Euromaidan, and We’ve Known Each Other for 4 Years Now!

This week, it’s nothing to celebrate of course, but some of us have now known each other for 4 years. 4 years ago I was living in Odessa, Euromaidan had kicked off, and I was watching on, in horror not only at what I saw, but that all my former colleagues – I’d worked in Kiev as a journalist for 2 years – were supporting it, all the western media were cheering for me. The reasons I took against Maidan were fairly delineated, and definite. In the time I’d lived in Kiev, I’d followed the rise of neo-Nazi party Svoboda, had been to their congress, marches, had been shocked by what was pure, patent, unconcealed fascism (photo, right, I’ve also written about it here).

And here’s a thing, at the time the western media agreed with me about this, there were articles about Svoboda in this vein. And in my time in Kiev, I’d actually written for leading western publications – the New Statesman, more, had been senior journalist at the city’s What’s On magazine for a year.

When Euromaidan got going, some of the first footage I saw from it featured Svoboda members, Oleg Tyagnibok, and other radicals, not only in the crowd, but up on the hastily-erected stages. It’s not a big stretch to think that ‘if guys from a party based on the original Nazi party are supporting this, then maybe this isn’t the right side.’ Or more aptly, the correct side, because Maidan was the right, the far-right, the misled, the deceived, the chronic Ukrainian dreamers who really did believe that if you force out an elected president and government, by violence, then it’s happily ever after…

I started tweeting the Maidan I saw, in the context I knew, early doors. And I’d add that the context was that I knew Ukraine, having been to every part, including Donbass (here, Donetsk 2012). And with an overt anti-Russian mood to Maidan from early on, it was clear that Donbass, Crimea of course, weren’t going to be a part of it.

The fact that my tweets didn’t take the narrative of the west meant my phone was silent, there was no inbox with offers to report on the ‘glorious uprising‘, ‘peaceful people’s revolution‘ etc, that the west wanted to hear about . They went with journalists who would write that copy for them, and they were many. So they were in, I was out.

I thought ‘f*ck it’, effectively, and just kept on writing articles for my blog,  sometimes several a day ( – I took that site down ages ago, it was a personaly blog hardly appropriate for covering war on, you can find it archived). The blog posts started attracting a readership, and one day I got a Facebook message from a producer, Maria, at RT, asking me to go on air for an interview. I’d never in my life have thought of working for Russian media before, nothing against them, but I’d always as a British person generally gravitated to the BBC, et al. But, you know what, if they’ll let you say what you see, what you know to be true, then go for it. So, I went for it, this video from early December 2013.

Which means some of us have known each other for 4 years already.

How a British Freelancer Became the ‘Voice of the Kremlin*’ (*for Ukrainian Media)

By Graham Phillips

A couple of days ago, Ukrainian news channel ICTV did a 48-minute-show Fullscreen capture 29032015 181334.bmpentitled ‘Anti-Zombie’ looking at the Russian news coverage of events in Donbass.

A comic-book ‘documentary’ including the usual standards – silly music, cartoon cutaways, ‘expert interviews’, cutting off clips part way through to suit etc – it was all there! Of the 48-minute running time, I found myself taking 14 minutes, between 11 and 25 –

All of the above – all taken out of context, of course, intoned over by that ever-present knowing, droll narrator. When out of context wasn’t enough, animation Fullscreen capture 29032015 181719.bmpeffects, silly music, cutaways to films, shows etc – all thrown in there, along with the sum of 15,000,000 roubles put out there (no source, of course) supposedly awarded to myself and other ‘Russian propagandists’.

I watched on, finding it all quite funny to be honest, especially the bit one of the ‘expert commentators’ emphasised that I was ‘very very important’ to the Russian cause – thoughts you can imagine the makers shared in awarding me Fullscreen capture 29032015 181454.bmpalmost a third of the overall running time.

Along with any number of statements they just made up to suit – that I ‘lie for money’, I’m supposedly ‘gay’ on the basis of a 16-year-old photo from student theatre, one even just that I’m a ‘bad person’ was the clear thrust – I’m a ‘well-paid operative of the Krelmin’, a ‘richly-imbursed Russian ‘propagandist’.

This really was news to me. I started doing ‘on location’ work with RT in April 2014 in Donetsk on a one-week contract paid a standard daily rate for a stringer / Fullscreen capture 29032015 181208.bmpcontributor. The contract was extended, week on week, until my first captivity deportation from Ukraine, at the end of May.

I then recorded a few pieces for RT while at the World Cup in Brazil, returned to report in Donbass, this time on a daily rate as  a stringer / contributor. On my second day in Donetsk, I told RT I wanted to go and report from the battle going on at Donetsk airport. They told me not to. I went anyway, got captured, deported again, banned for 3 years.

RT then told me, nicely, that they really liked me, appreciated my work, but that I’d been rather disobedient, was too risky to work with at that time. I accepted this, returned to work in Donbass anyway, filmed for video agencies for around a Fullscreen capture 29032015 181558.bmpmonth, then the Russian news channel ‘Zvezda‘ contacted me, asked me to record pieces for them.

No contract here, I pitched in a piece, if they took it I got paid for it – standard rate. They took around 8 of my pieces in September, October, and also didn’t take a few. Then, things went quiet for a month, with no Zvezda work until the end of November – at which point I got wounded covering frontline conflict. I got out of hospital, newsworthy events had picked up, and in the next 3 months I recorded around 15 further pieces for them.

Fullscreen capture 29032015 184434.bmpI returned to the UK a month ago, made the decision last week that upon my return to reporting in Donbass, I’d like to find a new channel. I very much enjoyed working with Zvezda, but always like a new challenge.

In my time working for Russian media I’ve never been contacted by any Russian officials about my work, never been told what to say or report by my channels, or anyone, always just done my own thing, filmed and reported what’s there. Never received any more than the standard, going rate, for my pieces.

On the show, they introduce the section on myself with ‘Graham Phillips’ adventures in Ukraine‘. But what a real adventure – to turn me, from a British freelancer into a, perhaps even the, key cog of Russia’s ‘propaganda machine’.

I’ve never encountered any ‘propaganda machine’ on the Russian side – and Fullscreen capture 29032015 181830.bmpgiven that I’m so important to whatever that is, if such a thing existed, I’m sure they would have contacted me by now.

What exists to an infinite level, the pro-Ukrainian ability to invent things to suit them, and then things to suit that!

I continue as a British freelance journalist. Ukrainian news continues as Ukrainian propaganda.