Poynter’s Morning Update on Ukraine and Russia

The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

Frightening account of a brutal war

Here’s the chilling lede in a story Monday by The Associated Press’ Mstyslav Chernov:

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — The Russians were hunting us down. They had a list of names, including ours, and they were closing in.

We were the only international journalists left in the Ukrainian city, and we had been documenting its siege by Russian troops for more than two weeks. We were reporting inside the hospital when gunmen began stalking the corridors. Surgeons gave us white scrubs to wear as camouflage.

Suddenly at dawn, a dozen soldiers burst in: “Where are the journalists, for (expletive) sake?”

I looked at their armbands, blue for Ukraine, and tried to calculate the odds that they were Russians in disguise. I stepped forward to identify myself. “We’re here to get you out,” they said.

The walls of the surgery shook from artillery and machine gun fire outside, and it seemed safer to stay inside. But the Ukrainian soldiers were under orders to take us with them.

Chernov is a video journalist for the AP. And in this remarkable story — “20 days in Mariupol: The team documented a city’s agony”— Chernov gives his account of the siege of Mariupol as told to correspondent Lori Hinnant with remarkable photos from Evgeniy Maloletka.

It’s an extraordinary story.

Be warned. It contains difficult-to-see photos and gut-wrenching examples of what the journalists saw during their coverage.

But it’s critical to read. Please do so.

The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi wrote, “If it were not for two Associated Press journalists in the besieged city of Mariupol, the world might not have learned what has been happening there as immediately as we have — nor in such irrefutable, horrifying detail.”

And it’s important to note what the journalists who covered this story — extremely well — were dealing with.

Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor of the AP, told Izadi, “They’ve been subject to the same conditions as anybody else who’s been in Mariupol. When you consider how difficult getting that information out has been, it really just makes me extremely proud of their commitment to making sure that people know what’s happening in that location.”

Another Ukraine rescue

Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” gave some detail in a segmenton Monday on how Fox News journalist Benjamin Hall was evacuated from Ukraine after being injured in an attack near Kyiv that killed Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and producer/fixer Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova.

Hall’s evacuation was facilitated by a nonprofit organization called “Save Our Allies.” Its co-founder, Sarah Verardo, spoke with Fox News anchor Dana Perino and said, “This is a very complex situation, but we have people on our team that are willing to go into harm’s way to protect those from evil and especially when we got that call for help from Fox, we could not move quickly enough to mobilize a multi-national effort to secure Ben’s extraction from a very dangerous combat zone.”

Verardo said the effort was led by “a special operations and intelligence veteran that is very experienced in precision extraction in hostile environments.”

She added, “And when we got the call from Fox and, of course, my 10-year long relationship with Fox and we all know how supportive you are to so many different causes, we could not move quickly enough to make sure that Ben, not only his extraction, but he was stabilized through field medicine by our team that is also led by trauma surgeons, experienced in military battlefield trauma, as well as our team of special operations veterans and intelligence community veterans. And so they moved heaven and earth to move Ben not only quickly out of an active, hostile combat zone, but safely due to the grave condition he was in and his injuries.”

The Pentagon, as well as Polish and Ukrainian militaries, also played key roles in Hall’s evacuation. Perino said on air that Hall is now recovering at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Getting to the truth in Russia

In a story for Poynter, PolitiFact’s Jon Greenberg has a conversation with a Russian millennial about what information is being learned and shared inside Russia: “Finding truth, avoiding jail: The news Russians can see in wartime.”

The millennial, named Alexey, tells Greenberg about the frustration of having arguments with older family members, who, because of all the propaganda, simply won’t believe what is really happening in Ukraine. But people like Alexey keep trying to seek and pass along the truth.

Alexey told Greenberg, “I had an argument with my elder sister on some facts of civilian casualties. She denied the evidences that there were dead innocent people there. She doesn’t deny now. And I was alone to prove that. Some of my friends were also able to plant seeds of doubt in propaganda, so this is not pointless.”

Making an impract

Speaking of getting the word out in Russia, check out this piece from PolitiFact editor-in-chief Angie Drobnic Holan: “What Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Russia video can teach us all about talking to the misinformed.”

Holan writes, “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent video to the people of Russia in the war in Ukraine was a master class in how to get people to reconsider their views. We can all learn from it.”

Holan then details the things Schwarzenegger did right in his now-viral video.

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