A rare video titled “Truth” from inside rebel-held territory in southeastern Ukraine was uploaded to YouTube on November 17 by Info Lugansk. It was made by an anonymous citizen reporter, a Russian speaker who is angry that independent Ukrainian TV channels have been closed down and the Russian Federation TV stations that have replaced them aren’t covering the reality of the situation in Gorlovka.
“Channel Rossiya 24, LifeNews, I have no words, it’s just delirium,” he begins.
The video blogger travels to an area which has been ravaged by shelling. None of the mines are working, many people are out of jobs, and civilians have been killed in the shelling. He then tries to document to the best of his ability who fired the shells that did so much damage.
Ultimately, some think he failed to prove his case. But what his video shows is that there are many average people in the war-wrecked areas of the Donbass who do not support the Russian-backed separatists and just want life to go back to normal.
A Rare Look Inside A Warzone
Many of the videos uploaded to YouTube about the war these days are made by separatist “Novorossiya” YouTube channels or Russian state media, with less from the Ukrainian forces or supporters of Kiev.
This video blogger went to this location in the northwest part of Gorlovka to cover an electrical substation that was recently shelled and damaged, leaving Gorlovka (Horlivka) and surrounding towns in the dark for three days. The Shiry Kum meat-processing plant located here to the west of the power station was also shut down.
On November 12 we reported numerous attacks on Ukrainian positions in Novomikhailovka and Nikishino which suggested a move to push Ukrainian forces back from the positions to the west of the Donetsk-Mariupol highway.
The loss of this territory would enable Russian-backed forces to flank Ukrainian troops to the north in the Marinka suburb of Donetsk, and to move on Mariupol to the south. Ukrainska Pravda reported that Gorlovka was shelled on the night of November 11-12, with both Grad and Smerch rockets. Gorlovka is about 23 kilometers from Dzerzhinsk.
Separatists immediately accused the Ukrainians of shelling, but Volodymyr Semenchuk, deputy commander of the Ukrainians’ 34th battalion, said shots were fired by separatists from Jubilee Park in Gorlovka which is here on Wikimapia or here on Google Maps.
Pointing along the horizon, the cameraman first shows a local landmark to the north of the sub-station, a mercury mine called “Mine 2-bis” located here on Google Maps.
A picture is available on Google Maps, made by Tw1npks, of the tower.
Then he points to the left, or the west, of the 2-bis tower, and says this is the location of the Ukrainian forces, in Dzerzhinsk and Konstantinovka. He says the forces are “beyond this tower” — those cities are directly to the west and northwest from his location at the electrical sub-station.
His remark that the Ukrainian forces are known to be in those cities is consistent with the maps posted daily by the supporters of Novorossiya as well as the Ukrainian “anti-terrorist operation” or ATO.
Then the cameraman turns around and points east, toward a hill visible in the distance, which he says is “a mercury mine and a coal mine” and a “coal wash” and says the separatists are at that location, about 2.5 kilometers away to the east. This is the Gagarin Mine, located here on Google Maps.
Here’s a picture of Gagarin Works from Google Maps taken by Gorlovchanin:
The cameraman then turns with his back to the power station, and to the separatist positions he has shown, and then indicates a concrete fence with a section missing and a crater:
The damaged fence section is in the northeast corner of the meat-processing plant:
This can all be seen in one panorama as follows:
The larger area showing all the main elements of the video and the time stamps:
Who Fired Shells Which Killed Civilians?
The video blogger wants to show his theory that the shelling of the sub-station and nearby residential areas, in which 5 people were killed and 2 injured, including a child, came from the separatists’ position.
He pans over a crater on the other side of a concrete fence, and reasons that the mortars would have hit the fence if they came from this side, and therefore had to have come from the separatist side.
This has proven to be fodder for heated debates on YouTube among “craterologists” on both sides of the war, some saying they are convinced by the video bloggers’ explanation, and others saying that the shell could have descended from the air, exploded, and knocked the fence to one side, as shrapnel might go in different directions.
It’s difficult to tell from the video alone, and more investigation would have to be made. One commenter on YouTube claims to have gone to the area and come away convinced that the crater proves the direction is from the Ukrainian forces.
But the argument could be made in the other direction; indeed, the crater could have been made by shelling from any direction, as @djp3tros illustrates.
Given that the separatists control Gorlovka and the environs around it, they could have shot from multiple directions:
However, we cannot determine this from the available information from the video.
Separatists Have Only Brought “Hunger, Suffering and Destruction”
What’s important about this video isn’t that the blogger establishes the truth, as there isn’t enough evidence to establish it.
What’s important is that he tries to do so independently, in a setting where the rebels and Russian military have suppressed media freedom and kept harsh control over journalists or anyone attempting to keep a record.
Increasingly, we are seeing citizens’ own dash camera recordings of convoys which they have uploaded to YouTube being removed “for copyright violations” or set to “private” — an indication that some interested parties are likely filing frivolous complaints to suppress critical coverage of the war.
The video already has nearly 70,000 views in one day and has been enthusiastically copied by figures such as Dmitro Yarosh, the head of the ultranationalist Right Sector, which is certain to add more controversy.
In the end, the cameraman says bitterly that the separatists have only brought “hunger, suffering and destruction” and that most people only wait for the “liberation of Gorlovka” from them. As he swings the camera around the area’s large slag heaps, shuttered mines, and damaged plants, he rages:
I remember four months ago, they told us, “If you join the European Union, all the coal mines and plants will close, there will be no jobs.” But here, oh là là — we didn’t join the EU, yet not a single coal mine in Gorlovka is running, not a single plant, they stupidly wrecked them. These people came here not to create, but to destroy. Stirol is closed. The mines are flooded. Kirov Machine Works is halted, people have left, there’s nobody to work. Everything is closed. There is garbage everywhere. There are many abandoned animals.
I’m here because if I were to go closer to the residential areas, I myself could be put in the DPR’s cellars for filming this. So I’m taking a bit of a risk for you, guys. There’s nothing. There’s no work. There’s no normal food. Nothing. So this is what’s called “the Russian World has come to us,” let it be thrice damned, your “Russian World.” Once again, guys, I ask you, Russians, take away your Bezler, your Girkin, your Strelkov [former separatist leaders from Russia–The Interpreter]. Let them build new people’s republics in your country, Russia. Let them destroy bridges, let them destroy the infrastructure in your cities. But leave us alone. And take your “Russian World”…
He concludes with a vulgar curse.