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Widows of Russian fighters gifted fur coats for video report, then asked to return them

Several participants of the video in which the alleged widows of Donbas combatants killed in action are gifted with fur coats share the details of the filming process. According to the women, who have wished to remain anonymous, some of them were extras, invited to impersonate war widows on camera. However, when the video was ready, the organizers took the coats away from all of the participants, including the actual war widows. Meanwhile, according to a version popular with Ukrainian media, the coats in question were stolen from a shop in Kherson.

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A video of women holding fur coats was published on social networks and then in mass media on February 8. “This is the assistance we received today. We are very grateful. The families of fallen servicemen have gathered here. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart... Some of us might never have imagined we'd get such an opportunity,” says one of the women. The cameraman cuts in to say the gifts were supplied by the “Russian activists of our capital”. “It's moments like this that make us feel like we're one family,” says the voice-over.

One of the women in the video told The Insider she was not a widow but had agreed to appear on camera in exchange for the fur coat. The initiative was organized by former “DPR” defense minister and milblogger Igor Strelkov's associate Yevgeny Skripnik, Strelkov's wife Miroslava Reginskaya, and a certain Olga Vasilyeva. Skripnik is named the leader of the group. He is also known to have authored a financial assistance campaign: war widows got a one-time payment of 10,000 rubles (~$135) and had to present a photo report. (The standard caption above each photo reads: “Thanks to our friends’ input, we managed to provide financial aid of 10,000 rubles to *name*, the widow of a Novorossiya hero.)

“They <The Insider’s note: volunteers from Skripnik's organization> often raise funds under the pretext of aiding war widows and soldiers’ mothers and all that, but they use the collected donations for many other purposes. To my knowledge, they supplied military equipment to the troops, only to take it back. Later they said the fighters in question had in fact been extras too. I'm ashamed to say this, but I’m also complicit in this case. I'm not a widow; they just asked me to appear on camera and promised a fur coat. But when they took away the fur coat and went on to post the video online, I was shocked. Not for myself, but there were some real widows there; I know two of them personally and know for a fact that their husbands died in the war. You give out fur coats, shoot a video, and take them away. Who on earth even does that? God has punished me for my transgression. Can you imagine how I feel about facing my husband now?» said one of the participants.

Another woman said she's received a phone call from the boutique that had provided the fur coats. The caller apologized for the incident, saying “they had no idea Miroslava was capable of such a thing”.

“If I’d known it would turn out like this, I’d never have agreed, not for love or money,” said the other interviewee. These scumbags, they don't care. I feel really bad for the women. Also, I'm not sure, but Strelkov seems to be personally involved because we were told to thank him as well. One of the women was resentful, saying her husband had died because of Strelkov. I don't have all the facts – it's just a suspicion, but it was sort of weird that they asked us to thank Strelkov too.”

Ukrainian media are spreading the version that the fur coats were stolen from a store in Kherson

On February 12, Ukrainian media and Telegram channels reported that the fur coats “gifted” in the video had been stolen from a boutique in Kherson. All of the news items cite a girl's Facebook post. However, the post has since been taken down. Moreover, the screenshot published by the media features a distance between the text and the image that does not match the Facebook format. Therefore, it is impossible to say whether her statement was fake or the text of the post was “photoshopped” to the image afterwards.

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