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

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March 2017, Mexico City.
March 2017, Mexico City. 'International Journalism Award for International Reporting' granted by the Mexican Journalists' Press Club (founded in 1951). Co-recipients included: John Pilger and political analyst Thierry Meyssan, among others.
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The following is an interview conducted by email with a documentary maker based in Donetsk, who has been documenting Ukraine's war on the Donetsk People's Republic and the tragedies this has caused civilians living there.

'Maxim Fadeev' is actually the pseudonym of a correspondent whose family lives in an area of Ukraine controlled by the government. To protect his family, Maxim, like many journalists whose families live on the other side, opted to use a pseudonym, due to persecution by the Ukrainian authorities.

In fact, even journalists living and working in such areas openly and transparently are persecuted. One prime example is that of Kirill Vyshinsky, editor of RIA Novosti Ukraine, arrested and imprisoned by Ukraine in May 2018, the authorities alleging treason. Vyshinky has 15 months later still not had an actual trial.

UPDATE: As of August 28, Kirill Vyshinsky has finally been released, although he still has not had a fair trial. Sadly, his case is not unique; journalists in Ukraine have very real fears of being persecuted, as do their lawyers. Maxim Fadeev and his family would be a prime target, given the nature of his courageous and damning documentary work.

More on Maxim, as told to me by his colleague:

"Max Fadeev is one of the most prominent filmmakers who has captured the war in the east of Ukraine: his unique footage from the fighting in the midst of the battles was shown on both Russian State TV channels as well as US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Very few in the industry have dared plunge so deeply into unfolding events. At one stage, he was living with the rebels (militia fighters) for several days during a bloody assault on the terminal building at Donetsk airport, the enemy, the Ukrainian military, being stationed only a hundred meters away. Max daringly filmed an offensive operation from within the Marinka settlement, which is located close to the city of Donetsk. The footage was used by a dozen clip makers - almost every video about Donbass contains his footage (the most famous example has almost 3 million views on YouTube: ).

Max Fadeev has shot 16 films since May 2014 (, and now, despite the fact that this war is almost forgotten, he and his team independently continue to work on serious documentary projects to show and document what is happening on his native land."

In order to continue his vital work, Maxim is fundraising. Details can be found at this tweet.

-EB: How and why did you get into making war documentaries? Did you study journalism? Is this a career for you or are you motivated by other reasons?

-MF: "They say that the truth is the first victim of any war. Heavy artillery was pounding my city, the inhabitants were dying, and no one cared, either in Ukraine, or moreover in the West. I thought at that time that when people learned from the news that war was raging here, the war would stop. I had such naive hopes. That was the reason I began filming the shelling.

What was horrifying was not so much the artillery attacks as the reaction of my relatives and acquaintances living in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities. They genuinely believed that the separatists were shelling themselves. They still believe it, in spite of the fact that a division of Ukrainian heavy artillery (152-mm) - 11 self-propelled Msta-S howitzers and 3 self-propelled Akatsiyahowitzers - was deployed three km from my house. There were several such heavy artillery units nearby at the time.

The civilians killed in Slavyansk are erased from life and from memory by the Ukrainian government. There are no records of casualties in Slavyansk, nor in Nikolayevka, nor Kramatorsk. No first or last names of the killed and wounded can be unearthed.

"Uragans" -multi-missile rocket launchers, with cluster bomb units-werefiring, and no one was registering it, neither the OSCE nor Western journalists.They had all left by that time.

Electricity and water supplies were cut off in Slavyansk for more than a month, and no humanitarian corridors for civilians were provided, while all media broadcasted a distorted image - that of a city captured by terrorists and being liberated by Ukrainian army. I wanted to prove that the real picture was quite different.

It was never about career for me - more like moral obligation. Now my aim is to learn to professionally make documentaries."

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Republished from Eva Bartlett In Gaza:  Eva 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 (more...)

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