I’ve spent the last 2 months in London, and had a truly wonderful time in this city in which I lived and worked for 10 years. I’ve spent time with family (that’s my dad, btw), friends, been to Wembley – twice, been around London, watched a lot of favourite shows Come Dine with Me, Dinner Date, Grand Designs, and more.
For some time, I have been ready, and preparing to return to work in Donbass, where, from August 2014 to February 2015 I spent a continuous 6 1/2 months, before my return to London in March.
To this end, I applied for a visa for the Russian Federation. My plan is to be in Moscow on May 9th, to commemorate, photograph and film, Victory Day there, and then proceed directly to Donbass, and Donetsk – my helmet, bulletproof jacket, and working equipment are there, and I’ll immediately return to work.
I’ll be travelling by my car, a Rover 75, full of humanitarian aid for Donbass donated in London. I’ve driven to Ukraine, and through Ukraine 3 times before. However, this time, as above, I’ll be driving through Russia to my destination of Donbass. I was deported from Ukraine twice in 2014, for no reason other than reporting news inconvenient to the Kiev government. I was banned from Ukraine for three years, in July of 2014, for the same reason.
I don’t consider this ban valid – I was given neither official documentation, nor any kind of ‘black mark’ in my passport. The reasons given by the Kiev authorities for my ban changed several times – they were consistent only in all being nonsense.
However, I am aware of the current situation in Ukraine. A lawless state where perceived opposition figures are hunted and killed, most recently, anti-war journalist Oles Buzina (pictured). There is no question that, given the degree of sentiment against me in Ukraine due to my reporting events in Donbass not agreeable to the Kiev government, any trip into Ukraine would be a suicide mission.
Yet I don’t agree in letting the Kiev government tactics of repression, tantamount to state terrorism, win. I’m committed to working in Donbass. No other western correspondent has reported there either earlier, or longer, than myself. I’m very excited about returning to work there next week!
Despite what the pro-Euromaidan/Ukraine side would perpetuate, my relationship with the Russian state, consulate, is that of a normal British citizen with the Russian state. I apply for a visa, with the relevant documentation, passport photos, and hope that application is approved, as this one has been. My experiences of the Russian embassy and consulate have always been positive – professional, efficient, however there is no ‘special treatment’. I submit the same documentation as anyone else, pay the same visa fee.
True to say, some in the Russian consulate know me, and on a personal level have been friendly to me, and supportive of my work in bringing the truth out of Donbass. They are simply nice people. Of course I’ve been vilified by a Ukraine which has seen my work do much to shatter their falsehoods and lies which support, and purport, the Ukrainian position. And I’ve been appreciated in a Russia which has seen in me an independent western correspondent who has reported the truth, in a world of western correspondents who long since sacrificed that concept that to blanket attack Russia, either to further their career, or serve their state.
I am not really bothered about the relentless attacks on me by ‘pro-Ukraine’ supporters. And I’m very grateful for the support, kindness, from Russian people, people across the world in fact. However neither animosity nor affinity give me any affiliation. I’m a completely objective, neutral correspondent.
In my last time in Donbass, I was most often referred to as a ‘war correspondent’, but do not read in my return any indication that I will be returning in that capacity. I would be much happier to be a ‘peace’ correspondent.
So, I get back to work as a correspondent. On top of this, I am delighted to have over £3400 raised at my Donbass event in London, more from online fundraising and the Support Donbass shop, and still more to help a shelling victim, amputee, Lilya.
I absolutely believe in the capacity of a journalist both to report, and to do good. I’ll be reporting news in Donbass, and distributing, filming distribution of, the humanitarian aid so generously given by so many to help the civilians of Donbass.
Before leaving, early morning on May 7th, I’ll be doing something I consider enormously important – voting in the UK election. I love the United Kingdom, and I urge all who can to vote, have their say in the future of our great nation.
Then, Moscow on May 9th, Victory Day, something I’m hugely looking forward to – as well as getting back to work in Donbass!
So, that’s that, and we crack on!