April 28, 2022 - 7:00am

As the parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and WWII abound, there is one figure who has escaped notice: 2022’s Lord Haw-Haw, otherwise known as William Joyce. The 1940s voice of anti-Western propaganda was Joyce, a committed American fascist who fled to Germany at the outbreak of World War II — his modern equivalent is Graham Phillips, a so-called journalist who has served as a Kremlin mouthpiece since Russia’s original hostilities against Ukraine in 2014.

Phillips’ history of actively promoting the Kremlin narrative has not been limited to fringe social media activity. He has worked for Russian state media, and clearly retains official links with the authorities: in the last week, he has been given access to British-born Ukrainian prisoners of war, interviewing them for his YouTube channel. The video has since been removed, but third-party clips remain online. It would, however, be inaccurate to describe his video of Ukrainian Marine/Nottingham native Aiden Aslin as an interview; willing interviewees, after all, are rarely in handcuffs. 

In the first of many inaccuracies, it begins with Phillips stating — and making his subject confirm — that Aslin is a mercenary. By definition, this is simply not true. As a citizen of Ukraine and an enlisted member of the country’s Armed Forces, Aslin is neither a mercenary nor a private military contractor.

This sets the tone of the proceedings. Aslin resignedly agrees with whatever predictable Kremlin propaganda Phillips espouses (‘I was on the wrong side’/’I was misled’), but Phillips remains petty enough to sharply correct any Ukrainian pronunciation of regional locales — hardly the conduct, one could reasonably surmise, of an independent journalist.

However, his conduct in the Aslin interrogation is simply the latest example of his eight years of servitude to Moscow, work which began after he moved to Ukraine following a visit to the country to watch a football match. Originally a blogger with a sleazy focus on sex and prostitution, he became affiliated with Russia Today during the 2014 Euromaidan revolution and the subsequent conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

His journalistic narratives have always been word-for-word translations of premium Kremlin propaganda, lent faux legitimacy by a middle-class English accent: Ukraine has been taken over by Nazis; Georgia is a fascist state and a NATO puppet that provoked Russia into war in 2008; Russia is a liberator defending oppressed minorities under attack by the West and their Eastern European allies.

His activity has not simply been limited to uploading fake news online. He has been arrested on a number of occasions, in Ukraine, Estonia (from where he was deported), and in London itself, when he violently disrupted a display at the Georgian Embassy commemorating the Russian invasion of their country. In a low point during a career that has never lacked them, he also mocked a disabled Ukrainian civilian wounded by a Russian landmine who had been a prisoner of Russian forces for a year. Two years later, then-Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK Natalia Galibarenko called for his British passport to act on someone who has openly disseminated Russian propaganda.

Cancelling Phillips’ passport and revoking his citizenship would be the just consequence for his actions – and in the tradition of Kim Philby, leave him to enjoy a forlorn life in a country that has only made its mark as a European pariah state.

For his part, before his execution for treason, William Joyce warned against “the crushing imperialism of the Soviet Union”. As Russian forces openly fly the Soviet flag in their invasion of Ukraine, one wonders if at any point Graham Phillips will reconsider his choice of allegiance. 

Tim Ogden is the Assistant Editor at New Europe. He is based in Georgia.