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