CNN’s Late Night Update on Ukraine and Russia

From CNN’s Reliable Sources by Oliver Darcy:

One Month Later

Exactly one month ago today, I led this newsletter drawing from a phone interview I conducted with Bohdan Nahaylo, the editor-in-chief of the Kyiv Post. At the time, it had only been a few days since Russia had launched its unprovoked war on Ukraine and I was curious about how Nahaylo and his team were covering the story.

Nahaylo told me at the time that The Post’s website had come under attack from suspected Russian hackers. He said that the missile attacks that had sent staffers into bomb shelters had crated a “logistical nightmare.” And he said that some staffers had started removing their bylines from stories for safety reasons. But, most of all, Nahaylo stressed that the Kyiv Post was still — more than ever — committed to its mission of providing “up to date, reliable, objective information” to its audience.

I had not talked with Nahaylo in four weeks. And so, on Friday afternoon, I checked in with him to see what the last month has been like for him and his staff.

Seeing Russia “through their windows”

Nahaylo, who is now overseeing the outlet from Barcelona, started off plainly noting to me that the situation has “gotten more serious.” Which is to say, “there is more danger for the correspondents,” particularly those who are reporting from “exposed areas.” Nahaylo told me, for instance, that he has some correspondents in Russia-controlled villages near Kyiv who can “see Russian troops on a daily basis through their windows.” He said that “sometimes their houses are raided by very hungry Russian troops” who “are more or less abandoned” as they “wait for reinforcements or orders.”

In addition to food, Nahaylo told me, the Russian troops are interested in cell phones and laptops — which they can use to communicate amongst themselves and with their families back home. To that end, he said, his correspondents are careful to hide their electronic devices. “I think the trick is you have an old telephone visible, and you hide whatever you’ve got, your iPhone, and you hide that and make sure no one sees it,” Nahaylo said.

“At one’s duty station”

I asked Nahaylo how he is able to keep staff morale up during such a difficult situation. He said that hasn’t been much of an issue. “When it’s your country that is being savagely attacked, and your friends are dying around you, and your loved ones are being evacuated or killed … I think the morale is self-generated. You rise to the occasion. To be on duty, to be at one’s duty station.”

“I think correspondents see themselves on the front lines,” Nahaylo continued. “They might not be holding a rifle or a rocket launcher, but they realize they are on the front lines of this war. By getting information out, combatting fake news, showing the side of the picture that we are not losing ground and that the battle goes on — so it hasn’t been a question of motivating people.”

Nahaylo praised his staff’s bravery and dedication to the story. “They are heroes to me,” he said. “Look, this is a challenge for the entire country and nation. And each have their duty station. And some of these people in their early-to-mid 20s — suddenly this has become the most important time in their life. It’s a time of tragedy, but also a time for self-realization and getting to know yourself and what your weaknesses are and what your strengths are, how much courage you have … it’s an opportunity to look in the mirror and say, ‘Who am I?’ Every person is going through a self-trial.”

An expanding conversation

Nahaylo told me that he believes now that the conversation is expanding beyond just reporting the facts about what is occurring on the ground. “People want more in-depth information, insights, context, rather than just knowing about the tragedy that has been unfolding and the heroism,” he said. “People want to know why and what is behind this and what can be done. So we have come to the state where it is not simply the shock of the human crimes, the war crimes, that are being committed. It’s more of a question of, ‘Why has this been allowed to happen and how is it going to end and what can we do in the meantime?'”

When I asked Nahaylo what criticism he has of Western media outlets, he said that he believes “much of the coverage” tends to “emphasize the need for peace and a quick fix without thinking through what is happening.” He explained, “It’s not a question of suddenly making peace and ceasefire and there’s a magic fix. This is something that is going to haunt the populations of these countries for decades to come and it is going to need an amazing amount of skill to make things right. Not only in terms of the security architecture, but there is the question of reparations and justice for war criminals. There is a question of what to do with Russia … and where do the Ukrainians fit into the scheme of things? They’re not wanted in NATO, Europe is not eager to have them in the EU, but they don’t want to simply be a buffer zone…”

Moving forward

Nahaylo said that he believes “one of the undertakings for journalists in Ukraine, in alliance with their colleagues in the West, is going to be massaging bruised, bloodied souls. And it will mean playing a role, not only in reporting the news and acting in the public good, but in the healing. How do you move from hurt to healing?

Other stories

— “Russian soldiers are kidnapping Ukrainian journalists in contested territories and holding them hostage, according to international groups and survivor accounts…” (NPR)

— “As Russia’s war against Ukraine enters its second month, the grim picture of destruction and suffering is breaking through on state-controlled television,” Julia Davis reports… (Daily Beast)

Spotify is fully suspending its service in Russia, joining “dozens of other music companies that have ceased operations in the country…” (Variety)

J.K. Rowling “hit back at Vladimir Putin after the Russian president compared the West’s treatment of his country to a public backlash faced by the Harry Potterauthor…” (CNN)

Sting announced Friday “that proceeds from his recently re-recorded 1985 song ‘Russians’ will benefit Ukrainian humanitarian and medical aid…” (Deadline)


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