Vera Graziadei

I'm a British Ukrainian Russian actress and writer.

A day after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Kailash Satyarthi, in an interview with RIA News, urged the Ukrainian government to protect Ukrainian citizens and especially children: “It is the responsibility of the Ukrainian government to save their citizens, particularly children. Safety of children will be their utmost priority. I will appeal to the Ukrainian government so as to ensure that such incidents against children will not occur in future.”

According to the recent UN report as many as 3,660 people have been killed and over 8,756 have been wounded in Donbass since Kiev launched its military operation in April. Even though a ceasefire was announced on September 5th, more than 330 people have died since, including 20 children. UNICEF stated that at least 35 children have been killed in the Ukrainian conflict and 87 have been wounded.

Human Rights Watch already called on Ukraine’s international supporters to “urge the Ukrainian government to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, including by ending all use of Grad rockets in populated areas by Ukraine’s army”. Amnesty International also urged the Ukrainian government to “stop abuses and war crimes by volunteer battalions operating alongside regular Ukrainian armed forces”, such as Aidar. All these appeals, urges and calls are likely to remain voices in the wilderness.

Firstly, Kiev repeatedly denies responsibility for war crimes, even when it’s proved by independent observers that the Ukrainian Army has carried out the atrocities, e.g. OSCE confirmed that on June 2nd the Ukrainian air force bombed a public building in Lugansk , killing 8 civilians – Kiev claimed separatists mishandled a portable anti-aircraft missile system.

Secondly, even though the government keeps blaming ‘the rebels’, they don’t seem to be that motivated when it comes to investigating these crimes. Moreover, even international organisations seem to not be that keen on uncovering any new atrocities. For example, the UN promised to investigate reports of mass graves in areas near Donetsk, which were controlled by the Ukrainian Army, but when the report came out the issue of mass graves was intentionally omitted.

Thirdly, after this week’s Reuters’ special report about flaws found in Ukraine’s probe of the Maidan massacre, there are plenty of reasons to believe that even if Kiev decided to carry out investigations of crimes, they are unlikely to be unbiased and fair. There was a lot of pressure from Maidan activists to investigate the February killings of 100 protesters, which the new leaders were quick to blame on Berkut (special forces) police. They even arrested three suspects. However, Reuters discovered some remarkable blunders:

“Among the evidence presented against Sadovnyk (one of the arrested suspects) was a photograph. Prosecutors say it shows him near Kiev’s Independence Square on Feb. 20, wearing a mask and holding a rifle with two hands, his fingers clearly visible. The problem: Sadovnyk doesn’t have two hands. His right hand, his wife told Reuters, was blown off by a grenade in a training accident six years ago.”

Another huge problem uncovered by Reuters was that

“The two prosecutors and a government minister who have led the Maidan shooting probes all played roles in supporting the uprising. One of these officials told Reuters that the investigators gathering the evidence are completely independent.”

And also:

“the former acting general prosecutor who oversaw the arrests of the three Berkut officers declared on television that they “have already been shown to be guilty.” That statement, said legal experts, could prejudice the cases. Ukraine is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Needless to say, to date no one has been apprehended in the shooting of Berkut policemen. Between 18th and 20th February, 189 of them suffered gunshot wounds and 13 died.

In such a context, all the 3,360 dead Eastern Ukrainians and their families, including the victims of the Odessa massacre, can expect similar justice from the Ukrainian government. It is clear that without pressure from the international community and other organisations, Kiev’s regime is neither going to stop the Ukrainian Army and other battalions from committing war crimes, nor is it going to investigate them.

Undoubtedly, all involved would make more effort to not commit atrocities, like targeting schools, if there was a serious risk of being indicted for war crimes from a recognised tribunal, but even the International Criminal Court (ICC) ignored the people who died from sniper shootings on Maidan, the Odessa massacre victims, and other civilians who died from indiscriminate shelling.

Russia is the only country, who is taking active steps towards bringing justice to East Ukrainian victims. Moscow has called on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to take responsibility for investigations into crimes committed in Ukraine. The Public Chamber of the Russian Federation filed 30 petitions in EHCR over war crimes in Ukraine and will file several hundred more by the end of the year. Ten petitions were already declined.

Finally, as human rights lawyer, attorney and member of the International Criminal Bar Dr. Jonathan Levy wrote in his independent legal analysis: Novorossiya itself ‘must bring Kiev’s war criminals to justice’. According to him, whether we like it or not, ‘under international law, Novorossiya has the same status as any other member of the community nations – it is a sovereign independent nation.’ He explains:

“The “gold standard” of statehood is the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States enacted in 1933… [It] requires an aspiring state to have its own territory, population, a functioning government and the ability to enter into relationships with other states. Novorossiya…has maintained an undisputed presence in Lugansk and Donetsk backed up by a seasoned army and security forces. There is a sizeable population…There is a functioning government and diplomatic efforts are ongoing as evidenced by the Minsk process. In a just and fair world then Novorossiya would be welcomed into the fold of sovereign nations as its newest member.”

Dr. Jonathan Levy argues that Novorossiya itself ‘as a sovereign state must seize the initiative.’ In a ‘just and fair world’ one would hope that international organisations tasked with enforcing human rights, such as ICC, the UN, the EHCR, and the Council of Europe would not completely abandon their responsibilities to the people of Novorossiya and would make sure that the guilty are eventually brought to justice. However, the world is not ideal and, alongside murky investigations of the MH17 downing, East Ukrainians should also not expect to see justice from the existing international organisations.

Even if this may seem a long shot, Dr.Levy proposes an interesting radical alternative – that Novorossiya sets up its very own International Tribunal and gives it independence to act in lieu of the UN, ICC, and Council of Europe, giving a chance to lawyers and jurists from around the world, who seek to advance the cause of justice, to participate using the Internet and other technologies. He argues, that “it is international participation and support that will give the proposed tribunal substance”.

If this ever happens, it will be a remarkable step towards creating a real international civic society with its own justice system, powered by modern technology (more details here), which would be independent of international leaders and their lackey organisations, which so far showed little signs of being concerned about bringing justice for killed East Ukrainian civilians.

2 

Russian and Soviet poet Marina Tsvetaevawho was born 122 years ago on 8 October 1892, had the most tragic life.  She lived through the Russian Revolutions of 1917, the Civil War and the Moscow famine. Marina tried to save her daughter Irina from starvation by placing her in a state orphanage in 1919, where Irina died of hunger. Tsvetaeva left Russia in 1922 and lived with her family in Paris, Berlin and Prague, all that time struggling with poverty before returning to Moscow in 1939. Her husband Sergei Efron and her daughter Ariadna Efron (Alya) were arrested on espionage charges in 1939; Ariadna survived Stalin, but Marina’s husband was executed. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Tsvetaeva escaped with her son from Moscow to Elabuga in the Tatar Republic where, unable to go on, she hanged herself on August 31, 1941.

Tsvetaeva’s suffering is what makes her not only a lyrical poet, but also a witness. She was a chronicler of the human conditions of life in her times. In the only poem that Ahmatova wrote for Marina “A Belated Reply”, which Tsvetaeva never saw as she died a few months later, Anna addresses Marina not as a fellow poet, but as another woman, who has suffered and whose suffering both follows and precedes the suffering of other humans.

A Belated Reply

 My white-fingered one, my dark princess.

                                          Marina Tsvetaeva

My double and my jester, unseen,

You who hide at the heart of bushes,

Who nestle in the house of the stare,

Who flit among cemetery crosses.

Who call from the Marinkina Tower:

‘Here I am, I’m home today.

Cherish me, my own fields,

Because of everything I suffered.

My loved ones lost in the abyss,

My native country despoiled.’

Today we are together, Marina,

Crossing the midnight capital,

With all those millions behind us,

And never a more voiceless crew,

Walking to the sound of funeral bells,

And to the savage, Moscow moaning

Of wind and snow, erasing our steps.

Despite the unimaginable suffering that Tsvetaeva went through, her poetry is infused with love for other humans, for Russia and for life itself. He poetry encourages us to strive for freedom in the face of mortality and to be open to the world despite of its cruelty. She came from a good family, but never judged anyone according to their wealth or status – all that mattered to her was what the person did with whatever circumstances they found themselves in. She believed in self-development, valued the personal will for awakening and never stopped educating herself. Marina made many mistakes, had many psychological breakdowns,went through the deepest levels of pain and despair, yet still found the strength to strive for higher ideals, to cultivate within herself higher thoughts and feelings.

Internally she was tormented by two opposing forces – as a poet, she strived towards absolute freedom of will, as a mother and wife, she wanted to remain loyal to her moral duties. In her search for freedom, she tried to stay true to herself and to follow her own conscience, rather than the opinions and judgements of others. Her inner dedication to higher ideals, meant that she was her own harshest critic, though she did measure herself up against other great poets and writers.

Tsvetaeva was also known as ‘the dark princess’, a death-obsessed manic depressive, however her poetry is imbued with the light of love and inspires her readers to go on living regardless of the darkness that they might find themselves in. Tsvetaeva’s primary condition for creativity was keeping the flame of love within herself, even if it was sometimes at the expense of hers and other’s peace. She was very clear about this, when she said: “All I need is to love”. And she loved passionately, even though she knew that transient loves end in disappointment, separation and pain. Like a Phoenix, she burnt herself in the fire of love, in an act of self-sacrifice for the sake of gifting humanity the best she could offer – her poetry.

Marina fell in love with the beauty of humans, with their nobility and their talent. She fell in love with poets whom she never met – like Pushkin and Byron, and with those whom she only met a few times  – Block and Pasternak. This love came from an evaluation of people’s characters, like a mark of their inner and outer beauty. Despite having had many of these loves, she remained dedicated to her family and to her husband. In the end, the flames of her passions always calmed down in the harbours of her home.

She was an insomniac and a dreamer, and sometimes dreams for her were more important than reality (her way of escaping pain and suffering). However, her heightened emotions were always subtly tuned to her razor-sharp intellect. Her poems often have deep meanings which reveal themselves in streams of emotions. Her hand was operated with the muscles of her heart, but her mind was always overseeing this process.

Tsvetaeva’s poems, like prayers, bring light and joy to her readers’ hearts – they enrich them spiritually, as well as emotionally and intellectually. Here is a selection of some of my favourite poems:

XXX

‘I know the truth! Renounce all others!’

I know the truth! Renounce all others!

There’s no need for anyone to fight.

For what? – Poets, generals, lovers?

Look: it’s evening, look: almost night.

Ah, the wind drops, earth is wet with dew,

Ah, the snow will freeze the stars that move.

And soon, under the earth, we’ll sleep too,

Who never would let each other sleep above.

  XXX

Passing me by, as you walk

     To charms doubtful and not mine -

     If you but knew how much fire,

     How much life is wasted in vain,

     On the rustling, occasional shade

     What a heroic flame -

     And how enflamed my heart

     This gunpowder wasted in vain!

     O the trains flying into the night,

     Carrying sleep on the station away..

     If you recognized – if you but knew -

     Then and there, I know, anyway.

     Why are my words so sharp

     In the smoke of my cigarette -

     How much dark and menacing angst

     Is there in my light-haired head.

XXX

From “Poems for Blok” “I am happy living simply”

Your name is a—bird in my hand,

a piece of ice on my tongue.

The lips’ quick opening.

Your name—four letters.

A ball caught in flight,

a silver bell in my mouth.

A stone thrown into a silent lake

is—the sound of your name.

The light click of hooves at night

—your name.

Your name at my temple

—sharp click of a cocked gun.

Your name—impossible—

kiss on my eyes,

the chill of closed eyelids.

Your name—a kiss of snow.

Blue gulp of icy spring water.

With your name—sleep deepens.

1916

Translation by Iliya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

XXX

“I am happy living simply”

I am happy living simply:

like a clock, or a calendar.

Worldly pilgrim, thin,

wise—as any creature. To know

the spirit is my beloved. To come to things—swift

as a ray of light, or a look.

To live as I write: spare—the way

God asks me—and friends do not.

1919

Translation by Iliya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

XXX

Where does this tenderness come from?  

Where does this tenderness come from?
These are not the – first curls I
have stroked slowly – and lips I
have known are – darker than yours

as stars rise often and go out again
(where does this tenderness come from?)
so many eyes have risen and died out
in front of these eyes of mine.

and yet no such song have
I heard in the darkness of night before,
(where does this tenderness come from?):
here, on the ribs of the singer.

Where does this tenderness come from?
And what shall I do with it, young
sly singer, just passing by?
Your lashes are – longer than anyone’s.

18th February 1916

Translation by © Elaine Feinstein

XXX

Attempted Jealousy

What’s it like with another woman –

Simpler? – a flash of the oar! –

Did the memory of me

Soon fade off-shore,

Like the beach of a floating island,

(In the sky – not in the sea!)

Souls, souls! You’ll be sisters,

Not lovers – that’s what you’ll be!

What’s life like with an ordinary

Woman? Now that you’ve dethroned

Your idol (renounced the throne).

Without the divinity?

What’s your life like – occupation –

Shrivelled? Getting up – what’s it like?

What do you pay, poor man,

For endless triviality – the price?

‘I’m through with hysteria, convulsions!

I’ll rent a place, have done!’

What’s it like with a common

Woman, my chosen one?

More suitable and edible –

The food? Boring? – Don’t complain…

What’s it like with an imitation –

You who climbed the holy Mount? A strain?

What’s your life like with a stranger,

A worldly soul. Well? – Is it love?

Like the god’s whip, does shame

Not lash your head from above?

What’s it like – your health –

How is it? How do you sing?

How do you cope, poor man,

With the festering sore of endless conscience?

What’s life like with a marketable

Purchase? The price – terrible?

What’s it like with crumbling plaster of Paris

After the finest Carrara marble?

(The Goddess made from stone –

And smashed to bits!)

What’s your life like with one of millions,

You, who’ve known Lilith?

Does the marketable purchase meet

Your needs? Now magic’s dead,

What’s your life like with a mortal

Woman, neither using the sixth sense?

Well, swear, are you happy, then?

No? What’s your life like in a pit

With no depth, my love? Harder,

Or just like mine with another man?

                                        19th November 1924

XXX

    To Byron

 I think about the morning of your glory,

     About the morning of your days too, when

     Like a demon you from sleep had stirred

     And were a god for men.

     I think of when your eyebrows came together

     Over the burning torches of your eyes,

     Of how the ancient blood’s eternal lava

     Rushed through your arteries.

     I think of fingers – very long – inside

     The wavy hair, about all

     Eyes that did thirst for you in alleys

     And in the dining-halls.

     About the hearts too, which – you were too young then -

     You did not have the time to read, too soon,

     About the times, when solely in your honor

     Arose and down went the moon.

     I think about a hall in semi-darkness,

     About the velvet, into lace inclined,

     About the poems we would have told each other,

     You – yours, I – mine.

     I also think about the remaining

     From your lips and your eyes handful of dust..

     About all eyes, that are now in the graveyard

     About them and us.

XXX

To Boris Pasternak

Dis-tances: miles, versts…

We’re dis-severed, dis-persed,

They’ve rendered us silent, terse,

At the far ends of the earth.

Distances: tracts, versts…

We’re disjointed, and disbursed,

Displayed, splayed, un-destroyed,

They don’t know we’re…an alloy

Of inspirations, and tendons,

Not disjoined – though dis-joined,

We’re divided…

                    By ditch and wall,

Disconnected, conspiratorial

Eagles: tracts, versts…

Not disunited – oh, no worse

Than disengaged, in the wastes

Of earth, like orphans displaced.

How many, how many days…of March?

Since they scattered us like a pack of cards?

                                                  24th March 1925

    XXX

 I’ll conquer you from all lands, from all the sky,

     Because forest is my cradle and in the forest I’ll die,

     For I stand on the ground with just one of my legs,

     For I will sing to you like no one else.

     I’ll conquer you from all times, I will fight

     All golden banners, all swords and all nights,

     I will chase away dogs from a porch and I’ll throw the key

     For in winter night not even dogs are more loyal than me.

     I’ll conquer you from all others – from that one

     I will be no one’s wife, you – no one’s groom,

     And in the last argument I will take you – be quiet! -

     From the one with which Jacob stood in the night.

     But for now I won’t on your chest the fingers cross -

     With you, you remain – O the curse! -

     Your two wings, that at the ether take aim -

     Because the world is your cradle, and world your grave.

     XXX

     I like it that you’re burning not for me,

     I like it that it’s not for you I’m burning

     And that the heavy sphere of Planet Earth

     Will underneath our feet no more be turning

     I like it that I can be unabashed

     And humorous and not to play with words

     And not to redden with a smothering wave

     When with my sleeves I’m lightly touching yours.

     I like it, that before my very eyes

     You calmly hug another; it is well

     That for me also kissing someone else

     You will not threaten me with flames of hell.

     That this my tender name, not day nor night,

     You will recall again, my tender love;

     That never in the silence of the church

     They will sing “halleluiah” us above.

     With this my heart and this my hand I thank

     You that – although you don’t know it -

     You love me thus; and for my peaceful nights

     And for rare meetings in the hour of sunset,

     That we aren’t walking underneath the moon,

     That sun is not above our heads this morning,

     That you – alas – are burning not for me

     And that – alas – it’s not for you I’m burning.

   

  XXX

     How many people fell in this abyss,

     I fathom from afar!

     There will be time, and I will vanish too

     From earth’s exterior.

     All will be still, that sang and that did struggle,

     That glistened and rejoiced:

     The greenness of my eyes, the gold of my hair,

     And this my tender voice.

     Life will continue with its soft hot bread,

     With day’s oblivion.

     All will continue – under outstretched heavens

     As if I’d never been!

     Like children changeable in every mien

     And angry not for long,

     Who loved the times when in the fireplace

     Into ash turned the log,

     Violin and cavalcade within the forest

     And in the village, bell…

     Upon this dear earth – I will be no longer

     That was alive and real!

     To all – who are the friends and strangers

     To never having known the measure, me?

     I turn to you with this my faith’s demand

     And love’s query.

     Both day and night, in word and letter both:

     For truth of yes and no,

     For that though I am but twenty I am

     So often in such sorrow,

     For unavoidably my slights and trespasses

     Will be forgiven me -

     For all of my impetuous tenderness

     And look too proud and free -

     For quickness of events as they come rushing,

     For truth, for play, say I -

     Please hear me! But do also please love me

     For this that I will die.

  XXX

  Thus to thirst life: And to be tender

     And rabid and noisy,

     To be intelligent and charming -

     Gorgeous to be!

     More tender than what are or have been,

     Guilt not to know…

     This, that in graveyard all are equal,

     Angers me so.

     To be what nobody holds dear -

     Like ice become!

     Not knowing what has come before now

     Nor what will come,

     To forget how the heart broke and

     Grew back together,

     To forget both the words and voice

     And shine of hair.

     Bracelet of ancient turquoise

     On the stem, on

     This my white arm

     Narrow and long…

     Like painting over a cloud

     From afar,

     One took the mother-of-pearl pen

     In one’s arm,

     Just like the legs jumped

     Over the fence,

     To forget, how along the road

     Shade advanced.

     To forget, like flame of azure, how

     Days are subdued…

     All my mischief, all my tempest,

     And poems too!

     Laughter will be chased away by

     My miracle.

     I, always-pink, will be

     The most pale.

     And they won’t open – thus is needed -

     Pity this one!

     Not for the sight, not for the fields,

     Not for the sun -

     These my lowered eyelids. -

     Flower not for! -

     My earth, forgive for centuries

     Forevermore.

     Thus both the moon and the snow

     Will melt away,

     When this young, beautiful century

     Will rush on by.

XXX

‘Cut veins: irrecoverably’

Cut veins: irrecoverably

Irreplaceably, life whips out.

Bring out basins and bowls!

Though the bowl’s – too low,

The basin’s – too shallow.

Over the lip, watch it flow,

To black earth, to feed the reeds.

Irreplaceably, verse will go,

Irrevocably, irrecoverably.

                              6th January 1934

 

It really is a pity that children are not allowed to U.N. meetings, so that during Obama’s address to the General Assembly last week someone could have shouted out: “The King is naked!”.  For even though in its intention his speech was supposed to be a finely-weaved cloth depicting utopian motifs of US-led knights in shining UN armour fighting for human progress, democracy, peace and prosperity around the globe, there were so many holes in this spin-doctor-fabricated material, that the bare flesh of the real US Foreign policy agendas was impossible to conceal.

Everyone present along with the loyal mainstream media carried on with the pretence, purposefully ignoring faulty lines and gaping holes, while praising the smoothness of the yarn (The Guardian: Obama sought to strike a delicate balance at the UNGA“) and spotlighting new haute-couture patterns of justifying war (BBC: “The phrase that will linger is “the network of death”) soon to be seen in all high-street media narratives.

Conveniently, most MSM journalists chose to ignore the ironic twists in the weaving of Obama’s advisors: “Hundreds of millions of human beings have been freed from the prison of poverty” (yes, except 67% of Detroit families and 46.5 million people in the whole of the US); “I often tell young people in the United States that this is the best time in human history to be born (the U.S. infant mortality rate is fourth highest among 29 of the world’s most developed nations), for you are more likely than ever before to be literate (32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population), to be healthy (US has the most-expensive and least effective health-care system compared with 10 other western, leading industrialised nations), and to be free to pursue your dreams (The American Myth of Social Mobility).”

“We come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope”, said the 2009 Noble Peace Laureate, who only a day before started bombing the 7th predominantly Muslim country after Afganistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq. Hours before the U.S. launched airstrikes and cruise missiles into Syria, a senior administration official had told the Guardian that “neither of the two groups targeted in the Monday night strikes — the Islamic State militant group or the Al-Qaeda splinter group Khorasan — posed an imminent threat to the U.S.” In fact, Khorasan Group is a fake terror threat to justify bombing Syria

 As Obama was rallying the world on the path of war (which by then he had already started), not one person stood up to ask what possible legal authority he has to bomb Syria. During the following days all mainstream media outlets which in recent months have been so outspoken about international law and the sovereignty of the Ukrainian state towards which Russian aggression was allegedly directed, were now not only silent about the lack of UN or Congressional authorisation for the Syrian war, they were obligingly spreading all the war propaganda they were fed by the authorities. (Note: War propaganda is a war crime according to the Nuremberg Principles: Crime against the Peace. By upholding US foreign policy, MSM is complicit in war crimes.)

Setting aside the tragedy of the Middle Eastern conflict and focusing on Europe, as the Emperor was showcasing his supposedly humanitarian robes, there were so many holes of lies, hypocrisy and double standards in them, only fierce defenders of the Empire or Obama’s useful idiots would carry on with the pretence that the naked ugly flesh of US foreign policy is not flashing in front of everyone’s eyes. Presumably, because the majority of Brits and Europeans still believe that their own prosperity and progress is dependent on US global dominance, Obama’s speech resonated with their beliefs and values irrespective of its falseness. Because when one looks at the facts of what the US has been doing in the UK and Europe in recent years, it becomes clear that the real aggression is not coming from Russia, but from across the Atlantic  – seeding corrupt and undemocratic practices into European politics, as well as endangering the environment, undermining people’s rights and powers and even encouraging the spilling of blood (as in Ukraine). The only people who are benefiting from these practices are multinationals and corrupt politicians that work together in alliance to preserve the existing world order, which has been benefiting them and which is currently under threat.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, “American Leadership in the world is imperilled”: there’s more economic growth occurring in the developing world (see below); military spending of developing countries is increasing (reducing the relative military power of the US) and the total federal debt is $13 trillion, which is 3/4th of GDP. It’s the latter, which is the biggest problem that the US faces at the moment: “among allies, adversaries, and swing states alike, U.S. fiscal policy is increasingly calling into question America’s ability to lead globally.”

Chart3

GDPs OF G-7 AND E-7 COUNTRIES

SOURCE: PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS

Foreign Policy listed measures that the US has to take in order to remain a global power – fiscal deficit could be reduced by increasing the retirement age, investing in infrastructure, reforming corporate tax law to encourage bringing profits home, enhancing productivity through reforming health-care and education, and focusing on technological superiority in military spending. Aside from these domestic-focused solutions, it also stressed the importance of attracting talent from around the world and capitalising on America’s energy boom.

Less than a decade ago, the US was totally dependent on energy imported from abroad, especially from the Middle East. It was all reversed since 2007, when a combination of fracking and horizontal drilling have generated a surge in US oil and natural gas production, helping the US to overtake Russia as the world’s leading producer of oil and gas in 2013 and even giving hope that it will overcome Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest crude oil producer by 2015. This economic boost from the “North American energy revolution” has made the US relatively energy independent and in turn ‘stimulated energy-heavy petrochemical production, created 2 million jobs in shale gas industry’, supposedly reduced carbon dioxide emissions and, most importantly, transformed US foreign policy.

It all started with Hilary Clinton, who during her leadership at the State Department has worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe – sold as a broader push to fight climate change and boost energy supply, but also to weaken power adversaries, who challenge the US in the global energy market, such as Russia, China, Syria and Iran and to benefit US firms, which with the help of American officials, would get high concessions on shale gas overseas.

In early 2009, when Clinton was sworn as Secretary of State, she instructed lawyer David Goldwyn to ‘elevate energy diplomacy as the key function of US foreign policy’. By 2010, Goldwyn unveiled the Global Shale Gas Initiative, which aimed ‘to help other nations develop their shale potential’, in a way which is ‘as environmental friendly as possible’. However, when the Initiative was launched, environmental groups were barely consulted and it was the United States Energy Association, a trade organization representing Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Conoco-Phillips, that played the key role. 

By early 2011, the State Department decided to launch a new bureau to integrate energy into every aspect of foreign policy, an idea heavily inspired by Chevron executive Jan Kalicki’s book Energy and Security: Toward a New Foreign Policy Strategy. The new Bureau of Energy Resources, with 63 employees and a multimillion-dollar budget (coming out of taxpayers’ pockets) started its work in late 2011. One of the strategies was for US embassies to ‘pursue more outreach to private-sector energy firms’ (some of these firms happened to support Hilary Clinton’s and Obama’s political campaigns, e.g. Chevron). From then on US officials and oil giants were working together, as if they are part of the same multinational company pursuing the same business plan.

Europe was one of the top targets of this new US energy-focused foreign policy/business plan and Clinton personally flew to various countries like Bulgaria to promote the fracking industry. Lobbyists circulated a report that the European Union could save 900 billion euros if it invested in gas rather than renewable energy to meet its 2050 climate targets. At the same time shale gas was advertised as the fuel of choice for slashing carbon emissions. Environmentalists argued that fracking can do little to ease global warming, given that wells and pipelines leak large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Also anyone concerned with the environment was upset that investing in fracking could crowd out investment in renewables. At the same time growing evidence was emerging that fracking was linked to groundwater contamination and earthquakes.

Despite these counter-currents, ‘2012 was a busy year for a State Department, which hosted fracking conferences from Thailand to Botswana, while American foreign diplomats and officials helped US oil giants to snap up shale gas leases around the globe. Chevron had the largest share of shale concessions in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, and South Africa, as well as in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, which had granted more than 100 shale concessions covering nearly a third of its territory.’

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However, this US foreign policy/business plan didn’t unfold smoothly : new research from the U.S. Geological Survey suggested that the EIA assessments had grossly overestimated shale deposits in Poland by 99% and one industry study estimated that drilling shale gas in Poland would cost three times as much as in the US. There was a further controversy with regards to rights to underground resources in Eastern Europe.

Facing these obstacles, the US State Department and Oil behemoths started a lobbying blitz around the EU: lawmakers were sent industry-funded studies, fake grassroots organisations were set up, regulators were wined and dined at conferences and extravagant functions. All of it came with a warning that failure to develop shale gas “will have damaging consequences on European energy security and prosperity”.

At one time of this European lobbying bonanzaCovington & Burling, a major Washington law firm, hired several former senior E.U. policymakers — including a top energy official who, according to the New York Times, arrived with a not-yet-public draft of the European Commission’s fracking regulations. Not only American law firms were fostering corruption by rewarding recruited European politicians, including top officials from the three main governing bodies – the European Commission, Parliament and Council – with fat pay-checks, but they also made every effort to keep their lobbying practices as opaque as possible, citing lawyer-confidentiality to evade government-backed but voluntary disclosure efforts. This lack of transparency left many of their lobbying results outside of public scrutiny, undermining democracy in Europe, yet bringing profits to multinational clients. 

Between January and October 2012 Goldwyn from the US Shale Gas Initiative organised Chevron-funded fracking workshops in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. All of these countries, except Bulgaria, which saw wide-spread anti-fracking protests, would later grant Chevron major shale concessions. In Romania the US State Department got involved in direct negotiations – the US Ambassador led negotiations between ‘upset’ Chevron officials and the Romanian government, which resulted in a 30 year deal with Chevron.

When Chevron started installing its first Romanian rig in late 2013, local residents blockaded the planned drilling sites. Soon, anti-fracking protests were starting across Europe, from Poland to the United Kingdom, but Chevron didn’t back down – along with other American energy firms, it lobbied to “insert language in a proposed U.S.-E.U. trade agreement, aka TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), allowing U.S. companies to haul European governments before international arbitration panels for any actions threatening their investments, in order protect shareholders against “arbitrary” and “unfair” treatment by local authorities.”

Despite the public outcry in Europe, the State Department, working alongside energy multinationals, as if ‘they were all branches of the same company’, has stayed on its course of making Europe more dependent on the North American energy platform. One of the biggest obstacles to this goal was and is Russia, as it supplies 30% of Europe’s natural gas. Part of the campaign to promote a US-led fracking revolution in Europe is the media’s demonisation of Russia, in order to scare Europeans away from their Russian gas consumption.

Unfortunately, Ukraine was bound to be the centre of this battle as it depends on Russian gas almost entirely while being one of the main gas transit countries in Europe. An insider report called “Occasional Paper 291. Ukraine’s Energy Policy and US Strategic Policy in Eurasia” stated the following as ‘the problem':

“Twelve years after achieving independence, Ukraine seems unable to find a way to break away from its energy dependency on Russia, or to find viable ways of managing it. Ukraine’s current energy situation and its handling also have important negative implications for US strategy in the region… Ukraine’s lack of clear energy policy strategy complicates the US strategy of supporting multiple pipeline routes on the east-West axis as a way of helping to promote a more pluralistic system in the region as an alternative to continued Russian hegemony.” If only Obama’s speeches were as honest.

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On 5th November 2013, it looked like Ukraine’s future independence from Russian gas was certain – Ukraine and Chevron finally signed a 50-year lease deal, following a January 2013 deal with Royal Dutch Shell. Ukraine President Yanukovich seemed optimistic about these new partnerships, stating on his website that they “will let Ukraine satisfy its gas needs completely and, under the optimistic scenario, export energy resources by 2020”. 
Quite a few bottles of champagne must have popped on that day, as the US had been trying to wean Ukraine off Russian gas for quite a few years. As early as 2004, the Bush administration had spent $65 million ‘to aid political organisations in Ukraine, paying to bring opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to meet U.S. leaders and helping to underwrite exit polls indicating he won last month’s disputed runoff election.’
It was during Yushchenko’s presidency (2005-2010), that Ukraine and Russia had many ‘gas rows’, which at one time in 2009 left as many as 18 European countries cut off from Russian gas. In response, Gazprom, Russia’s state-run energy company, proposed the building of a new $21.6 billion pipeline called South Stream as a way to circumvent Ukraine and ensure an uninterrupted, diversified flow to Europe. Italy and seven other countries have joined the venture.

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As the project would not be complete until 2018, the US still had time to challenge Russia in the European energy market and Chevron’s deal with Ukraine was an attempt to do just that. As usual, the US supplemented its business plan with a powerful PR campaign – a couple of months prior to the signing of the Chevron-Ukraine deal, the US (Chevron) and Dutch (Shell) Embassies, along with George Soros’ International Renaissance Foundation ‘announced’ the set-up of an “NGO” – an online anti-Russian pro-western media outlet called Hromadske TV, which, again totally incidentally (no doubt!) was launched on 22 November 2013, one day after Yanukovich abandoned an agreement with the EU in favour of Putin’s sudden offer of a 30% cheaper gas bill and a $15 billion aid package.

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It was this US/Dutch/Soros-sponsored Hromadske TV, which became the main driving vehicle behind the Euromaidan protests, which were initiated by its editor-in-chief Mustafa Nayem, who used Facebook to rally the Ukrainians to gather on Independence Square in Kiev to protest Yanukovich’s decision. The narrative that was spun by Hromadske TV, opposition-owned Ukrainian TV and western media was that Euromaidan was ‘a true people’s movement, fueled by Ukranian citizens’ desire for a better government and closer ties with the EU.’ Somehow, not that many western journalists were concerned about the fact that the man who rallied people on Maidan was funded by US and Dutch Embassies, as well as by George Soros.

While publicly US officials were professing ‘the right of Ukrainian people to self-determination, freedom and democracy’, behind the scenes they were choosing leaders themselves, not with Ukrainian people’s interests, but with US interests in mind. In a private leaked telephone conversation US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland told US ambassador to Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt that “I don’t think [opposition leader] Klitsch should go into the government” (Klitshchko didn’t and successfully ran for the Mayor of Kiev instead). “I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience.” (Yatsenyuk became the interim prime minister. Also completely incidentally his foundation Open Ukraine has a revealing list of Russia-hating sponsors, including NATO Information and Documentation Centre and State Department of the United States of America)  

In the same conversation, Nuland, who is married to neo-con foreign policy pundit Robert Kagan who pushed for the Iraq war, gave the most accurate definition of the UN’s role in this world: “He’s [Jeff Feltman, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] now gotten both [UN official Robert] Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.” I think the UN should change their website’s banner from Welcome to the United Nations. It’s your world.  to ‘Welcome to the United Nations. It’s a US world, and we are here to glue it.’ Also ‘Fuck the EU” is possibly the most succinct summary of US relations with Europe in recent years. It would add a touch of truthfulness, if they would add it as a postscript to Obama’s speech at the UNGA.

There is a difference between a people’s revolution and an orchestrated coup, there is a difference between allowing people to choose their leaders democratically, irrespective of whether they are pro-western or pro-Russian, and actually installing a government, which the US has done in Kiev after the coup. One can only feel sorry for the poor Ukrainian people, who truly believed in what they were demonstrating against. Paul Craig Roberts summarised the coup and the protests that followed: “The purpose of the coup is to put NATO military bases on Ukraine’s border with Russia and to impose an IMF austerity program that serves as cover for Western financial interests to loot the country. The sincere idealistic protesters who took to the streets without being paid were the gullible dupes of the plot to destroy their country.”

The main looters set to benefit from the takeover of power were some high profile American politicians and their friends and family and they were unashamedly supporting the protests to ensure that they would get their licence to loot. “We stand ready to assist you,” US Vice President Joe Biden promised to protesters, “Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: ‘Keep your gas.’ It would be a very different world.” Biden certainly had imagined where he and his family would be in a Ukraine without Russian gas – his son Hunter has since joined the board of the biggest Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holding.

Biden was not the only well-connected American to join the gas company. Devon Archer, a wealthy investor and Democratic campaign fundraiser with long ties to US Secretary of State John Kerry, upon joining the board of directors rejoiced that Burisma Holdings reminded him of “Exxon in its early days.” The company’s portfolio of licenses is well-diversified across all three of Ukraine’s key hydrocarbon basins – Dnieper-Donets, Carpathian and Azov-Kuban, and its fields are fully connected to the major gas pipelines in the country.

Crimea’s referendum and re-unification with Russia took everyone by surprise and it was a major blow for companies like Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, Repsol and Petrochina, which had already invested money into developing Crimean offshore assets – LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) reserves in Crimea. If one looks at some of the targets of the U.S. sanctions against Russia or Russian-linked companies, two of them were directly aimed at slowing down or stopping South Stream: “The first South Stream-related company the U.S. targeted was Stroytransgaz, which is building the Bulgarian section. Putin ally and billionaire Gennady Timchenko owns it and he’s already on the sanctions list. So Stroytransgaz had to stop construction or risk exposing other companies on the project to the sanctions. The second entity in the sanctions crosshairs was a Crimean company called Chernomorneftgaz. After joining Russia, the Crimean parliament voted to take over the company, which belonged to the Ukrainian government. And guess what that company owned? The rights to the exclusive maritime economic zone in the Black Sea. That’s important because Russia routed the pipeline on a longer path through the Black Sea that cut out Ukraine. It avoided the Crimean waters, going instead via Turkey’s.”

Only a fool would believe that Putin has supported the referendum in Crimea in order to ‘protect interests of Russian people’, just as only a fool would believe that the US and EU are concerned about the Ukrainian people, democracy and freedom. Both sides are manipulating popular sentiments to achieve their own geopolitical and economic goal: a battle for energy dominance in Europe. What happened in Crimea was a mirror situation of what happened in Kiev – the people of Kiev, demonstrating on maidan, wanted to be closer to the EU and US, while people of Crimea have been trying for a long time to rejoin Russia, both the US and Russia have used the situation to their economic and political advantage, while citing humanitarian causes.

The major difference was that in Crimea only one soldier was killed by accident, while in Kiev snipers shot nearly 100 people from maidan-controlled buildings, after which power was taken by force. It looked like a popular technique the US used during many staged coups, described succinctly in Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine“: expose people to shocking events, grab power and quickly carry out all the planned economic and political changes before people come back to their senses. Another major difference is that while the majority of Crimeans are happy to be with Russia, the post-coup protests, which flared up in the Eastern regions of Ukraine, showed that significant parts of the Donbass population were not happy to break ties with Russia (the majority being ethnic Russians themselves).

When self defence forces set their base in Slavyansk, right in the heart of the Uzovka shale gas field, where Shell and Burisma were going to start fracking, US officials showed how far they were prepared to go in order to fight for the business interests of their oil and gas giants’ associates. On Monday April 14th, Reuters published a White House’s confirmation that CIA Director John Brennan had been in Kiev the weekend before. The following day, Kiev announced the beginning of a so called ‘anti-terrorist operation‘ in Donbass. One of the fierce supporters of this operation was Poland, which again was not surprising at all, given that one of  Burisma’s directors alongside Biden and Archer, was and is the ex-president of Poland – Alexander Kwasnevski. 

The Senate Bill 2277, which was introduced on May 1st, 2014, “to prevent further Russian aggression toward Ukraine”, directed the US Agency for International Development to begin guaranteeing the fracking of oil and gas in Ukraine, while Kiev troops were marching into Donbass to ‘basically protect the fracking equipment’. One thing that Obama is very talented at is acting – it’s remarkable that during his UNGA speech, he managed to keep a straight face, when he was mouthing these lies and hypocrisies:

“This is the international community that America seeks: one where nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations, but one in which we carry out the founding purpose of this institution and where we all take responsibility. A world in which the rules established out of the horrors of war can help us resolve conflicts peacefully and prevent the kind of wars that our forefathers fought. A world where human beings can live with dignity and meet their basic needs whether they live in New York or Nairobi, in Peshawar or Damascus.”

The civil war that broke out in Ukraine and which, as shown above, is a part of the US global energy war, has claimed 4,000 civilian lives, left more than a million Ukrainians displaced and led to a humanitarian crisis. In addition to that, when fracking goes ahead in Ukraine, Ukrainians can in addition expect – ‘earthquakes, floods, groundwater pollution, and pestilence of marine animals, birds, and fish, streams of water boiling with methane, and poisoned drinking water and air’.

Furthermore:

so far there is no information about the means of disposing of thousands of cubic meters of fracturing fluid from several thousand wells, which will produce shale gas. Are they really going to be buried in the ground or discharged into water bodies? The experience of foreign companies in third world countries (Ukraine cannot even claim to be the one of them) shows that they are capable of environmental crimes (Ecuador, Nigeria, etc.) “ [see here]

This is particularly the case for Chevron and Shell, both of which have been implicated in major human rights violations in Nigeria. Chevron has been accused of recruiting and supplying Nigerian military forces involved in massacres of environmental protesters in the oil-rich Niger Delta, and Shell has faced charges of complicity in torture and other human rights abuses against the Ogoni people of southern Nigeria.[see here]

Obama’s statement: “America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy.” is a lie. The truth, instead, can be found in gas industry media, where they do not attempt to veil American business interests with humanitarian concerns for Ukrainian people and other jingoistic moral narratives:

American companies can directly invest in Ukraine, bringing their technology with them. Ukrainian companies can hire experienced American drillers, they can license American drilling and seismic imaging technology, and they can import sophisticated U.S. drilling equipment… U.S. government can encourage these developments through government-sponsored engagement programs like the State Department’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program … can speed this investment with financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Once a new parliament is elected in October, the Ukrainian government should do everything they can to promote private investment in production; this would include lowering these taxes and providing new incentives to energy investment. One particular tax incentive they could offer would be to create a value-added tax (VAT) break for the import of sophisticated drilling equipment, modelled on a recently-initiated VAT break for imports of military equipment. It is important that Ukraine not only has strong laws and a good regulatory environment, but that it also has an open and transparent civil service, in order to prevent the corruption that was rampant under the old regime from becoming rooted into the new one. To prevent that, the U.S. and European governments should promote transparency within the government by encouraging engagement between American civil servants with the new members of the civil service of the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry.”

These are the people, who will benefit from “US support for Ukrainian democracy and economy”: American companies, American drillers, American drilling and seismic imaging technology specialists, manufacturers of US drilling equipment, US banks and American civil service. The people of Ukraine will not benefit, because the ‘shale gas revolution’ is a sham. Even Forbes, which in March claimed that “What Ukraine needs is an American style shale-gas revolution” by September published an article that the shale gas bubble is bound to burst. The only reason that most people still believe that shale gas can increase exports, boost employment and increase GDP, along with cutting down on greenhouse emissions, is because most of the information about natural gas supplies and how it can be exploited comes from ‘people with a vested interest in selling the dream of  a “Shale Gale”‘.

Most of the revenue in the fracking business comes from the selling of leases, something that in the financial industry would be seen as a variation of “pump and dump” scam, which looks like this:

“Step 1. Borrow money and use it to lease thousands of acres for drilling.
Step 2. Borrow more money and drill as many wells as you can, as quickly as you can.
Step 3. Tell everyone within shouting distance that this is just the beginning of a production boom that will continue for the remainder of our lives and the lives of our children, and that everyone who invests will get rich.
Step 4. Sell drilling leases to other (gullible) companies at a profit, raise funds through Initial Public Offerings or bond sales, and use the proceeds to hide financial losses from your drilling and production operations.”
Banks and oil and gas companies will no doubt profit, but the gains will not pass on to the people of Ukraine or the people of Europe, where the US is hoping to export it’s ‘fracking pseudo-revolution’. Instead they will only have all the terrible fracking impacts on water, air, soil, human health, the welfare of livestock and wildlife, and the climate to deal with. Ironically it is Russian natural gas, which would be much safer and cheaper for Europe to keep consuming, but US foreign policy has been set and it looks that people of Europe will not have a choice on the matter. It is from the likes of Condoleeza Rice that we hear what should happen to Europe: “You want to depend more on the North American energy platform… you want to have pipelines that don’t go through Ukraine and Russia. For years we’ve tried to make Europeans interested in different pipeline routes. It’s time to do that.”
Recently, Securing America’s Future energy and the Foreign Policy Initiative hosted this conversation about energy security and geopolitics with US legislators and leading experts, where the “US New Paradigm” of Global Energy Dominance Foreign Policy was summarised. While the US is going for the kill with this new paradigm in Ukraine and Syria, Emperor Obama showcased his humanitarian Old New Clothes to an organisation which is supposed to “maintain international peace and security, promote human rights, foster social and economic development, protect the environment” and everyone present pretended not to see the ugly flesh of the US Energy War. But for anyone who saw that the King is naked, Obama’s last words sounded like a dangerous threat:
“And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done….we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come. Join us in this common mission” 

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My last conversation with Alexander happened exactly one year ago. I can still see our digital footprints on my Skype: 23rd September 2013 Call started: 17:31 Call Ended: 17:48 Call Lasted:  16 minutes 50 seconds.

Alexander looked very happy and relaxed, he had a slightly stooped posture and a gentle wandering smile. He had just finished the first edit of our project: the onscreen version of a one-woman play based on Dostoevsky’s little-known early novel Nameless Nobody (Netochka Nezvanova). Originally, we performed the play in 2006 at the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, where it got five-star reviews, then it transferred to London, where we had a short sell-out run and finally we took it to St.Petersburg, where it won an award at the Independent Theatre Festival. All that unexpected success of this seemingly simple, yet psychologically and spiritually complex production, was mainly due to Alexander’s unique and brilliant directorial work.

Markov’s lifelong dedication to Russian Theatre, Poetry and Literature was always marked by integrity and authenticity, and his unique philosophy of life shines through all of the work. In the eighties, when he was still working as an actor in the main state theatres of St.Petersburg (where he played more than 70 roles), he was already known for his unusual interpretation of some classic roles. The online theatre magazine of St.Petersburg still has a review of his unorthodox interpretation of Cyrano de Bergerac, which he performed at the Pushkin Drama Theatre in 1987:

“In the crowd of frozen and studied mannequins, dressed in multicoloured outfits, appears a slightly stooped, light, agile inconspicuous man in a brown suit. Slightly embarrassed, almost defenceless smile. Husky, soft voice, natural intonations – poet Bergerac-Markov talked rather than declared tirades (words were born spontaneously and flowed, quietly overcoming the hurdles of lines, of verse meter and of rhythm). It was a sincere and spontaneous man, caught in a sedate environment of a high society event. It was a live actor in the sham play. A revolutionary courageous poet of titanic proportions was played by Markov as a decent, intelligent, suffering man – precisely a man and not a hero. Discreet wise Cyrano, who is always ready to accept all the blows of fate. Resigned to loneliness, not pretending to be happy. The glimmer of hope to be loved not so much pleased Markov-Cyrano, but rather plunged him into utter confusion….And then the melodramatic love story crushed the bones of this soft, vulnerable man…”

The most courageous step that an actor or any other artist can do is to reveal his real self in his work, overcoming the temptation of hiding behind the mask of a character. Alexander Markov had both courage and sincerity to do so in his portrayal of Cyrano, revealing his own sensitive, fragile, loving, intelligent self, as well as his non-mainstream attitudes towards society and life.

Unwilling to participate in the politics of state theatre, Alexander Markov chose to stay away from it and be free – despite being “an important, famous, bright actor of his generation, a real theatrical intelligentsia”, he left his glorious acting career in order to set up Russian Nights Theatre with his wife Valentina Beletskaya, also an actress and an outstanding voice coach. His colleagues thought him crazy as independent theatre didn’t get any grants from the government – setting up fringe theatre in 1991 was a financial suicide.

Things were going to get even tougher than expected. The birth of their theatre coincided with the dissolution of the USSR. On 26th December 1991 (a day before Alexander turned 39) the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Amidst confusion and despair, the young theatre remained full of hope and continued rehearsals of their first play. They started rehearsal in Leningrad and finished in St.Petersburg. Sharing little with its former pre-soviet glory, the northern capital, among with its inhabitants, was fully suffering all the effects of the economic and political collapse – Leningrad on its knees. Not surprisingly one of the reviews of their first play started with a description of the city:

“We still live in Leningrad. Unending November absorbed March and April; forgotten by God and Joy, we are wandering , slouching , plodding along amongst the spits and scraps of half-digested cardboard , spurred by brass bands and gestures of begging hands, while the wind cuts faces, and passing Mercedeses douse us with dirty water.”

The play itself was a little-known autobiographical work by Lev Timofeev called “Moscow. Praying for a Cup.” It is centred around two dissidents (the author and his wife), who are trapped in their small flat, while KGB waits outside their house to arrest them. Despite their imminent end, the couple find space to talk to each other sincerely, revealing their suffering and fear, but also their immense tenderness and unbounded Love for each other. The play was received extremely well by the St.Petersburg theatre intelligentsia and won the St.Petersburg Theatre Critics award for “detailed research into the spiritual life of Man”.

Economic and political hardships faded into the background in 1995, when Alexander’s and Valentina’s handsome talented 18-year-old son, who had always been helping them in the backstage of their theatre, went away for the weekend to swim in the lakes with friends, but never returned. It is a Russian Christian Orthodox belief that anyone who dies on the Trinity day is ‘taken by God”, and so the drowned boy became a saintly figure both for his friends and for his parents. From then on, Alexander and Valentina moved even further away from ‘theatre society’ and focused on their spiritual path instead.

St. Petersburg theatre missed Alexander Markov. This is how a director of Pushkin Theatre wrote about him: “Unfortunately, there are talented artists, who sometimes become unclaimed. People fear them or do not notice them. Time passes, and in their place there appears something commercial or empty. Alas, there are many actors like that and Alexander Markov is one of them…. I understood the reason (why Markov left) – he was exploited (in a state theatre); he is an individual with a fragile personality with a deep and bottomless Inner Self. He is smart, thoughtful; his mindset – philosophical, analytical. He is a semiologist! He is an existentialist, he delves into his inner world, he decomposes, he breaks, and then the tension in the muscles of his face tells us that he has understood something, he has made a decision. Moreover, his psyche is very mobile. Sasha Markov is unique. Just listen to how he reads poetry! He almost never modulates his voice. But he reveals the meaning, plunges to its depths, holding the line with his thought! He can do something unbelievable even with bad poetry…. I miss him… Markov – is my personal loss.” Yet despite attempted persuasions to return to work as an actor, Alexander mainly concentrated on his own work and teaching.

It is precisely poetry that became Russian Nights Theatre’s other most successful project: “Poems” – 120 minutes of Pushkin, Tsvetaeva, Mayakovsky, Brodsky and Gogol, but also lesser known Lev Timofeev and their late son Vladimir Markov. Once again their production won awards, grants and after a while, toured Great Britain to sell-out success. This is how Academia Rossica described the performance: “The power of the word, its inexhaustible, symbolic and eternal significance, is the essence of the play… In the pale glimmer of candles, two faces emerge from the darkness. Two lone figures – a man and a woman – conduct a dialogue from opposite ends of the stage:

 

She: What time is it?

He: Past One – what time are you asking?

She: Tonight my watch stopped: it must prefer Eternity to Time: one hand flew off!

He: You dropped it.

She: No, it was you that broke it, sleepy.

He: I don’t remember.

She: Remember? You cried out, what’s that sound? And I, laughing, told you: my heart.

 

The poems are united by the over-arching themes of life, love, death and, above all, art… Poems seeks to restore faith in the world, in its prophetic power, which seems to have been lost in our times… The poems are luminous: they exude light. But the source of this light is not the individual brilliance of the authors, it is the unspoken “Gladsome Light”, which they strive towards, taking the audience with them. Light, both natural and artificial, pervade the landscape of the play – in the suburban street lamp, in the merging of ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ light and in the poems themselves:

 

In the fog streetlights glow,

There’s no time… Look,

There’s timelessness.

(V. Markov)

 

Another kind of light emanates from the performance: the fearlessness of the actors, which burns before our eyes.”

 

How grateful I am to BBC Russia for broadcasting this performance worldwide, because the copy of that recording is still available.  Last summer, while we were rehearsing Netochka in a house, which stood in the middle of a forest near Krasniy Liman (I wrote about this in this blog post), we sat on a verandah, drinking tea, and listened to that performance. After a few verses, tears were streaming down my eyes – their acting always spoke to my heart. The depth of their thought, intensity of their love and beauty of their speech never cease to move me.

I wasn’t surprised when I heard that at some stage Alexander thought of joining a Priests Academy (Duhovnuyu Seminariyu). It wasn’t just his long grey beard that made him look like a priest. His light blue piercing eyes were always bright, joyous and calm, without the shadows of inner turmoils and suffering, and with a lot of wisdom and love. Whenever he addressed people his voice was always gentle and considerate. In eight years of knowing him, not once have I heard him loosing patience or becoming irritable. In conflictual situations he displayed unimaginable levels of patience and respect, even when people were letting him down or tried to argue with him thoughtlessly. He was always ready to listen and hear anyone who would speak to him, openly and without judgement, and then, accepting what the speaker had said, expressed very clearly and with a lot of wisdom his own opinion and advice. He would have been an extraordinary pastor, but then the world would have had one less extraordinary director and teacher, who brought his sharp intellect, deep love for humanity and high spirituality into his interaction with others and in his work.

Netochka Nezavnova is Alexander’s Swan Song, his last directorial piece, which he had first conceived in 1972. There were several previous attempts at putting on this play with other actresses, but each time, for various unforeseen reasons, it didn’t materialise. I feel enormously honoured to have been the person, who made Alexander’s dream a reality. It was also my dream to be able to deliver one hour of my favourite writer’s words in a way, which would move people to the same extent that the words move me, and Alexander taught me how to do it. By the time it was filmed, Netochka Nezvanova was exactly seven years old and was performed roughly around 70 times –  in Edinburgh, St.Petersburg, London and Kiev. Just like a human being grows, the play grew as well, changed by our life experiences, while also transforming our own lives. (I met my husband Robin through it. He came to the last performance and, having been moved by the play, stayed behind to talk to me.)

To all those critics and colleagues of Markov, who have proclaimed that his “talent was buried alive”, once he stopped acting under the bright lights of state theatre and started directing in small fringe theatres  and teaching instead, I’d like to say that only through teaching, Alexander was able to prolong the life of his talent by passing it on to a younger generation. In everyday life, each one of us, through our way of being, influences people around us; the effect we have on other people is in turn passed on to others, much as ripples in a pond go on and on until they are no longer visible. Alexander Markov’s teaching has left many powerful ripples – the Russian Nights School had students from Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia, France, Germany, England, Mongolia. (his wife Valentina Beletskaya still continues teaching at the school, following his method). All these people, whom he taught, carry within them some of Alexander’s light and love, which they will pass on to others.

Human nature and theatre are evanescent and it was precisely this transience that my teacher’s last words to me addressed. In out last conversation on Skype on 23 September 2013, Alexander said to me: “Theatre requires our presence, while film can exist without us. I feel that Netochka already has a life of its own. Our presence is not required anymore.” A couple of hours later he left this life following a heart-attack, but the ripples are still here, flowing through anyone who knew him, worked with him, was taught by him or seen his work. It’s a great consolation for me, as his student and actress, that he was so happy with the first edit of his last project. I had to complete the film without him, but I tried to keep the final edit as close to Alexander’s original intention as possible. The Light and Love that permeated Alexander’s work throughout his life are immortalised in “Netochka Nezvanova – Nameless Nobody”, his only filmed directorial project and the only filmed theatre adaptation of Dostoevsky’s early novel.  If you’d like to catch a glimpse of it, the trailer is below.

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This is Alexander’s and Valentina’s last performance, which took place in the Slavic Cultural Centre in Donetsk in September 2013. (list of poems in Russian below)

 

First Poem performed by Alexander Markov:

«Из тюремных молитв»

                Лев Тимофеев 

Позови меня, Господи, в эту горькую дымную даль…
Как еврею даруешь счастливое рабство субботы,
Так и мне ежедневное, грубое рабство подай
И оставь в словаре лишь два слова: любовь и работа.

Я спокойно приму эту непредсказуемо долгую жизнь,
Это горе приму, понесу, сколько выдержит сердце,
И за все предстоящее мне напряжение нервов и жил
Пусть не стану я целью Твоей, но останусь лишь средством.

Я не ради победы – готов хоть к побочным стезям.
Пусть сошьют те, кто после, а я ограничусь примеркой.
Пусть любовь обернется несчастьем – готов и к слезам.
Пусть не музыкой времени буду, но в нотах пометкой.

Даже хлеб – как в молитве – чтоб только сегодня прожить.
Даже в кружке вода – чтобы только сегодня напиться.
Дай мне только спокойную радость болеть и любить
И оставь только разуму злую способность трудиться.

И когда я Твой голос услышу – не в воздухе – в сердце, в крови,
И ладонь от лица отниму, перестав закрываться от ветра,
Я скажу тебе: «Господи, сколько труда и любви…»
Вот и все, чтобы знать, что Тобою я не был отвергнут.

 

Second poem, performed by Valentina Beletskaya:

К ТЕБЕ, О МАТЕРЬ ПРЕСВЯТАЯ

                                                 Н.В.Гоголь

К Тебе, о Матерь Пресвятая,
Дерзаю вознести свой глас,
Лице слезами омывая:
Услышь меня в сей скорбный час.

Прими мои теплейшие моленья,
Мой дух от бед и зол избавь,
Пролей мне в сердце умиленье,
На путь спасения наставь.
 
Да буду чужд своей я воли,
Готов для Бога все терпеть,
Будь мне покров во горькой доле,
Не дай в печали умереть.

Ты всех прибежище несчастных,
За всех молитвенница нас;
О, защити, когда ужасный
Услышим судный Божий глас.

Когда закроет вечность время,
Глас трубный мертвых воскресит,
И книга совести все бремя
Грехов моих изобличит.

Покров Ты верным и ограда;
К Тебе молюся всей душой:
Спаси меня, моя отрада,
Умилосердись надо мной!

 

 Third poem, performed by Alexander Markov:

СТРАННИК.

Aлександр Пушкин

I.

Однажды странствуя среди долины дикой,

Незапно был объят я скорбию великой

И тяжким бременем подавлен и согбен,

Как тот, кто на суде в убийстве уличен.

Потупя голову, в тоске ломая руки,

Я в воплях изливал души пронзенной муки

И горько повторял, метаясь как больной:

„Что делать буду я? Что станется со мной?“

II.

И так я сетуя в свой дом пришел обратно

10Уныние мое всем было непонятно.

При детях и жене сначала я был тих

И мысли мрачные хотел таить от них;

Но скорбь час от часу меня стесняла боле;

И сердце наконец раскрыл я по неволе.

„О горе, горе нам! Вы, дети, ты жена! —

Сказал я, — ведайте: моя душа полна

Тоской и ужасом, мучительное бремя

Тягчит меня. Идет! уж близко, близко время:

Наш город пламени и ветрам обречен;

392

20Он в угли и золу вдруг будет обращен,

И мы погибнем все, коль не успеем вскоре

Обресть убежище; а где? о горе, горе!“

III.

Мои домашние в смущение пришли

И здравый ум во мне расстроенным почли.

Но думали, что ночь и сна покой целебный

Охолодят во мне болезни жар враждебный.

Я лег, но во всю ночь всё плакал и вздыхал

И ни на миг очей тяжелых не смыкал.

Поутру я один сидел, оставя ложе.

30Они пришли ко мне; на их вопрос, я то же,

Что прежде, говорил. Тут ближние мои,

Не доверяя мне, за должное почли

Прибегнуть к строгости. Они с ожесточеньем

Меня на правый путь и бранью и презреньем

Старались обратить. Но я, не внемля им,

Всё плакал и вздыхал, унынием тесним.

И наконец они от крика утомились

И от меня, махнув рукою, отступились

Как от безумного, чья речь и дикий плач

40Докучны, и кому суровый нужен врач.

IV.

Пошел я вновь бродить — уныньем изнывая

И взоры вкруг себя со страхом обращая,

Как узник, из тюрьмы замысливший побег,

Иль путник, до дождя спешащий на ночлег.

Духовный труженик — влача свою веригу,

Я встретил юношу, читающего книгу.

Он тихо поднял взор — и вопросил меня,

О чем, бродя один, так горько плачу я?

И я в ответ ему: „Познай мой жребий злобный:

50Я осужден на смерть и позван в суд загробный —

И вот о чем крушусь: к суду я не готов,

393

И смерть меня страшит.“

— „Коль жребий твой таков, —

Он возразил, — и ты так жалок в самом деле,

Чего ж ты ждешь? зачем не убежишь отселе?“

И я: „Куда ж бежать? какой мне выбрать путь?“

Тогда: „Не видишь ли, скажи, чего-нибудь“ —

Сказал мне юноша, даль указуя перстом.

Я оком стал глядеть болезненно-отверстым,

Как от бельма врачом избавленный слепец.

60„Я вижу некий свет“, — сказал я наконец.

„Иди ж, — он продолжал: — держись сего ты света;

Пусть будет он тебе [единственная] мета,

Пока ты тесных врат [спасенья] не достиг,

Ступай!“ — И я бежать пустился в тот же миг.

V.

Побег мой произвел в семье моей тревогу,

И дети и жена кричали мне с порогу,

Чтоб воротился я скорее. Крики их

На площадь привлекли приятелей моих;

Один бранил меня, другой моей супруге

70Советы подавал, иной жалел о друге,

Кто поносил меня, кто на смех подымал,

Кто силой воротить соседям предлагал;

Иные уж за мной гнались; но я тем боле

Спешил перебежать городовое поле,

Дабы скорей узреть — оставя те места,

Спасенья верный путь и тесные врата.

Fourth Poem, performed by Valentina Beletskaya

Рассвет на рельсах

                                             Марина Цветаева

Покамест день не встал
С его страстями стравленными,
Из сырости и шпал
Россию восстанавливаю.

Из сырости — и свай,
Из сырости — и серости.
Покамест день не встал
И не вмешался стрелочник.

Туман еще щадит,
Еще в холсты запахнутый
Спит ломовой гранит,
Полей не видно шахматных…

Из сырости — и стай…
Еще вестями шалыми
Лжет вороная сталь -
Еще Москва за шпалами!

Так, под упорством глаз -
Владением бесплотнейшим
Какая разлилась
Россия — в три полотнища!

И — шире раскручу!
Невидимыми рельсами
По сырости пущу
Вагоны с погорельцами:

С пропавшими навек
Для Бога и людей!
(Знак: сорок человек
И восемь лошадей).

Так, посредине шпал,
Где даль шлагбаумом выросла,
Из сырости и шпал,
Из сырости — и сирости,

Покамест день не встал
С его страстями стравленными -
Во всю горизонталь
Россию восстанавливаю!

Без низости, без лжи:
Даль — да две рельсы синие…
Эй, вот она! — Держи!
По линиям, по линиям…

 

 

It’s mid-July and I’m on a flight to a place that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to with these menacing warnings:

“Russian forces and pro-Russian groups have established full operational control in Crimea. Following an illegal referendum on 16 March, Russia illegally annexed Crimea on 21 March and tensions remain high. Flights in and out of Simferopol airport are subject to disruption. … Train and bus routes out of the peninsula are still operating, though subject to unscheduled disruptions. There are reports of road blocks, with passengers being searched but traffic is able to get through. If you’re currently visiting or living in Crimea, you should leave now. If you choose to remain, you should keep a low profile, avoid areas of protest or stand-off and stay indoors where possible.”

Had I not been going to this exotic peninsula on the edge of the Black Sea every single year since I was 6, I would probably follow this mis-advice, which is still current on the UK government’s website. Even at the peak of the Crimean crisis in March 2014, when I was phoning all my numerous Crimean friends, worrying about the situation there, I was always reassured that most of the things I read in the western media were a lie. None of these friends, mainly living in the southern area of Crimea, have encountered any problems, seen any little green men, been searched, threatened or in any way intimidated. The majority of ordinary citizens were not affected at all, and far from ‘keeping a low profile’, people flocked to the streets at any opportunity to celebrate what most see as a ‘re-unification’ with Russia.

“I was crying with joy. I’ve never seen the sea front so full people. Everyone was ecstatic (re: Russia’s Day, 12th June). The day Crimea joined Russia was the happiest day of my life”, told me on the phone one of the old friends of my family Lyubov (65), who was born in Yalta and lived there all her life. All my other friends and acquaintances, 23 to 70 year olds, whom I’ve spoken to voted for independence from Ukraine and told me that all their friends and family have done the same. The only person I knew, whose experience was different, was a Crimean-born Ukrainian singer Jamala of Qimily Tatar origin, who wrote to me back in March: “when my grandpa heard that Russian occupied Crimea, he barely handled it. He will not be able to endure another war, that’s why I’m in hysterics as well.”

The Crimean Peninsula is a unique cultural crossroads where east meets west – amongst feather-grassed steppes, forested mountains and a picturesque coastline you can find Greek ruins, Italian fortresses, Scythian burial tumuli, the Palace of the Crimean Khan, Jewish synagogues in caves, Tsar’s and Russian nobility’s palaces, as well as many Soviet era spas. Ethnically 58% of Crimean population is Russian, 24% is Ukrainian and 10.2% are Tatars, along with other minorities, including Belorussian, Volga Tatars, Armenians and Jews. All of these people’s welfare mainly depends on tourism and agriculture, so it’s ironic that while the governments and press of the West profess their love for the minorities of Crimea, they are actually economically impoverishing those people when issuing warnings against travel to their homeland.

I’m worried that when I arrive to Simferopol airport, I’ll encounter empty lounges, so I question the first airport assistant I see about how busy they are. “We used to have 23 flights a day and now we have 80. All from Russia. We are very busy”, she replies. Of course, many people used to drive to Crimea via Ukraine and with the war in Donbass, that option is not available to them anymore. During my July trip I find Crimea quieter than usual, though by August it seems quite busy again. As a regular tourist I don’t see any major changes except forRussian flags everywhere, placards advertising Russian political parties and police being dressed in a different uniform. Otherwise, Crimea remains just like I love it – culturally and geographically rich and with always something new to explore. Needless to say I never encountered any  major road blocks, never been stopped, searched or threatened (even though both my husband and I always spoke in English). Crimean beaches are not empty, there is food in the shops and most of what I’ve read about Crimea before I went there was just not true. One of the goals of my trip was to talk to people themselves, to hear their voices unmediated by the press and to understand what they think and feel about their new political status.

On both trips, I visit Hotel Yalta, a modernist giant that recalls a large ship, where my parents used to take me when I was a girl and a teenager, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find it full not much under it’s usual capacity. Owned by Moscovites for quite a few years, it was only this summer that the owners decided to do numerous renovations, including a new pool, new playground, new restaurants and a lounge Cinema-themed bar, that looks like it could easily belong in the South of France. Many more works were still underway – a sign of the owner’s renewed optimism in the future of the business. “Things are going ok this summer, but next year will be better”, a young lady at the reception quickly answers me, but she avoids giving me more specific numbers and pretends to be busy with papers.

Two receptionists at the Alushta’s Sanatorim Druzhba, a Soviet modernist masterpiece resembling a spaceship out of Tarkovsky’s Solaris, are far more willing to engage in a conversation given that their dilapidated workplace is only 1/3 full. Lyudmila, 43 and Alyona, 48, both of whom voted for re-unification, are now upset that the prices have gone up, but their wages remained the same (only now they are paid in rubles). “No one controls prices, so some shops have raised them more than others. It’s like a free-for-all.”, complains Alyona. “It’s better in Sevastopol, because they have a good mayor, he actually walks around the city himself, checking prices”, adds Lyudmilla. Despite their complaints, both conclude that it’s much better to be with Russia than to have a war like in Donbass. As Alyona starts recounting some horror story from the battlefields that she saw on TV, somewhere in a distant hall Bethhoven’s Moon Sonata starts playing and I start feeling a knot in my throat.

A 25-year old Oksana, whom I’ve just spoken to about how badly business has been for the games arcades where she works, suddenly mentions to me that she’s not from Crimea, but from Donbass. As I tell her that I was born in Donbass too, we both stare at each other in silence for a moment – two strangers sharing the same pain. Then she tells me about her mother in Gorlovka, who keeps calling her in the middle of the night in fear, as the area where she lives is being shelled. She tells me that even though she planned to stay in Crimea for the whole tourist season, now she’s going back to Gorlovka within a week to be by her mother’s side. As if to avoid breaking down in tears, Oksana goes back to the issue of business: “It was very bad this summer, many arcades are closing down, but only temporarily, because here they have faith in the future.” The last sentence hangs heavily between us – Donbass civilians are still being shelled by the Ukrainian Army, some managed to escape to Russia and Crimea, but those remaining don’t have much ground for having faith.

Anatoliy, a native Crimean 50 year old ex-KGB agent, who now rents out holiday homes in Gurzuf, is full of faith and enthusiasm, despite the fact that he only had 1/3 of his usual summer gains. He’s sure that business will be back to normal once the Kerch Bridge, that will connect Crimea with mainland Russia, will be built, which should happen in 3-4 years. He said that he voted for reunification, even though by doing so he lost all his professional contacts in Ukraine.  He seems very proud of his new Russian passport, of his new president and is optimistic about Crimean prospects within a larger country. He admits that since Crimea became a part of Russia, it became harder to make extra money by overcoming laws: “Ukrainian corruption meant that you could find your way around making a few more hryvnas, but Russians are much stricter about corruption, which is great for Crimea, even if it means that personally I will be getting less.”

Some of the younger generation are not as optimistic – Crimean-born Liza Kuzub, who’s been living in Kiev since 2012, but has come back home for the summer, shares with me that many of her friends, who are young interpreters and translators like herself, are concerned about their career prospects, as there are no foreign tourists and there are fears that there won’t be many in the future, if “Crimea will become an anti-globalisation isolated place”. As a result, 70% of the young people she knows are planning to move out of Crimea in search of a more promising life. A Maidan activist, she still says that she always loved Russia and Russian people, even though recent events have made her look at everything “in a different light”.

In contrast,  Olga Rogacheva, a 27 year old translator from Sevastopol, is not planning to move anywhere and dismisses my question about whether Russia enforced a referendum upon Crimeans. “All my family and friends in Sevastopol wanted to join Russia for a long time. I even have a video on Youtube, where the people gathered at the Popular Assembly on the square and decided to separate from Ukraine. Back then there was not even talk about the Russian army, or seeking Russia’s help. It was just the people of Sevastopol deciding themselves that their city should become autonomous, because they didn’t want to be with Kiev anymore.”

Sevastopol has always been a Russian city with a special status, so it’s not surprising that they would be pro-Russian, but it’s not much different for the rest of Crimea. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine voted to be independent, Crimean support was the lowest of all of the Ukraine (only 54% in favor) with very low turnout (65%). The following year the Crimean parliament voted in favour of a referendum, but it was forcefully suppressed by Kiev’s administration, as a New York Times article from 1992 testifies. Since then separatist activism in Crimea is well-evidenced on a historical timeline of the UN resources library. It’s a myth to portray the Crimean referendum as an outcome of Russian state intervention. On the contrary, if one looks at the historical timeline, it appears to be Kiev who was suppressing Crimea’s constitutional right to self-determination for many years.

Olga Sergeeva, a 60 year old conservation architect, who worked on the restoration of all of the main architectural icons of Crimea, including Alupka Palace, Livadia Palace, Bakhchisarai Palace and Keraites Kenasas, told me that “there’s a huge layer of Russian history in Crimea, expressed in buildings and city plans.” She explains to me that while during Soviet times, there was a law requiring 10% budget to go towards restoration, after the collapse of the Union that money disappeared, which meant that she really struggled with keeping buildings standing and mainly did ‘cosmetic’ works. “Ukrainians had different priorities and were not able to properly restore, rebuild and create new pieces, but now everything is in its place and Crimea will eventually have state support for the regeneration of Russian Culture.” Sergeeva told me that after the results of the referendum were announced, she cut off all her long hair, to mark a new beginning. “Everyone was crazy out of happiness! The whole meaning of my life has been crystallised – I understood what I was doing in my job, and I was ecstatic to be reunited with the land, where my ancestors are buried.”

Viktor Aleksandrovich Bezverhiy, 63, Head of Leisure of Dyulber, a sanatorium, that used to belong to the Verhovna Rada (Supreme Council) of Ukraine and now passed on to the Kremlin, expresses similar sentiments about his hope for the regeneration of his crumbling workplace. An aesthete, quoting Khalil Gibran, while talking about the history of this unusual  Oriental-style Palace built by Grand Prince Peter Romanov, Viktor Aleksandrovich confides that “during the Ukrainian reign nothing has been done here, everything was falling apart. Now we have hope. Already I’ve met our new bosses and they are totally different set, serious people. They are not just about ‘vodka i seledka’ (vodka and Herring) like the guys before.”

Crimean-born Igor, a 32 year old organiser of concerts, who developed patriotic feelings for Ukraine, but not to the extent as to “wear Ukrainian embroidered shirts” confidently states that even though in his opinion the referendum was illegal, “because the rules of the referendum were broken and sovereignty of a country was violated”, he doesn’t doubt that majority of Crimeans voted to be with Russia. He is a sceptical about reasons for such voting: “Only 20% people are sincere Russian patriots, the rest are just pragmatic people, who see it to be more “profitable” to be part of a bigger economically more powerful neighbour.” He is convinced that it was Russian media, that influenced people’s opinions: “I just hope for all the people that voted for Russia, expecting ‘golden mountains’, that those golden mountains will come to them.” Personally he did not vote at all, because he “prefers to be free and he doesn’t want his rights to be curtailed in Russia.” When I ask him which particular rights he’s afraid he might not be able to exercise, he replies “in Russia you can’t even re-post Navalny’s blog and I prefer to live not such a rich life, but to be free.” At the end of the interview, when I ask him whether he’s going to move out of Crimea, he admits that even though he has the means to do so, he’ll stay as he’ll be able to ‘live with it all’.

To get a minority perspective, I speak to Mustafa Seitumerov (60s) a leader of the Tatars of the Southern Part of Crimea, who confirms that during the time of the referendum some of his people had a lot of fear, because of the history of forceful deportation by Stalin. However, the war in Donbass make them grateful to be living in peace. He also reminded me that they used to be represented by Party of the Regions, which is now very weak and has no chances of winning in the near future. This means that even if they remained part of Ukraine, they would have no hope that their interests will ever be represented in the Ukrainian Parliament. However, he did express his regret that joining Russia happened in such a hurried and forceful way and said that even though some of his friends instantly hung tri-coloured flags on their homes, for the majority it will take a longer time to change their hearts. He shared his hopes that Tatar people will not be fooled and that the promises, which are made to them by the new government (e.g. 20%MPs in Crimea parliament), will be fulfilled. He denies rumours that Tatar people are planning an armed uprising against the new government: “Tatars fought for 70 years for their rights and we never took up arms. We want to be working with the new government, we do not want to be pushed away.”

During my second trip to Crimea in August, I get a chance to get the opinion of a Tatar man in his thirties, who works in the main Mosque of Crimea in Evpatoriya. He tells me that it’s untrue what the media says that all Tatars are united by one attitude. “Different people have different opinions. Some are pro-Ukraine and some are pro-Russia. We are peaceful and cooperative people. We want to be respected and we will respect back.” Already during the short time that Crimea has been under Russia, the Tatar language has been legalised as a state language (which Ukrainians refused to do for years) and one of the main Tatar holidays was made into a national holiday for the whole of Crimea.

Finally, I go to Karaites Kenasas in Evpatoriya to find out what Karaites Jews feel about being part of Russia. An answer is provided to me by the building itself – in the central yard there is a marble obelisk to Russian Emperor Alexander I with a Russian golden eagle on the top. Karaites, unlike Tatars, have no history of conflicts with Russia and on the contrary, they have always collaborated with them, have fought on Russia’s side during all wars, and many Karaites have taken high positions of power under previous Russian rule.

Overall, despite a slower touristic season, the majority of Crimeans seem happier to be part of Russia than Russians themselves, even though with any new political change there will always be those who are unsatisfied. The question is whether despite legitimate questions on how it came about one chooses to respect Crimeans’ right to self-determination as per the Autonomous Republic of Crimea’s constitution, or whether one chooses instead to disregard this right for the sake of other geopolitical and economic agendas. It’s clear that majority of Western governments and the press are choosing to the latter.

 

 

 

As wars rage around the globe, the world continues its descent into the lower circles of Dante’s Inferno – all with the help of an insatiable global empire, run by warmongering opportunistic Machiavellians and amoral realists, aided by masses of Uncommitted Souls, who will do nothing for either good or evil, as long their consumerist desires, created by the empire’s nightmarish ‘dream-making’ machine, are satisfied and their wealth and power (or aspirations to them) are preserved.

In the case of psychopathic Machiavellians, fixated on money, power and competition, it is their low emotional intelligence and lack of empathy and conscience that prevents them from having concerns for the victims of their wars or the poor. Amoral realists, on the other hand, view events on the international arena solely in terms of power – morality has no place, only national interests count. As for the Uncommitted Souls – they are just gullible dupes, whose beliefs and values are spoon-fed to them by media and advertising, the choices they focus on are those of a consumer, not of a human being.

To become a Committed Soul, one needs to make a moral choice, and, according to existentialists, to make a moral choice is to become authentic. Authenticity is opposite to ‘going with the flow’, it is about being open to one’s Being, being committed to one’s freedom, it is about becoming an individual and not just a cog in a machine. However, as Heidegger wrote in Being and Time, alienated western societies, where exploitation and oppression are rampant, foster self-deception about structural injustices that their practices sustain. In short, societies run by psychopaths and sociopaths will inevitably be unjust, but will have internal mechanisms of keeping people in bad faith about these injustices – the propagandist media’s role.

For existentialists, it is coming face to face with one’s own mortality which can jolt a person out of their inauthentic existence – once we realise one day we will no longer be, we gain some insight into what it means to exist. However, in western societies, which worship youth and beauty, old age and death are taboo. Real Death is sanitised out of our lives altogether or presented as a something casual, cute and ironic, as in the case of the fashion trend of putting skulls on clothing. While our entertainment industry desensitises us to blood and violence, the news industry tries to hide from us as much as possible the real deaths of the innocent victims of wars our western societies start and support, e.g. the BBC’s shameful coverage of Gaza and Ukraine.

Psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection argues that the abject horrors of war,  however stomach-churning they are, have the capacity to bring us to what Lacan called –  The Real, i.e. that which is authentic and true, especially in relation to our own self/being and the infinite. Facing a bloodied, mutilated corpse can produce a spasm within the deep core of one’s being, accompanied by the breakdown of everyday meaning, which leaves one literally beside oneself.  This primal physical and emotional response catapults one into a primordial realm of existence, where there’s an acute awareness of human smallness, insignificance, fragility, yet uniqueness, mystery, beauty. Kristeva also argues that oppressive and inhumane institutions, which wield power in the modern world, are built upon the notion that man must be protected from the abject (hence sanitisation of Death). By facing the abject face-to face one tears away the support of these institutions and embarks on the first movement that can truly undermine them.

It is not surprising then, that western media tries so hard to hide from us images of victims of supported-by-the-West wars – it may just jolt people out of their ‘going with the flow’ mode and to revolt against injustices and atrocities. Given how widely images of Gaza victims were circulated on social media, it was to be expected that it awakened such lively debate and protests around the world. Even though outrage against the war in Ukraine did not gather such a worldwide momentum, there’s a still a growing global network of people, who are committed to truth at whatever cost. For example, Mark Bartalmai wrote that speaking out against western support for war crimes in Ukraine led him to lose him job, but he is now a war photographer in Donbass, sending out images of victims to the world – an important work that can move other people out of their somnambulism.

In the face of the abject horrors of war, humans may decide to not want to be Uncommitted Souls anymore, but why should they become committed to good rather then evil? Why not become an authentic villain, like Maldoror, misanthropic nihilistic anti-hero of Comte de Lautreamont’s poetic novel? If existentialists are right and one should pursue one’s own freedom, then why not exercise one’s freedom to become an authentic Nazi?

Freedom is the ultimate value for existentialists, just as authenticity is their primary virtue. Simone de Beauvoir argued that the real requirement of an individual’s freedom is that it pursues ‘an open future’ by seeking to extend itself by means of the freedom of others. In other words, one’s real concrete freedom requires that, in choosing, one chooses the freedom of others, i.e. ‘open future of others’. If one is committed to maximisation of other people’s possibilities as well as one’s own, then it becomes ‘inauthentic’ to leave others to slavery, in a state of oppression or even worse, to subject them to death.

My first blog entry was written in a state of shock after watching a video of the first Lugansk Bombings on the 2nd June. I cried uncontrollably for hours that night when I saw the death of Inna Kukuruza, as she lay there bleeding, with her legs amputated by the bomb and her body and face covered in blood.  I couldn’t get out of bed the following morning, as I literally felt ‘beside myself’ – there was a total breakdown of meaning. However, I felt propelled to write in order to express my doubts about my professional direction, pain and grief that I was feeling and to make a commitment to truth. In retrospect, I now can see that, unconsciously, I have gone through the process that Kristeva talks about in her essay – an existential re-awakening in fourth gear. However, given that witnessing the horrors that Kiev’s government is subjecting their citizens to has provoked a psychological need for change, the direction in which I was to take it could have gone in many different ways.

While I was prepared to express my outrage about the loss of lives in Donbass (The Wrong Side of the Barricades or Why East Ukrainian victims are ignored), to speak out against western media bias (The Cunning Demons of Russian Propaganda, or what the BBC forgot to warn us about) and, most importantly, against ‘the anti-terrorist operation’, which is effectively a genocide (Ukrainian Genocide and it’s Cheerleaders), I wasn’t ready to start writing about the nitty-gritty of the war itself. Firstly, because there are people who are already doing it quite well and secondly, because I’m really against wars.

As a pacifist, I find great inspiration in Ghandi, who opposed British Imperial rule in India with “satyagraha”, i.e ‘truth force.’ His strategy of non-violent conflict was to convert the opponent; to win over his mind and his heart. In the West Erich Fromm came to the same conclusions in his 1970’s lecture Resolving Conflicts Without War, in which he said that conflicts can never be resolved by war, but only by either one of these two approaches. First, which relates to Ghandi’s winning over the mind, is a political-realistic approach which requires that a) one know facts and b) one interprets facts correctly, while avoiding selective inattention. Second is a human, philosophical, spiritual, religious or psychological approach, which relies on the human potential that transcends the realm of calculation, and which, I believe, relates to winning over the heart, as Ghandi professed.

A recent article explained how the “cosy club” of people educated at private schools and Oxbridge still dominates politics, the judiciary and media”. This relates to George Monbiot’s article called “Unsentimental Education”, which is about the psychological effects that public/private and especially boarding schools have on children. In it he mentions psychotherapist Nick Duffell’s book “The Making of Them”, which describes how boarding children, ‘artificial orphans’, survive the loss of their families when they are sent to board at the age of 8 by dissociating themselves from their feelings of love: “Survival involves “an extreme hardening of normal human softness, a severe cutting off from emotions and sensitivity.” Unable to attach themselves to people, they are encouraged instead to invest their natural loyalties in the institution.” This system, Monbiot argues, creates “extremely effective colonial servants: if their commander ordered it, they could organise a massacre without a moment’s hesitation.”

While Britain is ruled by an elite detached from its own feelings, the US (and the rest of the world) is run by people, who can only be described as sociopaths and psychopaths (see: The Establishment Plagued with Sociopaths, Psychopaths and Useful Idiots; Masters of Manipulation: Psychopaths rule the World). It is no surprise at all then, that the world is plagued with wars and the planet itself is being ruined on an unprecedented scale. There is a distinct lack of heart in all of this and this is why, it is so important during these times to hold on to whatever ‘heart’ we have left.

To conclude, I’d like to return to Erich Fromm and his poignant warning about the dangers of privileging institutions over people:

“Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. ‘Patriotism’ is its cult… Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.”

For Fromm ‘Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence’, but we must not forget about getting our facts right about this insane world and then learn to interpret those facts correctly, even if it means going against what our institutions and their media want us to believe instead. This can be a lonely and frustrating undertaking and Fromm encourages people in such situations to not give up, but to grow even more independent in their thinking:

“A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale”, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his “normal” contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity,his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.”

At the time of writing this, the world wide web had not been invented yet. Now that we are able to connect to many like-minded people around the globe at the tap of a finger, there is no excuse for being Uncommitted Souls anymore – during these inhumane times we have to become human – we have to develop our authentic thoughts and feelings, independently from mainstream media, to connect to people with similar values and beliefs, expand our hearts and learn how to solve conflicts peacefully by changing minds and hearts and not fighting wars.

 

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Place where the novel Crime and Punishment begins – S.Place = Stolyarniy Pereulok (above)

“On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.”
K.Bridge = Kokushkin Bridge (below)“An anxiety with no object or purpose in the present, and in the future nothing but endless sacrifice, by means of which he would attain nothing – that was what his days on earth held in store for him… What good was life to him? What prospects did he have? What did he have to strive for? Was he to live merely in order to exist? But a thousand times before he had been ready to give up his existence for an idea, for a hope, even for an imagining. Existence on its own had never been enough for him; he had always wanted more than that. Perhaps it was merely the strength of his own desires that made him believe he was a person to whom more was allowed than others.”

“Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!”
“Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?” Marmeladov’s question came suddenly into his mind “for every man must have somewhere to turn…”House where Dostoevsky wrote Crime and Punishment (above)

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”

“I drink because I wish to multiply my sufferings.”
“We’re always thinking of eternity as an idea that cannot be understood, something immense. But why must it be? What if, instead of all this, you suddenly find just a little room there, something like a village bath-house, grimy, and spiders in every corner, and that’s all eternity is. Sometimes, you know, I can’t help feeling that that’s what it is.”“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”

“When reason fails, the devil helps!”
“I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles,” he thought, with an odd smile. “Hm … yes, all is in a man’s hands and he lets it all slip from cowardice, that’s an axiom. It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear most… . But I am talking too much. It’s because I chatter that I do nothing. Or perhaps it is that I chatter because I do nothing. I’ve learned to chatter this last month, lying for days together in my den thinking … of Jack the Giant”Raskolnikov’s House (above)

“In a morbid condition, dreams are often distinguished by their remarkably graphic, vivid, and extremely lifelike quality. The resulting picture is sometimes monstrous, but the setting and the whole process of the presentation sometimes happen to be so probable, and with details so subtle, unexpected, yet artistically consistent with the whole fullness of the picture, that even the dreamer himself would be unable to invent them in reality, though he were as much an artist as Pushkin or Turgenev. Such dreams, morbid dreams, are always long remembered and produce a strong impression on the disturbed and already excited organism of the person.Raskolnikov had a terrible dream.”

“Man has it all in his hands, and it all slips through his fingers from sheer cowardice.”
“I saw clear as daylight how strange it is that not a single person living in this mad world has had the daring to go straight for it all and send it flying to the devil! I…I wanted to have the daring…and I killed her.”

“The people who have nothing to lock up are the happy ones, aren’t they?”

“A hundred suspicions don’t make a proof.”

“He vividly recalled those old doubts and perplexities, and it seemed to him that it was no mere chance that he recalled them now. It struck him as strange and grotesque, that he should have stopped at the same spot as before, as though he actually imagined he could think the same thoughts, be interested in the same theories and pictures that had interested him … so short a time ago. He felt it almost amusing, and yet it wrung his heart. Deep down, hidden far away out of sight all that seemed to him now—all his old past, his old thoughts, his old problems and theories, his old impressions and that picture and himself and all, all….
He felt as though he were flying upwards, and everything were vanishing from his sight. Making an unconscious movement with his hand, he suddenly became aware of the piece of money in his fist. He opened his hand, stared at the coin, and with a sweep of his arm flung it into the water; then he turned and went home. It seemed to him, he had cut himself off from everyone and from everything at that moment.”“Through error you come to the truth! I am a man because I err! You never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred and fourteen.”

“Catch several hares and you won’t catch one.”

“I used to analyze myself down to the last thread, used to compare myself with others, recalled all the smallest glances, smiles and words of those to whom I’d tried to be frank, interpreted everything in a bad light, laughed viciously at my attempts ‘to be like the rest’ –and suddenly, in the midst of my laughing, I’d give way to sadness, fall into ludicrous despondency and once again start the whole process all over again – in short, I went round and round like a squirrel on a wheel.”
Pawnbroker’s Flat (below)“Money is the honey of humanity.”

“the most offensive is not their lying—one can always forgive lying—lying is a delightful thing, for it leads to truth—what is offensive is that they lie and worship their own lying…”

“And if only fate would have sent him repentance – burning repentance that would have torn his heart and robbed him of sleep, that repentance, the awful agony of which brings visions of hanging and drowning!”

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.”
Pawnbroker’s House (above)

“That’s just the point: an honest and sensitive man opens his heart, and the man of business goes on eating – and then he eats you up.”

“the lawgivers and founders of mankind, starting from the most ancient and going on to the Lycurguses, the Solons, the Muhammads, the Napoleons, and so forth, that all of them to a man were criminals, from the fact alone that in giving a new law, they thereby violated the old one, held sacred by society and passed down from their fathers, and they certainly did not stop at shedding blood either, if it happened that blood (sometimes quite innocent and shed valiantly for the ancient law) could help them.”

“”What do you think?” shouted Razumihin, louder than ever, “you think I am attacking them for talking nonsense? Not a bit! I like them to talk nonsense. That’s man’s one privilege over all creation. Through error you come to the truth! I am a man because I err! You never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred and fourteen. And a fine thing, too, in its way; but we can’t even make mistakes on our own account! Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I’ll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s. In the first case you are a man, in the second you’re no better than a bird. Truth won’t escape you, but life can be cramped. There have been examples. And what are we doing now? In science, development, thought, invention, ideals, aims, liberalism, judgment, experience and everything, everything, everything, we are still in the preparatory class at school. We prefer to live on other people’s ideas, it’s what we are used to! Am I right, am I right?” cried Razumihin, pressing and shaking the two ladies’ hands.”
“Don’t be overwise; fling yourself straight into life, without deliberation; don’t be afraid – the flood will bear you to the bank and set you safe on your feet again.”

“I know that you don’t believe it, but indeed, life will bring you through. You will live it down in time. What you need now is fresh air, fresh air, fresh air!”

“Where is it I’ve read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he’d only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once. Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!”

“He did not know that the new life would not be given him for nothing, that he would have to pay dearly for it, that it would cost him great striving, great suffering.
But that is the beginning of a new story — the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.”

Posted using Tinydesk blogging app

Two days ago the UN’s website published Ban-Ki Moon’s condemnation of Israel’s attack on Gaza, during which almost 1,300 people have been killed, 6,000 wounded and 140,000 displaced and hosted by the UN.

A-list celebrities Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Pedro Almodovar denounced Israel’s attack on Gaza in an open letter, while earlier  Israeli film-makers called for an end to Gaza Conflict. Brian Eno wrote a heart-wrenching letter about Gaza and The Loss of Civilization.

It’s not just the political and cultural elites that are expressing their disgust at Israel’s actions. There is a widespread outrage amongst the international public. Social media is overfilled with posts about Gaza with even the most apolitical people expressing their shock and horror. The protest is not confined to sofa activism – thousands of people around the globe, from Sydney to Mexico, took part in a worldwide protest against Israeli attack on Gaza.

This outrage against Israel, reverberating throughout our planet, is totally justified in the face of such a large number of Palestinian casualties, including more than 240 children.  A Guardian front page succinctly summarised the situation – “The world stands disgraced.”

So the question that I have is this: how can the world be outraged about over 1000 civilian death toll in Gaza, but not about a similar death toll in Donbass, an Eastern part of Ukraine where the Ukrainian army has been fighting anti-Kiev government rebels?

The numbers of casualties in Gaza and East Ukraine are almost the same. As many as 1,129 people have been killed and 3,442 injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation in mid-April 2014 until July 26, according to a UN report. However, in this report the focus is on condemning the abductions and tortures performed by local criminals, who re-branded themselves as members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, and not on condemning Ukrainian government, who are firing Grad rockets at residential areas, as reported by Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch has issued two reports on the use of Grad rockets by the Ukrainian Army, calling for the end of indiscriminate rocket attacks (Ukraine: Unguided Rockets Killing Civilians: Stop Use of Grads in Populated Areas), which, they cautiously state, ‘may amount to war crimes’. Why such caution in the face of such atrocities?

Reuters reported that “The Red Cross has made a confidential legal assessment that Ukraine is officially in a war, opening the door to possible war crimes prosecutions, including over the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH-17. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions setting down the rules of war, and as such is considered a reference in the United Nations deciding when violence has evolved into an armed conflict.” However, “The ICRC has not made any public statement – seeking not to offend either Ukraine or Russia by calling it a civil war or a case of foreign aggression – but it has done so privately and informed the parties to the conflict, sources told Reuters.”

The Red Cross, ‘the gatekeepers of international humanitarian law’ are afraid to ‘offend’ Ukraine in the face of over 1000 civilian deaths, the UN fails to condemn Kiev’s actions, even though they report casualties, and Human Rights Watch are tiptoeing around, unable to firmly state that indiscriminate use of grad rockets against civilians are definitely war crimes.

At the same time, Kiev started using Weapons of Mass Destruction, deploying OTR-21 Tochka ballistic missiles also known as SS-21 “Scarabs” against the people of eastern Ukraine. Their use was revealed by a CNN report, released just as US President Barack Obama announced that the US and EU would be issuing more sanctions against Russia. CNN also claimed that “another of the U.S. officials said using the missiles is “an escalation, but Ukraine has a right to defend itself.” Thus, the US and their media are upping their support of Kiev’s atrocities and are now justifying the use of weapons of mass destruction by Ukraine on its own people.

The use of Ballistic Missiles, which classify as WMD, is contravened by the Geneva Convention – it is an international crime to use them. This is front cover news, yet no western paper has given this crime the proper attention that it deserves. The BBC website has not mentioned one word about this. The paper which I used to respect, The Guardian, has released 17 articles in the Ukraine section between 29th-30th July, needless to say not one of them was about the illegal use of WMD, though there are numerous articles about sanctions on Russia. Oh, and there is one 1 min 16 sec video of traumatised civilians in Donetsk. 1 min and 15 seconds is what the victims of Kiev government’s war crimes get from the Guardian in one week. Working class people are being killed by the Ukrainian army of an oligarch president and the private armies of other Ukrainian oligarchs and the New Labour paper of Britain is showing its solidarity and support for the Ukrainian labour force by spreading neo-con propaganda about sanctions on Russia for reasons that have yet to be proved.

The rest of the British media is no better and a brief look through The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph will reveal the same preoccupations – how to frame Russia, either on the downing of MH17 or on financing rebels. Reporting international war crimes and the suffering of innocent people is apparently not mainstream British media’s priority and only gets very marginal coverage. No wonder there is no public outrage – hardly anyone knows about what is going on in Donbass.

Donbass civilians, many of which are ethnically Russian, just happened to be on the wrong side of the barricades for the western press, international organisations and general public to feel comfortable about supporting their plight and to express their empathy for them. Gaza has no leader who poses as a bastion of economic and political threats to the “New World Order”, ruled by the US, while war in Donbass is continued to be presented as an act of ‘Russian aggression’. Even though the UN admitted that they found no ‘hard evidence’ that Russia is supporting rebels, I’m sure that the western press will continue presenting them as ‘Putin’s agents’.

This fervour and dedication with which the majority of western journalists are cooking up the New Cold war is preventing them from giving an adequate amount of attention to the suffering of peaceful civilians. As Albert Camus argued in his powerful article “Neither Victims nor Executioners” (re-printed below):

“All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being.”

Being silent about victims is becoming accomplices of murderers, so not withstanding on which side of the barricades one is on, it’s the grand masters of war that we should all refuse to side with and to fight  them with all our force and being with words. For, as Camus said, “words are more powerful than munitions“. Journalists are privileged to have these weapons and so they should use them to protect innocent people against the hideous war crimes that the Ukrainian government is committing.

NEITHER VICTIMS NOR EXECUTIONERS by Albert Camus

Yes, we must raise our voices. Up to this point, I have refrained from 
appealing to emotion. We are being torn apart by a logic of history which 
we have elaborated in every detail--a net which threatens to strangle us.
It is not emotion which can cut through the web of a logic which has 
gone to irrational lengths, but only reason which can meet logic on its 
own ground. But I should not want to leave the impression... that any
program for the future can get along without our powers of love and
indignation. I am well aware that it takes a powerful prime mover to get
men into motion and that it is hard to throw one's self into a struggle
whose objectives are so modest and where hope has only a rational basis--
and hardly even that. But the problem is not how to carry men away; it is
essential, on the contrary, that they not be carried away but rather that
they be made to understand clearly what they are doing.

To save what can be saved so as to open up some kind of future--that is 
the prime mover, the passion and the sacrifice that is required. It
demands only that we reflect and then decide, clearly, whether humanity's
lot must be made still more miserable in order to achieve far-off and
shadowy ends, whether we should accept a world bristling with arms where
brother kills brother; or whether, on the contrary, we should avoid 
bloodshed and misery as much as possible so that we give a chance for
survival to later generations better equipped than we are.

For my part, I am fairly sure that I have made the choice. And, having
chosen, I think that I must speak out, that I must state that I will
never again be one of those, whoever they be, who compromise with murder,
and that I must take the consequences of such a decision. The thing is
done, and that is as far as I can go at present.... However, I want to
make clear the spirit in which this article is written.

We are asked to love or to hate such and such a country and such and
such a people. But some of us feel too strongly our common humanity to
make such a choice. Those who really love the Russian people, in
gratitude for what they have never ceased to be--that world leaven which
Tolstoy and Gorky speak of--do not wish for them success in power politics,
but rather want to spare them, after the ordeals of the past, a new and
even more terrible bloodletting. So, too, with the American people, and
with the peoples of unhappy Europe. This is the kind of elementary truth
we are likely to forget amidst the furious passions of our time.

Yes, it is fear and silence and the spiritual isolation they cause that
must be fought today. And it is sociability and the universal inter-
communication of men that must be defended. Slavery, injustice, and lies
destroy this intercourse and forbid this sociability; and so we must
reject them. But these evils are today the very stuff of history, so
that many consider them necessary evils. It is true that we cannot
"escape history," since we are in it up to our necks. But one may propose
to fight within history to preserve from history that part of man which
is not its proper province. That is all I have to say here. The "point"
of this article may be summed up as follows:

Modern nations are driven by powerful forces along the roads of power
and domination. I will not say that these forces should be furthered
or that they should be obstructed. They hardly need our help and, for
the moment, they laugh at attempts to hinder them. They will, then,
continue. But I will ask only this simple question: What if these 
forces wind up in a dead end, what if that logic of history on which
so many now rely turns out to be a will o' the wisp? What if, despite
two or three world wars, despite the sacrifice of several generations 
and a whole system of values, our grandchildren--supposing they survive--
find themselves no closer to a world society? It may well be that the
survivors of such an experience will be too weak to understand their
own sufferings. Since these forces are working themselves out and since
it is inevitable that they continue to do so,there is no reason why
some of us should not take on the job of keeping alive, through the 
apocalyptic historical vista that stretches before us, a modest 
thoughtfulness which, without pretending to solve everything, will
constantly be prepared to give some human meaning to everyday life.
The essential thing is that people should carefully weight the price 
they must pay....

All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect
on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those
who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the 
accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their
force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist,
it will be a gain if it be clearly marked. Over the expanse of five
continents throughout the coming years an endless strugle is going to
be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in 
which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success
than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his
hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circum-
stances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be
to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful
than munitions.

 

 

 

 

Outraged by the western media’s lack of coverage of war crimes committed by the Ukrainian government against peaceful Donbass civilians and shocked to see that something as horrific as the Lugansk bombing was not even included on BBC’s timeline, I’ve decided to make an official complaint to the BBC. The URL, which I have chosen for the complaint is  BBC’s timeline of Ukraine crisis, which seems to outline casualties in the Ukrainian army, but never mentions any civilian casualties, which would have been in the 100s by the end of June.
BBC has addressed my complaint after a few weeks, arguing that the article, which I use as an example of inadequate coverage of war crimes, doesn’t need a correction, because “it referred to Kiev’s position on the incident at that time”, essentially agreeing that they were satisfied to present Kiev’s false claims as truth, even though, as I argued in my complaint, a minimal fact checking online would have allowed BBC to determine whether Kiev’s claims were correct. Supposedly there are other articles, which present rebels’ and Moscow’s claims too. I would like to believe that there are, but the BBC search system didn’t find any.
Also the BBC has included ‘further explanation’ from the European Editor for the BBC News website, who spoke about dangers and difficulties about reporting from the war zone, thereby justifying lack of coverage of war crimes committed by Kiev.
However, the important question that was not addressed is: Why are the Ukrainian government’s war crimes were not included on the timeline?
And now I have a new question: Why the BBC’s Ukraine Crisis Timeline has not been updated since 5thJuly, after which civilian casualties have increased to over 1000, as reported by the UN.
Complaint title:
Whitewashing of Ukrainian army’s war crimes
Complaint description:
On 2nd June 2014 the Ukrainian air force bombed a public building in Lugansk , killing 8 civilians. All I could find about this war crime on BBC website was this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-27661848 where the event is mentioned briefly within a longer report and where Kiev’s false claim that ‘separatists in the building could have mishandled a portable anti-aircraft missile system’ is presented as a possible truth, even though a minimal amount of fact-checking would have allowed the BBC to determine whether it’s correct, as there is plenty of video evidence online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvVav9JtpvQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLLS-rqPDfI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mldussGO4mc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suKV1wU0n0g The following day OSCE has confirmed these air strikes: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/119479 but the BBC didn’t run a story denying Kiev’s false claims. Luhansk bombings was a crime against humanity, for which the government in Kyiv should be prosecuted by the Hague tribunal, according to the Geneva convention. (Article 6) Why has the BBC not corrected their story after OSCE confirmation and why is this event not included on the timeline, where there’s every effort to document all the damage done by self-defence rebels? Would you agree that the BBC is trying to whitewash war crimes of the government in Kiev and if not, then why is this event (along with many others) not given the media attention that it deserves?
Response:
Dear Mrs Filatova
Reference CAS-2791646-KMMGGK
Thanks for your contact regarding http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26248275
The article to which you refer doesn’t need a correction because it referred to Kiev’s position on the incident at that time and was balanced by the article also explaining that:
Pro-Russian groups accused Ukraine’s military of carrying out an air strike.
And
In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement: “The Kiev authorities committed another crime against their own people.”
I’d further explain that, far from being a “whitewash” we had reported what little details were known of the incident at that time in what was a breaking story.
It may also interest you to note that we followed up the brief references in this report in a further article which explained:
Investigations are continuing into the attack on the rebel-held regional administrative building in Luhansk on Monday afternoon. Rebels have accused the Ukrainian air force of killing eight civilians in the attack, and graphic video of bodies at the scene has been posted on websites.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said that, based on available evidence, “these strikes were the result of non-guided rockets shot from an aircraft. The number of casualties is unknown”.
But the Ukrainian authorities deny their planes were involved and suggest the damage was caused by the rebels themselves.
It’s also worth generally highlighting the difficulties associated with reporting from a conflict zone and our correspondent Daniel Sandford has illustrated some of these difficulties, with Luhansk in particular, at the following link, having recently gained access to the area:
Our European Editor for the BBC News website further explained:
“The conflict in Ukraine has proven extremely difficult to report, because it is so dangerous to go to the combat area – and that applies most of all to Luhansk. We will not publish a story until we are satisfied that it is correct. If we are slower than our competitors on occasion, that is the price we are prepared to pay. The incident on June 2nd was one of the most difficult incidents to cover because there were conflicting reports on the day and in the aftermath. The OSCE which was a key source on the story changed its story twice on this. There was video from the scene, but we have to be very careful with video from the conflict as so much of the video put out on the internet has been fake, or used from other conflicts. There was no agency photography from the scene either, so it proved very difficult to illustrate.”
We hope this goes some way towards addressing your concerns.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
Kind Regards
Nicola Maguire
BBC Complaints
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