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Ukraine's War on Donbass: An Interview with Filmmaker Maxim Fadeev

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They allegedly had a rule: 'We register only what we witness'. But they mentioned the data of Ukrainian casualty reports it their own reports, in third parties' words, without being present at the sites.

When Ukrainians carried out an air strike on the Lugansk Regional Administration on June 2, as a result of which eight people died and 28 were injured, the OSCE did not notice it. They also failed to notice a month-long shelling of Slavyansk.

In fact, there would have been no hostilities, if the Ukrainian army had never come here and started killing everyone. I think that the post-Maidan Ukrainian government wanted a war, and they've got it."

-EB: Have you filmed outside of the DPR?

-MF: "The peculiarity of this conflict is that the journalists working on the rebel side are viewed by Ukraine as terrorists, along with the combatants. Some of the journalists who entered the territory under rebels' control and tried to report objectively were later arrested in Ukraine. That was why after May 2, 2014, practically no local or Russian journalists attempted to cross the demarcation line. Only Western agencies (and until the middle of 2015, even certain Ukrainian TV channels) could film the events on both sides of the front line. This is one of the factors exacerbating the conflict: the absence of information available on both sides of the front line.

The only instance, when I got to the other side, was before the start of Debaltsevo operation. When the Ukrainian army was preparing to storm Slavyansk and Lisichansk, and also before Ukrainian troops entered Debaltsevo, the civilian population did not receive any warning, there was no evacuation, and no humanitarian corridors were provided.

On the contrary, when the storming of Debaltsevo by the DPR army was about to start, a convoy of buses entered the city, accompanied by the OSCE observers. Its aim was to evacuate the civilians. The Ukrainian side was trying to hinder the evacuation. Ukrainian agents attempted to dissuade the people from leaving for the DPR territory. By chance I met a crazy taxi driver, a former militiaman, who suggested that he would take me to Debaltsevo, having stealthily joined the OSCE convoy.

I attempted to interview members of the Ukrainian military. I was shocked by the fact that they were also human. At that moment, the Ukrainian flag was equal in my perception to the flag of Nazi Germany. After everything I witnessed in Slavyansk, Uglegorsk, Donetsk, after filming so many deaths and so much destruction, I saw enemies in Ukrainian soldiers, and the realization of their human nature made things even worse for me. It was hard to believe that ordinary men could do such horrible things. It was terrifying to be there without any identity card, because the place swarmed with Ukrainian secret services agents. What helped was the presence of many Ukrainian journalists, and we did not differ from them in appearance.

The dwellers of Debaltsevo refused to talk to me, thinking that I represented Ukrainian media, which they totally distrusted. I whispered to them that I was from Donetsk, that I was on their side, but they did not believe me. However, when they did start to speak, I worried for their safety, and for mine as well, because Ukrainian military were everywhere around us, and the locals cursed them and blamed them for the shelling of Debaltsevo. That was one of the scariest moments."

-EB: What equipment would improve the quality of your documentaries and also your safety in filming?

-MF: "Before the war, I wanted to learn how to film travel videos. I had one SLR camera, a set of lenses, sound recording equipment - a minimal set. The camera was destroyed at the airport, when I filmed the explosion of a RPG grenade. In 2015, my viewers bought me Canon 6D and some equipment by crowdfunding. Nevertheless, after several years of work in Donbass this equipment got outdated and worn. My colleague Sergey Belous turned for help to one of Moscow businessmen, and the man bought a new camera for me and an excellent lens.

Eventually Sergey and I decided to found Realdoc Productions and work as a team, and gradually with the help of crowdfunding we managed to obtain the minimal set of equipment. Now we are the only ones filming the war in Donbass in 4K.

Today we need a powerful computer that allows to edit videos and post process them in 4K, a professional monitor for color correction as well as a drone for more secure filming. This is the minimal list of equipment.

We also need information support for our crowdfunding. We will also be grateful for translation of our documentaries and vids into foreign languages and sharing them to various web resources. If a person of the same occupation - a producer, videographer or editor - reads this interview and is able to give professional advice, he or she is welcome! We would like to reach the stage when we could receive independent financing."

-EB: What's the situation like now in the Donbass? How does it compare to previous years?

-MF: "We are in the twilight zone, it's like interregnum. The stupid war will not end. The people are suffering, they are leaving, they are too tired. Militiamen, mostly very young boys, are dying in action every day. The infrastructure is being destroyed constantly.

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Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine. She is a recipient of the International Journalism Award for International Reporting. Visit her personal blog,  (more...)

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