Documentary photographers Mstislav Chernov and Evgeny Mallolitka They were the last reporters to leave in the besieged Mariupol. After a dramatic escape, there was no one left now.
In a report to the AP news agency, they said they knew their action was a provocation to Russia. For more than two weeks, Chernov and Malolitka were the only international photojournalists in the port city of Mariupol. Now there is no one left.
Burnt Eddy says their work is invaluable. A recently retired associate professor of photojournalism education in Oslo is dead and has written about war photojournalism.
The lack of Chernov and Mallolkta in Mariupol is a big loss. Documenting them is important. If we look at wars throughout history, there’s a clear difference between wars that have been documented by paparazzi and those that aren’t, Eddy says over the phone to VG.
Even major accidents and killings of many people can pass in silence as long as no verifiable documentary photos are taken.
Eddy asserts that as long as the paparazzi are in Mariupol, they are a constant source of documenting the abuses of the Russians and how much this affects the population.
– They are the sources that currently reach the whole world. It is clear that a belligerent power like Russia wants to stop them.
Mstislav Chernov and Evgeny Malolitka reported from inside the hospital and were with health professionals and patients when the place was suddenly surrounded by Russian tanks, he writes AP . news agency.
Now they tell their story of escaping from the besieged city.
Armed men began to patrol the corridors. They said the surgeons provided the photographers with camouflaged surgical clothing.
At sunrise, armed soldiers suddenly stormed the building:
– Where are the black journalists?
Mstislav Chernov told the AP that he saw the blue straps the soldiers carry on their sleeves, and the blue of Ukraine, and assessed the possibility that they were Russians in disguise. Then he announced himself.
The next thing he knows is that soldiers are taking him and a colleague out of the hospital and through a torn city.
– We’re here to get you out of here!
From here is Mariupol, the besieged city for several weeks. According to Agence France-Presse, European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell described the Russian attack on the city as a massive war crime.
Russia has given Ukraine a deadline to hand over the port city by Monday, March 21, at 5 a.m. local time. It didn’t happen on Monday night Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected That Ukraine would agree to some ultimatum to abandon important cities.
In his account, an eyewitness for AP Photographer Mstislav Chernov himself asks why Ukrainian soldiers are spending time and resources evacuating two reporters.
The explanation he was said to have received from a policeman during the escape: if the Russians captured Chernov and his colleague, the Russians, according to the policeman, would put them in front of the camera and make them say that everything they had was wrongly photographed and documented in the war.
It is March 15, 2022. The two documentary photographers still do not know if they will be able to get out of Mariupol alive.
Tony Hicks, vice president of international photography at AP News, assured VG that the safety of photographers comes before the battle to win the news. Therefore, the AP operated a full-fledged communication device on the ground floor to evacuate the two in Mariupol. It took a week from making the decision until the evacuation was completed.
– The Russians are not happy with the reports by Mstislav Chernov and Evgeny Mallitka. They show horror at what is happening. The two are now still in Ukraine and will continue to work for us. It’s what they want themselves, but it’s associated with a high risk, Hicks says in a phone interview with VG.
One of the reasons why photos from Ukraine are often only published for many hours and sometimes 24 hours after the accident is correspondence problems. Another is security.
– We sometimes keep photos to make sure our photographers are safe and untraceable. It is alarming that the Russian ambassador to the United Nations uploads one of the photos of Mstislav Chernov and Evgeny Mallitka and says it is “fake news”. Hicks stresses that we can’t risk waiting for them to end up on Russia’s most wanted list before we get them out of Mariupol.
– Instead of putting forward a proper counter-argument, the Russians, led by their ambassador to the United Nations, are simply shouting “Fake news!”. But I want to stress that shouting about fake news is something that is happening everywhere now, even with Western authorities.
– Like Donald Trump?
I didn’t want to mention names, but yes. The AP is trying to get the facts, and that’s what we do. We don’t arrange anything. That’s why we’re also one of the world’s most trusted sources, Hicks concludes.
If a war crime or anything else about which the warring party does not want attention is mentioned in words, it will not be a big issue either in the media or in the world’s attention, assures photojournalist Burnt Eddy.
– There are a large number of examples of this. Take the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where Americans mistreated prisoners of war: two human rights organizations mentioned it for a year before it appeared in the media. Eddie says that at that moment there were pictures on the table, and the issue became big.
Another example is when Saddam Hussein fired poisonous gases over the Kurdish city of Halabja in northern Iraq and killed 5,000 people. Nor did this incident receive further attention until international correspondents were flown to the city under the auspices of Iran.
For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the paparazzi who chose to stay when residents fled presents a challenge to his narrative.
Images of an injured and pregnant woman fleeing a bombed children’s hospital and images of Mariupol burying her dead in mass graves have shaken the world.
Panic and chaos
Nearly a quarter of Mariupol’s 430,000 residents have fled while they still could, according to the Associated Press.
The Russians have cut off electricity, water and food supplies, cell phones, radio and television. Photographer Mstislav Chernov told The Associated Press that the isolation of residents has caused disorientation and panic.
– At first I did not understand why Mariupol collapsed so quickly. Now I know it was due to a lack of communication.
More than 2,500 people have been killed in Mariupol since the war began, according to Reuters. Heavy explosions make it dangerous to bury the dead. Therefore, many of them end up in mass graves in a cemetery on the outskirts of the city. Others were buried along roadsides.
During the air strikes, the sky seems to be filled with solid birds. But the “birds” planes fell dead.
Terror prompted residents to use temporary shelters. Desperation for lack of food and water led to the slaughter of stray dogs roaming the streets.
Shocked by impressions
On Sunday, March 20, Mariupol experienced some of the fiercest bombing and fighting since the invasion on February 24.
The European Union foreign minister, Josep Borrell, described the Russian attack on the city as a massive war crime, AFP reported.
Reuters quoted a man named Andrei, who buried his neighbors, as saying that they were not killed by Russian grenades, but because of health problems exacerbated by the severe stress level after they could no longer get medical help.
– The bombs did not kill them, but all this … the situation – basements, lack of physical activity, stress, also cold, Andrei said.
But as long as someone documents what is going on, the international community has the opportunity to respond, says photographer Mstislav Chernov.
– That is why we took such risks so that we could send out into the world what we saw, and that made Russia angry enough to pursue us. I’ve never felt that breaking the silence was so important.
Shocked by impressions
Greek Consul Manolis Androlakis, who was evacuated from Mariupol this weekend, compares the devastation to World War II:
Androlakis told the press when he was safe: “Mariupol will be part of the list of cities completely destroyed by the war: Guernica, Coventry, Aleppo, Grozny and Leningrad.”
It took the senior diplomat and ten other Greeks an arduous four-day journey through Ukraine before he could cross the border into Romania and through Moldova.
When he arrived at Athens airport and was reunited with his family, he said the following:
– What I saw, I hope no one sees.
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