Since 1991, when Ukraine broke away from Russia as an independent state in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, there have been recurring tensions between the two countries. At the centre of the conflicts are territorial interests as well as political loyalties and, especially on the Russian side, security concerns due to NATO's eastward expansion. After the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, this conflict reached a new climax on 24 February 2022, when President Putin ordered a special military operation into Ukraine, which was immediately followed by the shelling of the entire national territory. He had previously recognised the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which had been contested for many years. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky imposed a state of emergency in the country on 24 February.
18 October, 6.30 p.m.
The Accurate Look at War – Reporting from Ukraine
The debate with Natascha Freundel, Moritz Gathmann and Kristof Gerega
In war, it is often said, the truth dies first. Putin's war against Ukraine is a particular example of massive and effective propaganda of lies. To better understand events, we depend on accurate reporting. But how free is reporting in war? How much does the war determine its focus and language? Documentary filmmaker Kristof Gerega wanted to capture the political awakening of a new generation in Ukraine after the Euromaidan in 2014 – his film title "Beyond Revolution - Fighting for Democracy" (German: „Generation Euromaidan - Sehnsucht nach Demokratie“) has also had a literal meaning since the war began. How does the domestic fight against corruption continue today, in the defensive struggle against Russia? As chief reporter for "Cicero", Moritz Gathmann has been reporting from Ukraine on and off since February 2022. How do you fight for the truth in this war?
Since 24 February, all eyes have been on Ukraine. As the Russian army invaded the country, not only journalists but also film-makers made the decision to stay in Ukraine in order to film the consequences of Russian aggression, civilian casualties, crime scenes like Bucha and Irpin, and towns suffering from ongoing Russian shelling like Mykolayiv and Kharkiv. Documenting war crimes has proven important in order topuncture Russia’s disinformation bubble. All media witnesses are being gathered in the Ukraine War Archive, which has produced huge shifts in how people perceive the war in Ukraine and has galvanised support for the nation. The pictures of the bombed-out maternity ward in Mariupol by Yevgeny Maloletka and Mstyslav Chernov, for example, circled the globe, producing a significant response within the international community. They thus put pressure on governments to increase military support for Ukraine. Their impact was so strong that Yevgeny and Mstyslav were rescued from the besieged Mariupol as part of a special military operation by the Ukrainian army. It has not been possible to save everyone.
The fear that the facts of Russia’s atrocities might leak out was the reason why Lithuanian film-maker Mantas Kvedaravičius was tortured and killed by the Russians in Mariupol. This was the same reason that Ukrainian photographer Maks Levin was captured and murdered in the Kyiv region in March. Many filmmakers and journalists are taking risks on the front lines, eager to record the impact of war and to document fear, shock and horror. Their documents of war entangle Ukrainian voices, experiences of horror, and the frustrations and hopes of millions of Ukrainians into impressive chronicles. The powerful war images and stories captured by journalists and film-makers allow the public not only to find out what is happening but to feel it and sympathize. They produce a Ukrainian narrative of the war, which gives them considerable cultural and contemporary value.
Daria Buteiko works in academia and at different European film festivals, such as the Berlinale and the Filmfest Munich. For the last three years, she has been co-organising screenings of Ukrainian films in Berlin