Nouvelles de l’Est tire sa révérence!

English below

Chers amis! 

Le premier post sur Nouvelles de l’Est date du 26/07/2011. Vous avez depuis témoigné intérêt et fidélité pour mon travail, et je vous en remercie infiniment. 

Il est temps de se lancer une nouvelle aventure, celle de D&B – Daleko-Blisko! Daleko-Blisko, c’est Loin, et c’est Proche. C’est un collectif de journalistes indépendants, fascinés par cet Est post-communiste, dans ses similarités, ses diversités, et ses contrastes. 

Nouvelles de l’Est reste accessible, de même que l’ensemble de mes productions. Mes prochains travaux apparaîtront donc sur ce nouveau site: www.dalekoblisko.com 

Suivez-moi dans cette nouvelle aventure! 

En vous remerciant encore de votre fidélité, 

Sébastien Gobert

 

fullsizeoutput_19d2

 

Dear friends! 

I first posted on Nouvelles de l’Est on 26/07/2011. Ever since you have proved your interest and care for my work. I thank you sincerely. 

Now is time for a new adventure: D&B – Daleko-Blisko! That is to say, Far -Close. Daleko-Blisko is a new collective of independent journalists, fascinated with the post-communist space, its similarities, its diversity, its contrasts. 

Nouvelles de l’Est stays up and open for consultations. From now on, my next publications will appear on this new site: www.dalekoblisko.com

Join me there! 

Once again, I thank you for your interest! 

Sébastien Gobert

RFI: L’Ukraine expulse des journalistes en série

Papier diffusé dans les journaux de la matinale, sur RFI, le 31/08/2017

L’Ukraine a expulsé quatre journalistes en l’espace de quelques jours. Deux Espagnols, et deux Russes. Des décisions justifiées par leurs activités supposées de propagande anti-ukrainienne. Les méthodes employées suscitent des interrogations, et des critiques. 

“Il en sera de même pour tous ceux qui cherchent à discréditer l’Ukraine”. La porte-parole du SBU, les services de sécurité, a ainsi justifié l’expulsion d’une journaliste russe de la chaîne Perviy Kanal. Sans élaborer. La journaliste avait diffusé un reportage, le 24 août, dans lequel elle assimilait le jour de l’indépendance de l’Ukraine à un « jour de deuil ». Elle a été reconduite à la frontière le 30 août. Elle est interdite de séjour pendant 3 ans.

Nombre de médias russes, et Perviy Kanal en l’occurrence, sont connus pour leur travail de propagande, et de désinformation, aux détriments de l’Ukraine. Refuser l’accès au pays peut donc se justifier au nom de la sécurité nationale, dans le cadre de la guerre qui fait rage depuis 2014.

ministry-of-propaganda

Mais la question se pose: le même SBU était au courant des risques de désinformation liés à cette journaliste et sa chaîne. Pourquoi alors leur accorder une accréditation, si c’est pour les expulser après? Une autre journaliste russe a connu le même sort, le 15 août. Et deux journalistes espagnols, eux aussi qualifiés de « propagandistes », ont été bloqués à l’aéroport de Kiev le 29 août. Ils avaient pourtant reçu une accréditation préalable, validée par le SBU. Après 20 heures d’attente, ce même SBU les a renvoyé en Espagne.

Ces cas donnent l’impression d’un manque de coordination des organes de sécurité, et envoient des signaux contradictoires quant au respect de la liberté de la presse. En Ukraine même, la rédaction de « Strana.ua », un média critique du pouvoir a aussi été perquisitionnée à la mi-août. Les critiques et les questions abondent, même de la part Ministère de l’Information ukrainien. En filigrane, l’anxiété de voir l’exécutif utiliser la carte du patriotisme et de la sécurité nationale pour faire taire ses détracteurs.

Looking for Lenin on France 24

Interview on the « Looking for Lenin » project, aired on France 24, 21/07/2017

For decades of Soviet empire, statues of founding father Vladimir Lenin presided triumphantly over city squares and parks. When the USSR collapsed in 1990, thousands of Lenin statues remained on their pedestals, including 5,500 in Ukraine alone. Today, not a single one remains standing in Ukraine. Our guest, Kiev-based journalist Sébastien Gobert, tells the story of what happened to these statues in his new book « Looking for Lenin », co-authored with photographer Niels Ackermann.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 17.30.25

Watch the interview here

Апостроф: На выборах во Франции есть интрига, а Ле Пен могут помешать признать Крым российским

Интервью опубликовано в « Апостроф », 06/05/2017

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 12.33.01

Перед вторым туром президентских выборов во Франции« Апостроф » пообщался с французским журналистом СЕБАСТЬЕНОМ ГОБЕРОМ, который уже несколько лет пишет из Украины для ряда франкоязычных изданий. Прежде всего, для Radio France Internationale (RFI), Libération, La Libre Belgique. Гобер рассказал, почему не стоит заранее отдавать победу на выборах Эммануэлю Макрону, поделился своими мыслями о том, чего ожидать Украине от Макрона и Марин Ле Пен в случае их победы на выборах, что может помешать любому триумфатору избирательной кампании признать российскую аннексию Крыма, и пояснил симпатии многих французов к РФ.

– Весь мир наблюдает за ходом выборов во Франции. Для западного мира в целом первое место Эммануэля Макрона в первом туре стало огромным облегчением. Осталась интрига на этих выборах, учитывая результаты социологических исследований?

– Конечно, интрига осталась, ведь эти выборы уже подарили много сюрпризов. Начиная с того факта, что Франсуа Олланд, действующий президент, не участвует в выборах с целью переизбрания на пост, с того факта, что Николя Саркози проиграл предварительные выборы, Мануэль Вальс, бывший премьер-министр, не выиграл собственные праймериз. Были и другие сюрпризы! Это заставляет нас быть осторожными, осознавать, что случиться может что угодно. Согласно статистике, достаточно много избирателей, которые голосовали за разных кандидатов в первом туре, собираются проголосовать за Эммануэля Макрона. Но дело в том, что до сих пор есть очень сильное отторжение политической системы со стороны многих избирателей, огромная склонность к протесту, желание дать пинка. Нужно это учитывать. Мы просто не знаем, как сильно это скажется на результатах второго тура.

888e3a36e5580128a5290c96abc18976

Второй элемент, который необходимо учитывать, это то, что мы не знаем, какой будет явка, сколько избирателей планируют прийти на избирательные участки 7 мая. И, конечно, это скажется на результате голосования, потому что статистически избиратели Марин Ле Пен собираются проголосовать, и Эммануэлю Макрону нужно, чтобы проголосовало как можно больше людей. Поэтому, если на участки 7 мая придет немного людей, это будет лучше для Марин Ле Пен. То есть мы просто не знаем, [каким будет результат выборов].

И третий момент – это то, что, как вы помните, в 2002 году, то есть 15 лет назад, отец Марин Жан-Мари Ле Пен прошел во второй тур. Но было понятно, что Жан-Мари Ле Пен никогда не станет президентом. Просто потому, что был объединенный фронт за республику и демократию. Как вы, возможно, помните, Жак Ширак выиграл с 82% голосов, а Жан-Мари Ле Пен проиграл с лишь 18%. Сейчас все не столь очевидно. Даже если Эммануэль Макрон выиграет, он не получит 82%, это точно. Ситуация во Франции очень сильно изменилась.

Прочитайте больше

Круглый стол: « Как повлияют выборы во Франции на взаимоотношения Украины с Парижем и Брюсселем? »

Онлайн-трансляция круглого стола, 21/04/2017, на тему: « Как повлияют выборы во Франции на взаимоотношения Украины с Парижем и Брюсселем? » – на LB.ua

Организатор круглого стола – Институт Горшенина.

Вопросы к обсуждению:

  1. Насколько предполагаемы результаты первого тура выборов во Франции?
  2. Основные тенденции современной Европы: популизм, консерватизм, евроскептицизм.
  3. Последствия выборов во Франции для Украины.
  4. Последствия выборов во Франции для будущей конфигурации Европы.

Участники круглого стола:

  • Вадим Омельченко, президент Института Горшенина (прямое включение из Франции в режиме видеоконференции);
  • Елена Сотник, народный депутат Украины, член постоянной делегации Украины в ПАСЕ;
  • Алексей Макеев, политический директор МИД Украины;
  • Михаил Пашков, содиректор программ внешней политики и международной безопасности Центра Разумкова;
  • Себастьен Гобер, журналист La Libre Belgique (Франция).

Модератор круглого стола: Дмитрий Остроушко, директор международных программ Института Горшенина.

Donbass Blockades: Quo Vadis?

Arsen Avakov kept his word. On 13th March, the Minister of Interior did send his police forces against the activists running a blockade of railroads in the area of Toretsk (former Dzerzhinsk). At least 43 armed persons were arrested on the spot. The move has sparked anger across Ukraine. Several demonstrations were organised in different cities on 13th March. Namely in Kyiv and in some Western cities. At the time of publication, a few hundred demonstrators hold a rally on Kyiv Maïdan Nezalezhnosti. 

Per say, the Donbass “blockade” that was initiated in late January has not been broken up. Police has dismantled only one camp. Three are left untouched along the frontline:

  • the crossing « Svitlanove-Shepilove » in Luhansk region,
  • a crossing near Bakhmut (former Artemivsk) in Donetsk region
  • the motorway near Karbonit in Luhansk region.

Why the sole Toretsk transportation hub has been cleared remains an open question as of now.

Watch here the video of the Sherbynyvka blockade breakup

In essence, the 13th March police intervention does not change much. Trains and trucks are blocked on some routes and continue to cross the frontline on other spots, just as it was before.

Nevertheless, the government is considering declaring a “state of emergency” in the energy sector and warns of power cuts for industries and households in a near future because of a shortage in coal. “Ekonomishna Pravda” estimates that at least 800,000 tons of coal are exported from separatist-held territories to the rest of Ukraine. The exports may amount to some 10 million tons per year.

original

In any case, activists plan to extend the scope of their actions.

  • A railroad between the two countries was blocked for a few hours in Sumy oblast on 4th March.
  • A group walled the Kyiv headquarters of “Sberbank Rossiy” on 13th March in protest to the persistence of economic and financial relations between Ukraine and Russia.
  • Both actions made mere symbolic moves yet they both fall under the logics of installing a full-scale blockade with Russia and its proxy republics of Louhansk and Donetsk.
  • Blockade’s coordinator Anatoliy Vynohrodsky has warned his activists were ready to block all connections “when we’re ready”.
  • Since their first actions in late January, they have started an open conflict with the Ukrainian authorities and the President Petro Poroshenko.

To stop the “trade in blood”

16602229_1436614176373558_547706101025902895_o

“We want to stop the “trade in blood”, a tall war veteran nicknamed “Vlad” told me on 12th February in Sherbynyvka. He is himself exiled from the separatist-held territories. Two days before, he and his companions had set up a camp by the railroad that connects government-controlled Kostyantynivka and separatist-held Yasynuvata. This installation was among the ones dismantled on 13th March. In purchasing coal and anthracite coal mined in so-called DNR and LNR, Ukraine “finances their war against us. Some oligarchs and war profiteers benefit from it”, Vlad explained.

Vlad insisted also on denouncing the “Kyiv DoubleSpeak”. That is to say:

  • In the third winter of the conflict, the Donbass war is still not called a war. It is referred to as an “Anti-Terrorist Operation”.
  • Diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation are not broken.
  • A recently adopted “plan of reintegration of occupied territories” does not point to Russia as the occupying power.
  • When it comes to the trade links between separatist-held territories and the rest of Ukraine, the government is not explicit enough on the details of the deals. Back in September 2015, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was already calling for “transparency in coal purchases in the anti-terrorist zone and abroad”, which came as an evidence of murky deals. The continuous uncertainty surrounding these deals feeds all kind of speculations.
  • Poroshenko’s blurry policy in dealing with the war and the peace negotiations is further put under question because of the recent multiplication of peace plans. Obscure political figures have pushed their own proposals up to the Trump presidential administration, in parallel to Kyiv’s official diplomacy. It leads to confusion as to the real intentions of Petro Poroshenko, as well as to his authority to lead an efficient diplomacy.

Nonetheless, the blockades have raised questions too.

  • Vlad assured me that he was “supported by citizens and patriots”. His company was nevertheless connected to the “Donbass battalion” and the “Samopomych – Self-reliance” party.
  • MPs Semen Semenchenko and Oksana Syroid have acted as main organisers and spokespersons of the blockades.
  • “Narodniy Front – Popular Front” and “Radikalna Partiya – Radical Party” have also been active in supporting the blockades.
  • Critics believe some strong financial interests are behind the blockades, namely competitors of the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov.

Useful idiots and liars? 

One of the first arguments authorities oppose to these critics is quite a sound one: “it is naive to believe separatists will run out of weapons and ammunitions if we cut trade routes, since we all know they are supplied by Russia”, Yuriy Grimchak told me in the Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories in Kyiv. Himself in exil from Donetsk, he is a advisor to the Minister, Vadym Chernysh.

There is no evidence that a full-scale blockade would weaken the pro-Russian and Russian forces nor that it would give local populations some incentives for reintegration with Ukraine. A similar “citizen blockade” of the border from Ukraine with Russia-annexed Crimea had last for a few months in late 2015. The peninsula residents had suffered from shortages and power cuts. Yet the blockade did not produce any sign that Crimea could ever go back to Ukraine.

The official policy of the Kyiv government is to abide by the Minsk Peace Agreements and to prepare for the reintegration of the separatist-held territories within Ukraine. In that perspective, Petro Poroshenko and his team have repeatedly opposed any form of “isolation of these territories, which de facto leads to give them as presents to Russia”. “This land is neither to take, nor to give”, he stressed in mid-February. The fact that no less than 25,000 civilians try to cross daily from one side to the other of the contact line is seen as an encouragement for reintegration. So are trade links.

It has to be noted here that the idea of a blockade has been voiced by Oleksandr Turchynov in late 2016. He is nevertheless the Secretary of the National Council of Security and Defence and a reliable collaborator of Petro Poroshenko. Such a declaration, followed by effective blockades a few weeks after, leads some analysts to believe Oleksandr Turchynov in fact supports the blockades and pursues his personal political ambitions.

Another of the authorities’ arguments is that « this trade does not finance separatists, as most of the companies selling coal to our plants are registered in Kyiv and pay taxes to us”, Yuriy Grimchak adds.

  • According to him, companies operating in so-called DNR and LNR and registered in Ukraine have paid up to 32 billion hryvnias (about 1 billion euros) of taxes in 2016. For the same year, the Ukrainian military expenses amounted to 65 billion hryvnias (about 2,2 billions euros). “These companies have financed half of our 2016 war effort!”, Yuriy Grimchak asserts.
  • Yuriy Grimchak does not take into account here that these companies automatically have to pay some kind of compensation to separatist authorities. As blockade-supporters stress, it is not thinkable that these companies could keep operating without any control from Donetsk and Luhansk. This is one of the “grey zones” surrounding the trade with so-called DNR and LNR.

Another argument that is opposed by Yuriy Grimchak and Kyiv authorities is that a full-fledge separation of separatist-held territories from Ukraine would prove impossible and dangerous.

  • When it comes to the case of water supplies, the canal “Severskiy Donets-Donbass” starts in Ukraine-held territories. It flows southwards through the city of Donetsk and ends up in the port city of Mariupol. “We could cut the water supplies to Donetsk, for sure. Yet it would also mean cutting water supplies to our Marioupol”, Yuriy Grimchak explains.

The same kind of interdependency goes for many of the energy and industrial infrastructures across the region.

  • The Schastye power plant is located on the Ukrainian side of the front line in the North of Luhansk. It supplies power to rebel-held Luhansk itself, while in turn being supplied with coal from mines in separatist-held districts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
  • Steel plants such as the Enakievo Steelworks in the separatist-held Donetsk region depend on supplies of coke from the Avdiivka coke plant on Ukrainian side. Avdiivka in turn is supplied with coking coal from a mine in separatist-held Krasnodon.

According to Yuriy Grimchak, anyone who believes “in a complete separation by tomorrow is either a liar, or an idiot”. As for the activists on blockades, he considers them as “useful idiots … I mean, maybe they are no idiots. But they are definitely useful to someone”.

In late February, pro-blockade political groups failed to registered a bill “On the Occupied Territories” at the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament). The bill was meant to prohibit the trade between the separatist-territories and the rest of Ukraine. Yet their failure shows that proponents of the blockades remain a political minority.

Alternative supplies

The argument of the interdependency raises the question of the development of reform of the energy sector and the search for alternative supplies of energy. When it comes to anthracite coal, 99% of the Ukrainian consumption comes from the ATO zone, that is from non-controlled territories for the main part. The anthracite power-generating units produce about 15% of Ukraine’s electricity. Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroissman has publicly feared that, were the blockades to continue, Ukraine would loose 75,000 jobs and up to 3,5 billion dollars.

coal_conflict_ukraine (1)_0

The government has recently assured that it would have to compensate the shortages of coal from separatist-held territories with imports from Russia. As such, it seems like a good argument against the ambitions of the activists of a full-fledge separation. Yet it raises some more questions:

  • Analysts have raised suspicions over the past three years that parts of the coal mined in DNR and LNR was purchased on formal basis by Russian companies only to be further sold to Ukrainian and European consumers. If the contact line is closed to the “trade in blood”, the same coal may travel to Ukraine through different transit points.
  • Imports from Russia are not the only alternative Ukraine has, experts point out. Back in 2014-15, some coal were imported from South Africa, despite some murky details surrounding the deal. As of now, Ukraine has the possibility to import coal and anthracite coal from Australia, the U.S.A., and Vietnam.
  • Government says that attempts to set up imports based on competitive price have not been yet successful. At the same time, some experts are sceptical about the statement. A 2015 “BNE Intelligence” report had discovered that contracts of coal imports involved some offshore company based in Cyprus, as well as at least three “fictive” companies registered in the Kyiv region. Nowadays, details of energy imports to Ukraine remain suspicious to many analysts.
  • The underlying fear is that the Kyiv authorities are more keen on preserving a status quo and Rinat Akhmetov’s economic interests than to diversify energy supplies.

The search of alternative sources of energy supplies is not the only option considered.

  • A logical alternative to separatist coal may the reduction of energy consumption and the increase of energy efficiency of the whole system of production and distribution. The government is officially engaged on this path. Yet results are long to take effect as environment activists denounce.
  • The modernisation of power-generating units so as to have them running on a different type of coal or on other sources of energy such as gas or fuel. A program of modernisation was adopted back in 2015 and was supposed to be completed by summer 2017. Results are also not obvious.

The fact that Ukraine is still dependent on coal and anthracite coal mined in separatist territories causes uproar in the Ukrainian society as citizens contributed to the program of modernisation of power-generating units.

  • Tax payers were burdened with an extra 10 billion hryvnias (about 3,5 billion euros) from March 2016 onwards. According to the so-called “Rotterdam +” formula, Ukrainian consumers started paying more from March 2016. “Rotterdam +” means the price of coal at the Rotterdam port + transportation. The electricity bills were meant to include such a formula, although the coal was in fact imported from so-called DNR and LNR.
  • The extra revenues both the state and energy suppliers generated was meant to support the modernisation of power-generating units.
  • The fact that these units have not yet been modernised and adapted raises suspicions as to where the extra revenues went to.
  • According to the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center (UCMC), the suspicions run high that both state players and Rinat Akhmetov’s energy companies made huge profits on these schemes.
  • In that perspective, the UCMC calls the warnings of forced coal imports from Russia a mere “intimidation of the public opinion”.

Separatist ultimatum

On their side of the front line, separatist authorities have also reacted negatively to the blockade. The activists’ initiatives endanger the economic situation in these territories, both in terms of revenues for the local authorities and in terms of employment.

Zakharchenko_3019138b

Amid some new warmongering declarations, separatist authorities have requested the companies operating on territories they control to change their registration from Kyiv to Donetsk and Luhansk.

  • They placed some 40 companies under “external control” in late February and set a 1st March deadline for registration.
  • An an official statement by the System Capital Management (SCM) holding, owned by Rinat Akhmetov, the oligarch has refused to register his companies in separatist-held territories. Some 20 of the 40 seized companies depend on SCM, as well as some 20,000 employees.
  • Donetsk and Luhansk have since started the process of nationalisation of these companies.

The move is explained by a few factors:

  • Ukraine has been competing with Russia on the metallurgical market, so weakening Akhmetov’s positions by Russia has been just a matter of time.
  • Russia may switch from the model of funding “DPR” and “LPR” to the model of their “self-financing.” Nationalisation of these companies may be a way to increase the level of “local” revenues.
  • Russia may also be interested in energy instability in Ukraine and decline in its steel industry.
  • It may be part of a targeted attack on the economic empire of Rinat Akhmetov. His charity network of delivering humanitarian aid to the separatist-held territories have also been seized alongside his companies.

Rinat Akhmetov: An oligarch under threat? 

In this blockade issue, Rinat Akhmetov is an unavoidable actor as the developments of the situation threaten the industrial and financial networks he had managed to preserve since 2014. He remains the richest man in Ukraine despite some significant losses since the Revolution of Dignity. He has played a dubious game since, which may come to an end because of the blockades.

sddefault

According to the estimates of the investment company Dragon Capital, the SCM holding loses 5 to 10 million dollars a month because of the blockade. Were the “nationalisation” of his DNR-LNR companies to become effective, he would loose much more.

Rinat Akhmetov owns 70% of Ukrainian thermal power plants.

  • Since March 2016, Ukrainian consumers pay their bills to these plants according to the “Rotterdam +” formula.
  • Yet the plants have been using anthracite coal from so-called DNR and LNR.
  • Rinat Akhmetov has not implemented the plan of modernisation of power-generating units in his plants.
  • SCM has not made public the real purchase price for its coal. Hence speculations run high that the price of produced electricity is not justified by the price of purchased coal, which may be extremely low.
  • Some experts believe that part of this coal comes from so-called “kopanki”, that is illegal mines. Both Rinat Akhmetov and the Yanukovych “Family” had an intensive use of kopanki before the war that was meant to embezzle state subsidies and artificially raise prices.
  • It is thus fair to assume that SCM holding has made huge profits on such a scheme.
  • This has automatically been done with the government’s tolerance, if not approval.

Rinat Akhmetov’s interests and perspectives are endangered by the developments of the blockade situation.

  • On the Ukrainian side, he may be forced to finally comply with the 2015 modernisation program and to give up on his artificially-generated profits.
  • On the separatist side, he has a lot to loose when it comes to his well-integrated industrial networks.
  • A re-registration of his companies in non-recognised DNR and LNR would ruin his perspectives of export across the world.
  • His political influence on both sides of the frontline would also be endangered.
  • Although it remains to be seen whether separatists and Russians would effectively complete the nationalisation of Akhmetov’s assets. In doing so, they would need some strong financial capacities in order to ensure the paiements of salaries and the running of the plants. They would also need to secure export markets for their production.
  • Aside of the industrial assets, Rinat Akhmetov’s monopoly fixed-phone operator “Ukrtelekom” had to shut off part of its network in Donetsk oblast  on 1st March. This followed the seizure of the Donetsk offices by separatist authorities on 1st March. Some 200,000 phones went off. This is a net loss for the company.
  • The processus of nationalisation of Akhmetov’s assets, along with many other Ukrainian oligarchs’, takes also place in Russia-annexed Crimea. It remains unclear whether the oligarch obtained any compensation for his losses.

Ukrainian medias and experts question whether this may be the end of Akhmetov’s empire.

To be continued

As economist Timothy Ash states, the blockades “have developed a dynamics on their own, which may be hard to stop”.

As the police intervention on 13th March has showed, the Kyiv authorities may move to break up the blockades in the near future, as they did with the Crimea “citizen blockade” in late 2015. Yet the underlying issues remain.

  • The Ukrainian energy sector has not been effectively reformed.
  • Ukraine is still dependent – some would say « taken hostage » – on coal from separatist-held territories as well as on large financial interests such as Akhmetov’s.
  • Petro Poroshenko faces more and more domestic opposition, which questions his authority and his ability to conduct an efficient policy. Blockades’ proponents swear to take down what they describe as an “oligarchic-kleptocratic” regime, which is now the “first trade partner” of Russian-backed separatists.
  • More troubles from these protesting groups are to be expected.

M6, son chaos imaginaire et ses filles de rêve

Billet d’opinion sur la diffusion du documentaire « Un été brûlant à Odessa », sur M6, le 24/07/2016

Et pendant ce temps, Odessa continue d’attirer les plus grands noms de l’investigation télévisée à la francaise. Apres Paul Moreira, c’est Bernard de la Villardière qui impose sur M6 « Un été brûlant à Odessa », dans son émission « Enquête Exclusive ». Réalisation Marc Roussel, dont je découvre le nom.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 14.35.55

http://www.lezappingdupaf.com/2016/07/un-ete-brulant-a-odessa-dans-enquete-exclusive-sur-m6.html

En lieu et place d’une enquête, le téléspectateur a droit à un amalgame de séquences sans beaucoup de connecteurs logiques. Des filles d’Odessa à l’incendie de la maison des syndicats, des filles d’Odessa aux milices nationalistes, des filles d’Odessa à la nouvelle police, pour revenir aux filles d’Odessa. Les séquences s’enchaînent sans marqueurs temporels très ancrés: dur de départager ce qu’il s’est passé en 2014, 2015, ou cette année. Quand est censé se dérouler cet « été brûlant », on ne sait guère. Mais de tout temps, les filles d’Odessa… Bref.

Ce qui apparaît évident, encore une fois, c’est le manque de contexte et de clés de lecture. Et la frustration implicite du scénariste-journaliste de ne pas constater, dans les rues d’Odessa en 2016, « l’état de guerre », la violence, les fusillades en plein jour, et autres amuse-gueule qui avaient été imaginées à Paris et qui rendraient, si avérées, le sujet si sexy. Alors on compense, par une musique de fond angoissante, des images d’archive et des commentaires gratuits et plus ou moins au conditionnel, sur cette guerre qui était la, qui approche, qui est imminente, qui est déjà là en fait. Vous ne la voyez pas? On va vous la montrer. Et ces milices nationalistes qui font la loi et régissent tout à la place de la police… Rien ne va plus. Une situation catastrophique qui justifie, en fait, mais c’est bien sûr, que des dizaines de jeunes filles se vendent à des étrangers à travers des agences de mariage ou sur des scènes de boîtes de nuit. Pour quitter cet enfer, ou en tout cas y survivre. Car vous savez, les filles d’Odessa… Bref.

Et de les voir si décontractées et pleines de vie dans un environnement si hostile… Brrr. A la fin du reportage, j’avais presque envie d’en adopter une tellement elles me faisaient pitié. Mais, alors, si je le faisais, devrais-je me confronter au Big Boss nationaliste qui régit apparemment tout et tout le monde à Odessa? Et si je croyais à cet amalgame confus, et confusant, on peut le dire, qui s’étale sur plus de 50 minutes, oserais-je même me rendre dans ce coupe-gorge qu’est Odessa? Et si je considérais que cela est une enquête, ou même du journalisme moderne et sérieux, pourrais-je encore me regarder dans la glace?

 

Lire ici une analyse détaillée du film de M6 par l’équipe du Ukraine Crisis Media Center. 

On “The Masks of the Revolution” – and on the ethics of journalism

This is a personal opinion post published ahead of the screening of “Les Masques de la Révolution”, on French Canal +, on 01/02/2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 19.17.14

Screenshot: http://www.pltv.fr/en/ukraine-masks-of-the-revolution/#

A few words on “Les Masques de la Révolution – The Masks of the Revolution”, by Paul Moreira, to be shown on French TV on Monday, 1st February.  The scandal has been brewing in France for the past week as I and a few people – press correspondents, researchers, activists, diplomats – got a hand on it. As we watched and discovered the 52-minute piece, we had to face a compilation of factual mistakes, exaggerations and misleading set-ups. Since then, those have been denounced extensively as a few samples show below:

Anna Colin Lebedev & Ioulia Shoukan: https://blogs.mediapart.fr/anna-colin-lebedev/blog/290116/d-ou-me-venait-cette-legere-impression-de-m-etre-fait-avoir?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=Sharing&xtor=CS3-66

Benoît Vitkine: http://www.lemonde.fr/televisions-radio/article/2016/01/31/les-lunettes-deformantes-de-moreira_4856732_1655027.html

Halyna Coynash: http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1453944128

Even the notorious Ukrainian journalist Krystyna Berdynski, who does not understand French, felt shocked simply by watching the distorting visual effect the documentary produced: http://nv.ua/opinion/berdinskih/52-minuty-frantsuzskogo-filma-o-sobytijah-v-ukraine-94393.html

To which Moreira responded here:

https://blogs.mediapart.fr/paul-moreira/blog/300116/ukraine-les-masques-de-la-revolution-reponse-aux-critiques

Follow both an endless debate and a game of naming and shaming and guessing who told the truth before anyone else and who is paid by who. And so on, and so forth. I refuse to enter such a game and I want here to salute Anna Colin Lebedev and Ioulia Shoukan who managed to raise the standards of the debate by asking real questions in their latest posts. No, there is no sense in asking for the screening of the documentary to be cancelled. Yes, the theses it underlines deserve consideration and pedagogy. A proper investigation into the Odessa tragedy is essential – so is a solid investigation on the Maïdan deaths, still unresolved. And yes, a debate on the new faces and actions of nationalism in Ukraine is essential to understand and analyse.

What I want to stress here is that I feel insulted as a French journalist. I have been living in Ukraine since 2011 and I have tried to understand the complexity of this country and of the region – and the challenges it faces. What we may see in Moreira’s piece is nothing new. Given the current context of a war of information, if not a “war ON information”, one may have seen such distortion of facts before. What is new is that it comes from a French journalist with an impressive record of brilliant investigations. He is to screen what he dubs “an investigation” in an investigative show – “Spécial Investigation”, which is usually credited with a reputation of credibility and solid findings – on one of France’s major TV channels. His report will be viewed by millions – just because of his reputation.

This comes as a shock for me – a young French journalist who claims to represent and implement some standards of objective journalism. Western modern journalism, as we were taught. Hell, I even give lectures on that in Kyiv!

The most recent posts on the scandal were directed to the audience we, foreign correspondents, work FOR – our readership and viewership – to explain the fallacies of “The Masks of the Revolution”. Let me address the people we work WITH. Ukrainians, Russians, Donbass residents, DNR & LNR representatives, Crimean Tatars, nationalists, civic activists, drug users, HIV-AIDS patients, etc. People who trusted me with information and stories – first and foremost because of what I represented as a French journalist. After the movie screens tonight, I would understand if many of them would feel suspicious to see me coming in. I already know I will have to defend myself and my work. I will have to emphasise that I do not work like « this documentary you have seen on Canal + ».

And I don’t. I don’t pretend to have seen the flags of the Azov battalion over Maïdan – despite the fact that the battalion was created over two months after the end of the Revolution. I do not evoke the “Crimean referendum to join Russia” without mentioning the other component of the story, that is to say Russian troops deployed in Crimea ahead of the vote. I never come up with a theory, which would make the Ukrainian-Russian language issue as a symptom of an irreconcilable internal division. Provided I would, I would not pretend to ignore that many of the fiercest Ukrainian nationalists – Andriy Biletski first and foremost – are mainly Russian-speakers. When I need to ask questions on security and the impact of armed battalions in Ukraine, I do not go to the Minister of Economics to obtain answers. Those – and many more fallacies – literally glut Moreira’s report.

I live in Ukraine long enough to understand that here, as anywhere else, nothing and no one is all black or all white. The President, the government, the Parliament, Maïdan revolutionaries, Ukrainian nationalists, Donbass separatists, oligarchs, corrupt civil servants… No one is black or white. Nothing is that simple. I know it because I care enough to try to understand it. It’s exhausting. Yet I want to keep caring and be accountable for it. And I seriously hope I will keep enjoying people’s trust to do so. Trust is the most precious thing we have, as foreign correspondents. It cannot all go to dust, just because of a one journalist who decided to throw it all away.

5.UA: « Being European today is not only being a country on the map: it is about belonging a community of values. »

Interview to 5.ua, published on 11/08/2015

Українська версія тут

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 10.48.55

– Why Ukraine? Why have you decided to work here?
I was leaving in different European countries for many years, mainly in the post-communist space: Latvia, Poland, Hungary – and traveling a lot across the region. Back in 2011, I had an opportunity to come and live in Ukraine, for personal reasons. I moved in back in April 2011. Following different set of meetings and opportunities, I started to work as a journalist and as a correspondent for French-speaking media. I never thought about leaving Ukraine since, and I already know that my life will intimately connected to this country for many years to come.


– Before Maidand and the war, Western mass media spoke little of Ukraine. Was Ukraine interesting in any way?  

It’s not exactly that simple. Ukraine has been interesting to the world and to world media for a long time. Not interesting in terms of event and sensational affairs – but interesting in terms of discovering a country, cultural and folk stories, etc. Same thing happens with every country in the world – you don’t hear much about Iran, Argentina, Chad or Sweden apart from big events that produce an international echo.

Even if Western media were not talking about and discussing Ukraine every day, as it has been the case for the past two years, Ukraine was interesting anyway and mentioned on a regular basis. It was this big post-Soviet country, 46-million inhabitant strong, on the doorsteps of the EU and Russia, very diverse from Lviv to Donetsk, from Chernobyl to Crimea…

I can assure you that, as a foreign correspondent, I had plenty of work from the very beginning – Spring 2011 – until the start of the EuroMaidan. The difference which then occurred was in terms of quantity (I started to produce much more) and quality (I had much less time to focus on real issues as I was reporting on hard news)

– What kind of Ukrainians problems were you interested in before Maidan?

As a foreign correspondent connected more and more to Ukraine, I tried to associate my work and my personal interests – try to find some stories that were interesting in the country and relevant for a Western audience. Of course – the rise of the Family, Tymoshenko in jail, the language law, gas imports from Russia, perspectives of extracting shale gas, Euro 2012, the Kurchenko miracle, the Chocolate war, etc.

Yet it is important not to see journalism – and foreign reporting in Ukraine – not only as a matter of reporting on problems. Ukraine being this huge country, full of ideas and new initiatives that we saw booming on Maidan, I had the opportunity to report on local initiatives to improve villages’ lives, on citizen mobilisation against illegal construction projects, on new media, on innovating businesses, on cultural projects, etc.

This is something you might see on my blog if you scroll back in the past: www.nouvellesest.com

– You have traveled all over Ukraine. What is the difference between its regions?

The country is very diverse yet I would never have said that it was a divided country, at least not before the artificial divisions created by the annexation of Crimea and the war. Differences are obvious between Kyiv, Lviv, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Chernivtsi, Uzhgorod… Evidently, one sees different regions and geographies, different pieces of history, different economic structures, different relations with different neighbouring countries… What I saw as similarities: a solid layer of persisting sovietism, gastronomy, infrastructures, political life.

– Which region do you like best of all?

Tough question. I really enjoy Lviv, Vinnitsia, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa as cities. I am really fond of the Carpathian mountains, I love the countryside around Kharkiv and Chernihiv, I like spending time in Volyn, and the Dnipro basin, between Kaniv and Kherson, is wonderfully nice. Tough question.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 10.48.59
– You were on Maidan. Do you remember 18-20th February?

Of course. I followed the crowd from Maidan to the top of Instititutska vulica on 18th in the morning, attended the whole eruption of violence on the revolutionaries’ side, ran away with them to escape the police, witnessed the Berkut invading Maidan to its half, spent the whole night and the whole day after on Maidan. For the whole time of the Revolution, I passed by Maidan practically everyday.

Exhausted, I went to get a few hours of sleep in the night of the 19th February. I woke up the next day at something like 11 am: the tragic shooting on Institutska was over. By the time I went down to Maidan, there were many corpses lying, although many had already been taken away. The rest of the day is very… blurry.

– Did you contact with police and Berkut?

During the Revolution – no. I had contacts with politicians of the Party of Regions and government officials. Not with law enforcement units.

– You were in the East. In what cities?

Oh. Tough question again. I have really been in many different places, from Kharkiv to Mariupol. If you want to know more, please be more specific.

– Have you been in dangerous situations?

Just like everyone else I think, starting with barricades on Maidan and Institutska vulica. Many different situations in Donbass, starting with uncomfortable controls at block posts and checkpoints and traveling to Debaltseve during the siege of the city.

To be mentioned: since I do not work with photo nor video (I do text and radio), I am not looking for the heavy fighting. I try to focus on the economic-social-humanitarian consequences of the war. For example – I have never been interested to go to Donetsk airport because of that.

– Did you contact with separatists?

Of course. It is one of the advantages of being a foreign correspondent: I can talk to all sides of the conflict. I attended press conferences, conducted interviews, witnessed many events on the separatist side.

– How do local people relate with foreign journalists?

With both distrust and eagerness to communicate. Local people who have stayed and/or support the separatist rule know that most Western media condemn the actions of the pro-Russian and Russian forces. Hence, they require from Western journalists to “write and tell the truth”. At the same time, they genuinely wish to communicate on their griefs and pains – they do have many things to talk about.

One interesting thing: in the localities that went back and forth from separatist to Ukrainian sides, local residents only remember the Ukrainian attacks and the harm done by Ukrainian forces. That kind of psychological schizophrenia – either voluntary or not – is a serious problem when discussing with local residents.

When it comes to working there, it has to be mentioned that the environment is not free -even for foreign journalists. When tackling issues connected to politics, smuggling, presence and action of Russian troops, nationalisation of economic assets and political pressures, it is hard to collect information and to work safely. The Ukrainian side is very tough with the “propusk” and the permits to travel freely in the ATO zone. But the separatists are tough with everything: press accreditations, traveling permits and requests for interviews.

– In your opinion what caused events in Donbass?
As far as I can tell, it’s a tragic combination of factors. First, the dramatic economic downfall of Donbass, which was entertained by local administration and oligarchs, and neglected by Kyiv. It created a serious discontent in the region and a psychological misunderstanding: Donbass people were working hard. In their minds, working hard meant producing wealth and feeding the rest of the country. Most of them did not see – or did not want to see further. Hence, they did not understand the prejudice against Donbass expressed in other regions of Ukraine and felt – still feel – oppressed and frustrated and angry and attacked.

Second: manipulation by all sides: local elite and oligarchs, local media, Ukrainian media, Russian media.

Third: an imperialist design from the Russian side: both from Kremlin authorities and adventuring ultra-nationalist such as Strelkov and Boroday. The war in Donbass seems to be only a part of a wider plan to destabilise Ukraine and create a kind of NovoRossiya.

Fourth: The influx of fighters from different countries, different ideological backgrounds and for different purposes: ideology, adventure, looting, escaping some miserable lives in Ural or even in France, etc. The presence of these adventurers and mercenaries in the conflict has blurred all markers.

Fifth: a very weak and inadequate answer from central authorities in Kyiv, for various reasons. Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, Ilovaisk, Debaltseve, etc. Ukrainian politicians and military high command have made serious mistakes along the way. Despite official speeches, it seems to me now that the central government does not want to get back Donbass. None of the initiatives in Kyiv makes me think that they want it back.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 10.49.02

– How overcome the consequences after war in that territories?

There are some obvious elements: to take good care of the IDPs and to develop the country in a way that fully counters Russian propaganda and to make it so that people in Donbass may see their future in Ukraine.

As for the general situation, it is going to be painful and to take a long time. I do not have the answers to that: it is up to the Ukrainians to find their own answers.

– How to restore the people’s trust?

Same answer that above. Plus a serious work on providing quality, reliable information, so as to counter Russian propaganda.

– The current Ukrainian government has chosen the decentralization. In your opinion, is that right way? Can it cause separatist sentiment in the future?

First thing: decentralisation is good in itself as a political process. Yet it can only produce results within a political and administrative system that is itself functional. And we all know that know, despite the first post-revolutionary reforms, Ukraine is not a functional state. It seems necessary to reform the state, lustrate the administration, fight against corruption before thinking that decentralisation might be an answer to some problems.

As for the risk of separatist movements to rise up, I do not believe in it. A separatist movement is a result of an economic, political and media construct.  Not a result of decentralisation.

– How French perceive Ukrainian events?

French public opinion has not fully understood the development of Ukrainian events. Because of ignorance, because of historical misunderstandings, because of the strength of Russian propaganda, because of the weakness of the communication strategy of the Ukrainian authorities and because of a very strong, irrational anti-americanism in France, which hide the vices of Russian imperialism.

In general, I would say that Russian actions really scare off the majority of French public opinion – how far is Putin going to go? What does he want? – Yet it does not mean that French public opinion trusts Ukraine and Ukrainian authorities – because of exaggerated prejudice against Ukrainian volunteer battalions and Praviy Sektor, because of endemic corruption and because of caution with Ukrainian revolutions (the Orange Revolution did not produce the results a Western public opinion had expected, unlike Georgia…)

– Recently a delegation of French deputies visited Crimea. It was their personal initiative? Or they must agree it with the senate?

It was their own right and prerogative. The fact that French MPs have some affiliations with Russia and try to entertain a good relationship with the Kremlin is not a surprise. The real question is: what does it take to have a similar French parliamentarian delegation in Ukraine?

– France and Russia decided to terminate the contract about Mistrals. Why this process was so long? Why did France hesitate for a long time? 
There is one simple explanation: political cowardice. that’s the only way to explain this long-lasting affair. You know that French officials have not really been in phase with Ukrainian events – Foreign minister Laurent Fabius was still asking for the agreement between Yanukovych and the “united opposition” to be implemented even AFTER Yanukovych fled from the country and the regime had been changed…


– How do you think, do Ukrainian government make everything to rapprochement with the European Union?

It seems to me that is the case, as long as speeches and passing the necessary reforms are concerned. We shall see whether these speeches are translated by actions and these reforms are concretely implemented: that’s the key.

There is a problem with communication -again. When Petro Porochenko promises a liberalisation of the visa-regime by 1st January 2015 (!) or an EU candidate status by 2020… It is hard to believe this is possible.

Finally, the other element of the problem lays with the EU itself: Europeans are not clear enough with Ukraine and cannot give it some certain perspectives. It is a problem.

– How do you think, when Ukraine will get visa-free regime?

It is very hard to say. The war in Donbass, the smuggling in Zakapartia and of course the corruption of customs and border-guards corps are serious obstacles.

– What should make Ukrainians to become European nation?

Ukrainians are a European nation by history, geography, culture and ambition. Yet to become European in the modern sense of the term, we are talking about respecting the spirit and the rules of the current European integration: rule of law, freedom of speech, accountability of the authorities, structural fight against corruption, etc. Being European TODAY is not only being a country on the map: it is about belonging a community of values.

Separatist LNR prepares for separated elections

Notes from Lugansk, capital of self-proclaimed « Луганская народная республика – People’s Republic of Lugansk » (LNR)

Lugansk is preparing for general and presidential elections on Sunday, 2nd November. The poll takes place separately from general elections in « Донецкая народная республика – Donetsk’s People’s Republic » (DNR). Although both Republics are supposedly constitutive parts of a larger political body named « Новороссия – New Russia », both entities shall have their own Parliaments and Presidents.

IMG_7854

In LNR, three political parties run for Parliament: « Мир Луганщине – Peace to Lugansk » ; « народный союз » – People’s Union » and « Луганский экономический союз – Lugansk’s Economic Union ». Four candidates run for presidency: acting President and head of the « Peace to Lugansk Party » Igor Plotnitski, trade union leader Oleg Akimov, Health Minister Larisa Ayrapetyan and businessman Viktor Penner.

Ce diaporama nécessite JavaScript.

It is not obvious to everyone. « There are maybe three or four parties… », LNR’s main press attachée hesitates. She eludes the question: « You will find all relevant information on the website ». The website of the LNR’s Election commission is targeted by cyber-attacks for a few days. The last piece of news has been posted on 17th October. A woman answers the phone on the indicated number. « How many parties are going to run in the election tomorrow? » « I need to check this information. Call me back in 5 minutes please ». Called back 10 minutes later, the lady gives the names of the three parties. « How many voters are registered to take part in the election tomorrow? » « Sorry, it is impossible for me to have this information », the voice snaps. And the LNR entral Election Commission’s employee hangs up.

The region, namely its capital city, suffered heavily during the active phase of the war. Tens of thousands fled the region. In some respects, life has come back to Lugansk’s streets. Shops are open although their shelves are quasi-empty. Universities are open although it is more than unclear where the diplomas they issue are going to be recognized. Early voting has started on Saturday, 1st November, in distant and remote areas of the LNR. According to the Central Election Commission, voters’ turnout is very high. For instance, the turnout rate in Sverdlovsk district is over 90%.

IMG_7857

Unlike in the DNR, no opinion poll is available in the LNR. Yet the main contenders for this election are well-known. « Peace to Lugansk » seems to be in the lead. On Lugansk’s streets, few posters warn the population of upcoming elections. Most of the posters exhibits soldiers, pensioners, young couples and miners who incite voters to come and vote. « Будут все свои – It will all be yours » the posters read. A few more posters advertise the « Peace to Lugansk » party and its three leaders. Igor Plotnitski, Gennadiy Tsipkalov, acting Prime Minister, and Alekseï Kariakin, acting President of the Parliament. The other candidates are nowhere to be seen.

Ce diaporama nécessite JavaScript.

New posters are noticeable, as most of the city’s advertisements have not been changed for a long time. Some billboards still call voters to come to vote to the referendum on independence, held on 11th May.

Ce diaporama nécessite JavaScript.

Ukraine’s central government still considers territories now controlled by LNR & DNR authorities as parts of its national territory. Yet the polls take place one week after Ukraine’s general elections, in a very distinctive manner. Kyiv along with Western governments expressed dissatisfaction to Moscow’s support for these elections. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin denounced « totally fake, unlawful elections with people trying to elect so-called presidents of Donetsk and Luhansk and a so-called parliament ».

"Donbass is Ukraine", a graffiti claims on a pillar of Lougansk university. The graffiti displays the face of former President Viktor Yanukovych. A Nazi cross was added to the graffiti.
« Donbass is Ukraine », a graffiti claims on a pillar of Lougansk university. The graffiti displays the face of former President Viktor Yanukovych. A Nazi cross was added to the graffiti.

According to a 16th September Ukrainian law on a « special status » for the East of Ukraine, local elections were to be held on LNR & DNR territories on 7th December, in line with Ukrainian legislation. From Lugansk, it seems clear these elections will not take place. Their effective holding is nonetheless one of the conditions for the implementation of Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that all that was agreed upon in Minsk was to hold elections « in co-ordination with, not in line with » Ukrainian election plans.