Former head of the press service of the defense Ministry Oksana Gavrilyuk: it is Important to work towards the glorification of the Ukrainian army

For the position of chief of the office of communications and press Ministry of defense of Ukraine Oksana Gavrilyuk has worked for 2.5 years. During this time she established training courses for journalists, a two-tier accreditation in the area of the ATO, with an operational press center. Many link her dismissal to the scandal around the awarding of the journalists, however, the former Chairwoman of the press service of the defense Ministry denies this. Read more about this and more in an exclusive interview

 You have completely resigned and handed over power?

The dismissal process is over, the powers I already gave, that is, I\’m not in the state. But I must say that part of me will always remain with the army. Therefore, in the future career I will take this into account.

Why did you leave? This, of course, associated with the scandal around the awarding of the journalist Nastya Stanko. And lots of things are on the Internet. And really?

(Anastasia Stanko, journalist of Gromadsky. Her award of the Minister of defence for his work in the area of ATO caused outrage in social networks. Some volunteers encouraged to take Stanko award, and Gavrilyuk to dismiss because it determined the lists of journalists, presented the award. – Ed.)

In fact, the reason is simple: the desire of professional growth and development. Nothing situation with Stanko to my dismissal has not, I do not think this scandal. These are the working moments, and during my service in the Armed Forces was not one such situation, so if every time so emotional to approach this and each time to quit, it is not enough, probably, of life on it.

I worked for 2.5 years. I think that today was much, need to move on and do something, unfortunately, in the walls of the Ministry of defence in the status of head of communications and press, I can\’t. Can\’t, given the many objective and subjective reasons. Need to go beyond status and stamps, to involve some people from outside, maybe some external funding, a new external management model. In addition, we launched the work so that it can later be executed automatically, regardless of personalities. Now our management is like a well – coordinated mechanism, a clock in which the main settings. Here we are, these settings launched, and it works. And there will be Gavrilyuk, or someone else – the mechanism is difficult to break.

It is already known who will go to your powers?

Yes, already assigned to the head of Department is a former assistant to the Minister, today head of the Department. Is Aleksey Chernobay.

You said that even in the post of head of the Department, even with such tools, it is not possible to implement what you want. Not enough tools – why? This bureaucracy, this lack of funding or what?

When you start priority projects, I realized that there is not enough system, coordination of volunteers, public organizations, production studios, government bodies, coordination between them in performing certain major tasks and projects. We said a year ago that we need to create a center that would become the initial stage of cooperation between the various formalized and non-formalized organizations working with the military theme. And here the status, the reference to the Ministry of defence would rather have hindered than helped.

I do not regret that it happened that way, particularly about the award?

No, I do not regret. Choosing those whom we wish to reward the journalists Day, I did it on the basis of who is more there (in the ATO), who illuminates more war, who rides on the front and Nastya Stanko was one of them. Perhaps Nastya Stanko many people have their questions about her work, journalistic standards, statements, and so forth, but that it worked effectively on the front, particularly in the last year, against one that won\’t say anything. So I just said that it was my own decision, and I handed her to the awards, and named his reason for his decision. Well, the rest of thoughts you\’ve heard and read.

At what stage in this learned Minister, and what was his reaction?

I think he\’s learned already at the stage of the scandal on the Internet and in social networks. We had a conversation with him. I explained to him my reasons. Details will not tell you. We talked to him, concluded, agreed. If you are interested in, as we parted, we parted well.

Not ask you to stay? Maybe not personally to the Minister, and just in the highest ranks of the Ministry?

You know, I won\’t say that my solution was the usual. It surprised everyone to be honest. And for those soldiers who serve for decades, for them to leave the army – it is something impossible and incredible. To be honest, I was a little who understand my desire for professional growth and further progress. That is, they believed that while you drive, you\’re not going anywhere, and especially from the post of head of the Department, that is, all were surprised. It is clear that someone did not understand, some thought I was forced to go and offered me a position in the General staff, and in other Executive bodies.

What was the most difficult positions in terms of presenting information? How did you work with information about problems in the army? Did you have to work with press officers about what you say and what is not?

I remember the first months when I came from the Ministry of internal Affairs. Before independence we were there a little learned how to work in such conditions. When we came to the army – in the army they used quietly there nowhere to run, to work quietly, there was a closed structure, and the demand for information was huge. It was necessary to convey to the leadership to the commanders that actually we as the military is beneficial to submit truthful and correct information. Yes, there is some proprietary information, but no one obliges her voice. But we can say what we can say. We spent a lot of trainings for commanders and press officers. We have explained that it is important information component, information to take into their own hands and actually give the information is true, but in the way that we want.

There were cases when the journalists tried to remove forbidden objects, or in the case when the journalist in his article painted a completely offensive unit, there were cases when he took the position. As the Ministry can respond to such incidents? What could be the responsibility of the journalists for it, and should it be in General?

In fact, the mechanisms are. If we are talking about work in the area of the ATO, it is by far our appeal to the security service of the withdrawal of accreditation of a journalist. All levels, absolutely. And I think it\’s pretty severe punishment for someone who wants to work in the war, right? If this applies to the area of peace, can we sue the TV station or the editor of where the journalist works, and to deprive as the channel and the newspaper, accreditation, decide to allow or not to allow them to work on military installations. But it will be adminusername. Another issue is that we all make mistakes, and if it\’s not on purpose, not like, say, a drone, remember when over the individual property to ensure the channel was off the depot, which burned before, and it turned out that they filmed part of the military Air Forces. That is, they understand that their drone flying over the piece. Then came the representatives of the security Service, then the police arrived, they were detained. The questions here can be? Another issue is that when not understanding journalists have made some mistake. Then we can make contact and resolve it in working order.

This is a very fine line, and the Ministry can be accused of censorship.

Again, the face is really difficult because there is a specific order here, too, the law is on our side, because there is a prohibition to remove the military part. Well, I think that here the channel has the same right to appeal in the same manner and to prove their rights to what they wanted the company to convey any information.

State awards to journalists. I think that could be such a phenomenon?

I see they are out there risking their lives, and believe that Yes, there should be rewards. And I think that if a professional journalist, and we all know that the journalist is called the watchdog of democracy, and does his acumen and sense of smell will not deteriorate from what it will reward the government for the fact that he performs his professional duties during dangerous situations.

Well, the only form of state awards, I see it possible is this: the Ministry of social policy gives some insurance to the journalist.

We have repeatedly talked about this in the Ministry of defence. We spent a lot of negotiation with insurance companies, with the leadership of the editorial Board. And when we started the same program “Embedded journalism”, which stipulated that a journalist needs to be insured in any case, we made use of the edition or we insure their journalists. But it was their decision.

Authorities criticized for the fact that in Ukraine there is no single national perspective on the conflict, ATO, the enemy. The information is not clear, what we face – poor that is protected, fights back, or strong side that can stop the aggressor. And I already see a change in rhetoric in the press center of staff ATO. They write that “in response to the forces ATO militants covered with dense fire…”. Writing is a recent development. The Ministry of defence is this position defined?

The Ministry, of course, and we worked. In particular, I personally worked on the development of the system of strategic communications at the Ministry of defence and Armed forces in General. A year ago we made such a coordination working group headed by the Deputy Minister, which consisted of all heads of departments of both the Ministry and the General staff in charge of communications, because we had to bear the ideological message the ideological narratives to understand the national idea, what are we doing, where we\’re going. We had developed and signed communication strategy, that is, we worked quite actively with international partners who helped to build this system. Plus, of course, it\’s all on the level of the national security Council blurts, at the level of the presidential Administration, that is, I did not see such differences between our top officials about any concepts or goals. Now, by the way, today in the Ministry of defence has even created a Department of strategic communications, interagency coordination.

Interagency coordination is also an important area. We went to the ATO in February, I initiated a meeting with all the representatives of the press services of law enforcement agencies and law enforcement bodies in order to hear from them what they want at the level for the coordination of this information policy in ATO, and I think this is quite a serious direction.

You were the Deputy head of the ATO two months. What did you say? Also for communication?

Yes, communication and public relations including. Actually, my such a decision and the desire to surprise, probably, all. But when you\’re doing something with your hands, you have to feel it out how it works. When we introduced a two-tier accreditation, introduced courses, worked with journalists, I came to the Minister and say, “I\’ll just go to the ATO, I\’m ready to go to the post of Deputy head of the ATO and to perform these tasks and, in addition to working with journalists to manage the press center and in General working with the public, because this position involves more of public relations “. This interaction with the local authorities, and work with international organizations and actually work with the media.

In fact, the office of women never had. When I arrived in the ATO, it is probably the first few days nobody could understand what she\’s doing here, why she came, what she wants. There were many versions, anything ranging from “to arrange a personal life” and there to “monitor the status of UBD”. But then I found out that this is already my nth trip to the ATO, and that in principle the status I didn\’t need.

First my own experience in practice of the ATO – it was, of course, the operational opening of the press center of the country. When I felt what it is like to work as a press officer, when you have ten crews, you need to pack them in one car, of course, not taking the same position, because it will be shelling definitely needed to split up. The right people, those who will follow. Besides, by the way, if there were new rules that the commander can determine the accompanying person, because of the press officers was not enough. When I worked these two weeks at the plant, and there was the aggravation I experienced on my own skin. I then either press officers could not tell fables like “you were not seen you in Kiev”, journalists could not anything to tell because I knew how it is done.

There were a few negative our practice. At the same Svetlodarsk (Svetlodarsk arc – ed.) when everything was closed and there were some incredible fiction about loss and all that is happening. Therefore, these negative examples, I explained to them that we need journalists to work, you need to give them information to the extent that we can give, but to explain what is happening.

Another direction we repaired roads, installed a Playground for the military, restored the light, it was also working with orphanages. We repaired the roads on which to evacuate our wounded.

For two months our team, the team of the Central TV and radio studios, filmed roller 32. I came to the Director and said, “I want to go, take us with you.” He said: “Here we train on the combat readiness of those units that are in the area of branch”. I said, “okay, so let\’s we are going to show the Russians that we are actually ready. We in ten or twenty minutes expandable artillery, in which case we are already in combat positions”. He thought a day or two, the Advisor came and said, “Fly.” After our first successful product, when its all Russian resources and the channels showed that “ukry ready to attack with heavy artillery,” we realized that we need to move away from the dry reports, of what we are losing, and show the enemy that we are powerful, that we are ready at any moment in case of attack or aggression on their part to give back.

However, we understand the resource of the Russian Ministry of defence, what the salary for those people who are professionally engaged in propaganda. I already am silent about the Central channels. And it doesn\’t compare with the level of wages in the Ministry of defense of Ukraine, in particular in the departments that need to do the same – to remove Patriotic commercials to improve the image of the army, to depict the enemy in a certain way. Have you lifted up this issue in the Ministry?

If we talk about the difference between us and the Russian Federation, we must understand that Russia has been preparing for many, many years. People were prepared had the appropriate funding. And the difference between them and us is that they are mercenaries. They are mercenaries for Finance, and we in fact now protecting our land because of our Patriotic views and willingness to defend Ukraine. But we must not forget that the situation there since the beginning of 2014 and today has changed dramatically, even given the funding and the wages, the money supply, which is produced by the military, a General support. That is, we planned, we gradually develop. We bought a lot of equipment, helped us partners. The army FM is a Prime example – we helped the Americans, the Embassy and the Foundation Spirit of America. Well, nonetheless, we have now a military radio. The military radio is a huge tool in terms of counter-propaganda, in terms of General information and work with the military, lifting their spirits.

It is clear that all is not perfect. It is clear that much is not enough, and in particular in his new position I aim to expand the range of some multimedia products of military subjects, and advertising and promotion of the Armed forces and the glorification of our military that are there (from the ATO) are returned. Being on the post of head of Department, a year ago I realized that there are a huge number of people who want to work with the Ministry and to do some own products. Donor funds, funds some funds, and so on. This volunteer organization, and documentary film Studio, is photographers and so on. That is, I realized that they need some kind of platform where they will come for help. That is, they have some creative ideas and a desire somehow to popularize the army, to talk about the heroes, but they don\’t have those people who can organize and implement. Then came the idea to create a Clearinghouse that would coordinate all this activity.

Already formed a team?

The team formed a long time ago. One of the initiators was Dmitry Muravsky, is a photographer and volunteer. Now are working on our project and other volunteers – journalists, photographers, scientists. The project is open to cooperation. And at every stage we plan to cooperate with various partners.

By the way, we are preparing to print a photo book of Murawski “after the war: a view of the volunteer”. There will be collected a large number of documentary photos during his three years in the war. This book starts even from the Maidan. And it\’s all short descriptions in the book there will be a few interviews with important people. And it is even quite interestingly decorated. She is covered with the pixel (so-called the fabric from which sew form military personnel). I think this book will be an important thing for every home, to their children and grandchildren to tell how to create the history in Ukraine, as we actually fought for their independence.

The identity of the Minister. He is one of those Ministers who do not go on the air, he rarely gives interviews, is limited to some generalities. This way the Minister has formed a team in the Administration or it\’s his own reluctance to appear in the media?

Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak is a very versatile, communicative and very easy to talk to, but it is the Minister of a country at war. He just physically has no time to engage in active activities related to the public sphere, really. He has a lot of problems, and he works around the clock. And just sometimes very difficult to get him out for a few hours, a big detailed interview, so it\’s always his team tries some main messages to serve, at least in print, on the website or perhaps in short any interview. But if the Minister appears somewhere in a public place, he never refuses to communicate with the press. Although he\’s never prepared. He always has the answers to all the questions.

How he knows about the problems soldiers? How is the communication?

You know, I was always surprised by his no-nonsense attitude to every written comment. That is, we collect all that he wrote in social networks. We collect that speak a caller to the hot line, than turn to him. Many of the representatives of the troops have my mobile phones or assistant Victoria Kushnir. He always in every situation understands. Always. My memory was that when we opened the tower, by the Minister approached the tanker and said that he had some problems with payments. The Minister took his mobile number and said “we will contact you”. All. The Minister personally on his cell phone called the tanker and told that there is such a situation, everything is solved, everything will be fine.

He always meets with the wives of the deceased, with his parents, he tries to solve any of their problems. He always told me that you should call them anyway. The question is not solved, but it is more important to enable people to feel that they are not abandoned, but protected. So he knows well about the problems and he works very closely with volunteers who come from the ATO, and they give him the full description of what\’s going on. Always controls the issue of providing it at such a tight control, that everyone was clothed, shod and fed. He does not fly high, it always comes down to the ordinary soldier.

According to NATO standards, the Minister must be a civilian. Do you think this is right?

In many countries, this political figure. My own opinion is that while we in Ukraine there is a war, I think the Minister should be a military person. That is, it needs to understand all the details of what is happening in the country. When a peaceful country, when the Minister responsible, roughly speaking, for the purchase of equipment, for modernization, for some software, financing and the rest – Yes, it can be a political figure. And when the country goes to war and when he understands in detail what is happening at the front, I don\’t think can handle a civilian. I think that after all the Minister needs to stay in the military.

Now my favourite topic of gender in the army. You feel and criticism, and praise, and shock. The more that you are engaged in gender reform in the APU and MOU. Where on army scales are a woman and a man?

Absolutely on the same level, given the professional quality. Even if you take me as an example, it just came a time when men in the army, when the generals, the officials said, “Okay, she pulls my job, any questions?”. That is, it is a real Colonel, because she is in the forefront in the ATO, in Kiev, properly and professionally perform their duties. Here, the only question professionalism. Questions arise, perhaps, in the vision of the commanders – here we are talking about the human factor. ATO I was also involved in gender policies. We even created a working group from among the psychiatrist, psychologist, gynecologist, which arrived with the portable equipment, and off we went with her best to girls because we knew that they were there is far not each of them can leave the city to make examination, ultrasound and so on. We went with them, and I can tell you that the situation is completely different in different units. There are women who come into the army, given some of his professional qualities and the vision of my military career. By the way, has recently met with Elena Belskaya, she is the commander of the mortar battery, and she is a candidate of economic Sciences, Kiev, with some megainternet family. And she\’s a very cool shot, very cool suggests that all the artillery, all that stuff. There\’s just all in awe of her. She said: “I came into the army with their defined qualities, and the most important thing for me is my military reputation. While it is flawless, everything else does not interest me. And I have problems in the army.” Perhaps, again, it all came together fine with the commander and so on, it perfectly serves. By the way, I wrote about it in Facebook, she told me this interesting thing: “every girl needs to decide – or to be smart or to be beautiful. I decided to be smart, so I\’m doing great”. And told me about a colleague who came along with her division, so she said she would like to be beautiful. So there\’s a year of service in the army she married a Lieutenant Colonel, is somewhere in the headquarters. Problems it either, but just everyone has a different path. Therefore here it is necessary to consider what purpose the woman came into the army.

I\’m enrolled at the University of defence and with me for 16 girls. It is only in my Institute. This is such a humanitarian institution, we have teachers, lawyers, journalists, psychologists and so on. There were many girls in the command and General staff Department, is a combat specialty. I speak here rather the human factor. Because there were units, especially airborne, where women feel absolutely equal.

The girls said: “the First days of the little guys above us laughed, looking at the way we marched go, so we did his box, trained so that we are now going better. They are now generally silent.” They have there women\’s Council, which are submitted and addressed different questions. Absolutely no problems. There are units where women openly told me that went to serve in the army to get married. It is the money to pay normal, men, suits me. I get the money, get married, have a baby, but already there then you know where I\’m going to serve or will not serve.

You went with a gynecologist you saw that women still need a few other hygienic conditions. How is this?

The conditions are different, and again, it all depends on the commander. There are conditions, provided by 100%. We were in the same division where the girls were normal conditions, a normal house, normally all the guys there they secured, they normally serve. And others… At one office we met a girl who was in the 28th week of pregnancy. It was the battalion of nowhere. We drove an incredibly long time. Elena Vasilievna, doctor of science from the Institute of obstetrics and gynecology, was shocked. She says: “she thought if she went into labor? Where and who was driving?”.

In many armies of the world there is medical information. That is, every woman who goes to serve must sign a paper that if she got pregnant on the front line, should inform the commander. If it is not reported, it carries the responsibility for it or she made the decision individually to be at the forefront, even considering pregnancy, or the testimony of the doctor that she cannot be there. That is, Elena has proposed, and the results of the work of this working group were written a memo to the chief of the General staff in view of the fact that it is necessary to develop certain changes in the law regarding the service of women, given that such medical testimony. Perhaps this can be changes in the terms of the contract. Perhaps it will be like in, say, Georgia. They have a separate paper of this medical information, and when a woman goes to serve in the army, her signs, if she had examined all the risks, because this is serious stuff. So I know that\’s being worked on in the General staff. In particular, I hope.

We have offered to work together with lawyers changes to the terms of the contract, and may separate the sheet of informing women who will serve.

And violence against women? Did you find this information?

Of violence we are, frankly, not officially collected information. Of course, there are the facts, given certain events that take place there. But I will not say that the Ukrainian women in the army suffer from mass violence. At least, I about such facts are not known.

Your income tax return. I porecla: not to be hooked.

In fact, I\’m sure this post was more spending than earning, because I had a large number of trips. I\’m probably not one of those who goes to military service or public service enrichment. There\’s probably a rich one hundred percent fail. And the work of the police and the interior Ministry was the same, so…

What projects do not have time to implement?

Unsold extremely powerful idea to create a new specialization in the field of strategic communications at the Ministry of defence. I hope that the team that stayed there, listen to my suggestions and do it, because it would allow many who work with information, to move up the career ladder. That is, we have now a lot of these professionals, they serve in various organizations, in various subdivisions and among themselves to share can\’t. And all of the communication services abroad, in particular, they shall exchange experts. That is, you work on one level, you\’ve trained, raised their qualifications, you can move to the position above, but in a different division. If all these divisions to merge one specialization, it would allow people to develop a career. Because we have, unfortunately, today train military journalists only media units of the Ministry of defence. Today we do not prepare press officers. I know that now will begin to prepare Simonov (civil-military cooperation). We still have MTR, we still have military journalists. We have a so-called caregivers, those who work with personal trains that internal communication, which also applies to strategic communications. If we did one specialty and taught these people, Yes, in different directions, i.e., specialization would be different, but would be one specialty, we would give them the opportunity seriously enough to grow.

Your vision of war in the future?

The first is the need to work with the staff and explain to them why we hold the enemy and not attack. To explain in human language, on your toes tell what the result of an impulsive decision to come. To tell the examples of how to casualties such a decision may lead. To explain political processes, to explain what is happening in the international arena. And try to solve the issue at the political and international levels.

No matter how fearsome the war, it gave a huge impetus to the Ukrainian army, and my office, and everything. Megacolon. They lived very quietly. When I arrived at the press service of the defense Ministry, the press service of the defense Ministry was for me, the press service of the Ministry of interior a decade ago. That is, they were not able to work in crisis situations. Therefore, it is clearly push this specific push to all. And in technology, and in providing, in the form of clothing, medicine, and in all.

And finally, perhaps most importantly. We all need to realize that with this war the country has changed fundamentally and irrevocably. There are new challenges and new perspectives. About problems. The war ends with a victory parade in Donetsk. But it will remain a very serious mental abyss between citizens that will need to be overcome. Still have a lot of heroes that society is not ready to see such. So to me it is crucial to work today in the direction of the glorification of the Ukrainian army. To each name of the deceased soldier has not disappeared in the history. So that future generations remember, and most importantly appreciated the way in which we got our independence.

Interviewed By Irina Sampan.