Google Maps on Donbass – Can it be Trusted?

What’s the first thing you do when you look for a place? Of course, Google Maps, the world’s leading most popular online map, not only that, the world’s most popular app, with 54% of smartphones having it installed at least once.

Yesterday I wrote about Denmark, and despite all, the first thing I did was go to Google Maps. The ‘despite all’ part, is the following – that I’ve serious questions about the impartiality of the internet’s most comprehensive web-mapping service. The other week, I went to do a search for a place in Lugansk, this, th centre of the city of Lugansk, Donbass (now, ok, Google Maps are not going to describe it as the Lugansk People’s Republic, that’s not up for discussion now)


Here, a closer look, and we can clearly see a ‘Monument of victims of ‘russian world’ terror’ marked – 

Clearly, Russian written as ‘russian’ as a mark of disrespect. But that’s an incidental, because this monument, and let’s have a look at the satellite imagery here, for which Google Maps is renowned –


And here is the monument itself, in the centre of Lugansk. But it is not a monument to anything connected with ‘Russian terror’ – it’s a monument to victims of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – who fought with the Nazis in WWII. 

There are a few things to take into account here. A feature of Google Maps is indeed the ability to add, or name landmarks there. But is there really no limit? Could you just go to the Statue of Liberty and just name it as, well, take your pick… could you just go to Jerusalem, Palestine, etc….

More, I submitted a correction about this to Google a week ago, and they’ve done nothing about it yet. How long has it even been there? Clearly, providing accurate information here is not a priority for Google Maps – so the question is, in how many other places don’t they care about what’s on their maps? 

This is Google Maps, over 7000 employees, constantly investing millions in adding new features – soon they’ll be able to tell you when to get off the bus. And they are so uninterested in checking their maps not only for accuracy, but for that which is clearly grossly offensive….

As for the sheer, crass cynicism of the ‘pro-Ukrainian’, to call them that, who renamed this to attack Russia, without any thought not only for the victims of the UIA, but more for the hundreds killed in Lugansk itself by Ukrainian shelling of the city, in 2014…. well, from them, that’s probably to be expected.

But from Google Maps, we should either expect more, or be aware that when we look at Google Maps, we may be looking at the work of fine geographers and cartographers. Or it could just be some angry activist running amok….

My Recent Return to Donetsk, How is it There, Really?

I recently returned to Donetsk, Donbass, after spending an intense 2-month period working in Crimea.  I was primarliy in the DPR to do a distribution of humanitarian aid to children’s homes, which was done, to huge success.

I’ll soon be returning to Crimea for another period of reportage, but it was a real pleasure to spend some time in Donetsk, walk around the city I’ve spent so much time in, covered so many events from.
What to say about life in Donetsk, honestly? Well, there can’t be any fairytales about a ‘booming’ DPR, apart from that shelling still goes on on the perimeters, with almost daily damage, regular casualties, and sometimes fatalities. However, the city lives, most shops are now open, people are on the streets. There’s no real confusing it with normal life, there’s a certain tension, which could hardly be any other given an ongoing war situation. But, as I say, life goes on – 

Despite the circumstances, the people of Donetsk are as friendly as ever. I ran into these bright young things on the city’s main Artema St, with them just back from the World Festival of Youth and Students, in Sochi. 

And the city itself is not without brighter things in life, when I was there, a show ‘Fashion without Borders’, showcasing the work of local designers –

So, as I say, you couldn’t really say that it was ‘business as usual’, but in a lot of ways, Donetsk looks like any other – people are in cafes, cars are on the roads, people on the  streets, and so on. However, true to say, a fair amount of shops still shuttered, no working banks, apart from local, and curfew. But, there’s no real military presence, the days I was there, no audible shelling from the centre, and in general, people just trying to get on with their lives, hoping for something to resolve this already protracted, egregious, unnecessary situation…

Our big-scale Humanitarian Distribution in Donbass

We did a distribution of humanitarian aid yesterday donated by people all over Russia, all over the DPR. A kind lady, Dasha (and I’ll mention here the help of Sean Taylor) got involved, so it got quite big scale, electrical appliances, wood, and more and went to places most in need – from Novoazovsk to Yasinovataya, to centres educating, caring for, and inspiring children here in Donbass.

I’m in the DPR for a few days, doing some more humanitarian work, then another working trip to Crimea. Sad to report that in the DPR, shelling goes on, in fact even as we were leaving Yasinvataya, early evening, it started, and by all accounts went on through the night. A young man was killed by Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk yesterday.

On a more positive note, thanks all those who made big-scale help to places for kids in the DPR today possible! I don’t collect financial donations for this, as sadly that simply leaves one open to allegations which, although they may be entirely untrue, are something I could do without, to focus fully on my work.

However, if you have items to donate, let me know, and I’ll think what we can do.

Crimea to Donbass – where Help is more help than Reportage…

As I’ve written, I’ve just returned from an intense 2-month period of work in Crimea, to Donbass. While I was away, Ukrainian media did their usual business, nonsense, by fer8writing that I’d ‘fled Donbass, not to return, etc‘, often adding in their perennial favourite that I’m ‘gay’, for reasons known only to them.

This was a deliberate misuse of what I’d actually said, which was that I had no current plans to film reportage from Donbass. That came after a 3-month period, from May to July, where I’d done everything I could, filmed everything I could, but just couldn’t get people to watch the reportage. I do all of my video reports with the idea that they will change the world, for the better, by delivering the truth, otherwise, why do them?

If it comes to the situation that I know that whatever I do will get at most, a few thousand views, with little or no resonance, it’s hard not to think ‘why bother’, honestly. More, not Crimea humanitarian 13that I judge everything by views, because I could take a video of a cat on a skateboard, or speak about Lady Gaga’s new single, and get a million plus, but they are an indication of how much something is needed, or wanted.

If people don’t need, or want, my reportage from Donbass, as the low views indicated, then foisting yet more would hardly seem the answer. Yet ‘ditching’ Donbass was never, ever even considered. More, I used the time in Crimea – where my reportage reached a mass audience, with views in the millions, to think how better I could help Donbass, if my reportage wasn’t what was required at this time.

I spoke with people in Crimea about this, about Donbass, and gained more insight into this. People in Russia still support Donbass, as before, but, there’s a lot of pain associated with it, it can be painful to watch it. Almost 4 years of war, people still suffering, the Crimea humanitarian 12.jpgdeath of iconic Donbass figures, such as Givi, Motorola. How many videos of people crying that their homes have been shelled can people take?

More, people are aware of the situation in Donbass – it’s tough, but stable. War goes on, at the lines of conflict, homes on the perimeters are still hit by Ukrainian shelling. It’s low-intensity war. This is still a human tragedy, but one that doesn’t translate into mass response to reportage. People know it, are sad about it, but what can they do about it? Everyone is waiting for something to resolve this prolonged, painful, inhumane situation.

So, views of reportage can’t be conflated with concern, or engagement in the Donbass Crimea humanitarian 7.jpgsituation. When in Crimea, I organised gatherings for people to donate goods for humanitarian aid, for Donbass. There was a big response, a large quantity of donations, much more than I could fit in my car. Back in Donbass now, I took everything I could this time, and will arrange transport for the rest, for distribution soon, to children’s homes here.

I’m also recharged after Crimea, back in the mood to do reportage from Donbass, and will do one or two more special reports from here, before the end of the year. However, for now, it’s almost certainly the case that the humanitarian help is of more help to Donbass than my reportage. 

War Child UK – They Pick and Choose their Wars…

I recently began a series of reports documenting Ukrainian war crimes in Donbass, including those against children – over 100 children killed by Ukrainian military action in Donbass, many more maimed. One of the main aims of this project is to get a comment from one of the many organisations dedicated to protecting the rights of those in war, in many cases the rights of children.

I started off with War Child UK, an organisation with a high-media profile, very active on social media. About them, here, from wikipedia:

War Child
 is a non-governmental organisation founded in the UK in 1993 which provides assistance to children in areas experiencing conflict and the aftermath of conflict. The establishment of War Child UK was soon followed by organisations in Canada and the Netherlands.

I tweeted War Child with a link to my report, many times, asking for their comment on this. My tweets to War Child were either retweeted or liked, around 1500 times. Meaning War Child were notified of it around 1500 times. But still, stony silence from them. Meanwhile, War Child were tweeting about wars in Syria, Yemen, Africa, and more – read all about that here. But completely ignoring Donbass. Not even an acknowledgement.

Meanwhile, war in Donbass goes on, people are still being killed by shelling, just the other day, 3 children orphaned as Ukrainian shelling hit in Gorlovka, Donbass, killing their father.  But, it’s safe to say that War Child do not care about this at all.

Is it political, is Donbass just not a trendy enough war? Questions for War Child, which it seems certain they won’t answer. War Child pick and choose their Wars, Donbass is clearly not one.

My series will continue, the search for an agency who will comment will continue. One down. 

Anger, Condemnation: Boris Johnson, Catalonia, and Donbass

This week, on the fringes of the Conservative annual conference in Manchester, Uk Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cracked a joke about the Libyan city of Sirte, becoming the next Dubai if they could ‘clear the dead bodies away’. The remark, of course tasteless, and insensitive, and that’s Boris, drew anger, and condemnation from a number of sources:

On Sunday 1st October, violence in Catalonia by the Spanish police, aimed at crushing the independence referendum of that day which delivered a 90% ‘yes’ vote, resulted in around 900 injured. It resulted in a tidal wave of outrage, condemnation, and more – from the media, politicians, commentators, groups, Joey Barton – a sampling of that here – 

 

So the west can certainly condemn when it wants to. But the condemnation, and attention, in the case of Catalonia, from one day of beating, easily surpassed that directed at Donbass, for over 3 years of war there, and ongoing shelling of civilian areas, by Ukrainian forces.

In August of 2014, Ukrainian forces destroyed a truck carrying refugees fleeing from the war, killing at least 17 – mostly women and children –

I’ve written about that here:

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2017/09/22/18-children-killed-by-ukrainian-war-crimes-in-donbass-1-marina-refugee-bus/

It was condemned by the US:

U.S. State Department condemns Ukraine convoy shelling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department condemned the deadly shelling of a convoy in eastern Ukraine on Monday that killed dozens of people,

but, but….

but said it could not confirm who was responsible for the attack.

This attack was 100%, clearly by Ukraine, who made no real attempt to even deny it. But, that’s ok, the west has got them covered. 

From October 2014 –  Ukraine crisis: Red Cross condemns Donetsk shelling

However, they only did this because one of their own members was killed. And they let Ukraine off the hook with the classic get out – ‘The rebels and the government blamed each other for the shelling.’

But look at January 2015, when shelling hit the city of Mariupol, in Donbass, killing arond 30 civilians. The OSCE were quick, not only to condemn:

OSCE Chief Monitor in Ukraine condemns Mariupol shelling as reckless, indiscriminate and disgraceful attack on innocent civilians, including women and children

Both sides indeed blamed each other for this. Evidence was presented to support both claims. Yet the OSCE just went ahead and blamed ‘the rebels’ –

OSCE mission report: Mariupol shelled from rebel-controlled territory

None of the ‘both sides blame each other’ here…

In February of this year, in a warzone, the OSCE – based in Kiev, and generally regarded as doing surveillance for Ukraine, pitched up near a Donbass block-post and attempted to fly their drone, without permission. They were told not to do that, as you can imagine in pretty strong terms, by DPR members.

This result in more condemnation: Ukraine conflict: US condemns threat to OSCE monitors

So, we can see, the west can condemn when it wants to. It can even condemn in Donbass. However, it only does so when one of their own is affected, or they can blame the ‘pro-Russian rebels’ for something.

As for Boris, no condemnation from him, for Catalonia, and of course not for Donbass. And due to the actions of Boris, there are more ‘dead bodies to clear away’, there.

However, no condemnation from the west for any of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here, Donetsk, January 2015 after Ukrainian shelling:

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

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