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 two countries in the turmoil of war.
A word from our editors
On the 72nd day of the war, fighting continued in the east of the country. The bombardment of residential areas and infrastructure in the Luhansk region seriously intensified, according to the Head of Luhansk region’s state administration.
In the Donetsk region, in the city of Mariupol, the blockade of units of Ukrainian defence forces in the Azovstal area continues. Airstrike operations to take control of the steel plant resumed in some areas. UN backed evacuations from the besieged city are set to resume today Around 500 women, children, and elderly people have already been rescued in the last week.
In the Kharkiv region, the Russian army continues to fire from jets and heavy artillery in residential areas and suburbs of the city of Kharkiv. North of the Kherson and Mykolayiv regions the Russian enemy is carrying out attacks on Ukraine-controlled settlements.
Old lady holding Soviet flag used to justify invasion
The Kremlin is using Soviet symbols as part of the campaign for the annexation of Ukraine's new territories to Russia, the Russian independent media Meduza reported, citing the Russian presidential administration. High officials attended an opening ceremony on Thursday for a monument of an old lady holding a Soviet flag in Mariupol.
The Russian authorities started using the old lady as a symbol after a video shot by the Ukrainian military, in which they are greeted by an elderly woman with a Soviet Union flag, appeared on the Internet in early April. The footage showed that the she mistook the Ukrainian soldiers for Russian ones. On the video, one of the soldiers hands the grandmother some food, while trampling on the banner. The elderly woman then refuses the food because the man stepped on “the flag that her parents died for”.
A video contradicting this version emerged on Thursday in which Ukrainian military claimed that a Russian shell had landed in her yard. At a Kharkiv hospital where she told the Centre for Strategic Communications of Ukraine that she came out of her house because she wanted to appeal to the Russian army “not to smash Ukraine”.
War dissenters owe Russia €1.4 million
Novaya Gazeta Europe has estimated that protesters owe Russia that much in fines, including 33 million rubles (€473 880) for Muscovites and 10 million (€143 600) for residents of St. Petersburg Street. Rallies and anti-war rhetoric are punished with fines up to 100,000 rubles (€1,436). Repeat offences carry a life sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Father of soldier from Moskva cruiser told son missing from army
Russian authorities told the father of a conscript who went missing after the cruiser Moskva sunk that his son was not in the ship when it went down, according to Novaya Gazeta Europe.
The military prosecutor's office reported that an inspection showed that the ship on which Yegor Shkrebets was serving “was not part of Ukraine's territorial waters, and was not included in the list of formations and military units involved in a special military operation”. The agency said that the son of the Yalta resident went missing on 13 April “during an emergency incident which resulted in the loss of the ship”.
Dmitry Shkrebets earlier told VKontakte that his son Yegor was conscripted into the army in 2021 and joined the Moskva cruiser after a young fighter course. On 13 April, the Ukrainian authorities said that the Russian cruiser had been hit by Neptun missiles.
On 14 April, the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed the explosion on the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. The ministry first said that the ammunition on board had detonated, the sailors had been evacuated and the cruiser “retained its buoyancy”. The Russian ministry then said that the cruiser sank while being towed to Sevastopol in stormy conditions.
On 22 April, the Russian Defence Ministry acknowledged that one crew member died in the wreck of the Moskva cruiser and another 27 were missing.
Instagram of Russian ambassador hacked
A post in support of Ukraine and its army was published in the Instagram account of Russia’s consulate general in Edinburgh on behalf of Consul Andrey Yakovlev.
“I, Russian Consul General in Edinburgh, A. I. Yakovlev, categorically condemn the behaviour of the military special operation by the Russian Armed Forces against the sovereign, independent state of Ukraine. I fully support any assistance to the AFU from EU countries,” the post reads.
The targeted consulate told the Russian media RBC that the official Instagram account had been hacked and that Yakovlev had made no such statements. The consul's Instagram account has been closed since then.
From book editor to warming people up with tea and sandwiches
By Oleksandra Ambroz, 06.05.2022
In peacetime, Bohdana Romantsova edited books and gave lectures. But the war forced her to leave her native Kyiv and move to Lviv.
“I immediately went to look for where I could help,” says Romantsova. “Help was needed the most at the station.”
Many saw photos of overcrowded platforms and crowded compartments and people, mostly women, children and the elderly sleeping in the aisles. Romantsova was among the volunteers tasked with receiving them - exhausted, confused, hungry. She was the first person to feed them, pour sweet tea or coffee.
“Very often for people getting off trains, our tent is the first place where they can relax. And they start talking to us, they need to speak out. Many people start crying right away.”
Human tragedies can spark burning emotions of hatred and revenge.
"I am sorry I can't shoot. If I could, I don't know what I would do to the Russias,” says the editor.
Despite everything, Romantsova finds the strength to continue working with books.
Read the full story here.
The dangers of living and working under Russia’s ‘denazification’ programme
This is an opinion piece from our Starobilsk correspondent who lives under occupation in the Luhansk region. We cannot verify all the events described in the article, but it illustrates how quickly Russia seeks to impose its truth on the population remaining in captured territory.
By Ksenia Novitska, 06.05.2022
Living under occupation of racists is unpleasant and dangerous. Especially when it feels like almost every fifth inhabitant of your city is either a collaborator or believes that “nothing matters as long as I don’t get shot”.“what is the difference? I just don’t want to get shot”. But there is a third group of people - those who adore the “Russian world”. And they are, in my opinion, the scariest of all. They believe in a “better life” under Russia and do not see the beauty of their own country – Ukraine.
Since the occupation of Starobilsk, in the Luhansk region, the pro-Russian website Aidar.city has intensified its work, spreading hate speech among Ukrainians and outright lies that promote “Russian peace” and discredit the Ukrainian state.
Recently, a new section appeared on the website. It features information about ukrainians that are patriots and need to be ‘denazified’. I was on that list. Here’s what it had to say about me:
“The level of ‘journalism’, including Marinas, can be judged by the sloppiness of TV journalists throughout the Ukrainian occupation of Starobelsk. Why is this slut crying? Because of the children, elderly men and women of Donbas killed by the Ukrainian Nazis? I don’t think so. She has neither honour nor conscience. This journalist ‘sold her skin’ for nostalgia for cow manure, straw hats, [Editor’s note:national costumes], “sharovary”, [Editor’s note: national trousers outfit], Cossak hairstyles,, gas prices at 10 hryvnias, and most importantly for thirty pieces of silver for betrayal. She betrayed Starobelsk, did not care about its inhabitants, and trampled on ancestoral memories. This ‘Bandera litter’, [Editor’s note: negative refference for Ukrainian national hero Stepan Bandera], actively participated in the provocation with the attack on a column of anti-fascist soldiers on March 2 this year.”
That's what was written about me.
Of all that was written, the only thing true is that I went out to a peaceful protest in Starobilsk on 2 March with other residents to tell the occupiers to go back where they came from. We stopped an enemy column of tanks passing through our Ukrainian city. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
“Ukrainian Nazi” – I do not understand what that means. Before the war, I had never heard such words. And now this is the norm in Starobilsk.
I stopped practising journalism for some time because of this article. My three-year-old daughter, my husband, parents, two sisters and brother, nephew and grandmother also live in the city. All of them are in danger because of my professional activity and clear support of Ukraine. Morally, it has been very difficult. I don't write any more posts, I don't comment on pro-Russian posts on Facebook, I work under a pseudonym so as not to endanger my relatives. It’s the only way I can protect them and myself.
This is what it’s like to live in the “Russian world”...
Three billboards against the war
Activists created an anti-war installation in Moscow, Russian online media DOXA reported.
“Visually, we wanted to create an allusion to the film Three Billboards on the Edge of Ebbing, Missouri,” the activists told DOXA.
The text on the banners reads: “our army is bombing Ukrainian cities. Our military is shooting civilians. Mr. President, you will drown in blood.”
WHO to consider closing Russia office
The World Health Organisation (WHO) will consider a resolution next week that includes the possible closure of the organisation's regional office in Moscow and a temporary freezing of Russia's voting rights in the organisation, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The Ukraine-led resolution was also backed by at least 38 countries, including France, Germany and Turkey. The move is believed to contribute to Western efforts to isolate Moscow, without endangering the health of Russians.
A conflict of opinion
On the afternoon of 5 May, a large black crayon board was spotted on Malaya Konyushennaya Street in the centre of St. Petersburg. Both pro-war and anti-war writings appeared on it, reports Bumaga.
Some townspeople wrote the Z symbol, while others crossed it out and drew the Ukrainian flag and the white-blue-white flag used by Russian protesters. By evening, the inscriptions “Down with the power of murderers”, “Happy Victory Day! Glory to the Uzbek soldiers!!!”, “Victory is ours”, as well as mathematical formulas and children's drawings, were piled one on top of the other.
Towards nightfall a few young men dismantled the plaque and carried away parts of it.
From Odesa to Berlin: animals need new homes too
By Maxym Khotilenko, 06.05.2022
The war in Ukraine continues to inspire people across Europe to lend a hand. A group of volunteers drove to the Southeastern city of Odesa to help with a zoo evacuation. a zoo evacuation. Among them is a Ukrainian woman from Spain, Olena Abramova.
“We have been living in Spain for six years. And when it all started, the next day it became clear that sitting at home and doing nothing was not an option. So my husband and I decided to get in the car and go to the border,” says the tattoo artist.
First, Abramova brought scarce medicines to Ukraine and then switched to saving animals.
“On the 10th day, an acquaintance from Berlin wrote to me: ‘there is a mini-shelter in Odesa. Can you help with the evacuation?’” she says.
Abramova says she couldn't refuse, and Odesa became her first trip.
“We evacuated the shelter where there were about 35 animals: eight puppies, eight adult dogs, and the rest were cats.”
Abramova says taking animals on the road is probably harder than travelling with children. It is especially difficult to wait at a border for several days.
“From the Moldovan border to Berlin took two and a half days. It's about 2,000 kilometres.”
The long drive was broken by short stops for a snack and short walks.
“We are already going to our destination without stopping to sleep. The driver is driving, I am sleeping. Then he wakes up and we change.”
In Germany, the mission continues as animals need to be transported to new homes.
“Miraculously, two volunteers, Paula and Maya, appeared. They identified all the animals from photos and information from volunteers from Odesa, more or less when we arrived in Berlin. A few hours later people came and collected all the animals.”
Animal lovers and friends donate to the rescue mission, but around a half of the budget comes from Abramova’s own pocket. Together with her team, she has already rescued and placed in good hands more than 100 four-legged friends.
“I said, ‘God, this is the last time’, I can't, because it's crazy.”
But the next mission is already scheduled for the next day from the Polish border. About 20 cats and 18 dogs are waiting to be evacuated there.
Pets caught in the war
By Oleksandra Letynska, 05.05.2022
The atrocities of the war in Ukraine have turned into a catastrophe not only for millions of Ukrainians, but also thousands of dogs and cats. Pets were forced to endure shelling, air strikes, hunger, loneliness and fear.
The world was surrounded by photos from Irpin, in which a lying dog, as if saying goodbye, hugs a man. A month later, volunteers took him away and searched for the owners. It turned out that the owners abroad are in a difficult financial situation. However, they paid for the dog's first medical examination. Further treatment was paid for by volunteers and caring people.
Or a young Rottweiler who remained locked in an aviary for more than 20 days. The animal rights activist accidentally found him in a closed enclosure, where the roof of the destroyed house fell and covered the dog from view. You could only hear him squealing.
Or a photo of a cat with burnt ears and fur – an illustration of the atrocities of the Russian army bombing Ukrainian cities and villages. The cat was rescued and named Phoenix, after the mythical magic bird that rose from the ashes.
Today we will hear about the many pets left behind during the war and those who are saving them.
From our Russian blog, 05.05.2022
Rally for peace in Moscow
A Russian peace rally was held in front of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Avtozak live reported. The participants described it as “a denunciation of what is happening in Ukraine”. According to the activists, the Russian tricolour has become a symbol of the destruction of peace and death of civilians.
More than 15.5 million people have fled Russia in 2022
Telegram-channel “We can explain” reported that migration from Russia to neighbouring countries has increased three to fivefold compared with last year, citing Russian state statistics. The largest increase was in countries of the former Soviet Union.
The number of Russians who went to Europe has increased sharply. Around 87,000 went to Finland in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 157,100 in 2022. 125,400 Russians have gone to Estonia this year, compared to 29,300 a year ago. Migration to Latvia doubled from 13,500 last year to 25,500 this year. Around 36,400 people arrived in Hungary this year compared to 1,700 last year.
“How many of them are emigrants, the statistics do not say. On the one hand, the abolition of covid restrictions affects the sharp increase of tourists from Russia. But part of this flow is still a flight from the war, political emigration and sharply increased repatriation to Israel,” We Can Explain noted, adding that according to Georgia’s official estimates, over 20,000 Russians arrived in the country in the first 12 days of the war.
A reminder of Bucha massacre
Street art appeared in Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk, referring to the massacre of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha by Russian troops. Graffiti on the pavement depicts dead people with their hands tied behind their backs. The photos were published by the independent Russian media Meduza.
Over 3,000 websites censored since the start of the war
Russia has blocked access to more than 3,000 Internet resources since the start of the war, the human rights project RoskomSvoboda has calculated. These sites include social networks, media, resources of public organisations and trading platforms.
The main initiator of the blocking was the prosecutor general's office. RoskomSvoboda noted that in addition to blocking the media, social networks and public resources, the blocking also applies to very unexpected sites, such as an online store for children's car seats or an email newsletter testing service. But the reason is the same: the publication of anti-war statements or statements criticising Russia.
The organisation highlighted some of the most high-profile blockings, including the popular game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, chess.com, and WikiArt.
“Users and journalists around the world are perplexed when they read such news, but we, unfortunately, have already stopped being very surprised by this kind of censorship,” RoskomSvoboda wrote.
Factory workers forced to donate wages
Employees of Kazan Helicopter Factory are now being asked to sign wage withholding documents for the Always Close to Donbas campaign, according to the Telegram channel Beware of the News. Through this initiative the Russian Engineering Union and the League of Assistance to Defence Enterprises are collecting and donating food and basic necessities to the Donbas.
Employees of the plant told Beware the News that the donations, portrayed as “charity”, are not voluntary. They are forced to sign documents, threatening to forfeit their bonuses.
Russia's largest bank flags fundraisers for Ukraine
Sberbank has identified fundraisers for the Ukrainian armed forces and sent information on transfers which may be intended as donations for military purposes to Russia’s financial intelligence body Rosfinmonitoring. A letter signed by Sberbank deputy chairman Bella Zlatkis and addressed to the first deputy head of the State Duma Committee on Education Yana Lantratova was quoted by the Russian news agency TASS.
“Collectors of funds for the Armed Forces of Ukraine are identified by the bank both independently using a set of different tools, including monitoring of social networks, and with the help of information that comes from third parties. Based on the information received, suspicious activities of the client are analysed by the bank's core services,” it stated.
The bank said it is guided by Russian legislation, instructions and regulations of the Central Bank, as well as its own internal regulations.
A few days after the start of the war in Ukraine, on 27 February, the Russian prosecutor-general's office threatened those who assist “activities directed against the security of Russia” with up to 20 years in prison for state treason.
A word from our editors
The seventy-first day of Russia’s military invasion has seen offensive operations in the east of Ukraine as the invaders try to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and maintain their land corridor with the temporarily occupied Ukrainian Crimea. The shelling of the city of Kharkiv continues, according to the spokesman for Ukraine’s general staff of the armed forces. Missiles also reportedly hit the central Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovograd regions, and the border areas near Sumy and Chernihiv in the north. Ukrainian air defences have engaged the enemy in some regions, while the Russian army may have lost control over several settlements in the Mykolayiv and Kherson border regions.
Minister for reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk confirmed that 344 people were evacuated most recently within the framework of the Mariupol humanitarian corridor, assisted by the UN and ICRC. The group of women, children and the elderly from Mariupol, Mangush, Berdyansk, Tokmak and other places have just arrived in Ukraine-controlled Zaporizhzhia.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky also announced the tragic news that a well-known journalist and soldier Oleksandr Makhov died in the Kharkiv region, in the battles near Izium. He was 36 years old, originally from Luhansk. Last week we published a story from another Ukrainian journalist who, like many others, is also defending Ukraine, and another about why journalists are becoming targets for Russian troops.
Today we continue our Ukrainian historical overview of Russian military traditions, drawing parallels with the current war in Ukraine. Kyiv-based Ukrainian journalist and writer Serghii Kariuk looks at how Russian defeats and victories alike have always been at massive human cost.
‘Mothers will produce more sons’: Russia’s long history of sacrificing soldiers
By Serhii Kariuk, 05.05.2022
Poorly prepared operations, frontal attacks, wounded soldiers left on the battlefield. During the first two months of the invasion of Ukraine, the Russians lost an estimated 21,000 members of its troops. The horrific figures do not faze 0the Russian leadership in any way. After all, that's how they have always fought.
The Battle of Narva in 1700 was a terrible defeat for the Russian army against the Swedes in the Great Northern War. The battlefield was dotted with the bodies of the guards of Tsar Peter the Great. Dozens of Peter’s childhood friends, people he had grown up with, were killed. The story goes that seeing this carpet of corps, Peter could not hold back tears. He was reassured by one of his closest associates. He put his hand on his shoulder and said: “Don't cry, my lord, Russian mothers will produce more sons.”
Historical anecdote? It seems that every Russian war proves it to be true. All of 322 years on, the slogan “women will make more babies” ( “бабы еще нарожают”), could be engraved on the emblem of Russia’s armed forces.
Read more here.
Ukrainian Dakar racer trades trucks for ambulances
By Maxym Khotilenko, 05.05.2022
Ukrainian daredevil gives up dreams of speed to save lives. Serhii Malyk broke 42 international and national car, motorcycle, and aeronautical records. Bonneville and Dakar bowed to him. He is the only Ukrainian to have taken on a jet fighter over 1200 metres, winning all three sprints. Now he has changed racing machines for a minibus and transports humanitarian goods 24/7 across the country. Sumy, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Odesa, Mariupol (before it was cut off); he can visit several cities a day. Now he literally lives behind the wheel.
But that's not all. At the beginning of the war, he asked his comrades from all over the world to help buy ambulances.
“I wrote a post on Facebook and they started commenting on it, and then my friends from the United States said they would help me. Then European friends also quickly found cars. In total we managed to buy and deliver 46 ambulances,” says Serhii. He is very convincing, and he’s not going to stop. Now he wants to raise money for 100 ambulances.
(Editor’s note: Russian attacks appear to have made little distinction between military vehicles and ambulances since hostilities began between Moscow and Kyiv, with the Ukrainians suffering heavy losses).
In addition, together with his team of mechanics, the racer repairs vehicles for the Ukrainian army.
“It wasn’t simply about workshop maintenance. There just weren't enough tanks”, says the legend of motorsport.
Serhii is 55 years old and needs insulin for his diabetes, so such a workrate is not easy. However, the Ukrainian champion is not ready to give up.
“That’s a trifling thing. We are slowly moving towards victory. I will help as much as I can. The enemies will not be able to break us. We are strong. We will endure and give them a nasty bite.”
Why Ukraine only has one official language
By Kateryna Hodik, 05.05.2022
Russian propagandists often use the “language issue” card to justify Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The Russian speakers are “in danger”, they say, they need to be “protected.”.
To prove their point they mention the fact that most Ukrainian schools don’t feature the Russian language in their curriculum. University admissions tests are only in Ukrainian, while many families have “been speaking Russian for generations.”.
Russia says that this is why Ukraine should introduce Russian as a second state language. It appeals to countries like Canada and Switzerland that have successfully embraced multilingualism on a state level. Ukraine can do this too, Russia says, it’s “simple.”. But it’s not.
Read the full article here.
Meanwhile, in news related to Russia…
Buryat journalist says Russia is the one that needs denazification
Alexandra Garmazhapova, journalist and president of the Free Buryatia Foundation, wrote on her Instagram that multiethnic Russia, which has declared the fight against Nazis in Ukraine, needs denazification itself. Her followers sent her thousands of stories about ethnic violence and insults in Russia in the comments to Garmazhapova's posts, including Russians who moved from former Soviet republics to Russia wrote about harassment.
Garmazhapova wrote that “by declaring its aim to denazify Ukraine, the Kremlin itself has provoked a discussion about the rights of small nations in Russia”.
She claims in her post that every 20 April, on Hitler’s birthday, and 4 November, on People’s Unity Day, members of ethinic minorities in Russia are afraid to leave their homes.
A Buryat herself, Garmazhapova tells her followers how she experienced racism throughout her life: “In my deep childhood, I, like any child, did not give much thought to my nationality. Until I was called “narrow-eyed’. It was made clear to me that being ‘narrow-eyed’ was bad.”
“Being Russian is not a privilege. Being Buryat is not a privilege. Nationality is not a privilege,” she adds, blasting Russian President Vladimir Putin for the “100 zinc coffins” that have returned from Ukraine with Buryats.
She further argues that many Buryat soldiers fighting in Ukraine are there because joining the army was the only viable option to avoid poverty.
‘My dad came back from the war with no legs, now he says he'd rather be dead’
Anti-war posters have appeared in the St. Petersburg metro. They are drawn in the style of children's postcards, which attracts more attention and makes you think.
Human rights the Russian way: toilets and air-conditioning in prison vehicles
Tatyana Potyaeva, the human rights ombudsman in Moscow, told the Russian capital’s parliament at a meeting her plans to improve human rights conditions for prisoners during transport.
“Another issue that worries people is transportation in motorcades... Decisions have been concluded that will be implemented today, I hope that in 2022 I will mention it: there will be new autorickets with air conditioning, with a toilet, with all the comfortable conditions for delivering people,” Potyaeva said.
A word from our editors
Good morning, in the latest updates this morning on day 70 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Russian military planes have shelled Ukraine’s Sumy region, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. Overnight airstrikes were also reported in the Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kyiv, Kherson, Zakarpattya, and Odesa regions. Further shelling and attempts to storm the area were observed in the Donbas.
On Tuesday, 3 May, Russian soldiers attempted to storm the territory of the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol. This is according to the comments given to Ukrainian media by Svyatoslav Palamar of the Azov regiment. Many Ukrainians – both civilians and soldiers – are using the building of Azovstal as a shelter. A blaze broke out in the steel works on 2 May, according to Azov, which was followed by overnight airstrikes into 3 May. Two female civilians were killed, Palamar told Ukrainska Pravda news site.
Russia slips to 155th place in press freedom rankings amid war
03.05.2022 by our Russian correspondents
The Russian government “has established total control over information by imposing extensive military censorship, blocking the media and persecuting recalcitrant journalists, forcing them into mass emigration”, Reporters Without Borders' noted in its annual World Press Freedom Index released on 3 May.
The index, which assesses the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories, showed Russia falling five places in the ranking to 155th place compared with last year.
RSF said the situation has worsened since the tightening of the “foreign agents” media law 2021 and following persecutions related to the coverage of the now-imprisoned opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
The report also said that at least five media workers were killed in shelling during the first month of the war in Ukraine. According to Reporters Without Borders, the Russian military is “deliberately targeting sources of information”.
FSB tries to lure emigrated opponents of war back to Russia
With the start of the war, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) started interviewing relatives of people who had left Russia and asking their relatives to persuade them to return to Russia, First Department, an open community of lawyers and rights activists, reported. According to lawyer Yevgeny Smirnov, at least five such cases are currently known.
The lawyer told We Can Explain that the FSB is interested in people who opposed the war or transferred money to Ukrainian aid funds. "Among those the FSB is interested in are former employees of defence companies who refused to work for them after the war started. There are ex-bank employees, there are students," Smirnov said. He said the FSB is trying to communicate mainly with elderly relatives who trust the security services more, fear them and are easier to influence. The relatives are promised that their departed relatives are not threatened and they just need to come and talk, close the case or give back the things seized during the search. The FSB finds out the phone numbers, how to communicate with the people who have left and where they live.
"We advise those who have left, including on information security, and if they follow all our recommendations, the relatives simply do not know the phone numbers and communicate with their relatives in messengers," the lawyer stressed. At the same time, the security services did not contact the relatives themselves after contacting them, the lawyer added.
Russia's richest people $45bn worse off
Russia's richest businessmen have lost $45.5bn since the beginning of the year. The fortune of the co-owner of natural gas producer Novatek and petrochemicals firm Sibur, Gennady Timchenko, has decreased most significantly (by almost $7bn). Now the businessman owns $15.5bn, RIA Novosti wrote with reference to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index (BBI).
The ranking presents the 500 richest people in the world, 23 of them are Russian citizens and own $328bn. The first in line among the Russian businessmen is Vladimir Potanin, his fortune is estimated at $31.5bn, co-owner of Novatek, Leonid Mikhelson, now owns $26bn. Novolipetsk Steel (NLMK) director Vladimir Lisin is in third place with $23.7bn. The top ten also includes principal owner of Severstal, Alexei Mordashov, ($23.5bn), founder of USM Holding Alisher Usmanov ($19.6bn) and Vagit Alekperov ($18.7bn).
Russian athlete attacked on social media for wearing Ukrainian coat of arms
The May Thunderstorm race was held in Yekaterinburg on 2 May, with Aleksandr Antonov from the Urals taking second place. He finished in a T-shirt with the coat of arms of Ukraine and posted the photo on his social media account.
Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov wrote about the athlete: “Pay attention to the athlete's T-shirt”.
“Tons of hate on me in social networks, I don't even go in, I block people. Clearly there are bots and real people among them, but there are countless. “Die, scum” is the most innocuous,” Antonov told E1.RU in an interview.
Antonov has already spoken to the police and is awaiting the consequences.
Anniversary of 2014 Odesa deadly clashes: a city where friends turned into strangers
Tuesday 2 May marked the eighth anniversary of a bloody clash in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa that left 50 people dead and hundreds injured. Most of them were pro-Russian activists, who died in a fire at the city’s trade union building. Yan Shenkman, a Russian journalist now in Armenia, brings back nostalgic memories of Odesa before 2014 and of a friendship nearly torn apart by war.
By Yan Shenkman 03.05.2022
Recently, a woman on the street in Yerevan asked me:
- Have you come here for vacation or for work?
-Actually, I live here, I emigrated.
-How wonderful it is! You will like it here.
And she wished me happiness.
I don't know in what city that's still possible. Certainly not in Moscow, Moscow has become extremely cruel over the last few years. Man comes in all guises there. He is not only a wolf but also a hyena, a possum, and a rat.
Except in Odesa, where, until recently, waitresses in cafes told me: "Eat with your hands, please!", where I went to the local conservatory in slippers and generally felt like I was at my grandmother's house visiting. Remember how, when you were a kid, your parents would take you to Grandma's house for the weekend, and Grandma would let you do all the things that Mom and Dad absolutely forbade?
Pre-war Odesa embodied the possibility of pure, unadulterated happiness. A chance to drop out of the frantic race for a place in the sun for a while and do something meaningless, stupid, but very beautiful, strange, and slightly divine. A city of weirdos, not pragmatists. Plus the charming Odesa boorishness, which is silly to be offended by.
And for me, it's also the city of the brilliant, strange film director Kira Muratova, who gave me her last interview before she died.
It's clear that the city itself is an image, a legend, a symbol. And Muratova told me so.
In reality people there are living hard, like everywhere else. There are enough scoundrels in Odesa, too. Even more gopniks. In addition to the tourist-hotspots Deribasovskaya, Odesa’s central street, and the Potemkin stairs, Poskot, the village of Kotovsky, is widely known as a fairly dark and dangerous place. After all, it was in Odesa that the tragedy of 2 May unfolded, at the House of Trade Unions on Kulikovo Pole square, which fans of the letter “Z” in Russia poke us in the nose with.
On 2 May, 2014, I wrote to Buncha, a friend of mine in Odesa: “Tell me it’s not true, that it wasn’t the Odesans who did this?” He replied: “Unfortunately, it's true. The Odesa people.” And he told a story.
WHO awaits Mariupol evacuees as Russia fires rockets at steel works
Geneva Solutions’ Leah Koonthamattam has attended the 3 May press briefing by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
by Leah Koonthamattam, 03.05.2022
Over the last two days the WHO has assessed the readiness of hospitals, restocked medical supplies, and trained volunteers in preparation for the arrival of evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol,
Before the attack was reported, WHO incident manager for Ukraine, Dr. Dorit Nizan addressed the UN press conference in Geneva from the reception centre at Zaporizhzhia, where UN teams and Ukrainian authorities are waiting.
“We do not know what to expect on the convoy, but everyone is ready for whatever is needed,” she told reporters, when asked about the scale of injuries and number of evacuees expected.
Read the full article here.
A word from our editors
On Monday, 2 May, Russian soldiers also launched a fresh assault on the Black Sea port of Odesa. A rocket strike hit a residential building on Monday evening, killing a child and wounding another, local authorities reported. A string of explosions in the region and in Moldova has raised fears that Russia could be looking to open up a new front in its war.
The latest attacks come as US officials earlier warned that Russia plans to annex much of eastern Ukraine by holding old sham referendums in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Meanwhile, the EU warned its members to prepare for a possible complete breakdown in gas supplies from Russia, with the EU Commission also expecting to validate a sixth round of sanctions this week.
Kharkiv remains dangerous
While Kharkiv does not always make the daily headlines like Mariupol, the city continues to see regular shelling. According to the Ukrainian government, approximately 2,700 buildings have been fully or partially destroyed in the Kharkiv region as of May 2. More than 200,000 houses in 250 different towns and villages of the region have no electricity.
Kharkiv-based journalist Stanislav Kibalnyk says that residents of the Kharkiv region get complacent after a “quiet period,” which puts their lives at risk and leads to higher casualties.
by Stanislav Kibalnyk, 02.05.2022
Last week, Ukraine regained control over Kharkiv region's Ruska Lozova, previously used by Russia as a base for striking the northern parts of Kharkiv. But the good news was followed by a tragic news. On Sunday night, 1 May, the nearby Pavlove Pole was bombed.
A skyscraper and two cars outside caught fire. No casualties were reported, but the event became another proof that it's too early to become complacent. "Quieter" periods often lead to more people spending time outdoors and, therefore, higher death and injury tolls after explosions.
Another example took place on 15 April, which was a warm day in Kharkiv. KTZ is a typical residential complex located in the south-east outskirts of Kharkiv. At around 4 p.m. local time, the news broke that a series of launched missiles had eight civilians killed and 42 injured. One of the eight was a seven-months-old child.
Why was the number of casualties so high? In late March, Ukraine regained control over the villages of Vilkhivka and Mala Rohan outside of Kharkiv, which Russia used as a base for shooting at Kharkiv’s peaceful neighbourhoods. Quieter times followed as a result of the regained area, and many locals relaxed. Some went to water the flowers in the garden, others just wanted to catch the sun. Children went to the playground.
Another curious factor is that airstrikes are normally followed by a surge of visitors: people come to “take a look,” journalists come to report. Nobody thinks that another bomb can follow.
Some are so desperate to take a selfie that they even do it next to an intact missile on the ground. The police officers shrug after numerous attempts to send people away from the area.
Additionally, bystanders are rarely good at providing first aid. People would rather shout “send someone to help” than try to help themselves.
A ‘trip to hell’ for two paramedics
by Liudmyla Makei 03.05.2022
In peacetime, Inna Vishnevskaya was a loving wife and mother of four, a talented artist, and an art teacher. Flowers, the sea, and pictures of a happy life flowed from her brush. Today, she wears a military uniform, a helmet, and a bulletproof vest.
Since 24 February, Inna – or ‘Zefirka’ (Marshmallow) as she is known by her family and friends – has been a volunteer in the defence unit of the Bilohorodka village territorial community (TC).
She works as a paramedic in the medical department, providing pre-medical care, delivering food and medicine, helping vulnerable people and organising evacuations to safety.
On her “business trips” as she calls them, she travels to places that have recently been hell: Borodyanka, Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Vorzel and other settlements near Kyiv.
“I go to the areas that belong to our TC of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Here, for example, I went to Borodyanka for four days. I came back home for Easter, to go there again tomorrow, to save people.”
Meanwhile in Russia’s flowerbeds, a rebellion is taking root…
Flowers against war
Russian student magazine Doxa has published an unusual appeal it received from activists on behalf of the world’s flora:
"Plants know no national borders. Pollen and seeds are carried by wind, water, migratory birds and travellers thousands of kilometres away. The world's flora cannot remain indifferent to the deaths and destruction in Ukraine. That is why we - Violets and Camellias, Araucaria and Vetrenia, plants from different countries and parts of the world - appeal to people: stop the war that threatens the whole Earth. Russian troops must leave Ukraine immediately. Plant International for Peace".
Activists create maps of Russia's anti-war protests
This map on reMap shows the cities where protests against the "special operation" in Ukraine took place. You can read more about each action if you hover your mouse over the city. This is how activists help protesters to make their voices heard.
Visible Protest activists counted anti-war actions in Russian cities and mapped them. Supporters of the movement hang green ribbons on the streets, post flyers, draw graffiti and hold "silent pickets".
Molotov cocktail thrown at riot police vehicle in central Moscow
It all happened near the Karl Marx monument on Revolution Square on 2 May – where several police buses are always parked, reported the Telegram channel BAZA. A man threw a Molotov cocktail and it set one of the buses on fire. The fire was extinguished and the thrower was apprehended.
The thrower of the Molotov cocktail turned out to be 45-year-old Vitaliy Koltsov. He came to the square in a suit and with a suitcase.
Koltsov had been detained before: in 2017 for disobedience to officers, and in 2019 for violation of the established procedure for organising or holding a rally.
Koltsov refused to open it and the police thought they might be in for another surprise. But it turned out there was only a box of matches and a phone. The materials of the arson case were handed over to the Investigative Committee.
The Russian army is short of men and... paper
Telegram channel Close Behind Me Tver published a military summons that came to one of their subscribers on which there is almost no indentation from the edge of the sheet.
"Maybe it's time to make the summonses the size of a bank card or a call to death by texting?" the channel comments.
More than 212 detainees across Russia on Labour Day
People across Russia held anti-war rallies on Labour Day, 1 May and were detained in 18 Russian cities according to OVD-info.
Moscow and St Petersburg had the highest number of detainees, about 80 in each city. In St. Petersburg ,Anna Anisimova was detained because of her installation - she handcuffed herself to a fence in front of a TV set with an image of propagandist Vladimir Solovyov.
A word from our editors
Welcome to the second week of our Ukraine Stories blog. This is Olga and it’s now the 11th week of the war in my home country.
The first casualty in war is truth, and faced with Russian propaganda, internet-savvy Ukrainians are finding ways to win the information war. Our first story of the week is about the Creative Forces of Ukraine, a community of digital specialists on Telegram, fighting on the information front since the first days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Videomakers, copywriters, illustrators create professional content and distribute it to counteract misinformation, use photo and video content to psychologically put pressure on enemies and support allies. Currently, the Creative Forces of Ukraine channel has 38,000 readers, as one member of the initiative explains below.
Soldiers arriving from Siberia: ‘Is this Kharkiv yet?’
Kozacha Lopan, an urban commune in the Kharkiv region, and Tsupivka village nearby became one of the first “victories” of the Russian invasion in that area and has been occupied almost since the beginning of the war.
On 19 April, Russian and separatist resources reported that the Luhansk People's Republic had destroyed a sabotage post of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in occupied Tsupivka. In recent days, the situation has begun to change in the northern suburbs of Kharkiv: some villages are now in the neutral zone after being temporarily abandoned by Russians, while several others, according to preliminary information, have come back under the control of the Armed Forces. Local journalist Stanislav Kybalnyk recorded his impressions of the events in these villages from the first days of the occupation.
by Stanislav Kibalnyk, 02.05.2022
Those who were able to leave the Kharkiv region after Russia’s invasion of the region began say that young soldiers came there first.
There were many Buryats [people from the Republic of Buryatia in Siberia - ed.] who came to Tsupivka and asked the locals: “Is this Kharkiv?” They were amazed by the asphalt road and the new lighting along the route. These troops even helped one grandmother to treat her leg injured in the shelling. During the shelling, they jumped to hide in the cellars together with the residents. On one occasion, they drove an armoured personnel carrier in one yard and demolished the gate to escape from the shooting.
Then came the so-called LPR Militia from Luhansk. They started drinking, talking about “eight years of bombing Donbas” and all that sort of stuff. They didn't even have normal clothes, they wore spotted blue uniforms like security guards and makeshift boots. Some were in sneakers and rubber slippers. They oppressed the population the most, asking local drug lords in between drinking sessions if they had any supplies. Well, with no lights, power or ways to communicate in the occupied part of Kharkiv you would need to see them scrambling for deals.
The last to arrive were other servicemen from the Russian Armed Forces. Who exactly? Many rumours said that they were Kadyrovites, in fact Ossetians. They raided nearby Tchaikyvka and left. Some people there had their passports confiscated and were forced to celebrate. All cellars with food were cleared out. Another local said that his brother's head had been smashed into his knee, then was forced to the ground and a machine gun fired near his head. They gave him a shell casing as a souvenir, saying “If you lose it, we’ll kill you.” And when anyone asked to go to the hospital, they said, “Try Belgorod, (over the Russian border), if you get there.”
Read the full article here.
Inside Ukraine's information army: 'charred bodies can boost morale'
by Liubov Velychko, 2.05.2022
When my application for the Territorial Defense Forces, the new Ukrainian military unit for the defence of cities, was rejected, I decided to fight with another weapon – information. From the very start of the war, initiatives calling on volunteers had begun to appear on social networks, inviting people to join the forces of information.
Every day, I’m given new tasks: posting a post on social networks, drawing a meme , signing a petition, organising a cyberattack on a hostile site, sending a complaint to a video channel… There is enough work for everyone.
Just like in the military, there are specific roles in the media battalion: writers, journalists, editors, designers, people who come up with ideas, organisers, illustrators, public relations people, as well as social media experts and hackers.
Our first strategic task is to maintain Ukrainian morale. For this, we collect and create content about our victories. Short stories, memes , or photos of destroyed Russian equipment and pictures of charred enemy corpses can be enough to lift the spirits of a terrified psyche and gives strength to keep on fighting.
Second, we need to break down the wall of Russian propaganda, which prevents Russians from understanding what is happening in Ukraine and how senseless this war is. Our goal is to make as few Russians as possible want to fight in Ukraine.
To do this, the war unfolds on unblocked resources: in the Russian social networks Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, YouTube and Tik-Tok.
Such is the small contribution of an information soldier to win the war.
Meanwhile, from our Russian contributors…
Russian journalist: I wrote about people forced to flee their countries, now I have to flee mine
Nigina Beroeva is a freelance photographer and journalist who has had her work published in several international as well as independent Russian and international publications including Meduza and TV channel Dozhd. After spending years reporting on refugees, never did she imagine that she would one day become one herself, as she writes below.
by Nigina Beroeva
“I dream of going home someday. Home. To see my son. I haven't seen him all his life. To hug him, to tell him that I fought all this time for him and his future. That I couldn't go back to him because I would have been arrested. I miss him so much...” – Dursoltan, a Tajik woman, presses her palms against her crying face and trembles. I look at her through the lens of the video camera.
It was the fall of 2021. I had come to Istanbul to film the Turkmen activists living there as part of a series of documentaries that the famous Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov made for the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the USSR. Ilya suggested that I make, among other things, a film about Turkmenistan.
It is every journalist's dream to get into a tightly closed country such as Turkmenistan. Several years before, I managed to go to North Korea together with my friend and colleague Ksenia Bolshakova. We secretly filmed and then released a report on the French TV channel TF1. It seemed that if I could get into North Korea, I could get anywhere. Anywhere but Turkmenistan.
The scale of dictatorship, repression, lies, and poverty in that country cannot be assessed. There is no data. And according to the information, which activists manage to transmit to the wider world, the situation in Turkmenistan seems to be catastrophic. The country was finally and hermetically closed during the pandemic and never opened. It seemed then that there could be no greater dictatorship than in North Korea and Turkmenistan. Many things seemed impossible then, but not now. In the race of dictatorships today there is an absolute leader, and it is neither North Korea nor Turkmenistan.
By then I had done a lot of reporting on refugees, on political emigrants, and travelled to the war. All these stories stayed with me. I took them with me from my business trips. And so it was in the fall of 2021. I came home with the story of Dusya, who couldn't go home. But then it was hard for me to feel the depth of her grief.
I could never have imagined that soon I myself would have to experience something similar.
Read the full story in English
Kyiv partially comes back to life
Despite Kyiv remaining to be an unsafe place in the light of the Russian war against Ukraine, some of its life is now business as usual. Kyiv-based writer Yury Rogoza has described what grocery shopping in the capital has been like at the time of the all-out war.
by Yury Rogoza, 27.04.2022
My wife and I live on Rusanivka, a kind of island in Kyiv surrounded by the Dnipro Bay and connected to the city by half a dozen roads and footbridges.
In the first days of the all-out war my wife went grocery shopping. She said that there was no panic on our "island", but the street looked strange. The bank was shut, there were huge queues for street ATMs. The food store shelves were getting emptier by the minute. However, there were stocks of food, only cereals, cigarettes, and canned food disappeared instantly, as it should be in wartime. There was no fresh, or even mouldy, bread.
My wife marked one episode among the others. A small cargo bus stopped near a block of shops, a gloomy man opened the hatch, put several huge boxes on the asphalt, said that everything was free, and left.
The boxes contained fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, and, for some reason, oranges that do not grow in Ukraine. People did not pounce on free vitamins, they calmly took what they wanted, and such episodes make you proud of your nation more than any propaganda.
A few days later, I went out for a walk and was stunned by the atmosphere in Rusanivka. All bridges and crossroads were blocked by fortified roadblocks, shops were closed. Near the only one that was open ("Fora") there was a calm, but a very slow line, similar to a small crowd. From time to time, visitors came out with empty hands or some small package, and a new group of buyers was invited inside who had no idea what they could find and buy inside.
The food supplies in Rusanivka improved gradually. First, my wife brought a block of cigarettes of the brand I preferred before the war. Then she called from the store to ask what I'd like to have for dinner, hunting sausages or fish. Then she complained that she had not found her favourite brandy (the alcohol ban was cancelled as soon as the Russians were defeated and kicked out of the capital). Since the beginning of April, she has been visiting a large food market quite far from us and returning with heavy bags of food.
My adult daughter lives with her boyfriend in the town of Kozyn, a prestigious suburb of Kyiv. The situation with food there is close to what I described, but the elite status of the town doesn't affect the military laws. Kozyn is located outside the formal border of the city, and therefore the prohibition of the alcohol there for some reason is still active.
Meanwhile, in Russian news…
A ‘face off’ on streets of Yekaterinburg
There’s a battle going on between pro-war and anti-war art objects on an embankment in Yekaterinburg, according to photos published by Telegram channel Visible Protest. The image above, showing Vladimir Putin and the phrase, “For decisiveness, for courage, for you” was painted over with the word “tribunal” and some new devil horns for the Russian president (below).
Bottom left: “If the West is scolding Russia, it means we are doing the right thing”. On the right: “For a world without wars. If the West is scolding Russia, it means we are doing the bad job.”
Above left: “The Truth is with us.” Right: “The rougher the lie, the easier it is to believe”.
Police abused women detained at protests
By our Russian correspondents 2.5.2022
The Nizhny Novgorod police invented a new form of torture specifically for female detainees. After the anti-war rally on 6 March, they were first held in the cold for several hours and then forced to undress completely and squat under the camera. A total of 105 people were detained that day in Nizhny Novgorod, according to OVD-info.
The officers (or rather, female officers) at the detention centre used this measure of humiliation only on women. The men detained at the protests were either left in custody without being strip-searched, or were even released pending trial.
Five victims of such torture were able to tell SOTA a month and a half after the torture. The names of the police officers remained anonymous: their names have been withheld by the Interior Ministry.
"I remember it was done by a woman with dark hair, tall, wearing a skirt. She had an indifferent face. I stripped down to my underwear, she asked me to take off my underwear and crouch down. I said I couldn't because I was on my period. And if I took off my underwear, I'd get it all dirty. She grinned and said: "I'm a woman too, so take it off and squat," one of the detained girls told SOTA.
Lawyers from the Zabralo human rights project are helping the 15 girls and are suing the Interior Ministry in the Nizhny Novgorod Region to get those involved in the bullying punished.
Support our project!
The war hit our fellow Ukrainian or Russian journalists hard. The former have seen their towns bombarded and sometimes their homes or editorial offices destroyed. Some have had to seek refuge abroad. That's why we decided to support their work. Over the course of the next month, Geneva Solutions will be publishing their stories on this blog, together with Le Temps. However, we need your support to continue this project! To find our more about how you can support us, visit our crowdfunding page on
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