Euro 2012, my Life in, and Best Work from Ukraine, Before the War

As the draw for the World Cup 2018 has just finished, throwing up a favourable draw for England, I couldn’t help but reflect on the run-up to Euro 2012 – the main reason I moved to Ukraine in the first place, sensing an exciting time to be in a country in the build-up to a major football tournament, with opportunities in journalism to be found.

In I worked at the magazine What’s On in Kiev, 2011, and 12. Their website was down for ages, but recently came back to life. And with it, not all, but 90 of my articles from that time.

Looking back over them, and not only, I can hold my hands up and say that ‘pre-war’, I perhaps did write a bit too much about the ladies. But, it was a different time, and far from just that, I’m actually proud of a lot of the work I did back then, although in the context of things now, they are rather like ‘notes from a lost country‘…

So here’s a ‘top 10’ of my work from Ukraine, pre-war: 

10. The Pain of Ukraine? 

My first article for What’s On magazine, January 2012, and it was about defending Ukraine from the attacks and prophecies of doom in the western media –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=11540

9. Remembering River Palace

From October 2012, I had a look into the murky history, and mystery, of the former ‘floating brothel’ of Kiev, River Palace, for the Kyiv Post –

https://www.kyivpost.com/article/guide/about-kyiv/remembering-river-palace-314970.html

8. Tracking down Tymoshenko 

February of 2012, and I went looking for Tymoshenko in Kharkov, with some interesting results –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=11662

7. That Said – 

My weekly column from What’s On, in which I tried to cover all aspects of life in Ukraine. From all of them, I pick this one to represent how it was to live in Ukraine, at that time, the spirit –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=12064

6. Ok, it was a bit light-hearted, but you could hardly be in Ukraine pre-war, and not write about the sexual side of things. This piece, a cover-story for What’s On, was about the men who came to Ukraine expressly to pick-up women, and how that was working out for them – I liked how it came out, and felt it made a point –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=12021

5. Odessa – from March of 2012, my first trip to Odessa, for a travel piece for What’s On – it was to be love at first sight, in Odessa, something captured here –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=12310

4. Dnepropetrovsk – Always Parus 

I wrote this for my blog, and it was a labour of love, one of my the themes which most drew me in Ukraine, on which I wrote extensively – abandoned buildings, and the story behind them –

https://thetruthspeaker.co/2015/02/09/abandoned-dnipropetrosk-always-parus/

3. The Russian Heart of Ukraine – in which I wrote of my own experience of visiting Donetsk in summer of 2012, for What’s On magazine, and the Russian heart of that city, and not only –

https://whatson-kiev.com/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=12700

2. November 2012, for Pravda and I wrote about the post Euro-2012, post 2012 election malaise which had befallen Ukraine, and the state of the country at that time –

http://www.pravdareport.com/business/finance/26-11-2012/122926-ukraine_euro-0/

1.  In October of 2012, I wrote what I believe to be my most significant pre-war piece from Ukraine, about the case of Oksana Makar, her tragic murder, and the implications for Ukraine (a case I continued investigating, going to her hometown of Nikolaev), here for the New Statesman

https://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2012/10/tragic-case-ukraines-oksana-makar-draws-close

And there we have it, some of my essays from a different time, a different world. 

Ukraine and the New Saakashvili Maidan the West is Staying Silent about

When Euromaidan kicked off almost exactly 4 years ago in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev, you could hardly move for western correspondents there covering it, telling us all about the heroic protesters wishing to overthrow the awful regime of Yanukovych and his government (both, democratically elected, btw) –

What happened next? Maidan and the west got their way, Yanukovych and his government were booted out, the west’s people were installed. What happened after Poroshenko Ukrainethat? Well, going on 4 years of chaos, inflation, unemployment, in Ukraine, and war in Donbass, of course. All of which the west have been a bit shy in telling you about, given it’s their guys at the wheel….

All of this has contributed to 80% of Ukrainians now being against president Poroshenko, again, something the western press are strangely reticent to report on. Actually, there’s a long list of things the west would rather you didn’t know about their new Ukraine. Such as this, on October 14th, that open neo-Nazis now brazenly march through Kiev in their thousands –

And that shortly after that, the new Maidan kicked off in Kiev, spearheaded by former Saakashvili UkraineGeorgian president (now wanted on high-level charges there), recently of a disastrous reign as governor of Odessa, even more recently, September, simply barging over the Ukrainian border. Since that September border-barge, Saakashvili has been on a trouble-making tour of Ukraine, as he attempts to topple incumbent president Poroshenko.

All of which has left the western press in a bit of  dilemma. Who to support – the western installed uber pro-west Poroshenko, or the darling of the west, wanting-to-be-western-installed Saakashvili, who has even gone to far as to be sleeping in the tents on the new Maidan. All of which would surely be screaming for sympathetic western media coverage. Yet, Saakashvili is going up against their man. So he’s out of luck. No fawning western coverage this time, no glorious new Maidan for him. Almost no western press coverage at all.

Saakashvili PoroshenkoThis has left Saakashvili rather pathetically pleading with the Ukrainian people to protect him against Poroshenko’s apparent wish to deport him back to Georgia. Meanwhile, Ukrainian ultra-nationalists storming and attempting to occupy a court in Kiev similarly find themselves out of luck – the west only supported that in Ukraine in 2013, guys. Now, the west supports Poroshenko, who seemingly entirely without irony, or memory, is attempting to deport the tent-dwelling Saakashvili for his attempt in an ‘illegal overthrow of government’. 

Post-Euromaidan Ukraine is certainly never boring. Not so much a car crash, as a neverending demolition derby.

Ukraine’s Kiev Falls into World’s Least Liveable Cities… and the Diplomatic Reaction…

What was Kiev like pre-Euromaidan? I lived there myself for 2 years, worked at a magazine in the city, knew the city well:

It was a good place to live, had cleaned its act up in the run up to Euro 2012, along with all the new infrastructure that had gone with that. Fancy hotels were opening, I even reviewed one on a gig, investment was rising. Things were fine.

What’s happened to Ukraine, post-Euromaidan? Economic collapse, national debt is rising, corruption is rising, corruption is institutionalisedUkraine has become kind of a dumping-ground for ex-jihadists, can’t even get Ryanair to fly into it, economy run by ‘economic hitmen‘, has become either one of, or even the poorest country in Europehealth system in crisis, an unreformed penal system, a tuberculosis epidemic

There are things like the ongoing farce with Saakashvili. He’s the governor of Odessa Poroshenko ally, then he’s not. Then he’s an opposition leader. Then he’s had his Ukrainian passport revoked. Then he’s in the USA telling everyone about how awful Ukraine is (but, Russia is ‘worse’, of course). Then he’s in Poland saying he’ll come and rescue Ukraine… it goes on, and on ….

And to add to that, Ukraine’s capital Kiev has now plunged into one of the 10 Least Liveable Cities in the World – Economist Intelligence Unit finds –

10. Kiev, Ukraine47.8/100 points. The capital of Kiev saw the biggest decline in terms of liveability — 21.4 points — of all 140 cities surveyed. It is the also the only European city in the 12 that scored below 50 points. The city is still in a recovery that remains under threat from unrest, economic instability, and the ongoing civil war taking place in the Donbass region.

Occupying the next places, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe. What does the UK’s LGBT-obsessed ambassador Judith Gough have to say to this? It’s hard to agree – I see that Kiev is getting better, not worse! 

In diplomatic world, as ever, bad = good where Ukraine is concerned….

UK Ambassador Judith Gough: Having a Gay Time in Ukraine, while War in Donbass Goes On

The UK has had a particularly poor record with recent ambassadors to Ukraine. Simon Smith, in position between 2012 and 15, showed little real interest in the position, and his contribution amounted to little more than mouthing along with, and retweeting handed-down rhetoric:

Smith’s farewell tweet in September of 2015 gathered a paltry 25 retweets as he slipped out of position, just as he’d generally slipped under the radar in his weak, prematurely ended tenure –

Smith, who had clearly just been punching his timecard, was replaced by Judith Gough, (Wikipedia): born 1972, educated at the University of Nottingham (BA German and Russian, 1995) and at King’s College London (MA War in Modern World, 2012). She then worked as a Consultant in Emerging Markets and Financial Services at Ernst and Young.

Gough joined the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2001. Gough then served at the British embassy in South KoreaStarting from mid-September 2010 she was Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Republic of Georgia, and served as such till she was released of her post early 2013.

She then became FCO’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In September 2015 Gough was appointed Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine.

Gough is openly lesbian and raises two children with her partner, Julia Kleiousi.

Gough began her tenure, in September 2015, with a tweet clearly meant to show that a stronger, more forceful player was in town:

And she’s continued in that vein. Endless tweets, retweets (as here) about Crimea, how it’s ‘Ukraine’ and everything there is ‘worsening’ etc etc – despite making no effort herself to ever actually visit Crimea, which she freely could.

Of course, the retweets about Boris Johnson and his parroting of ‘Russian aggression’ – 

Endless tweets about the ‘heroism of Maidan’ –

And Gough loudly trumpets UK and Ukrainian military cooperation, tweeting this out last month –

Gough is indeed very hawkish about UK / Ukraine military cooperation, and the UK’s recent pledge to increase that, tweeting on at every opportunity. 

What Judith doesn’t tweet: 

Anything about Ukraine’s ongoing shelling of civilian areas of Donbass

Anything about the general disorder in Ukraine, actions of the far-right, radicals, and so on. About this recently in Lvov, for example: Vandals Caught On Video Drawing Swastikas On Ukraine Holocaust Memorial

Nothing about that on Judith’s feed. And while the Campaign for the Protection of Journalists was writing criticising Ukraine for the lack of any result in the investigation into the murder of Pavel Sheremet, on July 12th, Judith was tweeting:

Gough, perhaps predictably, tweets lots about reform. Yet, it’s clear that neither ‘reform’ in Ukraine, nor recycling of endless anti-Russian propaganda is what really interests the 44-year-old is a theme closer to home. Judith clearly sees herself, as the UK’s first openly gay international diplomat, as a crusading figure for openly gay people in senior positions, a perception perpetuated by puff pieces such as this March 2016, adoring interview by Buzzfeed.

All of which would be fine, and wonderful, if Judith were doing a good job, which she’s not. At best, she’s just passing on UK propaganda. But worse, her aggressive tweets of stepped up UK military intervention push peace further from the agenda. And more’s the argument that Gough’s sexuality is perhaps not paramount in her position as ambassador to a country locked in ongoing civil war. Yet, since June 1st, Judith has tweeted, retweeted, over 15 times about issues relating to LGBT, but only 3 about Donbass….

Putting her LGBT activism to one side, looking through Gough’s Twitter, it’s clear that she’s fallen victim to the standard ambassadorial pitfall – virtue signalling charity events at the ambassador’s residence, in Kiev, from July 19th –

In fairness to Gough, in June she did actually visit Kramatorsk, Donbass, yet there’s no indication she spoke to anyone there, other than the inevitable NGO’s –

Before publishing this, I had a final look at Gough’s Twitter feed. Her last tweet was 2 days ago, a retweet:

Gough’s homosexuality and accent on that may actually be a blessing, as her focus on LGBT activism at least limits the harm she is doing in her position as UK ambassador to Ukraine.  Yet when history is written, it’s hard to believe that even the LGBT community will review Gough kindly. 

A Channel’s Correspondent to a Crowdfunded Correspondent

Graham Phillips

Sometimes the question comes up ‘how did you go from working for tv channels, to working through crowdfunding?’ So, here we go. In the past few days, I’ve got a few things off my chest, particularly in relation to the channel RT, for whom I started working as a tv correspondent, over 2 years ago, in Donbass.

Why did I, from Great Britain, go to work for Russian media? Well, Euromaidan (pictured) Euromaidansaw the shattering of all my, what turned out to be, illusions about media. When you’ve stood on a street and witnessed chaos, mess, terrorism, yet see it on BBC, CNN, depicted as a ‘revolution of dignity’ etc, masks slip pretty quickly.

There are no objective news channels at all. Every channel has an angle, agenda.

It so happened, that on Euromaidan, Crimea, and Donbass, the angle, agenda of the Russian channels was much more truthful than that of the western media. Not completely objective, no, but no media is. We live in an age where every channel or newspaper is owned, either overtly or not, by corporations, businesses, states. BBC, for example, governed by a BBC Trust comprising several members with connections to big business, including Roger Carr, chairman of defence contractor BAE systems, with lucrative arms contracts across the
world. 
 The famously ‘independent’ Guardian, owned by the Guardian Media Graham RTGroup, with its famously secret ‘externally managed investment fund’. 

RT, famously owned by the Russian state. So, what’s it like working for them, what are the terms? They offered me $300 a day to to a week’s work reporting in Donetsk back when things were kicking off there in April 2014. That may sound like a reasonable amount, but you have to stay somewhere, it was hotels back then, and, when it got to Slavyansk, my agreement with RT extending beyond a week, but not every day, it was necessary to get a fixer too. I had to take care of all of this, and getting expenses back was always a struggle, on not one occasion finding myself questioned about receipts for taxi fares for a few pounds.

Also, it’s hard work. When you are on a day’s shift, you are ‘on call’, and RT called, all the time. There would be several producers on shift at any time, and it seemed to be the thing to do to regularly call correspondents. I found this initially frustrating going up to really pretty irritating, as here –

– as I was always running about trying to film things, the phone would frequently be going off during this. But then, new to it all, perhaps I’d simply misread the role of correspondent for a channel. I wanted, in an erupting war situation as it was, with things flaring up all over the place, literally all the time, to be chasing
all the stories, filming all the action. RT mostly wanted me to be in the quiet centre of Slavyansk doing link ups to satellite camera. I didn’t see the point of this, standing in a calm street while things were flaring up all around.

Then, RT would want to send me places, having ‘hot tips’ of action somewhere. Sometimes they were hot tips, other times stone cold. They were a bit obsessed at Graham Phillips Luganskthe time with all sorts of things supposedly going on in Izyum, so kept sending me there, to no real result, but in fairness got it bang on with the Lugansk uprisings of the end of April (pictured).

Now, I’ve written about not wanting anything to do with RT, not liking working for the channel, and that’s true. But I don’t echo the sentiments of other former RT correspondents out of terms with the channel in respect of being told what to say, report etc. I had a free reign, would record and report what I saw. There would be times when RT wouldn’t use all the material I’d send them, or may select parts for edit, but in any case I’d upload all the material onto my YouTube channel, they knew I did that, there were no restrictions on that. RT did, on occasion, tell me about preferred terminology, but I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to that, and it was never an issue.

I would say this – it was hard work. When RT knew you were on a working day, they knew you were on a working day. There were times I’d get back to the hotel after being on my feet filming the whole day, shattered. Then there’d be a call ‘we
Fullscreen capture 09062016 100803.bmpneed you to do a Skype interview’. I’d do the Skype interview, be preparing to hit the hay, another call, another, and so on. Other times, called out on the street late at night for a satellite link up. But again, this isn’t a beef, being a correspondent on the ground when the ground is as active as it was in Donbass back then, is always going to be hard work, and there’s an adrenalin which powers you through.

The reason for my discord with RT is simply, when I’d do a story which got some heat, it was all ‘RT’s Graham Phillips’ and so, but when I was ever in a position of needing RT’s support, on the field, they would as a first option, throw me under the bus.

My employment with RT ended after my 2nd deportation from Ukraine, in July of 2014. Now, I fully accept they’d told me not to go to Donetsk airport during battle, but I went, got taken captive, many of my possessions, including car, stolen by Graham Phillips deportedUkrainian forces. I got released, deported into Poland, called by as it seemed everyone at RT, congratulating me on release, saying they’d fly me to Moscow etc, they went huge about it on air, booking me into a studio in Warsaw for a special feature. And after that, literally, dumped me there. There was a meeting, where it was decided I’d ‘reached the end of my useful life‘, and that was that. No Moscow, no visa support, nothing. They’d gone so big on my having had my car and money stolen, huge features about it on air, but no compensation for that. They knew I couldn’t return to the home I’d left to report for them, in Graham Phillips WarsawOdessa, now banned from Ukraine. Again, nothing. I’m pictured here in Warsaw, just, taking it all in, wondering what to do next. And more, I didn’t at all feel at the ‘end of my useful life’, felt I was just starting.

In my return to Donbass, after doing some work for RT during the World Cup 2014, I’d negotiated a higher rate of pay, $500 a day, but only got 3 days of that in the end. So, all told, taking into account the loss of my car, equipment etc, my RT career ended with my actually having perhaps broken even, if you don’t take into account the apartment I’d effectively lost. If you do, well, I’d certainly have been much better off materially just staying at home!

But I’d never been about money. The big money was always in western media. I knew guys who’d sit in Kiev, crack out columns on Donbass for Newsweek, New Statesman etc at a couple of thousand dollars a pop. Russian media simply doesn’t offer that. I’d gone with that option because it gave me the chance to report things as I saw them.

Anyway, deported by Ukraine, dumped by RT, I saw in Warsaw in early August of 2014 wondering what to do, sure neither what, nor how to do it. The idea of doing a crowdfunder to continue reportage from Donbass just didn’t occur to me at that time – crowdfunding was still fairly new. I figured just get back there, to Donbass, and take it from there. I decided on Lugansk, and needed to hurry, with Luganskthe city further under siege each day and access nigh-on impossible. I returned from Poland, rushed to the visa embassy in London, got a tourist visa for Russia, took off for Moscow, headed down to Rostov, and found someone who got me in to the city of Lugansk, at that time cut off, under relentless Ukrainian shelling, no power, water, phone signal and the one internet connection in the city provided by the other Russian channel there, Life News. There were no other western journalists, in fact hardly any journalists, and I spent the next month filming as much as possible and, without a channel, submitting my videos to agency.

Working as a video journalist is just about as precarious a profession as it gets. There, there is – as is the nature of the trade – absolutely no loyalty, it’s simply who’s got the hottest video. So to make a living, you have to be in the hottest place a lot of times and your competition is anyone with a cameraphone! So, it’s tough, but at that time in Lugansk there was (sadly) enough action to mean that my work was taken up almost every day.

(August 22nd 2014)

However, I’ve never seen myself purely as a video journalist, enjoying filming but also being an ‘on camera’ correspondent, so was looking for offers from a channel. In September 2014, the Russian channel Zvezda approached me to work
for them. Now, I knew they reported into the Russian Military of Defence, but, was assured all my work would be presented as it was, no directives etc.

So it was, I started work for Zvezda, filming my reports on YouTube, sending them to the channel. And I have to say, working for them was actually far smoother than RT – almost no calls, or Skypes. I’d just film my report, send it off, Fullscreen capture 08062016 232532.bmpand if they took it, I’d negotiated 500 Euros, an excellent rate (although I needed to pay a camerman to film my stand-ups from that), but there would sometimes be a couple of weeks and more when they wouldn’t take anything.

Did I like the Zvezda edit of my pieces? Well, I spoke English, and they dubbed it into Russian. I wasn’t always totally enamoured with how the pieces came out, but then anyone who makes material, and hands it over for edit, will feel the same. The Russian angle, agenda in the Zvezda pieces was a bit more overt, as is the nature of the channel, and ultimately that resulted in my decision to cut ties with the channel, in February of 2015.

And, after that, I found myself at an impasse of a crossroads. I’d now become known for my work in Donbass as working with Russian media, and had seen the impact that had in the west. The result was the west immediately discounting my Fullscreen capture 08062016 233115.bmpwork ‘don’t listen to Graham, he works for Russian media‘, ‘Russian propagandist etc. When you put your life on the line, and I got wounded while working in November of 2014, to deliver the truth, it’s of course far from gratifying when there’s a palpable barrier put up to that getting over to a wider audience. Of course there are a lot of people who want it that way, have made up any number of nonsense stories and claims about me in attempts to discredit my work – I’m a Russian agent, British agent, sex tourist, gay’... it goes on.

Anyway, post Zvezda, I made the call to go it alone. I had offers to work with Vice News, but couldn’t associate myself with a channel who I felt had been entirely dishonest in their coverage of Crimea, Donbass. The BBC contacted me several times, but, after their coverage of Euromaidan, Crimea, Donbass, BBC News exists to me only as a propaganda agency I want nothing to do with.

So, I got by last year on earnings from Zvezda, my YouTube channel, and sponsors. As for the latter, people see a lot of hits, my channel is near 50 million now, and equate that with serious coin. But it’s not quite like that. A thousand hits in much of Europe, the US, can bring in about $4, quite reasonable. If those are in Russia, where rates are far lower for advertising, it’s only 0.40 cents, if Ukraine 0.20 cents. So, in the early days, when the eyes of the west were on droneUkraine, and Donbass, it did generate a decent amount. But since late 2014, the audience has been mainly Russian, from Donbass, or Ukraine so, the hits may still be high, but the sum can be a few dollars.

I did my first crowdfunder, in April of 2015, to fund a drone, it seemed to capture people’s imaginations, went very well. And in September of the year I set up a Patreon account, donations on that, a little less than $200 a month, significant to my work. That, along with donations to my Paypal account, and fairly modest expenses while working in Donbass, Crimea have allowed me to get by.

Coming back to the UK a couple of weeks ago has been a shock in a lot of ways. When I last returned in 2015, Donbass did have some resonance here, but, sadly, that’s entirely gone now, it seems like a different world. Then there’s London, it Graham Phillips UKchanges so much every time that it’s not just buildings which are different, it’s entire streets. New trends, atmosphere, it’s coming back to a city which moved so quickly it didn’t miss a beat when you left, reintegrating. And realising, this is the real world – for me, my world. You can go away and be a ‘big man’ somewhere else, taking a position against your own country’s government as I have, with my work having resonated in Donbass, and Russia (though I’d like to think not just because of that, but due to the quality of reportage, my having worked very hard – over 4000 videos on my channel), but if you’re unknown in your own backyard, there’s a discord.

Of course, being known personally is not what it’s about. I’d like people to see the reportage, know the truth. It’s hard to have friends back in Donbass, suffering under a war situation ongoing because, in large part, the west has switched off allowing the predicament there to perpetuate. But of course, as a correspondent, there are a lot of things interesting to me, which I want to report on. And there’s a bonus in doing so, that if I can win a new audience through work which resonates in the west, I can hopefully take them to know the truth about Donbass.

But how to do it, when both roads are closed, for the above reasons, to Russian, and to western channels? Well, I have go it myself, via crowdfunding.

Set up a project, find people to support it, finance it, make it happen. This is my new project, UK referendum reportage – currently at 25% of the funding target –

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/uk-referendum-reportage/x/12236308#/

So how does this compare to being a channel’s correspondent? Well, there are extra stresses – having to raise finance, of course, is stressful. Despite the perception with crowdfunding that you put a project up, and that’s it, it flies, crowdfunding is actually, usually, a fight to get financing. After my first, lucky, Fullscreen capture 09062016 015443.bmpdrone project, I did a Baltics one which ended up well under target. And this latest one similarly, tough. There are no incredibly wealthy benefactors who with the click of a moneyed finger, make the whole project happen. There are normal people, pledging mostly 10 and 20 pounds. And, in the real world, to make a project even with minimal costs happen, you need a lot of that.

However, on the other side, if it happens, the result can be, simply, the ultimate correspondent’s dream. Freedom to report everything, exactly as it is, not beholden to any one or organisation. Knowing that people support you, support your work, it’s a wonderful feeling. The potential to make a unique project happen because of that.

It’s still new though, the idea of a crowdfunded correspondent. I sometimes ask myself how it came to this, because in some ways, you are alone, everything stands or falls on you. But in another way, it’s the best thing of all, no one calling Graham Phillips journalistyou, telling you what to do, where to go. I hope to build a career on the unique opportunity that crowdfunding gives. Of course, I can only do that if people support me, and people will only support me if the work deserves it. There’s no safety net, it’s live or die.

Be sure, I’ll give it my all to realise this incredible opportunity. People pledging to me now are fairly low in number, but huge in significance. To make it happen long-term, I’ll need more people to see the worth in true, independent reportage. That could even be you, reading this. If so, be sure, from my side, your pledge to me will be met with a pledge from me to turn your support into reportage which can change the world.

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) –

Fullscreen capture 12042016 150010.bmpFullscreen capture 12042016 174258.bmp

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) –

Fullscreen capture 12042016 171923.bmp Fullscreen capture 12042016 171941.bmp Fullscreen capture 12042016 171948.bmpFullscreen capture 12042016 171955.bmpFullscreen capture 12042016 172024.bmpFullscreen capture 12042016 172028.bmp

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?