Ukraine

Interview on #FreeAssange Vigil

Interview I did recently on the Free Assange Vigil.

We discuss media freedom and censorship issues, persecution of journalists, smears of journalists…

At around 16:00, I made the point that we should thank the Syrian people, who have had the most powerful nations in the world warring on them. They stood with their country, their leadership, their army (they are the army). The worst war propaganda has been slung against them. Their voices are neglected and Syrian journalists’ voices are neglected.

I mention the injury and murder of Syrian journalists, and the Russhophobic slandering of anything to do with Russia, Russian media, leadership. Russian reporting on Syria has been consistently based on facts on the ground and reality. CONTINUE READING

Accused of Treason and Imprisoned Without Trial: Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky Recounts His Harrowing Time in a Ukrainian Prison

Mint Press News: Eva Bartlett sat down with recently released Ukrainian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky. Vyshinsky endured 15 months of appalling conditions in a Ukrainian prison after being falsely accused of treason.

WATCH the interview HERE

 

Oct 28, 2019, Mint Press News

In November 2018, I became aware of the case of Kirill Vyshinsky, a Ukrainian-Russian journalist and editor imprisoned in Ukraine without trial since May 2018, accused of high treason. 

Soon after, I interviewed Vyshinsky via email. He described his arrest and the accusations against him as politically-motivated, “an attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to bolster the declining popularity of [then] President [Petro] Poroshenko in this election year.” 

Vyshinsky noted that his arrest was advancing the incessant anti-Russian hysteria now prevalent among Ukrainian authorities, as he holds dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship. He noted that the charges against him, which pertain to a number of articles he published in 2014 (none of them authored by Vyshinsky), became of interest to Ukrainian authorities and intelligence services four years after they were published. To Vyshinsky, this supports the notion that neither the articles nor their editor were a security threat to Ukraine, instead, he says, they were a political card to be played. 

In early 2019, I traveled to Kiev to interview Vyshinsky’s defense lawyer Andriy Domansky about the logistic obstacles of his client’s case. Domansky viewed the Vyshinsky case as politically motivated and expressed concern that he could himself become a target of Ukraine’s secret service for his role in defending his client, an innocent man. 

Domansky told me at the time,

The Vyshinsky case is key in demonstrating the presence of political persecution of journalists in Ukraine. As a legal expert, I believe justice is still possible in Ukraine and I will do everything possible to prove Kirill Vyshinsky’s innocence.”

To the surprise of those following the case against Vyshinsky, in late August 2019 he was released with little fanfare after serving more than 400 days in a Ukrainian prison but still faces all of the charges brought against him by the Ukrainian government and is “obliged to appear in court or give testimony to investigators if they deemed it necessary.” 

By early September, Kirill Vyshinsky was on a plane to Moscow. Despite never being tried or officially convicted, he found himself the subject of a prisoner exchange between the Russian and Ukrainian governments.

I interviewed Vyshinsky in Moscow in late September. He told me about his harrowing ordeal, the Ukrainian detention system, other persecuted journalists, and what lies ahead for him.

He also touched on the inhumane conditions he experienced in Ukrainian prisons. He noted that a pretrial detention center as we know it in Western nations is a very different entity in Ukraine and that Ukrainian prisons were so over-crowded that it was common for inmates to sleep in three shifts in order to allow enough standing room for inmates crammed into a cell.

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Under Fire from Ukraine and Misperceived by the West, The People of the DPR Share Their Stories

Ryka-a-DPR-Platoon-Commander-in-Krutaya-Balka_edited

DPR Peoples Militia Platoon Commander Ryka.  Photo | Eva Bartlett

October 16, 2019, Mint Press News

On September 2, I left the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don via minibus heading northwest to the border of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and on into Donetsk. For my first few days there, I rented an inexpensive apartment in the heart of the city. Walking on a long tree-lined and cafe-filled pedestrian walkway, life seemed normal. But I would soon find that for the people living in Donetsk, it is anything but. 

I passed a cafe where a former DPR leader and military commander, Alexander Zakharchenko, was assassinated by a remotely detonated bomb in August 2018. He was beloved, and as I stood there, two women stopped to pay respects and pray.

Memorial to former DPR leader, and a former military commander, Alexander Zakharchenko who was assassinated in 2018

Days later, at a transit hub in Donetsk, I met with Alexey Karpushev, a resident of the northern city of Gorlovka, an area hard-hit by Ukrainian bombing, and whose outskirts continue to be shelled near-daily.

A long line of mostly students extended around the corner waiting for the next available minibus to Gorlovka. After an hour of waiting, the minibus arrived and we boarded for the bumpy ride north.

Alexey deposited me at a hotel, a rambling Soviet-era structure just off a pedestrian area that during the evenings becomes crowded with families, lovers and friends strolling, and children bicycling.

In the morning he took me to a central park where a chess tournament was taking place. For the next five hours, fourteen adults and eight children played chess. A hundred meters away, an old but functioning children’s park with small amusement rides attracts more kids as the morning morphs into the afternoon.

Chess in a central Gorlovka park. Four years prior, all of Gorlovka was repeatedly targeted by Ukrainian missile fire.JPG

In the tranquility and normalcy, it was hard to believe that Gorvloka’s central areas were terrorized by Ukrainian-fired bombs just a few years prior. “Summer 2016 was last time city center was bombed,” Alexey would tell me later. “We still hear the shelling, but it’s on the outskirts. People are sniped there, too.”

Gorlovka was hardest hit in 2014, especially on July 27, when the center was rocked by Ukrainian-fired Grad and Uragan missiles from morning to evening. After the dust settled and the critically-injured had succumbed to their wounds, at least 30 were dead, including five children, Alexey tells me. The day came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

Alexsey and I walked around the city, where he showed me the Bloody Sunday sites. We passed a busy bus stop on a busy street where residents were amassed waiting for their buses. This bus stop was one of the Bloody Sunday sites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Alexey told me:

The largest number of victims happened near this bus stop. There were mainly babushkas (grandmothers) here, selling flowers and vegetables. They came under Grad strikes and they died.”

Hero Square, not far away, also came under fire: “There was mainly youth there, students. Several people died from the blasts, including the ‘Madonna of Gorlovka’, Kristina Zhuk, with her infant daughter Kira.” CONTINUE READING

DPR Frontline Village Resident Question to West: “Why do you support (Ukrainian) Nazis?”

 

In Krutaya Balka, a village north of Donetsk which is routinely attacked by Ukrainian forces with shelling and heavy machine gun fire, I meet a man standing outside his home, where he lives with his wife, roughly 600 metres from the front line.
 
To my question about where his home has been damaged he laughs, “Many times. Which house hasn’t been? The roof, the wall… from mortar fire and heavy machine gun fire.”
 
He replies are in line with the others I’ve spoken with: things got worse after Zelensky became president; the attacks are daily; where would he leave to? He is in favour of joining Russia.
 
“We should go to Ukraine, which damaged my house? I’m Russian, this is Russian land. Everyone who knows history knows this. Of course I want to join Russia! In earlier times, before the war, I didn’t care either way. But after all Ukraine did what it has done, absolutely I want to be a part of Russia. I can’t imagine being back in Ukraine. Anyway, most of the people here would be killed as ‘separatists’. A known Ukrainian politician (Boris Filatov) said: ‘At the beginning, give them what they want, later hang them.’

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Donbass Defender: “Those who support Ukraine should come talk with civilians, to understand how much they suffer”

North of Donetsk, I visit Krutaya Balka village, on the outskirts of Yasinovataya, another heavily hit area.

The village is divided into two parts: one part exposed on the front-line, we can’t go there, the road leading to it is under sniper fire; the other half of the village is slightly further away, and has 15 people still living there, again mostly elderly.

Just off a road prone to Ukrainian sniping, I interview Ryka, the young-looking DPR Platoon Commander who has accompanied me here.

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DPR Older Couple: “the Ukrainian side shoots whenever they want; no one holds them accountable”

 

When in the Donetsk People’s Republic and visiting the Mine 6-7 area, I saw a school whose basement is now used as a shelter.

There, I met an elderly couple who have been living in that dank, stinking, basement for six years, their home destroyed.

Outside the battered school, Dmitry commented: “You see, each dot on the wall is from shrapnel. Of course there were direct hits also.” One of the direct hits is a hole in the roof of the building.

In the basement a musty stink overwhelmed.

Sitting in one corner of the paint-chipped, barebones, room, what possessions they were able to salvage piled near them, an older couple explained that their house was destroyed by two direct hits with heavy artillery, and that their only hope is to get Russian passports, that this will somehow end the war.

They agreed to talk but didn’t want to have their faces filmed.
 

“Before the ceasefire, when Ukraine would shell, the DPR military would respond and the Ukrainian side would be stop shooting for a couple of weeks, because they were afraid. Now, we are in a ceasefire, the Ukrainian side shoots whenever they want and no one holds them accountable.”

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Civilians Remain in Bombed & Machine-Gunned Frontline DPR Village, Facing Near-Daily Ukrainian Attacks

 

In Krutaya Balka, a frontline village north of Donetsk and just outside of Yasinovataya, 15 people (mostly elderly) remain, under near-daily Ukrainian shelling & heavy machine gun fire.

I spoke with those I could find at home while I was there. All told me they were constantly being assaulted by Ukrainian forces, by heavy machine gun fire and shelling.

The machine gun fire not only punctures the walls but also can set fire to the roof, thus the whole house.

All said they had no where to go, so they stay, living in hell in an area otherwise quite lovely. Same as I heard in Zaitsevo, further north in the Donetsk People’s Republic.

This video is the first of a few I’ll upload from Krutaya Balka, letting the civilians speak about what corporate owned media will not.

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