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Unforgettable footage from a day in Russia's war on Ukraine
From indelible social media clips to brave combat reporting, it's difficult to watch — but impossible to turn away.
Like many of you, I’ve become somewhat fixated over the past six days on developments in Ukraine, where Ukrainians have heroically resisted Russian aggression in a manner that has resulted in the free world unifying against the Putin regime.
To be clear, I understand this isn’t the first war of the social media age. I also get that suggesting as much speaks to blind spots Americans like me often have about countries outside North America and Western Europe. But for me, this one hits different. Maybe it’s the fact that Russia’s malign influence on global politics has been felt acutely here in recent years. Or perhaps it’s the sense there’s a non-negligible chance, given Russia’s hostility to NATO and Putin’s reported mental instability, that this ends in a hot war involving two nuclear powers. In any event, I’ve found myself up late and awake early consuming as much information about the war as I can.
Events are obviously moving rapidly. As I put the finishing touches on this post Tuesday morning, for instance, reports emerged of an attack on the Kyiv TV tower.
There’s an immense amount of eyewitness footage like this circulating on social media, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there too. From 5,000 miles away, it can be difficult to make sense of what’s going on. I’m devoting this edition of the newsletter to sharing some of the most compelling videos I’ve seen in recent days — ones that I think shed light on important facets of what’s happening.
So with the caveat that this is by no means an exhaustive list, let’s dive in.
The first thing I want to highlight is a remarkable CNN report detailing the carnage left behind by a ferocious battle on the outskirts of Kyiv.
“What kind of munitions does it take to do that to a vehicle?”
CNN’s Matthew Chance has been in and around Kyiv since Russia launched its invasion early Friday. His live shots that morning were interrupted by explosions that prompted him to put on a flak jacket live as cameras rolled. It was one of the first concrete indicators that a worst-case scenario in Ukraine was coming to fruition.
Russian forces have bombarded the city in the days since, but they’ve so far failed to take control of it. In an impressively brave piece of journalism on Monday, Chance reported live the from the site of a convoy of Russian military vehicles that had just been destroyed on Kyiv’s outskirts.
Chance guided viewers through the rubble. One vehicle was still smoking.
“What kind of munitions does it take to do that to a vehicle?” he said.
He then came across a teddy bear seemingly brought into battle by a Russian soldier.
“Somebody’s brought a memento from home, and now it’s scorched and lying with the debris of their, in this case, failed attack.”
As he kept walking, Chance noticed a body still lying among the remains. I cropped the video before it got to that point, but you can watch most of his report below. It’s a chilling illustration of the brutality of the fighting and the potency of the weapons being used by Ukrainian forces.
And that brutality isn’t just impacting combatants.
“Geared to execute civilian casualties on a massive scale”
Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, is located just 40 kilometers from the Russian border. Russian troops entered its streets on Sunday but failed to take control, and it was again the site of heavy fighting on Monday — including strikes in residential areas.
Early Monday, Rob Lee, a Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow and Russian defense policy expert, tweeted out footage originally posted on Telegram that he described as evidence of the “possible use of cluster munitions” there.
That footage was later rebroadcast by CNN, where retired Lt. General Mark Hertling, former Army Commanding General of United States Army Europe and the Seventh Army, said the type of munitions shown in the video “are the most devastating type of artillery” because “not only does it land and explode, but in some cases those rounds don’t explode. They become duds, so they litter the battlefield and become somewhat like landmines for children to pick up or someone to step on.”
“They are geared to execute civilian casualties on a massive scale,” he added.
Another video posted by reporter Moshe Schwartz later Monday showed how the munitions looked and sounded from the vantage point of the building directly above where they exploded.
Russian officials have denied targeting Ukraine’s civilian population. But those denials deserve about as much attention as their announcements in the days leading up to the invasion that they had no plans to invade.
While it’s obviously impossible to judge conclusively from assorted videos and TV interviews, Ukrainian morale seems to remain relatively strong. Videos circulated on Monday of Ukrainians tossing Molotov cocktails at Russian military vehicles, blocking tanks by standing en masse in their way, and heckling Russian occupiers. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s UN ambassador delivered a memorable speech meant to highlight how some Russians troops seem unsure of their mission.
“Mama, this is so hard”
During a UN meeting on Monday, that ambassador, Sergei Kyslytsya, read heart-wrenching text messages sent from a Russian soldier to his mother shortly before he was killed in battle in Ukraine.
After the soldier’s mom asked where he is, he replied, “Mama, I am no longer in Crimea. I’m not in training sessions … mama, I’m in Ukraine.”
Kyslytsya brandished a printed out a screencap of the texts, which according to him continued thusly:
There is a real war raging here. I’m afraid. We are bombing all of the cities together, even targeting civilians. We were told that they would welcome us, and they are falling under our armored vehicles, throwing themselves under the wheels and not allowing us to pass. They call us ‘fascists.’
Mama, this is so hard.
It’s grim stuff. But consumers of Russian state TV are being told a very different story about the war — one where not only are Russian setbacks ignored, but the war isn’t even really happening at all.
Russian TV inverts reality
Russian state media has been downplaying the violence in Ukraine and framing coverage of it in US and Europe as “hysteria.”
Russian media makes Fox News look downright sane — even if Fox has issues of its own.
A Fox correspondent keeps debunking Fox misinformation
As Russia mobilized along Ukraine’s border earlier this month, Fox’s veteran national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, went on air and dismissed a conspiracy theory then in favor among Fox hosts about the buildup being a false flag Biden was using to distract from domestic problems. There’s been more of that in recent days.
The latest example came on Sunday night, when a guest on Fox programming tried to blame NATO for Putin’s aggression. Griffin wasn’t having it.
Last week, Griffin did something similar on Hannity’s show, fact-checking distortions in his monologue immediately after it ended. On Monday, Hannity adjusted by having her on right at the start of his show, before he or guests even had a chance to say anything that could be rebuked.
It’s good to know there’s at least one person left at Fox who still has some integrity.
Further Russian escalation is expected
As I write this early Tuesday, a lengthy Russian military convoy is descending on Kyiv. Analysts broadly expect that with Putin’s hopes of a quick and decisive victory frustrated, it’s likely things in Ukraine will only get uglier in the near term. There were fresh reports Tuesday morning of strikes against civilians targets in Kharkiv.
With Russia’s economy unraveling, will Putin look for an offramp before escalating to a scorched earth-style campaign that will only harden sentiment against him at home and abroad? The scary thing is that the Russian strongman seems to have boxed himself in. It doesn’t seem likely to end well — but then again a week ago it didn’t seem likely Ukraine could stay in the fight this long.