Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gorlovka Update from June 30, 2015

My former hometown of Gorlovka, where more than 300 thousand people once lived, has been shelled consistently by the Ukrainian military stationed just to the north and west of the city. Western politicians and mainstream media ignore the brutality of this war, engaging instead in shameless political posturing and cold-war-style rhetoric.

Gorlovka's Self-Defence site is an information sink for people living in the city. It also publishes real-time reports, informing residents of the city about the current hit zones and threat levels in their areas. The threat levels come from the colors of a streetlight: RED (Danger), YELLOW (Alert), and GREEN (Safe). Below is the timeline from last night's translated report. A lot of names for different areas of the city will sound foreign to an English speaker, but you should get the idea about what people there have been going through pretty much daily. 

15:50 Coming out of Novgorodkskoye [Ukrainian-controlled], too far. I can't tell where it's going.

Watch out, Glubokaya, it's going your way.

15:58 North-west is raising noise, they must be warming up.

16:00 Another incoming one for Glubokaya (the hit has been confirmed, it fell in the fields, no casualties, the man's at home already, just finished his report, a few scratches)

16:30 More outgoing from Novgorodskoye [Ukrainian-controlled]

20:00 Anti-aircraft guns are active around Glubokaya, pretty loud, don't panic yet. Grenade launchers too - can't do without them.

20:04 Yuzhnaya mine [Ukrainian-controlled] is getting active; so far it's just the gunfire.

20.15 It's suggested you fill up with water, charge your phones, and get your most important belongings ready. To be serious, the West is getting more and more active; as usual: they start with only gunfire, now it's more...

20:26 They're now working on Glubokaya outskirts from Yuzhnaya mine [Ukrainian-controlled]. No hits into the residential area so far. The Ukrops [Ukrainians] are also active from the direction of Novgorodskoye.

20:38 North-west (Mine 6/7), be careful, the tracer hits are getting closer

20:40 Gagarina [rebel-controlled]/Shumy [Ukrainian-controlled] - very heavy gunfire. Kurganka, be extremely careful.

20:42 The area around the Glubokaya slugheap is getting shelled very hard - 82mm mortars. Glubokaya, be extremely careful.

20:43 Kurganka, I'm probably going to give you code RED. The shells are coming pretty close.

20:49 North is very loud. Nikitovka district, get off the streets. Code YELLOW so far.

20:55 North got hit, just confirmed! Attention, North, code RED!

21:00 Heavy gunfire along the demarcation line: Shirokaya Balka - Glubokaya - Gagarina - Shumy.  Mostly non-residential areas of the city (its outskirts) are currently being shelled. I'm also giving code RED from City Block 245 to Kurganka for now. Anti-aircraft gunfire is being used against UAVs. Wow, our guys, under shelling, manage to fire at the drones.

21:17 District 19/20, RED, three hits of the residential area!!!

21:11 Mine 5, incoming fire. Rtutny, incoming fire.

21:25 South-West, don't panic - too far.

21:45 It's gotten quiet practically everywhere.

21:57 Kurganka district is being shelled. From the direction of Shumy [Ukrainian-controlled], tank plus gunfire.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Eastern Ukraine: OSCE's Biased Reporting

Residential areas of my hometown of Gorlovka (Horlivka) have been subjected to consistent and indiscriminate shelling by the Ukrainian military throughout the spring of 2015 for the entire duration of the so-called ceasefire. Damage from the shelling can be seen in every part of the city. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has failed to report most instances while the few instances it has reported are spun in ways that go against its stated purpose "to observe and report in an impartial and objective way on the situation in Ukraine; and to facilitate dialogue among all parties to the crisis."

Here are just two examples of OSCE "reporting".

Shelling One

On May 26, Gorlovka's soutwestern suburb of Ozeryanovka was shelled from the town of Dzerzhinsk, which is controlled by the Ukrainian troops and is located to the north-north-west of the suburb. The house of the Touv family sustained a direct hit, which killed the father and his 11-year-old daughter, maimed the mother, and sent the two surviving children (one of them a two-week-old baby) to the hospital. You can view the interview with the mother, Anna, recorded by Graham Phillips to whose video I added English subtitles, posting it here and here.

OSCE observers visited the scene and did state that "the craters were caused by incoming artillery from the north-north-west." (http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/160611)

Then OSCE decided to qualify this report with the following statement:
The Ukrainian Armed Forces Major General, head of the Ukrainian side to the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) headquarters in government-controlled Soledar (77km north-north-east of Donetsk) alleged that the 26 May shelling of Horlivka came from Mine 6-7 (42km north-north-east of Donetsk and 7km north-west of Horlivka respectively), in areas controlled by “DPR”. The Major General alleged that the shelling was observed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces representative at the JCCC office in government-controlled Volnovakha (35km south-west of Donetsk)."
This immediately raises the following questions:
  • How is Ukrainian general's allegation (hardly an unbiased party) from Soledar (50 kilometers from Ozeryanovka) referring to a supposed observation by another Ukrainian military representative in Volnovakha (100 kilometers away from Ozeryanovka!) objective and impartial?
  • OSCE publishes allegations from a Ukrainian general and a Ukrainian "Armed Forces" representative who were in far-away locations. Why did OSCE choose not to publish what the local residents, who witnessed the shelling or one of the victims herself OSCE had spoken to (see Part 2 of the interview with Anna for some of that), were saying?
  • OSCE publishes allegations from a Ukrainian general and a Ukrainian "Armed Forces" representative from far-away locations. Why does OSCE not point out what rebel commanders in the city that was shelled had to say?
  • Why does OSCE directly mention that the shelling may have come from the areas controlled by "DPR" but does not directly mention "government-controlled areas", which is in fact what the areas to the north-north-west of Ozeryanovka are?
  • Why is "DPR""emergency services" in quotation marks?
  • Did OSCE bother to look at the map to see where Mine 6-7 is located? First, Mine 6-7 is in fact in Horlivka - not outside of it. Second, Mine 6-7 is to the north of Ozeryanovka, while Ukrainian-controlled Dzerzhinsk is indeed to the north-north-west.
  • Did OSCE bother to point out that the rebel-controlled neighborhood of Mine 6-7 is one of the most devastated parts of the city? Who has been shelling Mine 6-7 - also the rebels?

I sent these questions to OSCE and received only an automated response and no answers to any of the questions.

Shelling Two

On the night of June 10-11, Gorlovka's City Block 245 was shelled by the Ukrainian military from the Dzerzhinsk-Mayorsk area, killing three women and wounding at least three people. OSCE observers came to the city, inspected the damage, talked to the local residents and published the following in their report: In Horlivka [...] the SMM was approached by around 70 local inhabitants, visibly upset and         distressed and verbally aggressive and critical towards the SMM. Some members of the crowd made violent threats. The SMM left the scene after the OSCE flag was broken off the vehicle and thrown to the ground. A Russian Federation Armed Forces representative of the JCCC’s office in Horlivka was present when the incident occurred. [...] the water supply continues to be problematic due to the damage of the water pipe in Horlivka.

That's all they wrote on that day!

Fortunately, a local television crew shadowed the OSCE observers and published the video (the relevant portion with English subtitles along with the link to the original video can be seen here. Note one of the OSCE observers' repeated threats "to leave", her attitude, and the way she speaks to the local residents.

I sent the following letter to a number of OSCE contacts:
On Sat, Jun 13, 2015 at 7:00 AM, Captain Fifteen wrote:
To: mmichael.bociurkiw@osce.org, pm@osce.org, smmua@osce.org, Iryna.Gudyma@osce.org, laurence.couturegagnon@osce.org, Ertugrul.Apakan@osce.org

Dear OSCE representatives,

I received only an automated response to the previous email I sent to a number of you at OSCE and no answers to any of my questions.
My hometown of Gorlovka (Horlivka) has been shelled pretty much every day by the Ukrainian military, including this morning, yet none of you seem to take much notice of it. The only thing you could write about Gorlovka in your recent reports was this: "In Horlivka (“DPR”-controlled, 29km north-north-east of Donetsk) the SMM was approached by around 70 local inhabitants, visibly upset and distressed and verbally aggressive and critical towards the SMM. Some members of the crowd made violent threats. The SMM left the scene after the OSCE flag was broken off the vehicle and thrown to the ground."(http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/164126) Is that all your people saw in Gorlovka? Do you not have any shame?! Do your people not see the damage the regular shelling of the city has caused?! Would you like me to explain why the locals were "upset and distressed and verbally aggressive and critical towards the SMM" or can you perhaps figure it out on your own?

Your mission has been intentionally ignoring the level of suffering of local residents and the degree of destruction on the DPR- and LPR-controlled territory. Your mission has been covering up the criminal actions of and further emboldening those in Kiev who ordered and have been conducting this brutal military campaign in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, thus achieving the opposite of what your stated purpose is. Well, let it be on your conscience, if you have any left. Shame on you!


After this, OSCE ended up backtracking and adding more detail about the shelling incident on the next day's report (backdating it to June 11: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/164141), but here are the questions I have:
  • Why did OSCE not publish these findings on the day it was supposed to and instead required a prod sent to a number of contacts throughout the organization in order to publish their findings?
  • In the backdated report, OSCE does admit that "most of the impacts originated from a north to south direction", which, for the area that was hit, implicates the areas controlled by the Ukrainian government troops. Why isn't that part mentioned in the report?
  • How many other instances of shelling of rebel-controlled areas go un- and underreported or completely distorted as we saw in OSCE's June 12 report?
I once again emailed OSCE and received no response.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eastern Ukraine: Look Beyond Mainstream Propaganda

It's always interesting for me to observe the reaction of Americans and Western Europeans when they learn where I'm from. Many just don't say anything. Many regurgitate something incoherent about Putin's "imperial" ambitions, "the Boeing" that was shot down over Eastern Ukraine last year, and "that politician guy that got killed in Moscow." Finally, there are those (unfortunately, a minority) who tell me that things must be more complicated than they are portrayed in the news and genuinely want to know what I think.

Things are definitely much more complicated than they're portrayed in the news. I've had a chance to observe mainstream American, Canadian, and British media for quite some time now, and I'm amazed that so few people are appalled by the crudeness of propaganda that is fed to them, no matter whether the source is Fox News, CNN, or the BBC. Just like that Wal-Mart truck driver that stopped to help a stranded motorist doesn't make Wal-Mart a great place to shop, the Pentagon Papers don't make The New York Times a progressive newspaper. Neither does covering the Snowden case make The Guardian a source you should now trust and worship.

When I can hear explosions in the background in the middle of a phone conversation with my relatives who are hunkering down with their young children in the hallway of their apartment ("safe" because it's away from the windows) while being shelled by Ukrainian artillery, and the "progressive" sources mentioned above pontificate about Russia's "aggression" in Ukraine, call for more sanctions, and do not say a word about the massive devastation and suffering the US- and Europe-backed regime in Kiev has caused in just one year in one of the most urbanized parts of Europe, I feel disappointment and helplessness. Do these talking heads have no shame? Do those who listen to them have no brain? Opportunities to question, explore, and learn are all around you. Why not use them?

How many of you know that the cities of Donetsk (once home to over one million people) and Gorlovka (Horlivka; once home to more than 300 thousand people) have been shelled by the Ukrainian military pretty much daily throughout the month of May and in the first half of June - despite the so-called ceasefire?

How many of you know that American soldiers are actually in Ukraine training the Ukrainian National Guard - the troops that are then deployed to the East of the country? (Do a quick search, and even your "trustworthy" mainstream sources will confirm that - in a non-intrusive sort of way, of course.)

How many of you remember the context of Victoria Nuland's "Fuck the EU" comment in her conversation with the US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt?

How many of you know that John Brennan, director of the CIA, visited Ukraine in April of last year, immediately after which Ukraine's "counter-terrorist operation" began in the rebellious East of the country? (Do another quick search, and your "trustworthy" mainstream sources will again confirm that - also in a non-intrusive sort of way.)

How many of you can imagine Russia putting its navy ships in the Gulf of Mexico, installing an anti-American regime in Canada, and holding military exercises just south of the US-Mexican border? How many of you can imagine what the American reaction to that would be? How ridiculous would the EU look if it imposed sanctions on the US? (Well, the EU looks just as ridiculous with all its current posturing and double standards.)

How many of you can imagine US and European sanctions against Saudi Arabia for its actions in Yemen? How many of your "trustworthy" sources use the word "aggression" when describing Saudi Arabia's actions?

It took crash investigators a few days to learn what was going on in and around the cockpit of Germanwings Flight 9525, which crashed over the Alps less than three months ago. How many of you wonder what ever happened to the black boxes of the Malasia Airlines Flight 17 now that almost a year has passed since the plane was shot down over Ukraine? (It seemed so clear whom to blame back then, didn't it?)

You most definitely heard about "that politician guy that got killed in Moscow." How many of you know about a whole number of "politician guys" that have "committed suicide" in Ukraine? Other than stumbling on an occasional blurb (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/15/ousted-ukraine-president-ally-shot-dead), you'd really have to look to see what's going on.

How many of you know about Oles Buzina, a pro-Russian journalist, who got murdered in Kiev just two months ago?

Finally, have you ever wondered who actually benefits from this war in Ukraine? Do you really think it's Russia, now stuck with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine, a rabidly russophobic regime next door, and NATO bristling with all its fancy glory literally on Russia's borders? Is it the "separatists" (or Ukrainians alike), whose most industrialized region is now in ruins? Or is there perhaps another party that's meddling in all this? Use your imagination. May curiosity be your friend.