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#6 - JRL 7137
gazeta.ru
April 8, 2003
Russian reporter in Baghdad sees quick end to war

NTV correspondent Denis Shuisky, whose crew has been working in Baghdad since March 31 after replacing an earlier team, agreed to answer our readers questions. Shuisky is working in the Iraqi capital together with cameraman Timur Voronov and sound technician Mikhail Kolosov.

What are the real losses on both sides? One can imagine the extent of the Iraqi losses, but it is scarcely credible that the US has lost 88, being in the vanguard of the advance inland? Or that Great Britain has lost 25 killed, being involved in street fighting in Basra? Maxim Morozov, Moscow

How great is the difference between the official casualty toll and the real figures? Dovbysh Artyom, Artyom

Why do the Americans dissemble the true casualty toll? Oleg, Lithuania

What is the source of the data concerning losses, and who gathers and processes it before the journalists access it? And God bless you, guys? Alexander, Canada.

Gazeta.Ru: Denis, there are a lot of questions concerning the true figures of losses suffered by the warring sides. Can you estimate the true number of people lost by the warring parties in the conflict since the beginning of the campaign?

No, so far we cannot speak of losses, since neither side has informed us of its losses.

Is that true that the Americans have eliminated the elite units of Husseins Guard near Baghdad? Denis, Kiev

There really were such clashes. In any case, we saw guardsmen who had given themselves up being disarmed.

Can the Reuters, CNN and Al-Jazeera coverage be trusted? Tara, USA

How impartial is your standpoint on the war? Sasha, New-York

It would be interesting to know, with whom the personal sympathies of the journalists lie? Serik, Almaty

Why do Russian printed and television media cover the events in Iraq in such a biased, anti-American way? Could it be that Primakov and Co have brainwashed the public and the ruling elite? Moskvich, USA

Why have our media outlets taken a pro-American position and confined themselves to repeating CNNs news reports? Is there the opportunity to report from the streets of Basra and Baghdad, and not from the US press-centres? Where are the interviews with local residents? Where is the live footage? Alexei Sidorov, Barnaul

Gazeta.Ru: Also, many readers question the credibility of world media coverage of the war in Iraq. Whose reports are more truthful, in your opinion?

I assume that in addition to the conventional war, there is also an information war going on in Iraq. When they call me from the Moscow office, on my mobile [phone] to inquire if it is true that journalists in Iraq are forced to hand in their mobilesit is downright absurd! No, nobody has taken away the phones, though all news agencies carried the report that mobile phones were being taken away from us. I had to convince the editors in Moscow that it was not true.

Another example: yesterday there was a report that US tanks had already entered the city [Baghdad], there was even a video report, made either by CNN, or Reuters. In truth, my colleagues saw how it happened: several US armoured personnel carriers drove into the highway leading to Baghdad.

Near a sign that read 'Baghdad' they posed for the cameras, drove here and there a little and then vanished from the road. And the affair was presented as if Baghdad had been practically occupied In truth, however, public transport and shuttle buses were still working a normal regime in Baghdad And I had to refute those reports for the whole day. In other words, presently there is an information war waged by the US media. Objectively we can report only on things that we see with our own eyes, that is it.

Does the Iraqi side engage in misinformation, too?

Of course, they too are waging an information war. We report the information they provide us, but always with a reference to them.

Is it true that each correspondent in Baghdad is accompanied by an Iraqi official, and how does that influence the impartiality of your reports? Felix, Moscow

Yes, that is true. Those people are called guides, but here everything depends on the human factor. Our guide, for instance, is very friendly and even helps us. Well, obviously when the city is besieged, some places cannot be filmed such as weapons emplacements and military installations. But we did not feel the strain until recently when we were not allowed to send footage to Moscow without it being censored first. There are a couple of people who censor the footage. For instance, today we filmed US tanks, a clash actually, and we were not permitted to send it.

Do you have a chance to report from the streets?

Of course, we report on what is going on in the streets. Every day we inspect the streets and see what is happening.

It must be difficult for you to say which countrys media are more objective?

Russias, I think.

Do many Iraqi residents support the Americans? Mikhail Murom

What is, in truth, the Iraqis attitude towards the US troops? Thank you. Valeria, Austria

Do the US troops have the support of the local population? Isak, USA

How strong is support for Saddam Hussein among Iraqis? Armen, Sweden.

It is very difficult to find people here who would love Americans. Even those who did not like Saddam Hussein in the first place, will ever grow to like Americans after the fierce bombings.

Americans have spoiled their image themselves, because there has been a huge amount of victims among civilians. And, as it seems to us, a sort of a Chechen scenario may repeat itself here: even when Baghdad is taken, a guerilla war may begin. Civilians are very much embittered by the US actions. And it is not even a question of love for their own president, but, first of all, of vengeance against Americans.

How many people support Saddam?

Well, we have not conducted any opinion surveys here. But near the hotel where we live we can often see armed men in cars, holding Saddams portraits and shooting in the air. This is clearly a form of showing-off for the press. Sometimes, even buses drive up, carrying armed people who stage impromptu demonstrations. How many people really love the president is hard to tell.

Have you had a chance to talk to US soldiers?

No, never met them. On March 30 we were travelling from Amman to Baghdad, and [our drivers said they] saw Americans a day earlier on March 29. They had installed a checkpoint in the middle of the desert, and checked documents. Our drivers told us about that. And on the next day, [when we set out from Amman to Baghdad] there was no trace of the US checkpoint left. Today we saw them for the first time, through our camera lenses, on the other side of the Tigris.

What are the sentiments among the US soldiers? Do they really assume that they are fighting for the liberation of the Iraqi people? Natalya, Novossibirsk

What do you know of their sentiments?

Nothing.

Do ordinary civilians have access to bomb shelters? Are shops and public institutions open in Baghdad, and what is the public mood? Anatoly, Chelyabinsk

Yes, they have access [to bomb shelters]. There are [shelters] in the city, in every hotel, and in the first days of the bombing everyone, including journalists, went down into them. But when it became clear that there were no carpet bombardments and we could see where approximately missiles were falling, nobody had any desire to descend into shelters. People here are used to bombs. It is a strange feeling: when we were still in Amman and watched what was going on here on Al-Jazeera, it seemed to us that it was hell in Baghdad. And since we came here, rented a car and started driving around the city, we have never descended into the shelter once. We live on the 13th floor of the hotel and watch everything from there.

Are there any mercenaries fighting on the Iraqi side, in particular, from CIS states? Viktor, Novosibirsk

Is there any information concerning volunteers from Russia fighting on the Iraqi side? Vadim, Mytishchi.

Is it true that there are many volunteers from other Muslim states helping Iraq? Does Hussein plan to unite Muslims against the US? Andrei, Ukraine

Well, yes, we have met a rather odd man from Kazakhstan here. He looks very much like bin Laden, the same beard, black Muslim clothes and a scimitar. He arrived to fight for Saddam, but they would not recruit him, believing he could be a spy. He is forced to sit in the hotel as a human shield. There are people from many counties, not only from Muslim states, from Turkey, from Europe and Asia; young and old. It is incomprehensible how they have reached Baghdad; they live in hotels free of charge, and act as human shields. They walk the city streets, defying the bombings, from time to time they hold rallies where there are more video cameras, and are trying to stop the war. We respect those people very much.

Do you think this war will be long?

Some two to three days ago we believed so, while the Americans were still far away. But now, that we have seen US tanks in the centre of the city, I believe that everything may be over in 2-3 days.

Will Iraqis surrender?

No, the Americans will take the city, and then a guerilla war may well begin.

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