2016 – A Quick Round-up, start of 2017 and on!

Graham Phillips

graham-phillipsI’m a completely crowdfunded correspondent, to make an ongoing donation to my work, the link is here. 

2016 was a year which saw some tragedies, some loved ones leave the world, so it’s difficult to describe the year, on a personal level, as anything other than tough.

However, on a working level, it was very productive. Hundreds of videos of reportage, more, several films, over 15 million views on my channel, many millions more on other channels, extensive exposure in worldwide media. These are some of the highlights. The year started in Donbass, with my preparing to leave Donbass, for a period in Russia, and on.

That period saw me go up to St Petersburg, where I had a holiday, then filmed reportage, and also worked on my first proper film, with Oleg Somov – Aramis.

St Petersburg was also where I recorded the video, setting my future out as a completely crowdfunded journalist

If I’m honest, I was worried, in January, if it would be possible to continue solely as a crowdfunded correspondent. After I parted company with Zvezda in early 2015, for the rest of 2015 I’d worked on such, modest earnings from my YouTube channel, and savings. Thanks to your support, however, I’ve been able, and am able to work on as a completely crowdfunded correspondent. 

Following St Petersburg, it was more reportage, and onto what was intended to be a period of several weeks filming reportage from the Baltics. In the event, it was only 3 days, as my asking people attending a march honouring a battalion which fought for the Nazis, why they were doing that, saw me arrested, deported, banned for three years.

This was the reportage I’d managed to film in Latvia, and Estonia, prior to that

The unexpected, unwelcome, turn of events saw me deported into Russia, with Latvian authorities actually lying to me, telling me I was also banned from Estonia and Lithuania, so Russia was the only option. It was onto Moscow, where I stayed for a few weeks, working out my next move, filming this reportage that has, across channels, accumulated well more than half a million views –

My interview with Doctor Liza, who tragically lost her life on Tu-154. May she rest in peace.

This reportage from Moscow, about Odessa, where I’d lived before the Ukraine conflict –

From finishing this, it was right down to Crimea, via the Savchenko trial. I stayed in Crimea for over a month, filming reportage, one of the highlights of this being my first interview with Natalia Poklonskaya, culminating in a crowdfunded film, Crimea: Victory Day 2016, again with Oleg Somov, combining footage from people all over Crimea into a unique film of how the celebration was marked across the peninsula.

I’d also filmed reportage in Crimea, this, from Evpatoria, asking people whether they wanted to be Russia, or Ukraine –

After Crimea, it was briefly back to Donbass, including a trip to the frontlines

And from here, back to the UK, where I began work on my crowdfunded project, of reportage about the upcoming referendum. As part of that project, I set off around Europe, highlights of that trip being reportage from the ‘jungle’ in Calais –

Interviewing Ukrainian football fans in Lille during Euro 2016

And returning to Latvia, despite the deportation, ban, to film more reportage from there –

There was also reportage from Denmark

From there, it was back to the UK, where I filmed extensive pre-Brexit reportage, there were around 100 videos in total, from Dundee, Birmingham, and London.

All of this reportage was generally well received, with hits often breaking out into the tens of thousands. However, it was post-Brexit that things really went big, with these videos. This one, of a conflict at the March for Europe, getting near 140,000 views, and featured across media, including the Huffington Post

While this one, of young anti-Brexit protester Hollie, has gained near 200,000 views, again featured across media, including the Express here

After completion of the Brexit reportage project, I travelled around Europe, filming about MH17, including a visit to propaganda agency Correctiv in Berlin, for work on a film due later this year. I filmed reportage in the Netherlands, about Theo van Gogh

I also filmed reportage in Germany, which turned out to be among my most popular of the year, including this reportage, my most popular of the year, street interviews in Munich, with over half a million views, rising by thousands each week

From there, it was back to the UK, and preparation for my crowdfunded film, a ‘A Brit (on his holidays) in Crimea’. That went very well, the film is due in June (I’ll be back in the UK filming more for it soon, then Crimea again) . I stayed on in Crimea to film some more reportage, this, on Crimean Tatars –

And this, about the Irishman who arrived when Crimea was Ukraine, but stayed (not technically legally) after it became Russia –

Here, asking Evpatoria residents how their city could be improved –

The most popular in terms of hits, with over 250,000, was my trip to the border between Crimea, and Ukraine –

There was also this film, about a day in Sevastopol! From there, it was a return to Donbass, and the months that followed have brought scores of videos of special reportage, including this look back to how war was in Lugansk in 2014, with the opening of a new memorial –

This trip to show you what it’s really like in a Donbass buffer zone, which is neither one country nor the other…

This special reportage, comprehensively debunking a BBC report, that there were ‘gulags’ in the Lugansk People’s Republic –

When Ukrainian shelling intensified in November, I was there to film is –

This reportage, of weapons made in the Lugansk People’s Republic, tested there

And this special reportage from School 60 in Lugansk, on which I’m still working on English subtitles for, with the help of one of my volunteers, Anastasia –

There was reportage on the OSCE – 

There were also, of course, scandals in that time, notably this one, from September, when I interviewed a Ukrainian terrorist –

Things really kicked off after this, with it getting considerable attention in the media, and Ukraine officially asking the UK to punish me. I also received thousands of comments online, messages of abuse, and death threats from ‘pro-Ukrainians’. What to say about this? I’m not interested in scandal, other people create it to suit their own ends. To me, it was standard reportage, I was glad when the fuss died down, and I could get on with work.

In November, I was pleased to start to bring you reportage in a different way, 360 degrees, giving you total control over the camera – this, a tour of a Donetsk building wrecked by Ukrainian shelling –

Here, Pervomaisk – 

This, exclusive, unique, totally unedited special reportage from Pervomaisk, in 360 –

As for war reportage, there were frequent trips to the frontline, with interviews, including this –

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-IkbCSXbTsyou]

Capturing Ukrainian forces heavy shelling by militia positions, in clear violation of Minsk –

Also, when it was possible (I’m banned from Ukraine, ‘freedom of press’ there etc), I interviewed Ukrainain soldiers, as here –

As for films, Oleg Somov (with whom I’ve worked on several projects together now) really worked to make this film about Kramatorsk, Victory Day, a masterpiece –

And, in full English, he did the same with the Jeff Monson Masterclass in Lugansk!

Before New Year in Donetsk, this was the reportage of the Christmas Tree opening –

My message to you on New Year – 

This was how the New Year was seen in, in Donetsk

In 2017, I’ve already been happy to bring you an exclusive documentary, about the Dutchman who’s been in Donbass all war –

And this most recent video, to mark 1000 days of war in Donbass

What more to expect from 2017? I’m leaving Donbass for a couple of months soon, with reportage to come from Russia, the UK, a special trip to Serbia, and more! There will be new videos on MH17 starting soon.

I’m extremely grateful, in 2016, for all the help in subtitles by the amazing Sergey Yermolayev, my amazing volunteer, from Latvia, living in Canada. More on him soon! In 2017, I’m looking to raise the game further still, with faster, and more subtitles!

I’m also always looking to make innovations to make my work better, more interesting for you. The most important thing – it’s always 100% objective, true reportage. And that’s all thanks to you, and your support!

We go on into 2017 together!

All the best! Graham

Dutch Journalist Michel Spekkers, and MH17 Confiscation in Netherlands, my Statement

Graham Phillips

michel-spekkersDutch journalist Michel Spekkers (pictured) has just returned to the Netherlands, after a week of working in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Upon his return into Schiphol airport, after having been contacted initially by, as I understand, the MH17 investigation team, after having tweeted about having removed items from the crash site, he was questioned by Dutch police, and all the MH17 items, plus equipment pertaining to his work – camera equipment, cards, even phone, was seized – against his will, naturally.

Michel has written about this on his Twitter account (in Dutch).

As I would with any journalist wanting to come to report the truth from Donbass, I helped Michel, and colleague, Stefan Beck, with advice on accreditation etc, and when they arrived here, we spent the first few days together – in Donetsk, and Lugansk, even seeing in the new year with Michel.

However, I didn’t go with them to the MH17 site, and I’m, to say the least, surprised, at Michel’s actions. It wasn’t something I was aware of until seeing his subsequent posts on Twitter, and reading the articles about this, it having caused a considerable scandal in the Netherlands. Had I been there, I would have been against this, in the strongest terms. I’ve spent some 75 hours on the MH17 site, and never once removed anything. One part, given to me by a homeowner (it had fallen on his home), I did everything to try to submit to the MH17 investigation, they didn’t want it.

I understand that Michel strongly felt, as many of us who have worked on MH17 do, that it is both inexplicable, and unacceptable, for parts, including personal items, to be on the site 2 1/2 years after the tragedy. I understand he wanted to contact the relatives, return such items as he felt were of value, submit what else could be, to DNA investigation.

However, whatever the intentions, I can’t support Michel’s actions here. I can, however, say that I worked with Michel, all around Europe, on my reportage trip in June of 2016 – he was a reliable colleague, a nice guy, we got through a few tough spots together, and I was happy to see him wish to come to report the truth from Donbass.

I believe Michel’s actions were those of a journalist in Donbass for the first time, at the MH17 site for the first time, overawed, wanting to do it all. And to add, Michel is a Dutchman, and this, the worst aviation catastrophe in his nation’s history.

I would also add that fellow Dutch journalist Jeroen Akkermans took multiple items from the crash site in 2014, and was applauded for doing so in his own country. I have written frequently in opposition to this, and my sentiments are the same in the situation of Michel Spekkers, despite our good working relatonship, friendship.

I can’t comment on the actions of the Dutch police, in terms of confiscating Michel’s items, against his will. However, Michel put himself in a position where he faced the police in a compromised position, due to his actions.

And it puts me in the position of, of course, defending a colleague with whom I’ve been through a fair bit with, had some beers with, done some important work with, but being unable to defend his actions in this instance.

I believe that, with an apology from Michel, and acknowledgement this was an error of judgement, this matter can be resolved without any considerable harm being done. There is no question in any way of his having ‘compromised’ the investigation etc, and I hope this will be a lesson Michel will learn from, and move forward.

Thoughts, as ever, with the victims of MH17, and their families, and loved ones.

An Open Letter to Donald Trump, on MH17

Dear Mr. Trump,

Your election has raised hopes that easing of tensions, between U.S. and Russia, and peacemaking in Europe in general is achievable. Settlement of the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine and lifting the sanctions against Russia which is vital for the world community has a realistic chance now. With this in mind, there is also hope for a higher quality investigation into the disputed downing of MH17, as you expressed your doubts in an October 2015 interview, regarding the proof of Russian guilt:

“They say it wasn’t them. It may have been their weapon, but they didn’t use it, they didn’t fire it, they even said the other side fired it to blame them. I mean to be honest with you, you’ll probably never know for sure.“ (MSNBC)

mh17Indeed, we agree with you, we will never be sure, with the kind of investigation we have seen over the past two years. The official investigation of the “Dutch Safety Board“ (DSB) and the “Joint Investigation Team“(JIT) was neither independent nor convincing. This kind of investigation forms a huge burden particularly to the families who lost their loved ones in the downing of MH17. They need to know the truth.
WE ARE ASKING YOU, TO PLEASE PUSH FOR A NEW INVESTIGATION. This could happen within an international framework like the U.N. comprising the following aspects:

(1) A team of international, independent scientists who would be able to exclude veto power for any government. This exclusion of veto is especially important, due to the overwhelming role of one of the involved parties, Ukraine. The main source of information to the DSB and JIT used for their official investigations was SBU, the Ukrainian secret service.
(2) Keeping all scenarios on the table.
(3) Declassifying and releasing “available satellite images” claimed by Secretary of State, John Kerry, on 20th of July 2014; or (if not) disclaiming their existence.
(4) Conducting forensic examination of impact holes (for metal residues) in the MH17 wreckage and reproducing the same pattern of damage by shelling tests (as usually done in crime cases). Completing key information fields, such as body forensics, voice recorder, radar data etc.
(5) Prior construction of, a clear path to an international, objective trial in the U.N. framework with judges from countries which are not connected with the crash.

FURTHERMORE, WE ARE ASKING YOU TO PLEASE INITIATE PEACE TALKS WITH ALL PARTIES CONCERNED (including but not limited to Russia, Ukraine, and the EU) aiming at settling the dispute and establishing a reconstruction plan for Eastern Ukraine including the compensation of the MH17 families.

Thank you so much in advance, for your attention to this matter.
– Independent journalists & experts on MH17 –

* Media spokesman – Mr. Billy Six
e-mail Billy@six-newhagen.de
facebook BILLY SIX
tel. 0049 152 269 27 443

– MARK BARTALMAI, journalist & Ukraine documentaries producer, GERMANY
– DR. THIERRY BAUDET, journalist, publicist & initiator of Dutch referendum on EU/Ukraine association agreement, NETHERLANDS
– BERND BIEDERMANN, missile defense colonel ret., military attaché ret. & book author, GERMANY
– CHRISTOPHER BLACK, international criminal lawyer, CANADA
– NORBERT FLEISCHER, investigative journalist, GERMANY
– PROF. DR. ELMAR GIEMULLA, lawyer of German MH17 victims, GERMANY
– DR. HERMANN HAGENA, airforce general ret. & author of MH17 military study, GERMANY
– PROF. DSC. OTTO-FRIEDRICH HAGENA, physicist, GERMANY
– PETER HAISENKO, journalist, publisher & former “Lufthansa” pilot, GERMANY
– JOHN HELMER, longest-serving foreign correspondent in Russia, UNITED STATES
– FRANK HÖFER, journalist & film producer, GERMANY
– DIETER KLEEMANN, airforce colonel / trainer ret. & book author, GERMANY
– PATRICK LANCASTER, investigative journalist with 100s of hours on MH17 site from day one & U.S. Navy veteran, UNITED STATES
– DR. JAMES O´NEILL, barrister on human rights & geopolitical analyst, AUSTRALIA
– JOOST NIEMÖLLER, journalist & MH17 book author, NETHERLANDS
– GRAHAM PHILLIPS, investigative journalist, UNITED KINGDOM
– PROF. DR. KEES VAN DER PIJL, political scientist, peace activist & author, NETHERLANDS
– HECTOR REBAN, political analyst & blogger on MH17, NETHERLANDS
– NORBERT K. REISBERG, Lt.-Col. ret., airforce pilot ret. & military scientist, GERMANY
DAN SHEPPARD, private MH17 researcher, AUSTRALIA
– JOACHIM SIEGERIST, journalist, publisher & author, GERMANY
– BILLY SIX, investigative journalist & book author, GERMANY
– MAX VAN DER WERFF, blogger & private MH17 investigator, NETHERLANDS
– PROF. KAREL VAN WOLFEREN, journalist, political analyst & book author, NETHERLANDS
– MOHD AZAHAR ZANUDIN, technician, supplier for army/police & blogger on MH17, MALAYSIA

Saakashvili – Lost at Sea in Odessa

Graham Phillips

As he stood by Odessa’s port on Monday, readying to deliver a resignation speech, as governor of Odessa, which would launch a broadside against Ukraine, Mikheil Saakashvili looked considerably older than his 48 years. He looked a very long way indeed from the once dashing figure, electrifying the global political scene with pledges to bring Georgia into the sphere of modern Europe.

In fact, he bore more than a passing resemblance to Michael Henchard, the main character saakashvili-odessa-1in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Mayor of Casterbridge‘, worn down by successive failures, as he issues a weary ‘I am to suffer, I perceive’.

Saakashvili prides himself on being an educated man, speaking five languages – but it’s unknown if he’s a fan of the work of titan of English literature, Thomas Hardy. If he were, he’dve recognised his 18 month tenure as the governor of Odessa beset by the kind of foreboding background Hardy used to set the mood for tragedy to come. In October of 2015, coming on for six months of his reign, a civilian passenger boat capsized in Odessa, with the loss of at least 12 lives, the worst maritime disaster of its kind in post-Soviet Ukraine. Saakashvili rushed back from his trip to the western Ukrainian city of Lvov to be there, but there were already comments at that time that it would be better if he hadn’t bothered. 

Almost exactly a year later, in October of 2016, Odessa was lashed by extreme storms, leaving at least three dead, again, the worst of its kind in post-Soviet Ukraine. Meanwhile, Saakashvili’s own time at the helm of Odessa lurched from crisis to disaster to catastrophe, before on Monday he walked the gangplank.

saakashvili-tieThere may be not be an image quite as iconic as Saakashvili eating his tie upon realising he’d misjudged his South Ossettia military action of 2008, but his ill-fated time in Odessa leaves a legacy of embarrassments, memes, unfulfilled pledges, and the feeling that almost everything he touched there turned to failure.

His appointment on May 30th 2015, came somewhat out of the blue. Saakashvili had been an enthusiastic cheerdleader for Euromaidan, but in the aftermath of that, had actually moved to the USA, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. February of 2015 saw him called to Ukraine, initially sitting on a fairly inconsequential advisory panel for a couple of months at the start of the year, in April he turned down the chance to become First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, stating his unwillingness to rescind his Georgian passport to take up Ukrainian. But then May, suddenly everything had changed. The former close ally of George W. Bush jr was hurriedly rolled out a Ukrainian passport on May 29th, appointed porohenko-saakashviligovernor of Odessa.

Tbilisi native Saakashvili was the first non-Ukrainian by birth to be named to head of what is in effect a provincial government. The post was made vacant largely because previous incumbent, Igor Palytsia, was an ally of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, with whom Poroshenko had had a very public falling out, before effecting a purge of those loyal to him.

According to Poroshenko, his old friend (from university days) Saakashvili “has proven with deeds, not words that he can not only give birth to creative ideas, but also put them into practice.” He added Georgia’s ex-president had changed his country “in the direction of transparency, effectiveness, anti-corruption, appeal for foreign investors, fair justice, protection of citizen’s rights, democracy,” something Poroshenko “would like to see very much” in Odessa.

And so it was, the man who made a venomous hatred for Russia one of his calling cards, saakashvili-putinfrequently calling Russians ‘barbarians’, and personal vendetta against Putin ‘I hate Putin’, was appointed governor of a city in which pro-Russia demonstrations would easily outnumber pro-Ukrainian, before the brutal events of May 2nd 2014, the burning of Trade Union House with mass loss of life on side of pro-Russian protesters, and subsequent campaign of repression against them.

Saakashvili’s appointment saw him posting an ‘I heart Odessa’ status on his Facebook, and indeed the US were so happy with the appointment they promptly offered to foot the bill for the salaries of Saakashvili and his team. In the city which was once considered the fourth city of the Russian empire, Saakashvili started out by making the obligatory big noises about plans to make Odessa the most powerful port in the Black Sea, and so forth.

Yet, the man known as ‘Misha”s professed love was never reciprocated by locals – he met with a decidedly choppy response from Odessites, from the start, with the mishiko-go-homeblack sea residents, famous for their laconic sense of humour, taking to hanging ties on landmarks around the city. July of 2015 saw anti-Maidan activists marching a goat through the city with placards declaring ‘Saakashvili Go Home’, and acvitists stating:’ Activists continued their protest campaign a few days later, this time launching a giant red balloon featuring his image and the phrase ‘Mishiko Go Home!’, complete with a large red necktie dangling from his mouth. Then in August of 2015, an actual statue of Saakashvili, taking the role of dog to Obama’s master, appeared on the city’s iconic Primorsky Boulevard.

saakashvili

Meanwhile, on the more serious side, reports emerged of Saakashvili, along with being wanted by his own country’s prosecutors for embezzlement, abuse of power and politically-motivated attacks, also wanted for murder in Georgia.  Things only got worse with the appointment of his team, a self-consciously ‘star-studded’ line-up looking more akin to the judging panel on a tv talent show than those capable of managing a port-and-resort city of 1 million which had derived much of its former prosperity from hundreds of thousands of yearly Russian visitors.

The appointment of Maria Gaidar as deputy governor, a glamorous, young Russian opposition maria-gaidar-odessafigure, was one Saakashvili likely thought would be a hit. He even stated she was ready to rescind her Russian citizenship, and apply for Ukrainian. However she fell at the first hurdle, when refusing to say that Ukraine was at war with Russia in interview, attracting the ire of Ukraine’s media, and Euromaidan supporters who had trumpeted Saakashvili’s appointment as a triumph. Ukrainian parliament member and former deputy governor of Dnepropetrovsk Borys Filatov, famous for his “we will hang the scum” line regarding Crimeans seeking independence from Ukraine, responded harshly to Gaidar’s stance

They simply don’t give a **** about our country. They are making money here. Or are fulfilling their sick ambitions. Or are training themselves ‘on cats.’ Choose the option for their motivation yourself,” Filatov posted on Facebook.

Then there was Saakashvili’s obsession with Yulia Marushevska- activist and aspiring actress best known for her part in Euromaidan promotional video ‘I am a Ukrainian‘ in Saakashvili OdessaFebruary of 2014. She spent most of her time after that appearing on chat shows speaking about that, until Saakashvili seemingly spotted her political potential, making her third in command in his team. It’s unclear what she did in her months in this job, but in any case, in October of 2015, Saakashvili promoted her to Customs Chief for Odessa, in charge of the biggest port insert.

Saakashvili’s other appointment to deputy,  Afghan war hero Vladimir Zhmak, also had no experience in civil service, something an enthusiastic Saakashvili saw as a plus, posting on his Facebook that their lack of experience was a good thing because my goal is to bring new, fresh, uncorrupted, competent people.”

Yulia Marushevska Odessa 1What happened? Gaidar’s tenure was an unmitigated disaster, alienating even those who had supported Saakashvili, with her backing out of taking Ukrainian citizenship, resigning in a hail of protest in May of 2016.  Zhmak signed off in July of 2016 with a cheerful ‘Goodbye Odessa’ message on his Facebook. Marushevska has proved incompetent spilling into inept in her role as customs chief, embroiled in endless internecine conflict, with Odessa’s port practices stuck in the past, and revenues actually decreasing by 30 percent, while in Ukraine as a whole, revenues were reported as up 21 percent. Marushevska is now reported to be considering her own position. 

What were Saakashvili’s other big ideas for reform? Fire everyone, call them all ‘useless’, employ new and untested people. Unfortunately for Saakashvili, his new people turned out to be just as, if not more ‘useless’ than their predecessors, and he failed in making any headway in his ‘war against corruption’. 

saakashvili-odessa-busInitial, PR-winning stunts, such as his taking public transport to ‘touch base with locals’, petered out. By October of 2015, locals who’d opened precious wine in honour of his appointment were beating a path to his door to berate him. And after his candidate for mayor, Alexander Borovyk, was defeated, by Gennadiy Trukhanov (who Saakashvili had frequently, publicly slated), in October of 2015, Saakashvili largely withdrew from the Odessa scene.

Meanwhile things had quickly unravelled for Saakashvili with other government figures. In December of 2015, at a government meeting, he got into a heated argument with interior minister Arsen Avakov, that ended with Avakov throwing a glass of water at Saakashvili, who retorted that Avakov was a “thief” who would go to prison. Avakov later described Saakashvili as a “bonkers populist”

Even a western media inclined to be more than benevolent to Saakashvili had long changed their tune on him, by the time of his resignation. Polish press were writing in February of 2016, that ‘His work so far has failed to bring any spectacular successes in any of the priority areas of activity.’ This article in Foreign Policy, from October 2016, painted a prophetic pictured of a man defeated. The Ukrainian press were stronger still, a Ukrainian saakashvili-odessa-2journalist writing in October of 2015 that Saakashvili was ‘dull’ and ‘stank’. 

The writing was on the line in May of this year, when Saakashvili gave an interview to Shaun Walker of the Guardian, calling Ukraine’s government a ‘bunch of mediocre people’, with ‘no vision for reform’, and openly criticising his former ally, Poroshenko. The article predictably made waves, causing Saakashvili to issue a statement that Walker, his ‘longtime friend’, had ‘clearly perverted’ their conversation. Walker, however, stuck by his article, with dictaphone recording to back it up.

Much of what Saakashvili said in his resignation, blasting the Kiev government, singling out President Petro Poroshenko, saying he had been complicit in obstructing various reforms, had clearly well fomented when he spoke with Walker in May. But the vitriol had only increased with the passing of months, as he blasted: ‘“What difference for Ukrainians does it make who will treat them like dirt: Poroshenko or Yanukovych; what difference who will steal from them?”’

Having made some effort to speak Ukrainian during his tenure, Saakashvili reverted to the Russian he knows better for his signing-off salvo –

Saakashvili’s taking on the role in Odessa was largely motivated by his desire to escalate his personal (somewhat one-sided) battle with Putin. He leaves the post, with harsher words about the man who employed him, Poroshenko. He leaves with almost all of his much-vaunted reforms, and project, having ignominiously failed. As Walker wrote ‘The sad demise of Saakashvili and his bold new vision‘. He wrote that in 2008. Time moves on, but Saakashvili’s ‘bold new visions’ always seem to end the same way.

And so it is, like Michael Henchard, after another failure, Saakashvili sets off again.

Updates from the DLPR (#5) International Visitors in the LPR

Fair to say that tourism hasn’t exactly been a huge industry in recent times in Donbass. And, fair to add it’s not going to be while there’s an ongoing, no matter how sporadic, war situation.

There’s war itself, and also the barriers of getting through – entry from the Ukraine side isn’t possible without special clearance from Kiev, and that doesn’t exactly go down well in the DPR, and LPR, understandably.

So, visitors have to come through Russia, requiring the obtaining of a Russian visa, involving the filling out of a rather lengthy form, trip to a visa office, and some expense. Not only this, a double-entry visa is required, allowing your DLPR visitor to exit Russia, and re-enter.

So, it’s not a city break to Rome. Yet, there are those who are surmounting the hurdles, and coming themselves to the LPR, and DPR. Here, in English, a recent group of Italian visitors –

And even more recently, a Welshman here in Lugansk –

So, too early to say the the DPR and LPR are emerging as tourist destinations, but people are coming here, leaving in the one piece they came in, and going home knowing for themselves how things are here, rather than what what the western media would have you think.

Likely watch this space then, for more international visitors to the LPR and DPR!

Updates from the DLPR (#3) A Visit to a Lugansk ‘Gulag’ (as the BBC said).

A recent BBC article blazed

Human rights activists in eastern Ukraine say they have evidence that slave labour camps reminiscent of Soviet gulags are operating in rebel-controlled areas. A newly published report alleges that 5,000 people in the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic are held in solitary confinement, beaten, starved or tortured if they refuse to carry out unpaid work

However, the BBC had made a few fundamental ‘mistakes’ here –

  • They’d never once visited the prison in question they wrote so much about
  • They took an interview from a blatantly ‘pro-Ukrainian’ former inmate, and took his word about the terms of his detention as gospel
  • They took the word of a ‘Human Rights Group’ based in Kiev, with clear links to the Kiev government as gospel
  • There’s no evidence, videos, photos, to back up the extremely extreme claims that they make

In my new special reportage from Lugansk, now with full English subtitles, I go to visit the prison the BBC described as a ‘gulag’ here –

A Graham Newsletter (#14) Updates from the DLPR – ‘gulags’, and more!

Hello once more!

Firstly, I’m glad to say that things have calmed down a bit since the last newsletter, which found me dealing with death threats, and more, from the Ukrainian side. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been pleased to focus more attention on work in Donbass, and less on processing a barrage of messages, online lynchmobs etc, threatening my instant demise.

I’ve been pleased to start a new series here, on this site, giving you all factual updates from the DPR, and LPR. You can read the first one here, about the upheaval in the LPR, as it was, and the second here, about the recent primary elections held here.

I’m also going to be starting another new series soon, when English subtitles are added to videos from a little back, which still have relevance, so look out for that! As for now, there are already English subs on a lot of new reportage – not to mention the videos in the above updates!

Firstly, I was delighted to present my new film from Lugansk, with Oleg Somov (who does the production, effects for my film projects), a Master Class here by legendary fighter Jeff Monson (English, or English subs) –

Also in Lugansk, I was pleased to have the opportunity to put some questions to the OSCE, at a press conference they did here –

In a world of high-gloss news production, in which news can so easily, and effectively, become propaganda, I like to take things back to basics, as much as possible. This reportage, doing exactly what western media have deliberately never done here, simply speaking to residents on the Gorlovka frontline, asking what they want (all English subs, thanks very much to Sergey Yermolayev for this, and many others) –

And this reportage, going to places other media won’t take you, to a buffer zone of the conflict in Donbass to find out exactly how it is there –

As well as keeping you updated with news, and facts from Donbass, I also like to bring you as close to life here as possible, for you to meet the people here. Here, Lakshmi, in Lugansk since 2011, from India –

And show you life here how it really is. Here, repainting Lenin in the LPR –

Here, Lugansk students –

And here, a demonstration against US, NATO military intervention in Donbass, in Lugansk –

My most recent special reportage, this, from the LPR, as a flare goes up, and a walk to Ukrainian positions to see what’s going on, and if the proposed weapon withdrawal will go ahead –

Of coure, this is the highlights, there’s been a lot more – and what reportage will come next? Well, I read the recent BBC article about prisons in the DPR and LPR being like ‘gulags’, with ‘torture’, ‘starvation’, and more. I even know the journalist who wrote it, a former colleague of mine from my time in Kiev, Patrick Evans. I also know that he’s never been here.

So, to see an article circulated everywhere, with the BBC sheen of credibility, when it’s actually just a rewriting of a report by yet another ‘human rights’ organisation, set up in Kiev to write reports damning the non-Ukrainian areas of Donbass, under the guise of forementioned ‘human rights’ organisation…. passed up the chain by a former colleague I enjoyed a friendly relationship with.


It’s an ungratifying thing. I detest lies, the BBC propaganda machine which makes them claiming someone I’d previously held in esteem. So, I went to spend a day in one of them, to report how it really is. The reality. Not a rewriting of a pro-Kiev press release by a shamefully pro-Kiev BBC, with a once journalist turned propaganda merchant. My prison reportage to come soon, photos from that here, along with much more. Huge thanks for being with me, and making it happen!