Washington, D.C. — With more than 150,000 Russian soldiers and sailors now surrounding Ukraine on three sides, and Belarusian and Russian forces carrying out large-scale military maneuvers less than 100 miles from Ukraine’s capital, the danger of full-scale war remains high. RFE/RL offers comprehensive around-the-clock reporting to audiences in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and in English to audiences around the world.
RFE/RL is uniquely positioned to cover and analyze events as they unfold, with four news services – its Ukrainian, Belarus, and Russian services and the Current Time digital network – fully focused on the crisis. As tensions mount, with a surge in shelling and leaders of the Kremlin-backed separatists that control parts of Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk announcing the evacuation of residents to the southeast of Russia, RFE/RL will be reporting from the line of contact in Donbas and from Russia’s Rostov region.
Stories to follow
- RFE/RL reporters are documenting the “unprecedented” concentration of troops and supplies in southwestern Russia, Belarus, and the Black Sea. Our teams covered the military buildup on Russia’s side of the border, reviewing social video posts with researchers from Conflict Intelligence Team and InformNapalm to analyze the information and cut through the disinformation.
- In a February 8 interview, leading Russian military expert Pavel Felgengauer observed that the military would be fully prepared for action that week, and the Kremlin’s decision to start an invasion would come in three days, on February 11 – which turned out to be the day that Western countries sounded the alarm to begin evacuations of diplomatic personnel.
- RFE/RL reporters spoke with residents of cities including Kyiv, Cherkasy, Dnipro, Lviv, Mykolayiv, and Kharkiv about local preparations for a potential invasion, reviewed the readiness of local bomb shelters, took the temperature of the local business community, and watched ordinary Ukrainians receive weapons training as new members of volunteer self-defense units.
- Reporters also traveled to Ukraine’s eastern border to meet with elite Ukrainian soldiers defending the line of contact and visit an isolated Ukrainian village on the border, as well as the city of Mariupol, 20 miles from the line of contact, to gauge the mood of locals about the threat of invasion.
- Our Donbas.Realities project filed a report from the Black Sea port of Odesa, thought to be one of Russia’s main potential targets, and from Ukraine’s Chernihiv region, north of Kyiv and on the border with Belarus, about preparations for a possible conflict, while a blogger for the Service’s Crimea.Realities team posted a dispatch describing the mood in Russia-occupied Crimea’s largest city, Sevastopol.
- RFE/RL has also posted several reports that countered Kremlin disinformation, debunking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Ukraine “may start an operation in Crimea” and Belarusian media claims that the U.S. was conducting biological experiments on Ukrainian soldiers. Current Time’s Footage Vs Footage team also posted a comparison of Putin’s recent statements on the crisis with responses from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as well as an explainer showing how Kremlin-controlled TV channels in Russia frequently use demeaning and belittling language to describe other former Soviet countries, especially Ukraine and Georgia.
- RFE/RL remains under incessant attack from Russian authorities. Russian state media-monitoring agency Roskomnadzor continues to issue takedown notices to RFE/RL, threatening to block RFE/RL websites unless content tied to corruption investigations by jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Fund is removed. Meanwhile, on February 16 a Russian-controlled court in occupied Crimea sentenced RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko to six years in prison following a closed-door trial.
Newsmaker and expert interviews
RFE/RL interviewed Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystayko, who walked back controversial comments that Ukraine could give up its NATO ambitions, as well as Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons, who questioned whether Russia’s top officials entirely understand the costs of a potential military invasion, both in terms of loss of life and the economic consequences.
What’s Ahead: On February 19, RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service will air an exclusive interview with Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces Serhiy Sobko. The Russian Service will publish an interview with the Hoover Institution’s Michael Bernstam on the potential for economic sanctions to stop Russian aggression against Ukraine as well as analysis of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Russia strategy. RFE/RL will also be providing in-depth live coverage of the Munich Security Conference.
RFE/RL’s News Services
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, with a monthly average of over 8 million visits and 11 million page views to its websites as well as nearly 600 million video views on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram in 2021, sets a standard in the Ukrainian media market for independence, professionalism, and innovation. Its comprehensive coverage includes the award-winning reporting of its Donbas Realities and Crimea Realities websites and “Schemes” investigative reporting team.
Labeled an “extremist organization” by the Belarus government, RFE/RL’s Belarus Service provides independent news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language, relying on social media platforms such as Telegram, Instagram, and YouTube, as well as mirror sites and an updated news app to circumvent pervasive Internet blockages and access disruptions.
RFE/RL’s Russian Service is a multiplatform alternative to Russian state-controlled media, providing audiences in the Russian Federation with informed and accurate news, analysis, and opinion. Despite being labeled by the Russian government as a “foreign agent,” The Russian Service’s websites, including its regional reporting units Siberia.Realities and Northern.Realities, earned a monthly average of 12.7 million visits and 20.6 million page views in 2021, while 297 million Russian Service videos were viewed on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
Current Time is a 24/7 Russian-language digital and TV network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. In addition to reporting uncensored news, it is the largest provider of independent, Russian-language films to its audiences. Despite rising pressure on Current Time from the Russian government, which has labeled the network a media “foreign agent,” Current Time videos were viewed over 1.3 billion times on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through USAGM.
Find out more
Contact Martins Zvaners
Deputy Director of Media and Public Affairs, Washington, DC