“Ukrainians are strong, so we treat our viewers as people who have made their choice.”Interview with Yuriy Sugak, editor-in-chief of News Group UkraineYuriy, what happened at the MGU channels after the first attack?
When the Russian air force began bombing Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities and Putin announced the war, Ukraine 24 started broadcasting in the format of a special news telethon covering the events in Ukraine. It was broadcast on all channels of Media Group Ukraine (Ukraine, NLO TV, Indigo TV, Football 1/2/3, 34 Kanal, international TV channels Ukraine 1/Ukraine 2 as well as the international version of NLO TV). Our digital resources (websites Segondya.ua, Ukraine 24 and Facebook, Telegram and Viber platforms) also joined the 24/7 informational marathon.
Everything was happening so drastically that it quickly became clear we must create a united informational front to resists the enemy, and thus the four national media groups as well as Suspilne and RADA joined efforts to create the common telethon, Yedyni Novyny (United News). This project has no centralized management. Each channel has a 5-hour slot, e.g., today your team works in the morning, tomorrow at night, etc. This is done so everyone can rest and prepare. It is a kind of relay race in which each team passes the baton to the next one. We agree on main events and topics we can and can’t cover (subject to recommendations by the Defense Ministry and General Staff of the Armed Forces we can’t inform on combats and explosions in real time) in the general chat for all chief editors. Ukraine 24 is broadcasting from its reserve studios. Broadcasting from our main studio complex, at 4 Heroiv Kosmosu St, became impossible on February 25 owing to the constant threat to the lives of our employees, as air strikes and shelling happened very close to our TV center.What happens during the bombing? How do you keep up the broadcasts?
When air-raid sirens go off or bombing begins, the studio streaming at the moment passes their turn either to the channel’s reserve studio or to one of our fellow media groups. While our employees go to hide in the shelter.
Both our employees being elsewhere in Ukraine and those working in our mobile newsroom are involved in the production. Some prepare reports or stream live from hot spots that we could never think of before – e.g., from basements in occupied suburbs of Kyiv, shelters in Kharkiv or besieged Mariupol.
We have no problems with exclusive comments from representatives of the government, MPs or city mayors. They are all open to communication – of course if they have time to speak. It’s important to us to have speakers who have something to say and we’re doing our best to bring important and useful information to our viewers, Ukrainians, who despite all the sufferings in this war are full of faith in Ukraine’s victory and are doing everything to achieve it.
It is also striking that most of the time it’s very honest talk, not just news (or even propaganda like the Russians) …
Our viewers are going through hard challenges, but they are trying to stay strong, decisive and determined. Ukrainians are fighting for their motherland, freedom and future for their children. Ukrainians are strong, so we treat our viewers as people who have made their choice.How do the reporters work?
All the reporters are informed about basic safety plan measures and what to do in case of imminent danger. They report daily about their position to the main office of our company, about the situation in close-by neighborhoods, probable injuries or other emergencies. We monitor their location, relocation and inform them about possible safe routes in or exits out. If needed- we assist with evacuation.How is their safety secured?
The frontline groups of reporters are provided with passive protective means and their clothes have the internationally recognized labelling. We regularly conduct psychological support training, develop and share memos in case of close-by military actions. We are currently working on finding the auxiliary safety places in regions in case of bombing/open combats/other military threats and creating extra-emergency plans for reporters (behavioral, psychological, self-protective, incl. first medical aid self-assistance). So as well, we organized emergency coordination channels with special services and police. Our business priority is the safety for not only reporters but also all our employees and their families. We have always focused and will continue to focus on ensuring the safety and health of our team members and their families.Are they guarded by the military?
Reporters may rely on full-stack support from our military, though their safety is not the highest priority for them. We do understand that and try to minimize risks especially in combat areas.Do you cover the news for the international community?
TV channel Ukraine also broadcasts from Warsaw. This is a broadcast for the world. Being a news TV channel, Ukraine 24 became the source for information for viewers both in Ukraine and abroad. The channel’s domestic coverage is the biggest in terms of all technologies and Ukraine 24 has leading shares among all the TV channels involved in the telethon. Our international coverage is increasing daily, and our channel is being added to the existing networks both in Europe and America and even in India.
In collaboration with USTVNOW, our American partners, we launched an English version of the channel. So far we’re doing three broadcasts a day but we’re aiming at the 24/7 live translation. It will enable all of our American partners to broadcast our channel to broad audiences and raise their awareness of the situation. We’re currently working on the launch of the channel on Sling, one of America’s biggest OTT planforms owned by Dish. We’re also negotiating with Comcast and DirectTV (AT&T). In Canada we have a license from Ethnic Channel Group and VMedia, which helped us to deliver our news to subscribers of Videotron, Rogers, Bell, CCAP, Câblovision Warwick, Déry Télécom, Câble Axion-Digitel, Sogetel and many other platforms.
Ukraine 24 has the maximum coverage possible in the neighboring Poland – over 10 million households. In total, 126 providers gave us their networks. In Slovakia, we’re available on Orange SK, Antik Telekom, Slovak Telecom, UPC SK. Regarding operators that cover several nations, we’re working with Canal+, Orange, Vodafone, UPC, A1, Sky (new territories are being added daily), M7, VivaCom. In Georgia, you can find us on almost most providers, Magticom and Silknet being the biggest. In Israel, we’re available on Hiper Vision and a couple of other networks and projects. In Portugal, it’s MEO (Altice Telecom), the most popular national provider. In Bulgaria, apart from network operators (А1 and VivaCom) we’re present on Bulsatcom, Neosat DTH, SKAT TV. A great deal of OTT platforms without territorial restrictions, such as Kapang (US/UK), NET1, TVNgo, Zattoo, BossTV, PzazTV.How about the broadcasts of NLO TV which take care of the children?
On February 25 Ukrainian media groups made a joint decision to keep one channel each for running content for children and family viewing. Novy, TET and NLO TV are now broadcasting family and animation films. NLO TV keeps working for children, broadcasting cartoons and feature films so the kids won’t have to listen to the terrible news all the time, while their parents can distract and comfort them with entertainment content.
“I cry my heart out before broadcasting and then stand with red eyes in front of the camera to tell the news”Olesya Borovyk, Syohodni news correspondent in SumyOlesya, could you describe how your work day looks like now?
Now the work is 24/7. Last Sunday was the only day off for all these days of war. I got a day off because I got sick. The work continues constantly. We cover mainly the ongoing events because something happens here every day, even every hour. We walk or ride to record reports and contact many people. Sumy is not a big city, so many people know me as a journalist and ask for help: they may need medicine or a car ride. That is why I also deal with humanitarian issues.What strikes you the most at the scene of events?
What strikes me the most is the consequences of bombings. It is the cynical: the houses that are bombed here belong to ordinary peaceful people. In particular, these are houses located on the outskirts of the city. There are always convoys of Russian military vehicles, which form over there and shoot around. The most horrifying thing I saw was the bodies of murdered children. They just lie under the bricks of destroyed houses. As I go to film such scenes, I need to get ready for an on-the-spot report. It looks like this: I cry my heart out before broadcasting and then stand with red eyes in front of the camera to tell the news. I realize that I need to talk, not cry, of course, because tears will not help. I need to have a focused mind to describe what I see, to record what is really being done, and who became the target of shooting: these are not military facilities - these are the houses of Sumy residents. On March 8, we suffered from the most massive shelling - 22 adults and 3 children were killed. This was the private sector. An explosive wave picked up some bodies from one place, throwing them into the neighboring houses. This was so heartbreaking. At the same time, I am amazed how Ukrainians are united. They come to the humanitarian headquarters. I witnessed an elderly woman who brought a jar of some canned food - a half-liter jar and a package of some potatoes. This retired woman said: “I want to help.” In turn, the workers from the humanitarian headquarters offered her something to take, some bread, for example, or else. She insisted: “No, I want to help. I want to be involved.” Now everyone wants to help in some way.How is your security ensured? Do you have help from the military?
When I need to go somewhere, I coordinate my route with the Sumy Regional Military Administration. The Ukrainian military checks documents at checkpoints. Our people are very polite. They also know me because I usually walk the same streets. I ask them where we can go at the moment. Journalists are always informed. There is a chat where we can ask the administrators where we can go and where we cannot, as well as coordinate the movement with the military so that they can tell us where it is safer. We are also waiting for bulletproof vests. However, in other cities journalists in bulletproof vests with the inscription “PRESS” were killed deliberately, so they would not take photos or make videos. So, I may not even know what to do with a bulletproof vest. So far, when I work, I wear a tank top of TV channel Ukraine with the inscription “PRESS”.Are your family and friends safe now? How do they support you?
I’m not married. My family is my parents, my brother and his family. They are now, I believe, in a safe place. There was no shelling yet, but it is conditionally so. They are in the Sumy region in my parents’ house - in a place where there has been no military action since the beginning of the war. My relatives asked me to go with them, but I am very stubborn. It seems to me that I need to work, because I will go crazy there - to stay without the Internet and without news. Many friends who went to Western Ukraine support me and also collect humanitarian aid for the Sumy region.
“Half of my reports are now from the basement”
Interview with Iryna Antonyuk, journalist at TV channel Ukraine based in KharkivIryna, could you share some details on your journalistic activity now?
During these days, I managed to make several recordings on my phone near home. Everything else comes from social networks videos, or from precious people, who record something at my request. Half of my reports (or broadcasts) are now from the basement, and even if it’s quiet at night, you can’t go upstairs and turn on the lights, because you can easily become a target. I have never worked in the wartime before, and honestly, I’m not sure that I would be able to react properly if I witness a shelling next to me. But I truly believe it’s important to stay in the city and tell about the explosions happening every 15 minutes and explain whether this night was harder than the previous one, even from the shelter.What is the situation in the city?
In Kharkiv now, it is safer to work in the intensive care unit of the infectious disease ward of the hospital than in any of the city streets. The hospital has a shabby but sturdy basement, and windows are lined with boxes to keep glass from flying at patients. In the city itself, and especially in the street, there are no security guarantees whatsoever. Enemy helicopters, fighter jets, missiles, and Russian artillery have been flying over Kharkiv for 20 days. Of course, rescuers help us very much: they suggest where it is safer to film, and the police ask journalists to warn them about their movements throughout the city. However, such warnings will not save us from an air raid. If the lies of the Russian military turned out to be true, and they targeted just the military structures, the safe routes could be developed making it possible to bypass dangerous points. But we have such sad statistics—every 10th apartment building in the city has already been destroyed. People are shot in queues for milk.
The city hospital’s infectious disease ward has now 80 new occupiers. These are workers with their families. Natalia lived with her family on the outskirts of Kharkiv, and they had hoped that their house would survive even when everything around was on fire. But this hope was shattered by a rocket that hit the 3rd floor of her apartment building one morning. She says she had to pick things up, but instead she went to sweep the glass on the stairs between the floors to make it easier for rescuers to carry out the wounded. Natalia, her husband, son, and dog, Oscar, now live in the Covid ward of the hospital. For a long time, Natalia did not want to do an interview because her relatives are nearby, and it is emotionally draining every day to be around all of this suffering. There are patients in the hospital who came here before the invasion, and they do not know if they have somewhere or someone to return to. But everyone who stayed here, in Kharkiv, is ready to stay as long as they can.Are your family and friends safe now? How do they survive the war?
Before the full-scale invasion, I planned to go to my parents in the neighboring region if something were to happen. They live in a quiet and safe small village, and the missiles don’t reach them yet. My dad and brother joined the local territorial defense from day one. My mother takes care of food, so we aren’t hungry here in Kharkiv. My parents also watch over the families whose men joined the fight for our freedom. Every farmer in my home village does the same. Every single one! So those who fight don’t worry that their children, wives, and mothers are without care or protection. I’m lucky, and none of my relatives have been injured yet. My home stands intact. But there are thousands of ruined lives around.
The whole world sees this ruthless Russian war against Ukraine.Oleh Paniuta, TV presenter of TV channel Ukraine
Today, Ukrainians are being brutally and ruthlessly killed, taken prisoner, and raped. They destroy our homes and treasured state monuments.
But we’re not afraid. We won’t be stopped before this unprecedented Russian aggression. Today, we are united. Today, we are strong. We are unbreakable and invincible.
Each Ukrainian has taken their own front and is ready to defend it. Together we move closer to victory. Of course, our military has the greatest heroes, who day and night fight the enemy.
So, here I remain at the forefront of my professional responsibilities. I know I should be here; I know I am most useful here. My son has decided to defend our capital and I’m proud of his actions and his courage, but, nevertheless, I’m very worried about his safety.
For me, this is the most difficult period in my work and my life, when I have to report human losses every day. My heart stops when women and children die from the enemy’s missiles. But I can’t express my pain and hatred at the enemy all the time. Rather, I want to inspire optimism and I want to talk about how we can win victory—which we will undoubtedly will—for Ukraine.
We are the strongest and most steadfast nation in the world.
Mariupol has been under severe Russian shelling from the very beginning.Artem Popov, Ukraine’s reporter in Mariupol
They used the Grad launchers to ruin residential buildings and schools and destroy critical infrastructure.
The situation in my neighborhood was quite calm – we only heard explosions and felt trembling. But in a city with a population of half a million it happens that you know many people who suffered different hardships. I know people who can’t leave the shelter for even a minute and I know those whose homes have been destroyed completely. I even have friends who are preparing to deliver a baby in a basement.
I had to leave Mariupol on March 8. I ran out of diesel fuel and hence I wouldn’t have been able to do my job reporting on the situation in the city. So, I went to a nearby area to not lose connection with the city. The trip was risky, as after I left the city the air raids became more frequent. Russia’s fighting violating all the rules. They’re shelling hospitals and fire stations, so we can’t put out fires and rescue people. They’re aiming and bombing shelters – yesterday’s drop of a heavy bomb on the drama theater sheltering defenseless civilians affected deeply even the most courageous people.
People leave shelters only to cook something on the bonfires and find water.
I go on the air from home, as any other options are impossible. All my streams are equally hard and painful, as I have to tell about my home city. About my places and my people. My uncles with their families and my grandma with her cat stayed in Mariupol, and I can’t reach out to them. I think I will never forget how I went on air for the first time, when I had to tell people that war had begun in my, our, city. Mariupol went through something similar in 2015. But then only one neighborhood suffered, and I happened to be in a building under shelling by Grads. So, this time when I heard the familiar sounds I realized it began all over again. But I realized this time the war would not be limited to one neighborhood or one city….
“It’s not a local conflict or a special operation. It’s a full-scale war”Interview with Andriy Kuzakov, reporter of Ukraine and Ukraine 24Andriy, please, tell us a little about the conditions you’re working under.
We only have one condition, and it’s a big war of the scale Europe hasn’t seen since WWII. The most terrible part about war is that it is sudden. Everything may be calm and smooth but in a minute or two there could start shelling and people may die. It’s not a local conflict or a special operation. It’s a full-scale war Russia is waging against Ukraine. With great losses and great resistance that Ukrainians are showing.
Ukrainians will withstand. We see Kyiv is under martial law and people try not to go far from shelters, because they understand a missile can hit them any time and they can die. Air raid sirens are working. When you are in the city outskirts you realize the most intensive fighting is going on where the enemy is trying to assault the positions of the Ukrainian military. But thank God and the Armed Forces, our soldiers are standing strong fighting off the enemy attacks and winning. These are our conditions.You’re highly experienced in reporting from the frontline and hot spots. What are the specifics of such events?
Considering the current situation, the full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine, I’ll repeat: it’s a great war. And we can compare it to WWII, when they used big tank convoys, artillery, aviation, bombs, air raids. These are the things the world, at least Europe, hasn’t seen since 1945. After the world wars the world traditionally said, “Never again!”. But look at our cities – the “never again” happened again. Yes, it’s happening in Europe.
But what’s most important, the Ukrainian military, Ukrainian people, Ukrainian Armed Forces are standing fighting off the attacks of Russia. The nation that used to be perceived as very powerful. But the practice shows the Ukrainian army is much more efficient and professional and it is destroying the enemy.
I want the whole world to see how the Russians are behaving. Their officials keep telling it’s a special operation aimed at defending somebody. But there’s no need for them to defend somebody in Ukraine, as we are defended. And what the Russians are doing is not defense but destruction of Ukraine.
So, I’m pleading the foreign media and the world in general, pay attention to the crimes of the Russian military and Russian government, which issues such orders. We need our foreign friends to influence those people and help Ukraine win this war.
“If you’re not fighting with arms, you must do something on the informational front”Interview with Yevhen Nazarenko, reporter of TV channel UkraineYevhen, as a war reporter, how would you describe what is happening in Ukraine?
The conditions are absolutely military and they’re not new to me, because I’ve worked in Donbas for the greater part of the war. The only thing that’s different is that at first it was hard to believe the war wasn’t some 700 km away but here, at my home. For instance, a missile recently hit an apartment building 700-800 meters from my place.
But in general, it’s all identical to what I’ve been doing in Donbas – working with the military, registering Russia’s military crimes, feeling the same anxiety and, of course, fear, as my colleagues are also falling victims. An American journalist was killed recently, while my colleague from Radio Liberty has a concussion. But despite the anxiety you come realize that if you’re not fighting with arms, you must do something on the informational front. This is how I console myself and it is what motivates me to go to dangerous sites. Because I know that I can show to Ukraine, and sometimes to the whole world, what Russia’s doing to my country. Basically, the conditions are okay, and the military sometimes let you through, sometimes they don’t, while at times they may shoot at you, while at other times not. These are the conditions every military reporter has to deal with.
As a journalist I take it all normally. But as a human being I feel the hardest thing is that you never know what will happen to your relatives who stayed in the capital. Because while you’re away they might be hit by a missile or projectile. It was difficult in the first days of war, when the first missiles were launched at Ukraine and I didn’t quite understand what was going on. I had fear and didn’t know how it would resolve. But now, when I see that thanks to our army the war halted at the borders, I simply keep working.
The work of a military journalist is very simple. It’s dangerous but simple. All you have to do is travel and film the war. Little artistry is required. You simply go where it’s hot and film what you see. When you see ruins or combats against the invaders, you film it. It’s all simple, but you can be killed. This is the reverse side of our job.What would you like to tell your colleagues from international media?
Actually, there are quite many foreign journalists from all over the world working here. Among them are those who have seen many wars and can witness what Russia’s doing to Ukraine. What matters most is to call things their proper names, and I am grateful to the foreign media for doing so calling the war and Russian aggression what they really are.
After my American colleague was killed, I’d like to ask my foreign colleagues to take their work seriously, as it is a terrible war with air raids and missile strikes. You must be careful and never try to film Russian soldiers, as the American journalist did. The Russians have no mercy on anyone, so for journalists it’s silly to believe they can film on both sides simply because they’re from a third country not involved in the war. They won’t have problems with the Ukrainian military, but the Russians can simply kill them. Russia is a terrorist state, so these people don’t care whether you’re a civilian or a journalist. Be careful and always wear the vest and the helmet!