Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka have reported that their names were on a list and that Russian troops chased them in Mariupol while they were doing their job. This was reported this Monday by Mstyslav Chernovan Associated Press photojournalist, in an article that also includes photos from his days covering the war in the port city.
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According to Chernov, they were the last international journalists left in the strategic enclave. With their work, they have told the world about attacks, injuries, deaths and burials in graves. To this day, they continue to receive messages from people asking about the relatives they photographed in the besieged city of Mariupol, which, after four weeks of attacks, Ukraine refuses to give up. They write to them in a desperate tone, as if they knew them and they were not strangers, as if they could help them.
“The Russians were chasing us. They had a list of names, including ours, and they were getting closer. We had been documenting the siege of the Ukrainian city by Russian troops for more than two weeks and we were the only international journalists left in the city,” Chernov writes at the beginning of his article.
For three weeks, both he and Evgeniy Maloletka have documented and shown the world the destruction of Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov. Today the place is blocked by power cuts, water, supplies and communications, and Russia awaits its surrender. Schools, hospitals and homes have been bombed.
Chernov and Maloletka have witnessed first the destruction of the strategic enclave, and later the attacks on civilians such as the maternity hospital. Maloletka’s March 9 photo of several doctors carrying a pregnant woman full of blood went around the world. Both the mother and the baby she was expecting died shortly after in another hospital in the country.
According to Chernov, it was very complicated to take the photos and be able to send them due to the lack of electricity and the problems connecting to the internet. In his first-person article on Monday, he also explains how people asked him to take pictures of them so the world would know what was going on and his relatives would know they were alive. The Ukrainians were aware that if journalists did not document this horror, the world would have no way of knowing what had been happening there since the end of February.
Associated Press Vice President and Managing Director Julie Pace says in an interview for an article in the Washington Post that both photographers “have been subject to the same conditions as any other person who has been in Mariupol”. “When you consider how difficult it’s been to get that information, I’m really, really proud of their commitment to letting people know what’s going on there,” he says.
Apart from the work of Chernov and Maloletka, the postthe few images that have reached the outside world come mostly from Reuters photographer Alexander Ermochenko.
In a joint article published last weekChernov and Maloletka described the danger they faced, and how the Russian tanks arrived and positioned near the Mariupol hospital.
“Children’s bodies lie here, dumped in this narrow trench hastily dug in the frozen land of Mariupol, following the constant rhythm of shelling. There is Kirill, 18 months, whose shrapnel wound to the head was too much for his small frame. There is Iliya, 16, whose legs were blown off by an explosion during a soccer game on a school field. There is the girl of no more than six years old who wore pajamas with cartoon unicorns, among the first children of Mariupol to be killed by a Russian shell,” the article says.
The coverage of both journalists in the Mariupol maternity hospital has marked a before and after in the course of the war, and Russia tried to discredit them. The Russian embassy in London recalls the post, posted tweets claiming the photos of Maloletka in the hospital were fake. Twitter later deleted the tweets.
“We were the last journalists in Mariupol. Now there is none,” Chernov writes. He also regrets not being able to cover the latest attacks, like the one at art school this weekend.
Mariupol’s fate is uncertain. Russia has asked Ukraine to hand over the city, but kyiv has rejected the ultimatum. Both its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and the European Union have described the Mariupol attacks as “war crimes”. A total of 433 buildings have been bombed in the city, according to the UN. The situation in the port city is desperate as an estimated 400,000 people have been trapped for more than two weeks amid heavy bombardment.