The failure of Western on-the-ground war reporting

Mar 20, 2024
Lviv, Ukraine - March 8, 2022. The war in Ukraine. The car of journalists with the inscription TV PRESS on the hood.

On the ground reporting by Western media of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been weak.

Most have a pro-Ukrainian bias and prefer to operate from hotels in Kiev or further west. Interviews from the trenches seem partly staged and rely on interpreters, though VICE News Tonight has good Russian-speakers who in the past have done some excellent reporting.

Nor are the media very investigative. All speak of a Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine with little or no attempt to provide crucial background: that UK and US intervention derailed the March 2022 draft Russian-Ukraine peace agreement reached through negotiations in Istanbul.

Even less is there any mention of how the Minsk Accords of 2014-5 granting a form of autonomy to the Donbas region were immediately broken, mainly by Ukrainian pro-Nazi extremists.

The result is the death and destruction we see today.

On the Russian side the number of on-the-ground Western reporters seems to reach a grand total of two. One is Patrick Lancaster, freelance, a former US navy serviceman who has been in the Donetsk area since the 2014 and has taught himself Russian. His reports from the trenches and the constant bombing of Donetsk by rogue extremists have only occasionally reached the West. For his efforts he is usually condemned as a Russian influencer and has partly retired to Armenia.

That leaves Anne-Laure Bonnel, who, as a young director and mother, married into a Ukrainian family in the Donbas area. Her passionate coverage of the Ukrainian attack into Donetsk in 2022, with sub-titles, shows us the full face of war – the dead bodies, the injuries, the blood, the looting and the grief – in a way I have yet to see in any other coverage.

Her report on the Maidan events in 2014 also provides the only coverage available of pro-Russians hand stopping Ukrainian tanks trying to take over the important Donbas town of Slov’yansk in 2014. BBC coverage of the dramatic event has been withdrawn.

German reporters sympathetic to the Russian side are by law subject to heavy fines or imprisonment.

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