Ukraine Stories #Week10: Kyiv reels from new missile strikes on the capital

House hit by the missile, Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv on 28 April, 2022. (Credit: State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Kyiv)

In this live blog, at the heart of our project we’ve called “Ukraine Stories”, Ukrainian and Russian journalists write about the harsh living conditions that the Russian invasion has inflicted on them. We cannot always verify the events described in their articles, but their short reports and feature stories describe a country in the turmoil of war.

You can read the Ukrainian version here, and the Russian blog here.

Pavlo Kazarin, celebrity journalist turned fighter: ‘famous or not, we all want to defend Ukraine’

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Pavlo Kazarin (on the left) with another soldier (Credit: Pavlo Kazarin)

by Anna Aizenberg, 29.04.2022

Pavlo Kazarin, one of Ukraine’s most well-known journalists and a household name, picked up a machine gun and is now fighting for Kyiv.

“I am often recognised, in a queue, or walking around”, he says. “Some are surprised, as if ‘we saw you on TV, and now you're here’. People often ask to take pictures. The war is now both national and patriotic, it has erased all boundaries between people. Famous and not, rich and not – all together. Society has become homogeneous.”

Kazarin is from the Crimea and in 2014, due to the occupation of the peninsula by Russia, was forced to move to Kyiv.

“It so happened that I missed the 2014 war. I was in the Crimea then, the main events and military actions in the Donbas passed me by. I had many excuses for myself as to why  I did not go to defend Ukraine with a machine gun. I was engaged in journalism, Crimean people were not called to mobilise, I was taking care of my parents… I have found a million wonderful excuses, but I did not want to ‘miss’ the second war,” says Kazarin.

Now that Russia has attacked Ukraine on a grand scale, Kazarin decided to defend the country, not on the information front, but on the real one. He told us exclusively about who is defending Kyiv now, and how. During some “down time” he found the strength to tell readers why Ukraine is now fighting for European values, and why victory in Ukraine is important not only for its people, but also for the whole civilised world. Read the full interview that was conducted before the latest missile strikes of 28 April in Kyiv.

A word from our editors

9 am: 29.04.2022

Good Morning. On 29 April, Ukrainians woke up to more news about shelling and bombing with casualties and destruction in different regions of Ukraine like Dnipro and Kharkiv, with heavy fighting in the east of the country. The capital Kyiv saw more destruction last night after a few weeks of relative calm. Our correspondent has just prepared a story with the latest updates.

Russia’s strike on Kyiv aimed at humiliating UN leadership, says Zelensky

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House hit by the missile, Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv on 28 April, 2022. (Credit: State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Kyiv)

by Olha Holovina, 29.04.2022

It’s a warm April day. After a long cold winter in Kyiv, at last Spring has come. The city is slowly coming to life with more cars on the roads, the din of children's voices on the playgrounds, the aromas of fragrant coffee on the streets of the capital. This is when Kyiv’s Chestnut trees bloom and it seems that you can finally be free and without fear enjoy spring.

But in the evening of 28 April around 18.00 an air raid siren sounded and for two hours the centre of Kyiv was shaken by powerful explosions. Eyewitnesses reported a cloud of smoke rising over the central areas of the capital. Missiles had hit houses in the Shevchenkivskyi district (a historical district, home to Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral and main entrance into the medieval city).

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House hit by the missile, Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv on 28 April, 2022. (Credit: State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Kyiv)

“In the evening, the enemy fired on Kyiv. Two missiles hit the Shevchenkivskyi area in the lower floors of a residential building. Rescuers and medics worked on site. They inspected nearby houses and took people out.So far, three victims have been hospitalised,” wrote Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klytschko on his Telegram channel.

The information was confirmed by spokeswoman Svitlana Vodolaha and adviser to the head of the president’s office Mykhailo Podoliak.

“There were two impacts. One target (which cannot be detailed for security reasons) and one residential sector near the target. The explosion was on the first floors, and there are people on the upper floors,” said Vodolaha.

Rescue services and medics arrived at the scene. People were hastily taken out of the house damaged by the explosion and neighbouring buildings were inspected.

Olga Kyrylenko, a Ukrainian Pravda journalist who arrived at the scene, says she saw a lot of special equipment, ambulances and law enforcement officers who sealed off the house hit by the missile.

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House hit by the missile, Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv on 28 April, 2022. (Credit: Olha Kyrylenko/Ukrainian Pravda)

“Journalists were not allowed behind the fence. Several locals who lived in this house, called their relatives and asked the police to let them through the cordon. People were alarmed. I saw one of the victims who was taken out on a sheet. At about 10pm journalists were allowed closer to the house and we saw that the building’s lower floors were badly damaged. There was a lot of dust, it was hard to breathe. There was only a light on in the basement and water was gurgling somewhere,” said Kyrylenko.

By this morning, Kyiv city authorities confirmed that one person had died, 10 people were injured,  and four were hospitalised. Rescuers resumed the search in the morning along with the clean-up operation. The missiles struck the centre of the capital yesterday as two high-ranking international delegations were visiting President Zelensky –  UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Kiril Petkov.

They were visiting Ukraine the day after meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During an address last night, Zelensky said the strike “says a lot about Russia’s true attitude to global institutions. About the efforts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the UN and everything that the organisation represents”.

Earlier, Guterres admitted that the UN’s Security Council “had failed to everything in its power” to prevent or end the war in Ukraine.

More than two months of war in the capital killed more than 100 people, and 435 civilians were wounded. This was reported by the city authorities who recommend all residents of the capital not ignore air raid sirens as Kyiv remains a target for attacks.

On the morning of 29 April, it became known that Vira Hyrych, a journalist and producer of the Ukrainian edition of Radio Svoboda, had died as a result of the shelling. Vira lived in a house that was hit by a Russian missile. Earlier, we published an article about why journalists are becoming targets for Russian troops in Ukraine.

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Vira Hyrych (Credit: facebook.com/vira.hyrych)

Meanwhile over in Russia today…

Cringe of the week: ‘patriotic’ photo shoots of children with Zwastika

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(Credit: Telegram channel \"Close Behind Me Tver\")

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Caption: 6 photo background options

At school No 52 in the Russian city od Tver, parents were offered templates for children's photo shoots, according to the Telegram channel "Close Behind Me Tver".

“Probably right, you should be honest with your child from childhood. There's only one perspective for you, son - wait until you're 18 and die fighting for Putler's palaces and Rotenberg's yachts,” the Telegram channel commented on the initiative.

More than 100 criminal cases have been brought against opponents of the war

“The biggest number of cases is related to the new article on 'fakes' about the Russian army, which appeared only in March – against 39 people. Another 21 people are being tried under the article on vandalism,” the human rights project OVD-Info says.

106 Russians will be tried under articles on ‘telephone terrorism”, the use of violence against a government official, hooliganism, extremism, justifying terrorism, calling for extremist activities and others, including fraud.

“Details of the criminal cases against those who dissent from the war are not always known, but the overall context and the identities of those prosecuted suggest that the authorities are using the war as an excuse to suppress dissent and sweep civil society clean. We regard these criminal cases as part of the authorities' fierce fight against freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, opposition and activist activities,” OVD-info said.

OVD-Info is a Russian non-governmental human rights media project focused on combating political persecution. It provides and coordinates legal assistance in cases concerning restrictions on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, assistance in Russian courts in administrative and criminal cases, and filing complaints with the European Court of Human Rights. OVDinfo is recognised by the Russian government as a foreign agent.

Death in the air at Russian sports complex

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(Credit: Olga Trifonova)
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(Credit: Olga Trifonova)

In the Russian city of Ulan-Ude, the capital city of the Republic of Buryatia, those killed during the special operation have been buried in the regional archery centre where children train since early March. The training sessions did not stop after the start of hostilities, with children practising behind the wall of the room where coffins are brought in. Parents reported that there is a deadly smell in the rooms where the children train. This was reported by journalists of the “People of Baikal”, a publication blocked in Russia, who attended the funeral of the Buryat soldiers.

“The suffocating aroma of incense mingles with the nauseating smell of corpses. The dead are carried for a long time, sometimes a month or even two elapses between the day of the death and the funeral. It is difficult to breathe in the hall,” the report said.

A journalist of another newspaper tried to contact relatives of the deceased servicemen. They asked permission to speak to the military. Already in the evening, the editor-in-chief summoned the journalist and said that he had received a call from the government and was told that there was an “unspoken ban” on the subject of casualties and deaths.

‘Bucha - remember, don't forgive’

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(Credit: Telegram channel Visible protest)
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(Credit: Telegram channel Visible protest)

The caption on both photos: “Russian troops have killed 5,000 civilians in Mariupol. They are now buried in the yards of their homes. This is war, not a special operation” (Credit: Telegram channel Visible protest)

There are indefinite actions in Russia to commemorate and protest against Russian army atrocities in Bucha and Mariupol, according to the Telegram channel Visible Protest. Activists are setting up makeshift memorials in the courtyards of houses telling about the dead in Ukraine, writing “Bucha” in red paint on the walls of buildings and on the asphalt, and distributing leaflets about the casualties among the Ukrainian population.

“It is important not only to speak out against the war, but also to tell the truth about it. The tragedy in Bucha and other cities of Ukraine must not be forgotten. Let new reminders appear every day. Be careful, but brave,” urges the group, Feminist Anti-War Resistance.

Dirty car sign discredited the army

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(Credit: Alexei Borisov)

On the evening of 28 April, traffic policemen caught up with Alexei Borisov on the road because of an anti-war inscription, Telegram channel 7x7 reported. They took him to the police station and demanded that he write an explanation, but Borisov refused. The law enforcers then threatened to leave the car to be impounded “as an object which discredited the army”. The driver agreed to testify for the record and erased the inscription in front of the policemen.

Borisov said he had scrawled the two words on the dirt on the car in late February. Borisov told 7x7 that during this time traffic cops checked his documents almost every day, but there were no questions about the inscription.

Medals awarded Mariupol ‘liberators’: a flashback to WW2

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Russia plans to award medals to soldiers that “liberated” the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, echoing the Soviet military awards for the liberation and capture of European cities in 1945.

According to the Telegram channel “We can explain” the Medal for the Liberation of Mariupol, established by the Russia-backed, self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), bears a resemblance to the awards for the capture of Budapest and the liberation of Prague and Warsaw, with the sun rising from behind the horizon, the red star, and laurel leaves.

At the end of the Second World War the Soviet government deliberately created two types of medals: for the capture, if the city was part of Germany or the capital of a German ally state (Berlin, Vienna, Konigsberg, Budapest), and for the liberation - of occupied cities (Belgrade, Prague, Warsaw).

“It turns out that according to the logic of the DPR head Pushilin and his handlers in Moscow, Mariupol was occupied and needed to be liberated. I wonder what the residents of Mariupol who fled the liberators or died under the rubble think about this,” the Telegram channel “We can explain” commented.

Following a siege of Mariupol that began on 2 March, Russian forces now occupy nearly all of Mariupol except for a final holdout at the Azovstal steel plant. The city has been subject to constant bombardment since the start of the siege, with living conditions increasingly desperate for civilians that remain.

The total number of civilians killed in Mariupol remains unknown, however, Ukrainian authorities estimate that 20,000 people may have been killed there since the war began.

Russia may close down ‘unfriendly’ organisations like Greenpeace and WWF

By our Russia correspondents

Alexander Dyatlov, deputy of the Arkhangelsk Regional Assembly, asked the prosecutor general's office to close “unfriendly” organisations Greenpeace and WWF (World Wildlife Fund), which receive foreign funding. The attorney general’s office responded that they could be declared undesirable. But only if law enforcement provides proof that the organisations pose a threat to the country's security.

Nikolay Larionov, the Arkhangelsk representative of WWF, told 29.ru that the organisation and the local authorities had created two national parks and three wildlife refuges in the region during 19 years of joint work. They help preserve indigenous taiga forests and rare animal species.

A word from our editors

3 pm: 28.04.2022

Good afternoon. My name is Olena Tkalich and I am part of the editorial team updating this blog. I have been working in journalism in Kyiv for more than 10 years and in peacetime I wrote about women's employment, gender inequality and care infrastructure, and in the summer I planned to defend my master's degree in sociology about single mothers. But the war has begun. Now in Ukraine there are thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands under occupation and at least five million families separated. And mine is among them. Because I was forced to leave for Austria with my children. Now almost all Ukrainian journalists write about the war. And the least I can do is give the floor to those who fight for our freedom – on the front lines, behind supporting civilians,  and in the information space.

Today we have several stories about how and why Ukrainians are evacuated, what children have to endure, and whether people can leave the occupied territories.

The great battle for Donbas has begun

By Ksenia Novitska, 28.04.2022

This is what all the major media of our country, as well as international journalists are talking about. And with it, the opportunity for residents of the occupied territories to evacuate to settlements controlled by the Ukrainian government has disappeared. If before almost every day private carriers took people out of the occupation to safe places, now for the last two weeks it is not possible for people to leave using their own means of transport.

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Passenger bus after shelling on 14 April, 2022. (Credit: telegram-chanel Артюх)

Recent attempts to evacuate people have resulted in shelling and death. Thus, in the period from 12 to 15 April, several columns of carriers were fired upon by Russian troops. This is what the carrier Anna Lobur wrote in her Telegram channel.

“I can't write… Accept what is happening. But yesterday, 14 April, our carriers learned that other buses were able to pass and decided to try too. Three buses passed normally, and the other two were separated by cars. They were the ones who came under fire. The victims are in Borova Hospital. There are wounded and dead. There is no normal connection. We have not been able to find out specific information yet. We will pass on further information only to relatives.

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Passenger bus after shelling on 14 April, 2022. (Credit: telegram-chanel Артюх)

Due to the constant shelling, which is showing no let-up, lighting  in the settlements of Luhansk region often disappears. During the pre-Easter holidays, the occupiers fired on the Kreminna power plant, which is the main supplier of light in the Luhansk region. Because of this, there was almost no electricity for several days.

I can't say for sure, but probably due to the significant losses of the occupiers during the battles for Luhansk region in the “newly liberated” territories, the militants of the “Luhansk People's Republic” announced the start of military commissariats. The leaflets they distribute read the following.

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Announcement on the work of the military registration office of “Luhansk People's Republic” (Credit: telegram-chanel Артюх)

1. Military registration and enlistment offices have opened in the territories of the liberated regions. Recruitment is underway.

2. There will be no mobilisation and conscription in 2022.

3. Volunteers are being recruited for the LPR People's Militia.

4. All men aged 18 to 50 years old, and with the rank of officer under 60 years old, must be registered with the military registration and enlistment offices at the place of residence.

5. All enterprises and organisations maintain military records and verify information in the military registration and enlistment offices.

I hope that people will be smart enough to ignore such an “order” and not become “cannon fodder” for Russian militants.

In Russian news today, which we’re also keeping an eye on…

Propaganda prepares Russians to become radioactive ash

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(Credit: Screenshot of the programme on Russia 1)

Margarita Simonyan, Russian journalist and editor-in-chief of the state-owned Russia Today, told Russia 1 TV channel live that Britain's support for Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory leaves Moscow with few options other than "total annihilation" of Ukraine and a “nuclear strike”. An excerpt from the broadcast, subtitled in English, can be viewed at the link.

“Either we lose in Ukraine or World War III begins. That it ends in a nuclear strike seems more likely to me,” Simonyan says.

In her Telegram channel, Ksenia Sobchak notes: given that Simonyan is “an expert on warmongers”, her words make you uncomfortable. “She was saying 'Mother Russia, take Donbas home' long before we realised it wasn't a joke.”

Russians who disagree with the war in talks to create coalition abroad

Emigrated Russian politicians, businessmen and media managers are discussing the creation of a permanent coalition abroad. It will be discussed at the Anti-War Committee conference in Vilnius on May 20, according to the Telegram channel “We can explain”. 

Members of the European Parliament from all Baltic states and European experts, including representatives from Ukraine, will also take part in the forum.

Creating such a group, however, is not an easy feat, political analyst Aleksandr Morozov, explains.  It is impossible to create a “government in exile” - it could first appear in the home country, be exiled and receive international recognition (as happened in the Second World War) but this is not the case, the expert explains. “But it's time to create some kind of pan-European platform.”

“It can be shaped as a result of the coordination of Russian groups in different countries: around volunteering in support of Ukrainian refugees, around helping Russians 'relocate' people and whole civil organisations and editorial offices. This platform is also needed in order to talk to the European Union, to the governments of individual countries,” Morozov concludes.

Turning back to our Ukraine dispatches:

Children in the evacuation train. Salvation road to Lviv

By Liudmyla Makei, 22.04.2022

The railway has become the main means of evacuation in Ukraine, helping four million people to be deported to safe places during the Russian aggression. Journalist Lyudmila Makei writes about how this happened based on her own experience.

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Children on an evacuation train in March 2022 (Credit: Liudmyla Makei)

- Mom, I want silence!

Bodya is confused and powerless. He is six years old and he has always been the centre of the universe in his family. He was loved, hugg’d, kissed and pampered, bought the best toys and taken to McDonald's. He had his own room at home, where Bodya could play, rest, and hide from Babay (Ukrainian folklore monster, - ed.), whom his grandmother told him about.

Now Bodya is sitting in a crowded stuffy railway carriage, where there is “no place for a chicken to peck”. There are a lot of strangers around who don't care if he managed to sleep and which candies he prefers: chocolate glaze or jelly. Children whose mothers are being taken away from the war are screaming and yelling. There is a whole carriage of such children. And this picture does not fit into the picture of the world of a gentle domestic boy, who only a month ago learned to read.

- Mom, I want silence! He says.

But the mother smiles sadly and gives her son a notebook and a pen: Sit down, draw! Bodya begins to drive the pen intently on the sheet, immersing himself in another reality. The noise around him no longer matters. Only he, notebook and pen. In half an hour the picture is ready.

- Mom, look what a tank! This is a Ukrainian tank! He is going to kill Putin.

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Bodya drew a tank, March 2022 (Credit: Liudmyla Makei)

Four-year-old Veronica is sitting next to Bodya. She is going to Lviv. She is a brown-eyed pearl of a girl with curls. She loves the sea, dolphins and bright rings with cartoon characters.

She is as restless as mercury. The girl hugs her mother (Mom, you love me, right?), then jumps on knees to her older brother, then stretches across the seats. She can't lie down, because there are two older brothers and an aunt huddled together like herrings in a jar. Opposite - mom, another brother and other passengers.

There are also people sitting in the aisles, chaotically piled bags, backpacks, prams, pets. Women with children sit and stand not only in the carriage, but also in the cold smoky vestibules.

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Veronica sleeps on the train, March 2022 (Credit: Liudmyla Makei)

Even near the toilet, the dirtiest place in the carriage, prams are huddled. But mothers do not care that there are germs. Today you can turn a blind eye to unsanitary conditions, the main thing is that the child is safe.

“We are from Nikopol,” says Elena, Veronica's mother. “The windows of our apartment overlook the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. We saw with our own eyes how the Kadyrovites captured the station. We stood by the windows all night. And in the morning we hurriedly packed things and decided to take the children out.”

We were miraculously lucky enough to get to the last evacuation train to Lviv. Moreover, people say nothing will happen in this direction.

The train travels slowly, with long stops and curtained windows. There are almost no men here – they are not taken to the evacuation train, only those over 70.

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People on the platform, March 2022 (Credit: Liudmyla Makei)

Representatives of the Territorial Defence walk on the carriages, calm people down (as they can, of course), help to collect water or seat new passengers if necessary. But there is a critical shortage of seats, the train stops at the stations, but does not open the door. Thousands of people remain on the platform, losing everything, even the hope of salvation.

Women are scared, children feel the despair of their mothers and constantly cry. This mournful children's whining does not subside day or night. It flies after the train like a farewell howl. Ripped from their native lands, Ukrainians are heading west into the unknown.

Meanwhile, as infants in Ukraine face the trauma of leaving their homes, in Russia….

An 11-year-old boy put on police record for discrediting Russian army

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Picture caption: To hit or not to hit? (Credit: @bezizyanov)

By our Russia correspondents

28.4.2022

In Volgograd schools  “preventive measures” are being put in place aimed at the “neutralisation of attempts to involve minors in destructive, including extremist and terrorist activities, in illegal mass actions, to counteract penetration of information promoting suicidal behavior and violence in educational organizations into the environment of teenagers”. During the week, police officers held more than 2,000 lectures, according to The Insider.

The result of this action, among other things, was the ruling on the record of an 11-year-old schoolboy, who, according to the report, spread information discrediting the Russian Armed Forces on the internet. The report did not specify exactly how the schoolboy had discredited the army.

Russian government requires teachers to support Ukraine invasion

The Russian Education Ministry has compiled teaching guides for teachers on how to write posts on social networks in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. School authorities require teachers to make screenshots of the posts to report to officials, The Insider has revealed.

The posts must be accompanied by the hashtags #Zamir (For peace), #ZaPresident (For president), #Svoihnebrosaem (We don't abandon our own), as well as photos of people with placards in support of Russian President Putin and the so-called “special operation” in Ukraine. In the texts themselves, the words “peace” and “justice” are repeated, such as on the page of one of the teachers, Valentina Goncharova:

“Under the flag of a great country, our president consistently and clearly defends Russia's interests and directs his authority to strengthen security in the world, to comply with international law and to defend the independence of other states. We and the President are for peace and justice”.

My city was not destroyed. Why I left

Most Ukrainians who were forced to leave their homes because of the war left the eastern regions. They account for about 58 percent of those displaced. But residents of safer cities also left Ukraine. Journalist Myroslava Opanasyk from Rivne uses her own example to explain why this is happening.

By Myroslava Opanasyk, 22.04.2022


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Place in the basement. Rivne, Ukraine. February 2022. (Credit: Myroslava Opanasyk)

At 5 O'clock in the morning on 24 February, I was awakened by the loud sounds of explosions. I learnt from the internet that the war had begun and the Russians were shelling Rivne airport. I immediately woke up. My six-year-old son slept in the next room.

The first thing I did was pack my child's documents and clothes in the backpack. No sirens were sounded (later I learnt that this was originally a problem in many parts of the city). I did not take my son to kindergarten. It was scary for him.

Panic broke out in the city. Large queues formed at gas stations and ATMs. People refuelled cars and withdrew money to escape the war.

There were queues in pharmacies: people swept away medicines, some of which could no longer be bought. Bakeries were overwhelmed, some of them stopped accepting bank cards, and a huge queue at the ATM had to be made to withdraw cash.

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Queues at the pharmacy and ATMs. Rivne, Ukraine. February 2022. (Credit: Myroslava Opanasyk)

There were many policemen on the streets, people in military uniform. I knew from the news that there were saboteurs in the city. On the roads, roofs of houses, people found crosses for the landing of enemy troops. One was found even on a nearby street.

Air alarms were several times a day. We then went down to the basement of the house. After all, it was a long way to run to special shelters, and even before that the authorities informed us that most of them were not ready for use. I brought a pillow and a blanket, water and books into the basement to entertain my son.

These shelters helped when I really wanted to sleep. After all, there were air sirens late at night and almost every day at 5 o'clock in the morning. Due to lack of sleep, my son became nervous, irritable, and capricious. I also slept badly at night. I lay down dressed and was afraid of hearing the sirens.

A curfew and light masking were introduced in the city. This meant that you could not go outside in the evening and the lights were turned off everywhere, the windows were tightly curtained and the lights were turned off.

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Blackout in the apartment. Rivne, Ukraine. February 2022. (Credit: Myroslava Opanasyk)

One evening my son and I went to the pharmacy for medicine, and when we returned, the city had plunged into complete darkness. My son squeezed my hand tightly and I felt his hand tremble. He was scared.

I was afraid that there would be mass shelling or bombing. After all, they talked about a possible Russian offensive from Belarus, and it is less than 200 km away. Then, I understood, it will be impossible to leave. And especially if the car is damaged.

Finally, when my son, tormented by nightly air alarms, announced that he would no longer go to the basement, but would watch cartoons in the apartment, I decided to go to Poland.

A word from our editors

Good morning, this is Olga. As of 28 April, Russia claims it has evacuated about a million Ukrainian citizens to Russia from what they claim are dangerous territories, and more than 180,000 of them are children. At the same time, the Ukrainian Government has claimed many times that Russian troops forcibly deport people, adults and children from recently occupied territories - Mariupol, Izyum, and more.

Meanwhile, we received this story of a brave teacher who escaped heavy shelling in Chernihiv, north of Ukraine, saving the lives of 30  children when the city was occupied and ruined by Russian troops at the early stage of the war.

‘It was like watching a horror movie’: orphanage teacher rescues 30 kids from Chernihiv

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Natalya Pesotska, the teacher who rescued 30 orphans. West of Ukraine on 20 April, 2022. (Credit: Olha Surovska)

Natalya Pesotska had been working at Chernihiv’s Centre for Social and Psychological Rehabilitation as a teacher, living her life with a husband and two children. But the events of 24 February when Russia invaded Ukraine turned her life upside-down. That morning, her city was attacked by Russian troops. From that day on, she had to take care of 30 children at the centre – under bombing, without water, heat, electricity and with little food. After three weeks of survival in Chernihiv, Natalya Pesotska took all her courage and despair in her hands and managed to flee with all the children to the Ivano-Frankivsk region.

By Olha Surovska, 20.04.2022

Today, she remembers all the events as a horror movie. We met Pesotska in a mountain village in the west of Ukraine; the specific location is not named for their safety.

During the first week of the Russian invasion, Natalya and her colleagues did everything possible to take care of the children and keep them safe. The youngest of them is three years old. Whenever air raid sirens sounded, they took the children to the basement, and soon they had to stay there all night long because of frequent airstrikes and shelling.

When a shell destroyed the wall of the centre, Natalya, with all the kids, moved to the closest bomb shelter. Some 700 metres away was the St. Trinity Cathedral, which was already sheltering 600 people…

Natalya taught the children to pray, and they continued praying aloud altogether every time there was bombing or airstrikes…

“We were walking and shrapnel was flying overhead. We could actually see it. Scary! You know, we even got used to it. We had to live somehow,” says Natalya. “The children gave me the strength to endure all the trials and not lose hope. They are the biggest treasure in my life, and they were with me all the time.”

Read the full article in English and Ukrainian.

We also received today a historical overview of Russian military tactics. Russian troops have a longstanding ‘modus operandi’ of threatening and punishing civilian populations in foreign military campaigns across Europe - from the early 18th century through the Napoleonic wars, up until the recent Russian massacres in Bucha, Irpin and other Ukrainian cities, writes Ukrainian journalist and editor Serhii Kariuk. Kariuk is also an author of historical fiction ( ‘The Kremenets beast’, ‘Tarana’, ‘Impure blood’,  ‘Feriya’ and more). The article is strongly supported by historical documents.

Tradition of mass killings of civilians by Russian troops through history

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A woman stands near a ruined house, Lubyanka village, Kyiv region, Ukraine. April 2022. (Credit: Maksym Khotilenko)

By Serhii Kariuk, 25.04.2022

Dozens of residents of Bucha and Irpin were reportedly killed by “flechettes”, (metal darts embedded in explosives, used extensively in WW1), which were dropped on civilians from Russian military planes. This is just one of dozens of similar reports in recent months. The Russian army is turning peaceful Ukrainian cities into deserts. This is a well-established Russian military tradition, seen in past military campaigns.

"Terrible massacre", "All Ukraine in blood", "Women and children on sabre blades": these were the headlines of the French newspapers Lettre Historique, Mercure Historique et Politique, Gazette de France and Paris Gazette in 1708.

The French were writing about the massacre in Baturyn, (a historic town in Chernihiv Oblast of northern Ukraine). Russian Tsar Peter the Great ordered the town to be razed to the ground. At the time it was the capital of renowned Ukrainian ruler Hetman Ivan Mazepa. The Russians killed between 11,000 and 15,000 civilians, children, women and the elderly.

One hundred years passed and the French had confirmation of the brutality of Russian troops, based on their own experience. In 1814, Russian troops joined allied forces invading France.

Read the full article in Ukrainian and English.

Meanwhile, from our Russian correspondents: A train ride separates Moscow from the closest Ukrainian cities and yet the two worlds couldn't be more different. Sooner or later, however, the indifference to the war in the bustling Russian capital will come back to haunt it, writes Russian journalist Dmitri Glukhovski…..

Kharkov-Moscow: Russia has boarded the infernal ‘Sapsan’ high-speed train

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By Dmitri Glukhovski 28.04.2022

Travelling aboard Russia’s high-speed Sapsan train, from the lively Spring-time capital, the bustling Patriks [Patriarch's Ponds, a park and affluent residential area in downtown Moscow - ed], and the Moscow theatres – ‘there's no room to spare in the stalls, the prices are exorbitant!’ – you'll get away from crowded shopping malls and eternal traffic jams and find yourself in sunny, cool St. Petersburg.

You will walk along the embankments, squinting in the cool breeze, take a little tour of the world-famous St. Petersburg gastropubs or the reckless local drinking establishments. It seems that St. Petersburg is far away, but there it is, just over seven hundred kilometres away. It's only four hours by high-speed train, and it's already a completely different vibe.

And if Sapsans went not to the north from the Leningrad station, but to the south – from the Kiev station – then for the same four hours Muscovites would arrive in Kharkov. I remember when I was a kid, I was going south through Kharkov, but by an ordinary train. We stood in Kharkov for an hour. Everybody on the platform spoke Russian, we bought pirozhki with potatoes, sunflower seeds and lightly salted cucumbers. It left a memory that will last a lifetime for some reason.

Now the Moscow-Kharkov train would take you straight to the underworld; to a city where Russian bombing and shelling have destroyed two thousand homes. Multi-story buildings, schools, hospitals.  A town from which one-third of its inhabitants have left, while the rest, clinging stubbornly to the shards of their old lives, risk daily death under the shrapnel of Russian missiles and shells. A city besieged by a ruthless enemy who showed what he was capable of in Bucha and Irpen.

Read the article in English here and the original Russian version on Novaya Gazeta Europe’s website here.

The Europe-based media made its debut last week after its Russian predecessor, the Novaya Gazeta, ceased operations amid clampdowns on the media.  The independent news outlet, headed by Nobel Peace Prize-winning editor Dmitry Muratov, had been repeatedly threatened with closure for its reporting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Muratov himself was attacked on a train in Russia last month by an assailant who covered him with red paint. He will be in Geneva on 3 May for an event to honour press cartoonists on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

A word from our editors

6 am: 27.04.2022

Hello. This blog is being brought to you by our team of three Ukrainian editors and two Russian editors. My name is Maria Romanenko. The war caught me and my British partner in Kyiv. Due to his family being in the UK, he was adamant he wanted to escape to the west of the country and go back home. I did not want to separate from him and, since I lived in the UK before, I followed him to Manchester where we’re both now staying. My mother joined us from Kyiv a little over a week ago. In Kyiv, I worked for the Kyiv Post and Hromadske International. Outside of these, I have also written for The Daily Beast, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, Condé Nast Traveller, ITV, BBC, and other global media.

On 27 April, the world woke up to the news of shelling in the Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kherson regions of Ukraine.

The southern city of Kherson has been occupied by the Russians almost since the start of the war. Kherson native Daria Kotielnikova works for Gwara Media and has been a journalist since she was 17.

“When Russia made its first attacks and Russian troops started approaching from Crimea, I left my home and family with just one backpack. Twenty years of my life put in a plain backpack. Now I live in Italy still working for Gwara. But I’m no longer just a 20-year-old girl, I fight [Russia] in the information war,” she said.

Life in occupied Kherson

Below is Daria’s account of life in occupied Kherson based on the information from her contacts.

by Daria Kotielnikova, 27.04.2022

The situation in Kherson remains quite tense. At least 10,000 residents have left the region over the past month (Kherson had an estimated population of 290,000 in 2017 - ed.). People are worried about a possible referendum.

No official “green corridors” or evacuation routes have been announced. Some people have managed to leave successfully, others drove onto a landmine – no one’s safety is a given. One of the escape routes that was previously deemed “more or less safe” has been recently closed.

“We’re not letting anyone out before the referendum date,” one soldier reportedly explained at a checkpoint.

Kherson is running out of Ukrainian products, and the occupiers have been bringing in the essentials from Russia through the occupied Crimea. A kilogram of sausage, for example, is 500 hryvnias (more than 15 euros). My parents and friends say that the prices are at least twice what they used to be. Ukrainian chains ATB and Eva are temporarily closing their Kherson stores in May.

The city is also running low on cash. Because of this, my grandmother has not managed to receive her pension. Only those who previously set up their pension bank accounts can get their monthly retirement payments now. Large queues form next to the city’s cash machines.

Kherson is not under shelling, but the locals regularly hear the sounds of Russian missiles that approach the neighbouring Mykolayiv. Pressure on the residents is also put psychologically: the Russian army has been dictating its rules since Day 1 of the occupation. The pro-Ukrainian protests have been dispersed and staged propaganda videos about a “liberated Kherson” are made on a regular basis.

People are stopped and checked in the streets, some neighbourhoods have checkpoints. Residents are saying that they have learnt to leave their mobiles at home or delete their message histories before going outside. Men are being checked for body tattoos.

“We were stopped at one of the checkpoints. Our driver was interrogated whilst a gun was pointed at the rest of us” is what people who are just trying to drive from the city’s one neighbourhood to another have said. Leaving the city is even more complicated.

More and more missing persons have been reported. Virtually every other social media post that I see is about someone who’s disappeared. In April alone, 13 such reports have been registered by the Milena reconnaissance unit. Only one of those people has been found. At least two of my friends have been kidnapped with the purpose of intimidation or searching for the “person who organises the pro-Ukrainian protests.”

The occupants seized the city council on 25 April, kicking out the Ukrainian government that used to ensure Kherson’s continuation of functioning. We don’t know what’s going to happen but we hope that the city will be free again soon, with Ukrainian flags flying across it.

Why does Russia want my hometown?

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Izyum (Credit: Max Strel / Facebook)

In the meantime, Izyum – a town of 50,000 residents in the Kharkiv region – is struggling through electricity and water supply cuts. It has been occupied by the Russian army since 1 April. Many have left the town in the last couple of months, while others are stuck looking for alternate ways to flee or without viable escape routes.

Journalist Maksym Vysotskyi left the town before things “turned around.” Through his links in Izyum, he explains what life in his beloved hometown is like.

by Maksym Vysotskyi, 27.04.2022

I can compare my feelings with what I felt eight years ago. When Russia invaded the Donbas in 2014, the Russia-led insurgents were less than two hours away by car. Izyum became a temporary home to the Ukrainian army headquarters. But I refused to believe that this could happen, that my Izyum would also be occupied one day and become “Russian.”

This rejection is probably what saved me from going crazy back then. The last days before 24 February, 2022 were spent dreading the worst. Those fears turned out to be justified.

Why does Russia want Izyum? The Siverskyi Donets passes through my town. It’s a fairly small river, but the military vehicles would struggle to drive through it. Izyum is also a crucial part of the infrastructure system. The Kharkiv-Rostov route passes through it, and so does the railway service for the Donbas. The majority of Izyum residents are clearly pro-Russian, too. Although the views of some have changed since the invasion.

Read the full article in English and Ukrainian.

‘Night is the worst time of day’

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Graves in Borodyanka (Credit: Taisia Bekbulatova)

Borodyanka is a quiet urban-type village in the Kyiv region, not far from Bucha. Russian troops occupied the village in the first days of the war, and stayed for more than a month. Now there are ruins instead of houses, and the number of civilians who died during the Russian invasion is already in the dozens. Taisia Bekbulatova, editor in chief of independent Russian media Holod, visited the village and reports how mass graves are being dug up, people are looking for the missing, and are trying to rebuild their lives after the occupation.

Read an abridged English version of the article here and the full Russian version, published on 21 April, here. This story is republished here as part of our collaboration with Holod for Ukraine Stories.

Meanwhile in Russia today….. (the following stories have been gathered for Geneva Solutions by one of our independent Russian editors):

The protesting ruble

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The inscriptions on the banknotes read: \"Peace to Ukraine!\", \"Down with Putin\", \"Freedom!\", \"Thousands of dead civilians in Mariupol, no Ukrainian Nazis there!\", \"Don't believe the Kremlin propaganda!\", \"Glory to Ukraine! Live Belarus! Freedom to Russia!\", \"no to fascism!\", \"Bucha is not a fake!\", \"no to war!\" (Credit: The Visible Protest movement)

Banknotes with anti-war messages are being circulated across Russia. The Visible Protest movement published photos of notes from Belgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Stavropol and Suzdal in its Telegram channel.

The art of rebus

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(Credit: Telegram channel \"Russian Decadence\" )

An eight-metre-long sign assembled from the first letters of the names of the companies that have left Russia in the last 2 months – and spelling out the Russian word ZAMESTIM (“we will substitute”, was installed in the centre of St Petersburg. The photo was posted on his Telegram channel "Russian Decadence".

The transition towards import substitution has been declared in Russia since 2014, following the introduction of mutual sanctions by Russia and Western countries in connection with the annexation of Crimea to Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

A toilet paper to flush out the dissenters

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(Credit: Telegram channel Beware of Moscow)

As a growing list of companies turn their back on Russia, Maria Rybinka came up with an idea for how Russians could turn their backs – or rather wipe their backsides – on them.

Rybkina plans to produce her branded toilet paper on a larger scale and make a good living out of it, according to Telegram channel Beware of Moscow.

“I am a Russian citizen, I live and work in Moscow. I am convinced that now is the ideal time for Russian business to take off, and foreign companies who have left the Russian Federation will bitterly regret their decision”, she said.

According to Rybkina, she has already found investment for the project and will soon launch production.

Ukraine's ruined cities plastered on Russian city’s walls

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Inscription: Cities of Ukraine. Before vs after. (Credit: Visible Protest)

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Inscription: Cities of Ukraine. Before vs after. (Credit: Visible Protest)

A photo of an anti-war rally in the Russian city of Ivanovo was published by Visible Protest. The photo shows the cities of Kiev, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Irpen before and after the hostilities.

‘Dear’ Kadyrov’s €6m watch collection

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Chechen leader Kadyrov is pictured wearing a watch worth €2,339,108 (Credit: The Popular Politics channel)

The Popular Politics channel showed a collection of Kadyrov's luxury watches worth half a billion rubles – €6.2m. (Apologies this has been corrected after reading billion yesterday- ed.) “While pauper soldiers are stealing refrigerators and toilet bowls from Ukrainians' flats, the head of subsidised Chechnya wears accessories from a limited collection, and his son wears a watch worth 35 mln rubles (€437,217),” the channel reported.

In a 2012 interview with the Ren TV channel, when asked "Where does the money come from?" Kadyrov replied: "Allah gives!"

According to Russia's State Statistics Service, the average salary in Chechnya in 2021 was 31,272 roubles (€390) a month before taxes.

Ukrainian supporters’ houses tagged

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Sign on the door: “Ukronazis live here” (Credit: Telegram channel 7x7)

The inscription about "Ukronazis" appeared on the door of Penza lawyer Igor Zhulimov. He helps refugees from Ukraine, who were taken to Russia, to leave the country. This is reported by the Telegram channel 7x7.

In addition, the lawyer had two tires punctured on his car. Zhulimov told "7x7" that he does not plan to go to the police and will not plaster the inscription on the door. 

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The sign reads: “Ukronazi accomplices live here” (Credit: Telegram channel 7x7)

Previously, unknown persons left such an inscription and the letter Z on the gate of the house and car of the correspondent of "7x7" and journalists of "Takie dela" Evgeny and Ekaterina Malyshev. The police took paint samples and recorded the address of the Malyshevs.

Why are journalists becoming Russian targets in Ukraine?

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Max Levin. 2021. (Credit: Eugene Datsenko/Facebook)

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 21 media people have died, according to the Press Emblem Campaign. At least half of them are journalists killed directly in the line of duty. Other victims either enlisted in the armed forces and died as soldiers in battle, or were representatives of other related professions, such as media trainers, cinematographers, employees of press services, and so on.

by Andrii Ianitskyi, 23.04.2022

More often than not, journalists killed or wounded in Ukraine were wearing bright protective vests with the word "Press" displayed prominently, moved in vehicles marked "Press", and loudly announced their professional status. But all this did not prevent the Russian occupiers from shooting at them.

Well-known Ukrainian photojournalist Max Levin was killed in mid-March in the town of Guta-Mezhyhirska in the Kyiv region. Despite his clear identification, he was shot dead by Russian soldiers with two bullets. Former New York Times employee Brent Renaud was also wearing a "Press" badge when he was killed on 13 March by Russian soldiers near the city of Irpin.

Read the full article in English and Ukrainian.

‘Grandpa, when will we get on an armoured plane with armoured missiles and fly to save Mariupol?’

Child psychology in wartime. Journalist Darya Koshel, who is trying to protect her 5-year-old son from bad news and explain in an accessible language what is happening around him, raised an important topic in her short post.

By Daria Koshel, 23.04.2022

"Air raid siren, stop!" Invoking this like a spell, my five-year-old son spent two hours enduring air raids in Lviv, where we now live. He quickly gets bored in the shelter, begins to be capricious and annoyed. And this is normal. It is not normal for a small child to sit for hours in damp shelters, because cruise missiles can hit his city. We also get annoyed, exhale, calm down and explain again and again that we can do absolutely nothing but wait; that we need to sit down, because the threat has not passed.

Sometimes it seems to me that if I picked up the phone and showed my son a fresh video from Kharkiv, Mariupol or even the latest footage from Odesa, I would not have to explain anything more. But I try to protect him from such images. On the first day of the war, I went to extremes in this quest. On 24 February, when, like almost everyone in my city, I got up with the first explosions, I tried to tell my child that we were in danger of some natural disaster, not war. I kept this up for a couple of hours. It's good that I quickly realised how absurd it is.

He didn't realise how scary it was: he hadn't watched adult movies about war, he hadn't read adult books about war, so he just couldn't imagine. Like many other children in Ukraine, they were quickly removed from dangerous or potentially dangerous areas.

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A picture of a tank drawn by Daria’s son. (Credit: Daria Koshel)

Children in general adapt quickly to everything, psychologists say, but the main thing for them is our own condition, that of their adults. The fact that some things especially impress my son, I realise only after a while, when he gives them away in a game. “Grandpa, and then we'll get on an armoured plane with armoured missiles and fly to save Mariupol,” I heard him say a couple of weeks ago and realised that we were probably talking a lot about Mariupol.

And tanks. My son made us all learn to draw tanks. He himself is doing well, as am I. Before the war, I did not like militaristic toys, did not buy them and grimaced when relatives donated them. I still don't like them, but I understand that a child also needs legal and acceptable ways to express his aggression and anger, which he reflects on us adults. So I let him draw so many of these tanks that they disgust him now and so that in adulthood he’ll also reject such "toys".

Meanwhile in news from Russia….

Will Putin jail Lego puppets?

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(Credit: Telegram channel Beware the News)

By our Russian correspondents

People might not be allowed to protest but how about toys? Daniel Trabun, media director of Russian platform Yandex. Zen, made an installation out of Lego in the centre of Moscow. Figurines holding small anti-war posters appeared next to the monument to the Defenders of Democracy in Russia, the Telegram channel Beware the News reported.

Trabun explained his idea: “I tried to distill my thoughts of the last two months – what I want to resonate with as many people as possible.”

Chechen commander awarded ‘Hero of Russia’ for Mariupol destruction

President Putin has named Chechen MP Adam Delimkhanov a Hero of Russia for his participation in the Russian "special operation" in Ukraine.

According to Putin's decree, Delimkhanov received the title "for courage and heroism shown during a special military operation" in Ukraine, including in the self-proclaimed DNR and LNR.

On 21 April, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov released a video in which Delimkhanov, surrounded by other Chechens, announced that “the special operation to destroy and clean up Mariupol is today, we can say, complete.” The Chechens in the video stand against a destroyed and burning building in Mariupol, and after Delimkhanov's words, they all chant "Akhmat is strength" and "Allahu akbar.

Your snitching is very important to us

The war in Ukraine and the fight against dissenters inside Russia has raised a wave of "snitching," according to a post on Telegram channel Project on 25 April.

Moscow student Elmira Khalitova woke up to a phone call - police came to the apartment where she was registered. It turned out that her father had denounced her. The man came to the police station and said that his daughter posted "calls to kill Russians" in her social media streams.

In another example, a pensioner born in 1947 denounced artist Sasha Skochilenko for her action for exchanging price tags in a supermarket for leaflets with information about the war in Ukraine. Skochilenko is now in pre-trial detention and she faces up to ten years in prison.

“We made a film, in which we talked both to the victims of denunciations and to their authors. The worst thing is not even that some people come to complain about the antiwar stance of others. The problem is that the law-enforcement agencies take measures based on these complaints,” says the Project.

You can watch a short film about denunciations in Russia via this link.

A word from our editors

26.04.2022

26 April started with the news of escalations in the Zaporizhzhia region. Several Russian missiles were reported as targeting the southern-east region of Ukraine. In particular, three missiles dropped on Zaporizhzhia itself, killing one person and wounding another.

At the same time, shelling continues in the Luhansk region – Popasna and Lysychansk in particular. Several buildings sustained damage as a result of the shelling. The southern regions of Mykolayiv and Kherson also continue to see heavy fighting.

On 25 April, we published a story by Anna Aizeberg about my former colleague Angelina Kariakina, who married in the first days of the all-out war. Plus, you’ll find some anecdotes below on creative ways Russians showed anti-war resistance over the Easter weekend.

Wedding at war: prominent Ukrainians tie the knot

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(Credit: Angelina Kariakina)

Around 25,000 couples have tied the knot over the last two months, according to the ministry of justice. Most of them didn’t wear traditional wedding attire. The creation of new families in Ukraine shows that the nation is planning its future post-war, despite Russia's attempts to destroy the country.

by Anna Aizenberg, 25.04.2022

While Ukraine was stormed by Russia’s all-out war, two Ukrainians found love in the darkest place and turned their war woes into wedding vows. Kyiv’s chief policeman, Yuriy Zozulia, and the head of news at Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne, Angelina Kariakina, announced their marriage on 2 March, just a week after Moscow fully invaded Ukraine.

Angelina recounted to GS News her story of love and marriage in a time of war: ammunition instead of presents and a “wedding sweater” instead of a wedding dress.

“It is difficult to explain why we decided to wed right now. It felt right. We found out which registry office worked and got wedding rings from jewellery designer Lena Yastreb. She specifically opened the shop for us and gave us the ones that we liked. We went together and registered our marriage. Then we invited a few friends, including my husband’s supervisor,” she said.

Read full story in English here and in Ukrainian here.

Tragic Easter weekend in Odesa

By Maria Andreichenko, 24.04.2022

The Orthodox Easter Sunday date coincided with two months since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The southern city of Odesa hardly had a reason to celebrate as it sustained a series of airstrikes on 23 April. One of the missiles fell on a residential building on Koroliova Street.

At least six Russian missiles were targeting the seaside city. They made a distinctive noise, which was followed by the sound of the operating anti-aircraft systems and falling missiles. As Christians were celebrating the Holy Fire Easter ceremony in Jerusalem, Odesa was living through another day of hell.

One of the buildings – part of the Tiras residential complex – caught fire as a result of an airstrike. The first four floors took up the most damage. One family – a mother, a three-month-old child and her grandmother – were killed. One resident is still missing after rescuers completed their search mission through the building’s ruins. Many residents sustained injuries.

“It’s hard to describe what you feel when you look through the photos of the destroyed flats, see the places where you used to play with your siblings, went training, and just listened to some music. Luckily, my family is alright,” said one Odesa resident, Anna Kaplinska, whose family lived in the damaged building.

The churches skipped the overnight Easter service, so many Odesans came early in the morning, forming queues outside the churches. Everybody wanted to pray for peace and find solace from sirens and war trauma.

Putin's portrait in 1,500 Ukraine war photos

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(Credit: Instagram page of Pavel Krichko)

by our Russian correspondents

Pavel Krichko, a photographer from Belarus, created a collage of 1,500 screenshots and photographs seen during the 57 days of war in Ukraine.

“Horror, pain, suffering, death, mutilated fates, crimes, inhumanity, evil - all in this image. Looking at all these pictures, I still find it hard to understand the people who support all this. I'm far from a designer and it's more just logic/symbolism and technical nuances, but a couple of similar ideas related to the theme of Belarus are in the making,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Easter Eggs as an anti-war weapon

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These cards read “Christ is risen, but the conscript is not” and “No more war” (Credit: Telegram channel “Feminist Anti-War Resistance”)

By our Russian correspondents

Russian activists of the "Feminist Anti-War Resistance" and the "Union of Mothers of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine" distributed anti-war Easter cards this weekend on social networks and on the streets with quotations from Scripture about peace, prayers for peace, paint eggs in the colors of the flag. People all over Russia took part as they commemorated Orthodox Easter, on 24 April, posting photos on social networks.

The abbreviation “CHV,” used for the traditional Orthodox Easter greeting "Christ is Risen", stands for "Enough War" in the postcards.

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(Credit: Telegram channel \"Union of Mothers of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine\")

Putin, Kirill and the great silence about the war

By our Russian correspondents

Russian President Vladimir Putin's congratulations to Russians on Orthodox Easter, published on the official Kremlin website, said: “This great holiday unites Orthodox Christians, all Russian citizens celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, around high moral ideals and values, awakens in people the brightest feelings, faith in the triumph of life, goodness and justice. It is important to note the creative and fruitful work of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations aimed at the preservation of our richest historical, cultural and spiritual traditions, strengthening the family institution, and educating the younger generation. ...”

Patriarch Kirill's speech in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, did not include a single word about the war. During his sermon, he noted that on this day we “clearly feel the power and depth of the Creator's love for man.” In an appeal published on the official website of the Church, the patriarch urged all to pray for the triumph of peace at a time when “hatred has settled in the hearts of many people.”

Earlier, the Russian authorities did not support the UN Secretary General’s proposal to declare a four-day Easter truce.

Treason! Russian victory stickers turned into Ukraine flag

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The inscription on the stickers: Tver region Za (for) Russia! Za (for) victory! (Credit: telegram channel “Close Tver behind me”)

By our Russian correspondents

“Z’ stickers ordered by the Tver regional administration were of poor quality and could not even withstand one month of “use”: they quickly faded in the air, turning into the flag of Ukraine, SOTA reports. The text reads: For Russia! For victory!

According to the state contractor, a hundred thousand stickers of this kind were ordered (at 38 rubles each), and they were placed, in particular, on municipal transport.

A word from our editors

6 am: 22.04.2022

My name is Olya Vasylyk and I have more than 10 years of editorial and journalistic experience in Ukraine and France. Today I’m participating in the first edition of the live blog. Our journalists, who are still in Ukraine or have just left the country, will make sure that the stories are true, informative and deep, covering different facets of Ukraine in the turmoil of war.

Ukraine has faced two months of Russian Invasion. To recall the events of the first day of war, we decided to start our live blog with the story of a Journalist, Olha Holovina who worked during the first days of war in the capital Kyiv. She was translating the speeches of NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as the first bombs flew over the city and caused damage. Holovina had to flee in fear for her children, but not before delivering the information about the true situation in Ukraine following the invasion to the Russian TV channel Dozhd, which was shut down shortly after by the Russian government.

Everyone knew, but no one expected this. Everyone understood, but did not want to believe

by Olha Holovina, 22.04.2022

At dawn on 24 February, everyone's life in Ukraine was divided into “before” and “after”. I woke up from powerful distant explosions. Car alarms went off in the yard. It was still dark. I hastily started scrolling through the Facebook feed. The first reports of explosions in Kyiv began to appear. But even then, my brain did not want to believe that the war had begun, even when my sister called and begged me to pick up the children immediately and leave Kyiv. I saw from my apartment window hundreds of cars lined up in long queues to leave. Many friends called and confusedly asked what I was going to do. I tried to dismiss the idea that someone in the 21st century can just start bombing cities and shooting defenceless people. And I had to make a decision pretty quickly.

The events of that day were extremely rapid – the Russian army launched an offensive from the north, east and south and a curfew was announced in Ukrainian cities. At work, we were asked to dim the lights and tape up the windows. Everyone was waiting for US President Joe Biden to speak. There was a ghostly hope that Ukraine was not alone, that they would stand up for us. I had to translate NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's speech in Brussels on 24 February. I did not hear anything reassuring for Ukraine:

Russia resorted to a large-scale invasion. We call on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine immediately. NATO will increase its military presence on the eastern borders. Ukraine is our valuable partner, but the alliance's forces will not fight in Ukraine.

We spent the night of 25 February in the bomb shelter of the Kyiv Engineering Gymnasium, from where my eldest son graduated three years previously. My youngest is still studying there, (remotely). It was impossible to sleep on the mats on the concrete floor. A baby was crying nearby, women were chatting quietly, there were many pets. At around 5am there were explosions again. This time it seemed to me that I even heard the rocket fly. Everyone’s thoughts were the same – “just not here”. A shell hit a house a few blocks away.

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House on Koshytsia street, Darnytsia district, hit by a shell, Kyiv, Ukraine on 25 February, 2022. (Credit: Vladyslav Vasylenko)

We hastily gathered things. Air sirens sounded every half hour. We didn't take a lot. We thought we would return home soon. I left everything that was dear to me  – the apartment where my children grew up, the neighbourhood I knew in detail, the Dnipro river, (beautiful at any time of year), the city we all loved so much. I didn't want to cry at that moment. There was anger at those beasts who, with their disgusting decisions and actions, broke the destinies of millions, destroyed the constant rhythm of the present, and, worst of all, took lives.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the country and said:

“I’ll stay in the capital. During the day, I’ll hold dozens of international talks and directly lead the defence.”

The road to my hometown Lutsk was long. We got into an accident. Fortunately, only the car was damaged. While the car was being repaired, I commented via Skype on the situation in Ukraine on the Russian TV channel Dozhd, which had not yet been closed at that time. A few days after that, all Russian publications that tried to write about the war in Ukraine would stop working.

The fear and intimidation with which the Russian government has bound its people does not affect Ukrainians. While fleeing the capital, we saw dozens of checkpoints. People were preparing to defend themselves. Columns with humanitarian aid were moving towards Kyiv. At that time, I could not finally answer for myself whether I was doing the right thing by leaving Kyiv. I understood that it was necessary to save my children, to be near them. But who will guard our city? Is it really possible – to abandon it…?

Life in Starobilsk under Russian occupation

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A photo showing Russian flag in Starobilsk. (Credit: Ksenia Novitskaya)

The city of Starobilsk is located in the Luhansk region, very close to the Russian border and the demarcation line in the Donbas, which was broken by Russian and separatist troops after the war. The city was occupied by the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, and residents faced interrogation and restraint of liberty. Local journalist Ksenia Novitska (who has asked to change her name) told about her experience of living in the occupation.

by Ksenia Novitskaya, 10.04.2022

We’ve spent the last one and a half months in occupation. In early March, Russia’s occupying forces entered my hometown in the Luhansk region, Starobilsk. And life has basically stopped.

Over the first days, the occupants took down our flags and seized governmental buildings – including police and prosecutors’ offices and lyceums. A curfew followed. Yes, in the 21st century, we can only leave our homes at certain times.

With the forces’ arrival in the town, life became scary. You never know when they can turn up at your door, put a sack over your head, and take you in an unknown direction for interrogation. They look for any patriotic Ukrainians, local activists and volunteers, former soldiers and their families, and officials. Volunteers from battalions like Azov or Aidar are also in high demand.

And the occupiers find those who are needed. Of course, not without the help of local collaborators. Imagine people who have spent most of their lives in the city “leaking” information to the invaders. Some don't even hide it.

It's not easy to talk directly about what's going on during interrogations. An acquaintance of mine was there with his family. They were taken from their homes and brought somewhere. Most of the time, they just sat there and waited. According to him, the waiting was unbearable. He was interviewed. They questioned the information about the army. No physical violence was used. They were the lucky ones... Because they returned home safe and sound.

The situation in the city is unstable. We have no mobile connection. Specifically, the Ukrainian mobile operators do not work. The occupiers have deliberately “muffled” the signal so that people will buy Russian SIM cards. The internet connection is so weak that it takes time to search for information. It is problematic to call for an ambulance or report an emergency, call a cab, or just call your mother and ask how she is.

Read full story in English here and in Ukrainian here.

Odesa comes back to life

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Fountain's restart in Odesa, Ukraine on 21 April, 2022. (Credit: Volodymyr Sosnowskyi)

Odesa saw some fighting early in the war, notably the famous Snake island incident, which created one of the war's iconic memes. Despite the terrible situation in other parts of the country, Odesa continues to hold on and defend itself, trying to keep a peaceful life.

By Maria Andreichenko, 21.04.2022

A fountain has resumed working in the City Garden in Odesa. Meanwhile, in the centre two huge queues formed. The first one to buy the now-famous postage stamps which depict a soldier defying a Russian ship, and the second for passport services (for internally displaced people who left without anything, and found a temporary shelter in Odesa).

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Photo of the stamp \"Russian warship, go…!\" Odesa, Ukraine on 22 April, 2022. (Credit: Volodymyr Sosnovskyi)

In the Holy Archangel Michael Convent, a charity event took place: the convent baked Easter bread for servicemen. On Maundy Thursday and in preparation for Orthodox Easter the city services were busy cleaning up, with particular care taken with the streets, parks, and  gardens.

Even though there were air raid sirens today, Odesa continued the day in a good mood. And after tank traps were removed from the centre, there were more people willing to walk down the street.

The diary of a Russian journalist who disagrees with the war

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An inscription on a building in the centre of Ekaterinburg. (Credit: Arden Arkman)

Ivan Zhilin is a Russian journalist, living in Russia's fourth largest city, Yekaterinburg. Now freelance, he previously wrote from one of the country’s independent newspapers until it suspended publication last month. He describes life for journalists in Russia since the war started and grappling with a feeling of helplessness amid tougher censorship rules on the media.

By Ivan Zhilin, 21.04.2022

Life has become mechanical. You walk, you eat, you do things, but you don't feel anything. It's all autopilot.

It’s a recipe for instant ageing: wake up, live through the evening, go to bed. The day goes by, to hell with it. You could get anything done during that day: help a charitable foundation with an appeal to officials, write an article, edit someone else's material, try to programme, keeping in mind that independent journalism in Russia has come to an end, and that you need to learn another trade. But all of this now seems to make no sense.

I ask myself, what exactly has changed around me? The same house, the same apartment, the same forest outside the window – it used to make me happy. My family is nearby. And Yekaterinburg is not bombed (and no one was going to be). And yet it feels like life has been bombed.

It must be lousy for people from Ukraine to read this – bombs were really dropped on them.

Life has changed dramatically. On 28 March, the newspaper where I used to work (and where I now only work as a staff member) suspended its publication. This was preceded by two consecutive warnings from Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications watchdog and reincarnation of the Soviet Glavlit [Editor’s note: The official censorship agency under the Soviet Union]. Two warnings are grounds for closing the publication.

Well, we were still actively struggling until 28 March. We wrote the truth in the simplest way. The truth about millions of refugees, the truth about thousands of dead, about ruined cities. In the end – the truth that the war had also hit our country: that it had caused a shortage of medicines, that it had caused the rapid poverty of Russians, that it had led to the collapse of businesses and people losing their jobs. This war has no beneficiaries: we all lost because of it, but now it is almost impossible to say so inside Russia – for that under different articles will earn you between five to 15 years in prison.

Read the full version of the article in English here and in Russian here.

Rising to the challenge: uprooted Ukrainians make fresh start

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Coffee shop solution for Kyiv exiles, Mykulychyn, Ukraine on April 21, 2022. (Credit: Alla Pavliuchenko)

Ten weeks ago when the war started, millions fled to safety but nobody wanted to start all over again. Since then, many have started to adapt to new conditions, morally and physically. Alla Pavliuchenko, a journalist from Kyiv, is one of them. She describes her journey with three friends – a dentist, web designer and director – in search of safety to the west of the country and – with savings quickly running out – their decision to open a coffee shop.

By Alla Pavliuchenko, 21.04.2022

A month ago, we were happy to just run away from where the shooting was, and it did not matter where or in what housing. From a comfortable 60 square metres for two in Kyiv to an abandoned one-bedroom apartment on the edge of the world, for eight of us – five adults and three children.

At this stage of the war, people have begun to adapt, to arrange their lives and, if necessary, move again, (I have moved three times). The main problem is finding resources to live and doing work they would not have undertaken in peacetime.

This story is about me, (a journalist), a web designer, a dentist, and a director. We wanted to help ourselves and our host country by at least paying taxes. So we decided to open a coffee shop from scratch.

Read the full article here.

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