Yuriy Butusov, editor-in-chief of Kiev's Censor.net, posted the images on Saturday as Ukraine marked the so-called Holodomor Memorial Day. The clip shows Butusov wearing full military garb, including a ballistic helmet and a bulletproof vest, standing by a D-20 152mm howitzer at an undisclosed location.
On his Facebook page, the journalist then vows revenge for “every victim of Soviet repressions” and fires the weapon at unseen “Russian occupiers,” seemingly implying the video was filmed somewhere in Ukraine’s eastern breakaway region of Donbass.
I must admit I may have been involved in the killing of some people in Donbass – but exclusively to the death of Russian occupiers.
The Holodomor Memorial Day commemorates the victims of the devastating famine that ravaged the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1933. The hunger killed millions of Kazakhs, Russians and Ukrainians when the countries were part of a union state.
In modern Ukraine it is perceived as a deliberate “genocide” staged by the Soviet authorities, then led by Georgian-born dictator Josef Stalin, that specifically targeted ethnic Ukrainians.
The bizarre way of ‘commemorating’ the date received a mixed reaction, with Butusov receiving numerous responses online that firing howitzers was not in line with journalistic work, and that such behavior puts real frontline reporters at risk.
Here is a Facebook post from Butusov (the editor of Ukraine's CensorNet), appearing to verify @Conflicts' tweet and suggesting his participation in the military operation was this weekend. pic.twitter.com/bT3wqUZqey
Others said the video was proof Ukraine was violating the Minsk ceasefire agreement, which bans weaponry of over 100mm caliber from the frontline in Donbass.
2/2. This video confirms not only the fact of the use of prohibited heavy weapons by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but also the fact that anyone who wishes can shoot at the territory of the Donbass republics, in addition to the Ukrainian military.
In light of the backlash, the journalist issued an update to his post, partly backtracking on the original. Butusov claimed the video had been shot “long ago,” during the “training of one of the territorial defense units.”
“There’s nothing heroic in this video. It’s simply words for Holodomor Day, undertaken in strict compliance with existing conventions and restrictions,” Butusov wrote.
The subject of many controversies in the past, Butusov has embroiled himself in several new scandals recently. Earlier this week, the journalist got into a bitter spat with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During a major press conference, Butusov attacked Zelensky over the appointment of Ruslan Demchenko as his senior adviser on national security, claiming Demchenko was a “Russian agent” and that his being selected for the role had contributed to what he described as the multiple failures of the Ukrainian secret services.
Zelensky did not mince his words in response, blasting Butusov for having published a video of a strike the Ukrainian military purportedly carried out in Donbass in late October using a Turkish-made Bayraktar attack drone. The video had prompted retaliatory strikes and made Kiev’s foreign relations difficult, the president claimed.
“The deaths of people are on your conscience. Since then, there have been many attacks on us and bombs dropped by drones,” Zelensky said. “Over the past week, I have had two or three international calls every day, including with the leadership of the EU, the USA, the UK, France, Germany – all because of you.”
The exchange angered the controversial journalist so much, he later claimed he had barely resisted “punching” Zelensky.
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