Photos by Max Clarke / Фото Макса Кларк
Несколько Домов, Пострадавших от Украинского Обстрела / Several Homes Hit by Ukrainian Shelling
Along with journalists Patrick Lancaster, Max Clarke (read Max’s article on Vice about the day here), Valentin Trushnin, Pavel, we headed along on January 18th to Donetsk airport territory. A rumour was going around of Ukrainian troops somewhere on the large territory, which also includes megastore Metro, and a large car showroom just several hundred metres from the new terminal itself.
The story of Donetsk airport terminals old and new is one now oft-told, but every building, every part of the territory has its own story. After Ukrainian forces launched an air attack on the DPR controlled Donetsk airport, on May 26th, then stormed the site, DPR forces were pushed back and withdrew.
The next few days saw the airport site fall into chaos, as it was unclear where the territorial lines would be drawn. The raiding of Metro and the adjoining upmarket car showroom were something the Ukrainian press revelled in, with numerous articles on ‘DPR’ looters etc. So lawless were things at that time, 5 bodies were reported found in the Metro. Yet the facts are it was inevitable Metro would have been emptied, either by DPR or by Ukrainian forces, who had expanded their reach on the airport territory to include Metro, the car showroom and up to Putilovsky bridge, crossing into the city limits of Donetsk, by early June.
We were the first journalists to go to Metro and the car showroom for months, here’s how they were.
Car Showroom –
Adam Osmayev, a 33-year-old man fighting for the Ukrainian military, a commander, even, spent long enough in Britain to have British citizenship. Actually, born in Grozny, Chechnya, he gave up his Russian citizenship in 2012, it’s unclear if he currently holds any citizenship, reportedly having travelled to Ukraine on a false passport in 2012. His years in Britain were from 1994 to 2001, sent by his father, a high-ranking Communist official in charge of the then pro-Russian Chechen republic’s oil reserves, to study at Wycliffe College.
There, he was apprehended for his part in a plot to assassinate Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Osmayev spent the next 2 1/2 years in jail in Odessa. As a post-Euromaidan Ukraine spiralled into a war which saw a sharp spike in anti-Russian sentiment, Osmayev was freed last October.
As leader of Chechen unit Dzhokar Dudayev Battalion, fighting for Ukraine’s ‘ATO’, Osmayev is now a regular in the media, recently the subject of an adoring article in the Daily Telegraph – Adam Osmayev: Cotswolds public schoolboy turned Ukraine militia commander.
Yet it wasn’t like that before, back in 2013, in the Telegraph, it was – Chechen man educated in Cotswolds to go on trial over Putin plot
“To carry out a terrorist act with the aim of the elimination of the head of the government of the Russian Federation, V. V. Putin.” Locked behind the black metal bars of the courtroom’s cage, surrounded by armed police, the defendant Adam Osmayev smiles wryly.
Mr Osmayev has an unusual biography for an alleged Chechen terrorist. Son of one of the troubled republic’s most successful businessmen, he spent his youth in Britain where he was educated at a boarding school in the Cotswolds before studying economics at the University of Buckingham.
Just how the 31-year-old Osmayev went from bucolic Gloucestershire to a Ukrainian prison cell, where he stands accused of planning one of the most audacious terrorist acts in history, is a strange tale featuring allegations of torture, vendettas in the Russian secret services and rivalries in the murky world of Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin leadership.”
The battle for Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine has seen Osmayev, a native Chechen, and the men of his Dzhokar Dudayev Battalion engaged in fierce firefights and tank bombardments across the city’s neighbourhoods, railway marshalling yards and road network.
While this cannot have been precisely what he had in mind when he contemplated his future career amid the sheltered surroundings of Wycliffe, there was even then something prescient about his ambitions.
“I want to be president,” he once told the couple looking after him. They assumed he meant president of a large corporation, but Osmayev quickly put them straight: “No. President of Chechnya.”
The Telegraph now seems to believe that his heading a Ukrainian battalion in a war which has seen the Ukrainian military deploy mass shelling of civilian areas, is a step on the road to future presidency.
He may not yet have reached those heights yet, but last Sunday the 33-year-old found himself promoted to commander of his militia of international volunteers….
Osmayev’s promotion is certainly a long way from those halcyon days on the playing fields and in the classrooms of Wycliffe College, founded in 1882 by GW Sibley, where boarding fees are now £10,000 per term.
Meanwhile various glowing references are given to his character –
Mrs Workman said: “The girls flocked round him. By the time he was in the upper sixth he was illegally hiring cars and taking them to B&Bs for the night.”
The boys revelled in the material benefits of Western Europe and Adam would return from shopping trips to London with two or three new Armani suits over his arm.
The Chechen students also loved to barbecue or bring out bottles of vodka and spend long evenings drinking around the kitchen table.
“There were never any problems or violence,” said Mrs Workman. “They just liked to enjoy themselves.”
“To be honest I thought he was dead,” said Mr Workman. “It’s sad, because if there hadn’t been a war in his country I’m sure he would have become very successful.”
For more than 130 years Wycliffe College’s motto has been “bold and loyal”.
Adam Osmayev now has the unenviable opportunity to fulfil those aspirations – albeit in the deadliest circumstances imaginable.
Back in 2012, the Telegraph was ready to ask some questions of Osmayev:
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Adam Osmayev has some questions to answer. While the details of a plot targeting Mr Putin seem fanciful, was he handling explosive devices, and if not, why was there an explosion? How did he know the other two men involved, one of whom died in the explosion and the other, Ilya Pyanzin, who has been extradited to Russia? Most importantly, why did he hide from police for several weeks after the explosion, until he was found by the security forces in the raid that was later shown on Russian television?
In 2015, the Telegraph stops at extolling his supposed virtues.
Adam eventually sat his A-levels and did well enough to go on and study economics at the University of Buckingham. One of his last school reports from Wycliffe stated: “Throughout his time in the Sixth Form, Adam has set himself high standards; usually he has managed to meet them. He is a charming and generally self-assured young man.” It concluded: “I feel he has great potential and the determination to make the most of that potential.”
No questions as to why he has chosen to fight for a Ukraine military occupying territory which voted itself out of Ukraine in a May 11th 2014 referendum, following the country’s post Euromaidan break-up. No questions as to his involvement in shelling of civilian areas of Donbass, with at least 60% of the victims there women.
The Telegraph’s 2012 article read like an article. The 2015 offering more like a supporting document for British citizenship. Osmayev himself has often spoken of his close connection with Britain – “Mr Osmayev says that although he is a devout Muslim, he has never been interested in radical Islam or terrorism. “I was educated in Britain, I feel like a very European person.”
But surely Osmayev is as far from true British values as possible. Fighting for a Ukrainian military comprised of heavily far-right, fascist elements. Fighting as a mercenary in a foreign country. He should be placed on a list of wanted terrorists in the UK. No matter how much time spent in the country, or connections, any notion of his holding any form of British citizenship
In the Telegraph’s seemingly wilful conflation of him with a British citizen, from a ‘Chechen terrorist’ is the warped position of western media in its coverage of the Ukraine war. A terrorist finding redemption as a mercenary? A ‘Chechen terrorist’ man adopted as ‘one of our own’.
The western media will forgive Ukraine for anything it does in this war. They will clearly extend this to absolving the former sins of anyone taking part on Ukraine’s side. Being British isn’t about where you were born, Osmayev could have been ‘British’, but his participation in the Ukraine was as an active combatant on the wrong side means he never can be.
As a British citizen myself, I’d be more than happy to see our media returning to being British, rather than the mouthpiece of US and EU foreign policy.
I arrived in Pervomaisk, Lugansk region, on September last September 15th, to be met by the charasmatic then then people’s mayor Eugene Ishenko (recently killed), who on my first evening gave me a tour around the town, at that time extensively damaged due to 2 months of Ukrainian shelling.
When shelling struck this apartment block here it killed 6 people, who were hurriedly buried in the ground by neighbours (social services not able to function due to heavy shelling, just putting people in the ground was standard).
Every part of Pervomaisk had been hit by shelling. Here, the centre –
Here, a bombshelter, converted gym of a school itself bombed, with over 70 living, sheltering from shelling.
Shelling hitting all over Pervomaisk, even in that time of ‘ceasefire’, no electricity in most of the town or shops open. People with no money, hungry, scared, Life in Pervomaisk in September 2014 was grim.
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Наташа и Лена
I’m packing my stuff to go to frontline positions tomorrow. A core part of that stuff is camouflage gear. I’ll wear it, be filmed wearing it, any number of outraged Twitter users will inform me that ‘journalists shouldn’t wear ‘combat uniform” etc etc.
Yet where does this idea come from?
Well, there’s this, from the Geneva Conventions –
Now, journalists must not be deliberately targeted, detained, or otherwise mistreated any more than any other civilian.
This means that journalists now have an obligation to differentiate themselves from combatants by not wearing uniforms or openly carrying firearms.
It’s preceded by this –
The first, second and third Geneva Conventions extend to war correspondents all the protections due to combatants. They were not to be treated as spies and, even though their notebooks and film could be confiscated, they did not have to respond to interrogation. If they were sick or wounded, they must receive medical treatment and, if they were captured, they must be treated humanely.
It would be nice if we lived in a world where everyone played by Geneva Conventions rules, however the one we’re in is very far from that. Both times Ukrainian forces captured me they treated me as a spy, both times I was subject to interrogation and threats of death if I didn’t comply. I was treated far from humanely. The list goes on.
As for journalists not being targeted, with 6 journalists killed covering this conflict so far, there is evidence attesting that several of them were targeted because they were journalists. (Photo – Igor Kornelyuk) Meanwhile abduction of journalists by Kiev forces, illegal detention, illegal deportation has become a depressing commonplace.
I first wore combat gear filming frontline action back in Lugansk in August, and did so on the instructions of the unit commander, Dushman, who explained to me directly that wearing regulation blue gear would draw extra attention to his men, put them in danger. Wearing a ‘press’ sign is ‘like a bullseye for the Ukrainian forces.’
I wore camouflage, and have since, with flak directed at me coming via social media rather than the battlefield. In the midst of the uproar, seems to be an entrenched belief that war correspondents have always demarked themselves from combatants.
Yet, this isn’t actually the case. A look at war correspondence in World War I informs – ‘Members of most World War I organizations such as the YMCA and Knights of Columbus, adopted uniforms that closely resembled army clothing, and some, such as newspaper correspondents, wore army uniforms. ‘
And, from this engaging history of WWII war correspodence –
Yet, by WWII, things had changed somewhat ‘As the U.S. Army expanded in 1941 the new army regulations issued that year addressed what noncombatants should wear. AR 600-35, November 1941, prescribed media personnel have armbands with “the appropriate word” such as “correspondent,” “radio commentator,” and even “photographer messenger,” among others, in 1-1/4 inch high white block letters on a green, four-inch high brassard. The same regulation called for civilian employees, the second group, to have appropriate words in dark blue letters on a white background.’
There was, at this time, an armband with a ‘C’ to denote correspondent, however ‘While the green armband with a white letter ‘C’ was standard, and is outlined in several manuals, the photographic evidence supports it wasn’t worn very much except in official photos and in gatherings of higher-ranking officers.’
And even at this time, concerns about standing out from soldiers –
The Marine Corps had their own insignia as well, but the few correspondents serving with Navy or Marine units who wore insignia at all, appear to have almost exclusively used the USN patches. It has been noted that perhaps the correspondents in the Pacific feared standing out in a crowd due to concerns over the Japanese not taking their non-combatant status into account.
A different war, 70 years on, but the same issue. Is drawing attention to yourself a help or danger. And never mind yourself, if there’s any question of its being a danger, can you make the call to put the lives of the men you are with at risk. Soldiers taking a journalist to the frontline is a burden. It’s taking a non-combatant into a conflict situation. An enormous responsibility, a passenger, someone who has different priorities – theirs to kill and avoid being killed, a war correspondent to film the best action possible.
Why do they do it? A number of reasons. Because they like you, want to help you, because you’ve brought cigarrettes and coffee to the base and asked politely, because they want to be on tv, let their families and friends see them ok / in action, have their own YouTube video of themselves in combat.
But once they’ve done it, taken on the responsibility of a journalist, it’s your responsibility as a journalist to attract no extra danger to them. In this war, journalists have often been treated no differently to combatants by Ukrainian forces. I made the decision to take my chances on the battlefield dressed in camouflage, the lower visibility of this a far higher protection than the high visibility of press gear. You can be shot as a journalist or a ‘combatant’. If you’re in camouflage, it’s harder to see you to shoot.
And if World War Two seems a long way to be referencing back, here’s legendary journalist Max Hastings covering the Falkands War just 33 years ago, in camouflage, no press markings, winning ‘Journalist of the Year’ at the British press awards for his work there.
So let’s call ‘press’ markings and the supposed obligation to wear them what they are – a modern concept in war correspondence. Whether it endures will depend on whether it saves or kills more journalists. The doubt as to whether will ensure that wearing ‘press’ markings should always be regarded as personal choice.
66 journalists were killed in 2014. Who’s to judge the choice a journalist makes to stay alive?
By Graham, Part 1 here – https://thetruthspeaker.co/2015/02/02/redefining-the-war-correspondent-part-12/
By Patrick Lancaster
Pro Ukraine forces have lost control of the Donetsk airport. After many months
of the airport being the center and symbol of the intense war here in Donbass. The facts are that the Donetsk international airport has not been in normal operation and in fact has been a fierce battle field for over eight months since the 26th of May of last year.
In CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh piece it is reported that flights left Donetsk airport six months ago, and that fighting has only been going on there for six months. This is just not true. Maybe to some two months does not sound like a big deal. Well it is. People have died in this time. These facts will be studied in history books for years to come, and should be respected as such. Maybe if CNN would have given
more attention to this war they would have a better idea of the reality of what is going on here instead of just sending some people to do some war tourism for a couple of days.
The people here in Donetsk deserve the truth of what is happening here to get out to the world, not this –
Below you can find many of my reports and videos I have made on Donetsk airport in chronological order.
Follow my Youtube channel and on Twitter for more on Donetsk and how the war affects the people here.