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…

Donbass, Referendums, and a Truly Horrible Situation

A few words about the complications of filming in Donbass, early 2014. I made hundreds, really hundreds of videos from there, which were seen all over the world, on the news, and more, of people saying they didn’t want Ukraine, wanted a referendum, wanted the Donetsk, Lugansk People’s Republic, and more.

Had a referendum, voted for the DPR, LPR. No one in the west listened, actually they supported Ukraine against them.
Then, in July of 2014, Ukrainian forces took a lot of these towns and cities – Mariupol, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, and set about a campaign of ‘cleansing’ of separatists. People were beaten, people disappeared.
I removed all the videos I’d made which may have put people still there in a position of danger. But, my videos had already been put everywhere, I wrote to people asking them to remove them. And of course, not only my videos – there were many, many videos made at this time, and most still online.

A video which one month tells the world the truth, the next month can put their life in danger. A really horrible situation.

Here, Slavyansk, April 2014: 

18+ The Donbass War Video with 2+ Million Views, Removed by YouTube

YouTube recently removed this video from my channel. This video, approved by their own ‘Community Guidelines’ in October 2014, now, almost 3 years later, with over 2 million views rising all the time – a video which had let people from all over the world see the reality of the Ukraine war, now ‘in violation’ of those ‘Community Guidelines’.

This, the result of Ukrainian forces shelling of the city of Donetsk, Donbass, October 2014 – 

I appealed about this to YouTube, but they rejected that. It’s a real shame when a site which should be a window to events in the world, slams that window shut….

A Lot of ‘pro-Ukraine’ Videos for such a ‘Russian Propagandist’

I’ve recently announced that the next period of my reportage takes me away from Donbass, where I’ve extensively covered for the past, over 3 years. It’s an interesting part of this, that somewhere along the line, some decided that I’m some sort of a ‘Russian propagandist’ –

British Citizen Exposed as a Tool of Russia’s FSB

Pro-Russian propagandist Graham Phillips detained in Riga

Pro-Kremlin journalist Graham Phillips deported from Latvia and blacklisted for three years

Why some people have decided this? Well, I could say ‘I’m not sure’, and all that, but I know perfectly well. Because I didn’t report near universally ‘pro-Ukraine’ news – and in fact the bulk of my reports has always been letting people on the ground talk, and putting that out unedited. 

As it happens, people on the ground simply didn’t say what those in the western, Ukrainian media wanted to hear. To make matters worse, because of this, Ukrainian authorities deported me and banned me from the country, depriving me of the opportunity to, for example, go to Lvov, or Kiev, and find ‘pro-Ukraine’ people there to interview.

As it was, in Donbass, over three years, I only found a very few pro-Ukrainians to interview in Donbass. It’s not that they were there and ‘didn’t want to be interviewed’, etc, it’s that they weren’t there. And why? Well, when Ukrainian military have relentlessly targeted civilian areas of Donbass with shelling, as they did, and do, here, Lugansk, 13th August 2014, result of Ukrainain shelling:

When masses of civilians have been killed, lost relatives, been maimed by Ukrainian shelling … that will quickly eliminate any lingering ‘pro-Ukraine’ sentiment among the populace.

However, when pro-Ukrainians were there to be filmed, I always filmed them. Looking over my videos, I found these, from the end of April 2014, Donetsk, before war began:

If there had been more pro-Ukrainians to film, I’dve filmed them. However, I clearly couldn’t find enough pro-Ukrainians for people not to label me a ‘pro-Russian’. My reportage over 3 years in Donbass entirely reflected the reality of the situation there – the vast majority of people there support their republics, the mood is pro-Russian.

An interview from Donetsk in June of this year: 

The DPR Republic Day, in May: 

People on the war-torn perimeters of Donetsk, December 2015:

Flag Day in the DPR, 2015 –

It could go on, and on, and on… and it doesn’t make me ‘pro-Russian’ for reporting that, it makes me a journalist.

By any measure though, as above, I did indeed record a lot of pro-Ukrainian interviews for such a ‘Russian propagandist’.

Visite récente de la délégation française à Donetsk – Video Reportage

C’est un reportage vidéo, bientôt je publierai un entretien avec la délégation française!

Une délégation française à la République Populaire de Donetsk (#1) Hôpital Donetsk

Aide humanitaire française à la République Populaire de Donetsk

Entretien avec la délégation française après leur visite à la République Populaire de Donetsk

Nikishino – Special Reportage from a Donbass ‘forgotten village’

With battle waging there, and the town occupied half by Ukrainian forces, half by Novorossiya, in 2014, you could say that the ‘eyes of the world’ were on Nikishino, a village of under a thousand people, around 20 kilometres from Debaltsevo.

Here are a couple of my videos from there, November 2014 – 

But, what happens when war moves on, and attention moves away? That’s the theme of my new reportage, from Nikishino, coming up soon, with full English subtitles.