Herland Report: International geopolitics has brought Ukraine to the forefront of the international power game, fuelling ethnic strife and conflict. The Western mainstream coverage only presents one side of the Ukrainian civil war and the media coverage almost solely reflects the geopolitical perspectives and goals of the American Military Complex in the quest to dominate Europe’s Eastern borders.
(Feature photo: Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksander Zakharschenko with President of People Diplomacy Norway, Hendrik Weber).
The founder and president of The People Diplomacy Norway, Hendrik Weber states that if the politicians do not speak to each other, as war is looming everywhere, normal people can do this and start the dialog in order preserve international peace. In war, there is pain on all sides.
He and his steadily growing team has repeatedly traveled to Crimea in order to understand other perspectives, now recently to the Donetsk People’s Republic, as he exclusively speaks about to The Herland Report in this interview. (Upcoming Herland TV interviews with Weber are soon to be released)
He says that it is important to show people living in these war torn battlefield countries that they are not alone.
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There are many regular citizens in Europe who do not support the current Western politics and want to do something about it.
They want peace in Europe, not war and destruction. People Diplomacy now has branches in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Russia and the UK, growing weekly in numbers.
Recently, Weber visited Donetsk and met with the Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Aleksander Zakharschenko who became head of state after winning the election by a landsslide in the breakaway state back in 2014.
Weber also met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nataliya Nikonorova and the People Diplomacy team travelled all over the region, visiting the front lines, children’s hospitals, cities, orphanages, schools and spoke to regular people about the conflicts in the region.
The aim of People Diplomacy NGOs
The growth of People Diplomacy NGOs in Europe is now perceived as the people’s activist reaction against the change in the role of NATO, from being a European defence organization to an aggressive military force wherever US interests are threatened, as many people in Europe prefer peace.
The hope is to achieve more peace between nations, as we realize that those who live in war zones are just like us: Wishing for peaceful lives in their own countries, for their families and communities.
They are the human factor, the millions caught in the battlefields, as the geopolitical ambitions of world elites define country after country as a war zone. It is also important to show these governments that someone is looking for dialogue with them. In order to break the information block we have in the Western media, it is important to go there.
The Herland Report interview with Hendrik Weber
The Herland Report: – You are the founder and president of the NGO People Diplomacy Norway, where the aim is to open the minds for peace between different groups instead of continuing the escalation towards more military conflicts. We understand these NGOs are now in several European countries, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and so on. Tell us about why you decided to start People Diplomacy, Norway.
Founder of People Diplomacy Norway, Hendrik Weber: – In 2013/2014 when the protests on Maidan in Kiev startet, I could read every day in the newspapers that the Russian President Putin is to blame for all happening there. And each day it got worse, and I had the feeling that our government and the newspapers had found the guilty person for everything that happened in the world.
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Before that time I´ve never had something to do with Russia. I was always interested it in politics but had no contacts there, I even didn’t know any Russian persons.
But when all this happened I had the feeling that this impression that only one party is to blame, cannot be true. So, I started to read more books about global politics, Russia, and I tried to find out what´s really going on in the Ukraine.
In 2016 I had the opportunity to be a part of a German delegation to Crimea.
That was very interesting for me, because I got a closer view what the people on that side were thinking about regarding the situation in the Ukraine, and what they thought about the reunion with Russia.
When we came back, Mette and I thought about what we could do now, to spread this information we got there. That´s why we startet People Diplomacy Norway. We started simply with a Facebook-profile «Weber Rosenlund».
And now it has grown quickly and we are establishing an internet website www.folkediplomati.com which is soon ready. As you say, there are already organisations for People Diplomacy in other European countries. The idea behind this is, if the politicians don’t speak to each other, than normal people will do this, to start a dialog and to preserve peace.
The Herland Report: – You recently went to Donetsk and spoke to the leaders there, please tell us about the trip.
Hendrik Weber: – In February this year (2018) we were invited to visit the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The invitation came from a Russian humanitarian organisation and from the department for foreign relations from Donetsk. It was a very interesting trip and we saw many different areas and talked to a number of people.
It was the same kind of trip that we have made to Crimea. We wanted to se the other side because we don’t believe only in the newspapers, as we now know they are highly biased. It was an official trip together with the leaders from People Diplomacy of Russia and Germany.
We visited children homes, a school, a hospital, a memorial for dead children and we had meetings with officials like the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nataliya Nikonorova and the President of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksander Zakharchenko as well as Ministers for economy and finance. We had the opportunity to visit the frontline two times and saw that there really is a war going on.
The Herland Report: – We have previously reported on your trip to Krim. Can you please sum up some of your impressions regarding the conflict in Ukraine and the status of Crimea?
Founder of People Diplomacy, Norway, Hendrik Weber: – For me personally there are no questions. Crimea is a legal part of the Russian Federation. There are different explanations with different points of emphasis to justify that.
When you ask normal people in the Crimea, you will hear that there was a coup in Kiev, and an illegal government came to power.
People had seen what happened in the eastern Ukraine and where afraid of the fascists. Terrible crimes were made to the civilians by the fascists and the Ukrainian Army.
Therefore, the majority decided they wanted to be a part of Russia. By the way, these fascist battalions are still active in the east of Ukraine.
On the other side you can find essays from famous law-scientist like Prof. Reinhard Merkel from the university in Hamburg. He explained the situation in connection with the international law.
In 2014, he published a long newspaper article in a major daily newspaper. This article is still up to date, unfortunately, since no other newspaper has published his explanation. The press will not write about it.
We have been to Crimea several times now and have seen a different reality from what is described in the newspapers. The people are satisfied there. There is no war and no soldiers on the streets. The shops are filled with groceries, and cities like Yalta are ready for tourists.
The Herland Report: – What is the role of the Western media in these conflicts? It is, after all, quite revealing that over 90 % of the American media is owned by only 6 corporations, and more than half of those own the US Military Industry?
Hendrik Weber: – “Press freedom is the freedom of 200 rich people to spread their opinions.” This is a quote from a famous journalist who died in 1967. In our time, I would say that the number of 200 has drastically reduced.
Today, there are only a handful of news agencies that produce the news including pictures, and pass them on to the individual newspapers. Of course, a journalist can sometimes report from a different point of view, but if he does that too often, he gets in trouble.
It also has to do with the fact that the newspaper is dependent on advertising. If you write every day that Coca Cola makes you fat, than it would be difficult to get Cola Cola as your sponsor or customer.
At the same time, many newspapers in Europe are also dependent on direct and indirect state support. In Norway, this dependency is enormous, the media receives around 8 billions of NOK from the Norwegian state yearly. Then it is clear that the media are also based on the view of the government.
The Herland Report: – We hear very little about Donetsk in the Western media, except for the stories that this region is filled with “Russian terrorists” and “oppositional groups” to Kiev. Tell us about what you saw there, how did the people react when they met you?
Founder of People Diplomacy, Norway, Hendrik Weber: – That is right. It is only described as a conflict between the government in Kiev and the separatists and terrorists. That’s a completely wrong picture. After all that we have seen, and after the experiences of the people we talked to, it is a real war.
Not only in 2014 and 2015 but also today villages and towns are bombed every night by the Ukrainian army.
These are terrible things that they told to us by the relief organizations, but also by teachers or staff of the children’s home.
We talked to people living at the Frontline and saw families spending their nights in the cellar with their children in fear of grenades.
But we also saw that Donetsk is a normal city in Europe, with normal city life.
We were at a folk festival in the center of Donetsk, where families went for a walk and children played in the playgrounds.
A normal city, if the frontline where not only 4 km away. It may feel like war is always far away somewhere, but this war is right here in Europe.
The people we met were very happy that someone from the West finally came to looks at the situation. Everyone was very friendly to us.
The girls from school No. 19 in Donetsk wanted to do selfies with me, just like normal teenagers at any other school anywhere in Europe.
When I asked about there wishes for the future, the answer was that they wanted peace and they would like to travel to Europe at some point to use their learned English and German.
We visited a man with his 10 year old son, near Gorlovka. The mother was killed in a grenade attack, the son lost an eye and has major injuries to his head.
He has to undergo surgery several more times in Moscow, but his father don’t has the money to travel.
We considered whether we should take pictures, and expose the son for it or not. But the father asked us to take pictures and take his story to Europe to let people know what’s going on her.
On the way to the battlefront in Donetsk in the car of Mayor of Gorlovka, Ivan Prihodko.
On Monday, we had an official meeting with DPRs president Aleksander Zakharchenko. At first, Zakharchenko looked suspicious and wanted to find out what our intentions were. When he realized we had no ready-made opinion we had a long and open conversation.
Normally, the meeting would take only an hour, but he also invited us on a city tour. We drove in his car through Donetsk to the completely destroyed airport, and then to a restaurant where we had lunch. We spent at least 4 hours together in a partly very private atmosphere. During this time, I was also able to address difficult topics. I did not have the impression that he had something to hide.
The Herland Report: – Was there any reaction from Norwegian officials or the press before that trip ?
Hendrik Weber: – Before I went on this trip, a newspaper interviewed me and wrote an article. The article was good. The reporter also called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ukrainian Embassy in Oslo and asked for an statement.
At the same time, they had established contact with the Helsingfors Committee and General Secretary, Bjørn Engesland.
In the paper, Engesland said he was surprised that someone was visiting a self-proclaimed head of a government accused of serious human rights abduction.
These statements are as expected and correspond to our current foreign policy. People Diplomacy Norway is committed to dialogue, a dialogue unfortunately denied by our Norwegian government.
The Herland Report: – Why is there a need to actually travel to these places, and which effect do you find that these trips have?
Founder of People Diplomacy Norway, Hendrik Weber: – It is important to show people living there, that they are not alone. There are so many people in Europe who does not want to support current politics and want to do something about it.
It is also important to show these governments that someone is looking for dialogue. In many of these countries, such as the Crimea, you can also travel as a tourist and be convinced that most people all over the world just want to have peace and a happy life. This applies to North Korea as well as to the Crimea or Donetsk. The same applies to Ukraine. In order to break the information block we have in the Western media, it is important to go there.
The Herland Report: – When you travel to Krim or Donetsk, or Luhansk for that matter, you speak to one of the warring parties. Why not go to Kiev and get their side of the story?
Hendrik Weber: – In my position now it is not possible for me to travel to Ukraine. I am standing on a list of Ukraine in which I am accused of “support of the Russian invaders and support of a pro-Russian terror organisation in Donbass and on Crimea”.
That is absurd. I have no need to speak with the Ukrainian government. I believe that we have heard their opinion in our Western media often enough.
Actually, their is the absolute only opinion we have heard the past years in the West. However, I would like to visit the people on the Ukrainian side of the frontline and hear their opinion. Hopefully that will happen someday. We know that in every conflict, there is pain on both sides.
The Herland Report: – Would you agree with Robert McNamara who stated in the famous documentary “The fog of War” that the US biggest mistake in Vietnam was supporting one side in a civil war?
Hendrik Weber: – That is difficult to say. What I find admirable is that someone who allegedly knows everything and has insight into all the documents can fundamentally change his opinion.
That requires great respect. Most people are so bogged down in their view of things that they can not admit themselves to have lied wrong. This testifies to Robert McNamara’s personal strength. It would be nice if we had several such politicians.
The Herland Report: – Why does the US meddle so heavily into conflicts such as the one in Ukraine? We have seen American Senator John McCain as the official advisor of President Porochenko, the son of the American Vice-President Joe Biden,
Not to mention that the Ukrainian long term oligarch, Petro Porochenko is one of Ukraine’s richest men prior to becoming president. It seems quite obvious that someone in the US has great interest in controlling the Ukraine.
The Mazleniza Festival, Donetsk.
Founder of People Diplomacy Norway, Hendrik Weber: – Ukraine has always been an important country in the geopolitical considerations of the United States.
The longtime advisor to several US presidents, Brzezinski, described and explained these strategies in 1997 in his book “The Grand Chessboard”.
He refers in his work to the Englishman, Halford MacKinder, the inventor of the Heartland Theory in 1904.
In a simplistic way, for the US it is about splitting Russia and Europe. Europe with its technology and know-how and Russia with its size and its infinite mineral resources. That, according to theory, can be the only power that could be dangerous to the US.
The Herland Report: – What next? Are there more trips ahead for you?
Hendrik Weber: – People Diplomacy Norway vil take participate as election observers to the presidential election on the 18th of march in the Crimea. The OSCE will direct election observation in Russia, but the Crimea will not be under surveillance. We have an official invitation from the State Duma and will visit several polling stations.
In April we will probably go to Yalta with a delegation and visit Lugansk a little later. In October, a Norwegian delegation to the Crimea is planned again.
At the same time we will finally be able to open our website www.folkediplomati.com in the next few days.
However, there are also many other projects planned, such as lectures, weekend trips to Moscow, a fundraiser and the accompaniment of projects in Donetsk etc. There is a lot to do and I am happy about that.