Western Media Reaction to Victory Days in Donbass

Recent Victory Days in Donbass saw mass turnouts, I filmed in Lugansk where there were around 100,000 people celebrating, amazing entertainment, a concert, and more. 

What was the western media’s reaction to this, mass display of patriotism? Well, beginning with the Atlantic Council funded site Medium, the Atlantic Council itself, funded by western governments – and even Ukraine itself – to promote western, in this case pro-Ukrainian propaganda, it was universally negative.

All they could find to do was pore over the military equipment on display, attemping to connect it all to Russia, in various ways. 

That pumped on into other western media, with Yahoo News, reporting from AFP, declaring Ukraine rebels roll out banned tanks on WWII Victory Day in an article which put great weight on that supposed feature, and only grudgingly, casting the shadow of the Kremlin, mentioned the support shown by locals for the day.

It’s indeed ironic that the western media has absolutely ignored the constant violations of the Minsk agreement by Ukrainain forces ongoing shelling of Donbass, but when a few military vehicles peacefully roll through streets in a traditional parade, it’s all uproar and ‘bad separatists’, ‘Kremlin’ all over…

All about my Medals, by Graham Phillips

I see a fair bit written that I got awarded a medal connected to Russia, supposedly meaning I’m an ‘FSB agent’ and that kind of thing.

Screenshot (58)It’s actually all just the ever mono-directional diatribe of those ‘pro-Ukrainians’ who’d love nothing more than to discredit my work on the purported basis that I have some sort of connection with Russia.

Well, I’d like to answer, and add to that. I have actually been awarded 4 medals for my journalism, and got them mounted today, to display at home, because of course I’m honoured that people have appreciated my work enough to bestow these symbols of recognition.

IMG_20160707_160233
So, from left, actually the above ‘FSB medal‘ in question, was my first, awarded Graham Phillips medalon March 1st 2015, in the town of Chekhov, by Moscow by a (non-state) group for Russian border guards. It was given to me by Pavel Hlyupin, former border guard, and a man I’d known for several months because of his humanitarian work in Donbass, presented in a local council room there, in a small ceremony.

The medal is conferred for ‘real assistance to Novorossiya‘ and reflects gratitude for my work there. Actually, at the time, I’d just left Donbass (Novorossiya the term used by some to mean that, and wider area), having been on the frontline covering the takeover of Debaltsevo – see here –

It was given as a gesture of appreciation, recognition of my, what had been a near 7-month uninterrupted stint of work in Donbass, starting back in the Lugansk blockade in August of 2014 – see here –

There’s no state significance to it, no official connection to any Russian organ. And I’m pretty sure that if Russia’s FSB give out medals of the sort this has been made out to be, they do so in Moscow, not a small town 70km south.

Anyway, it was a nice gesture, and I was pleased to accept it!

Graham LPR MedalFast forward to December 21st, and I was awarded the medal of ‘Merit’, 2nd order, by head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Igor Plotnitsky. This one was a particular honour for me, as I’d been the only western journalist in Lugansk for almost a month in summer of 2014 as the city was under siege by Ukrainian forces, without water, electricity, phone signal, little food, under constant shelling. 

On February 5th, in St Petersburg, I was given the Dmitry Karbyshev medal of military journalism (pictured), this coming at the time when I’d left Donbass, after another Graham Phillips medal Russialong spell there, and was in St Petersburg working on my film ‘Aramis’.

March 24th, back in Lugansk, I was given another award for my Lugansk work ‘from the grateful people of Lugansk’, from the International Community Fund ‘Commandarm‘.

So, there we go! Now, there’s no question that my awards orientate from a Russian, Lugansk Republic direction. However, it’s been these states which have recognised my work – the western media haven’t wanted to show my documentation of Ukrainian shelling, and more, so the western world mostly isn’t aware of my 4000+ video reports.

But none of them have any connection whatsoever to the Russian state. In any case, you can hardly choose who gives you awards. I don’t go ‘chasing medals’, but of course, it’s gratifying when someone values your work, and nice to have a tangible symbol of that. My policy is – accept the medal, be proud of it, but never let it affect, or have any bearing on my work.

Anyway, I’m happy to have them mounted, and set the medal record straight here.

A Graham Newsletter (#1) Return to the UK, Referendum Reportage, More

Graham Phillips

Hello, this is the first in a series of short newsletters where I keep you updated on 1kids2what I’ve been up to, am up to, and what comes next. Also, as this is being published on the International Day for the Protection of Children, I’d like to take a moment to remember those children of Donbass, caught up in that terrible war, which should never have been. May no other children in the world see or go through what they have.

After over a year away, in Donbass, Russia, including Crimea, and (briefly) the Baltics, I returned to the UK last week, via a trip to the Donbass frontlines –

The last week I spent with family in Wales, and have now returned to London. Of course, some have said to me I should ‘return to Donbass‘ etc, and that’s very flattering, to have my work appreciated. But being back in the UK, home, I’ve felt things as they really are, spoken with people. Most people here simply don’t care about Donbass. And that’s not because they’re ‘bad people’, or so – it’s almost never on the news here. Marginalised to just another war (or even?) going on in a Graham Donbasscountry just distant enough to be distant.

All the work I’ve done from Donbass, for the last 2 years, the hundreds of reports from everywhere from frontlines, to homes hit by shelling, to concerts to festivals, simply hasn’t penetrated the information blockade. Of course, the main channels won’t show my work here, it doesn’t fit the narrative. And as for RT, who I still get associated with, I’d like to say firstly that I’ve had nothing to do with RT for a long time, and secondly, no one I know here would even think of watching RT.

So I can go back to Donbass, do the same again, the Russian, and a select western audience will know more about what they already know, and again no one (other than the select) in the west will notice. Or I can do reportage in the UK, and EU, to win a wider western audience, and take that audience with me to Donbass, Crimea, to bring the truth from there.

To that end, I’m working on a number of things. Ever more English subtitles on reportage. And I’m planning new reportage from the UK, and EU. I’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign soon for my UK Referendum reportage, which I’d like to be … unexpected, interesting. Of course, when it comes to the UK referendum, I have an open position in support of ‘Leave’, but I’ll put that to one Graham Phillips Aramisside to bring – with your help – objective, fresh reportage.

I’m going to put on a special film evening in London, showing the 2 films I’ve made in Donbass and Crimea – Aramis, and Crimea, Victory Day 2016, and in my time here be doing new reportage, from London, Europe.

Then, the next big project, as with all my work, fully crowdfunded, will be an MH17 documentary. I’m aiming for this to be the definitive MH17 documentary – based on extensive time on site, witnesses, expert analysis – completely independent, getting through all the myths, lies and misinformation to the truth of what happened.

So, there’s a lot ahead, a lot to do. It’s all to do, and I know we can do it all together. When you come back home, and I’ve been away for over a year, it’s an excellent opportunity for a reboot, to make some changes, and define how best to do things going forward. To this end, I’ve closed the Support Donbass Shop, but not before it made a big contribution to humanitarian aid in Donbass. Read all Graham Phillips journalistabout that here.

Look out for crowdunding campaigns coming soon, giving you a unique chance for involvement in these projects. And be sure I don’t measure involvement purely by finance – every share, repost etc of my work helps to get the truth to a wider audience. And those who do decide to make a financial pledge to make a project possible I consider as partners. To all of you, I’m always very grateful, and more than happy to chat, find me on Facebook here.

Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat, Who is He? Everything You Need to Know…

This is part of the series, Who’s Who in Ukraine Propaganda (#3) 

Graham Phillips

In 2016, I’ll be returning to my country of the UK, and there’s a man I’d certainly like to meet for an interview. While I was working on the scene from the war in Eliot Higgins 2Donbass, Eliot Higgins, of Bellingcat, was the man sitting on a sofa taking, and manipulating, YouTube videos (including my own) of Donbass, MH17, Syria, using them to disseminate misinformation, lies, to the world.

However, he’s unlikely ever to agree to an interview with me, because, you see, Higgins, from the UK, born 1979, avoids sources who may raise uncomfortable questions much like critics have accused his work of avoiding basis in science, or fact (see below for more on that).

So, who exactly is Eliot Higgins? The man western media fawn over to the extent you may think it’s Eliot’s own mum writing the press, with headlines like ‘Putin’s Fullscreen capture 28022016 123353.bmpMH17 Nemesis‘ and ‘One-Man Intelligence Unit‘ (and that, enthusiastically promoted by the UK government in Ukraine, and not only them – US, Estonian government sources and more, open fans of his work).

Well, this is how a standard Eliot Higgins piece, and they are manifold, begins, in the western press – As rockets fell in Syria Eliot Higgins was asleep at his house 2,300 miles away, in Leicester. He woke a few hours later, roused his toddler daughter, Ela, and padded downstairs to make her porridge.’

That from the Telegraph, March 29th, 2014. Higgins affectionately portrayed as a kind of Winnie the Pooh meets a Beautiful Mind as he goes on to crack the enigma which had eluded the world etc etc.

Here, the Independent from January 18th, 2015 – 

Eliot Higgins 1‘Any of us can pause a YouTube video or find an old friend on Facebook. But only one man has used these simple online tools to expose the world’s darkest secrets. No wonder everyone from the police to Google wants a piece of the blogger from Leicester.’

Newsweek –  from June 2015 – 

‘Sipping a can of beer and devouring french fries in a Brussels hotel room, Eliot Higgins doesn’t look like the type to get involved in armed conflicts. The Englishman has a baby face, slumped shoulders and a soft Midlands accent. But over the past three years, the 36-year-old former administrator and obsessive gamer has spent hundreds of hours scouring the Internet to find out the truth about faraway wars – from the use of chemical weapons in Syria to Russian troops invading Ukraine – all from the comfort of his couch.’

But what if it’s not really like that, at all?

What if the ‘Founder of Bellingcat. Visiting research associate at King’s College London. Nonresident Senior Fellow – New Information Frontiers @AtlanticCouncil.‘ (his own Twitter description), isn’t really that?

Chauncey GardinerWhat if Eliot Higgins is, at best, a latter day Chauncey Gardiner , (pictured, the Peter Sellers character  from film ‘Being There’ who rose to success on the back of mental limitations mistaken for genius)? Or what if it’s even worse – what if Higgins is actually a liar, a faker, a fraud?

Let’s have a look at a 10 Higgins bullet-points –

Higgins is from Leicester in the UK, born in 1979, He never finished college, dropping out of the Southampton Institute of Higher Education. When asked for interview what he studied at university, his answer was , “Media . . . I think.”

He once worked as payments officer at a women’s underwear company. (“I’m more interested in lingerie than asylum seekers,”)In 2012, the hardcore online gamer (a World of Warcraft addict), Higgins was laid off from his job as an administrator at a non-profit providing housing for asylum seekers, turns to blogging, under the pseudonym ‘Brown Moses‘, from a Frank Zappa track.

Сredited, by some, with uncovering chemical weapons in Syria in 2013. Whether he actually did this, is the subject of debate (what he is documented as doing is agreeing to suppress information that the rebels had chemical weapons, Eliot Higgins Bellingcatand were behind chemical weapon attacks on Aleppo which had killed civilians). In any case, Higgins’ chemical weapons revelations were enthusiastically disseminated across western media, the US, UN, glowingly endorsed by western governments, but comprehensively debunked by Theodore Postol, a professor in the Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group at MIT –

It’s clear and unambiguous this munition could not have come from Syrian government-controlled areas as the White House claimed.”

While the western media fell in love with tale of the ‘expert who exposed Syrian chemical weapons from his bedroom‘, other, real, experts (and Higgins has always been completely open about his lack of expertise) were less convinced. Higgins, Postol said,has done a very nice job collecting information on a website. As far as his analysis, it’s so lacking any analytical foundation it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about.”

In January 2015, Bellingcat published a report into events in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 9th, 2014, when Ukrainian forces entered the city, opening fire, resulting in a death count given by Ukrainian sources as over 20, but by some sources as high as 100. Bellingcat took the figure down to 13. Despite video of Ukrainian forces opening fire on unarmed civilians, Bellingcat entirely exonerated them, described them as ‘acting with restraint’.

This exoneration of the actions of Ukrainian forces, and others of its kind, has allowed Eliot Higgins MH17western governments to continue their unconditional support for Ukraine, in the war in Donbass, without question.

Through 2015, Higgins’ Bellingcat rises to become one of the key agents in the MH17 investigation, with Higgins himself frequently trumpeting his appearances across the world’s media. This is despite Bellingcat’s frequently being caught out in fabrications – those MH17 videos which formed the bedrock of Bellingcat’s claims, comprehensively debunked here. Then there was the humiliation of Der Spiegel, one of Europe’s largest publications … issuing an apology for using Bellingcat’s work as a reliable source.  German image forensics expert Jens Kriese tore Bellingcat apart here –

‘From the perspective of forensics, the Bellingcat approach is not very robust. The core of what they are doing is based on so-called Error Level Analysis (ELA). The Bellingcatmethod is subjective and not based entirely on science. This is why there is not a single scientific paper that addresses it. Contrary to what Bellingcat claims, Error Level Analysis does not provide clear results.

The conclusion is always based on the perspective of humans, on their interpretation.’This, along with stringent criticism from a range of sources – from the ‘Off-Guardian‘ site -‘Even casual conversation with him reveals the embarrassing truth that his “research”, so lauded in the popular media, consists of entry-level computer skills and an awful lot of smoke-blowing. You or I or literally anyone over the age of seven with internet access could do it. If we thought it was worth while.’

The criticism hasn’t just been limited to text, this German satirical programme did a quite unerring take-off of Higgins –

Higgins is actually becoming rather an internet joke –

These have done the rounds –

Eliot Higgins internet joke Eliot Higgins

And just have a look on Twitter with the search #Bellingcrap

Higgins either vehemently hates, or has been told to hate Russia, and Russia’s president Putin. Have a look at his Twitter timeline, of some 127,000 tweets, and it can read at times like one man trolling an entire country. A stream, a barrage, of anti-Russian tweets, retweets, and Higgins doesn’t even try to hide that he despises Russia, or has been told to – this just from a quick ‘Russia‘ search of his recent tweets, and just a small sampling –Screen CapturesWith this taken into account, what conclusion was Higgins’ Bellingcat ever going to come to, apart from that it was Russia, indeed Putin himself, responsible for the tragic downing of MH17? And for the ‘expert’ on Donbass, Higgins has made his feelings similarly clear –Fullscreen capture 28022016 163501.bmp

Higgins hates RT now, never missing a chance to tear into them. Typical tweet –Fullscreen capture 28022016 145812.bmpBut, he used to be proud of their endorsement – this, from 2013 – a list of media he was happy to advertise his connection to.Screen Captures1 So what happened there? I’ve worked for RT, and will say this with all due respect, they are quite modest in the payment they offer. It’s not hard to find channels, and outlets, who pay a lot more.

In the early, Brown Moses, 
days, Higgins used to make frequent appeals for finances, with support links prominently displayed. However, the current Bellingcat site doesn’t even appear to have a ‘donate’ / ‘support’ option. And Fullscreen capture 28022016 154321.bmpBellingcat has grown to an operation which lists itself as being run by ‘eight volunteers’ but is clearly far in excess of that – a professional website which is updated sometimes with several articles a day, on which extensive research has been expended. But when it’s Bellingcat, all the evidence shows that the research is done to back up a conclusion already arrived at, rather than arrive at a conclusion based on research.

Higgins now works not from home, but from an office, in his hometown of Leicester. So where’s the money coming from for Bellingcat, clearly now an operation requiring considerable financial support?That’s unclear, Higgins has yet to publish any record of where the finance comes from, all the ‘About‘ section of the Bellingcat site says is -‘Bellingcat uses open source and social media investigation to investigate a variety of subjects, from Mexican drug lords to conflicts being fought across the world. Bellingcat brings together contributors who specialise in open source and social media investigation, and creates guides and case studies so others may learn to do the same.’

For a lot of people, it’s highly convenient that Eliot Higgins is an ‘expert’, and his agency Bellingcat taken seriously. This is a man who, with his agency Bellingcat, will absolutely always back the position of western governments, and powerful western organisations. And they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure Eliot Higgins expert 1he’s taken seriously, lay on all the the trappings, auspices of highbrow, on trend terms like ‘open source investigation’ and ‘error level analysis‘, be sure he’s given awards, plaudits, made a ‘fellow’, ‘expert’, at sympathetic organisations, appears at the right seminars, conferences, everything to apply the sheen of credibility.

When it comes to defending himself from criticism, Eliot is adept at deflecting criticism of himself onto the seemingly ‘too cool to criticise ‘open source investigation’, of which he is a leading practitioner. These tweets, from today, in response to his being told this article would be coming out –

Fullscreen capture 28022016 144044.bmpFullscreen capture 28022016 144338.bmp

Yet, what if behind the new, buzz ‘open source’ investigation of Higgins lies just plain old falsification?

This recent, absolutely comprehensive, article makes the point, one yet to have penetrated the public perception of ‘open source Fullscreen capture 28022016 152434.bmp
investigation’, that all this new jazz can be used as the respectable front for one of the oldest scams, falsification – see this tweet on the theme.

Creating social media accounts to post misinformation, free of all the source checks, verification of other sources as this is ‘citizen journalism’ and all things cool, which can’t be questioned because a lot of people don’t really know what they are. This, then passed off, and on, into Bellingcat, and up it goes higher into the food chain of mass media, unquestioned, unchecked.

So you can see why a lot of people really have an interest in making Eliot Higgins out to be an authority, a Fullscreen capture 28022016 153608.bmpreputed source, an expert. Have a look at his profile on the Atlantic Council site, an agency funded by governments across the world (25, no less), to promote their position under the guise of being a ‘think tank’. Higgins now works with them, and they call him ‘

Eliot Higgins – Nonresident Senior Fellow, New Information Frontiers, Future Europe Initiative, Expertise Topics, Digital Forensic Research and Open Source Intelligence.’

There’s a real convenience about Higgins. He’s positioned himself as one of the foremost exponents of the still-being-defined ‘open source’. Higgins himself has shaped and defined what we currently know as ‘open source investigation’. And he’s made one of the tenets of it never, ever, needing to go to the place in question.

Eliot Higgins expert

Higgins has never been near the MH17 site, Syria, or anywhere else on where he’s an apparent ‘expert’. Higgins may not go to any of the places he ‘investigates’, but he does travel the world being an ‘expert’ at various conferences, receiving awards – all of these used (and used by Higgins himself, who doesn’t shy from self-promotion , making extensive mention on Twitter of his own participation at conferences, using a photo from such for his profile) to propagate ‘Higgins, the expert.

It’s very handy for some people, having a guy who doesn’t need to be sent anywhere, who, from his sofa, can quickly come up with the conclusions so beloved of western press, and governments. He’s also clearly a hard worker, dogmatic, persistent, the man who used to spend endless hours gaming now happy to spend that time on Bellingcat ‘investigations’. Higgins took part in the official  MH17 investigation, and even boasted about knowing the result of the MH17 report before it was released – so sure was he, he even challenged me to a bet over it (I declined).

So, make your own mind up.

Who is Eliot Higgins, and Bellingcat, really? Are they indeed the experts the western media would have us believe? Or are we

Eliot Higgins Bellingcrapbeing stitched up by a man either of limited abilities plunged into the limelight, making the most of all that goes with it – fawning western media write ‘He often doesn’t finish sentences, as if his mind is racing elsewhere‘ – but could it be, that Higgins is actually rather simply rather a dim man, being used, and fine with that, by higher powers?

Or is Higgins actually an intelligent calculating individual, who has exploited the opportunity to make a name for himself, make a lot of money? One thing about Higgins is sure. He’s a liar. A conman. A charlatan. And whatever associations the name ‘Higgins’ and ‘Bellingcat’ have now, the future can surely only be these names associated with fabrication, fraud, a scam. All that will be debated, is whether Higgins is a latter-day Donald Crowhurst, a hapless man forced into a web of deceit, or a Bernie Madoff, who knew just what he was doing all along.

Crowdfunding (#2) My (Crowdfunded) Reportage Plans for This Year

Graham Phillips

Of course, plans in journalism can always change, but with work on my film Aramis drawing to a conclusion – the premiere next week in St Petersburg, here’s how my crowdfunded journalism in 2016 may look –

Graham at workMarchBaltics Reportage Trip

AprilCovering Dutch Referendum on Ukraine

May – I’d like to do some reportage from Germany, on the refugee crisis, en route back to the Baltics to continue reporting there then –

JuneBack to London to cover UK Brexit referendum (and arrange screening of film ‘Aramis’).

July – A couple of proposals for this, we’ll see!

AugustA return to Crimea to continue my reportage there

Graham Phillips at workSeptember – Lugansk for City Day, September 13th, and likely the rest of the year in Donbass, reporting from there, and working on projects.

Of course all of this depends on my raising enough, via crowd-funding, to fund these trips. I’d like to say a huge thanks to my patrons on Patreon, here, for being with me, and everyone who supports my work – in every way!

I know we’ll do some great, world-changing things this year, together!

Crowdfunding (#1) 12 Reasons why my upcoming Baltics Reportage Trip is Important

Graham Phillips

I was planning my Baltics reportage trip for February, but for a few reasons, have put it off until March. I’m a crowdfunded journalist, the trip will be entirely crowdfunded. So, why should you think of contributing? Here’s 12 reasons –

    1. Fullscreen capture 22022016 122610.bmpThe Baltics are clearly important – the BBC recently predicated their World War Three documentary ‘Inside the War Room’ on a hypothetical Latvia invasion.
    2. Yet what’s really going on there, what’s the real situation?
    3. When was the last time you actually saw a proper news report from the Baltics?
    4. Just a note on this trip, I had planned it for February originally –
    5. Fullscreen capture 22022016 132706.bmpThere was a fair bit of interest in that, not all positive it must be said – here’s a sampling of the, many, spread across social media, not so welcoming messages –
      Žygimantas Gasiūnas Žygis We know how you tried talk with Ukraine people in London. And they kicked out. So stay away from our baltics becouse I will punch your face.
      Mindaugas Glodenis I am from the Baltics and I just give you a friendly warning. If anybody, who has seen your “journalism’ in Donbas sees you in Lithuania, you might be badly hurt.
    6. There was also some support, but I clearly didn’t to enough to convince people of the merits of the trip – the first crowdfunder only took in around $500 – not enough to cover trip costs. I need to do more to convince you this trip is worth your support!
    7. Do you know that all the stories you hear from the Baltics come through the prism of US propaganda? They’re sending $500,000 there to ‘counter’ ‘Russian propaganda’, with their own propaganda.
    8. Graham VilniusI remember the Baltics, visiting there several times in the mid 2000s. I remember people speaking Russian there, telling me they were Russian, Russian-language schools and societies. (Photo of myself, and mother, in Vilnius, 2007)
      Now what? Latvia’s in NATO, has seemingly become one of Russia’s most virulent opponents – saying it will refuse to ever accept Crimea as Russia, even refusing to recognise Russian passports with Crimea as Russia. What’s going on there?
    9. In my many times visiting the Baltics, I’ve always been very fond of them. But I go there absolutely objective, with no allegiance to anything other than reporting the truth of how things are there.
    10. Graham in CrimeaThe trip is on for March, in any case a more interesting month there, with lots of things on. I’m really looking forward to it! It’s going to be the style of reportage that I love – street reportage, from the ground, no censor, just how things are (this, Crimea in summer of 2015) –
    11. It may well be for longer than 2 weeks, it’ll be for however long is necessary to do some really worthwhile reportage.
    12. I estimate needing to raise another $1000 or so for the trip. I’ll be doing another crowdfunder for the trip, if in the interim you’d like to donate to my Paypal account, I’ll match that up with the rewards on crowdfunding – everyone who is a part of this trip, will get something in return – Paypal: gwplondon@gmail.com
      Be sure, I don’t measure support just by financial contribution, all kind words, comments, support for my work means a lot to me!

Who’s Who in Ukraine Propaganda (#2) Andrew Kramer – on Ukraine, and Donbass

Graham Phillips

Andrew KramerAndrew Kramer is the Moscow correspondent for the New York Times, who occasionally contributes to other publications, notably the Kyiv Post.

Since the conflict began, he’s written a series of articles from the DPR and LPR. All of those articles have been relentlessly one-sided, negative accounts of life in the DPR and LPR.

He managed to come to a Donetsk which had held a large scale public celebration of DPR Flag Day at the end of October, with regular public events such as this children’s dance display in the centre, and find nothing whatsoever to say about that. Instead, Kramer managed to find the bleak, hopeless city he depicted in his piece of November 10th, entitledA Bleak Future in Eastern Ukraine’s Frozen Zone’.

To be clear about this, a few things are uncertain – if Kramer really was actually in Donbass at that time, he didn’t tweet anything of his presence there, neither myself nor other journalists I know in a fairly small circle in Donetsk saw him, or knew of his being there. Or if any of the people he quotes at length in his article are either real, or said what he says they said. Kramer is one of a school of Fullscreen capture 31012016 192549.bmpjournalists who believes that characters in his pieces need to neither be photographed, or present any evidence that they actually said what they said. So we have –

DONETSK, Ukraine — The 28-year-old accountant with a bob of chestnut hair would dash from work to meet her wide circle of friends at bars, restaurants and dinner parties. “It’s not how you spend your time, but who you spend it with,” Irina Filatova, the accountant, said of her humming social life.

That now seems a long time ago, before Ms. Filatova and about three million other people in eastern Ukraine were plunged into the strange vortex of former Soviet politics known as a frozen zone.

Governed by Russian-backed separatists, the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk have no patron, neither the Western-leaning government in Kiev nor Moscow. Instead, they exist in a state of limbo that for Ms. Filatova, her friends and many others, has proved both spiritually and economically debilitating. 

And as hard as life has become for Ms. Filatova, others are afflicted far more by Ukraine’s civil war and its aftermath, the subject of a New York Times virtual reality film about children, resilience and survival. Many live in the charred ruins of houses hit by rockets and artillery. Others are homeless, with the sharp winter Fullscreen capture 31012016 193459.bmpwinds of the steppes beginning to bite.’

This is an entirely different Donetsk from the one I recall at that time. It was a city in which new bars, restaurants, shops, were opening by the week, a lively circus, and theatre scene, regular festivals and events. (Photo a screenshot of theatre events on at the start of November in one of the city’s several theatres).

No question that there were harder hit areas of Donetsk, and some living in the conditions which Kramer describes ‘charred ruins of houses hit by rockets and artillery’. However, Kramer doesn’t add that those charred ruins were caused by Ukrainian shelling of residential areas of Donbass. He’s one of those journalists, or of course actually propagandists, who when Ukrainian forces shell Donbass, falls back into the old ‘both sides exchange blame for shelling‘ routine.

He, or rather ‘Ms. Filatova’ goes on –

The changes came fast for Ms. Filatova. Startled by the rebels’ takeover of the regional government, her flock of friends and fellow young professionals scattered like birds. Very few, if any, have returned. Some determined souls, like her, stayed.

Things went from bad to worse. The rebel zone rapidly sank into a chaotic and lawless state that had no place for the tax auditing company where she had worked.

‘Startled by the rebels’ takeover, making no mention of the crowds out in Donetsk at the many demonstrations to protest Euromaidan, culminating in the – peaceful – taking of government buildings by activists backed by large numbers of the local population, as I filmed in April of 2014.

And the ‘very few’ returning coming at a time when actually Donetsk was gaining, or re-gaining population all the time, with streets, public transport showing ever more signs of more and more people in the city formerly of 1 million, reduced to (by my own estimates having spent extensive time in the city, spoken to numerous sources) less than half that in war times, returning to an around 3/4 that, and growing, by late 2015.

As for ‘lawless‘ – perhaps you could have said that with more justification about Donetsk at certain times during 2014, yet 2015 Donetsk saw an organised police force, the banning of previous sights such as armed men in public establishments, even traffic police on the roads (as in above video, from early December 2015).

Fullscreen capture 31012016 195444.bmp‘Ms. Filatova’ goes on, demonstrating an incredible ability to entirely match the author’s own views (even a cursory reading of Kramer’s own body of work shows a consistent anti-Russian / Soviet thread) –

‘“It is an amazing injustice, to be honest,” Ms. Filatova said of the Kremlin’s policy of creating frozen zones.

“You sit here and think, ‘Why me?’ ” she said. “ ‘Why my family? Why did my life at one moment turn out completely differently?’ And it’s not just me. Hundreds of thousands of people just fell through the looking glass.”’

Able to mix comment on perceived Kremlin policies with literary references – quite a woman! What a shame there are absolutely no photos or recorded record of anything she said.

Kramer continues ‘In government offices here, portraits of Stalin, looking avuncular and kind, gaze down at visitors.’ This, simply an entire fabrication – I’ve been in many government offices in my time in Donetsk, again backed up by no photos at all (perhaps because it’s an entire fabrication). A spurious linking of the Donetsk People’s Republic ‘MGB’ police force to the KGB (making no mention of their closer link to Russian equivalent the ‘MB’).

The article continues, finding a clearly eccentric to give an odd quote about life in Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk (‘there is disappointment” in Donetsk, which separated from Ukraine, compared with the city of Dnipropetrovsk, which did not.’), throwing that in without any context at all on the cities, or concession that life in a city which has been extensively shelled is indeed worse than one which hasn’t, before unsurprisingly giving the star of the piece ‘Ms. Filatova’ the last word on the matter.

More observant readers may by now already be recalling the case of former journalist Stephen Glass (right) – who infamously invented quotes, people, entire Fullscreen capture 31012016 200346.bmpevents, before being exposed.

Flip to Kiev, and January, and Kramer starts his article about a Kiev establishment run by ‘ATO’ (Kiev’s ‘Anti-Terror Operation’) veterans – Ukrainian War Veterans Trade Heat of Battle for Pizza Ovens – with an astounding assertion – ‘Out in the fields of eastern Ukraine, they fought the Russians. ‘ This, something even Ukraine’s Chief of Staff has admitted isn’t the caseChief of Staff of Ukraine admitted that in the east there are no Russian army units. But Western politicians prefer to ignore this statement.’

Kramer goes on to turn a pizza piece into a real puff piece, giving the establishment run by men responsible for the shelling, and killing, of thousands of civilians in Donbass, a generous topping of favourable quotes, and extra serving of fawning –

“It’s hard, it’s hot, but I’m with my brothers,” said Leonid Ostaltsev, the bearded, tattooed founder of Pizza Veterano

Fullscreen capture 31012016 210632.bmpIn the month since it opened, Pizza Veterano, a restaurant where all the tablecloths are camouflage print, has become an improbable hit

it seems to be thriving, packed with patrons most of the day. But to Mr. Ostaltsev and his employees, money is not the important thing. They want to offer a place full of hopes in a city and country without many of them lately.

“We are Ukrainians,” Mr. Ostaltsev, a machine-gunner in the army, said of the bacon overkill on most toppings. “The more the better.”

Every Sunday, Pizza Veterano holds free classes in cooking pizza for the children of veterans. It also encourages patrons, the paying variety, to donate pizzas to military hospitals. During the first month, customers ordered $3,500 worth of pizzas for military hospitals, a princely sum in Ukraine these days.”

So there we have it – Kramer in Donetsk versus Kramer in Kiev. In Donetsk Kramer seeks to depict Mad Max meets The Road with a twist of Orwell. But Kiev, well that’s Ukraine so of course, everything is pure Disney for this pro-Ukraine propagandist.