Syria, and other themes, find him on Twitter here – https://twitter.com/MikeBarson108

Just How Silly is the Ukrainian Government? Name a Place…

Just how silly is the Ukrainian government? Well, with the country mired – miring Poroshenkoitself – in ongoing war with Donbass, and stricken economy beset by high-level corruption, and looting, you would think they would be engaging all of their efforts to tackle these, and the many more problems (healthcare, plunging population, etc…) afflicting the country.

But yet … in the midst of all of this, Ukraine has somehow found the time to, seemingly randomly, rename places in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Republics which will clearly never return to Ukraine, as even most Ukrainians now accept. 

Here’s look at just a few: 

Torez, DPR – renamed to Chistyakovo.

where 1Krasnodon, LPR – renamed to Sorokino

Sverdlovsk, LPR – renamed to Dolzhansky

Kirovskoe, DPR renamed to Krestnaya

Stakhanov, LPR renamed to Kadievka.

And this list goes on, to 150 places renamed in the Donetsk, and Lugansk people’s republics – and Crimea. 

So, let’s make some points here – 

Absolutely no one who actually lives in these places calls them by their ‘Ukrainian names’.

Although lists were circulated, the renaming has hardly caught the public imagination, even in Ukraine, where the former names are still mainly. This Ukrainian ‘ATO’ resource, recently referring to Stakhanov, among other ‘Ukraine-renamed’ places, in a war dispatch.

However, some Ukrainians do use the Ukrainian names. So, fighting a war against places you’ve renamed yourself, some on the same side call them this, some call them the other … no one’s quite sure. Yeah, that’s a masterstroke, surely.

And if we’re speaking of maps, by the way, the maps printed out will all be in the previous place names. So what have Ukraine’s soldiers done? Tippexed out and filled in with biro? Or still using the names of the hated ‘occupiers’ (i.e. those people who actually live and are from the places)?

where.jpgBy the way – a Facebook comment when I mentioned this – Do you know how much money it costs to rename a street? You have to get all of the title documents changed on all of the paperwork for all of the residential and commercial areas. Then you need to update the cadastral plans, the city development plans and submit to the federal government for ratification. It is a logical and economic nightmare. Also, anytime there is this volume of paperwork there are bound to be errors. This means court cases, adjudication and all of the rest of that. Ridiculous.

More, it’s almost a form of self-trolling. How much more ridiculous can you get? Renaming places random names which they will never really be called? Causing untold expense, and confusion for yourself in the process…. is it some sort of new Ukrainian ‘victory’, if you can’t capture a place, just rename it? I mean, come on, this is supposed to be a serious country, we’re told, right? 

Oh, Ukraine, it’s just too silly….

What is a Ukrop?

You can’t have been following the conflict in Donbass without hearing the word ‘Ukrop’. And perhaps you’ve taken it literally, in which case:

Ukrop
Literally, dill. And muddying the waters further is the UKROP political party in Ukraine, Ukrainian Association of Patriots. However, neither of those are what Ukrop stands for, in the vernacular.

Is it a pejorative term? Perhaps, despite the Ukrainian attemps to reclaim the word. However I also believe it’s a valid one, because I still believe that most Ukrainians are good, decent people, and wouldn’t want to offend them by lumping them in with Ukrops. A Ukrop isn’t even necessarily a Ukrainian. So, what exactly is a Ukrop? I say this from years, and tens of thousands of comments, of experience:

A Ukrop is: 

Someone who supported Euromaidan – the violent overthrow of a democratically elected president, and government in Ukraine, replacing them with far-right radicals. And they are surprised to this day that didn’t end well for them….

1Euromaidan27
Blame Russia.pngMoreover, Ukrops don’t blame Euromaidan, or the ensuing chaos in Ukraine as radicals and the far-right took power, for any of the problems. They blame Putin, and Russian. Again, and again, and again…..

For a Ukrop, nothing is their fault, if something goes wrong, it’s always Russia’s fault, and Putin. A typical Ukrop will spend much of their time showering the internet with various diatribes against both of the former.

Even when a Ukrop does admit to something, it’s never their fault. The shelling of civilian areas of Donbass, and killing of civilians, is being done by Ukrainian forces. The more intelligent Ukrop will know this – however as an ‘intelligent Ukrop’ is the original oxymoron, they will still find a way to blame Russia ‘Russian World’, ‘Putin’, and so on. The less intelligent Ukrop exists in a state of believing that, in the case of the shelling of Donbass, Russia is guilty, because Russia has done it all.

Screenshot (2346).pngA Ukrop thinks that every journalist who doesn’t report the Kiev version of events is a propagandist. More specifically, a ‘Russian propagandist’, a ‘Kremlin agent’, etc. Myself, for example – I’m a British journalist, no connection with any Russian media for years, work entirely through crowdfunding (see below).

Yet, Ukrops believe I’m some sort of ‘evil Kremlin propagandist’, because I don’t report the news they want to hear. Oh, and when I do report the news they want to hear, it’s a ‘misake’ on my part, rather than objective coverage (because of the fore-mentioned ‘Kremlin propagandist’ tag).

A Ukrop will often tell you how European they are, how European Ukraine is, etc. They will then proceed to spray death threats across the internet directed at anyone they don’t like, journalists whose journalism doesn’t conform to their views. 

Death threat

A Ukrop likes to watch YouTube videos of life in the DPR and LPR, and if they notice something they perceive bad, or someone complaining, they will write comments like ‘and you see it was much better in Ukraine‘ etc….

Ukrops fail to realise that because of the Euromaidan coup they so enthusiastically supported, support, that that Ukraine is gone forever, consigned to history. But it’s not their fault, of course, it’s all Russia’s fault, and Putin’s fault, and poor Ukraine is the victim of ‘Russian aggression’ and hashtag #RussiainvadedUkraine etc etc

Anatoliy ShariyUkrops believe that all Russian media is propaganda, all ‘fake news’, and believe their own media, despite Ukrainian media being so dishonest that a man, Ukrainian even, Anatoliy Shariy, (right) has practically based his entire, and extremely prolific, career, on debunking it. Further, Ukrops will frequently accuse Russia of having a hugely sophisicated propaganda machine, producing elaborate propaganda. Ukrops believe this, because they are told so by their own hugely sophisticated propaganda machine, producing elaborate propaganda.

Finally, a Ukrop is someone who often insults the breakaway regions of Donbass, DPR, and LPR, in the strongest terms. They don’t like the president of Ukraine, Poroshenko. Yet they are willing to do everything in their power for these regions of Donbass they so dislike to be under the control of a president they despise.

And that, is a Ukrop. 

10 Reasons pro-Ukrainians don’t like me….

Graham Phillips

Anyone interacting with me on Twitter invariably finds themselves swamped by spammers levelling all sorts of abuse at me. These accounts are, as they would call themselves ‘pro-Ukrainian’. So, why don’t ‘pro-Ukrainians’ like me? Here are 10 reasons:

1. They want you to think that Euromaidan was the ‘Revolution of Dignity’ etc, but I reported the truth about Euromaidan – 

2. They can’t just claim my reportage is ‘Russian propaganda’ (as is their habit), without sounding a bit ridiculous. I had a short, fairly acrimonious relationship with RT in late 2013 to July 2014, did some work for the Zvezda channel until February 2015. So, for over 2 years, I’ve had no affiliations with any media outlet, from any country – my journalism is real, independent journalism.

3. I’ve been there from the start, reporting real information from places they wanted you to believe disinformation from . Euromaidan, Donbass, Crimea.

4. I’ve stayed with these places, bringing you the stories they don’t want you to see. The reality of Crimea (in which I’ve filmed hundreds of videos of reportage, made several films). I’ve extensively covered Donbass and told the story they don’t want you to know – Ukrainian killing has killed thousands of civilians there –

5. Almost no other western correspondent has reported any of the above. And ‘pro-Ukrainians’ are enraged that I have, and do.

6. People watch my workover 60 million views on my own YouTube channel alone, from almost every country in the world which has internet.

7. I produce a lot – over 4500 videos on my YouTube channel, plus articles, and more.

8. I’ve never been caught out in a lie, or fabrication. I don’t do that. There’s nothing to discredit my work.

9. The stakes are high. ‘Pro-Ukrainians’ want to present an unblemished image of their country, to speed their ‘European integration’, get more IMF funding, and on…

10. But, my work punctures that carefully constructed illusion of Ukraine. It reports the truth, just as it is. And, ‘pro-Ukrainians’ don’t like the truth. In fact many of them even loathe it. And if you’ve interacted with me on Twitter, they may well be trolling you now!

My University Years (Including Brandon Reed, ‘Gay stuff’ etc)

DundeeI see this come up, so as I go forward, with a wider western audience, of which I’m very appreciative, I’d like to be totally open about this, as with everything. I went to Dundee University between 1998 and 2001, majoring in philosophy, graduating in 2001 with a Masters of the Arts, BA degree.

In my time as uni, I got involved with student theatre, performing, and in 2000 put on a stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe ‘The Road from Dundee‘ with my friend Benni Esposito. Deciding to take stage names for this, Benni took Ben Darcy, and I came up with Brandon Reed, not exactly sure why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Road from DundeeRoad from Dundee 1 Road from Dundee 2 Road from Dundee 3

Well, our show ‘Road from Dundee‘, done for a budget of about a hundred pounds, was a huge success, five-star reviews, packed houses even a little tour, media attention, and on. I probably got a bit caught up in this, started going under the name ‘Brandon Reed’ even, and planning on a future career in theatre, television. I even changed my name at Uni to this. You know, I was 21, took it seriously, etc, and actually all that even took, to, as I recall my slight surprise, was asking the secretary in the Dean’s office.

Graham Phillips Rather me than YouAnyway, come 2001 at the Edinburgh Fringe, I’d done my finals, decided I wanted to leave uni, move to London, in any case. And Benni had decided he didn’t want to be involved in the shows this year. I’d taken on a solo show, taking material from a trip all around the US in September of 2000, and had also decided to write, and take the lead role, in a 7-person-play. Youthful enthusiasm and all that – I’d stay up all night alternating between revising for finals, and writing my productions.

Well, how did they go? Not well at all, it must be said! Scathing reviews, sparse audiences, 2001’s fringe was a spectrum opposite of 2000. And it certainly brought a few things home, having watched a lot of other productions I realised, I’m no actor, and a career in the theatre was not to be for me. And Brandon Reed, yeah, that was also going to go the way of what everyone confused it for anyway ‘Brandon Lee‘.  It was over.

Road from Dundee GrahamI’d had an amazing 2000, putting on a play which had worked out really well, with my best friend. 2001, however, was the proverbial back to earth, with a bang, bringing a lot of things home in the process. I called Dundee University to ask if they could change my name back, but, too late, I’d sat my finals as Brandon Reed, so I graduated in that name – albeit with a special letter explaining that actually, I’m Graham Phillips. 

I moved to London in September of 2001, and while I continued to do a bit of stand-up for little while, it was more of a social thing than anything, new in London, getting out meeting people, and so on. I wound it down, and early 2003 saw my final ever performance. It just wasn’t for me, but I’d tried it, done it.

With the media industry laying off staff en masse at this time, I’d found it impossible to break into the journalism – at university I’d been accepted on a Benni Espositoprogramme by the Guardian, and had also started freelancing, writing several articles for the Scotsman newspaper – such as here, here, and here. I started a different career path, spending most of my working life in London at the (now defunct) COI. 

As for Benni, unfortunately there’s a sad end to that story, that got a bit worse years down the line. He was a hugely talented artist, had been in a successful band, a gifted writer, performer. And perhaps with all of that, creative DNA and all, a tendency to not always do things in moderation.

Anyway, as I say, he’d been my best friend at university, we put on shows together, did fun things like a project for David Hasselhoff to be rector of Dundee University –

Hasselhof Dundee Hasselhoff Dundee 1

Spoofed Morecambe and Wife for posters for upcoming shows –
Benni Graham

Got dressed up for show, fancy dress nights –

Benni Graham1 Graham Benni DundeeGraham Benni Dundee 1

We’d gone out chasing girls. Drunk too much, on occasion. Hitch-hiked. It was uni, it was young, it was fun.

Benni portraitI moved to London in 2001, as I say, and saw Benni then only intermittently over the years. Sadly, I saw Benni succumbing, rather than overcoming as he wanted to, to his vices. Whether this was a factor or not I can’t say, as his death, on January 3rd 2005, was from a long-standing medical condition. This portrait of him, the last, by Jackie Anderson. 

We’d kept in touch, seen each other just months before. His passing, at the age of only 33, was a huge shock to me, something I was sad about for a long time, still am if I think about it.

So, I was hardly gratified to see the Ukrainian gutter press splash all over a story in 2015 that I was ‘gay’ on the basis that they’d found online somwhere that old Morecambe and Wise photo of Benni and myself.

Screenshot (87)Not only is that claim totally incorrect, it was completely insensitive to the memory of my best friend. But, then, having decided I’m some sort of a ‘Kremlin propagandist‘, because they don’t like the news I report, I guess some people think they have the right to do anything, including attacking those who can no longer defend themselves, in the case of Benni.

It’s amoral, and I even consider it pretty inhumane, more so given the mass Benni and Grahamamount of rank homophobic abuse which was directed at me by ‘pro-Ukrainians’, call them as you will. However, I’m not going to go off screaming ‘infamy‘, I can take it, and I’m pretty sure Benni would have found it hilarious.

So, that’s that. And as for ‘Brandon Reed’ being brought up against me, I’m actually proud of the show we did ‘Road from Dundee‘. As for the rest, well, that was what told me that kind of career wasn’t for me, but I’d encourage anyone of 21, and not only, to try out a few things before deciding on what’s right for them!

Anyway, Benni mate, to you. And you can see more of Benni’s incredible paintings here.  All my uni photos here. 

Screenshot (88)

Stefan Huijboom – The True Story of a pro-Ukraine Dutch Conman

Graham Phillips – This is part of a series – Who’s Who in Ukraine Propaganda #4

stefan‘Some Dutch loser, like an extra from ‘Dude Where’s My Car’, and that was how Dutch journalist Stefan Huijboom (right) was introduced to me, by my long-term colleague in Donbass, Patrick Lancaster. This was late 2014, Huijboom had been on the scene earlier in Donetsk, summer of 2014.

I gave little, if any, thought to Huijboom until November of 2014 when I was wounded, and Huijboom started actively tweeting, gloating about that.

Fullscreen capture 12042016 144046.bmp

Understandably, I wasn’t that impressed by this. But, as Patrick said ‘if you actually knew the guy, you wouldn’t bother, he’s a fool‘.  I never did meet Huijboom, but when he took to trolling me on Twitter, I responded to the Kyiv Post journalist, who had spent a lot of time in Donbass, always taking the pro-Kiev position. Again, as Patrick explained ‘Stefan didn’t care about that, he was only looking to make a name for himself‘.

A lot of time, he didn’t actually directly attack me on Twitter, using my handle, Stefan Huijboom (2)he’d just be mentioning me behind my bank, easily findable by a search, calling me a ‘Kremlin propagandist’, ‘idiot’, and so on. I paid little attention to these, having come to the conclusion that Huijboom was actually mentally impaired in some way. There seemed no other explanation for his articles – such as here, and here – and tweets (to make no mention of his series of odd selfies, pictured), which veered from reporting news in Donbass from a brazen ‘Euromaidan, pro-Ukraine’ position to bizarre non-sequiturs.

In August of 2014, we learn that Stefan had been woken up by a barking dog.

Fullscreen capture 12042016 161851.bmpIn November of 2014, we get updates from Stefan’s Kiev apartment, and the heating situation there (these just two, of many such tweets) –

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As for Donetsk, when he was there, and there was action, Stefan chose not to film that, rather record it on Soundcloud – from February 2015

Fullscreen capture 12042016 152854.bmpPerhaps we should be grateful for even a Soundcloud, as usually Stefan’s reports of explosions (no mention from his part, that this is Ukraine forces shelling the city of Donetsk, of course) were unaccompanied by any supporting evidence whatsoever (despite this, still forwarded on by news sources, albeit pro-Kiev ones) –

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What is Stefan doing as all these ‘explosions’ are hitting then? Seemingly, either getting his laptop fixed, or having some chocolate cake –

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March of 2015, and it was more laptop problems for Stefan –Fullscreen capture 12042016 192050.bmpWhen he gets out of his apartment, what does he see? Well, from February 12th, 2015, as war action intensified around Debaltsevo, with Donetsk itself still under shelling, Stefan broke the story of a ‘dog eating garbage’ –

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This, coupled with an inability to understand even the most basic things. In 2015, Stefan actually thought the ’06’ on this poster denoted ‘2006’, rather than June of the previous year, tweeting on a photo of the poster (which would be near 10 years old, by his estimations) –

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But what his his problem? Just not that bright? Or even alcohol-related? This, from May of 2015 –

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And off the ‘sauce’, onto sources, Stefan here, in March 2015, passes on what a ‘shopowner’ told him, in Donetsk –

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Here, it’s just ‘locals’ –

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How reliable Stefan’s local sources are though, is perhaps open to question, even by himself –

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Journalist Max Clarke, who knew Huijboom from their time together in Donetsk (pictured here with Huijboom, Patrick Lancaster, and another), Stefan Huijboom Patrick Max2014, tells me ‘There was always something just not right about Stefan. He never expressed any pro-Kiev sentiments in conversation, but his articles and tweets always came out relentlessly pro-Kiev. Then there was the money – he’d borrow money, and just not pay it back. 

There was a time we both had a conversation, in a cafe, about how we literally had no money. Next, Stefan ordered a giant ice-cream sundae. He knew full well that I’d have to pay for it, but that it would be almost the last money I had. Mutual friends were there, and laughed at that, said ‘he’s a child’. 

We’d tease Stefan at times, he couldn’t take it, would storm off in a tantrum. He stole money from me, from other friends, from the hostel he stayed at in Donetsk (the Red Cat), owned by a local family’

Despite all of this, Huijboom actually developed a decent career in the pro-Fullscreen capture 12042016 182355.bmpKiev media, becoming a prolific contributor to the Kyiv Post (Bio there –Stefan Huijboom is a Dutch journalist working for Algemeen Dagblad, The Post Online, and several Dutch radio shows. He has studied and lived two and a half years in the United States, and now he works as a journalist in post-Soviet countries. He regularly contributes to the Kyiv Post. He can be reached at stefanhuijboom@gmail.com) with headlines like ‘Donetsk university students getting ready to receive ‘worthless’ diplomas‘ ,’Arbitrary arrests in Russian-held Donetsk as city descends into anarchy‘ / ‘​In Russian-occupied Donetsk, debate heated over use of child soldiers in war against Ukraine‘ .

Not surprisingly, this kind of coverage led to Huijboom becoming an unpopular, if still minor figure in Donbass. Despite having been attacking me online for over Fullscreen capture 12042016 182638.bmp6 months, he wrote to me in July of 2015 about this –

Hi Graham,

I’ve been informed that the self-proclaimed authorities in Donetsk are no longer allowing me to work as a journalist in the Russian-separatist held territories. Tensions are growing out there as the self-proclaimed Ministry of Information requires (as also noted on the press accreditation) journalist to be “politically correct”.

Fullscreen capture 12042016 190313.bmpFor almost a year I’ve traveled regularly to Donetsk to write stories for Dutch news, KyivPost, and do radio talks. Some – like you – have accused me of producing pro-Kiev propaganda or that I might work for the Ukrainian government. Everything that concerns critical reporting is according to a lot of pro-Russian sympathisers “pro-Ukrainian propaganda”. You have said this a lot on social media, and have accused many other critical journalists of “pro-Ukraine propaganda”.

We might not share the same views as is okay in democratic countries, but in Donetsk it could have resulted in my arrest, or even worse. And I’m not the only one: you have brought a lot of other journalists in severe danger in a lawless region by only accusing them of being a “spy” or “pro-Ukraine”, as they were simply doing their job. I’d like to ask you: why? Why are you making false accusations against journalists whereas you yourself consider yourself a journalist …

I left Donetsk already for safety concerns, but I want to ask you a question. It would be appreciated if you could answer truthfully and not start a Twitter feud.

Are you aware of my “persona non grata” status now in Donetsk? I.e. what actions would they take would I go back there? I could always work there, and all of a sudden, after an article about censorship I wrote they are “looking for me” (quoted by my source). If you are aware of this, do you have anything to do with it, and do you know the exact reason why?

I wish you good luck and stay safe out there,

Stefan

Hi Graham,

Could you reply to this e-mail please?

Cheers, Stefan

Those emails, from July 29th, and 30th, when I didn’t immediately reply. I replied on the 31st –

Tell you what Stefan – why don’t you pay your debt to the Red Cat Hostel, pay your debt to Patrick, apologise to all the people of Donbass you’ve waged a PR war against, insulted, smeared, encouraged military action against, apologise for gloating when I was wounded by shrapnel, then I’ll answer you, you repellent little fucker. Graham

After that, he blocked me on Twitter, recently unblocking it would appear, and we’ve had little in the months since, though I do see he’s still been attacking me ‘behind my back‘, on Twitter, and when I was deported from Latvia, Huijboom tried to get me extradited to Ukraine –

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StefanHujThen, today, on the group for expats in Kiev, I read the following post

Friends!! MUST REPOST!!

Please be warned that the man in the pictures below, Stefan Huijboom, is a con-artist and a thief. I have known him for 2 years and am sad to say that the person I thought was my friend robbed me.
I allowed him to stay in my home for 7 days (Jan 26-Feb 3) this year while he looked for an apartment here in Kiev. During his stay 5,000UAH and $300 in cash went missing from my apartment. He was the only person I had over that week. I asked him to move out immediately and haven’t seen him since. I thought I was rid of a snake.

Stefan Huijboom2Yesterday I was notified by Bank of America that this guy is forging checks under my name. Stefan ran out of the stolen cash, I guess. He decided to stoop to the lowest low. $85,995.00 in forged checks claiming consultation from him?? For what?!? Let me consult you, Stefan Huijboom: Fraud results in imprisonment in federal prison.

This clown does this after having served 5 days in Lebanese jail January 2016 for credit card theft amounting in 800€. The victims in Lebanon are now in contact with me and can back up this story. I also have his prison release papers, although in Arabic, which he left at my house along with his suitcase. Had his previous victim created a post like this one for all of Stefan Huijboom’s friends to see I would have not been in this predicament.

Stefan Huijboom1You can’t deny facts, Stefan. Your handwriting, signatures, bank account information, and official bank stamps are proof for all to see…
He may even try to create a story that I am setting him up…as he told me before about other people and I believed him. I have no reason to set him up. I valued our friendship, I took him into my home and introduced him to all of my family.
You stole money from my child after having played dolls with her every night. SHAME ON YOU.

The banks, police, the Netherlands consulate, and your friends and family are notified. Good luck to you… It’s unfortunate you choose this kind of lifestyle for yourself.

Stefan Huijboom3I encourage anyone who has had a similar situation happen with Stefan Huijboom to come forward and share.

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST EVEN IF YOU DONT KNOW THIS GUY PERSONALLY. He travels all over the world and comes in contact with many unsuspecting people. I would hate for anything like this to happen to anyone else.

And following allegations were added below –

Tom Daams I knew him well, we travelled for a while together. I broke all communication with him roughly 1,5 years ago. He borrowed money from friends and never paid them back. He ‘lost’ camera equipment from friends and never cared Stefan Huijboom conabout it. He hired a friend of mine as a fixer and never paid him the amount they agreed on for his services. Last time I spoke with him he actually told me a couple of years back he robbed money his dad’s creditcard and got in a lot of trouble for that. Everything Yanka writes is completely believable in my opinion. Be aware of this man and share this with many friends, freelancers and fixers!
Last thing I heard from was that he is writing articles on a freelance base for the Dutch newspaper ‘Algemeen Dagblad’, AD in short. But this was around a year ago.
Be very wary of this person.

Eefje Dekker Unfortunately this guy has been stealing money since he was very Stefan Huijboom4young. He was in prison for 18 months in the Netherlands because of a huge fraud case. He still owes me 300 euro too from when he tried to ‘work’ as a journalist in the Middle East. Be warned, this guy is seriously ill.

And there we have it, the man who provided so much pro-Kiev news coverage from 2014 to date, not so much a journalist, as a career con artist, a thief, a liar. How has Huijboom himself responded to this? Initially he was ‘travelling’, then he issued a rather odd denial, and has been quiet for the past 9 hours.

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His guilt of this seems certain, there’s evidence of forged cheques even. And it’s clearly been going on for a long time. Now to the question, did the Kyiv Post, and other western media, turn a blind-eye to this just because he could be counted on to come out with pro-Kiev bylines?

The UK’s FCO – There to Help Immediately (if you’re the BBC)

Graham Phillips

As you may know, I was recently deported from Latvia, on March 16th/17th.

On March 19th, I raised this matter with the UK’s FCO (Supporting British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services.), subject line – Formal Complaint against Latvia – here are the emails –

Hello,

I was deported from Latvia on the night of March 16th, 17th, and banned for 3 years.

Graham Latvia3This is absolutely disgraceful, a complete breach of EU law –
– I had not committed, or been found guilty of any crime
– I was given no representation, nor any opportunity for representation
– The Latvian authorities were heavy-handed, and have attacked my
reputation via the media

I would like to make a complaint in the strongest terms, and pursue a claim for damages against the Latvian authorities.

Please take this up as a matter of urgency.

Graham Phillips

On March 24th, I heard back –

Dear Mr Phillips,

Thank you for your email. I am sorry to hear about the difficulties you encountered during your recent visit to Latvia. I hope this email finds you safe and well.

I can appreciate that you will have found the decision to deport you from Latvia frustrating but I should explain that the embassy is unable to intervene on your behalf in this matter. This is not out of any lack of interest or concern but because the decision on such matters lies with the Latvian government acting in its capacity as a sovereign state.

The Latvian government has established procedures for anyone who is unhappy with the decision taken to deport them. These should be set out in the information pack you will have received on your deportation. You may also find it helpful to UK FCOdiscuss your options with a lawyer who is able to advise you on local law so that you can consider taking action through legal channels including for your claim for damages. I attach to this email a list of English speaking lawyers who may be able to assist you.

You mentioned in your email that you were denied access to representation and that the Latvian authorities were heavy handed. In order for us to determine how we may be able to assist you with these complaints, it would help us greatly if you could provide us with further details. In particular:

Do you mean you were denied access to a lawyer? If so, could you please provide further details about the circumstances including when you made this request, how many times, to whom and the response you received?

Can you please explain further what you mean by “heavy-handed” and the circumstances in which the behaviour you are complaining about arose?
I look forward to receiving your reply to these questions.

Yours sincerely

Richard

Richard Koizumi
Deputy Head of Mission
British Embassy Riga

They ‘helpfully’ enclosed a list of lawyers, and as for the questions, I’ve been down this road before with the FCO, you answer the questions, it all leads to absolutely nothing.

I had a more pertinent question for them – this email to them from March 28th –

Before I answer your questions, Richard.

Judith Gough PoroshenkoCan you explain to me why, when in Ukraine last year, BBC journalists were banned from Ukraine, and the FCO immediately intervened, UK ambassador to Ukraine Judith Gough going personally to visit president Poroshenko – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34282136 – yet when I, a working journalist, but not for the BBC, get deported from Latvia – even an EU country, you tell me you can’t do anything about it?

Surely it should be one rule for all? The FCO either can get involved in the matters of a ‘sovereign state’, or it can’t. So, why did the FCO get involved in a similar matter in Ukraine, not even in the EU, but did nothing at all to help me in Latvia?

Yours, Graham

I’m still waiting to hear back from them, over a week later. That’s the UK’s FCO, they are there to help you if you get in trouble abroad*. *If you work for the BBC.