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. This blog is also available in Ukrainian and Russian.
Russia’s crimes against the environment of Ukraine
The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops could lead to ecological problems and an environmental crisis.
Environmental crimes are broadly defined as illegal activities that cause harm to the environment. In 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which, for the first time, recognised them as part of other transnational organised crimes.
In Ukraine, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources and non-profit organisations monitor the environmental crimes. Ukrainian NGO Ecoaction administrates an interactive map of environmental crimes committed by Russia. According to their data, there are already 300 documented possible cases.
Gathering facts to obtint compensation
Ecoaction’s pollution expert Maryna Ratushna notes the main goal of this monitoring is to inform Ukrainians about the potential impact of the war on the environment and to support the government in gathering facts that will be used to obtain compensation from Russia.
According to this data, the regions which suffered most during the full-scale invasion are Luhansk, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kyiv.
Chemical-industrial and metallurgical plants, hazardous waste warehouses, oil depots and nuclear power plants are located in zones of active hostilities. Many of those buildings have been damaged or completely destroyed.
28 oil depots destroyed
In the 100 first days of war, Russian troops struck infrastructure 36 times and destroyed 28 oil depots.
Maryna Ratushna recounts one example. On March 21, ammonia leaked due to the shelling of the Sumykhimprom plant that sustained damage to its pipeline. According to the State Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine, the amount of damage caused by air emissions is 5.1 million hryvnias (167,000 Swiss francs).
According to Ruslan Strelets, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, total damage to Ukraine's environment exceeds UAH 200 billion (6,5 billion Swiss francs). “We are constantly collecting information. All the recorded cases are added daily to the mobile app, which anyone can use,” he said.
A word from our editors
9 hrs., 17.06.2022
The one hundred and fourteenth day since the Ukrainian nation's heroic confrontation with the Russian military invasion began.
On the morning of 17 June the Russian occupiers hit Mykolaiv city with a missile, one person died according to mayor Oleksandr Senkevych, and the head of the Regional State Administration Vitaliy Kim.
In the northern areas, the main efforts of the Ukrainian army are focused on conducting reconnaissance, engineering equipment positions, and protecting the state border. The threat of missile and air strikes remains.
In the Kharkiv area the enemy's main efforts are focused on maintaining the occupied frontlines, and restricting the Ukraine Defense Forces’ freedom of action.
In Bakhmut the defenders of Ukraine repulsed an enemy assault in the direction of the settlement of Zolote. The enemy retreated.
The aggressor continues to block civilian shipping in the northwestern Black Sea.
The enemy continues to suffer losses in personnel, weapons and equipment, namely in the Kherson region.
As of the morning of 17 June, 322 children have been killed, more than 581 wounded, and more than 900 children injured in Ukraine as a result of the Russian Federation’s full-scale armed aggression. (Source: Office of the Prosecutor General in Telegram)
These figures are not final, as work is underway to compile them in places of active hostilities, in both temporarily occupied and liberated territories.
Russia's armed forces have damaged 2,028 educational institutions in Ukraine, of which 209 have been completely destroyed.
Children collect money for the Armed Forces of Ukraine
by Maksym Khotilenko, 17.06.2022
Andriy – an eight-year-old boy from Borodyanka in the Kyiv region – saw the “Russian world” reveal itself before his eyes. Borodyanka was seriously affected by Russia’s aggression in the first weeks of the all-out war.
“Our friends lived here, and their house was being shelled from tanks,” the boy recalled. “The tanks then stopped and directed their guns at us.”
One might think that the boy was viewing the war as a sort of game. But the longer you speak with him, the more you realise that he clearly sees the difference between good and evil.
Andriy’s father Yevhen said that when they returned to Borodyanka, the boy carried a small flag.
“Cars honked at him, which made him very happy,” Yevhen recalled, “and then some volunteers who were distributing humanitarian aid gave him 200 hryvnias (approx. 6 euros - ed.).”
This inspired Andriy to start collecting money for the Ukrainian army. He and his brother are now working as volunteers. The boys made posters and found a bigger flag.
“We were standing there and waving as cars drove by,” Andriy’s brother Oleh explained.
The two boys collected 6,000 hryvnias in two weeks. Andriy believes that this is enough to buy one quadcopter.
Andriy and Oleh are not planning to stop yet. They say they will continue volunteering for as long as the air raid sirens continue going off where they live.
Geneva paramedics donate ambulance to Ukraine war efforts
By Kasmira Jefford, 16.06.2022
A Geneva ambulance company has donated one of its vehicles to help relief efforts in war-torn eastern Ukraine.
The ambulance arrived in the Donetsk region at the end of May after being driven there by volunteers for Zurich-based organisation, ZhdU (Zuerich Hilft der Ukraine).
On arrival in Ukraine, Meloidy, a local volunteer organisation, took charge of the vehicle and prepared it to be dispatched to the frontline.
This included radical makeover – its bright yellow and green facade that once flashed across the streets in the Swiss lakeside city repainted grey so that it does not attract unwanted attention.
Serhiy Sanders, the medic now driving the ambulance in Ukraine, told Geneva Solutions: “[The ambulance] is in fantastic working order. It is big enough to carry two wounded people at once, which is a great feature.”
Across Ukraine, ambulances, hospitals and health facilities have come increasingly under attack from artillery fire and shelling since Russia’s invasion, with the World Health Organization (WHO) recording over 200 incidents from 24 February to May.
The government has made appeals for more aid and equipment to help support its battered healthcare system. Last month, the WHO delivered 20 ambulances to Ukraine.
The Geneva ambulance is the first to be donated through ZhdU, the organsiation’s co-founder Mattei Batruch, said. However, it is in early discussions with other companies and hopes this donation will encourage other organisations to follow suit.
ZhdU has been supporting local hospitals, civilian organisations and the fighting corps in Ukraine with humanitarian donations since 24 February. Batruch, a Swiss doctor with Ukrainian roots, set up the organisation with his friend Paul Müller.
“After finishing my medical studies, which coincided with the Maidan revolution, I decided to volunteer one year in military hospitals in Ukraine,” Batruch told Geneva Solutions.
This experience, along with his family’s own history of public service (his grandfather, economist Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, was a Ukrainian honorary consul who advised several of the country’s leaders) inspired him in February to create the association to help with Ukraine relief efforts.
“Through this experience, I managed to make contact with a wide network of healthcare workers in Ukraine, and in the military, which in turn helps me know what to send, and most importantly, to whom.”
Find out here how the Mykolaiv City Ambulance Hospital rethought its way of working and now functions as a military hospital.
A word from our editors
9 hrs., 16.06.2022
Day 113 of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a Russian military invasion. The occupiers fired missiles at Sadivska OTG in Northern Sumy Region overnight, killing four people and injuring at least six, according to the head of the Sumy regional state administration Dmytro Zhyvytskyi. The Russians continue in their attempts to capture Sievierodonetsk, and focusing forces in the direction of Bakhmut. In Kharkiv and on the southern front, the enemy's main efforts are focused on maintaining front lines and carrying out systematic bombardments to disrupt Ukrainian military activity.
US President Joe Biden announced a new package of over $1.2 billion in additional security and humanitarian assistance including arms and ammunition for Ukraine after having a phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelenskyi and reaffirming Washington's support for Kyiv.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR), operational data on the Ukraine situation reports 2,479,398 people have returned to Ukraine since 28 February. As of 14 June, of the 7.5 million-plus Ukrainians who had fled abroad more than 3.3 million have received temporary protection status in the EU, mostly in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. Russia and Belarus, with 1.1 million and 16,600 respectively, have seen smaller refugee flows, with no data available on their status.
As the leaders of France, Italy and Germany, Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi and Olaf Scholz, arrived in Ukraine on their official visit, in Lithuania, which hosts approx. 56,000 Ukrainian refugees, the 1K.lt initiative organised a solidarity rally for Ukrainians:
“We Lithuanians have lived near Russia for hundreds of years, we know our enemy, we disagree with Macron-Scholz’s “Don't humiliate Russia”. Today we came to the center of our capital to send important messages to the World, thoughts that live in our heads and hearts. We are with Ukraine and will be with Ukraine until the last breath. Share these messages on all social media, and spread the word. War is not over, Russia will not stop with Ukraine.”, wrote the organiser Oleg Surajev on Facebook.
Russian grants to reduce PTSD caused by sanctions
The Russian Presidential Grant Fund allocates millions of rubles to social projects each year. This year’s winners included organisations that support victims of PTSD caused by the “special operation”. The Telegram channel “We can explain” analysed the list of winners.
The St. Petersburg-based Radomir Center received 8 million rubles (138,000 Swiss francs) to combat the stress of the “economic blockade” and the “genocide unleashed by the international community against Russia and Russian-speaking people”. The money will be spent on psychological support for families. “Tension is rising in society. People with opposing and radical views have become more active”, say the project's creators.
ROCIT, the organisation that unites Internet users in Russia, has received about 10 million rubles (172,000 Swiss francs) to control the toxic content of Runet, the online Russian-speaking community.
For Igor Ashmanov, a Kremlin IT expert and member of ROCIT's board of directors, toxic content is not prohibited by law but “contradicts the fundamental values of our country”. According to the organisation, such information “opposes family values and [promotes] sexual perversion, harassment and persecution of the Russian-speaking population on social networks”.
Former Gazprombank VP joins Ukrainian Armed Forces ranks
A former vice-president of Gazprombank, Igor Volobuev, joined the Legion Freedom of Russia formed in March 2022. The unit recruits Russian soldiers who switch sides and join the Ukrainian military.
Volobuev travelled to Ukraine via Turkey, Latvia and Poland. Until March 2022, he was a vice president of Gazprombank, and previously headed the press service of Gazprom for many years.
His unit’s Telegram channel published a video in which Volobuyev urges Russians to join the Legion. “Guys from Russia, if you hate Putin's regime and want Russia to become a free, democratic country - join now”, he said. End of April, Volobuyev told The Insider that he had left Russia and was about to join the ranks of the Ukrainian army.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, said in May that “the number of applications to join the Russian Freedom Legion is off the charts”.
Millionaire drain in Ukraine and Russia
Over 15,000 Russian millionaires will leave their country by the end of 2022, along with 2,800 Ukrainian millionaires, according to a recent study from Henley & Partners, a residential and citizenship consultancy.
This represents 15 per cent of Russian High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI),- people worth at least one million US dollars. For Ukraine, the departure of millionaires due to the Russian invasion represents 42 per cents of its HNWI population, and is the largest loss in its history.
Among the top five countries receiving these millionaires are the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Singapore, Israel and Switzerland.
Zelenskiy wins Boris Nemtsov award for courage
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was awarded the Boris Nemtsov Foundation prize worth 10,000 euros “for his courage in defending democratic values”.
This year, the foundation only nominated ukrainian citizens for the prize. Among them were Kiev mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, founder of volunteer at the combat medic unit Yuliya Pajewska (Tyra), and Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych. Zelensky’s win was supported by the founders and the foundation's board.
The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom annually awards one person for exceptional courage in defending democratic values and human rights.
The organisation is a German non-profit based in Bonn. It was founded in memory of Russian statesman Boris Nemtsov by his eldest daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova. Nemtsov was shot dead in 2015 on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge near the Kremlin. Five people were convicted on murder charges, none of them were condemned.
A word from our editors
10:45 hrs., 15.06.2022
Day 112 of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. Ukraine saw partial success in the Donbas, where the soldiers managed to repel the enemy’s attack and force the Russians to retreat to their previous positions. This is according to the latest report by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
According to Operational Command “South”, over the last 24 hours, the Ukrainian army managed to destroy 60 units of equipment and kill 70 occupants from Russia in Ukraine’s southern regions. Among the destroyed equipment are one helicopter, one unit of self-propelled heavy artillery Pion (“peony”), and one multiple rocket launcher Grad.
Ukraine is continuing to see Russian air strikes across the country. In particular, local authorities reported explosions in the Lviv and Ternopil regions in Ukraine’s west on 14 June. At least six people are believed to have sustained injuries from the explosion in the Lviv region, the local government said.
Ukraine has only received 10 percent of the military aid it asked for from its western partners, according to the country’s Deputy Minister of Defence, Hanna Malyar.
“We won’t be able to win this war without the help of our partners – no matter how much effort we put in or how professional our army is,” Malyar said in a television programme.
The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, confirmed that providing heavy arms to Ukraine would be discussed during the 15 June Ramstein format meeting.
“Ukraine should have more heavy weapons,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference at The Hague on 14 June.
He noted that NATO's allies and partners have already provided such weapons and are now looking to grow in their efforts.
Lack of storage and dry weather threaten Ukraine’s small farms
by Tatyana Bezhenar, 15.06.2022
The status quo in the Black Sea threatens Ukrainian grain exports, especially small scale farmers who lack storage facilities. Dry weather and petrol shortage also worsen the situation.
Harvest has already started in the eastern part of the Odesa region, Ukraine. Farmers are cutting the barley they planted last winter — more than 1 million hectares of crops. However, not only dry weather, petrol shortage, lack of space for storage have been problematic, but the Russian attack that has paralysed the trading ports on the Black Sea also threaten Ukrainian grain exports, that usually accounts for 10 per cent of the world total.
Only about one tenth of the amount of grain was exported from the region in February and May, whereas up to 10 million tons per month would circulate in peacetime. Part of Ukraine's crops have now to be exported by alternative means like rail, road and small rivers.
Read the full article by Odesa journalist Tatyana Bezhenar here.
A word from our editors
11 hrs., 14.06.2022
Day 111 of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia tries to establish control over Bohorodychne in order to advance to Sloviansk, according to a report by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The Operational Command South said that Russia targeted the Odesa region overnight with air strikes but Ukraine’s air defence managed to intercept them. Russia also struck areas of the Dnipropetrovsk region with the BM-27 Uragan multiple rocket launcher, the head of Dnipropetrovsk state administration wrote. No casualties have been reported but buildings were damaged.
The Russian army has also used Mi-8 helicopters and Su-25 air-defence fighters to attack Ukraine near the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions in the south of the country. The Ukrainian helicopters managed to evade, and the Russian aircraft left in order to preserve their ammunition.
News site Politico has reported that, according to its official sources within the institution, the European Commission will recommend granting Ukraine official status as an EU candidate country. The final decision is expected to be made in the European Council next week.
Hearse with Putin’s portrait drives around Rivne
by Myroslava Opanasyk, 14.06.2022
A hearse carrying a coffin and a portrait of Putin was spotted driving around Rivne in western Ukraine, according to local resident Oleh Redziuk. As the car drove through the city, a cameraperson sitting in the passenger seat was filming people’s reactions.
The vehicle was stopped by the police, because Putin’s portrait didn’t bear a black ribbon, as is customary at funerals.
Oksana Yurchenko, the spokesperson for Rivne’s patrol police, confirmed the events. According to her, policemen stopped the car after receiving a call about it.
“This was a social project to see how people react to Putin’s death, Yurchenko said.We didn’t check who was behind this demonstration. It wasn’t a public-order crime, so the police had no reason to detain people or look for the organisers.”
A similar demonstration took place in Tbilisi, Georgia on 22 April. It was organised by the local political party Girchi, a self described “a pro-Western, centrist party”. That demonstration ended with the binning of a plastic skeleton that represented Putin.
Ukrainian books saved from Russian flames
by Myroslava Opanasyk, 13.06.2022
Rivne Regional Council "Rivneknyha" (state book store agency - ed.) has saved about 250,000 books from Kharkiv publishing houses from destruction by the Russian occupiers.
“80 per cent of Ukrainian book printing was concentrated in Kharkiv, so when the city began to be bombed, and a rocket hit the Osnova publishing house and flooded it, we asked the Ukrainian Book Institute if they wanted us to transport some of the literature from Kharkiv to Rivne. They understood that on their denazification quest, the Russians would do everything possible to destroy Ukrainian books,” says "Rivneknyga" Director Alexander Savchuk.
“They were not easy to transport. Finding vehicles was impossible, then getting round the fuel shortage due to the destruction of oil depots by the Russians. Heavy shelling meant cars were not allowed into Kharkiv, so instead of the peacetime day trip, it took us three”.
In total, 3 lorries filled with books were delivered to Rivne. The first was unloaded by hand by Rivneknyha employees and volunteers, then the town provided a pallet loader.
“Currently, some of these books are sold through our bookstores, and sent to stores in Ukraine. Osnova Publishing House has transferred to us mainly schoolbooks, Vivat Publishing House gave us their children's fiction and journalism titles, like by Boris Johnson, continues Alexander Savchuk.
Today in Ukraine the demand for books has dropped significantly as, in times of war, many do not read. Also many mothers, the main buyers of books, left Ukraine with their children. Schools are also closed, so educational literature hardly sells at all.
“In response to this, we got new buyers - immigrants from the east and south of Ukraine. Evacuated from the shelling, they could not take books with them. So these are our main customers today. That is why we organize literature presentations and meetings with writers in our bookstores”, - says the director of Rivneknyha, who adds that he very much hopes for the state's support in printing and selling books.
A word from our editors
11 hrs., 13.06.2022
One hundred and ten days have passed since Russia's full-scale attack on Ukraine.
Russia yet again tried to advance in the Donbas, in the direction of Sloviansk but was stopped by Armed Forces of Ukraine, according to a report by the General Staff of the forces. The report also said that the Russian soldiers tried to entrap the Ukrainian army near Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. Three civilians were killed after a shelling attack in Lysychansk, the regional military administration said. The Russians had partial success in Severodonetsk pushing the Ukrainian forces out of the centre of the city, but the battle continues.
Ukraine’s Sumy region sustained overnight shelling (without casualties), while one person died and five were injured as a result of a shelling attack in the Dnipro region.
Russia is continuing to block civilian ships in the north-western part of the Black Sea. According to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, six Caliber naval-based cruise missile carriers are ready to use missile weapons there.
We start the morning with a story about “Russia Day” celebrations in the country and outside of it.
‘Russia Day’ in Moscow, Limassol, and Kherson
by Olha Holovina, 13.06.2022
Russia Day – marked annually on 12 June – was celebrated with white and blue anti-war flags, big queues for McDonald’s, and forced attendance.
The “holiday” coincided with the opening of Russia’s own ‘McDonald’s’ in Moscow, on Pushkinska Street. Long queues formed outside the new fast food establishment called “Vkusno i Tochka” (“Tasty, Full Stop”). Some people were excited to relive the atmosphere of the old McDonald’s (which left the Russian market after the country carried out a full-scale attack on Ukraine), others just wanted to use the free toilet facilities.
No mass-scale anti-war protests took place in Russia on 12 June. But science journalist Asya Kazantseva said that she was detained on an underground train platform.
“I was told as a precaution that I shouldn’t be seen underground on Russia Day when I faced administrative fines in the past,” Kazantseva said.
Russia’s main political party, “Edinaya Rossiya” (“United Russia”), unsurprisingly celebrated by talking about the “Russian world.”
“Russia today is not just 1/8th of the entire land. It’s the Russian world, the borders of which far exceed those we’re used to seeing on the map. Our country is on an important historical track today,” the official statement read.
Seventy countries carried out Russia Day-related events. Limassol in Cyprus saw around 100 people gather with white-and-blue protest flags. “Freedom for Russia, peace for Ukraine,” they chanted.
Tatiana Lazareva, who hails from Russia, said that she never celebrated the holiday back home.
“I’m not in Russia because I don’t have the desire or ability to live there as I oppose the regime and everything going on. This day is a celebration of Russia that we all dream about. That will be free, happy, and one we will want to live in,” she said.
Meeting up with fellow Russians who live abroad is important, she said, as it can be tough being far away from home on your own.
In Russia-occupied towns of Ukraine – Kherson, Nova Kakhovka, Mariupol, and Melitopol – the Russian army failed to create an image of a strong celebration of the holiday. “Welcome back to the family” was chanted from the stage, but few came to listen.
“This display of friendship doesn’t have anything to do with Kherson. It’s a shame that it takes place [on Kherson’s] territory. A city that continues to hold defence,” Yevheniya Virlych from Kherson said.
Journalism workshop focuses on safe military storytelling
by Anna Dnistrovska, 13.06.2022
War is making exceptional, often traumatic and sometimes deadly, demands on journalists in Ukraine. A new training course in Ivano-Frankivsk focused on how to work with sensitive topics, report on military issues, and the safe use of available equipment in the war zone. Staying alive cannot be guaranteed, so putting your safety and life first is the first lesson, according to the course. The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine reports that 32 journalists died in Ukraine between 24 February and 6 June.
Olha Guzhva is a media expert who worked on the active frontline and in the newly liberated territories, recording the consequences of Russian war crimes.
“Always use at least two cars [in case of breakdown] and always work accompanied: by the military, territorial defence workers, volunteers or locals who know the area well. Default kit for everyone should be helmets, bulletproof vests and first aid kits,” Guzhva gave her practical advice.
The risks are even greater for female journalists and their children as any interaction with occupying forces can be a question of life or death. They were given some special advice.
“Avoid any eye contact with the enemy or staring at their facial details or scars, do not pull things out of pockets, like phones. Do not resist them and follow their instructions. Do not approach them too close, ignore their movements, do not try to convince them of something.”
Tetyana Troshchynska, Editor-in-Chief of Public Radio, shared insights on how to write on sensitive topics.
“A history of violence is not the history of the survivor, it’s an episode in their life.”
She indicated the questions you can, and cannot ask, and the importance of creating a safe interview space for survivors of violence. Consent and clarity about the form of publication should be prioritized. The subject should feel at least minimal relief after talking to a journalist, even if journalists are not psychologists or psychotherapists.
“You can't ask a person who has experienced violence something like "Why didn't you evacuate before the occupiers came here?" or say "What a good survivor you are". The journalist does not evaluate human behaviour.”
Before an interview, it is important to say that you can stop recording at any time. It is advisable to record interviews with survivors of violence in the presence of a relative or professional psychologist, so that the person will feel safer. They should be told on which platforms the story will be published, (video, article, etc.), and sent a link to the material once it is published.
One common theme expressed by every speaker was that, when working, whether it be with a civilian, soldier, or victim of violence, “Do no harm” should be a journalists’ motto.
For the first time this annual course was not being held in Odesa for security reasons (since 2018 - ed.). The hope is that next year’s will again be by the beach. One of the organizers, Viktoriya Dubinets laughed, “We could hold it in our Crimea”.
Ukrainians create power banks for the army from used electronic cigarettes
by Maksym Khotilenko, 13.06.2022
Ukrainian volunteers provide for the needs of the Ukrainian army and can find anything – from socks to drones. And if they can't find it, they create it. Like volunteer Ivan Volynets did.
“Unfortunately, I am not a military man, but I have a technical education and good professional skills. So my friends and I sat down and thought about what critical needs there are. And someone just said: ‘power banks’, says Volynets.
After that, enthusiasts began to think about the cheapest way to create power banks.
“One of our acquaintances smoked e-cigarettes for a long time and disassembled them – even before the war. She was interested in how they worked,” the creator said. “It was her idea to use e-cigarettes. The woman brought all the used devices she could find.”
Volynets said that they understood that they could make chargers out of the batteries inside, but they didn't know how powerful they would be.
After several unsuccessful attempts they finally managed to assemble the first model. Each battery is now thoroughly tested and sealed in 3D printed shells.
The team collects used e-cigarettes through social networks. They did not expect people to support the initiative so much. As a result, more than 60 power banks have gone to the frontline, and they are now working on an even more powerful model that will charge not just phones but military devices too.