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 (grahamwphillips.com – 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.

A Graham Newsletter (#15) Lots of Information!

Firstly, I want to say a huge thanks to all of you involved in my crowdfunding campaign – you got it over the line, we reached target, and it means I can contine my independent, objective journalism here in Donbass!

What you made possible, along with daily reportage, are projects like this, a film – now with English subtitles, from Krasnodon, as they marked their City Day –

That will be my final crowdfunder for this year, although I’ll be doing one to raise funds for a headstone for the fallen hero of my film of early 2016, Aramis. Look out for that soon.

My attention now turns to rewarding all those of you who’ve helped, been involved in my crowdfunding, and I’ll be fulfilling all of the pledges to you, hopefully even exceeding them!

Of course, so much has happened since the last newsletter. Firstly, DPR commander Motorola was killed in Donetsk, on October 16th, blown up in the lift of the apartment building in which he lived.

I first met Motorola in Slavyansk, spring of 2014, when he was just another ‘opolchenets’, we exchanged a few words. When I saw him again, by this time his having already become a commander, at Donetsk airport in October of 2014, and started filming him, asking questions, he appeared a little piqued ‘don’t you remember me from Slavyansk?’. He was in good spirits at this time, always obliging for an interview, see one of our interviews here, full English subtitles, from October 2014 –

I filmed Motorola a lot in the months leading up to the taking of Donetsk airport by DPR forces, led by commanders Motorola and Givi, both videos, and photos, such as this one here, perhaps the best known –

motorola

Being in different places in Donbass, I hadn’t seedn Motorola for over a year, and  was in Ekaterinburg, the Urals, when Motorola was killed. Of course, it was a shock. I naturally turned to Facebook to express my views on what had happened, and Motorola, in an even-handed post. However, this being Facebook, this post was removed, and I was hit with a 30-day ban.

That marks the end of myself and Facebook – I subsequently removed my account, and won’t be back there. There’s no point in being on a site on which I can’t say anything I want, or need to say. Facebook clearly isn’t set up for that – as soon as you say something which doesn’t fit their, pretty blatant, narrative – you’re off.

I don’t want the hassle of never knowing if I’ll be blocked or not, sitting out bans, and more, I don’t want to support such an oppressive site of online social repression, rather than networking.

About Motorola, to say succinctly. He was a warrior, at times, in extreme situations, he could be pretty sharp with his choice of words. But, he could surprise you with a caring side, concerned for the safety of journalists on his territory, had a great sense of humour. He truly loved Donbass, his family there. Whatever his background, he was in Donbass of motorola-grahamhis own volition, and for principles. Not even his enemies, and there were many, could say he wasn’t brave – he was always ready to lead the charge in battle. He shaped the Donetsk People’s Republic which we know now, so much simply would never have been without him.

I knew him as a journalist, am proud to have known him, and very sad about what happened. Thoughts with his family, and respect for the life of a man who always put himself on the frontline.

I was honoured to see my photo used as a mural in Motorola’s honour, in St Petersburg (vandalised, subsequently restored) –

motorola-wall

As for the Urals, Ekaterinburg, I’d gone there to continue work on a film I’m making, about the young Lugansk journalist Irina Gurtyak, more of which later, tragically killed in a car crash in January of this year. I filmed Irina’s relatives and friends there –

And I also spent some time, including filming reportage, in the beautiful city of Ekaterinburg, and around.


In this time, I gave a long interview to a journalist, Andrei Guselnikov, I’ve known for a long time. I know that Andrei can always be counted on neither to flatter or flail on me, to be completely objective. I spoke about a lot of things in this interview, Russia, my relationship with Russia (where the truth is that most people actually don’t know me, and I have both supporters and detractors from those who do), Donbass, the declining interest in Donbass and what I’m trying to do about that, and RT.

The subject of the channel RT has long been a thorny one for me. What happened in 2014, after my 2nd deportation – they deceived me to get one final interview, then literally cast me out on the streets of Poland, knowing I’d lost almost everything having worked for them – has, of course stuck in my throat, and I’ve spoken out quite strongly against RT on occasion of not agreeing with them.

But, there’s always a time to put things to rest, and move on. I said my final piece on them to Andrei at URA, and from now, I’ll simply not mention them. I’ve said what I have to say on the matter, feel at ease with it all.

In Russia, there were of course the inevitable comments about my having ‘fled’, ‘not returning to Donbass’ etc. But, I always return to Donbass, and always will.

The past couple of weeks back have been as busy as ever. Here are the updates I’ve written on this site –

Updates from the DLPR (#5) International Visitors in the LPR

Updates from the DLPR (#5) International Visitors in the LPR

Of course, I keep up a stream of news on my Twitter account, recently, a lot about Saakashvili, of course, and there’s be an article on him to come soon, here.I also use my Twitter to give you exclusive, breaking news. The Guardian told you there was ‘mystery’ surrounding the prank call to Ukrainian president Poroshenko. I could tell you exclusively that the call was by Russian pranker Lexus, and had even filmed an exclusive interview with him in Ekaterinburg –

Of course, there’s also my video reportage, which I work to add English subtitles to as much as possible, or, as here, record in English, as Ukrainian shelling targeted a civilian car in the Lugansk area, an update on that here –

Or this video here, with English subtitles, as Lugansk marked the ‘Day of People’s Unity’ –

That’s just a couple of examples, and there’s a lot more English-language reporting coming up soon. Here in Donbass, I film reportage, and also work on longer, documentary film projects. Before next summer, I’m hugely excited about showing you my new Crimea film, where we took a British holidaymaker on holiday to Crimea. It was good to see a write-up of that in The Courier here. 

Of course, all of this is only possible because of your support, so a massive thanks again to all of you who took part in my crowdfunder, your continued support, sharing of my work – especially on the Facebook I’m banned from – it means a lot, and it makes a meaningful contribution in getting the truth out!

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.