Photo: ITAR-TASS News Agency / Alamy Stock Photo

Pro-Russia YouTuber Graham Phillips: ‘I believe that ultimately the truth will win’

The former UK civil servant has been compared to Lord Haw Haw
May 12, 2022

Graham Phillips is, he says, just asking questions. The Nottingham-born civil servant turned pro-Kremlin YouTuber insists he has “simply an absolute dedication to showing, reporting the truth.”

His “truth” about the war in Ukraine strongly chimes with Russia’s version of events. In a video titled “Bucha Massacre: The Truth versus the Propaganda,” he dismisses documented evidence of mass killings of civilians by Russian forces as “logically inconsistent,” because Russian soldiers elsewhere have behaved “professionally and decently.” Of course the western media blames the Russians, he says. “To expect anything less than malignant misinformation, manipulation, staging and provocation… is to be entirely naive.”

When I speak to him over Facebook, Phillips is glowing in his praise of Putin—“a powerful politician, who acts with commitment, strength and in the interests of his country and her people.” Zelensky, on the other hand, is “just some pitiful chump who’ll suck up to any western country he thinks gives him the glad eye.” Such commitment to an “enemy” narrative has led to comparisons with William Joyce, or Lord Haw Haw, whose Nazi broadcasts during the Second World War resulted in him being hanged in 1946.

Phillips once worked at the now-defunct Central Office of Information, which produced UK government marketing material. In 2009, he travelled to Ukraine for an England football match. The following year, aged 30, he moved to the country, working as an English teacher and then as a nightlife journalist in Kyiv for What’s On magazine. He ran a blog called “Brit in Ukraine,” which featured articles about politics, football and sex tourism.

In 2014, he took a job as a reporter for Russian state broadcaster RT, covering the war in the Donbas. But after he was captured by Ukrainian armed forces, he was deported and banned from the country. RT told him he was “no longer required”—a decision that still rankles. This year the channel has repeatedly offered him a slot on air, but he turned it down. Why would he need a professional outlet when he has a YouTube channel? 

Despite his ban, he returned to Ukraine this year to cover Russia’s invasion. On his channel, which currently has 286,000 subscribers, he interviews Ukrainians who support the invasion and films the invading army distributing aid (“Russian Soldiers in Ukraine as you’ve NEVER seen them before!!!!”). As he walks around the ruins of Mariupol, he opines that shelling the city is “the only way that Mariupol would be rightly returned to the will of the people.” 

Phillips, still in Ukraine, delivers half-truths and outright disinformation with an air of probing scepticism. Thousands of commenters beneath his videos thank him for bravely speaking out against the western media narrative.

In April, Phillips filmed an interview with Aiden Aslin, a British national who served with Ukraine’s army until he was captured by Russian troops. He claims that Aslin asked him to conduct the interview, though the captured man was handcuffed throughout, in what could be a breach of the Geneva convention—a charge Phillips denies. The video, since removed by YouTube, was condemned by Aslin’s family and his local MP, Robert Jenrick, who warned that Phillips is “in danger of prosecution for war crimes.” Boris Johnson has accused him of spreading “propaganda.” He scoffs at the accusation: “he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

Does criticism upset him? “Upset is probably a bit emotional. Obviously, I’d like my work to be correctly represented,” he says. “I believe that ultimately the truth will win.”

Phillips, who has received medals from Russia for his reporting, claims to be unconvinced by the myriad reports of Russian atrocities. But he stresses that he has no agenda—if only there were “definitive evidence” of Russia’s guilt, he might acknowledge it. “I’m always open to that…” Though it’s hard to imagine what horror it would take to change his mind.