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#Russian #Actor Slammed on #Twitter for Firing Weapon in #Ukraine potentially making every #journalist a target
Every person who uses weapons while hiding behind press identification assumes responsibility for the future deaths of journalists.
Russian Actor Mikhail Porechenkov. Potentially making every journalist a target.
Anna Dolgov, The Moscow Times.
A Russian actor wearing a helmet marked “Press” has been caught on video firing a machine gun from a battle site in eastern Ukraine, in a stunt that provoked outrage on Russian and Ukrainian social networks.
After the video of Mikhail Porechenkov discharging his machine gun from Donetsk Airport was posted Thursday on the YouTube account of separatist “Novorossia TV,” Russian-language hashtags “#PorechenkovKiller” and “#PorechenkovTerrorist” went viral on Twitter, with some journalists saying the actor had brought additional dangers to reporters in war zones.
“Every [individual] who uses weapons while hiding behind press identification assumes responsibility for the future deaths of journalists,” Russian journalist Alexander Vishnevsky said via Twitter in a message that was retweeted hundreds of times within a few hours. Instead of “individual,” he used an expletive that can be loosely translated as “sh!thead.”
At least eight journalists and their assistants have been killed in Ukraine since the start of this year. They are Russia’s VGTRK television correspondent Igor Kornelyuk and sound engineer Anton Voloshin; Italian photographer Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian fixer Andrei Mironov; Ukrainian journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy, who was shot in February during protests in Kiev; Sergei Dolgov, the editor-in-chief of a pro-Russian newspaper in eastern Ukraine; Russia’s Channel One cameraman Anatoly Klyan; and Rossia Segodnya photographer Andrei Stenin.
Porechenkov said after his stunt that he had visited rebel-controlled Donetsk to see how a cease-fire between separatists and government forces was holding up.
“In the airport I could already clearly see that there isn’t and hadn’t been any cease-fire,” Porechenkov was quoted as saying by Gazeta.ru, without elaborating on which signs of continued fire he had witnessed. The video of Porechenkov mingling with rebels at what Novorossia TV described as a “battle position” featured no signs or sounds of a battle until the actor and a separatist next to him began firing their weapons.
The shooting appeared to be mostly a symbolic demonstration of valor in front of a video camera, and there was no indication that any of the shots hit Ukrainian forces’ positions or civilians.
Separatists accompanying Porechenkov at the rebel stronghold were clad in military fatigues and camouflage helmets. But the actor wore a blue bulletproof vest and helmet marked with the word “Press” on its back. The letters are partially visible in the video posted by Novorossia TV and can easily be read in photos of the incident that have been circulated online.
Porechenkov said the goals of his visit included delivering “medications for hospitals” in separatist eastern Ukraine. The Russian government has also pledged to deliver “humanitarian aid” to rebel-controlled areas, though Kiev and Western nations accuse it of primarily supplying weapons and fighters — a charge Moscow denies.
A leader of Russia’s democratic political opposition, Ilya Yashin, gave an account of Porechenkov’s machine-gun firing in a Twitter message, concluding: “A dove of peace.”
Porechenkov is perhaps best known for his leading role in recent film “Poddubny,” a biographical movie about famed Russian and Soviet wrestler Ivan Poddubny, who was born in what is now Ukraine.
The actor told Gazeta.ru that Russian filmmakers planned to show the film in eastern Ukraine, although the “Ukrainian authorities have banned it for some reason.”
The Ukrainian Culture Ministry announced earlier this year that it was banning the distribution of “Poddubny,” citing the same flaws for which the movie had been criticized by some Russian reviewers — distorting historical facts to promote Russia’s greatness.
A screenshot of a YouTube video that was published on Oct. 30 showing Russian “commando” actor Mikhail Porechenkov allegedly shooting at the Donetsk Airport towards Ukrainian positions while wearing a helmet with press insignia on it. © Courtesy
Ukrainian authorities launched two criminal proceedings against popular Russian actor Mikhail Porechenkov after a video surfaced showing him firing at the Donetsk Airport with what appears to be a Russian-made 50-caliber Kord heavy machine gun together with Kremlin-backed insurgents.
Posted on Oct.30 by NovorossiyaTV, the YouTube channel of the self-styled Donetsk and Luhansk republics, the video features Porechenkov shooting while wearing a helmet marked with press insignia.
In a separate video published on YouTube on Oct. 30, the actor appears on ANNA News together with former Party of Regions lawmaker Ihor Markov during which the latter says that he had just picked up Porechenkov from “the front lines at the Donetsk airport where he was shooting at them (Ukrainian soldiers).” Russian-backed insurgents control a part of the airport, which is presumably where the Novorossiya TV video was shot.
The actor, who is known for his commando military roles in Russian films, is accused of creating illegal military units and participating in terrorist activity of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) by Ukraine’s State Security Service and Interior Ministry. The alleged crimes carry a prison sentence of seven to 12 years and from 8 eight to 15 years, respectively, according to the Ukrainian criminal code.
The Security Service also announced it has evidence that Porechenkov used firearms to hunt civilians in Donetsk. “We have evidence that Porechenkov not only committed crimes in Donetsk airport. He also organized a ‘safari,’ during which he shot at civilians,” an advisor to the SBU chief, Markiyan Lubkivsky, told 112.Ukraine TV channel on Oct.31. According to Lubkivsky, Porechenkov paid militants $50,000 – $1,000 each for organizing the alleged chase.
Myroslav Rudenko, vice-speaker of the Supreme Council of DNR, told Interfax news agency that the video with the actor was staged and Porechenkov didn’t take part in real military action. Meanwhile, in his Oct.31 interview with Ekho Moskvy, a Moscow-based radio station, Porechenkov called the ordeal an “unfortunate story.” He avoided questions about the direction in which he was shooting and said he didn’t intentionally put the helmet with press insignia on.
“First of all, I didn’t see any insignia (on the helmet). Then that story about me shooting was blown up…You know, there are a lot of photos showing me with guns and that’s why they start commenting on that situation in a way that is terrible. It’s not right,” Porechenkov said.
When asked why he decided to visit Donetsk, Porechenkov said he came to bring medicine to a hospital and show residents of the city his new movie, which was banned from screening in Ukraine in July by the State Agency on Movie Issues citing misinterpretation of facts in favor of Russia and neglect of the Ukrainian language.
The Organization for Security and Co-Operation of Europe also condemned the incident.
“This is a deplorable and shameful abuse of press insignia. It puts journalists in conflict zones at grave risk and it is detrimental to all efforts made to protect members of the media”, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said.
Porechenkov might be put on a wanted list soon while international law enforcement might be engaged to work on the case, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced on Oct.31. “Investigators are sure that with such evident proof of the crime, international police (Interpol) will support putting (Porechenkov) on a wanted list and he will not be able to move around the world beyond the borders of Russia unless he is arrested and extradited to Ukraine,” Avakov said.
A pro-Russian separatist from the rebel Interior ministry stands near an armored personnel carrier during an oath-taking ceremony in Donetsk. The Donetsk People’s Republic announced it was introducing the death penalty for “gravest crimes” in August. Photo: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS
Tom Parfitt, Moscow.
Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine have released a video which appears to show a “people’s court” sentencing a man to death by a show of hands.
The man, accused of rape, is brought before a panel of three rebels in military fatigues, one of them in a mask, on a stage in front of an auditorium where several hundred people are sitting.
After a brief review of evidence, the panel asks the audience to vote on whether the man should be executed.
Some of the people in the room giggle as the majority raise their hands. The senior rebel on the panel announces that he will be shot dead. A second man is acquitted by a similar vote.
The video could not be independently verified but has been widely shared by pro-separatist media. It was originally published on a YouTube channel associated with Alexei Mozgovoy, a rebel who commands the Prizrak (Ghost) battalion.
Warning: The volume is very loud.
It was unclear whether the punishment had been carried out. The hearing reportedly took place on October 25 in Alchevsk, a small city under rebel control in Ukraine’s Luhansk region.
The rebel leadership in the neighbouring Donetsk People’s Republic announced it was introducing the death penalty for “gravest crimes” in August.
Irakly Alasania added that country will never bow to the Russians … to a ‘dictate’ from Russia on what is better for Georgia.
Georgia will defy any Russian pressure not to host a NATO training centre on its territory or to strengthen its ties with the West, according to the country’s Defense Minister.
Defense Minister says Georgia needs stability to develop the economy.
Remnants of a misfired Uragan cluster munition rocket lying in a field in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government near Novomykhailivka, Ukraine on Oct. 14. © 2014 Ole Solvang/Human Rights Watch
Oksana Grytsenko reporting,
Human Rights Watch, an influential human rights watchdog, claimed in its report on Oct. 20 that Ukraine forces have used banned and dangerous cluster bombs in its war against Russian-backed separatists in the east.
The allegations were swiftly denied by the Ukrainian government, but the charges — along with earlier allegations of indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the Donbas — may harm to country’s image in the West.
But experts say the criticism will not change Ukraine’s war methods since the nation has limited options.
Cluster bombs, when exploding, eject cluster bomblets over the area equal to a football field. They are designed to kill all the people within their reach and damage vehicles. Cluster bombs also often don’t explode and become dangerous land mines, threatening civilians in populated areas.
Human Rights Watch indicated that its experts documented at least 12 incidents in various areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where the cluster munition was applied, killing at least six and injuring dozens of people.
Human Rights Watch has found evidence that both sides in Russia’s war against Ukraine are using dangerous cluster bombs, banned under international treaty by many nations, but not in Ukraine or Russia.
Ole Solvang, senior researcher of Human Rights Watch, said that sides of the conflict use basically the same weapons, so it’s often hard to determine from which side the rockets with cluster bombs came.
“But for several attacks in Donetsk in early October we have very strong evidence that it was the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said in the report. Sovlang added that the use of these weapons in populated areas could be considered as “violation of the laws of war and may amount to war crimes.”
In one of these cases on Oct. 2, the cluster bombs killed in Donetsk Laurent DuPasquier, a Swiss national and worker of International Committee of the Red Cross, the report said. After thorough examination of the impact craters and interviewing the eyewitnesses, the experts of Human Rights Watch found it all pointed the direction of the Ukrainian forces located to the southwest of the city.
But Andriy Lysenko, spokesman of National Security and Defense Council, claimed that Human Rights Watch were deceived by separatist insurgents as Ukraine doesn’t use any banned weapon. “For the period of anti-terrorist operation the Ukrainian troops didn’t use any kind of weapons banned by international treaties. This includes use of cluster bombs,” Lysenko told the press briefing on Oct. 21.
Lysenko added that on Oct. 13 the Ukrainian soldiers found in the village of Yevhenivka of Donetsk Oblast four unexploded cluster bombs fired by separatists from Urahan multiple rocket launchers. “Why nobody is paying attention to these facts?” he asked.
Human Rights Watch, however, claimed in their report that they had evidence that separatists used cluster bombs as well. But it added that “violations of the laws of war by one party to the conflict do not justify violations by the other party.”
Ukraine wasn’t one of 114 countries that signed the treaty to ban use of cluster munition. These kinds of weapons are also not by banned for the use by the United States, Russia and Israel. So Human Rights Watch called on Ukraine as well as Russian, another party of the conflict, to abandon use of cluster munitions.
Valery Chaly, deputy head of the Presidential Administration, said he didn’t know about any facts that the Ukrainian forces used cluster bombs and all the reports need to be thoroughly investigated. But the Ukrainian authorities in most cases don’t have access to these areas to hold investigation. “How can we investigate on that is we don’t have closed border?” Chaly emotionally said.
On Oct. 20, Amnesty International, one more prominent human rights watchdog, accused the Ukrainian fighters along with rebels of extra-judicial executions, whose level, however was far below the reports by Russia propaganda.
Four dead bodies were found in mass grave near the town of Makeyevka in Donetsk Oblast. These people were killed in Aug. 16-Sept. 22, when this territory was under control of the Ukrainian forces. One of them was recognized as Mykyta Kolomiytsev, who assisted the troops of self-proclaimed Donets People’s Republic guarding their checkpoint. His relatives claimed he never participated in fights. His mother said that soldiers who arrested him “broke the door, were shooting inside of the house and these soldiers had the emblem of battalion Dnipro 1,” Tetiana Mazur, head of Amnesty International mission in Ukraine told the press conference.
“The Ukrainian authorities should guarantee the law enforcement bodies would be able to investigate illegal arrests, tortures, killings regardless of who committed them,” she added.
When working in the embattled east, the Kyiv Post numerously witnessed cases of misdeeds committed by the Ukrainian fighters, including intimidation, the beating of civilians and the hijacking of their cars.
The Kyiv Post also saw parts of shells near the school and houses in Donetsk on July 21 that were fired to the city from territory controlled by the Ukrainian army. At least three people were killed as a result of that attack. The representative of Human Rights Watch, who examined the Kyiv Post photos, confirmed these shells were fired by Grad multiple rocket launchers, which the Ukrainian army constantly denied to use in the residential areas.
Vyacheslav Tseluiko, expert of Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, said that while there’s no conventions that ban use of Grad and these weapons are now widely applied by both parties of the eastern war. At the same time the cluster munitions fired by Uragan and Smerch multiple rocket launcher systems are very efficient to combat the insurgents as they cover the bigger territory.
Tseluiko believes that Ukraine’s image could suffer if the report that it uses cluster bombs is proven. The country could promise to minimize the use of cluster bombs but, in reality, still needs to use them because of limited supplies and types of weapons within its arsenal.
“When the victory is at stake they (the Ukrainian forces) could hardly make choice in favor of good image,” he said.
(Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Grytsenko can be reached at email@example.com).