British vlogger accused of being ‘Kremlin mouthpiece’ sanctioned by UK over work in Ukraine

Graham Phillips is first Briton added to list

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 27 July 2022 09:20 BST
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A pro-Kremlin vlogger who has been accused of spreading Russian propaganda from Ukraine during the war has been put on the UK's sanctions list.

Graham Phillips, a former Whitehall civil servant, was added to the official list for producing and publishing content seeking to "destablise" the eastern European country.

Mr Phillips, 43, was namechecked in parliament earlier this year by Boris Johnson, who said he was concerned about the vlogger's "propaganda messages" featuring Aiden Aslin, a Briton who has been sentenced to death by Russia for fighting in Ukraine.

In April Mr Phillips conducted an interview with Mr Aslin after he was captured by Russian forces in Mariupol, the destroyed port city in Ukraine's southeast on the Sea of Azov.

He claimed that the prisoner of war (PoW), who was visibly bound with handcuffs, was not being coerced by his captors.

Robert Jenrick, Mr Aslin's local MP and the former secretary of state for housing and local government, went further than the outgoing prime minister by accusing Mr Phillips of war crimes.

The video showing his constituent “handcuffed, physically injured and being interviewed under duress for propaganda purposes” was a breach of the Geneva conventions on the treatment of PoWs, he said,

Mr Phillips, from Nottingham, first visited Ukraine in 2009. He moved to the country, from London, permanently the following year and began making YouTube videos, in which he reviewed brothels and commented life in Kyiv.

After the outbreak of war in Ukraine's east in 2014, Mr Phillips began filming videos from the front line and later became a freelance journalist for Russia Today, the state-owned broadcaster and Kremlin mouthpiece.

Ukrainian authorities detained Mr Phillips in Mariupol. He was later released and banned from the country but managed to return to Russian controlled territory where he continued to produce pro-Russia videos.

In a seperate video he blamed Ukraine for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014. YouTube has so far declined to remove his videos, despite pleas from politicians.

Before moving to Ukraine Mr Phillips worked at the now-defunct Civil Service Central Office of Information - the government's marketing and communications agency.

Mr Phillips, who will have his assets frozen, is the first British citizen to be added to the growing sanctions list and continues to insist he is "reporting the truth" about the war in Ukraine.

Commenting on the newly sanctioned individuals, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said: “We will not keep quiet and watch Kremlin-appointed state actors suppress the people of Ukraine or the freedoms of their own people. We will continue to impose harsh sanctions on those who are trying to legitimise Putin’s illegal invasion until Ukraine prevails.”

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