Mira Terada, the head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, interviewed John Miller, a publicist and correspondent of the popular Iranian English-language Press TV channel from the UK, who covers the situation in the Donbas. The head of the Foundation discussed with Miller why major world news agencies do not send their reporters to the LDPR, why the Ukrainian army deliberately exterminates citizens and destroys the civilian infrastructure of Donbass and what role the leaders of Western countries played in the formation of nationalist ideology in Ukraine.
Good afternoon, dear John! Thank you for taking the time to interview the Foundation to Battle Injustice at such a difficult time. Please tell our viewers and readers about who you are and what you do?
I’m Johnny Miller. I’m British reporter. I’m currently in Donetsk, Donbass region. I’m working as a correspondent for the international news broadcast the Press TV, broadcasting in English around the world. I’ve been here about two months.
Please tell us what brought a journalist from the UK to the territory of Donbass? Is it true that there is not a single journalist from the USA or the UK in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics?
Well, I was interested to come here. I reported in Libya and Syria, and I saw those countries destroyed. So, I thought it’s important to report from Ukraine as well. And I saw that there was almost no Western reporters reporting on this side of the conflict. I’ve been here about two months, so I’ve seen Western reporters that are usually independent reporters, but there’s almost no effect. I’m almost certain there’s been no mainstream reporter from British or American channels. But before I got to Donbass, when I was in London, I presumed that the Russian government wasn’t allowing Western mainstream reporters here. But since coming here, it’s become clear that the Russian government are allowing mainstream reporters here, but they are simply not being sent by the mainstream outlets. And I think the reason for that is, I think most journalists have a basic standard of honesty, of reporting honestly what’s around them. And here in Donetsk, the main stories are the fact that Ukrainian army are shelling and targeting civilian areas here in Donetsk every day, killing dozens of civilians including children. In the last ten days, I’ve been to the funerals of two children here in the Donbass: six-year-old Alina and eight-year-old Maria, just two of the many children who’ve been killed over the recent weeks and months. And increasingly, of course, that’s being done with NATO weapons and ammunition. It’s an uncomfortable truth that increasingly the weapons being sent by NATO countries targeting and killing civilians here, and that’s get that straight, Ukrainian army is targeting civilians. And so that’s an uncomfortable truth. Also, of course, you have to report that the majority of people here in Donetsk support the Russian invasion or the special military operation, as you call it, and increasingly supporting parts of Russia, because the narrative in the West is very much that nobody in Ukraine supports Russia’s actions and that it’s Russia who is killing civilians. Reporting from this side of the conflict, it’s very uncomfortable for Western viewers to hear that there is another side of the story. So, there’s a phase in journalism that’s news happens where the journalists are. And so Ukraine with NATO weapons killing children here in Donetsk, is an important story. But if you don’t send any journalists here. But it’s not happening.
Please tell us how the Western media cover the conflict on the territory of Ukraine? Do they report war crimes and provocations committed by the Ukrainian armed forces?
Practically no. I mean, there was a German channel ran a story about Russia bombing in Donetsk and killing civilians here. They retracted the story the next day and apologized for it. I’m not sure how many people actually saw the apology, but I don’t think that was an overt propaganda piece by the German news channel. I just don’t think the journalists there are aware that Ukraine is committing war crimes here. I just don’t think they know about it.
And how could they? Because they don’t send any reporters. As one British paper as well reported that Russia was bombing Donetsk, which is an absurd conspiracy theory. Most of the main channels have got it right. And you might occasionally see that Ukraine is bombing, it’s bombing Donetsk and the civilians there. But it’s very little. I haven’t seen any main article entitled “Ukraine Committing War Crimes in Donetsk.” I’ve been here two months. I could do a story every day about Ukraine committing war crimes here in Donetsk. Almost every day I could tell a story about civilians being killed here and targeted here. But not one single article I’ve seen for mainstream outlets with that simple story. And of course, it’s NATO weapons increasingly being used for that. I think it’s an important story. The NATO weapons are being used to target and kill civilians, but no headline, no articles like that. Many people might disagree with me. I know my own government, Britain has bombed many countries over the last 20 years, but I don’t think even the British government routinely targets and kills civilians. There may be many killed by collateral damage that ugly face. The Ukrainian army is targeting and killing civilians and it has a policy of terrorizing the civilians here, so they stop supporting the pro-Russian separatists. And that’s an important story, simply not being covered.
You have recently witnessed the shelling of Donetsk by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which has been going on for many years, the victims of which were tens of thousands of civilians. Why, in your opinion, has the world community ignored this fact for so many years?
I was here in 2014, so I was aware of some of what was going on here. But for the last eight years I was shocked to arrive here, and my area was under shelling. Missiles have landed straight outside my front door, there’s burnt out cars over my neighborhoods. Two schools were hit, one just over the road for me. And it’s incredible that this is going on and with no coverage. It’s very clear that Ukrainian government has been targeting and killing its own people. It claims Donbass as part of Ukraine. So, it’s just an incontrovertible fact that Ukraine has been killing its own people for eight years. It’s no other way to say it and it’s just not been covered, because I think some victims are more important. You know, you hear commonly from the separatists here or the pro-Russian people here that they just don’t care about us. Nobody cares about us because we’re Russian. And, of course, it’s just not convenient for Western media outlets to show that their ally, the Ukrainian government, is not as moderate or stable or good government.
What do you think, for what purpose did the Ukrainian political leadership give orders to its military personnel to destroy the civilian population of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics? What were they trying to achieve?
Well, there’s a very famous speech by Petro Poroshenko, who’s the former Ukrainian president. Everybody in Donbass knows this speech, a word for word, in which he says that’s the way that we will win this war against the pro-Russian separatists. “We will win this war is that our people will have health care, theirs will not. Our old people will be looked after, theirs will not. Our children will study in schools, theirs will cower in the basements”. And very much the children since I’ve been here have been cowering in the basements. They haven’t been able to go to school for eight years. They work from home. Why? Because Ukraine is targeting these schools. And so whenever I’ve got nothing else planned as a journalist, I simply follow the incoming missiles here and usually when I get there, it turns out to be a market or school or hospital or an electricity supply center or water supply center. So that purposely targeted civilian infrastructure and terrorizing the population in order to break their will and support for the pro-Russian authorities here. Because many people have left. If I had children here, I would have sent them away. It’s simply too dangerous and so many people have left. And that’s their policy: trying to terrorize the people and break the civilian infrastructure to stop their support for the authorities here.
Since 2014, not a single complaint of human rights violations has been accepted by any international organization, the International Court of Human Rights ignores the complaints of Russian-speaking citizens living in the territory of Donbass. At what point do you think organizations designed to preserve peace and security became politically engaged?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think they claim that the authorities here in the Donetsk People’s Republic aren’t a legitimate authority because they’re not internationally recognized. They get around it that way. So they said that the Donetsk People’s Republic would have to go by Kiev. They have to send their complaints to the government, which is killing them. And of course, Kiev is not going to take these evidence of war crimes that they’ve committed to these authorities. I don’t think these institutions increasingly can be taken seriously if they don’t treat all human rights on the same on the same level. But I think some human rights, some people seem to be more important than others.
In your opinion, why do the leaders of Western countries continue to supply Ukrainian servicemen with equipment and weapons, which are ultimately used to kill the civilian population of Donbass?
So, NATO, well, that it’s a proxy war. They’re trying to damage Russian power. So, it was quiet yesterday, we’ve heard that the DPR or the Russians hit the front lines just outside of the city. The front line is only about five kilometers away from where I am now. So I’ve heard the Russians hit them hard, it’s been quite the last couple of days, but looks like it’s starting again. But this war has many facets. First of all, it’s a civil war inside Ukraine between Ukrainian nationalists and Russian minority. It’s also an attempt by Russia to secure its geopolitical, geostrategic important areas like Crimea. That’s why Russia is taking the south as well. But it’s also an attempt by NATO to damage Russian power and increasingly even China’s power. And so this is very much a proxy war as well, in which NATO is using the Ukrainians to fight a war with Russia. And the problem is that NATO countries don’t really have a vested interest in the lives or the cities of Ukraine. So it doesn’t really matter to them or to any politicians how many Ukrainians die or how much destruction has caused to the Ukrainian cities. What they’re interested in is trying to damage Russian power. What happens actually inside Ukraine to the people here doesn’t really matter to them.
Please assess the influence of Western leaders on the events that forced Russia to launch a special military operation on the territory of Ukraine? What is the true purpose of creating a “Ukrainian democracy”?
Well, for decades, mainstream Western politicians and analysts have known that militarizing Ukraine and pushing NATO into Ukraine would be a red line for Russia. It’s basic standard of international relations. Anybody who understands international politics understands that Ukraine, particularly Crimea, the Black Sea, is very important for Russia. And NATO encroaching on that territory is going to potentially provoke a response from Russia. But it’s incredible now and the propaganda in the West is that even stating that is universally understood by experts who are promoting propaganda that NATO has played a role in provoking this conflict. It’s not a controversial thing to say that. But now the propaganda is so strict that just voicing that you’ll see it as a true Russian or paid for by the Kremlin or a Putin lover. And it’s anybody even deviates in that line of this is unprovoked, Russia is the only party to blame here, and you’re criticized, you’re told that you’re pro-Russian. And that shuts down any real rational debate about this conflict, because there’s almost no rational debate in the West about this conflict. It’s just “we need to arm Ukraine”, “Russia’s wrong”. Simple as that. You say anything else, you’re ostracized. But real rational debates that look at the reasons of this conflict, look at the Ukrainian government with what they’ve done over the last eight years, look at NATO and try to find a solution, a peaceful solution. But that’s simply not happening.
Can we say that the West is waging a real war against Russia by the hands of Ukrainians? Why does Ukraine still not realize that it is the subject of manipulation?
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this is a proxy war in which NATO, the amount of weapons they’re sending to Ukraine and doing everything they can, sort of provoking a real war with Russia. And in terms of why Ukrainians don’t understand what’s happening, I think the level of propaganda, I mean, Ukraine is now bans all leftwing political parties, it bans almost all media and it’s easy to stoke up people’s anger and fear of you know, the last eight years, there’s been a huge increase of Russophobia attacks on the minority Russians here, a hatred that’s build up. And of course, the Russian invasion or especially military operation, as you call it, has created a huge amount of anger in Ukraine. Russian missiles are killing at times dozens of Ukrainian soldiers in their beds as they sleep. That’s a legitimate target on the war. But there’s a huge amount of anger against Russia. And so I think it’s easy to stoke that anger. And anybody who questions it frankly, you could be imprisoned or you could lose your life. You could be killed in Ukraine if you question what’s happening. So I think it’s very difficult for the Ukrainian people to rebel or to rise up against that. I mean, I just first and foremost, I care about the Ukrainian people. I mean, hundreds of soldiers are dying every day. And these people have families, wives, children. And I think at some point, I’ve already seen videos of women, particularly in Ukraine, starting to tell these people who are coming around trying to conscript their husbands to go away. But I think Ukraine, I mean, most Ukrainian men are not allowed to leave the country between 18 and 60. They’re basically imprisoned or held hostage. So what choice do they have? They either join and fight or put in prison or worse. And I think also for people to cope in that situation, I think maybe it’s better just to go along with that because otherwise how do you cope, if that makes sense, psychologically? It’s easier just to believe that Russia is evil, we have to fight, or you believe we’re being killed for nothing. I think psychologically, people like just go along with the propaganda. I think huge amount of Ukrainians, they do understand, but unable to speak up. And that was my experience in Kiev as well. There’s so many Ukrainians who disagree with what’s happening. They won’t be able to speak up in danger of the reprisals.
Why, in your opinion, are the British and European media so blindly spreading fakes produced by Kiev? Does this violate the standards of journalistic ethics?
Well, I think so much of the time in my reporting I have to look at Western sources because I’m reporting on the whole conflict. When I do interviews, I have to look at these sources. And so many of times I simply see a story and the only sources the Ukrainian government or Ukrainian government official. So I think that it also might be very hard for journalists to work in Ukraine. I get that impression because most of the targets of the Russia strikes are military targets. And so journalists generally aren’t allowed to go to those targets, especially when there’s dozens of Ukrainian soldiers dead. The government doesn’t want those pictures getting out. So I think it might be very hard for them to be very good quality Western journalists in Ukraine doing a good job. And there are many fantastic journalists. But so many of the reports are just whatever the Ukrainian government says or whatever the Russian government says. And frankly, governments, whether they’re Russian and Ukrainian, can’t be trusted actually, that’s their sources. And it’s important to verify this information on the ground. All the stories that I do here, I’m there, I see them. I find the information but so many of the reports are just whatever the Ukrainian government says. And Ukraine is fighting an existential war. The propaganda coming out of Ukraine is, it’s crazy. It’s extreme propaganda. Understandably, because they’re fighting a war. I saw one Western source say that there was a cholera outbreak in Mariupol, an outbreak of disease. And I’ve been to Mariupol many times with contacts there. There’s no cholera outbreak in Mariupol. It was the only source was the former mayor, former Ukrainian mayor, who fled the fighting before the Russians took over. And he’s just said this for propaganda purposes. I mean, they haven’t checked that, they haven’t found anybody who’s got this, contracted it. And it’s just done for propaganda. And Russia’s putting out propaganda as well. Let’s get that straight as well. Every government does it. In Mariupol, for example, there’s a kind of propaganda war, what’s happening in Mariupol and the West, they like to say that Mariupol is destroyed, it’ll never be the same, look what Russia does. And the Russians tried to say, “look, it’s already coming back to life” and they filmed boats leaving, etc. The truth is somewhere in between. Mariupol is coming back to life and it will be a city again. Maybe not as fast as the Russians say that it will but it is coming back to life. So you have this propaganda war going on every time Russia strikes. So many times when Russia strikes, in the West, Ukraine says, its civilian targets, Russia will say its military targets, but it’s yeah, there’s a big propaganda war going on.
The other day, the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, admitted that the leaders of the G20 countries, most of whom are concerned about the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine for their country, have no agreement on the Ukrainian events. Do you think the G-20 leaders have begun to realize the consequences of the attempted economic blockade of Russia?
I think increasingly, particularly in Europe, I mean you’ve got Germany who is increasingly saying they’re going to have to cut civilians’ use of energy in the winter and you’ve got rising gas prices, rising food prices. And I think the West has made a strategic mistake over Ukraine. I think that when this war started, they thought that we can win the battle on the ground, we can sanction Russia, this is an opportunity to damage Russian power. But of course, these sanctions have backfired. They’ve done some damage to the Russian economy. I understand there are many people in Russia who are very unhappy, particularly who work in trade with the West, for example. But it hasn’t done any terminal damage to the Russian economy. Meanwhile, it’s caused damage to European and American economy. And I think that what this conflict will go down in historically historical terms is the end of the American century and the American dominance of the world. In the 1950s, I don’t know if, you know, the Suez crisis in which Britain and France tried to attack Egypt’s Suez Canal and the Americans said “no”, that was very much Britain realizing in 1950s that “okay, we don’t rule the world anymore.” And I think this conflict will go down as historic in historical terms when you have the start of the multipolar world at the end of the American dominance. I think like any empire America is trying to hold on to that dominance. But I think they strategically made a mistake in thinking these sanctions are going to work. And I do hope that at some point particularly European powers will come to their senses and realize that Europe’s future allies with good relations with Russia. And I do wonder whether there’s going to be a turning point of particularly Europe, realizing that this is just not worth it economically for us.
On July 7 of this year, the Prime Minister of Great Britain resigned after more than 50 officials left the government of the country. What, in your opinion, caused such a fierce government crisis?
Well, there’s been years of scandals with Boris Johnson, years of internal scandals, and it’s amazing that he’s been able to hold on this long. So I think it’s mainly internal scandals that just got too much for him. And he became so unpopular with the British people that it was his own party that got rid of him, not the British people, because there’s an election coming up soon and that his own party realized we need somebody else instead of Boris Johnson. But increasingly so, any governments around the world, the economy is so important. I mean, one of the reasons I think Vladimir Putin has been in power for so long is because the Russian economy has been going very well for the last 20 years. And so when the economy starts to go bad, then all the other problems and governments become more apparent. So I think economically, if the economy was going great, I think Boris Johnson would be fine. But increasingly you’re going to see pressure on Western leaders as the economy starts to slide in part because of these sanctions.
Who do you think will take the place of the next British Prime Minister and how will this affect the Ukrainian conflict? Will the future Prime Minister abandon the anti-Russian foreign policy of Great Britain, which was formulated during Theresa May?
I don’t know who the next leader is going to be. It’s a pretty sorry bunch of people. I don’t think the British people are very excited about who’s going to be next. But I don’t think it’s going to change policy on Russia. I think, I was talking to a Russian official here yesterday, and we’re having the same conversation. I think most Western governments don’t really, it almost doesn’t really matter increasingly who the leader is. The two major parties in Britain, even one supposed to be left wing, one supposed to be right wing, effectively are the same foreign policy and same economic policy. So whether the next leader, I don’t think we’ll really change anything in terms of policy on Russia. I think it’s very much built into this mindset, the foreign policy mindset of following the United States and of trying to demonize and damage Russia. I’m of the view that Europe should have good relations with Russia, but I don’t see that that policy shift changing any time soon or another leader coming in, I don’t think it’s going to change anything.
Why has neo-Nazi ideology become so widespread in Ukraine? What is the reason for this and who is behind it?
Well, I think the 2014 Maidan coup or revolution, supported a lot by European Union and the United States in order to try and pull Ukraine into the Western orbit. And I think one of the ways this is done is to promote Ukrainian nationalism. And that’s why you’ve had off the 2014 the persecution of Russian minorities, because you’ve had this increase in Ukrainian nationalism that Ukraine is not Soviet, Ukraine is not Russian. We have our own identity. The main Ukrainian nationalist leader is Stepan Bandera, who was Nazi collaborator anti-Semites. And he’s very much held up as one of the main nationalist figureheads of Ukraine, Ukrainian identity. And he’s an anti-Semite and a Nazi collaborator. And so you have also this fueling of particularly the far right and neo-Nazis. They’ve played a major role in the Maidan, getting it over the line in terms of the use of violence. And you’ve heard that they’ve increasingly become powerful. Because in my experience, most people in Ukraine don’t want to fight and die over Crimea and Donbass because people in Crimea realize that Crimea is majority Russian and so it’s Donbass. But it’s these ultranationalists who really do care about taking back Crimea and Donbass. And they’re the ones who really want to fight and die in Donbass. Most Ukrainians didn’t want to fight this war against the separatists for eight years. But it’s the Ukrainian nationalists who really do want to fight this battle. And so just like the West has a history of supporting extremists around the world, whether it was in Afghanistan in the 80s when the Russians were in Afghanistan, which led to the rise of Al-Qaeda, whether it’s ISIS in Syria. The support of extremists happens because most people don’t want to fight and die, but extremists do. So that’s why you have this Western support of extremists to get rid of, to try to get rid of Bashar al-Assad. And I think the same has happened to the arming advise of extremists in Ukraine because they’re the ones who really want to carry out NATO’s policy in Ukraine with most Ukrainians would want peace. These nationalists and ultra-nationalists who want to fight in the Donbass.
Please comment how and when the special military operation of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine will end?
I think you have to ask Vladimir Putin that. You also have to ask the leaders of NATO countries, because I asked many Russian officials, journalists here the same question. And does Russia want to stop in the Donbass and the southern regions, or do they want to take Odessa in Kharkov as well? That I don’t know. They do have significant Russian populations there. But it is also going to depend on how much NATO wants to supply Ukraine. If NATO wasn’t funding and supplying Ukraine now, Ukraine would have no choice but to go to peace. They are bankrupt, they have no money. So if NATO tomorrow said, “no more money, no more weapons”, Ukraine would be forced to go to the negotiating table. So it is very much depends on how much support NATO gives to Ukraine and indeed how much Russia wants to take of Ukraine, frankly.