- No freelance journalists remain in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the Associated Press reported.
- Media reports on the city in recent weeks have been crucial in the fight against Russian propaganda.
- “We were the last journalists in Mariupol,” said journalist Mstyslav Chernov. “Now there are none.”
There are no freelance journalists left in the beleaguered Ukrainian city of Mariupol after two Associated Press reporters fled last week, according to the outlet.
Journalists Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka were in Mariupol when Russian troops first arrived in Ukraine on Thursday February 24. Since then, the team’s dogged reporting has allowed the majority of reliable images and stories to emerge from the beleaguered port city, which has seen relentless Russian attacks.
In a harrowing first-person account released on Monday, Chernov described the 20 days he and Maloletka spent in Mariupol reporting on mass graves, dead children, destroyed civilian shelters and the team’s eventual escape.
Chernov said he and Maloletka were the last international journalists left in the city last week. The few other reporters who ended up in Mariupol at the start of the war had fled before Russian forces completely blockaded the town, according to Chernov.
For weeks, Chernov and Maloletka endured airstrikes and fickle signals to tell Mariupol’s story. They were the first to report that Russian forces bombed a maternity ward and days later followed the tragic story to find that one of the mothers pictured at the scene later died, along with her newborn baby .
Mariupol has seen some of the most devastating shelling since the war began on Thursday 24 February. Many of the city’s 400,000 residents were left without food, water or electricity. Earlier this month, Ukrainian officials said more than 2,000 people had already died in Mariupol.
AP reporting on Mariupol has been crucial in countering Russian propaganda – the likes of which are so ubiquitous, Chernov said he met people who believed it, “despite the evidence of their own eyes”.
“I never, ever felt that breaking the silence was so important,” he said. But by March 15, Chernov and Maloletka’s situation had become dire.
“The Russians were hunting us down,” Chernov said. “They had a list of names, including ours, and they were closing in.”
According to Chernov, Ukrainian forces arrived to escort the journalists out of town via a humanitarian convoy after it became clear that their reporting had drawn Russia’s ire.
“If they catch you, they will film you and they will make you say that everything you filmed is a lie,” a Ukrainian policeman told AP reporters, according to Chernov. “All your efforts and everything you have done in Mariupol will be in vain.”
Chernov and Maloletka finally escaped Mariupol last week in a Hyundai with a family of three after passing through 15 Russian checkpoints in a 5-kilometer-long traffic jam, he said. About 30,000 others left the city the same day, the AP reported.
“We were the last journalists in Mariupol,” Chernov said. “Now there are none.”