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Putin Invades Ukraine Again, This Time With Humanitarian Taxi Drivers

The media battle lines having been drawn, nobody expects the mainstream to give Russia a fair shake. Every day Vladimir Putin is launching yet another invasion. The New York Times' prize winning staff say so, albeit pitifully lately.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Here's a tale of chance, courage, and common decency the likes of which the New York Times has not seen in many months. It's about a normal guy, a Russian, who is just doing what he can. It's about a humanitarian cab driver who only needs to fill his tank to continue, and about mainstream media running out of gas. 

He comes from Tver, Russia, and I met him online, by chance, while researching a photo archive for a story I was writing. He is a taxi driver with an inspiring story, one that offers an impromptu spotlight on the real battle for Donbass. While New York and London newspapers bleed indigo ink telling of Vladimir Putin puppeteering a Ukraine civil war, the reality is less romantic, more practical and real. The truth of the civil war in Ukraine is survival, the utter bravery and humility of a people. In the following, you will see this reality through the eyes of Sergey Rasskazov.

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Sergey Rasskazov (L) with his friend Dmity, a friend in the Donetsk militia, and his two other friends who co-drive the long haul from Tver to Donetsk

Fueled With Wrong Thinking

<figcaption>Donbass militia unload humanitarian aid delivered by taxi (Sergey Rasskazov)</figcaption>
Donbass militia unload humanitarian aid delivered by taxi (Sergey Rasskazov)

If you are reading this, I do not need to paint the battle lines that crushed the core of Eastern Europe, dividing it, and scaring its heart. However, a recent New York Times piece attempts to inject as much investigative journalism clout as possible, into the veins of ever American reader. From the title; “Russian Groups Crowdfund the War in Ukraine,” to author Jo Becker’s journalistic pedigree, the editors of America’s broadsheet take aim and fire with everything they’ve got. At least so they figure. They surmise that Americans are not such cagey readers these days. Becker puts her Pulitzer Prize winning copy into a piece intended to damn anyone helping the militia in the east of Ukraine, and nothing more. You read the piece and see if I am right there.

Becker is not alone in her quest to chastise Russian aid givers. Steven Lee Myers of Washington think tank fame at The Woodrow Wilson Institute (just who runs this should be of interest), and author of a book about Vladimir Putin entitled; “The New Tsar”, is carrying Becker’s journalistic ammo bandoliers in his rant. You can buy his book for $32.50 at Penguin, but I would recommend it only for the incurable neocon or hegemonic war monger.

As for damnation, let me introduce you to a simple man from Russia, and his “walk of life” comrades aiding and abetting a population under siege. 

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Donbass militia unload humanitarian aid delivered by taxi (Sergey Rasskazov)

The Humanity of Truth

Set against highly educated typists, and brainy thinkers, spoiled by their own bios, you will find humble taxi driver Sergey Rasskazov (Сергей Рассказов), whom I discovered looking for Russian photographers for a cultural magazine I am working on. I discovered Sergey’s involvement in helping the people of the Donbass only by chance, when I asked for his biography for a photo essay. It turns out, Sergey is a typical Russian sympathizer. He is just a guy saddened by all the killing, and someone with the grit to lend a helping hand. I asked Sergey some questions to better acquaint the readers with Vladimir Putin’s real secret weapon: ordinary Russians. The following gives you an idea of not just this Tver cab driver, but of the typical citizen I have encountered. Here is part of the dialogue between me and Sergey.

Phil: Sergey, why are you personally interested in what is going on in the Donbass?

Sergey: I am saddened by the killing going on in the Donbass, I am sick of seeing or hearing of it.

Phil: How long have you been carrying aid to the people there Sergey? How long will you go on?

Sergey:  I have made 3 trips so far. I returned only yesterday from delivering medical supplies and food there. I intend to continue until the humanitarian catastrophe in Donbass is over.

Phil: Everyone in the Western media harps about Russian troops in Donbass, have you ever seen any significant evidence of this?

Sergey:  I have not seen Russian troops in the Donbas. I do personally communicate with the militia there. The fighters are made up of Donbass citizens, some citizens of Russia, some from Kazakhstan, Belarus, even Germany and France. These are people who are risking and giving their lives to prevent fascists from having their way.

About halfway though this interview it occurred to me, the city Sergey is from is not near Rostov or some other town on the frontier. I looked on Google Earth and sure enough, Tver is north and east of Moscow. So I asked Sergey about his “missions” to Donetsk and the surrounds, he told me the trip is over 800 kilometers. Basically, he and some friends pack his car and then make trips based on someone getting the gas money together. He says it costs about 12,000 ($221 US) rubles per trip, and that he is headed out again as soon as he gets the gas money. Then I asked Sergey about the estimated 1.3 million refugees displaced by this conflict (UN figures).

Phil: As a Russian citizen Sergey, how do you feel about the over 1 million people who are taking refuge in Russia and elsewhere since the civil war in Ukraine began? Do you think they will ever go back to Ukraine or to the Donbass?

Sergey:  All I know is this is a human tragedy, and that for some reason the media in the west do not seem to want to report on the humanitarian disaster. I talk to the refugees often. I know that they love their country and that they dream of returning home someday.

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Sergey Rasskazov and friends loading Putin's most formidable vehicle - the hatchback

West’s Media: All Out of Gas

At this point in our talk I asked the taxi cab driver a Washington “think tank” question. You know, the high minded geo-strategic sort of query the Zbigniew Brzezinskis or Henry Kissingers of the world quiz one another over. Do Russians think Novorossiysa should be independent, or part of Russia like Crimea? His answer brought me down to Earth, back home in the normal world. Rasskazov commented;

 “I didn't even think about it. The main thing for me is for people to cease the killing, to let people decide their own path. In Donetsk, I have not met a single person who would like to return to the Ukraine. So then what do the Ukrainian military? Liberate the territory from people?”

It was right about here I realized how desperate the west’s game has become. All the great thinkers, the Pulitzer Prize winners, billionaires, and Washington money grubbers they’re so outnumbered, you see? Those ivory halls and the Ivy League that coddles the chosen ones, the bright shining light that is American “exceptionalism” and elitism, they bear no credibility whatsoever where the metal meets the meet. While wayward idealism as surely killed millions of normal people worldwide, the real fearsome power Vladimir Putin wields is not Russia Today’s or Sputnik’s propaganda myth, it’s the ordinary taxi driver who can put up or shut up. It’s the Sergey Rasskazov types who are legion who are the decent, caring human beings that power Russia’s mighty defensive or Russians. This is Mr. Putin’s real doomsday weapon against the new fascism machine.

Donetsk is still just a city where people live their lives, fall in love, and go shopping. This is a photo of a sketch of the life of the besieged Donetsk today. Via Sergey Rasskazov
Donetsk is still just a city where people live their lives, fall in love, and go shopping. This is a photo of a sketch of the life of the besieged Donetsk today. Via Sergey Rasskazov

So blame the Novorossiya Humanitarian Battalion for buying freedom fighters some binoculars Ms. Becker. Let the almighty New-York-Times uncover what is prevalent on the web, and common sense too, then twist and spew it out of the mouths of the critically wounded ideal. All your prize winning efforts, and your Potomac glee clubs’ discoveries of “a dozen groups in Russia that are raising money for the separatists”. Bravo bold thinkers of Manhattan, Bravo! By the way, I found the truth by accident with no budget or editorial fee. You are outnumbered and outdone by the defenders of the faithful.

The “preponderance of evidence” you proclaim in your article shows cab drivers and farmers, Texans and Brazilians standing toe to toe against a reluctant Kiev army. This is all the evidence shows missy Pulitzer winner. The Donbass people are defending their lives, others are helping them. If you would truly “investigate” beyond sellout think tank policy, you would easily discover this like I have.

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The New York Times will now tell you an army travels on its stomach and this soldier's porridge is deadly for America. The freedom fighters in the Donbass need food and bandages, their best weapon is courage.

I pity all the sacrosanct researchers and storytellers our there, too busy and important to really discover the truth. Great talents content to take the liars’ word for what the liars want to tell the world. It’s just what all our parents wanted us not to do. How sad and unfair. Thank God for the real people of the world, that’s all I have to say. 

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