Fake diaspora reporter trolls unsuspecting parliament members

Roman Vintoniv in October was better known
to parliamentary candidates as Michael Shchur, whose last name –rat in
Ukrainian – should have given them a clue with whom they were dealing.

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Dressed casually in an embroidered
Ukrainian shirt, denim jeans and an unassuming blazer, Vintoniv trolled for
interviews with parliamentary candidates while posing as a Canadian-Ukrainian
journalist for the non-existent UT-Toronto channel. His work ends up only on
YouTube, where he received a fair share of hits.

Coupled with a well-disguised “diaspora”
Ukrainian accent, and the use of a walking cane, Vintoniv got away with asking
some outrageous questions and made some reluctant victims speak Ukrainian, even
the representative of the pro-Russian, Russian Bloc Party. 

In his deception, he got candidates from
every political stripe to open up and say things they probably wouldn’t to
ordinary Ukrainian journalists.

“The deputies behaved differently, not only
because Shchur is a foreigner, but because he’s from Canada where there’s a
large Ukrainian community,” Vintoniv said. “It offered the possibility to examine
issues concerning Ukraine more closely, no matter with which political party I

In the first episode, Vintoniv gets serious
answers from lawmakers on whether the size of their income declarations matter
yet he phrased the questions to viewers to suggest he was talking about their

In the same episode, he asks a lawmaker to
take a piece of gum because his breath stinks of alcohol.

A minute later, he gets a stunned look of
glaring silence from Batkivshchyna lawmaker Viktor Ukolov after asking him the
whereabouts of Yulia Tymoshenko, mentioning the huge banner bearing her name
and face in the legislative chamber.

In episode five, former Finance Minister
Viktor Pynzenyk threatens to end the interview twice after Vintoniv implied
that Tymoshenko’s imprisonment was justified and after he asked him about
making more than Hr 1 million in 2011.

And in the middle of an interview, Radical
Party leader Oleh Liashko makes Vintoniv call his friend who said that he
represents sexual minorities in parliament. Liashko promises to find him and
beat his face in while being filmed on camera.

True to his character, Vintoniv is seen at
the beginning of the program’s first episode solemnly bowing before the statue
of famed Ukrainian bard Taras Shevchenko in the eponymous park. In another
scene, Vintoniv labors to stretch his arm to caress giant Ukrainian Easter eggs through a wrought-iron fence.

Vitoniv is not the first Ukrainian
journalist who has pulled off Borat-style theatrics. Vitalii Sediuk, who worked for 1+1 TV
station’s morning show until this summer, shot to world
fame after playing a number of pranks on world celebrities like Madonna, Will
Smith and Kylie Minogue.

He gave goat milk to Minogue, made Smith
lose his temper by kissing him, and made Madonna swear in front of the camera
by presenting her with a hydrangea, a flower she apparently hates. He was offered a
job by CBS for his pranks, and he achieved it all by the age of 23.

Vintoniv, 30, told the Kyiv Post he got the
idea for playing Shchur’s role “from life.” But there were some hints that he
was inspired by fictional characters, like his Dr. House-style walking cane.

“I met many diaspora Ukrainians over the
years, many of my friends have family in Canada who left a long time ago,”
added Vintoniv, who is from Dolyna in the western Ukrainian oblast of

Educated at Lviv’s Ivan Franko National
University, Vintoniv previously worked for 1+1, and before that he was the
chief editor of ZIK, a popular Lviv news organization. Prior to that, he worked
for BBC Ukraine, and Inter and K1 TV channels.

He currently is raising funds to take
Shchur to the “heartland of Ukraine” and conduct interviews at the regional

Here are some of Vintoniv’s renditions of
the fictitious Canadian-Ukrainian TV journalist Michael Shchur:

Episode 1:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szl0_gg0AiM

Shchur enters the halls of parliament to
ask if it matters how much a lawmaker declared in their income declaration.

Episode 2:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-K74iRdlZQfeature=relmfu

Shchur sits down with Oleh Liashko to talk
about alternative lifestyles and his Radical Party’s agenda.

Episode 3:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu3THq1Zr-ofeature=relmfu

Blitz interview with Volodymyr Rybak, a
co-brainchild of the Party of Regions.

Episode 4:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUVww2Edu-Ufeature=relmfu

One-on-one with Lesya Orobets on why the
opposition is ineffective.

Episode 5:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYKdVbOd0_Yfeature=relmfu

One-on-one with Viktor Pynzenyk and where
and how he made his million-hryvnia salary in 2011.

Episode 6:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rz-ANGvtXO8feature=relmfu

One-on-one with Hryhoriy Smitiukh on why
the Party of Regions is associated with prison terms and grammatical mistakes.

Gets a Russian Bloc Party leader to speak
Ukrainian on TV:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjZFslOLvsw


Post staff writer Mark Rachkevych can be reached at


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