the Signing time The team is investigating allegations that a Russian diplomat with links to the Conservative Party aided a pro-Putin British propagandist
Much media attention has been devoted in recent days to Graham Phillips – a self-proclaimed “independent” pro-Putin British journalist – for interviewing British-Ukrainian fighter Aiden Aslin in Russian captivity.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, former Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick suggested that Phillips risked prosecution for war crimes and that such videos should be banned on YouTube, which hosted Phillips’ broadcast, as well as on other social media platforms. Phillips claims that Aslin himself asked to be interviewed.
It wasn’t the first time that Phillips interviewed Ukrainian POWs.
In its analysis of the Geneva Convention, the International Committee of the Red Cross states that images which identify prisoners of war or show them in humiliating or degrading situations should not be published unless there is a “compelling public interest” to do so. Phillips denies any violation of the Geneva Convention.
Phillips is part of an ecosystem of pro-Russian propagandists in the UK who claim to be freelance journalists. He was allegedly awarded a medal by the Russian security service, the FSB – another allegation he denies.
In 2014, he reported for Russian state-backed media RT from the Donbass region, where he was accused of disseminating Kremlin propaganda. From 2014 to 2015, Phillips was employed by Zvezda, a media channel run by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Phillips would have been excluded from Ukraine under suspicion of being a Russian spy – something he says is not true. The Ukrainian government has taken the unusual step of publishing a open letter to British authorities, condemning Phillips’ actions.
However, despite the ban, Phillips returned to Ukraine where he made videos for his YouTube channel, which has 250,000 subscribers.
A video focuses on the violence in Bucha, where Russian troops are accused of war crimes including rape and summary executions. Phillips’ video is titled ‘Bucha Massacre’: Truth vs. Propaganda – in which he repeats the conspiracy theory that Bucha was a staged provocation by the kyiv regime aimed at discrediting Russia.
Phillips goes on to say that because he was not in Bucha he “cannot say for sure what happened there” but that, reporting his whereabouts 200 kilometers away, he “has never seen inappropriate actions by Russian soldiers”.
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Talk to Signing timewhistleblower Steven Lacey – a former member of the Westminster Russia Forum – claims Phillips once tried to approach Russian diplomat Sergei Nalobin and the Russian Embassy in London for financial support.
According to Lacey, Phillips was deported from Ukraine in 2014 and to Poland, where he arrived with no money. He claims that Phillips told him that he then called Nalobin – at the time First Secretary of the Political Section of the Russian Embassy in the UK – and the Russian Embassy in London to give him some advice. money so that he can get out of Poland. Nalobin now works as deputy director of the Information and Press Department at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Phillips said Signing time that he “never asked for money from anyone, let alone the Russian Embassy”.
In 2015, returning from eastern Ukraine, where he was filming the continued impact of the Russian invasion of the region, Phillips attempted to organize a fundraiser in Whitehall. The money raised, he claimed, would go to a hospital in Donetsk and “the city of Pervomaisk”.
According to reports at the time, Phillips thanked Steven Lacey for his support in organizing the event.
The fundraiser was announced by the Russian propaganda channel Sputnik but was eventually canceled by its home venue of Whitehall.
Facebook messages shared with Signing time by Lacey suggest that Nalobin was also involved in organizing the event. The messages show Nalobin contacting Lacey and saying “I understand from Graham that you need a new venue”. The posts further show that Nalobin recommended the Marx Library and suggested a potential contact. The event did not take place at this location.
Lacey suggests he cut ties with Phillips as the fundraiser approached and said Signing time that he did not attend the event. Phillips said “things didn’t work out with Lacey’s proposals” and that he hosted the event himself.
“As for any contact between Lacey and Nalobin, what does that have to do with me?” he said.
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Sergei Nalobin has various ties to the Conservative Party, having once called future Prime Minister Boris Johnson a “good friend”. Photos emerged in 2018 of Nalobin with Johnson, as reported by Signing time‘ Adam Bienkov when he was at Business Insider.
The former diplomat hosted the launch of Conservative Friends of Russia, an organization set up by communications specialist Richard Royal in 2012. The group’s launch was organized by Nalobin and took place at the embassy compound from Russia. The Vote Leave campaigner Matt Elliot was a founding member and participated in a 10-day trip organized by the Russian government tourism agency.
The group brought together politicians with Russian businessmen and enthusiasts, including Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Tory MPs John Whittingdale, Andrew Rosindell, Nigel Evans and Robert Buckland. Attendees at the event included Carrie Johnson, the former communications chief of the Conservative Party and now the Prime Minister’s wife.
Nalobin was a key figure in the reported Russian program to deepen “cooperation” between senior conservative politicians and the Russian government under the umbrella of the group. Nalobin’s diplomatic visa was not renewed, with RT initially reporting that he had been deported from the UK.
Although the conservative Friends of Russia imploded months after its launch, it was relaunched as the Westminster Russian Forum, of which Lacey was a member until his departure in 2018. It disbanded in March 2022, after that Russia invaded Ukraine.
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