by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
This is a complicated story with diverse twists and turns and layers which isn't what it seems at first -- although it may actually be worse.
A PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND TWITTER FIGHTS
When I saw this picture on Instagram taken by Max Avdeev, I instantly found it revolting -- the public face of the horrid self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" -- "prime minister" Aleksandr Boroday, a Russian citizen and long-time propagandist -- posing in the center of a group of Russian and Western journalists in a Moscow reporters' hang-out called Redaksiya [Editorial Office].
Here are some of the IDs:
I found it revolting because I don't think a journalist should hang out socially with Aleksandr Boroday, the former "prime minister" of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic", or if they happen to bump into him in a bar, drink with him, and then pose for what some are calling a "selfie" (although it isn't a selfie in fact, it's a photograph by the stunning war photographer Max Avdeev.)
THE MORAL SLIDER
I don't think it's right to sit down with the leader of the Russian-backed separatists especially after MH17 -- which he was the DNR PR face for, blocking access to the bodies and crashed plane. Not to mention everything else in the Donbass that happened while he represented it -- hundreds of buildings taken over, people kidnapped, tortured, killed, shot, homes shelled, civilians killed, everything.
But while I found the picture to be the epitome of everything that is wrong about Russian journalism (and Western journalism covering Moscow) and the most evocative capture I've ever seen of the cynical hipster "Moscow bubble" as sometimes the journalist scene is called in Moscow, I knew there was a more complicated back story.
I knew there'd be a justification. I knew while everyone was debating it furiously as whether it would be right or wrong, there'd be an explanation, and one that once given, would involve telling us to shut the fuck up, or else we'd be seen not only as screeching moralizers and couch warriors, but hopeless rubes when it comes to fathoming that great nuanced and sophisticated enterprise called journalism, and the bohemian culture of the media worker.
I have a friend who is trained as both a journalist and a lawyer and practiced in both fields for many years who describes journalism as an "occupation" not a "profession" and I tend to agree.
In case there are any doubts that this is a picture from drinking together with Boroday in a bar (because they're all shown standing up outside it), there is another picture of some of them actually at the table drinking with Boroday:
When I posted the picture to Facebook (on that version it has the wrong "Noah" labelled by Avdeev, who corrected it later), I simply said "Why I'm not a journalist." Because I do think there are borders of right and wrong that shouldn't be crossed, but I think most journalists would not set the slider where I would because they think many things are justified to get a story. I accept that, and don't expect to have much influence over the hipsters on this question.
CRAZY RUSSIAN VIOLENCE
Unfortunately, the debate veered off quickly in the Russian context first to be something else, sort of like that endless debate about why people who met Hitler early in his career or even after he began massively killing the Jews didn't attempt to kill him.
Russians began asking on Twitter why those who met Boroday didn't hit him over the head with a brick. Ilya Azar (@A3AP) did a poll asking people whether they thought he should have hit Boroday over the head with a brick -- in retaliation for all the lives harmed or extinguished by the DNR.
Then there was a Facebook debate parallel to this, when Julia Ioffe reproached Karina Orlova who said Boroday should have been physically attacked -- and of course we can all agree that regardless of the horrors Boroday is responsible for -- evasion of responsibility for MH17 looming large in the public's mind -- the answer in a civilized society isn't physically attacking him but arresting him and giving him a fair trial.
Then argument went on and then it depends ultimately whether Ioffe meant that even criticizing the idea of sitting at the table with Boroday would mean you should go into activism and not journalism -- it's likely she thinks that but it's not clear.
THE 'NEWSMAKER' IS OUTSIDE MORALITY
Once you get past that peculiarly Russian debate that sidetracked the basic moral debate for a time, there was still this: what possible justification could you have to sit at the table with this figure responsible for mass murder? The front man for crimes against humanity?
I suggested right away on Twitter that the excuse would be that he was a "newsmaker." "Newsmaker" is a category nearly as sacred as "journalist" that we are not to apply morality to if we are consumers of news. Putting Putin on the cover of Time, for example, isn't "immoral" because he is a "newsmaker."
Interestingly, a lot of the Russians in the debate used the English transliterated word in Russian "newsmaker" as well, and I don't think they got it from my tweet. They got it from their absorption in their culture of this concept of the "newsmaker" which exculpates your coverage of him, your even putting him on front pages and covers, which means you might have to lunch or drink with him.
Indeed that was the excuse a number of those involved, particularly Pavel Kanygin made -- that he was a "newsmaker". Kanygin -- who astoundingly, had just gotten arrested and beaten by the DNR only days before and expelled back to Russia -- indignantly challenged those disapproving of this hipster occasion of journos meeting "a source" (I don't think he's a hero for any of them) by saying that readers were happy to click on and like all his reports of the war, including interviews with Boroday, of which he has done at least two in the past, and they should understand this was "work" and "for work" and not be so squeamish, it's not a big deal.
'ZAPODLO' OR BAD FAITH
I disagree. It's precisely because Kanygin has not only just been beaten by the DNR (for saying he was "for peace" when asked which side he was for), and really should consider it zapodlo (a word used in the Gulag to mean violation of the code of the political prisoner which calls for not making common cause or voluntary contact with the warden and the authorities). It's because there isn't any "newsmaking" that he can get out of this encounter that he couldn't get by calling up Boroday on the phone and scheduling an interview during business hours as he has already done. Or even in a bar if that's what he had to do to get those interviews. THAT would be "work" with a "newsmaker". Drinking in a bar on an impulse and then adding insult to injury by snapping an Instagram isn't work. It's bad judgement.
The picture part of it was what bothered many people the most -- but to this war photographer, who has crawled in the mud among fighters' blown-off limbs to get the very heart of evil of Debaltsevo in probably the most stunning photographs of the war (which only Mashable could publish) -- it was only documentation, proof that they really met Boroday.
"Pics or it didn't happen" sort of thing, as Olaf Koens said.
And you know, he was good as his word -- this picture -- not distributed as much as the "family photo" Instagram, is worthy of a Great Master or Norman Rockwell -- the shadows, the poses, the crumbling wall, the American sports jacket -- really...
Pic or it didn't happen. pic.twitter.com/MqKMQBKrQU— Olaf Koens (@obk) June 18, 2015
Boroday is a has-been since he was withdrawn, evidently by the Kremlin backers of the DNR escapade, or at least the Kremlin's cutaway Malofeyev, who admittedly bank-rolled the "PR" for the bloody invasion via his old colleague Boroday, who in turn brought in the infamous Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin).
He occasionally makes some criticism of the DNR that people lap up, or has some tidbit or useful analysis which is why he is still on alternative talk shows and still referenced and still having interviews now and then in the "independent" media. So he's not so reclusive and reticent as to justify having to drink with him to get a nugget of information out of him. Now, if Bezler -- who has been missing and even presumed dead -- for months showed up in a bar, that might be worth overcoming your inner revulsion to try to find out where he has been and what made him left. But Boroday has been interviewed and re-interviewed -- and as I said, by Kanygin himself.
So where's the story? Where are all the articles based on this "insiders' information" that came from this encounter? Where is even an interesting blog post? Or a Tweet, even? In fact, what DID they talk about?
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER -- TO GAIN ACCESS TO THE DNR
And here the story takes another twist, so bear with me.
It seems from putting the social media snippets together that it wasn't really anything about the war itself, or actually getting "news" from a "newsmaker" but more fundamentally about the rules of the media game and the DNR's treatment of journalists -- because these self-same journalists want to keep their access to the DNR, so they can go on covering the war. Novaya Gazeta's Dmitry Muratov's mounted big cannon to protest about Pavel's release and would have mounted even more if he hadn't been promptly let go, likely with some intervention from the Kremlin.
Not surprisingly, Kevin Rothrock instantly took the hipster journo side of this (which I view as reprehensible) and parsed it -- so that people who should know better like Aric Toler would praise it just for rounding up the tangled story out of the Russian for a wider audience. That shouldn't be confused with the other thing he does, which is tacitly approve it. And even not so "tacitly" given what side of the story he emphasizes -- the hipster side.
As Rothrock's piece indicates -- and there's more -- they didn't just accidentally run into Boroday, because he just happened to be at Redaksiya, a reporters' watering hole; Ilya Azar first bumped into him on the street, then invited him to drink at Redaksiya, where he knew Kanygin to be, who was still showing the bruises from his "re-education" by the DNR.
That then raises the question about the answer Andrew Roth of the New York Times gave when confronted by people on Twitter about this saga.
Now, that implies they didn't deliberately go to the bar to drink with Boroday, but ran into him. Yet Azar says he first ran into him, then invited him to drink. Perhaps Roth was already in the bar with Kanygin and others and didn't expect Boroday?
He further elaborated in answer to my query:
So I commented:June 22, 2015
Because the issue wasn't about whether it was a planned outing or not -- all the evidence shows that it wasn't planned. But what was planned was the decision to take the spontaneous encounter and turn it into a discussion about why Kanygin was arrested and essentially "smooth things out" with the DNR through this "back channel". I will explain the meaning of Boroday holding up the phone chat in a minute.
But to understand more, read on.
Azar said he ran into Boroday on Stoleshnikov Lane in Moscow in the company of Ilya Vasyunin and discussed with him "the urgent problems of the DNR." According to Azar, Boroday explained the "insufficient universal human morality" among the separatists by "the influence of Hollywood films" and also justified the beating of Kanygin -- "a journalist should not work on both sides of the conflict." Then Azar offered Boroday to meet Kanygin personally in the bar.
(Notice how he's "blaming America first" for causing the DNR to be violent because they watch movies, not taking responsibility for their violence which is inherent.)
Rothrock doesn't go past the narrative that this bar encounter was all in a day's work for journalists and we gawkers who at the end of the day read all this stuff should just shut up with our moralizing. As I've indicated, however, there is more to it.
It seems to me Kanygin was arrested because of his interview in which the captured GRU officer says far from having quit the armed services and become a contractor or volunteer, he was on active duty in the regular army. There has never been anything like this confirmation in the Russian press. If it wasn't this story, it was the story of the townspeople who confirmed that Zaroshchenskoye wasn't the location of the Buk launch, but Grabovo was could have been a reason.
TV Rain's account, or really, Azar's account indicates that this wasn't about merely the happenstance of running into a newsmaker and using the occasion to extract some news "off the record."
This was different.
This was about the philosophy of journalism of the DNR and the liberal media and the problem of access to the DNR.
KANYGIN'S JUSTIFICATION - WHY WE NEWS CONSUMERS SHOULD SHUT UP
On Facebook, Kanygin said he unexpectedly ran into Boroday in Moscow:
that he said journalists shouldn't be beaten, the Zakharchenko behaves like a welder who wound up heading the tractor facting. But in war, he says, there isn't any impartial journalism. Journalism isn't war. Update. Boroday immediately asked to rebut the words about Zakharchenko as "a factory welder" -- he doesn't consider him a welder, and he didn't call him a welder.
It seems on that side, everything exploded due to our accidental meeting.
Kanygin himself then posted a more angry and justifying explanation it as follows:
A few things have to be explained.
First, this was an accidental meeting with Boroday -- for me, for Ilyusha [Ilya] Barabanov, for Andrew [Roth] and Olga [Koens], for Noah Sneider and Vasyunin, Nigina and Yegor -- this was a meeting with a newsmaker which turned out fortunate. I don't know how it is for you, dear firends and colleagues, sitting in Moscow and Kiev, but for us, this boroday here -- he's not a friend, but a part of work, he is a bearer of information -- how can I explain it more to you? -- who you will then read, and comment in your columns, and review, and raise criminal cases over, and admire or shower curses on from your couches, or ask his contact information or film your shows based on the information obtained. For us, for me at least, it doesn't matter, I am doing my job, and sorry, I am responsible for the mess.
I interviewed this man twice and I don't regret it. Each time it was very intriguing, each time it provided an understanding of the picture and the way of thinking of these people. It was also interesting for you, judging from the views and responses. Why they hypocrisy now?
Further. Whoever wants to teach how to behave with a newsmaker and what newsmakers to select, what is hell and what isn't hell, I would propose that at first you as zealously head somewhere to Donetsk or Kramatorsk or Mariupol, to an Azo base and then to the Vostok Battalion. And travel along the holes and bomb shelters, hwere there is typhoid and dirty children who beg for something to eat and a mortar launcher is thundering nearby. Then we can talk about hell.
Further -- on the photo. If it bothered someone, I sincerely regret it and I ask for forgiveness. But if it seemed to someone that we were "somehow friendly and nice to a torturer" -- don't twist it, we only observed the niceties after a difficult conversation. After answering our questions, this man left. and no general drinking bout took place or could have taken place.
That's all I have. Colleagues, you may add something I left out.
He then lists Ilya Azar, Serguei Parkhomenko, Arina Borodina, Rustem Adagamov, Arkady Babchenko, Oleg Kashin, Olga Romanova, Anton Krasovsky. These aren't people who were there, but just bloggers with an opinion about it.
DON'T CONFER LEGITIMACY
Sorry, but I think young Pavel has been had here -- the way all the young and earnest (despite their cynical hipster pose) journalists still participating in the Moscow media scene have been had -- by others way, way more cynical -- and actually more evil than they will ever be, because at worst they are venal.
In dealing with the brutality and sinister cunning of the Kremlin, there is not always a lot you can do -- the West doesn't have leverage or even strength, much less the Russian opposition or the independent media. But we -- they -- can do this much: not confer legitimacy. When all else fails, we have that. The Kremlin craves legitimacy. We must never give it.
WHO WINS WHEN YOU NEGOTIATE WITH THE DNR
The independent press, after the beating of Kanygin and his expulsion, should have boycotted the DNR with a news blackout until they relented.
Lurking behind this entire story, however, is basically the fact that Russian journalists, even the most independent, still feel some kinship with the DNR and its cause because while they may find the methods reprehensible, they may think there are "issues" -- if they are sophisticated enough to understand there are no authentic issues with suppression of the Russian language, they still think Ukraine has wronged the Donbass and wronged them further by shelling people's homes and killing some of them -- and they'll have criticism of Kiev even if they think the DNR is deformed or stupid. And Western journalists, while they will view the DNR critically, or humorously (that's how communism tends to be dealt with, unlike Nazism -- with ridicule, not condemnation), still tilt toward the Donbass cause and against Kiev, where they think means corrupt oligarchs and ultranationalism which undo the good of Maidan.
There have only been two or three journalists that come to mind who have actually embedded with the Ukrainian army and described their struggle from their side. All the others are in fact embedded with the DNR because they all have press passes from them and depend to one degree or another on their protection, and even have them as escorts so that they can get to sources. But it is never described as "embedded" and they would reject the term or reject any notion of bias even if they are on sufferance from the DNR.
And this belief that maybe the DNR can be "better" or "trained to be good" or at least "bargained with" that underlines this entire incident with Boroday, as Ollie Carroll's tweets indicate in his telling of the story:
Kanygin on his detention + deportation. Might more sensible heads in Donetsk apologise 4 shocking violence? (Rus) http://t.co/lfeCni7f0v— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) June 18, 2015
Kanygin: Borodai said DNR PM Zakhachenko behaving "like a welder put in charge of tractor factory", that journos should not be beaten (2)— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) June 19, 2015
B is then reported as saying "no such thing as neutral journalism in war". Kanygin: "no, you're mistaken. Journalism. Is. Not. War." (3)— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) June 19, 2015
Apropos earlier tweet re Borodai, Kanygin now seems to accept words on Zakharchenko were not those uttered https://t.co/wt435ipPQk— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) June 19, 2015
There's no such thing as neutral journalism, period, of course but that's another debate.
What's really most stomach-churning in this episode is then this photo, not seen or discussed (that I've seen) that shows a smugly triumphant Boroday showing a picture of his dialogue with Kanygin on his cell phone, after the bar meeting, and after Kanygin posted about it on his Facebook:
Here's a translation of the chat on the phone:
Boroday: Pash, you have simply stuck your own words under my name. And then you write that I asked you to "rebut my !!! words about Zakharchenko." That's really not pretty. It's jerking around [the words].
Kanygin: I re-did it already. I already too out the word "his own" a long time ago.
Boroday: Alright. I didn't see it yet.
But what's most important, this is already being used by all the Ukrainian media. And after that, you and your crowd cry about objectivity and that you aren't working on the side of the enemy?
Kanygin: I'm guilty before you, I'm sorry!
So while they may have gone to the bar with the notion of educating a "better" DNR and getting Boroday to concede that beating Kanygin was wrong (which they did), in the end, it's Boroday teaching them, instructing them how not to sound like they are on Kiev's side -- "the enemy's side" -- and Kanygin nearly groveling with apology -- AND for good measure, publicizing the fact of Kanygin's groveling. Of course there was a lot of disgusted surprise at this denouement in the comments.
THIS WAS A VERY RUSSIAN EVENT
Russian culture is more collectivist -- or if you get into the Russian Orthodox mysticism -- "communalist," and often want to solve contradictions between people by drinking to break down barriers and communicate at the level of the soul. An American might not feel it appropriate to drink with "a source," especially a source who was an MH17-related criminal, not only because of the ethics, but because "a source" wouldn't be in his social class or because it "might look bad" and he might fear disapproval from the public.
And he wouldn't feel a burning need to remove barriers with someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Like someone going to cover the murders of the church-goers in Charleston would find it undesirable to sit and drink with someone from the Council of Conservative Citizens who are said to have inspired the murderer to his hate crime. I'm quite certain that all those Washpo and Huffpo "iPhone photog" print journalists covering Ferguson didn't drink with the police later.
But I think journalists do this "crossing over" more than others, and especially abroad because they are thrown together on beats or in wars or whatever, and also because I think they feel they are in a caste superior to others. Everybody else reads the news; they write it. They have superior perception and penetrate to see "all sides" of the conflict, ostensibly; everyone else is hopelessly blinkered bound in their own prejudices.
The other turn this discussion took was a debate really similar to the "zapodlo" I described above, whether journalists should adopt a neutral or friendly attitude toward the regime, the very regime that is of course busy suppressing them.
Julia Ioffe, who herself left Russia and stopped working there because of this oppression -- who once told us we should resign ourselves to Putin's power and be "realists" shortly before switching course to enthusiastically cover the white-ribbon protests because suddenly it seemed things might be different -- spoke up in the debate with Karina Orlova saying that if she thought Boroday should be assaulted, then she was an activist not a journalist and in the wrong line of work.
She's mainly concerned about the issue of physical violence but still, the implication here is that if you think it's wrong to drink with Boroday(or it could be Peskov or Kiselyev or any other face of the regime and its work), then you aren't a professional journalist.
I find this the most awful because it implies that there isn't a range of morality here that a journalist might pick a higher end of, and still be considered worthy of the profession, or that thinking, moral people concerned about the appearance of evil and the "optics" of this situation can't walk away from it without seeming "uncool" or worse, "not doing their job." I'm sorry, that's just fucked. While Ioffe is right that no one should advocate violence against a figure like Boroday, the other proposition -- that you shouldn't photograph yourself at a bar with him -- is also a legitimate one that you can endorse without forfeiting your right to be considered a professional journalist. I can't help thinking that some editors were wincing at this photo, if they heard of it, merely because it became an occasion of scandal, and they'd prefer their reporters not be involved in scandals.
WAR CORRESPONDENTS ARE HEROES SO SHUT UP
Oleg Kashin sees it differently -- or at least, judging from the beginning of his essay on Slon.ru (it's behind a paywall that I can't even pay, so I don't know, maybe someone will have it):
Heroes are allowed a little more than ordinary people. If they consider it permissible to photograph themselves with Boroday, only other heroes can judge them for that, or not even, other heroes can't either, only God. Before ordinary people, before us, the incident with Boroday poses other simpler questions.
But then there's this: it's not bias, it's not prejudice, it's not uncool to be for freedom of speech and the media and stand against a regime that suppresses it. Journalists always view themselves as fighting for openness (Peter Baker kept invoking this value when I debated him about publishing the hacked TPP drafts -- and indeed the entire question of whether a liberal democratic government "must" be "transparent" on negotiating positions on a treaty.) Journalists are aggressive champions -- and obviously practitioners of -- free speech. So why can't they concede that drinking with regime tools sponsoring murder and even the beating of journalists isn't hip but actually uncool and self-defeating? And
In the miserable, compromising, self-censoring, self-justifying world of the "independent" media in Moscow (which unfortunately has to be termed such in scare quotes for nearly all of the former independent media now), hanging with Boroday is considered chic, and yet appearing on TV1 would be laughably wrong.
A journalist wrote recently that he was invited on a TV1 talk show and refused. TV1, after all. But then the host called him back again and pleaded, saying "We haven't hit bottom yet, we're still considered good."
Okay. So I agree. At one level, as Loren Feldman might say about such a situation after scoring it ruthlessly, "It doesn't matter." And it doesn't, given that these are the "cream" of the war correspondents' community -- and it is a tiny and brave one -- and they have produced amazing stories under terrible conditions and much might be forgiven them, even this. It isn't the bar scene that might cause Kanygin or any of them to become now more biased toward the DNR; it's the chat on the phone that Boroday, the consummate regime PR flak, holds up triumphantly -- the idea that he has schooled Kanygin.
Since the text about the welder remains on Kanygin's Facebook, and is copied by TV Rain and the Ukrainian media, I don't know what his apology means, or whether the "edited" or remarks about changing it amount to him merely explaining that Boroday asked to rebut it.
I've spent dozens of hours translating Kanygin's work although I've never spoken to him, and of course he's among the best there is. I don't think if you admire someone's work or general independence you have to exempt them from criticism. Naturally I resent -- as many would -- the idea that just because you haven't crawled through the mud and blood of the war in the Donbass that you aren't fit to pass judgement on the morality of this or that journalistic act. These men haven't suffered the blood and guts of childbirth, say, or some other ordeal that others have suffered that they many never suffer (losing a limb in actual combat, for example, as the soldiers and fighters do) but that wouldn't disqualify them from writing a story on those subjects or having an opinion on them.
I can understand that in the sausage-making of getting a story (which is among the things I don't like and won't do myself in journalism, like asking a man whose whose wife has just been stabbed to death "how do you feel"), Kanygin might have felt he had to do business with this creepy Boroday to get his press pass back. Then why the photo? That turns it into a triumphant social occasion instead of a transactional measure that was part of the dirty business of covering a dirty war.
And why were the foreign journalists there? Kanygin is Russian; this is a very Russian story, trying to reason with the persecutor. What excuse would the foreigners have?
THE JOURNALISTS WHO OBJECTED
I think it is important to note that other journalists, even being part of the independent media scene, found it objectionable. Leonid Martynyuk, who produced reports with Nemtsov and the video on MH17, said it was wrong -- but then, other Russians would say he is a political party member more than a journalist if he thinks that. Thank God there are people like Leonid, however, who do know right from wrong.
Yevgeny Feldman, a photographer for Novaya Gazeta, summed it up:
And Babchenko, a respected war correspondent himself, has written the most in condemnation of this incident.
He cites Olga Romanova:
According to the feng-shui I shouldn't drink with prison wardens and you shouldn't drink with Boroday.
She uses the Chinese philosophical idea of harmony and balance, say, in structuring your home but it's similar to the "zapodlo" etiquette of the prisoners I indicated above.
Here's an excerpt -- He says that the borders erode when you are covering wars and things you might do in a war zone you wouldn't -- or shouldn't back home in Moscow. But he cites Olga Romanova with the same idea I've articulated about the "zapodlo"
Here, in fact, I have a separate criticism, that with such a level of newsmakers, you, colleagues, are going to reduce the news down to the level of the mice, because Oleg Tsarev on TV Rain and Ekho -- well, bros, well, that's really the limit, really only after that would you get interviews from mice, I don't understand why you make them public figures, why you talk with them, why you write with them and then read all that, the level of your newsmakers indicates only and strictly the level of your professionalism, and not at all the ability the extract hot information, as perhaps it seems to you, and wit that, to make a point, you are dumping on the market of journalism, you are lowering the level, and that is not the best game.
So to read about the "insider" in this specific case -- well, gentlemen, that is even in some sense shameful.
In fact, like reading "all that liberal journalism -- it's a collection of pederasts and nothing more from the Moskaley can be expected." It's the same tomatoes, only from a different angle.
In sum he said his simple advice was "Don't drink with everybody and his brother, my friends. Don't lose the sense of boundary. Even if it is your work. Donetsk is one thing, but a bar in Moscow is another. Don't violate the feng-shui.
Well, finally, there was this:
Speaking of selfies https://t.co/H0L30ZlXfb— Andrew Roth (@ARothNYT) June 20, 2015
There was no question that Roth, in referencing "selfies" (which was what the photo op with Boroday was called) meant to invoke the drama around Boroday, and then show "on the other side," here were these Ukrainian soldiers in Dnepro-1 Battalion willing to pose with Sen. McCain.
That's why I asked this question:
@ARothNYT Sen. John McCain is different than Aleksandr Borodai, right?— CatherineFitzpatrick (@catfitz) June 22, 2015
Roth dismisses concerns about the incident because it "wasn't a planned outing" but a chance encounter -- although really it was a chance encounter that led to a plan to "do something" about securing access to the DNR for journalists, given that one had just been expelled.
Rothrock doesn't go past the narrative that this bar encounter was all in a day's work for journalists and we gawkers who at the end of the day read all this stuff should just shut up with our moralizing. As I've indicated, however, there is more to it.
It seems to me Kanygin was arrested because of his interview in which the captured GRU officer says far from having quit the armed services and become a contractor or volunteer, he was on active duty in the regular army. There has never been anything like this confirmation in the Russian press. If it wasn't this story, the story of the townspeople who confirmed that Zaroshchenskoye wasn't the location of the Buk launch, but Grabovo was could have been a reason.
If it wasn't one of these stories, it was another recent one that triggered the arrest -- the immediate reason was likely the coverage of the unexpected anti-war demonstration against the DNR held in the center of Donetsk. That immediate reason couldn't have been the only reason for something as dramatic as an arrest, however, and likely there was an accumulation of irritation over these other stories I mentioned.
Ultimately, Kanygin -- and the whole liberal media, as he was an object lesson -- were being published for "covering both sides of the war" which Boroday, a propagandist of war, not only believes is wrong; it's wrong enough to be arrested and even beaten over.
In other words, the values that these liberal journalists are ostensibly fighting for -- sturdy impartiality and an iron gut that lets them drink with murderers for the sake of news-gathering; being willing to talk to "anybody" for the sake of a story; getting both sides of the war -- these are all values that the DNR rejects, which is why its agent bashed Kanygin on the head.