Ukrainian journalists in ‘very dangerous’ situation as Russia targets civilians, independent reporter says

Volodymyr Solohub: Practicing journalism in Ukraine particularly dangerous with Russia killing civilians

Independent Ukrainian journalist Volodymyr Solohub tells Fox News Digital about the inherent dangers of covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

EXCLUSIVE – Ukrainian independent journalist Volodymyr Solohub has traveled his war-torn nation, attempting to help tell the story of the Russian invasion that is clouded by Kremlin propaganda, all amid the ongoing fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin could attack the press at any moment. 

“It’s very difficult and very dangerous to be a journalist in any conflict zone. Here, I think it’s particularly dangerous because Russians are targeting civilians. We’ve seen videos where civilians that are clearly identifiable as civilians being shot at by Russians,” Solohub told Fox News Digital via Zoom from Kyiv. “You immediately think that, if they are deliberately targeting civilians, what would stop them from targeting press?” 

Volodymyr Solohub, second from left, and other Ukrainian journalists. 
((Volodymyr Solohub))

Fox News Channel cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and journalist Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshinova were killed outside of Kyiv this week when the vehicle they were traveling in came under attack. The tragedy has rocked Fox News as staffers across the globe mourn their colleagues, and Solohub said their deaths were “major news” to Ukrainian journalists as well. He feels that if the legendary and vastly experienced Zakrzewski could have been targeted, then the worst-case scenario could happen to anyone daring to chronicle the war.

“For us journalists, it’s a major red flag because you know that a professional like Pierre, he’s been through various conflicts, he knows all dos and don’ts, he was clearly wearing a [press] vest and a helmet, he was clearly in a van or a vehicle identifiable as press, but still, they were shot at, so obviously you freak out,” Solohub said. “Yesterday, I was offered, there was a chance for me to join here in Kyiv, a group of territorial defense guys in the evening, post-curfew, to go with them on a patrol and I didn’t want to do that because … I didn’t think the risk was worth the story.”

When Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Solohub initially stuck around Kyiv, where he lives, to “see what was happening” and witnessed civilians scampering to flee the capital city. 

“Everybody was panicked, freaked out, so people started driving. I’m sure you’ve seen those pictures of traffic, all lanes, all driving west. Pretty much the same was at the train station, but the train stopped operating during the day, and in the evening these resumed, so I was able to catch a train … I was planning to go west, as well, but there were no tickets obviously for the right trains,” Solohub said. 

Ukrainian independent journalist Volodymyr Solohub has traveled his war-torn nation to document Russian’s invasion. 

He fled that same night to Lviv, taking a train with an overnight layover in central Ukraine, where hotels were hard to come by as an entire nation tried to avoid Russian shellings. 

“I stayed there one night, I hopped on a different train going to Lviv, I basically made it Lviv on the 25th,” he said. 

Solohub stayed in the area of Lviv, about 340 miles from his home in Kyiv, until last week when he returned home as Russian forces attempted to seize control of the capital city. At one point, he took a day trip to Odesa to see how things were going in the seaport city. He’s seen a lot of the war-torn country along the way and said the level of anguish differs from place to place. 

“Obviously the grimmest situation, I haven’t witnessed it first-hand, are in those towns that are under heavy shelling here around Kyiv and where the government is trying to create these humanitarian corridors to bring the people out,” he said. 

“I went to one of the suburbs … in the eastern part of Kyiv which was supposed to receive these people who were supposed to be evacuated from the nearby villages and towns. According to the government, there were three corridors and three convoys of busses went to pick them up,” Solohub continued. “Two came back empty because they reach their end point because of the shellings. One of the drivers told me they were like a mile away from this village when a Russian tank made a warning shot.”

The bus driver took the “warning shot” as a sign the bus heading to rescue civilians would be targeted next, so it turned around before picking up desperate Ukrainians seeking refuge. 

Solohub said women and children have found it “very difficult” to flee, especially in the early days of the invasion when everyone allowed to exit Ukraine was attempting to cross into Poland at the same time. 

“They told me they had to wait for 48 hours just to cross the border,” he said. “It was a sea of humanity.” 

Now that he’s back in Kyiv, Solohub said grocery stores are at about 50-percent capacity and enormous lines make obtaining the limited items difficult. Pharmacies have the same problem, where the long lines of people attempting to purchase medicine is largely made up of older residents. 

One thing that is consistent across the nation is that nobody is able to resume their normal life. 

“In most parts of Ukraine, it’s impossible due to security situations, there is either bombing or shelling, or missiles flying or there is a threat of all of the above,” Solohub said, noting that even in the “relatively safe” areas of western Ukraine the civilians are busy helping refugees. 

Ukrainian independent journalist Volodymyr Solohub feels Russian President Vladimir Putin could attack the press at any moment.
(Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Men between the ages of 18 and 60 are prevented from leaving Ukraine, and the government has encouraged them to fight back. Some pick up weapons, others stick around to try and provide for their family and some, like Solohub, chose to fight back by putting a spotlight on Russia’s atrocities. 

Solohub was previously a TV reporter for Ukraine’s Hromadske before moving into media consulting but decided to get back to journalism when the war began last month. He feels that a free, independent press is always critical but “particularly important” during the ongoing war because Russia has been waging a “massive disinformation campaign” that has targeted both Ukraine and the United States.

“The value of objective journalism and the value of being able to be here on the ground and tell the truth while the other side is doing everything humanly, and inhumanly, possible to twist facts and spread disinformation … creating this alternative reality that doesn’t exist. Based on that alternative reality, this is the reason why most of the Russian soldiers are here,” he said. “They are all convinced that here that Ukraine is full of Nazis and their duty is to come and liberate these Russian-speaking people from Nazis.”

When Russian soldiers who believe Kremlin propaganda weren’t greeted with open arms, it was a “wake-up call,” according to Solohub, who said many inside Russia still buy into Putin’s narrative.

“The value of impartial and objective journalism cannot be underestimated in this particular war,” he said. “[Putin] is tightening the screws, he’s passing these laws that prohibit calling what is happening in Ukraine a war.”

Russia’s official censorship body has issued guidance telling news networks to use only “trusted” sources under penalty of closure, which led to the shutdown of two independent news networks, including Dozhd TV, known in English as Rain TV. Putin’s crackdown has forced most international news outlets to exit Russia, too, as citizens are forced to rely on state-run media for information. 

“Social media are now not accessible in Russia,” Solohub said. “He is creating this extremely isolated society … His people, a hundred million Russians are getting very filtered and very crafted information produced by his propaganda machine.”

As the war continues, Solohub feels Putin is setting a “dangerous precedent” by eliminating free speech in Russia. 

“With every passing hour, they’re becoming more and more like North Korea,” he said. 

Solohub has been in contact with key Ukrainian government officials who feel the nation’s western partners are “afraid of Russia” despite the power of Putin’s military clearly being overplayed after years of propaganda. 

“During the 20 days of war, Ukrainians, civilians who joined the territorial defense, pardon my language, are kicking ass over this ‘powerful’ Russian army,” he said. “President Biden is very concerned that by helping Ukraine militarily he will start World War 3, but like hello, World War 3 is already happening.” 

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