What is Life Like on the Frontlines?

Mstyslav Chernov of the Associated Press, and a Ukrainian video reporter, was one of the few who stayed within the besieged city of Mariupol after Russian forces cut off all contact with the outside world.

He’s continued his comprehensive attempts to document the acts of terror he personally witnessed before fleeing the city.

The Eyewitness Account

Chernov understood Mariupol would be a strategic point for the Russians from the start. He went there in February with a Ukrainian photojournalist and Associated Press coworker, Evgeniy Maloletka.

He pointed out roughly a quarter of the city’s 430,000 citizens chose to evacuate in the early days of Russia’s assault. Many of the others were stuck when it became evident Russians were heading for Mariupol, according to Chernov.

Chernov went on to say the city’s siege resulted in a full blackout of information flowing in either way, which only added to the panic.

People had little clue what was happening in the outside community, so they assumed things were just as bad or worse elsewhere. Word about what was going on in Mariupol didn’t get out to everyone who might be able to help.

While the majority of the reporters who were in Mariupol at the time evacuated, Chernov noted that his crew stayed to ensure those tales were told.

During the near-constant shelling, Chernov said there was one site in the bombed-torn city. This is where he and his crew could still get online and upload images.

As a result of the situation, they went there every day to make sure something was getting out to the rest of the world. By March 3, the signal had vanished.

Life with No Communication

The only contact he had after that was a satphone, and the only spot it could get a connection was directly near the crater caused by a Russian shell’s landing.

Every day, there was a new story that Ukrainian forces would fight their way through the city, but it never occurred, according to Chernov.

The Russian guns were practically dead when they bombarded the maternity hospital in Mariupol.

It was a law enforcement officer who assisted them in making a link so their photographs and tales could be shared with the rest of the world.

Unknown to Chernov, Russian officials were preparing a campaign of misinformation alleging the women in the images were crisis actors and bombing photographs were manufactured at the same time he was sending out pictures of the maternity center.

Furthermore, all Ukrainian radio and television broadcasts in the city had been turned off. The only radio broadcast available to the population was Russian propaganda, which stated that the encircled city had no hope and that the residents should submit.